Saturday, May 15, 2010


From the book


by Manly P. Hall
[1928, copyright not renewed]

For once, a book which really lives up to its title. Hall self-published this massive tome
in 1928, consisting of about 200 legal-sized pages in 8 point type; it is literally his
magnum opus. Each of the nearly 50 chapters is so dense with information that it is the
equivalent of an entire short book. If you read this book in its entirety you will be in a
good position to dive into subjects such as the Qabbala, Alchemy, Tarot, Ceremonial
Magic, Neo-Platonic Philosophy, Mystery Religions, and the theory of Rosicrucianism
and Freemasonry. Although there are some questionable and controversial parts of the
book, such as the outdated material on Islam, the portion on the Bacon-Shakespeare
hypothesis, and Hall's conspiracy theory of history as driven by an elite cabal of roving
immortals, they are far out-weighed by the comprehensive information here on other
For many years this book was only available in a large format edition which was hard
to obtain and very expensive. However, an affordable paperback version has finally
been released (see sidebar).
PRODUCTION NOTES: I worked on this huge project episodically from 2001 to June 2004. This because of the poor
OCR quality, which was due to the miniscule type and large blocks of italics; this necessitated retyping many parts of the
text manually. To give an idea of how massive this project was, the proof file for this is 2 megabytes, about 8 times the
size of a normal 200 page book. The raw graphics files are 63 megabytes, which I've processed down to about 11
megabytes. The thumbnails alone are 1 megabyte, which is about my graphics budget for a regular book.
While the book itself is not covered by copyright in the US due to lack of formal renewal, many of the large color
illustrations that front each chapter in the paper edition did have registrations and renewals entered for them. So these are
omitted from this etext. However, all of the black and white illustrations are included here. Note that many of the
graphics had to be quite large because of the amount of detail, so I have thumbnailed every image in the book. In the
book all of the illustration captions are in italics; I have reversed this in the etext for legibility.
--John Bruno Hare, June 11, 2004.
Title Page
Table of Contents
The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies Which Have Influenced Modern Masonic Symbolism
The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies, Part Two
The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies, Part Three
Atlantis and the Gods of Antiquity
The Life and Teachings of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus
The Initiation of the Pyramid
Isis, the Virgin of the World
The Sun, A Universal Deity
The Zodiac and Its Signs
The Bembine Table of Isis
Wonders of Antiquity
The Life and Philosophy of Pythagoras
Pythagorean Mathematics
The Human Body in Symbolism
The Hiramic Legend
The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color
Fishes, Insects, Animals, Reptiles and Birds (Part One)
Fishes, Insects, Animals, Reptiles and Birds (Part Two)
Flowers, Plants, Fruits, and Trees
Stones, Metals and Gems
Ceremonial Magic and Sorcery
The Elements and Their Inhabitants
Hermetic Pharmacology, Chemistry, and Therapeutics
The Qabbalah, the Secret Doctrine of Israel
Fundamentals of Qabbalistic Cosmogony
The Tree of the Sephiroth
Qabbalistic Keys to the Creation of Man
An Analysis of Tarot Cards
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness
The Fraternity of the Rose Cross
Rosicrucian Doctrines and Tenets
Fifteen Rosicrucian and Qabbalistic Diagrams
Alchemy and Its Exponents
The Theory and Practice of Alchemy: Part One
The Theory and Practice of Alchemy: Part Two
The Hermetic And Alchemical Figures of Claudius De Dominico Celentano Vallis Novi
The Chemical Marriage
Bacon, Shakspere, and the Rosicrucians
The Cryptogram as a factor in Symbolic Philosophy
Freemasonic Symbolism
Mystic Christianity
The Cross and the Crucifixion
The Mystery of the Apocalypse
The Faith of Islam
American Indian Symbolism
The Mysteries and Their Emissaries
Being an Interpretation of the
Secret Teachings concealed within the Rituals, Allegories,
and Mysteries of all Ages
Manly P. Hall
[1928, no renewal]
Scanned at, November, 2001. J. B. Hare, Redactor. This text is in the public domain because it
was not renewed at the US Copyright Office in a timely fashion. These files may be used for any non-commercial
purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact.
Note: all page numbers in the original were given as Roman numerals; these have been converted to Arabic
numerals in this etext.
p. 3
This Book is dedicated to the Rational Soul of the World
Next: Preface
p. 5
NUMEROUS volumes have been written as commentaries upon the secret systems of philosophy
existing in the ancient world, but the ageless truths of life, like many of the earth's greatest thinkers, have
usually been clothed in shabby garments. The present work is an attempt to supply a tome worthy of
those seers and sages whose thoughts are the substance of its pages. To bring about this coalescence of
Beauty and Truth has proved most costly, but I believe that the result will produce an effect upon the
mind of the reader which will more than justify the expenditure.
Work upon the text of this volume was begun the first day of January, 1926, and has continued almost
uninterruptedly for over two years. The greater part of the research work, however, was carried on prior
to the writing of the manuscript. The collection of reference material was begun in 1921, and three years
later the plans for the book took definite form. For the sake of clarity, all footnotes were eliminated, the
various quotations and references to other authors being embodied in the text in their logical order. The
bibliography is appended primarily to assist those interested in selecting for future study the most
authoritative and important items dealing with philosophy and symbolism. To make readily accessible
the abstruse information contained in the book, an elaborate topical cross index is included.
I make no claim for either the infallibility or the originality of any statement herein contained. I have
studied the fragmentary writings of the ancients sufficiently to realize that dogmatic utterances
concerning their tenets are worse than foolhardy. Traditionalism is the curse of modern philosophy,
particularly that of the European schools. While many of the statements contained in this treatise may
appear at first wildly fantastic, I have sincerely endeavored to refrain from haphazard metaphysical
speculation, presenting the material as far as possible in the spirit rather than the letter of the original
authors. By assuming responsibility only for the mistakes which may' appear herein, I hope to escape the
accusation of plagiarism which has been directed against nearly every writer on the subject of mystical
Having no particular ism of my own to promulgate, I have not attempted to twist the original writings to
substantiate preconceived notions, nor have I distorted doctrines in any effort to reconcile the
irreconcilable differences present in the various systems of religio-philosophic thought.
The entire theory of the book is diametrically opposed to the modern method of thinking, for it is
concerned with subjects openly ridiculed by the sophists of the twentieth century. Its true purpose is to
introduce the mind of the reader to a hypothesis of living wholly beyond the pale of materialistic
theology, philosophy, or science. The mass of abstruse material between its covers is not susceptible to
perfect organization, but so far as possible related topics have been grouped together.
Rich as the English language is in media of expression, it is curiously lacking in terms suitable to the
conveyance of abstract philosophical premises. A certain intuitive grasp of the subtler meanings
concealed within groups of inadequate words is necessary therefore to an understanding of the ancient
Mystery Teachings.
Although the majority of the items in the bibliography are in my own library, I wish to acknowledge
gratefully the assistance rendered by the Public Libraries of San Francisco and Los Angeles, the libraries
of the Scottish Rite in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the libraries of the University of California in
Berkeley and Los Angeles, the Mechanics' Library in San Francisco, and the Krotona Theosophical
Library at Ojai, California. Special recognition for their help is also due to the following persons: Mrs.
Max Heindel, Mrs. Alice Palmer Henderson, Mr. Ernest Dawson and staff, Mr. John Howell, Mr. Paul
Elder, Mr. Phillip Watson Hackett, and Mr. John R. Ruckstell. Single books were lent by other persons
and organizations, to whom thanks are also given.
The matter of translation was the greatest single task in the research work incident to the preparation of
this volume. The necessary
p. 6
German translations, which required nearly three years, were generously undertaken by Mr. Alfred Beri,
who declined all remuneration for his labor. The Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish translations were
made by Prof. Homer P. Earle. The Hebrew text was edited by Rabbi Jacob M. Alkow. Miscellaneous
short translations and checking also were done by various individuals.
The editorial work was under the supervision of Dr. C. B. Rowlingson, through whose able efforts
literary order was often brought out of literary chaos. Special recognition is also due the services
rendered by Mr. Robert B. Tummonds, of the staff of H. S. Crocker Company, Inc., to whom were
assigned the technical difficulties of fitting the text matter into its allotted space. For much of the literary
charm of the work I am also indebted to Mr. M. M. Saxton, to whom the entire manuscript was first
dictated and to whom was also entrusted the preparation of the index. The splendid efforts of Mr. J.
Augustus Knapp, the illustrator, have resulted in a series of color plates which add materially to the
beauty and completeness of the work. Q The printing of the book was in the hands of Mr. Frederick E.
Keast, of H. S. Crocker Company, Inc., whose great personal interest in the volume has been manifested
by an untiring effort to improve the quality thereof Through the gracious cooperation of Dr. John Henry
Nash, the foremost designer of printing on the American Continent, the book appears in a unique and
appropriate form, embodying the finest elements of the printer's craft. An increase in the number of
plates and also a finer quality of workmanship than was first contemplated have been made possible by
Mr. C. E. Benson, of the Los Angeles Engraving Company, who entered heart and soul into the
production of this volume.
The pre-publication sale of this book has been without known precedent in book history. The
subscription list for the first edition of 550 copies was entirely closed a year before the manuscript was
placed in the printer's hands. The second, or King Solomon, edition, consisting of 550 copies, and the
third, or Theosophical, edition, consisting of 200 copies, were sold before the finished volume was
received from the printer. For so ambitious a production, this constitutes a unique achievement. The
credit for this extraordinary sales program belongs to Mrs. Maud F. Galigher, who had as her ideal not to
sell the book in the commercial sense of the word but to place it in the hands of those particularly
interested in the subject matter it contains. Valuable assistance in this respect was also rendered by
numerous friends who had attended my lectures and who without compensation undertook and
successfully accomplished the distribution of the book.
In conclusion, the author wishes to acknowledge gratefully his indebtedness to each one of the hundreds
of subscribers through whose advance payments the publication of this folio was made possible. To
undertake the enormous expense involved was entirely beyond his individual means and those who
invested in the volume had no assurance of its production and no security other than their faith in the
integrity of the writer.
I sincerely hope that each reader will profit from the perusal of this book, even as I have profited from
the writing of it. The years of labor and thought expended upon it have meant much to me. The research
work discovered to me many great truths; the writing of it discovered to me the laws of order and
patience; the printing of it discovered to me new wonders of the arts and crafts; and the whole enterprise
has discovered to me a multitude of friends whom otherwise I might never have known. And so, in the
words of John Bunyan:
I penned
It down, until at last it came to be,
For length and breadth, the bigness which you see.
Los Angeles, California
May 28,1928
Next: Table of Contents
p. 7
Table of Contents
Ancient systems of education--Celsus concerning the Christians--Knowledge necessary
to right living--The Druidic Mysteries of Britain and Gaul--The Rites of Mithras--The
Mithraic and Christian Mysteries contrasted.
The Gnostic Mysteries--Simon Magus and Basilides--Abraxas, the Gnostic concept of
Deity--The Mysteries of Serapis--Labyrinth symbolism--The Odinic, or Gothic,
The Eleusinian Mysteries--The Lesser Rites--The Greater Rites--The Orphic Mysteries-- 29
The Bacchic Mysteries--The Dionysiac Mysteries.
Plato's Atlantis in the light of modern science-The Myth of the Dying God-The Rite of
Tammuz and Ishtar--The Mysteries of Atys and Adonis-The Rites of Sabazius--The
Cabiric Mysteries of Samothrace.
Suppositions concerning identity of Hermes--The mutilated Hermetic fragments--The
Book of Thoth--Poimandres, the Vision of Hermes--The Mystery of Universal Mind--
The Seven Governors of the World.
The opening of the Great Pyramid by Caliph at Mamoun--The passageways and
chambers of the Great Pyramid--The riddle of the Sphinx--The Pyramid Mysteries--The
secret of the Pyramid coffer-The dwelling place of the Hidden God.
The birthdays of the gods--The murder of Osiris--The Hermetic Isis--The symbols
peculiar to Isis--The Troubadours--The mummification of the dead.
The Solar Trinity-Christianity and the Sun--The birthday of the Sun--The three Suns--
The celestial inhabitants of the Sun--The midnight Sun.
Primitive astronomical instruments--The equinoxes and solstices--The astrological ages
of the world--The circular zodiac of Tentyra--An interpretation of the zodiacal signs--
The horoscope of the world.
Plato's initiation in the Great Pyramid--The history of the Bembine Table--Platonic
theory of ideas--The interplay of the three philosophical zodiacs--The Chaldean
philosophy of triads--The Orphic Egg.
The ever-burning lamps--The oracle of Delphi--The Dodonean oracle--The oracle of
Trophonius--The initiated architects--The Seven Wonders of the world.
Pythagoras and the School of Crotona--Pythagoric fundamentals--The symmetrical
solids--The symbolic aphorisms of Pythagoras--Pythagorean astronomy--Kepler's theory
of the universe.
The theory of numbers--The numerical values of letters--Method of securing the
numerical Power of words--An introduction to the Pythagorean theory of numbers--The
sieve of Eratosthenes--The meanings of the ten numbers.
The philosophical manikin--The three universal centers--The temples of initiation--The
hand in symbolism--The greater and lesser man--The Anthropos, or Oversoul.
The building of Solomon's Temple--The murder of CHiram Abiff--The martyrdom of
Jacques de Molay--The spirit fire and the pineal gland--The wanderings of the
astronomical CHiram--Cleopatra's Needle and Masons' marks.
Pythagoras and the diatonic scale--Therapeutic music--The music of the spheres--The
use of color in symbolism--The colors of the spectrum and the musical scale--Zodiacal
and planetary colors.
Jonah and the whale--The fish the symbol of Christ--The Egyptian scarab--Jupiter's fly-- 85
The serpent of wisdom--The sacred crocodile.
The dove, the yonic emblem--The self-renewing phœnix--The Great Seal of the United
States of America--Bast, the cat goddess of the Ptolemies--Apis, the sacred bull--The
monoceros, or unicorn.
The flower, a phallic symbol--The lotus blossom--The Scandinavian World Tree,
Yggdrasil--The sprig of acacia--The juice of the grape--The magical powers of the
Prehistoric monuments--The tablets of the Law--The Holy Grail--The ages of the world-- 97
Talismanic jewels--Zodiacal and planetary stones and gems.
The black magic of Egypt--Doctor Johannes Faustus--The Mephistopheles of the
Grimores--The invocation of spirits--Pacts with demons--The symbolism of the
p. 8
The Paracelsian theory of submundanes--The orders of elemental beings--The Gnomes,
Undines, Salamanders, and Sylphs--Demonology--The incubus and succubus--
The healing methods of Paracelsus--Palingenesis--Hermetic theories concerning the
cause of disease--Medicinal properties of herbs--The use of drugs in the Mysteries--The
sect of the Assassins.
The written and unwritten laws--The origin of the Qabbalistic writings--Rabbi Simeon
ben Jochai--The great Qabbalistic books--The divisions of the Qabbalistic system--The
Sepher Yetzirah.
and the Cosmic Egg--The Qabbalistic system of worlds--The Qabbalistic interpretation
of Ezekiel's vision--The great image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream--The Grand Man of the
universe--The fifty gates of life.
The thirty-two paths of wisdom--The Greater and the Lesser Face--Kircher's Sephirothic
Tree--The mystery of Daath--The three pillars supporting the Sephirothic Tree--The four
letters of the Sacred Name.
Gematria, Notarikon, and Temurah--The Elohim--The four Adams--Arabian traditions
concerning Adam--Adam as the archetype of mankind--The early Christian Church on
the subject of marriage.
The origin of playing cards--The rota mundi of the Rosicrucians--The problem of Tarot
symbolism--The unnumbered card--The symbolism of the twenty-one major trumps--
The suit cards.
Moses, the Egyptian initiate--The building of the Tabernacle--The furnishings of the
Tabernacle--The Ark of the Covenant--The Robes of Glory--The Urim and Thummim.
The life of Father C.R.C.--Johann Valentin Andreæ--The alchemical teachings of the
Rosicrucians--Significance of the Rose Cross--The Rosicrucian Temple--The adepts of
the Rose Cross.
The Confessio Fraternitatis--The Anatomy of Melancholy--John Heydon on
Rosicrucianism--The three mountains of the wise--The philosophical egg--The objects
of the Rosicrucian Order.
Schamayim, the Ocean of Spirit--The Seven Days of Creation--The symbolic tomb of
Christian Rosencreutz--The regions of the elements--The New Jerusalem--The grand
secret of Nature.
The multiplication of metals--The medal of Emperor Leopold I--Paracelsus of
Hohenheim--Raymond Lully--Nicholas Flarnmel--Count Bernard of Treviso.
The origin of alchemical philosophy--Alexander the Great and the talking trees--Nature
and art--Alchemical symbolism--The Song of Solomon--The Philosopher's Gold.
The alchemical prayer--The Emerald Tablet of Hermes--A letter from the Brothers of R. 157
C.--The magical Mountain of the Moon--An alchemical formula--The dew of the sages.
Christian Rosencreutz is invited to the Chemical Wedding--The Virgo Lucifera--The
philosophical Inquisition--The Tower of Olympus--The homunculi--The Knights of the
Golden Stone.
The Rosicrucian mask--Life of William Shakspere--Sir Francis Bacon--The acrostic
signatures--The significant number thirty-three--The philosophic death.
Secret alphabets--The biliteral cipher--Pictorial ciphers--Acroamatic ciphers--Numerical 169
and musical ciphers--Code ciphers.
The pillars raised by the sons of Seth--Enoch and the Royal Arches--The Dionysiac
Architects--The Roman Collegia--Solomon, the personification of Universal Wisdom--
Freemasonry's priceless heritage.
St. Iranæus on the life of Christ--The original name of Jesus--The Christened man--The
Essenes--The Arthurian cycle--Merlin the Mage.
The Aurea Legenda--The lost libraries of Alexandria--The cross in pagan symbolism--
The crucifixion, a cosmic allegory--The crucifixion of Quetzalcoatl--The nails of the
The sacred city of Ephesus--The authorship of the Apocalypse--The Alpha and Omega-- 185
The Lamb of God-The Four Horsemen-The number of the beast.
The life of Mohammed--The revelation of the Koran--The valedictory pilgrimage--The
tomb of the Prophet--The Caaba at Mecca--The secret doctrine of Islam.
The ceremony of the peace pipe--The historical Hiawatha--The Popol Vuh--American
Indian sorcery--The Mysteries of Xibalba--The Midewiwin.
The Golden Chain of Homer--Hypatia, the Alexandrian Neo-Platonist--The "divine"
Cagliostro--The Comte de St.-Germain--The designing of the American flag--The
Declaration of Independence.
Next: Introduction
p. 12 p. 13
PHILOSOPHY is the science of estimating values. The superiority of any state or substance over
another is determined by philosophy. By assigning a position of primary importance to what remains
when all that is secondary has been removed, philosophy thus becomes the true index of priority or
emphasis in the realm of speculative thought. The mission of philosophy a priori is to establish the
relation of manifested things to their invisible ultimate cause or nature.
"Philosophy," writes Sir William Hamilton, "has been defined [as]: The science of things divine and
human, and of the causes in which they are contained [Cicero]; The science of effects by their causes
[Hobbes]; The science of sufficient reasons [Leibnitz]; The science of things possible, inasmuch as they
are possible [Wolf]; The science of things evidently deduced from first principles [Descartes]; The
science of truths, sensible and abstract [de Condillac]; The application of reason to its legitimate objects
[Tennemann]; The science of the relations of all knowledge to the necessary ends of human reason
[Kant];The science of the original form of the ego or mental self [Krug]; The science of sciences
[Fichte]; The science of the absolute [von Schelling]; The science of the absolute indifference of the
ideal and real [von Schelling]--or, The identity of identity and non-identity [Hegel]." (See Lectures on
Metaphysics and Logic.)
The six headings under which the disciplines of philosophy are commonly classified are: metaphysics,
which deals with such abstract subjects as cosmology, theology, and the nature of being; logic, which
deals with the laws governing rational thinking, or, as it has been called, "the doctrine of fallacies";
ethics, which is the science of morality, individual responsibility, and character--concerned chiefly with
an effort to determine the nature of good; psychology, which is devoted to investigation and
classification of those forms of phenomena referable to a mental origin; epistemology, which is the
science concerned primarily with the nature of knowledge itself and the question of whether it may exist
in an absolute form; and æsthetics, which is the science of the nature of and the reactions awakened by
the beautiful, the harmonious, the elegant, and the noble.
Plato regarded philosophy as the greatest good ever imparted by Divinity to man. In the twentieth
century, however, it has become a ponderous and complicated structure of arbitrary and irreconcilable
notions--yet each substantiated by almost incontestible logic. The lofty theorems of the old Academy
which Iamblichus likened to the nectar and ambrosia of the gods have been so adulterated by opinion--
which Heraclitus declared to be a falling sickness of the mind--that the heavenly mead would now be
quite unrecognizable to this great Neo-Platonist. Convincing evidence of the increasing superficiality of
modern scientific and philosophic thought is its persistent drift towards materialism. When the great
astronomer Laplace was asked by Napoleon why he had not mentioned God in his Traité de la
Mécanique Céleste, the mathematician naively replied: "Sire, I had no need for that hypothesis!"
In his treatise on Atheism, Sir Francis Bacon tersely summarizes the situation thus: "A little philosophy
inclineth man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." The
Metaphysics of Aristotle opens with these words: "All men naturally desire to know." To satisfy this
common urge the unfolding human intellect has explored the extremities of imaginable space without
and the extremities of imaginable self within, seeking to estimate the relationship between the one and
the all; the effect and the cause; Nature and the groundwork of Nature; the mind and the source of the
mind; the spirit and the substance of the spirit; the illusion and the reality.
An ancient philosopher once said: "He who has not even a knowledge of common things is a brute
among men. He who has an accurate knowledge of human concerns alone is a man among brutes. But he
who knows all that can be known by intellectual energy, is a God among men." Man's status in the
natural world is determined, therefore, by the quality of his thinking. He whose mind is enslaved to his
bestial instincts is philosophically not superior to the brute-, he whose rational faculties ponder human
affairs is a man; and he whose intellect is elevated to the consideration of divine realities is already a
demigod, for his being partakes of the luminosity with which his reason has brought him into proximity.
In his encomium of "the science of sciences" Cicero is led to exclaim: "O philosophy, life's guide! O
searcher--out of virtue and expeller of vices! What could we and every age of men have been without
thee? Thou hast produced cities; thou hast called men scattered about into the social enjoyment of life."
In this age the word philosophy has little meaning unless accompanied by some other qualifying term.
The body of philosophy has been broken up into numerous isms more or less antagonistic, which have
become so concerned with the effort to disprove each other's fallacies that the sublimer issues of divine
order and human destiny have suffered deplorable neglect. The ideal function of philosophy is to serve
as the stabilizing influence in human thought. By virtue of its intrinsic nature it should prevent man from
ever establishing unreasonable codes of life. Philosophers themselves, however, have frustrated the ends
of philosophy by exceeding in their woolgathering those untrained minds whom they are supposed to
lead in the straight and narrow path of rational thinking. To list and classify any but the more important
of the now recognized schools of philosophy is beyond the space limitations of this volume. The vast
area of speculation covered by philosophy will be appreciated best after a brief consideration of a few of
the outstanding systems of philosophic discipline which have swayed the world of thought during the
last twenty-six centuries. The Greek school of philosophy had its inception with the seven immortalized
thinkers upon whom was first conferred the appellation of Sophos, "the wise." According to Diogenes
Laertius, these were Thales, Solon, Chilon, Pittacus, Bias, Cleobulus, and Periander. Water was
conceived by Thales to be the primal principle or element, upon which the earth floated like a ship, and
earthquakes were the result of disturbances in this universal sea. Since Thales was an Ionian, the school
perpetuating his tenets became known as the Ionic. He died in 546 B.C., and was succeeded by
Anaximander, who in turn was followed by Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, and Archelaus, with whom the
Ionic school ended. Anaximander, differing from his master Thales, declared measureless and
indefinable infinity to be the principle from which all things were generated. Anaximenes asserted air to
be the first element of the universe; that souls and even the Deity itself were composed of it.
Anaxagoras (whose doctrine savors of atomism) held God to be an infinite self-moving mind; that this
divine infinite Mind, not
Click to enlarge
From Babbitt's Principles of Light and Color.
Since the postulation of the atomic theory by Democritus, many efforts have been made to determine the
structure of atoms and the method by which they unite to form various elements, Even science has not refrained
from entering this field of speculation and presents for consideration most detailed and elaborate representations
of these minute bodies. By far the most remarkable conception of the atom evolved during the last century is that
produced by the genius of Dr. Edwin D. Babbitt and which is reproduced herewith. The diagram is self-
explanatory. It must be borne in mind that this apparently massive structure is actually s minute as to defy
analysis. Not only did Dr. Babbitt create this form of the atom but he also contrived a method whereby these
particles could be grouped together in an orderly manner and thus result in the formation of molecular bodies.
p. 14
inclosed in any body, is the efficient cause of all things; out of the infinite matter consisting of similar
parts, everything being made according to its species by the divine mind, who when all things were at
first confusedly mingled together, came and reduced them to order." Archelaus declared the principle of
all things to be twofold: mind (which was incorporeal) and air (which was corporeal), the rarefaction and
condensation of the latter resulting in fire and water respectively. The stars were conceived by Archelaus
to be burning iron places. Heraclitus (who lived 536-470 B.C. and is sometimes included in the Ionic
school) in his doctrine of change and eternal flux asserted fire to be the first element and also the state
into which the world would ultimately be reabsorbed. The soul of the world he regarded as an exhalation
from its humid parts, and he declared the ebb and flow of the sea to be caused by the sun.
After Pythagoras of Samos, its founder, the Italic or Pythagorean school numbers among its most
distinguished representatives Empedocles, Epicharmus, Archytas, Alcmæon, Hippasus, Philolaus, and
Eudoxus. Pythagoras (580-500? B.C.) conceived mathematics to be the most sacred and exact of all the
sciences, and demanded of all who came to him for study a familiarity with arithmetic, music,
astronomy, and geometry. He laid special emphasis upon the philosophic life as a prerequisite to
wisdom. Pythagoras was one of the first teachers to establish a community wherein all the members
were of mutual assistance to one another in the common attainment of the higher sciences. He also
introduced the discipline of retrospection as essential to the development of the spiritual mind.
Pythagoreanism may be summarized as a system of metaphysical speculation concerning the
relationships between numbers and the causal agencies of existence. This school also first expounded the
theory of celestial harmonics or "the music of the spheres." John Reuchlin said of Pythagoras that he
taught nothing to his disciples before the discipline of silence, silence being the first rudiment of
contemplation. In his Sophist, Aristotle credits Empedocles with the discovery of rhetoric. Both
Pythagoras and Empedocles accepted the theory of transmigration, the latter saying: "A boy I was, then
did a maid become; a plant, bird, fish, and in the vast sea swum." Archytas is credited with invention of
the screw and the crane. Pleasure he declared to be a pestilence because it was opposed to the
temperance of the mind; he considered a man without deceit to be as rare as a fish without bones.
The Eleatic sect was founded by Xenophanes (570-480 B.C.), who was conspicuous for his attacks upon
the cosmologic and theogonic fables of Homer and Hesiod. Xenophanes declared that God was "one and
incorporeal, in substance and figure round, in no way resembling man; that He is all sight and all
hearing, but breathes not; that He is all things, the mind and wisdom, not generate but eternal,
impassible, immutable, and rational." Xenophanes believed that all existing things were eternal, that the
world was without beginning or end, and that everything which was generated was subject to corruption.
He lived to great age and is said to have buried his sons with his own hands. Parmenides studied under
Xenophanes, but never entirely subscribed to his doctrines. Parmenides declared the senses to be
uncertain and reason the only criterion of truth. He first asserted the earth to be round and also divided
its surface into zones of hear and cold.
Melissus, who is included in the Eleatic school, held many opinions in common with Parmenides. He
declared the universe to be immovable because, occupying all space, there was no place to which it
could be moved. He further rejected the theory of a vacuum in space. Zeno of Elea also maintained that
a vacuum could not exist. Rejecting the theory of motion, he asserted that there was but one God, who
was an eternal, ungenerated Being. Like Xenophanes, he conceived Deity to be spherical in shape.
Leucippus held the Universe to consist of two parts: one full and the other a vacuum. From the Infinite a
host of minute fragmentary bodies descended into the vacuum, where, through continual agitation, they
organized themselves into spheres of substance.
The great Democritus to a certain degree enlarged upon the atomic theory of Leucippus. Democritus
declared the principles of all things to be twofold: atoms and vacuum. Both, he asserted, are infinite--
atoms in number, vacuum in magnitude. Thus all bodies must be composed of atoms or vacuum. Atoms
possessed two properties, form and size, both characterized by infinite variety. The soul Democritus also
conceived to be atomic in structure and subject to dissolution with the body. The mind he believed to be
composed of spiritual atoms. Aristotle intimates that Democritus obtained his atomic theory from the
Pythagorean doctrine of the Monad. Among the Eleatics are also included Protagoras and Anaxarchus.
Socrates (469-399 B.C.), the founder of the Socratic sect, being fundamentally a Skeptic, did not force
his opinions upon others, but through the medium of questionings caused each man to give expression to
his own philosophy. According to Plutarch, Socrates conceived every place as appropriate for reaching
in that the whole world was a school of virtue. He held that the soul existed before the body and, prior to
immersion therein, was endowed with all knowledge; that when the soul entered into the material form it
became stupefied, but that by discourses upon sensible objects it was caused to reawaken and to recover
its original knowledge. On these premises was based his attempt to stimulate the soul-power through
irony and inductive reasoning. It has been said of Socrates that the sole subject of his philosophy was
man. He himself declared philosophy to be the way of true happiness and its purpose twofold: (1) to
contemplate God, and (2) to abstract the soul from corporeal sense.
The principles of all things he conceived to be three in number: God, matter, and ideas. Of God he said:
"What He is I know not; what He is not I know." Matter he defined as the subject of generation and
corruption; idea, as an incorruptible substance--the intellect of God. Wisdom he considered the sum of
the virtues. Among the prominent members of the Socratic sect were Xenophon, Æschines, Crito,
Simon, Glauco, Simmias, and Cebes. Professor Zeller, the great authority on ancient philosophies, has
recently declared the writings of Xenophon relating to Socrates to be forgeries. When The Clouds of
Aristophanes, a comedy written to ridicule the theories of Socrates, was first presented, the great Skeptic
himself attended the play. During the performance, which caricatured him seated in a basket high in the
air studying the sun, Socrates rose calmly in his seat, the better to enable the Athenian spectators to
compare his own unprepossessing features with the grotesque mask worn by the actor impersonating
The Elean sect was founded by Phædo of Elis, a youth of noble family, who was bought from slavery at
the instigation of Socrates and who became his devoted disciple. Plato so highly admired Phædo's
mentality that he named one of the most famous of his discourses The Phædo. Phædo was succeeded in
his school by Plisthenes, who in turn was followed by Menedemus. Of the doctrines of the Elean sect
little is known. Menedemus is presumed to have been inclined toward the teachings of Stilpo and the
Megarian sect. When Menedemus' opinions were demanded, he answered that he was free, thus
intimating that most men were enslaved to their opinions. Menedemus was apparently of a somewhat
belligerent temperament and often returned from his lectures in a badly bruised condition. The most
famous of his propositions is stated thus: That which is not the same is different from that with which it
is not the same. This point being admitted, Menedemus continued: To benefit is not the same as good,
therefore good does not benefit. After the time of Menedemus the Elean sect became known as the
Eretrian. Its exponents denounced all negative propositions and all complex and abstruse theories,
declaring that only affirmative and simple doctrines could be true.
The Megarian sect was founded by Euclid of Megara (not the celebrated mathematician), a great
admirer of Socrates. The Athenians passed a law decreeing death to any citizen of Megara found in the
city of Athens. Nothing daunted, Euclid donned woman's clothing and went at night to study with
Socrates. After the cruel death of their teacher, the disciples of Socrates, fearing a similar fate, fled to
Megara, where they were entertained with great honor by Euclid. The Megarian school accepted the
Socratic doctrine that virtue is wisdom, adding to it the Eleatic concept that goodness is absolute unity
and all change an illusion of the senses. Euclid maintained that good has no opposite and therefore evil
does not exist. Being asked about the nature of the gods, he declared himself ignorant of their disposition
save that they hated curious persons.
The Megarians are occasionally included among the dialectic philosophers. Euclid (who died 374? B.C.)
was succeeded in his school by Eubulides, among whose disciples were Alexinus and Apollonius
Cronus. Euphantus, who lived to great age and wrote many tragedies, was among the foremost followers
of Eubulides. Diodorus is usually included in the Megarian school, having heard Eubulides lecture.
According to legend, Diodorus died of grief because he could not answer instantly certain questions
asked him by Stilpo, at one time master of the Megarian school. Diodorus held that nothing
Click to enlarge
From Thomasin's Recuil des Figures, Groupes, Thermes, Fontaines, Vases et autres Ornaments.
Plato's real name was Aristocles. When his father brought him to study with Socrates, the great Skeptic declared
that on the previous night he had dreamed of a white swan, which was an omen that his new disciple was to
become one of the world's illumined. There is a tradition that the immortal Plato was sold as a slave by the King
of Sicily.
p. 15
can be moved, since to be moved it must be taken out of the place in which it is and put into the place
where it is not, which is impossible because all things must always be in the places where they are.
The Cynics were a sect founded by Antisthenes of Athens (444-365? B.C.), a disciple of Socrates. Their
doctrine may be described as an extreme individualism which considers man as existing for himself
alone and advocates surrounding him by inharmony, suffering, and direst need that be may thereby be
driven to retire more completely into his own nature. The Cynics renounced all worldly possessions,
living in the rudest shelters and subsisting upon the coarsest and simplest food. On the assumption that
the gods wanted nothing, the Cynics affirmed that those whose needs were fewest consequently
approached closest to the divinities. Being asked what he gained by a life of philosophy, Antisthenes
replied that he had learned how to converse with himself.
Diogenes of Sinopis is remembered chiefly for the tub in the Metroum which for many years served him
as a home. The people of Athens loved the beggar-philosopher, and when a youth in jest bored holes in
the tub, the city presented Diogenes with a new one and punished the youth. Diogenes believed that
nothing in life can be rightly accomplished without exercitation. He maintained that everything in the
world belongs to the wise, a declaration which he proved by the following logic: "All things belong to
the gods; the gods are friends to wise persons; all things are common amongst friends; therefore all
things belong to the wise." Among the Cynics are Monimus, Onesicritus, Crates, Metrocles, Hipparchia
(who married Crates), Menippus, and Menedemus.
The Cyrenaic sect, founded by Aristippus of Cyrene (435-356? B.C.), promulgated the doctrine of
hedonism. Learning of the fame of Socrates, Aristippus journeyed to Athens and applied himself to the
teachings of the great Skeptic. Socrates, pained by the voluptuous and mercenary tendencies of
Aristippus, vainly labored to reform the young man. Aristippus has the distinction of being consistent in
principle and practice, for he lived in perfect harmony with his philosophy that the quest of pleasure was
the chief purpose of life. The doctrines of the Cyrenaics may be summarized thus: All that is actually
known concerning any object or condition is the feeling which it awakens in man's own nature. In the
sphere of ethics that which awakens the most pleasant feeling is consequently to be esteemed as the
greatest good. Emotional reactions are classified as pleasant or gentle, harsh, and mean. The end of
pleasant emotion is pleasure; the end of harsh emotion, grief; the end of mean emotion, nothing.
Through mental perversity some men do not desire pleasure. In reality, however, pleasure (especially of
a physical nature) is the true end of existence and exceeds in every way mental and spiritual enjoyments.
Pleasure, furthermore, is limited wholly to the moment; now is the only time. The past cannot be
regarded without regret and the future cannot be faced without misgiving; therefore neither is conducive
to pleasure. No man should grieve, for grief is the most serious of all diseases. Nature permits man to do
anything he desires; he is limited only by his own laws and customs. A philosopher is one free from
envy, love, and superstition, and whose days are one long round of pleasure. Indulgence was thus
elevated by Aristippus to the chief position among the virtues. He further declared philosophers to differ
markedly from other men in that they alone would not change the order of their lives if all the laws of
men were abolished. Among prominent philosophers influenced by the Cyrenaic doctrines were
Hegesias, Anniceris, Theodorus, and Bion.
The sect of the Academic philosophers instituted by Plato (427-347 B.C.) was divided into three major
parts--the old, the middle, and the new Academy. Among the old Academics were Speusippus,
Zenocrates, Poleman, Crates, and Crantor. Arcesilaus instituted the middle Academy and Carneades
founded the new. Chief among the masters of Plato was Socrates. Plato traveled widely and was initiated
by the Egyptians into the profundities of Hermetic philosophy. He also derived much from the doctrines
of the Pythagoreans. Cicero describes the threefold constitution of Platonic philosophy as comprising
ethics, physics, and dialectics. Plato defined good as threefold in character: good in the soul, expressed
through the virtues; good in the body, expressed through the symmetry and endurance of the parts; and
good in the external world, expressed through social position and companionship. In The Book of
Speusippus on Platonic Definitions, that great Platonist thus defines God: "A being that lives immortally
by means of Himself alone, sufficing for His own blessedness, the eternal Essence, cause of His own
goodness. According to Plato, the One is the term most suitable for defining the Absolute, since the
whole precedes the parts and diversity is dependent on unity, but unity not on diversity. The One,
moreover, is before being, for to be is an attribute or condition of the One.
Platonic philosophy is based upon the postulation of three orders of being: that which moves unmoved,
that which is self-moved, and that which is moved. That which is immovable but moves is anterior to
that which is self-moved, which likewise is anterior to that which it moves. That in which motion is
inherent cannot be separated from its motive power; it is therefore incapable of dissolution. Of such
nature are the immortals. That which has motion imparted to it from another can be separated from the
source of its an animating principle; it is therefore subject to dissolution. Of such nature are mortal
beings. Superior to both the mortals and the immortals is that condition which continually moves yet
itself is unmoved. To this constitution the power of abidance is inherent; it is therefore the Divine
Permanence upon which all things are established. Being nobler even than self-motion, the unmoved
Mover is the first of all dignities. The Platonic discipline was founded upon the theory that learning is
really reminiscence, or the bringing into objectivity of knowledge formerly acquired by the soul in a
previous state of existence. At the entrance of the Platonic school in the Academy were written the
words: "Let none ignorant of geometry enter here."
After the death of Plato, his disciples separated into two groups. One, the Academics, continued to meet
in the Academy where once he had presided; the other, the Peripatetics, removed to the Lyceum under
the leadership of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). Plato recognized Aristotle as his greatest disciple and,
according to Philoponus, referred to him as "the mind of the school." If Aristotle were absent from the
lectures, Plato would say: "The intellect is not here." Of the prodigious genius of Aristotle, Thomas
Taylor writes in his introduction to The Metaphysics:
"When we consider that he was not only well acquainted with every science, as his works abundantly
evince, but that he wrote on almost every subject which is comprehended in the circle of human
knowledge, and this with matchless accuracy and skill, we know not which to admire most, the
penetration or extent of his mind."
Click to enlarge
From Kircher's Ars Magna Sciendi.
In the above diagram Kircher arranges eighteen objects in two vertical columns and then determines he number
of arrangements in which they can be combined. By the same method Kircher further estimates that fifty objects
may be arranged in 1,273,726,838,815,420,339,851,343,083,767,005,515,293,749,454,795,408,000,000,000,000
combinations. From this it will be evident that infinite diversity is possible, for the countless parts of the universe
may be related to each other in an incalculable number of ways; and through the various combinations of these
limitless subdivisions of being, infinite individuality and infinite variety must inevitably result. Thus it is further
evident that life can never become monotonous or exhaust the possibilities of variety.
p. 16
Of the philosophy of Aristotle, the same author says: "The end of Aristotle's moral
[paragraph continues]
philosophy is perfection through the virtues, and the end of his contemplative philosophy an union with
the one principle of all things."
Aristotle conceived philosophy to be twofold: practical and theoretical. Practical philosophy embraced
ethics and politics; theoretical philosophy, physics and logic. Metaphysics he considered to be the
science concerning that substance which has the principle of motion and rest inherent to itself. To
Aristotle the soul is that by which man first lives, feels, and understands. Hence to the soul he assigned
three faculties: nutritive, sensitive, and intellective. He further considered the soul to be twofold--
rational and irrational--and in some particulars elevated the sense perceptions above the mind. Aristotle
defined wisdom as the science of first Causes. The four major divisions of his philosophy are dialectics,
physics, ethics, and metaphysics. God is defined as the First Mover, the Best of beings, an immovable
Substance, separate from sensible things, void of corporeal quantity, without parts and indivisible.
Platonism is based upon a priori reasoning; Aristotelianism upon a posteriori reasoning. Aristotle taught
his pupil, Alexander the Great, to feel that if he had not done a good deed he had not reigned that day.
Among his followers were Theophrastus, Strato, Lyco, Aristo, Critolaus, and Diodorus.
Of Skepticism as propounded by Pyrrho of Elis (365-275 B.C.) and by Timon, Sextus Empiricus said
that those who seek must find or deny they have found or can find, or persevere in the inquiry. Those
who suppose they have found truth are called Dogmatists; those who think it incomprehensible are the
Academics; those who still seek are the Skeptics. The attitude of Skepticism towards the knowable is
summed up by Sextus Empiricus in the following words: "But the chief ground of Skepticism is that to
every reason there is an opposite reason equivalent, which makes us forbear to dogmatize." The Skeptics
were strongly opposed to the Dogmatists and were agnostic in that they held the accepted theories
regarding Deity to be self-contradictory and undemonstrable. "How," asked the Skeptic, "can we have
indubitate knowledge of God, knowing not His substance, form or place; for, while philosophers
disagree irreconcilably on these points, their conclusions cannot be considered as undoubtedly true?"
Since absolute knowledge was considered unattainable, the Skeptics declared the end of their discipline
to be: "In opinionatives, indisturbance; in impulsives, moderation; and in disquietives, suspension."
The sect of the Stoics was founded by Zeno (340-265 B.C.), the Cittiean, who studied under Crates the
Cynic, from which sect the Stoics had their origin. Zeno was succeeded by Cleanthes, Chrysippus, Zeno
of Tarsis, Diogenes, Antipater, Panætius, and Posidonius. Most famous of the Roman Stoics are
Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. The Stoics were essentially pantheists, since they maintained that as
there is nothing better than the world, the world is God. Zeno declared that the reason of the world is
diffused throughout it as seed. Stoicism is a materialistic philosophy, enjoining voluntary resignation to
natural law. Chrysippus maintained that good and evil being contrary, both are necessary since each
sustains the other. The soul was regarded as a body distributed throughout the physical form and subject
to dissolution with it. Though some of the Stoics held that wisdom prolonged the existence of the soul,
actual immortality is not included in their tenets. The soul was said to be composed of eight parts: the
five senses, the generative power, the vocal power, and an eighth, or hegemonic, part. Nature was
defined as God mixed throughout the substance of the world. All things were looked upon as bodies
either corporeal or incorporeal.
Meekness marked the attitude of the Stoic philosopher. While Diogenes was delivering a discourse
against anger, one of his listeners spat contemptuously in his face. Receiving the insult with humility,
the great Stoic was moved to retort: "I am not angry, but am in doubt whether I ought to be so or not!"
Epicurus of Samos (341-270 B.C.) was the founder of the Epicurean sect, which in many respects
resembles the Cyrenaic but is higher in its ethical standards. The Epicureans also posited pleasure as the
most desirable state, but conceived it to be a grave and dignified state achieved through renunciation of
those mental and emotional inconstancies which are productive of pain and sorrow. Epicurus held that as
the pains of the mind and soul are more grievous than those of the body, so the joys of the mind and soul
exceed those of the body. The Cyrenaics asserted pleasure to be dependent upon action or motion; the
Epicureans claimed rest or lack of action to be equally productive of pleasure. Epicurus accepted the
philosophy of Democritus concerning the nature of atoms and based his physics upon this theory. The
Epicurean philosophy may be summed up in four canons:
"(1) Sense is never deceived; and therefore every sensation and every perception of an appearance is
true. (2) Opinion follows upon sense and is superadded to sensation, and capable of truth or falsehood,
(3) All opinion attested, or not contradicted by the evidence of sense, is true. (4) An opinion
contradicted, or not attested by the evidence of sense, is false." Among the Epicureans of note were
Metrodorus of Lampsacus, Zeno of Sidon, and Phædrus.
Eclecticism may be defined as the practice of choosing apparently irreconcilable doctrines from
antagonistic schools and constructing therefrom a composite philosophic system in harmony with the
convictions of the eclectic himself. Eclecticism can scarcely be considered philosophically or logically
sound, for as individual schools arrive at their conclusions by different methods of reasoning, so the
philosophic product of fragments from these schools must necessarily be built upon the foundation of
conflicting premises. Eclecticism, accordingly, has been designated the layman's cult. In the Roman
Empire little thought was devoted to philosophic theory; consequently most of its thinkers were of the
eclectic type. Cicero is the outstanding example of early Eclecticism, for his writings are a veritable
potpourri of invaluable fragments from earlier schools of thought. Eclecticism appears to have had its
inception at the moment when men first doubted the possibility of discovering ultimate truth. Observing
all so-called knowledge to be mere opinion at best, the less studious furthermore concluded that the
wiser course to pursue was to accept that which appeared to be the most reasonable of the teachings of
any school or individual. From this practice, however, arose a pseudo-broadmindedness devoid of the
element of preciseness found in true logic and philosophy.
The Neo-Pythagorean school flourished in Alexandria during the first century of the Christian Era. Only
two names stand out in connection with it--Apollonius of Tyana and Moderatus of Gades. Neo-
Pythagoreanism is a link between the older pagan philosophies and Neo-Platonism. Like the former, it
contained many exact elements of thought derived from Pythagoras and Plato; like the latter, it
emphasized metaphysical speculation and ascetic habits. A striking similarity has been observed by
several authors between Neo-Pythagoreanism and the doctrines of the Essenes. Special emphasis was
laid upon the mystery of numbers, and it is possible that the Neo-Pythagoreans had a far wider
knowledge of the true teachings of Pythagoras than is available today. Even in the first century
Pythagoras was regarded more as a god than a man, and the revival of his philosophy was resorted to
apparently in the hope that his name would stimulate interest in the deeper systems of learning. But
Greek philosophy had passed the zenith of its splendor; the mass of humanity was awakening to the
importance of physical life and physical phenomena. The emphasis upon earthly affairs which began to
assert itself later reached maturity of expression in twentieth century materialism and commercialism,
Click to enlarge
From Virgil's Æneid. (Dryden's translation.)
Virgil describes part of the ritual of a Greek Mystery--possibly the Eleusinian--in his account of the descent of
Æneas, to the gate of hell under the guidance of the Sibyl. Of that part of the ritual portrayed above the immortal
poet writes:
"Full in the midst of this infernal Road,
An Elm displays her dusky Arms abroad;
The God of Sleep there hides his heavy Head
And empty Dreams on ev'ry Leaf are spread.
Of various Forms, unnumber'd Specters more;
Centaurs, and double Shapes, besiege the Door:
Before the Passage horrid Hydra stands,
And Briareus with all his hundred Hands:
Gorgons, Geryon with his triple Frame;
And vain Chimæra vomits empty Flame.
The Chief unsheath'd his shining Steel, prepar'd,
Tho seiz'd with sudden Fear, to force the Guard.
Off'ring his brandish'd Weapon at their Face,
Had not the Sibyl stop'd his eager Pace,
And told him what those empty Phantoms were;
Forms without Bodies, and impassive Air."
p. 17
even though Neo-Platonism was to intervene and many centuries pass before this emphasis took definite
Although Ammonius Saccus was long believed to be the founder of Neo-Platonism, the school had its
true beginning in Plotinus (A.D. 204-269?). Prominent among the Neo-Platonists of Alexandria, Syria,
Rome, and Athens were Porphyry, Iamblichus, Sallustius, the Emperor Julian, Plutarch, and Proclus.
Neo-Platonism was the supreme effort of decadent pagandom to publish and thus preserve for posterity
its secret (or unwritten) doctrine. In its teachings ancient idealism found its most perfect expression. Neo-
Platonism was concerned almost exclusively with the problems of higher metaphysics. It recognized the
existence of a secret and all-important doctrine which from the time of the earliest civilizations had been
concealed within the rituals, symbols, and allegories of religions and philosophies. To the mind
unacquainted with its fundamental tenets, Neo-Platonism may appear to be a mass of speculations
interspersed with extravagant flights of fancy. Such a viewpoint, however, ignores the institutions of the
Mysteries--those secret schools into whose profundities of idealism nearly all of the first philosophers of
antiquity were initiated.
When the physical body of pagan thought collapsed, an attempt was made to resurrect the form by
instilling new life into it by the unveiling of its mystical truths. This effort apparently was barren of
results. Despite the antagonism, however, between pristine Christianity and Neo-Platonism many basic
tenets of the latter were accepted by the former and woven into the fabric of Patristic philosophy. Briefly
described, Neo-Platonism is a philosophic code which conceives every physical or concrete body of
doctrine to be merely the shell of a spiritual verity which may be discovered through meditation and
certain exercises of a mystic nature. In comparison to the esoteric spiritual truths which they contain, the
corporeal bodies of religion and philosophy were considered relatively of little value. Likewise, no
emphasis was placed upon the material sciences.
The term Patristic is employed to designate the philosophy of the Fathers of the early Christian Church.
Patristic philosophy is divided into two general epochs: ante-Nicene and post-Nicene. The ante-Nicene
period in the main was devoted to attacks upon paganism and to apologies and defenses of Christianity.
The entire structure of pagan philosophy was assailed and the dictates of faith elevated above those of
reason. In some instances efforts were made to reconcile the evident truths of paganism with Christian
revelation. Eminent among the ante-Nicene Fathers were St. Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin
Martyr. In the post-Nicene period more emphasis was placed upon the unfoldment of Christian
philosophy along Platonic and Neo-Platonic lines, resulting in the appearance of many strange
documents of a lengthy, rambling, and ambiguous nature, nearly all of which were philosophically
unsound. The post-Nicene philosophers included Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Cyril of
Alexandria. The Patristic school is notable for its emphasis upon the supremacy of man throughout the
universe. Man was conceived to be a separate and divine creation--the crowning achievement of Deity
and an exception to the suzerainty of natural law. To the Patristics it was inconceivable that there should
ever exist another creature so noble, so fortunate, or so able as man, for whose sole benefit and
edification all the kingdoms of Nature were primarily created.
Patristic philosophy culminated in Augustinianism, which may best be defined as Christian Platonism.
Opposing the Pelasgian doctrine that man is the author of his own salvation, Augustinianism elevated
the church and its dogmas to a position of absolute infallibility--a position which it successfully
maintained until the Reformation. Gnosticism, a system of emanationism, interpreting Christianity in
terms of Greek, Egyptian, and Persian metaphysics, appeared in the latter part of the first century of the
Christian Era. Practically all the information extant regarding the Gnostics and their doctrines,
stigmatized as heresy by the ante-Nicene Church Fathers, is derived from the accusations made against
them, particularly from the writings of St. Irenæus. In the third century appeared Manichæism, a
dualistic system of Persian origin, which taught that Good and Evil were forever contending for
universal supremacy. In Manichæism, Christ is conceived to be the Principle of redeeming Good in
contradistinction to the man Jesus, who was viewed as an evil personality.
The death of Boethius in the sixth century marked the close of the ancient Greek school of philosophy.
The ninth century saw the rise of the new school of Scholasticism, which sought to reconcile philosophy
with theology. Representative of the main divisions of the Scholastic school were the Eclecticism of
John of Salisbury, the Mysticism of Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Bonaventura, the Rationalism of Peter
Abelard, and the pantheistic Mysticism of Meister Eckhart. Among the Arabian Aristotelians were
Avicenna and Averroes. The zenith of Scholasticism was reached with the advent of Albertus Magnus
and his illustrious disciple, St. Thomas Aquinas. Thomism (the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas,
sometimes referred to as the Christian Aristotle) sought to reconcile the various factions of the
Scholastic school. Thomism was basically Aristotelian with the added concept that faith is a projection
of reason.
Scotism, or the doctrine of Voluntarism promulgated by Joannes Duns Scotus, a Franciscan Scholastic,
emphasized the power and efficacy of the individual will, as opposed to Thomism. The outstanding
characteristic of Scholasticism was its frantic effort to cast all European thought in an Aristotelian mold.
Eventually the Schoolmen descended to the level of mere wordmongers who picked the words of
Aristotle so clean that nothing but the bones remained. It was this decadent school of meaningless
verbiage against which Sir Francis Bacon directed his bitter shafts of irony and which he relegated to the
potter's field of discarded notions.
The Baconian, or inductive, system of reasoning (whereby facts are arrived at by a process of
observation and verified by experimentation) cleared the way for the schools of modern science. Bacon
was followed by Thomas Hobbes (for some time his secretary), who held mathematics to be the only
exact science and thought to be essentially a mathematical process. Hobbes declared matter to be the
only reality, and scientific investigation to be limited to the study of bodies, the phenomena relative to
their probable causes, and the consequences which flow from them under every variety of circumstance.
Hobbes laid special stress upon the significance of words, declaring understanding to be the faculty of
perceiving the relationship between words and the objects for which they stand.
Having broken away from the scholastic and theological schools, Post-Reformation, or modern,
philosophy experienced a most prolific growth along many diverse lines. According to Humanism, man
is the measure of all things; Rationalism makes the reasoning faculties the basis of all knowledge;
Political Philosophy holds that man must comprehend his natural, social, and national privileges;
Empiricism declares that alone to be true which is demonstrable by experiment or experience; Moralism
emphasizes the necessity of right conduct as a fundamental philosophic tenet; Idealism asserts the
realities of the universe to be superphysical--either mental or psychical; Realism, the reverse; and
Phenomenalism restricts knowledge to facts or events which can be scientifically described or explained.
The most recent developments in the field of philosophic thought are Behaviorism and Neo-Realism.
The former estimates the intrinsic characteristics through an analysis of behavior; the latter may be
summed up as the total extinction of idealism.
Baruch de Spinoza, the eminent Dutch philosopher, conceived God to be a substance absolutely self-
existent and needing no other conception besides itself to render it complete and intelligible. The nature
of this Being was held by Spinoza to be comprehensible only through its attributes, which are extension
and thought: these combine
Click to enlarge
From an old print, courtesy of Carl Oscar Borg.
In ridiculing the geocentric system of astronomy expounded by Claudius Ptolemy, modem astronomers have
overlooked the philosophic key to the Ptolemaic system. The universe of Ptolemy is a diagrammatic
representation of the relationships existing between the various divine and elemental parts of every creature, and
is not concerned with astronomy as that science is now comprehended. In the above figure, special attention is
called to the three circles of zodiacs surrounding the orbits of the planets. These zodiacs represent the threefold
spiritual constitution of the universe. The orbits of the planets are the Governors of the World and the four
elemental spheres in the center represent the physical constitution of both man and the universe, Ptolemy's
scheme of the universe is simply a cross section of the universal aura, the planets and elements to which he refers
having no relation to those recognized by modern astronomers.
p. 18
to form an endless variety of aspects or modes. The mind of man is one of the modes of infinite thought;
the body of man one of the modes of infinite extension. Through reason man is enabled to elevate
himself above the illusionary world of the senses and find eternal repose in perfect union with the Divine
Essence. Spinoza, it has been said, deprived God of all personality, making Deity synonymous with the
German philosophy had its inception with Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, whose theories are
permeated with the qualities of optimism and idealism. Leibnitz's criteria of sufficient reason revealed to
him the insufficiency of Descartes' theory of extension, and he therefore concluded that substance itself
contained an inherent power in the form of an incalculable number of separate and all-sufficient units.
Matter reduced to its ultimate particles ceases to exist as a substantial body, being resolved into a mass
of immaterial ideas or metaphysical units of power, to which Leibnitz applied the term monad. Thus the
universe is composed of an infinite number of separate monadic entities unfolding spontaneously
through the objectification of innate active qualities. All things are conceived as consisting of single
monads of varying magnitudes or of aggregations of these bodies, which may exist as physical,
emotional, mental, or spiritual substances. God is the first and greatest Monad; the spirit of man is an
awakened monad in contradistinction to the lower kingdoms whose governing monadic powers are in a
semi-dormant state.
Though a product of the Leibnitzian-Wolfian school, Immanuel Kant, like Locke, dedicated himself to
investigation of the powers and limits of human understanding. The result was his critical philosophy,
embracing the critique of pure reason, the critique of practical reason, and the critique of judgment. Dr.
W. J. Durant sums up Kant's philosophy in the concise statement that he rescued mind from matter. The
mind Kant conceived to be the selector and coordinator of all perceptions, which in turn are the result of
sensations grouping themselves about some external object. In the classification of sensations and ideas
the mind employs certain categories: of sense, time and space; of understanding, quality, relation,
modality, and causation; and the unity of apperception. Being subject to mathematical laws, time and
space are considered absolute and sufficient bases for exact thinking. Kant's practical reason declared
that while the nature of noumenon could never be comprehended by the reason, the fact of morality
proves the existence of three necessary postulates: free will, immortality, and God. In the critique of
judgment Kant demonstrates the union of the noumenon and the phenomenon in art and biological
evolution. German superintellectualism is the outgrowth of an overemphasis of Kant's theory of the
autocratic supremacy of the mind over sensation and thought. The philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte
was a projection of Kant's philosophy, wherein he attempted to unite Kant's practical reason with his
pure reason. Fichte held that the known is merely the contents of the consciousness of the knower, and
that nothing can exist to the knower until it becomes part of those contents. Nothing is actually real,
therefore, except the facts of one's own mental experience.
Recognizing the necessity of certain objective realities, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, who
succeeded Fichte in the chair of philosophy at Jena, first employed the doctrine of identity as the
groundwork for a complete system of philosophy. Whereas Fichte regarded self as the Absolute, von
Schelling conceived infinite and eternal Mind to be the all-pervading Cause. Realization of the Absolute
is made possible by intellectual intuition which, being a superior or spiritual sense, is able to dissociate
itself from both subject and object. Kant's categories of space and time von Schelling conceived to be
positive and negative respectively, and material existence the result of the reciprocal action of these two
expressions. Von Schelling also held that the Absolute in its process of self-development proceeds
according to a law or rhythm consisting of three movements. The first, a reflective movement, is the
attempt of the Infinite to embody itself in the finite. The second, that of subsumption, is the attempt of
the Absolute to return to the Infinite after involvement in the finite. The third, that of reason, is the
neutral point wherein the two former movements are blended.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel considered the intellectual intuition of von Schelling to be
philosophically unsound and hence turned his attention to the establishment of a system of philosophy
based upon pure logic. Of Hegel it has been said that he began with nothing and showed with logical
precision how everything had proceeded from it in logical order. Hegel elevated logic to a position of
supreme importance, in fact as a quality of the Absolute itself. God he conceived to be a process of
unfolding which never attains to the condition of unfoldment. In like manner, thought is without either
beginning or end. Hegel further believed that all things owe their existence to their opposites and that all
opposites are actually identical. Thus the only existence is the relationship of opposites to each other,
through whose combinations new elements are produced. As the Divine Mind is an eternal process of
thought never accomplished, Hegel assails the very foundation of theism and his philosophy limits
immortality to the everflowing Deity alone. Evolution is consequently the never-ending flow of Divine
Consciousness out of itself; all creation, though continually moving, never arrives at any state other than
that of ceaseless flow.
Johann Friedrich Herbart's philosophy was a realistic reaction from the idealism of Fichte and von
Schelling. To Herbart the true basis of philosophy was the great mass of phenomena continually moving
through the human mind. Examination of phenomena, however, demonstrates that a great part of it is
unreal, at least incapable of supplying the mind with actual truth. To correct the false impressions caused
by phenomena and discover reality, Herbart believed it necessary to resolve phenomena into separate
elements, for reality exists in the elements and not in the whole. He stated that objects can be classified
by three general terms: thing, matter, and mind; the first a unit of several properties, the second an
existing object, the third a self-conscious being. All three notions give rise, however, to certain
contradictions, with whose solution Herbart is primarily concerned. For example, consider matter.
Though capable of filling space, if reduced to its ultimate state it consists of incomprehensibly minute
units of divine energy occupying no physical space whatsoever.
The true subject of Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy is the will; the object of his philosophy is the
elevation of the mind to the point where it is capable of controlling the will. Schopenhauer likens the
will to a strong blind man who carries on his shoulders the intellect, which is a weak lame man
possessing the power of sight. The will is the tireless cause of manifestation and every part of Nature the
product of will. The brain is the product of the will to know; the hand the product of the will to grasp.
The entire intellectual and emotional constitutions of man are subservient to the will and are largely
concerned with the effort to justify the dictates of the will. Thus the mind creates elaborate systems of
thought simply to prove the necessity of the thing willed. Genius, however, represents the state wherein
the intellect has gained supremacy over the will and the life is ruled by reason and not by impulse. The
strength of Christianity, said Schopenhauer, lay in its pessimism and conquest of individual will. His
own religious viewpoints resembled closely the Buddhistic. To him Nirvana represented the subjugation
of will. Life--the manifestation of the blind will to live--he viewed as a misfortune, claiming that the true
philosopher was one who, recognizing the wisdom of death, resisted the inherent urge to reproduce his
Click to enlarge
From Hort's The New Pantheon.
Before a proper appreciation of the deeper scientific aspects of Greek mythology is possible, it is necessary to
organize the Greek pantheon and arrange its gods, goddesses, and various superhuman hierarchies in
concatenated order. Proclus, the great Neo-Platonist, in his commentaries on the theology of Plato, gives an
invaluable key to the sequence of the various deities in relation to the First Cause and the inferior powers
emanating from themselves. When thus arranged, the divine hierarchies may be likened to the branches of a great
tree. The roots of this tree are firmly imbedded in Unknowable Being. The trunk and larger branches of the tree
symbolize the superior gods; the twigs and leaves, the innumerable existences dependent upon the first and
unchanging Power.
p. 19
Of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche it has been said that his peculiar contribution to the cause of human
hope was the glad tidings that God had died of pity! The outstanding features of Nietzsche's philosophy
are his doctrine of eternal recurrence and the extreme emphasis placed by him upon the will to power--a
projection of Schopenhauer's will to live. Nietzsche believed the purpose of existence to be the
production of a type of all-powerful individual, designated by him the superman. This superman was the
product of careful culturing, for if not separated forcibly from the mass and consecrated to the
production of power, the individual would sink back to the level of the deadly mediocre. Love,
Nietzsche said, should be sacrificed to the production of the superman and those only should marry who
are best fitted to produce this outstanding type. Nietzsche also believed in the rule of the aristocracy,
both blood and breeding being essential to the establishment of this superior type. Nietzsche's doctrine
did not liberate the masses; it rather placed over them supermen for whom their inferior brothers and
sisters should be perfectly reconciled to die. Ethically and politically, the superman was a law unto
himself. To those who understand the true meaning of power to be virtue, self-control, and truth, the
ideality behind Nietzsche's theory is apparent. To the superficial, however, it is a philosophy heartless
and calculating, concerned solely with the survival of the fittest.
Of the other German schools of philosophic thought, limitations of space preclude detailed mention. The
more recent developments of the German school are Freudianism and Relativism (often called the
Einstein theory). The former is a system of psychoanalysis through psychopathic and neurological
phenomena; the latter attacks the accuracy of mechanical principles dependent upon the present theory
of velocity.
René Descartes stands at the head of the French school of philosophy and shares with Sir Francis Bacon
the honor of founding the systems of modern science and philosophy. As Bacon based his conclusions
upon observation of external things, so Descartes founded his metaphysical philosophy upon observation
of internal things. Cartesianism (the philosophy of Descartes) first eliminates all things and then
replaces as fundamental those premises without which existence is impossible. Descartes defined an idea
as that which fills the mind when we conceive a thing. The truth of an idea must be determined by the
criteria of clarity and distinctness. Hence Descartes, held that a clear and distinct idea must be true.
Descartes has the distinction also of evolving his own philosophy without recourse to authority.
Consequently his conclusions are built up from the simplest of premises and grow in complexity as the
structure of his philosophy takes form.
The Positive philosophy of Auguste Comte is based upon the theory that the human intellect develops
through three stages of thought. The first and lowest stage is theological; the second, metaphysical; and
the third and highest, positive. Thus theology and metaphysics are the feeble intellectual efforts of
humanity's child-mind and positivism is the mental expression of the adult intellect. In his Cours de
Philosophie positive, Comte writes:
"In the final, the positive state, the mind has given over the vain search after Absolute notions, the origin
and destination of the universe, and the causes of phenomena, and applies itself to the study of their
laws,--that is, their invariable relations of succession and resemblance. Reasoning and observation, duly
combined, are the means of this knowledge." Comte's theory is described as an "enormous system of
materialism." According to Comte, it was formerly said that the heavens declare the glory of God, but
now they only recount the glory of Newton and Laplace.
Among the French schools of philosophy are Traditionalism (often applied to Christianity), which
esteems tradition as the proper foundation for philosophy; the Sociological school, which regards
humanity as one vast social organism; the Encyclopedists, whose efforts to classify knowledge
according to the Baconian system revolutionized European thought; Voltairism, which assailed the
divine origin of the Christian faith and adopted an attitude of extreme skepticism toward all matters
pertaining to theology; and Neo-Criticism, a French revision of the doctrines of Immanuel Kant.
Henri Bergson, the intuitionalist, undoubtedly the greatest living French philosopher, presents a theory
of mystic anti-intellectualism founded upon the premise of creative evolution, His rapid rise to
popularity is due to his appeal to the finer sentiments in human nature, which rebel against the
hopelessness and helplessness of materialistic science and realistic philosophy. Bergson sees God as life
continually struggling against the limitations of matter. He even conceives the possible victory of life
over matter, and in time the annihilation of death.
Applying the Baconian method to the mind, John Locke, the great English philosopher, declared that
everything which passes through the mind is a legitimate object of mental philosophy, and that these
mental phenomena are as real and valid as the objects of any other science. In his investigations of the
origin of phenomena Locke departed from the Baconian requirement that it was first necessary to make
a natural history of facts. The mind was regarded by Locke to be blank until experience is inscribed
upon it. Thus the mind is built up of received impressions plus reflection. The soul Locke believed to be
incapable of apprehension of Deity, and man's realization or cognition of God to be merely an inference
of the reasoning faculty. David Hume was the most enthusiastic and also the most powerful of the
disciples of Locke.
Attacking Locke's sensationalism, Bishop George Berkeley substituted for it a philosophy founded on
Locke's fundamental premises but which he developed as a system of idealism. Berkeley held that ideas
are the real objects of knowledge. He declared it impossible to adduce proof that sensations are
occasioned by material objects; he also attempted to prove that matter has no existence. Berkeleianism
holds that the universe is permeated and governed by mind. Thus the belief in the existence of material
objects is merely a mental condition, and the objects themselves may well be fabrications of the mind.
At the same time Berkeley considered it worse than insanity to question the accuracy of the perceptions;
for if the power of the perceptive faculties be questioned man is reduced to a creature incapable of
knowing, estimating, or realizing anything whatsoever.
In the Associationalism of Hartley and Hume was advanced the theory that the association of ideas is the
fundamental principle of psychology and the explanation for all mental phenomena. Hartley held that if
a sensation be repeated several times there is a tendency towards its spontaneous repetition, which may
be awakened by association with some other idea even though the object causing the original reaction be
absent. The Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham, Archdeacon Paley, and James and John Stuart Mill
declares that to be the greatest good which is the most useful to the greatest number. John Stuart Mill
believed that if it is possible through sensation to secure knowledge of the properties of things, it is also
possible through a higher state of the mind--that is, intuition or reason--to gain a knowledge of the true
substance of things.
Darwinism is the doctrine of natural selection and physical evolution. It has been said of Charles Robert
Darwin that he determined to banish spirit altogether from the universe and make the infinite and
omnipresent Mind itself synonymous with the all-pervading powers of an impersonal Nature.
Agnosticism and Neo-Hegelianism are also noteworthy products of this period of philosophic thought.
The former is the belief that the nature of ultimates is unknowable; the latter an English and American
revival of Hegel's idealism.
Dr. W. J. Durant declares that Herbert Spencer's Great Work, First Principles, made him almost at once
the most famous philosopher of his time. Spencerianism is a philosophic positivism which describes
evolution as an ever-increasing complexity with equilibrium as its highest possible state. According to
Spencer, life is a continuous process from homogeneity to heterogeneity and back from heterogeneity to
homogeneity. Life also involves the continual adjustment of internal relations to external relations. Most
famous of all Spencer's aphorisms is his definition of Deity: "God is infinite intelligence, infinitely
diversified through infinite time and infinite space, manifesting through an infinitude of ever-evolving
individualities." The universality of the law of evolution was emphasized by Spencer, who applied it not
only to the form but also to the intelligence behind the form. In every manifestation of being he
recognized the fundamental tendency of unfoldment from simplicity to complexity, observing that when
the point of equilibrium is reached it is
Click to enlarge
From Hone's Ancient Mysteries Described.
In an effort to set forth in an appropriate figure the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, it was necessary to devise an
image in which the three persons--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--were separate and yet one. In different parts of
Europe may be seen figures similar to the above, wherein three faces are united in one head. This is a legitimate
method of for to those able to realize the sacred significance of the threefold head a great mystery is revealed.
However, in the presence of such applications of symbology in Christian art, it is scarcely proper to consider the
philosophers of other faiths as benighted if, like the Hindus, they have a three-faced Brahma, or, like the Romans,
a two-faced Janus.
p. 20
always followed by the process of dissolution. According to Spencer, however, disintegration took place
only that reintegration might follow upon a higher level of being.
The chief position in the Italian school of philosophy should be awarded to Giordano Bruno, who, after
enthusiastically accepting Copernicus' theory that the sun is the center of the solar system, declared the
sun to be a star and all the stars to be suns. In Bruno's time the earth was regarded as the center of all
creation. Consequently when he thus relegated the world and man to an obscure corner in space the
effect was cataclysmic. For the heresy of affirming a multiplicity of universes and conceiving Cosmos to
be so vast that no single creed could fill it, Bruno paid the forfeit of his life.
Vicoism is a philosophy based upon the conclusions of Giovanni Battista Vico, who held that God
controls His world not miraculously but through natural law. The laws by which men rule themselves,
Vico declared, issue from a spiritual source within mankind which is en rapport with the law of the
Deity. Hence material law is of divine origin and reflects the dictates of the Spiritual Father. The
philosophy of Ontologism developed by Vincenzo Gioberti (generally considered more as a theologian
than a philosopher) posits God as the only being and the origin of all knowledge, knowledge being
identical with Deity itself. God is consequently called Being; all other manifestations are existences.
Truth is to be discovered through reflection upon this mystery.
The most important of modern Italian philosophers is Benedetto Croce, a Hegelian idealist. Croce
conceives ideas to be the only reality. He is anti-theological in his viewpoints, does not believe in the
immortality of the soul, and seeks to substitute ethics and aesthetics for religion. Among other branches
of Italian philosophy should be mentioned Sensism (Sensationalism), which posits the sense perceptions
as the sole channels for the reception of knowledge; Criticism, or the philosophy of accurate judgment;
and Neo-Scholasticism, which is a revival of Thomism encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church.
The two outstanding schools of American philosophy are Transcendentalism and Pragmatism.
Transcendentalism, exemplified in the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, emphasizes the power of the
transcendental over the physical. Many of Emerson's writings show pronounced Oriental influence,
particularly his essays on the Oversoul and the Law of Compensation. The theory of Pragmatism, while
not original with Professor William James, owes its widespread popularity as a philosophic tenet to his
efforts. Pragmatism may be defined as the doctrine that the meaning and nature of things are to be
discovered from consideration of their consequences. The true, according to James, "is only an
expedient in the way of our thinking, just as 'the right' is only an expedient in the way of our
behaving." (See his Pragmatism.) John Dewey, the Instrumentalist, who applies the experimental
attitude to all the aims of life, should be considered a commentator of James. To Dewey, growth and
change are limitless and no ultimates are postulated. The long residence in America of George
Santayana warrants the listing of this great Spaniard among the ranks of American philosophers.
Defending himself with the shield of skepticism alike from the illusions of the senses and the cumulative
errors of the ages, Santayana seeks to lead mankind into a more apprehending state denominated by him
the life of reason.
(In addition to the authorities already quoted, in the preparation of the foregoing abstract of the main
branches of philosophic thought the present writer has had recourse to Stanley's History of Philosophy;
Morell's An Historical and Critical View of the Speculative Philosophy of Europe in the Nineteenth
Century; Singer's Modern Thinkers and Present Problems; Rand's Modern Classical Philosophers;
Windelband's History of Philosophy; Perry's Present Philosophical Tendencies; Hamilton's Lectures on
Metaphysics and Logic; and Durant's The Story of Philosophy.)
Having thus traced the more or less sequential development of philosophic speculation from Thales to
James and Bergson, it is now in order to direct the reader's attention to the elements leading to and the
circumstances attendant upon the genesis of philosophic thinking. Although the Hellenes proved
themselves peculiarly responsive to the disciplines of philosophy, this science of sciences should not be
considered indigenous to them. "Although some of the Grecians," writes Thomas Stanley, "have
challenged to their nation the original of philosophy, yet the more learned of them have acknowledged it
[to be] derived from the East." The magnificent institutions of Hindu, Chaldean, and Egyptian learning
must be recognized as the actual source of Greek wisdom. The last was patterned after the shadow cast
by the sanctuaries of Ellora, Ur, and Memphis upon the thought substance of a primitive people. Thales,
Pythagoras, and Plato in their philosophic wanderings contacted many distant cults and brought back the
lore of Egypt and the inscrutable Orient.
From indisputable facts such as these it is evident that philosophy emerged from the religious Mysteries
of antiquity, not being separated from religion until after the decay of the Mysteries. Hence he who
would fathom the depths of philosophic thought must familiarize himself with the teachings of those
initiated priests designated as the first custodians of divine revelation. The Mysteries claimed to be the
guardians of a transcendental knowledge so profound as to be incomprehensible save to the most exalted
intellect and so potent as to be revealed with safety only to those in whom personal ambition was dead
and who had consecrated their lives to the unselfish service of humanity. Both the dignity of these
sacred institutions and the validity of their claim to possession of Universal Wisdom are attested by the
most illustrious philosophers of antiquity, who were themselves initiated into the profundities of the
secret doctrine and who bore witness to its efficacy.
The question may legitimately be propounded: If these ancient mystical institutions were of such "great
pith and moment," why is so little information now available concerning them and the arcana they
claimed to possess? The answer is simple enough: The Mysteries were secret societies, binding their
initiates to inviolable secrecy, and avenging with death the betrayal of their sacred trusts. Although these
schools were the true inspiration of the various doctrines promulgated by the ancient philosophers, the
fountainhead of those doctrines was never revealed to the profane. Furthermore, in the lapse of time the
teachings became so inextricably linked with the names of their disseminators that the actual but
recondite source--the Mysteries--came to be wholly ignored.
Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries; in fact it is the language not only of mysticism and
philosophy but of all Nature, for every law and power active in universal procedure is manifested to the
limited sense perceptions of man through the medium of symbol. Every form existing in the diversified
sphere of being is symbolic of the divine activity by which it is produced. By symbols men have ever
sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language.
Rejecting man-conceived dialects as inadequate and unworthy to perpetuate divine ideas, the Mysteries
thus chose symbolism as a far more ingenious and ideal method of preserving their transcendental
knowledge. In a single figure a symbol may both reveal and conceal, for to the wise the subject of the
symbol is obvious, while to the ignorant the figure remains inscrutable. Hence, he who seeks to unveil
the secret doctrine of antiquity must search for that doctrine not upon the open pages of books which
might fall into the hands of the unworthy but in the place where it was originally concealed.
Far-sighted were the initiates of antiquity. They realized that nations come and go, that empires rise and
fall, and that the golden ages of art, science, and idealism are succeeded by the dark ages of superstition.
With the needs of posterity foremost in mind, the sages of old went to inconceivable extremes to make
certain that their knowledge should be preserved. They engraved it upon the face of mountains and
concealed it within the measurements of colossal images, each of which was a geometric marvel. Their
knowledge of chemistry and mathematics they hid within mythologies which the ignorant would
perpetuate, or in the spans and arches of their temples which time has not entirely obliterated. They
wrote in characters that neither the vandalism of men nor the ruthlessness of the elements could
completely efface, Today men gaze with awe and reverence upon the mighty Memnons standing alone
on the sands of Egypt, or upon the strange terraced pyramids of Palanque. Mute testimonies these are of
the lost arts and sciences of antiquity; and concealed this wisdom must remain until this race has learned
to read the universal language--SYMBOLISM.
The book to which this is the introduction is dedicated to the proposition that concealed within the
emblematic figures, allegories, and rituals of the ancients is a secret doctrine concerning the inner
mysteries of life, which doctrine has been preserved in toto among a small band of initiated minds since
the beginning of the world. Departing, these illumined philosophers left their formulæ that others, too,
might attain to understanding. But, lest these secret processes fall into uncultured hands and be
perverted, the Great Arcanum was always concealed in symbol or allegory; and those who can today
discover its lost keys may open with them a treasure house of philosophic, scientific, and religious truths.
Click to enlarge
From Bryant's An Analysis of Ancient Mythology.
The ancient symbol of the Orphic Mysteries was the serpent-entwined egg, which signified Cosmos as encircled
by the fiery Creative Spirit. The egg also represents the soul of the philosopher; the serpent, the Mysteries. At the
time of initiation the shell is broke. and man emerges from the embryonic state of physical existence wherein he
had remained through the fetal period of philosophic regeneration.
Next: The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies Which Have Influenced Modern Masonic Symbolism
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies
Which Have Influenced Modern Masonic Symbolism
p. 21
WHEN confronted with a problem involving the use of the reasoning faculties, individuals of strong
intellect keep their poise, and seek to reach a solution by obtaining facts bearing upon the question.
Those of immature mentality, on the other hand, when similarly confronted, are overwhelmed. While the
former may be qualified to solve the riddle of their own destiny, the latter must be led like a flock of
sheep and taught in simple language. They depend almost entirely upon the ministrations of the
shepherd. The Apostle Paul said that these little ones must be fed with milk, but that meat is the food of
strong men. Thoughtlessness is almost synonymous with childishness, while thoughtfulness is symbolic
of maturity.
There are, however, but few mature minds in the world; and thus it was that the philosophic-religious
doctrines of the pagans were divided to meet the needs of these two fundamental groups of human
intellect--one philosophic, the other incapable of appreciating the deeper mysteries of life. To the
discerning few were revealed the esoteric, or spiritual, teachings, while the unqualified many received
only the literal, or exoteric, interpretations. In order to make simple the great truths of Nature and the
abstract principles of natural law, the vital forces of the universe were personified, becoming the gods
and goddesses of the ancient mythologies. While the ignorant multitudes brought their offerings to the
altars of Priapus and Pan (deities representing the procreative energies), the wise recognized in these
marble statues only symbolic concretions of great abstract truths.
In all cities of the ancient world were temples for public worship and offering. In every community also
were philosophers and mystics, deeply versed in Nature's lore. These individuals were usually banded
together, forming seclusive philosophic and religious schools. The more important of these groups were
known as the Mysteries. Many of the great minds of antiquity were initiated into these secret fraternities
by strange and mysterious rites, some of which were extremely cruel. Alexander Wilder defines the
Mysteries as "Sacred dramas performed at stated periods. The most celebrated were those of Isis,
Sabazius, Cybele, and Eleusis." After being admitted, the initiates were instructed in the secret wisdom
which had been preserved for ages. Plato, an initiate of one of these sacred orders, was severely
criticized because in his writings he revealed to the public many of the secret philosophic principles of
the Mysteries.
Every pagan nation had (and has) not only its state religion, but another into which the philosophic elect
alone have gained entrance. Many of these ancient cults vanished from the earth without revealing their
secrets, but a few have survived the test of ages and their mysterious symbols are still preserved. Much
of the ritualism of Freemasonry is based on the trials to which candidates were subjected by the ancient
hierophants before the keys of wisdom were entrusted to them.
Few realize the extent to which the ancient secret schools influenced contemporary intellects and,
through those minds, posterity. Robert Macoy, 33°, in his General History of Freemasonry, pays a
magnificent tribute to the part played by the ancient Mysteries in the rearing of the edifice of human
culture. He says, in part: "It appears that all the perfection of civilization, and all the advancement made
in philosophy, science, and art among the ancients are due to those institutions which, under the veil of
mystery, sought to illustrate the sublimest truths of religion, morality, and virtue, and impress them on
the hearts of their disciples.* * * Their chief object was to teach the doctrine of one God, the
resurrection of man to eternal life, the dignity of the human soul, and to lead the people to see the
shadow of the deity, in the beauty, magnificence, and splendor of the universe."
With the decline of virtue, which has preceded the destruction of every nation of history, the Mysteries
became perverted. Sorcery took the place of the divine magic. Indescribable practices (such as the
Bacchanalia) were introduced, and perversion ruled supreme; for no institution can be any better than
the members of which it is composed. In despair, the few who were true sought to preserve the secret
doctrines from oblivion. In some cases they succeeded, but more often the arcanum was lost and only
the empty shell of the Mysteries remained.
Thomas Taylor has written, "Man is naturally a religious animal." From the earliest dawning of his
consciousness, man has worshiped and revered things as symbolic of the invisible, omnipresent,
indescribable Thing, concerning which he could discover practically nothing. The pagan Mysteries
opposed the Christians during the early centuries of their church, declaring that the new faith
(Christianity) did not demand virtue and integrity as requisites for salvation. Celsus expressed himself
on the subject in the following caustic terms:
"That I do not, however, accuse the Christians more bitterly than truth compels, may be conjectured
from hence, that the cryers who call men to other mysteries proclaim as follows: 'Let him approach
whose hands are pure, and whose words are wise.' And again, others proclaim: 'Let him approach who is
pure from all wickedness, whose soul is not conscious of any evil, and who leads a just and upright life.'
And these things are proclaimed by those who promise a purification from error. Let us now hear who
those are that are called to the Christian mysteries: Whoever is a sinner, whoever is unwise, whoever is a
fool, and whoever, in short, is miserable, him the kingdom of God will receive. Do you not, therefore,
call a sinner, an unjust man, a thief, a housebreaker, a wizard, one who is sacrilegious, and a robber of
sepulchres? What other persons would the cryer nominate, who should call robbers together?"
It was not the true faith of the early Christian mystics that Celsus attacked, but the false forms that were
creeping in even during his day. The ideals of early Christianity were based upon the high moral
standards of the pagan Mysteries, and the first Christians who met under the city of Rome used as their
places of worship the subterranean temples of Mithras, from whose cult has been borrowed much of the
sacerdotalism of the modem church.
The ancient philosophers believed that no man could live intelligently who did not have a fundamental
knowledge of Nature and her laws. Before man can obey, he must understand, and the Mysteries were
devoted to instructing man concerning the operation of divine law in the terrestrial sphere. Few of the
early cults actually worshiped anthropomorphic deities, although their symbolism might lead one to
believe they did. They were moralistic rather than religionistic; philosophic rather than theologic. They
taught man to use his faculties more intelligently, to be patient in the face of adversity, to be courageous
when confronted by danger, to be true in the midst of temptation, and, most of all, to view a worthy life
as the most acceptable sacrifice to God, and his body as an altar sacred to the Deity.
Sun worship played an important part in nearly all the early pagan Mysteries. This indicates the
probability of their Atlantean origin, for the people of Atlantis were sun worshipers. The Solar Deity
was usually personified as a beautiful youth, with long golden hair to symbolize the rays of the sun. This
golden Sun God was slain by wicked ruffians, who personified the evil principle of the universe. By
means of certain rituals and ceremonies, symbolic of purification and regeneration, this wonderful God
of Good was brought back to life and became the Savior of His people. The secret processes whereby He
was resurrected symbolized those cultures by means of which man is able to overcome his lower nature,
master his appetites, and give expression to the higher side of himself. The Mysteries were organized for
the purpose of assisting the struggling human creature to reawaken the spiritual powers which,
surrounded by the flaming
Click to enlarge
From Montfaucon's Antiquities.
This illustration shows Cybele, here called the Syrian Goddess, in the robes of a hierophant. Montfaucon
describes the figure as follows: "Upon her head is an episcopal mitre, adorned on the lower part with towers and
pinnacles; over the gate of the city is a crescent, and beneath the circuit of the walls a crown of rays. The
Goddess wears a sort of surplice, exactly like the surplice of a priest or bishop; and upon the surplice a tunic,
which falls down to the legs; and over all an episcopal cope, with the twelve signs of the Zodiac wrought on the
borders. The figure hath a lion on each side, and holds in its left hand a Tympanum, a Sistrum, a Distaff, a
Caduceus, and another instrument. In her right hand she holds with her middle finger a thunderbolt, and upon the
same am animals, insects, and, as far as we may guess, flowers, fruit, a bow, a quiver, a torch, and a scythe." The
whereabouts of the statue is unknown, the copy reproduced by Montfaucon being from drawings by Pirro Ligorio.
p. 22
ring of lust and degeneracy, lay asleep within his soul. In other words, man was offered a way by which
he could regain his lost estate. (See Wagner's Siegfried.)
In the ancient world, nearly all the secret societies were philosophic and religious. During the mediæval
centuries, they were chiefly religious and political, although a few philosophic schools remained. In
modern times, secret societies, in the Occidental countries, are largely political or fraternal, although in a
few of them, as in Masonry, the ancient religious and philosophic principles still survive.
Space prohibits a detailed discussion of the secret schools. There were literally scores of these ancient
cults, with branches in all parts of the Eastern and Western worlds. Some, such as those of Pythagoras
and the Hermetists, show a decided Oriental influence, while the Rosicrucians, according to their own
proclamations, gained much of their wisdom from Arabian mystics. Although the Mystery schools are
usually associated with civilization, there is evidence that the most uncivilized peoples of prehistoric
times had a knowledge of them. Natives of distant islands, many in the lowest forms of savagery, have
mystic rituals and secret practices which, although primitive, are of a decided Masonic tinge.
"The original and primitive inhabitants of Britain, at some remote period, revived and reformed their
national institutes. Their priest, or instructor, had hitherto been simply named Gwydd, but it was
considered to have become necessary to divide this office between the national, or superior, priest and
another whose influence [would] be more limited. From henceforth the former became Der-Wydd
(Druid), or superior instructor, and [the latter] Go-Wydd, or O-Vydd (Ovate), subordinate instructor; and
both went by the general name of Beirdd (Bards), or teachers of wisdom. As the system matured and
augmented, the Bardic Order consisted of three classes, the Druids, Beirdd Braint, or privileged Bards,
and Ovates." (See Samuel Meyrick and Charles Smith, The Costume of The Original Inhabitants of The
British Islands.)
The origin of the word Druid is under dispute. Max Müller believes that, like the Irish word Drui, it
means "the men of the oak trees." He further draws attention to the fact that the forest gods and tree
deities of the Greeks were called dryades. Some believe the word to be of Teutonic origin; others ascribe
it to the Welsh. A few trace it to the Gaelic druidh, which means "a wise man" or "a sorcerer." In
Sanskrit the word dru means "timber."
At the time of the Roman conquest, the Druids were thoroughly ensconced in Britain and Gaul. Their
power over the people was unquestioned, and there were instances in which armies, about to attack each
other, sheathed their swords when ordered to do so by the white-robed Druids. No undertaking of great
importance was scatted without the assistance of these patriarchs, who stood as mediators between the
gods and men. The Druidic Order is deservedly credited with having had a deep understanding of Nature
and her laws. The Encyclopædia Britannica states that geography, physical science, natural theology,
and astrology were their favorite studies. The Druids had a fundamental knowledge of medicine,
especially the use of herbs and simples. Crude surgical instruments also have been found in England and
Ireland. An odd treatise on early British medicine states that every practitioner was expected to have a
garden or back yard for the growing of certain herbs necessary to his profession. Eliphas Levi, the
celebrated transcendentalist, makes the following significant statement:
"The Druids were priests and physicians, curing by magnetism and charging amylets with their fluidic
influence. Their universal remedies were mistletoe and serpents' eggs, because these substances attract
the astral light in a special manner. The solemnity with which mistletoe was cut down drew upon this
plant the popular confidence and rendered it powerfully magnetic. * * * The progress of magnetism will
some day reveal to us the absorbing properties of mistletoe. We shall then understand the secret of those
spongy growths which drew the unused virtues of plants and become surcharged with tinctures and
savors. Mushrooms, truffles, gall on trees, and the different kinds of mistletoe will be employed with
understanding by a medical science, which will be new because it is old * * * but one must not move
quicker than science, which recedes that it may advance the further. " (See The History of Magic.)
Not only was the mistletoe sacred as symbolic of the universal medicine, or panacea, but also because of
the fact that it grew upon the oak tree. Through the symbol of the oak, the Druids worshiped the
Supreme Deity; therefore, anything growing upon that tree was sacred to Him. At certain seasons,
according to the positions of the sun, moon, and stars, the Arch-Druid climbed the oak tree and cut the
mistletoe with a golden sickle consecrated for that service. The parasitic growth was caught in white
cloths provided for the purpose, lest it touch the earth and be polluted by terrestrial vibrations. Usually a
sacrifice of a white bull was made under the tree.
The Druids were initiates of a secret school that existed in their midst. This school, which closely
resembled the Bacchic and Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece or the Egyptian rites of Isis and Osiris, is
justly designated the Druidic Mysteries. There has been much speculation concerning the secret wisdom
that the Druids claimed to possess. Their secret teachings were never written, but were communicated
orally to specially prepared candidates. Robert Brown, 32°, is of the opinion that the British priests
secured their information from Tyrian and Phœnician navigators who, thousands of years before the
Christian Era, established colonies in Britain and Gaul while searching for tin. Thomas Maurice, in his
Indian Antiquities, discourses at length on Phœnician, Carthaginian, and Greek expeditions to the British
Isles for the purpose of procuring tin. Others are of the opinion that the Mysteries as celebrated by the
Druids were of Oriental origin, possibly Buddhistic.
The proximity of the British Isles to the lost Atlantis may account for the sun worship which plays an
important part in the rituals of Druidism. According to Artemidorus, Ceres and Persephone were
worshiped on an island close to Britain with rites and ceremonies similar to those of Samothrace. There
is no doubt that the Druidic Pantheon includes a large number of Greek and Roman deities. This greatly
amazed Cæsar during his conquest of Britain and Gaul, and caused him to affirm that these tribes adored
Mercury, Apollo, Mars, and Jupiter, in a manner similar to that of the Latin countries. It is almost certain
that the Druidic Mysteries were not indigenous to Britain or Gaul, but migrated from one of the more
ancient civilizations.
The school of the Druids was divided into three distinct parts, and the secret teachings embodied therein
are practically the same as the mysteries concealed under the allegories of Blue Lodge Masonry. The
lowest of the three divisions was that of Ovate (Ovydd). This was an honorary degree, requiring no
special purification or preparation. The Ovates dressed in green, the Druidic color of learning, and were
expected to know something about medicine, astronomy, poetry if possible, and sometimes music. An
Ovate was an individual admitted to the Druidic Order because of his general excellence and superior
knowledge concerning the problems of life.
The second division was that of Bard (Beirdd). Its members were robed in sky-blue, to represent
harmony and truth, and to them was assigned the labor of memorizing, at least in part, the twenty
thousand verses of Druidic sacred poetry. They were often pictured with the primitive British or Irish
harp--an instrument strung with human hair, and having as many strings as there were ribs on one side of
the human body. These Bards were often chosen as teachers of candidates seeking entrance into the
Druidic Mysteries. Neophytes wore striped robes of blue, green, and white, these being the three sacred
colors of the Druidic Order.
The third division was that of Druid (Derwyddon). Its particular labor was to minister to the religious
needs of the people. To reach this dignity, the candidate must first become a Bard Braint. The Druids
always dressed in white--symbolic of their purity, and the color used by them to symbolize the sun.
In order to reach the exalted position of Arch-Druid, or spiritual head of the organization, it was
necessary for a priest to pass through the six successive degrees of the Druidic Order. (The members of
the different degrees were differentiated by the colors of their sashes, for all of them wore robes of
white.) Some writers are of the opinion that the title of Arch-Druid was hereditary, descending from
father to son, but it is more probable that the honor was conferred by ballot election. Its recipient was
chosen for his virtues and
Click to enlarge
From Wellcome's Ancient Cymric Medicine.
The most striking adornment of the Arch-Druid was the iodhan moran, or breastplate of judgment, which
possessed the mysterious Power of strangling any who made an untrue statement while wearing it. Godfrey
Higgins states that this breastplate was put on the necks of witnesses to test the veracity of their evidence. The
Druidic tiara, or anguinum, its front embossed with a number of points to represent the sun's rays, indicated that
the priest was a personification of the rising sun. On the front of his belt the Arch-Druid wore the liath meisicith--
a magic brooch, or buckle in the center of which was a large white stone. To this was attributed the power of
drawing the fire of the gods down from heaven at the priest's command This specially cut stone was a burning
glass, by which the sun's rays were concentrated to light the altar fires. The Druids also had other symbolic
implements, such as the peculiarly shaped golden sickle with which they cut the mistletoe from the oak, and the
cornan, or scepter, in the form of a crescent, symbolic of the sixth day of the increasing moon and also of the Ark
of Noah. An early initiate of the Druidic Mysteries related that admission to their midnight ceremony was gained
by means of a glass boat, called Cwrwg Gwydrin. This boat symbolized the moon, which, floating upon the
waters of eternity, preserved the seeds of living creatures within its boatlike crescent.
p. 23
integrity from the most learned members of the higher Druidic degrees.
According to James Gardner, there were usually two Arch-Druids in Britain, one residing on the Isle of
Anglesea and the other on the Isle of Man. Presumably there were others in Gaul. These dignitaries
generally carried golden scepters and were crowned with wreaths of oak leaves, symbolic of their
authority. The younger members of the Druidic Order were clean-shaven and modestly dressed, but the
more aged had long gray beards and wore magnificent golden ornaments. The educational system of the
Druids in Britain was superior to that of their colleagues on the Continent, and consequently many of the
Gallic youths were sent to the Druidic colleges in Britain for their philosophical instruction and training.
Eliphas Levi states that the Druids lived in strict abstinence, studied the natural sciences, preserved the
deepest secrecy, and admitted new members only after long probationary periods. Many of the priests of
the order lived in buildings not unlike the monasteries of the modern world. They were associated in
groups like ascetics of the Far East. Although celibacy was not demanded of them, few married. Many
of the Druids retired from the world and lived as recluses in caves, in rough-stone houses, or in little
shacks built in the depths of a forest. Here they prayed and medicated, emerging only to perform their
religious duties.
James Freeman Clarke, in his Ten Great Religions, describes the beliefs of the Druids as follows: "The
Druids believed in three worlds and in transmigration from one to the other: In a world above this, in
which happiness predominated; a world below, of misery; and this present state. This transmigration was
to punish and reward and also to purify the soul. In the present world, said they, Good and Evil are so
exactly balanced that man has the utmost freedom and is able to choose or reject either. The Welsh
Triads tell us there are three objects of metempsychosis: to collect into the soul the properties of all
being, to acquire a knowledge of all things, and to get power to conquer evil. There are also, they say,
three kinds of knowledge: knowledge of the nature of each thing, of its cause, and its influence. There
are three things which continually grow less: darkness, falsehood, and death. There are three which
constantly increase: light, life, and truth."
Like nearly all schools of the Mysteries, the teachings of the Druids were divided into two distinct
sections. The simpler, a moral code, was taught to all the people, while the deeper, esoteric doctrine was
given only to initiated priests. To be admitted to the order, a candidate was required to be of good family
and of high moral character. No important secrets were intrusted to him until he had been tempted in
many ways and his strength of character severely tried. The Druids taught the people of Britain and Gaul
concerning the immortality of the soul. They believed in transmigration and apparently in reincarnation.
They borrowed in one life, promising to pay back in the next. They believed in a purgatorial type of hell
where they would be purged of their sins, afterward passing on to the happiness of unity with the gods.
The Druids taught that all men would be saved, but that some must return to earth many times to learn
the lessons of human life and to overcome the inherent evil of their own natures.
Before a candidate was intrusted with the secret doctrines of the Druids, he was bound with a vow of
secrecy. These doctrines were imparted only in the depths of forests and in the darkness of caves. In
these places, far from the haunts of men, the neophyte was instructed concerning the creation of the
universe, the personalities of the gods, the laws of Nature, the secrets of occult medicine, the mysteries
of the celestial bodies, and the rudiments of magic and sorcery. The Druids had a great number of feast
days. The new and full moon and the sixth day of the moon were sacred periods. It is believed that
initiations took place only at the two solstices and the two equinoxes. At dawn of the 25th day of
December, the birth of the Sun God was celebrated.
The secret teachings of the Druids are said by some to be tinctured with Pythagorean philosophy. The
Druids had a Madonna, or Virgin Mother, with a Child in her arms, who was sacred to their Mysteries;
and their Sun God was resurrected at the time of the year corresponding to that at which modern
Christians celebrate Easter.
Both the cross and the serpent were sacred to the Druids, who made the former by cutting off all the
branches of an oak tree and fastening one of them to the main trunk in the form of the letter T. This
oaken cross became symbolic of their superior Deity. They also worshiped the sun, moon, and stars. The
moon received their special veneration. Caesar stated that Mercury was one of the chief deities of the
Gauls. The Druids are believed to have worshiped Mercury under the similitude of a stone cube. They
also had great veneration for the Nature spirits (fairies, gnomes, and undines), little creatures of the
forests and rivers to whom many offerings were made. Describing the temples of the Druids, Charles
Heckethorn, in The Secret Societies of All Ages & Countries, says:
"Their temples wherein the sacred fire was preserved were generally situate on eminences and in dense
groves of oak, and assumed various forms--circular, because a circle was the emblem of the universe;
oval, in allusion to the mundane egg, from which issued, according to the traditions of many nations, the
universe, or, according to others, our first parents; serpentine, because a serpent was the symbol of Hu,
the Druidic Osiris; cruciform, because a cross is an emblem of regeneration; or winged, to represent the
motion of the Divine Spirit. * * * Their chief deities were reducible to two--a male and a female, the
great father and mother--Hu and Ceridwen, distinguished by the same characteristics as belong to Osiris
and Isis, Bacchus and Ceres, or any other supreme god and goddess representing the two principles of all
Godfrey Higgins states that Hu, the Mighty, regarded as the first settler of Britain, came from a place
which the Welsh Triads call the Summer Country, the present site of Constantinople. Albert Pike says
that the Lost Word of Masonry is concealed in the name of the Druid god Hu. The meager information
extant concerning the secret initiations of the Druids indicates a decided similarity between their
Mystery school and the schools of Greece and Egypt. Hu, the Sun God, was murdered and, after a
number of strange ordeals and mystic rituals, was restored to life.
There were three degrees of the Druidic Mysteries, but few successfully passed them all. The candidate
was buried in a coffin, as symbolic of the death of the Sun God. The supreme test, however, was being
sent out to sea in an open boat. While undergoing this ordeal, many lost their lives. Taliesin, an ancient
scholar, who passed through the Mysteries, describes the initiation of the open boat in Faber's Pagan
Idolatry. The few who passed this third degree were said to have been "born again," and were instructed
in the secret and hidden truths which the Druid priests had preserved from antiquity. From these initiates
were chosen many of the dignitaries of the British religious and political world. (For further details, see
Faber's Pagan Idolatry, Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma, and Godfrey Higgins' Celtic Druids.)
When the Persian Mysteries immigrated into Southern Europe, they were quickly assimilated by the
Latin mind. The cult grew rapidly, especially among the Roman soldiery, and during the Roman wars of
conquest the teachings were carried by the legionaries to nearly all parts of Europe. So powerful did the
cult of Mithras become that at least one Roman Emperor was initiated into the order, which met in
caverns under the city of Rome. Concerning the spread of this Mystery school through different parts of
Europe, C. W. King, in his Gnostics and Their Remains, says:
"Mithraic bas-reliefs cut on the faces of rocks or on stone tablets still abound in the countries formerly
the western provinces of the Roman Empire; many exist in Germany, still more in France, and in this
island (Britain) they have often been discovered on the line of the Picts' Wall and the noted one at Bath."
Alexander Wilder, in his Philosophy and Ethics of the Zoroasters, states that Mithras is the Zend title for
the sun, and he is supposed to dwell within that shining orb. Mithras has a male and a female aspect,
though not himself androgynous. As Mithras, he is the ford of the sun, powerful and radiant, and most
magnificent of the Yazatas (Izads, or Genii, of the sun). As Mithra, this deity represents the feminine
principle; the mundane universe is recognized as her symbol. She represents Nature as receptive and
terrestrial, and as fruitful only when bathed in the glory of the solar orb. The Mithraic cult is a
simplification of the more elaborate teachings of Zarathustra (Zoroaster), the Persian fire magician.
Click to enlarge
From Maurice's Indian Antiquities.
The Druid temples of places of religious worship were not patterned after those of other nations. Most of their
ceremonies were performed at night, either in thick groves of oak trees or around open-air altars built of great
uncut stones. How these masses of rock were moved ahs not been satisfactorily explained. The most famous of
their altars, a great stone ring of rocks, is Stonehenge, in Southwestern England. This structure, laid out on an
astronomical basis, still stands, a wonder of antiquity.
p. 24
According to the Persians, there coexisted in eternity two principles. The first of these, Ahura-Mazda, or
Ormuzd, was the Spirit of Good. From Ormuzd came forth a number of hierarchies of good and
beautiful spirits (angels and archangels). The second of these eternally existing principles was called
Ahriman. He was also a pure and beautiful spirit, but he later rebelled against Ormuzd, being jealous of
his power. This did not occur, however, until after Ormuzd had created light, for previously Ahriman
had not been conscious of the existence of Ormuzd. Because of his jealousy and rebellion, Ahriman
became the Spirit of Evil. From himself he individualized a host of destructive creatures to injure
When Ormuzd created the earth, Ahriman entered into its grosser elements. Whenever Ormuzd did a
good deed, Ahriman placed the principle of evil within it. At last when Ormuzd created the human race,
Ahriman became incarnate in the lower nature of man so that in each personality the Spirit of Good and
the Spirit of Evil struggle for control. For 3,000 years Ormuzd ruled the celestial worlds with light and
goodness. Then he created man. For another 3,000 years he ruled man with wisdom, and integrity. Then
the power of Ahriman began, and the struggle for the soul of man continues through the next period of
3,000 years. During the fourth period of 3,000 years, the power of Ahriman will be destroyed. Good will
return to the world again, evil and death will be vanquished, and at last the Spirit of Evil will bow
humbly before the throne of Ormuzd. While Ormuzd and Ahriman are struggling for control of the
human soul and for supremacy in Nature, Mithras, God of Intelligence, stands as mediator between the
two. Many authors have noted the similarity between mercury and Mithras. As the chemical mercury
acts as a solvent (according to alchemists), so Mithras seeks to harmonize the two celestial opposites.
There are many points of resemblance between Christianity and the cult of Mithras. One of the reasons
for this probably is that the Persian mystics invaded Italy during the first century after Christ and the
early history of both cults was closely interwoven. The Encyclopædia Britannica makes the following
statement concerning the Mithraic and Christian Mysteries:
"The fraternal and democratic spirit of the first communities, and their humble origin; the identification
of the object of adoration with light and the sun; the legends of the shepherds with their gifts and
adoration, the flood, and the ark; the representation in art of the fiery chariot, the drawing of water from
the rock; the use of bell and candle, holy water and the communion; the sanctification of Sunday and of
the 25th of December; the insistence on moral conduct, the emphasis placed on abstinence and self-
control; the doctrine of heaven and hell, of primitive revelation, of the mediation of the Logos emanating
from the divine, the atoning sacrifice, the constant warfare between good and evil and the final triumph
of the former, the immortality of the soul, the last judgment, the resurrection of the flesh and the fiery
destruction of the universe--[these] are some of the resemblances which, whether real or only apparent,
enabled Mithraism to prolong its resistance to Christianity,"
The rites of Mithras were performed in caves. Porphyry, in his Cave of the Nymphs, states that
Zarathustra (Zoroaster) was the first to consecrate a cave to the worship of God, because a cavern was
symbolic of the earth, or the lower world of darkness. John P. Lundy, in his Monumental Christianity,
describes the cave of Mithras as follows:
"But this cave was adorned with the signs of the zodiac, Cancer and Capricorn. The summer and winter
solstices were chiefly conspicuous, as the gates of souls descending into this life, or passing out of it in
their ascent to the Gods; Cancer being the gate of descent, and Capricorn of ascent. These are the two
avenues of the immortals passing up and down from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth."
The so-called chair of St. Peter, in Rome, was believed to have been used in one of the pagan Mysteries,
possibly that of Mithras, in whose subterranean grottoes the votaries of the Christian Mysteries met in
the early days of their faith. In Anacalypsis, Godfrey Higgins writes that in 1662, while cleaning this
sacred chair of Bar-Jonas, the Twelve Labors of Hercules were discovered upon it, and that later the
French discovered upon the same chair the Mohammedan confession of faith, written in Arabic.
Initiation into the rites of Mithras, like initiation into many other ancient schools of philosophy,
apparently consisted of three important degrees. Preparation for these degrees consisted of self-
purification, the building up of the intellectual powers, and the control of the animal nature. In the first
degree the candidate was given a crown upon the point of a sword and instructed in the mysteries of
Mithras' hidden power. Probably he was taught that the golden crown represented his own spiritual
nature, which must be objectified and unfolded before he could truly glorify Mithras; for Mithras was
his own soul, standing as mediator between Ormuzd, his spirit, and Ahriman, his animal nature. In the
second degree he was given the armor of intelligence and purity and sent into the darkness of
subterranean pits to fight the beasts of lust, passion, and degeneracy. In the third degree he was given a
cape, upon which were drawn or woven the signs of the zodiac and other astronomical symbols. After
his initiations were over, he was hailed as one who had risen from the dead, was instructed in the secret
teachings of the Persian mystics, and became a full-fledged member of the order. Candidates who
successfully passed the Mithraic initiations were called Lions and were marked upon their foreheads
with the Egyptian cross. Mithras himself is often pictured with the head of a lion and two pairs of wings.
Throughout the entire ritual were repeated references to the birth of Mithras as the Sun God, his sacrifice
for man, his death that men might have eternal life, and lastly, his resurrection and the saving of all
humanity by his intercession before the throne of Ormuzd. (See Heckethorn.)
While the cult of Mithras did not reach the philosophic heights attained by Zarathustra, its effect upon
the civilization of the Western world was far-reaching, for at one time nearly all Europe was converted
to its doctrines. Rome, in her intercourse with other nations, inoculated them with her religious
principles; and many later institutions have exhibited Mithraic culture. The reference to the "Lion" and
the "Grip of the Lion's Paw" in the Master Mason's degree have a strong Mithraic tinge and may easily
have originated from this cult. A ladder of seven rungs appears in the Mithraic initiation. Faber is of the
opinion that this ladder was originally a pyramid of seven steps. It is possible that the Masonic ladder
with seven rungs had its origin in this Mithraic symbol. Women were never permitted to enter the
Mithraic Order, but children of the male sex were initiates long before they reached maturity. The
refusal to permit women to join the Masonic Order may be based on the esoteric reason given in the
secret instructions of the Mithraics. This cult is another excellent example of those secret societies
whose legends are largely symbolic representations of the sun and his journey through the houses of the
heavens. Mithras, rising from a stone, is merely the sun rising over the horizon, or, as the ancients
supposed, out of the horizon, at the vernal equinox.
John O'Neill disputes the theory that Mithras was intended as a solar deity. In The Night of the Gods he
writes: "The Avestan Mithra, the yazata of light, has '10,000 eyes, high, with full knowledge
(perethuvaedayana), strong, sleepless and ever awake (jaghaurvaunghem).'The supreme god Ahura
Mazda also has one Eye, or else it is said that 'with his eyes, the sun, moon and stars, he sees everything.'
The theory that Mithra was originally a title of the supreme heavens-god--putting the sun out of court--is
the only one that answers all requirements. It will be evident that here we have origins in abundance for
the Freemason's Eye and 'its nunquam dormio.'" The reader must nor confuse the Persian Mithra with
the Vedic Mitra. According to Alexander Wilder, "The Mithraic rites superseded the Mysteries of
Bacchus, and became the foundation of the Gnostic system, which for many centuries prevailed in Asia,
Egypt, and even the remote West."
Click to enlarge
From Lundy's Monumental Christianity.
The most famous sculpturings and reliefs of this prototokos show Mithras kneeling upon the recumbent form of a
great bull, into whose throat he is driving a sword. The slaying of the bull signifies that the rays of the sun,
symbolized by the sword, release at the vernal equinox the vital essences of the earth--the blood of the bull--
which, pouring from the wound made by the Sun God, fertilize the seeds of living things. Dogs were held sacred
to the cult of Mithras, being symbolic of sincerity and trustworthiness. The Mithraics used the serpent a an
emblem of Ahriman, the Spirit of Evil, and water rats were held sacred to him. The bull is esoterically the
Constellation of Taurus; the serpent, its opposite in the zodiac, Scorpio; the sun, Mithras, entering into the side of
the bull, slays the celestial creature and nourishes the universe with its blood.
Click to enlarge
From Montfaucon's Antiquities
Mithras was born out of a rock, which, breaking open, permitted him to emerge. This occurred in the darkness of
a subterranean chamber. The Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem confirms the theory that Jesus was born in a
grotto, or cave. According to Dupuis, Mithras was put to death by crucifixion and rose again on the third day.
Next: The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies, Part Two
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 25
The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies
Part Two
THE entire history of Christian and pagan Gnosticism is shrouded in the deepest mystery and obscurity;
for, while the Gnostics were undoubtedly prolific writers, little of their literature has survived. They
brought down upon themselves the animosity of the early Christian Church, and when this institution
reached its position of world power it destroyed all available records of the Gnostic cultus. The name
Gnostic means wisdom, or knowledge, and is derived from the Greek Gnosis. The members of the order
claimed to be familiar with the secret doctrines of early Christianity. They interpreted the Christian
Mysteries according to pagan symbolism. Their secret information and philosophic tenets they
concealed from the profane and taught to a small group only of especially initiated persons.
Simon Magus, the magician of New Testament fame, is often supposed to have been the founder of
Gnosticism. If this be true, the sect was formed during the century after Christ and is probably the first
of the many branches which have sprung from the main trunk of Christianity. Everything with which the
enthusiasts of the early Christian Church might not agree they declared to be inspired by the Devil. That
Simon Magus had mysterious and supernatural powers is conceded even by his enemies, but they
maintained that these powers were lent to him by the infernal spirits and furies which they asserted were
his ever present companions. Undoubtedly the most interesting legend concerning Simon is that which
tells of his theosophic contests with the Apostle Peter while the two were promulgating their differing
doctrines in Rome. According to the story that the Church Fathers have preserved, Simon was to prove
his spiritual superiority by ascending to heaven in a chariot of fire. He was actually picked up and
carried many feet into the air by invisible powers. When St. Peter saw this, he cried out in a loud voice,
ordering the demons (spirits of the air) to release their hold upon the magician. The evil spirits, when so
ordered by the great saint, were forced to obey. Simon fell a great distance and was killed, which
decisively proved the superiority of the Christian powers. This story is undoubtedly manufactured out of
whole cloth, as it is only one out of many accounts concerning his death, few of which agree. As more
and more evidence is being amassed to the effect that St, Peter was never in Rome, its last possible
vestige of authenticity is rapidly being dissipated.
That Simon was a philosopher there is no doubt, for wherever his exact words are preserved his
synthetic and transcending thoughts are beautifully expressed. The principles of Gnosticism are well
described in the following verbatim statement by him, supposed to have been preserved by Hippolytus:
"To you, therefore, I say what I say, and write what I write. And the writing is this. Of the universal
Æons [periods, planes, or cycles of creative and created life in substance and space, celestial creatures]
there are two shoots, without beginning or end, springing from one Root, which is the power invisible,
inapprehensible silence [Bythos]. Of these shoots one is manifested from above, which is the Great
Power, the Universal Mind ordering all things, male, and the other, [is manifested] from below, the
Great Thought, female, producing all things. Hence pairing with each other, they unite and manifest the
Middle Distance, incomprehensible Air, without beginning or end. In this is the Father Who sustains all
things, and nourishes those things which have a beginning and end." (See Simon Magus, by G. R. S.
Mead.) By this we are to understand that manifestation is the result of a positive and a negative
principle, one acting upon the other, and it takes place in the middle plane, or point of equilibrium,
called the pleroma. This pleroma is a peculiar substance produced out of the blending of the spiritual
and material æons. Out of the pleroma was individualized the Demiurgus, the immortal mortal, to whom
we are responsible for our physical existence and the suffering we must go through in connection with it.
In the Gnostic system, three pairs of opposites, called Syzygies, emanated from the Eternal One. These,
with Himself, make the total of seven. The six (three pairs) Æons (living, divine principles) were
described by Simon in the Philosophumena in the following manner: The first two were Mind (Nous)
and Thought (Epinoia). Then came Voice (Phone) and its opposite, Name (Onoma), and lastly, Reason
(Logismos) and Reflection (Enthumesis). From these primordial six, united with the Eternal Flame,
came forth the Æons (Angels) who formed the lower worlds through the direction of the Demiurgus.
(See the works of H. P. Blavatsky.) How this first Gnosticism of Simon Magus and Menander, his
disciple, was amplified, and frequently distorted, by later adherents to the cult must now be considered.
The School of Gnosticism was divided into two major parts, commonly called the Syrian Cult and the
Alexandrian Cult. These schools agreed in essentials, but the latter division was more inclined to be
pantheistic, while the former was dualistic. While the Syrian cult was largely Simonian, the Alexandrian
School was the outgrowth of the philosophical deductions of a clever Egyptian Christian, Basilides by
name, who claimed to have received his instructions from the Apostle Matthew. Like Simon Magus, he
was an emanationist, with Neo-Platonic inclinations. In fact, the entire Gnostic Mystery is based upon
the hypothesis of emanations as being the logical connection between the irreconcilable opposites
Absolute Spirit and Absolute Substance, which the Gnostics believed to have been coexistent in
Eternity. Some assert that Basilides was the true founder of Gnosticism, but there is much evidence to
the effect that Simon Magus laid down its fundamental principles in the preceding century.
The Alexandrian Basilides inculcated Egyptian Hermeticism, Oriental occultism, Chaldean astrology,
and Persian philosophy in his followers, and in his doctrines sought to unite the schools of early
Christianity with the ancient pagan Mysteries. To him is attributed the formulation of that peculiar
concept of the Deity which carries the name of Abraxas. In discussing the original meaning of this word,
Godfrey Higgins, in his Celtic Druids, has demonstrated that the numerological powers of the letters
forming the word Abraxas when added together result in the sum of 365. The same author also notes that
the name Mithras when treated in a similar manner has the same numerical value. Basilides caught that
Click to enlarge
From the Nuremberg Chronicle.
Simon Magus, having called upon the Spirits of the Air, is here shown being picked up by the demons. St. Peter
demands that the evil genii release their hold upon the magician. The demons are forced to comply and Simon
Magus is killed by the fall.
p. 26
powers of the universe were divided into 365 Æons, or spiritual cycles, and that the sum of all these
together was the Supreme Father, and to Him he gave the Qabbalistical appellation Abraxas, as being
symbolical, numerologically, of His divine powers, attributes, and emanations. Abraxas is usually
symbolized as a composite creature, with the body of a human being and the head of a rooster, and with
each of his legs ending in a serpent. C. W. King, in his Gnostics and Their Remains, gives the following
concise description of the Gnostic philosophy of Basilides, quoting from the writings of the early
Christian bishop and martyr, St. Irenæus: "He asserted that God, the uncreated, eternal Father, had first
brought forth Nous, or Mind; this the Logos, Word; this again Phronesis, Intelligence; from Phronesis
sprung Sophia, Wisdom, and Dynamis, Strength."
In describing Abraxas, C. W. King says: "Bellermann considers the composite image, inscribed with the
actual name Abraxas, to be a Gnostic Pantheos, representing the Supreme Being, with the Five
Emanations marked out by appropriate symbols. From the human body, the usual form assigned to the
Deity, spring the two supporters, Nous and Logos, expressed in the serpents, symbols of the inner
senses, and the quickening understanding; on which account the Greeks had made the serpent the
attribute of Pallas. His head--that of a cock--represents Phronesis, that bird being the emblem of
foresight and of vigilance. His two arms hold the symbols of Sophia and Dynamis: the shield of Wisdom
and the whip of Power."
The Gnostics were divided in their opinions concerning the Demiurgus, or creator of the lower worlds.
He established the terrestrial universe with the aid of six sons, or emanations (possibly the planetary
Angels) which He formed out of, and yet within, Himself. As stated before, the Demiurgus was
individualized as the lowest creation out of the substance called pleroma. One group of the Gnostics was
of the opinion that the Demiurgus was the cause of all misery and was an evil creature, who by building
this lower world had separated the souls of men from truth by encasing them in mortal vehicles. The
other sect viewed the Demiurgus as being divinely inspired and merely fulfilling the dictates of the
invisible Lord. Some Gnostics were of the opinion that the Jewish God, Jehovah, was the Demiurgus.
This concept, under a slightly different name, apparently influenced mediæval Rosicrucianism, which
viewed Jehovah as the Lord of the material universe rather than as the Supreme Deity. Mythology
abounds with the stories of gods who partook of both celestial and terrestrial natures. Odin, of
Scandinavia, is a good example of a deity subject to mortality, bowing before the laws of Nature and yet
being, in certain senses at least, a Supreme Deity.
The Gnostic viewpoint concerning the Christ is well worthy of consideration. This order claimed to be
the only sect to have actual pictures of the Divine Syrian. While these were, in all probability, idealistic
conceptions of the Savior based upon existing sculpturings and paintings of the pagan sun gods, they
were all Christianity had. To the Gnostics, the Christ was the personification of Nous, the Divine Mind,
and emanated from the higher spiritual Æons. He descended into the body of Jesus at the baptism and
left it again before the crucifixion. The Gnostics declared that the Christ was not crucified, as this Divine
Nous could not suffer death, but that Simon, the Cyrenian, offered his life instead and that the Nous, by
means of its power, caused Simon to resemble Jesus. Irenæus makes the following statement concerning
the cosmic sacrifice of the Christ:
"When the uncreated, unnamed Father saw the corruption of mankind, He sent His firstborn, Nous, into
the world, in the form of Christ, for the redemption of all who believe in Him, out of the power of those
that have fabricated the world (the Demiurgus, and his six sons, the planetary genii). He appeared
amongst men as the Man Jesus, and wrought miracles." (See King's Gnostics and Their Remains.)
The Gnostics divided humanity into three parts: those who, as savages, worshiped only the visible
Nature; those who, like the Jews, worshiped the Demiurgus; and lastly, themselves, or others of a similar
cult, including certain sects of Christians, who worshiped Nous (Christ) and the true spiritual light of the
higher Æons.
After the death of Basilides, Valentinus became the leading inspiration of the Gnostic movement. He
still further complicated the system of Gnostic philosophy by adding infinitely to the details. He
increased the number of emanations from the Great One (the Abyss) to fifteen pairs and also laid much
emphasis on the Virgin Sophia, or Wisdom. In the Books of the Savior, parts of which are commonly
known as the Pistis Sophia, may be found much material concerning this strange doctrine of Æons and
their strange inhabitants. James Freeman Clarke, in speaking of the doctrines of the Gnostics, says:
"These doctrines, strange as they seem to us, had a wide influence in the Christian Church." Many of the
theories of the ancient Gnostics, especially those concerning scientific subjects, have been substantiated
by modern research. Several sects branched off from the main stem of Gnosticism, such as the
Valentinians, the Ophites (serpent worshipers), and the Adamites. After the third century their power
waned, and the Gnostics practically vanished from the philosophic world. An effort was made during the
Middle Ages to resurrect the principles of Gnosticism, but owing to the destruction of their records the
material necessary was not available. Even today there are evidences of Gnostic philosophy in the
modern world, but they bear other names and their true origin is not suspected. Many of the Gnostic
concepts have actually been incorporated into the dogmas of the Christian Church, and our newer
interpretations of Christianity are often along the lines of Gnostic emanationism.
The identity of the Greco-Egyptian Serapis (known to the Greeks as Serapis and the Egyptians as Asar-
Hapi) is shrouded by an impenetrable veil of mystery. While this deity was a familiar figure among the
symbols of the secret Egyptian initiatory rites, his arcane nature was revealed only to those who had
fulfilled the requirements of the Serapic cultus. Therefore, in all probability, excepting the initiated
priests, the Egyptians themselves were ignorant of his true character. So far as known, there exists no
authentic account of the rites of Serapis, but an analysis of the deity and his accompanying symbols
reveals their salient points. In an oracle delivered to the King of Cyprus, Serapis described himself thus:
''A god I am such as I show to thee,
The Starry Heavens are my head, my trunk the sea,
Earth forms my feet, mine ears the air supplies,
The Sun's far-darting, brilliant rays, mine eyes."
Several unsatisfactory attempts have been made to etymologize the word Serapis. Godfrey Higgins
notes that Soros was the name given by the Egyptians to a stone coffin, and Apis was Osiris incarnate in
the sacred bull. These two words combined result in Soros-Apis or Sor-Apis, "the tomb of the bull." But
it is improbable that the Egyptians would worship a coffin in the form of a man.
Several ancient authors, including Macrobius, have affirmed that Serapis was a name for the Sun,
because his image so often had a halo of light about its head. In his Oration Upon the Sovereign Sun,
Julian speaks of the deity in these words: "One Jove, one Pluto, one Sun is Serapis." In Hebrew, Serapis
is Saraph, meaning "to blaze out" or "to blaze up." For this reason the Jews designated one of their
hierarchies of spiritual beings, Seraphim.
The most common theory, however, regarding the origin of the name Serapis is that which traces its
derivation from the compound Osiris-Apis. At one time the Egyptians believed that the dead were
absorbed into the nature of Osiris, the god of the dead. While marked similarity exists between Osiris-
Apis and Serapis, the theory advanced by Egyptologists that Serapis is merely a name given to the dead
Apis, or sacred bull of Egypt, is untenable in view of the transcendent wisdom possessed by the
Egyptian priestcraft, who, in all probability, used the god to symbolize the soul of the world (anima
mundi). The material body of Nature was called Apis; the soul which escaped from the body at death but
was enmeshed with the form during physical life was designated Serapis.
C. W. King believes Serapis to be a deity of Brahmanic extraction, his name being the Grecianized form
of Ser-adah or Sri-pa, two titles ascribed to Yama, the Hindu god of death. This appears reasonable,
especially since there is a legend to the effect that Serapis, in the form of a bull, was driven by Bacchus
from India to Egypt. The priority of the Hindu Mysteries would further substantiate such a theory.
Among other meanings suggested for the word Serapis are: "The Sacred Bull," "The Sun in Taurus,"
"The Soul of Osiris," "The Sacred Serpent," and "The Retiring of the Bull." The last appellation has
reference to the ceremony of drowning the sacred Apis in the waters of the Nile every twenty-five years.
Click to enlarge
From Montfaucon's Antiquities.
This Gnostic gem represents by its serpentine body the pathway of the Sun and by its lion head the exaltation of
the solar in the constellation of Leo.
Click to enlarge
From Montfaucon's Antiquities.
Labyrinths and mazes were favored places of initiation among many ancient cults. Remains of these mystic
mazes have been found among the American Indians, Hindus, Persians, Egyptians, and Greeks. Some of these
mazes are merely involved pathways lined with stones; others are literally miles of gloomy caverns under
temples or hollowed from the sides of mountains. The famous labyrinth of Crete, in which roamed the bull-
headed Minotaur, was unquestionably a place of initiation into the Cretan Mysteries.
p. 27
There is considerable evidence that the famous statue of Serapis in the Serapeum at Alexandria was
originally worshiped under another name at Sinope, from which it was brought to Alexandria. There is
also a legend which tells that Serapis was a very early king of the Egyptians, to whom they owed the
foundation of their philosophical and scientific power. After his death this king was elevated to the
estate of a god. Phylarchus declared that the word Serapis means "the power that disposed the universe
into its present beautiful order."
In his Isis and Osiris, Plutarch gives the following account of the origin of the magnificent statue of
Serapis which stood in the Serapeum at Alexandria:
While he was Pharaoh of Egypt, Ptolemy Soter had a strange dream in which he beheld a tremendous
statue, which came to life and ordered the Pharaoh to bring it to Alexandria with all possible speed.
Ptolemy Soter, not knowing the whereabouts of the statue, was sorely perplexed as to how he could
discover it. While the Pharaoh was relating his dream, a great traveler by the name of Sosibius, coming
forward, declared that he had seen such an image at Sinope. The Pharaoh immediately dispatched
Soteles and Dionysius to negotiate for the removal of the figure to Alexandria. Three years elapsed
before the image was finally obtained, the representatives of the Pharaoh finally stealing it and
concealing the theft by spreading a story that the statue had come to life and, walking down the street
leading from its temple, had boarded the ship prepared for its transportation to Alexandria. Upon its
arrival in Egypt, the figure was brought into the presence of two Egyptian Initiates--the Eumolpid
Timotheus and Manetho the Sebennite--who, immediately pronounced it to be Serapis. The priests then
declared that it was equipollent to Pluto. This was a masterly stroke, for in Serapis the Greeks and
Egyptians found a deity in common and thus religious unity was consummated between the two nations.
Several figures of Serapis that stood in his various temples in Egypt and Rome have been described by
early authors. Nearly all these showed Grecian rather than Egyptian influence. In some the body of the
god was encircled by the coils of a great serpent. Others showed him as a composite of Osiris and Apis.
A description of the god that in all probability is reasonably accurate is that which represents him as a
tall, powerful figure, conveying the twofold impression of manly strength and womanly grace. His face
portrayed a deeply pensive mood, the expression inclining toward sadness. His hair was long and
arranged in a somewhat feminine manner, resting in curls upon his breast and shoulders. The face, save
for its heavy beard, was also decidedly feminine. The figure of Serapis was usually robed from head to
foot in heavy draperies, believed by initiates to conceal the fact that his body was androgynous.
Various substances were used in making the statues of Serapis. Some undoubtedly were carved from
stone or marble by skilled craftsmen; others may have been cast from base or precious metals. One
colossus of Serapis was composed of plates of various metals fitted together. In a labyrinth sacred to
Serapis stood a thirteen-foot statue of him reputed to have been made from a single emerald. Modern
writers, discussing this image, state that it was made of green glass poured into a mold. According to the
Egyptians, however, it withstood all the tests of an actual emerald.
Clement of Alexandria describes a figure of Serapis compounded from the following elements: First,
filings of gold, silver, lead, and tin; second, all manner of Egyptian stones, including sapphires,
hematites, emeralds, and topazes; all these being ground down and mixed together with the coloring
matter left over from the funeral of Osiris and Apis. The result was a rare and curious figure, indigo in
color. Some of the statues of Serapis must have been formed of extremely hard substances, for when a
Christian soldier, carrying out the edict of Theodosius, struck the Alexandrian Serapis with his ax, that
instrument was shattered into fragments and sparks flew from it. It is also quite probable that Serapis
was worshiped in the form of a serpent, in common with many of the higher deities of the Egyptian and
Greek pantheons.
Serapis was called Theon Heptagrammaton, or the god with the name of seven letters. The name Serapis
(like Abraxas and Mithras) contains seven letters. In their hymns to Serapis the priests chanted the seven
vowels. Occasionally Serapis is depicted with horns or a coronet of seven rays. These evidently
represented the seven divine intelligences manifesting through the solar light. The Encyclopædia
Britannica notes that the earliest authentic mention of Serapis is in connection with the death of
Alexander. Such was the prestige of Serapis that he alone of the gods was consulted in behalf of the
dying king.
The Egyptian secret school of philosophy was divided into the Lesser and the Greater Mysteries, the
former being sacred to Isis and the latter to Serapis and Osiris. Wilkinson is of the opinion that only the
priests were permitted to enter the Greater Mysteries. Even the heir to the throne was not eligible until
he had been crowned Pharaoh, when, by virtue of his kingly office, he automatically became a priest and
the temporal head of the state religion. (See Wilkinson's Manners and Customs of the Egyptians.) A
limited number were admitted into the Greater Mysteries: these preserved their secrets inviolate.
Much of the information concerning the rituals of the higher degrees of the Egyptian Mysteries has been
gleaned from an examination of the chambers and passageways in which the initiations were given.
Under the temple of Serapis destroyed by Theodosius were found strange mechanical contrivances
constructed by the priests in the subterranean crypts and caverns where the nocturnal initiatory rites were
celebrated. These machines indicate the severe tests of moral and physical courage undergone by the
candidates. After passing through these tortuous ways, the neophytes who Survived the ordeals were
ushered into the presence of Serapis, a noble and awe-inspiring figure illumined by unseen lights.
Labyrinths were also a striking feature in connection with the Rice of Serapis, and E. A. Wallis Budge,
in his Gods of the Egyptians, depicts Serapis(Minotaur-like) with the body of a man and the head of a
bull. Labyrinths were symbolic of the involvements and illusions of the lower world through which
wanders the soul of man in its search for truth. In the labyrinth dwells the lower animal man with the
head of the bull, who seeks to destroy the soul entangled in the maze of worldly ignorance. In this
relation Serapis becomes the Tryer or Adversary who tests the souls of those seeking union with the
Immortals. The maze was also doubtless used to represent the solar system, the Bull-Man representing
the sun dwelling in the mystic maze of its planets, moons, and asteroids.
The Gnostic Mysteries were acquainted with the arcane meaning of Serapis, and through the medium of
Gnosticism this god became inextricably associated with early Christianity. In fact, the Emperor
Hadrian, while traveling in Egypt in A.D. 24, declared in a letter to Servianus that the worshipers of
Serapis were Christians and that the Bishops of the church also worshiped at his shrine. He even
declared that the Patriarch himself, when in Egypt, was forced to adore Serapis as well as Christ. (See
Parsons' New Light on the Great Pyramid.)
The little-suspected importance of Serapis as a prototype of Christ can be best appreciated after a
consideration of the following extract from C. W. King's Gnostics and Their Remains: "There can be no
doubt that the head of Serapis, marked as the face is by a grave and pensive majesty, supplied the first
idea for the conventional portraits of the Saviour. The Jewish prejudices of the first converts were so
powerful that we may be sure no attempt was made to depict His countenance until some generations
after all that had beheld it on earth had passed away."
Serapis gradually usurped the positions previously occupied by the other Egyptian and Greek gods, and
became the supreme deity of both religions. His power continued until the fourth century of
Click to enlarge
From Mosaize Historie der Hebreeuwse Kerke.
Serapis is often shown standing on the back of the sacred crocodile, carrying in his left hand a rule with which to
measure the inundations of the Nile, and balancing with his right hand a curious emblem consisting of an animal
with the heads. The first head--that of a lion--signified the present; the second head--that of a wolf--the past; and
the third head--that of a dog--the future. The body with its three heads was enveloped by the twisted coils of a
serpent. Figures of Serapis are occasionally accompanied by Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Pluto, and--like
Jupiter--carry baskets of grain upon their heads.
p. 28
the Christian Era. In A.D. 385, Theodosius, that would-be exterminator of pagan philosophy, issued his
memorable edict De Idolo Serapidis Diruendo. When the Christian soldiers, in obedience to this order,
entered the Serapeum at Alexandria to destroy the image of Serapis which had stood there for centuries,
so great was their veneration for the god that they dared not touch the image lest the ground should open
at their feet and engulf them. At length, overcoming their fear, they demolished the statue, sacked the
building, and finally as a fitting climax to their offense burned the magnificent library which was housed
within the lofty apartments of the Serapeum. Several writers have recorded the remarkable fact that
Christian symbols were found in the ruined foundations of this pagan temple. Socrates, a church
historian of the fifth century, declared that after the pious Christians had razed the Serapeum at
Alexandria and scattered the demons who dwelt there under the guise of gods, beneath the foundations
was found the monogram of Christ!
Two quotations will further establish the relationship existing between the Mysteries of Serapis and
those of other ancient peoples. The first is from Richard Payne Knight's Symbolical Language of Ancient
Art and Mythology: "Hence Varro [in De Lingua Latina] says that Cœlum and Terra, that is universal
mind and productive body, were the Great Gods of the Samothracian Mysteries; and the same as the
Serapis and Isis of the later Ægyptians: the Taautos and Astarte of the Phœnicians, and the Saturn and
Ops of the Latins." The second quotation is from Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma: "'Thee,' says
Martianus Capella, in his hymn to the Sun, 'dwellers on the Nile adore as Serapis, and Memphis
worships as Osiris: in the sacred rites of Persia thou art Mithras, in Phrygia, Atys, and Libya bows down
to thee as Ammon, and Phœnician Byblos as Adonis; thus the whole world adores thee under different
The date of the founding of the Odinic Mysteries is uncertain, some writers declaring that they were
established in the first century before Christ; others, the first century after Christ. Robert Macoy, 33°,
gives the following description of their origin: "It appears from the northern chronicles that in the first
century of the Christian Era, Sigge, the chief of the Aser, an Asiatic tribe, emigrated from the Caspian
sea and the Caucasus into northern Europe. He directed his course northwesterly from the Black sea to
Russia, over which, according to tradition, he placed one of his sons as a ruler, as he is said to have done
over the Saxons and the Franks. He then advanced through Cimbria to Denmark, which acknowledged
his fifth son Skiold as its sovereign, and passed over to Sweden, where Gylf, who did homage to the
wonderful stranger, and was initiated into his mysteries, then ruled. He soon made himself master here,
built Sigtuna as the capital of his empire, and promulgated a new code of laws, and established the
sacred mysteries. He, himself, assumed the name of Odin, founded the priesthood of the twelve Drottars
(Druids?) who conducted the secret worship, and the administration of justice, and, as prophets, revealed
the future. The secret rites of these mysteries celebrated the death of Balder, the beautiful and lovely,
and represented the grief of Gods and men at his death, and his restoration to life." (General History of
After his death, the historical Odin was apotheosized, his identity being merged into that of the
mythological Odin, god of wisdom, whose cult he had promulgated. Odinism then supplanted the
worship of Thor, the thunderer, the supreme deity of the ancient Scandinavian pantheon. The mound
where, according to legend, King Odin was buried is still to be seen near the site of his great temple at
The twelve Drottars who presided over the Odinic Mysteries evidently personified the twelve holy and
ineffable names of Odin. The rituals of the Odinic Mysteries were very similar to those of the Greeks,
Persians, and Brahmins, after which they were patterned. The Drottars, who symbolized the signs of the
zodiac, were the custodians of the arts and sciences, which they revealed to those who passed
successfully the ordeals of initiation. Like many other pagan cults, the Odinic Mysteries, as an
institution, were destroyed by Christianity, but the underlying cause of their fall was the corruption of
the priesthood.
Mythology is nearly always the ritual and the symbolism of a Mystery school. Briefly stated, the sacred
drama which formed the basis of the Odinic Mysteries was as follows:
The Supreme, invisible Creator of all things was called All-Father. His regent in Nature was Odin, the
one-eyed god. Like Quetzalcoatl, Odin was elevated to the dignity of the Supreme Deity. According to
the Drottars, the universe was fashioned from the body of Ymir, the hoarfrost giant. Ymir was formed
from the clouds of mist that rose from Ginnungagap, the great cleft in chaos into which the primordial
frost giants and flame giants had hurled snow and fire. The three gods--Odin, Vili, and Ve--slew Ymir
and from him formed the world. From Ymir's various members the different parts of Nature were
After Odin had established order, he caused a wonderful palace, called Asgard, to be built on the top of a
mountain, and here the twelve Æsir (gods) dwelt together, far above the limitations of mortal men. On
this mountain also was Valhalla, the palace of the slain, where those who had heroically died fought and
feasted day after day. Each night their wounds were healed and the boar whose flesh they ate renewed
itself as rapidly as it was consumed.
Balder the Beautiful--the Scandinavian Christ--was the beloved son of Odin. Balder was not warlike; his
kindly and beautiful spirit brought peace and joy to the hearts of the gods, and they all loved him save
one. As Jesus had a Judas among His twelve disciples, so one of the twelve gods was false--Loki, the
personification of evil. Loki caused Höthr, the blind god of fate, to shoot Balder with a mistletoe arrow.
With the death of Balder, light and joy vanished from the lives of the other deities. Heartbroken, the
gods gathered to find a method whereby they could resurrect this spirit of eternal life and youth. The
result was the establishment of the Mysteries.
The Odinic Mysteries were given in underground crypts or caves, the chambers, nine in number,
representing the Nine Worlds of the Mysteries. The candidate seeking admission was assigned the task
of raising Balder from the dead. Although he did not realize it, he himself played the part of Balder. He
called himself a wanderer; the caverns through which he passed were symbolic of the worlds and
spheres of Nature. The priests who initiated him were emblematic of the sun, the moon, and the stars.
The three supreme initiators--the Sublime, the Equal to the Sublime, and the Highest--were analogous to
the Worshipful Master and the junior and Senior Wardens of a Masonic lodge.
After wandering for hours through the intricate passageways, the candidate was ushered into the
presence of a statue of Balder the Beautiful, the prototype of all initiates into the Mysteries. This figure
stood in the center of a great apartment roofed with shields. In the midst of the chamber stood a plant
with seven blossoms, emblematic of the planers. In this room, which symbolized the house of the Æsir,
or Wisdom, the neophyte took his oath of secrecy and piety upon the naked blade of a sword. He drank
the sanctified mead from a bowl made of a human skull and, having passed successfully through all the
tortures and trials designed to divert him from the course of wisdom, he was finally permitted to unveil
the mystery of Odin--the personification of wisdom. He was presented, in the name of Balder, with the
sacred ring of the order; he was hailed as a man reborn; and it was said of him that he had died and had
been raised again without passing through the gates of death.
Richard Wagner's immortal composition, Der Ring des Nibelungen, is based upon the Mystery rituals of
the Odinic cult. While the great composer took many liberties with the original story, the Ring Operas,
declared to be the grandest tetralogy of music dramas the world possesses, have caught and preserved in
a remarkable manner the majesty and power of the original sagas. Beginning with Das Rheingold, the
action proceeds through Die Walküre and Siegfried to an awe-inspiring climax in Götterdämmerung,
"The Twilight of the Gods."
Click to enlarge
The Nordic Mysteries were given in nine chambers, or caverns, the candidate advancing through them in
sequential order. These chambers of initiation represented the nine spheres into which the Drottars divided the
universe: (1) Asgard, the Heaven World of the Gods; (2) Alf-heim, the World of the light and beautiful Elves, or
Spirits; (3) Nifl-heim, the World of Cold and Darkness, which is located in the North; (4) Jotun-heim, the World
of the Giants, which is located in the East; (5) Midgard, the Earth World of human beings, which is located in the
midst, or middle place; (6) Vana-heim, the World of the Vanes, which is located in the West; (7) Muspells-heim,
the World of Fire, which is located in the South; 8) Svart-alfa-heim, the World of the dark and treacherous Elves,
which is under the earth; and (9) Hel-heim, the World of cold and the abode of the dead, which is located at the
very lowest point of the universe. It is to be understood that all of these worlds are invisible to the senses, except
Midgard, the home of human creatures, but during the process of initiation the soul of the candidate--liberated
from its earthly sheath by the secret power of the priests--wanders amidst the inhabitants of these various spheres.
There is undoubtedly a relationship between the nine worlds of the Scandinavians and the nine spheres, or planes,
through which initiates of the Eleusinian Mysteries passed in their ritual of regeneration.
Next: The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies, Part Three
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 29
The Ancient Mysteries and Secret Societies
Part Three
THE most famous of the ancient religious Mysteries were the Eleusinian, whose rites were celebrated
every five years in the city of Eleusis to honor Ceres (Demeter, Rhea, or Isis) and her daughter,
Persephone. The initiates of the Eleusinian School were famous throughout Greece for the beauty of
their philosophic concepts and the high standards of morality which they demonstrated in their daily
lives. Because of their excellence, these Mysteries spread to Rome and Britain, and later the initiations
were given in both these countries. The Eleusinian Mysteries, named for the community in Attica where
the sacred dramas were first presented, are generally believed to have been founded by Eumolpos about
fourteen hundred years before the birth of Christ, and through the Platonic system of philosophy their
principles have been preserved to modern times.
The rites of Eleusis, with their Mystic interpretations of Nature's most precious secrets, overshadowed
the civilizations of their time and gradually absorbed many smaller schools, incorporating into their own
system whatever valuable information these lesser institutions possessed. Heckethorn sees in the
Mysteries of Ceres and Bacchus a metamorphosis of the rites of Isis and Osiris, and there is every reason
to believe that all so-called secret schools of the ancient world were branches from one philosophic tree
which, with its root in heaven and its branches on the earth, is--like the spirit of man--an invisible but
ever-present cause of the objectified vehicles that give it expression. The Mysteries were the channels
through which this one philosophic light was disseminated, and their initiates, resplendent with
intellectual and spiritual understanding, were the perfect fruitage of the divine tree, bearing witness
before the material world of the recondite source of all Light and Truth.
The rites of Eleusis were divided into what were called the Lesser and the Greater Mysteries. According
to James Gardner, the Lesser Mysteries were celebrated in the spring (probably at the time of the vernal
equinox) in the town of Agræ, and the Greater, in the fall (the time of the autumnal equinox) at Eleusis
or Athens. It is supposed that the former were given annually and the latter every five years. The rituals
of the Eleusinians were highly involved, and to understand them required a deep study of Greek
mythology, which they interpreted in its esoteric light with the aid of their secret keys.
The Lesser Mysteries were dedicated to Persephone. In his Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries, Thomas
Taylor sums up their purpose as follows: "The Lesser Mysteries were designed by the ancient
theologists, their founders, to signify occultly the condition of the unpurified soul invested with an
earthy body, and enveloped in a material and physical nature."
The legend used in the Lesser rites is that of the abduction of the goddess Persephone, the daughter of
Ceres, by Pluto, the lord of the underworld, or Hades. While Persephone is picking flowers in a beautiful
meadow, the earth suddenly opens and the gloomy lord of death, riding in a magnificent chariot,
emerges from its somber depths and, grasping her in his arms, carries the screaming and struggling
goddess to his subterranean palace, where he forces her to become his queen.
It is doubtful whether many of the initiates themselves understood the mystic meaning of this allegory,
for most of them apparently believed that it referred solely to the succession of the seasons. It is difficult
to obtain satisfactory information concerning the Mysteries, for the candidates were bound by inviolable
oaths never to reveal their inner secrets to the profane. At the beginning of the ceremony of initiation,
the candidate stood upon the skins of animals sacrificed for the purpose, and vowed that death should
seal his lips before he would divulge the sacred truths which were about to be communicated to him.
Through indirect channels, however, some of their secrets have been preserved. The teachings given to
the neophytes were substantially as follows:
The soul of man--often called Psyche, and in the Eleusinian Mysteries symbolized by Persephone--is
essentially a spiritual thing. Its true home is in the higher worlds, where, free from the bondage of
material form and material concepts, it is said to be truly alive and self-expressive. The human, or
physical, nature of man, according to this doctrine, is a tomb, a quagmire, a false and impermanent
thing, the source of all sorrow and suffering. Plato describes the body as the sepulcher of the soul; and
by this he means not only the human form but also the human nature.
The gloom and depression of the Lesser Mysteries represented the agony of the spiritual soul unable to
express itself because it has accepted the limitations and illusions of the human environment. The crux
of the Eleusinian argument was that man is neither better nor wiser after death than during life. If he
does not rise above ignorance during his sojourn here, man goes at death into eternity to wander about
forever, making the same mistakes which he made here. If he does not outgrow the desire for material
possessions here, he will carry it with him into the invisible world, where, because he can never gratify
the desire, he will continue in endless agony. Dante's Inferno is symbolically descriptive of the
sufferings of those who never freed their spiritual natures from the cravings, habits, viewpoints, and
limitations of their Plutonic personalities. Those who made no endeavor to improve themselves (whose
souls have slept) during their physical lives, passed at death into Hades, where, lying in rows, they slept
through all eternity as they had slept through life.
To the Eleusinian philosophers, birch into the physical world was death in the fullest sense of the word,
and the only true birth was that of the spiritual soul of man rising out of the womb of his own fleshly
nature. "The soul is dead that slumbers," says Longfellow, and in this he strikes the keynote of the
Eleusinian Mysteries. Just as Narcissus, gazing at himself in the water (the ancients used this mobile
element to symbolize the transitory, illusionary, material universe) lost his life trying to embrace a
reflection, so man, gazing into the mirror of Nature and accepting as his real self the senseless clay that
he sees reflected, loses the opportunity afforded by physical life to unfold his immortal, invisible Self.
An ancient initiate once said that the living are ruled by the dead. Only those conversant with the
Eleusinian concept of life could understand that statement. It means that the majority of people are not
ruled by their living spirits but by their senseless (hence dead) animal personalities. Transmigration and
reincarnation were taught in these Mysteries, but in a somewhat unusual manner. It was believed that at
midnight the invisible worlds were closest to the Terrestrial sphere and that souls coming into material
existence slipped in during the midnight hour. For this reason many of the Eleusinian
Click to enlarge
From Thomassin's Recucil des Figures, Groupes, Themes, Fontaines, Vases et autres Ornements.
Pluto, the lord of the underworld, represents the body intelligence of man; and the rape of Persephone is symbolic
of the divine nature assaulted and defiled by the animal soul and dragged downward into the somber darkness of
Hades, which is here used as a synonym for the material, or objective, sphere of consciousness.
In his Disquisitions upon the Painted Greek Vases, James Christie presents Meursius' version of the occurrences
taking place during the nine days required for the enactment of the Greater Eleusinian Rites. The first day was
that of general meeting, during which those to be initiated were questioned concerning their several
qualifications. The second day was spent in a procession to the sea, possibly for the submerging of a image of the
presiding goddess. The third day was opened by the sacrifice of a mullet. On the fourth day the mystic basket
containing certain sacred symbols was brought to Eleusis, accompanied by a number of female devotees carrying
smaller baskets. On the evening of the fifth day there was a torch race, on the sixth a procession led by a statue of
Iacchus, and on the seventh an athletic contest. The eighth day was devoted to a repetition of the ceremonial for
the benefit of any who might have been prevented from coming sooner. The ninth and last day was devoted to the
deepest philosophical issues of the Eleusinia, during which an urn or jar--the symbol of Bacchus--was exhibited
as an emblem of supreme importance.
p. 30
ceremonies were performed at midnight. Some of those sleeping spirits who had failed to awaken their
higher natures during the earth life and who now floated around in the invisible worlds, surrounded by a
darkness of their own making, occasionally slipped through at this hour and assumed the forms of
various creatures.
The mystics of Eleusis also laid stress upon the evil of suicide, explaining that there was a profound
mystery concerning this crime of which they could not speak, but warning their disciples that a great
sorrow comes to all who take their own lives. This, in substance, constitutes the esoteric doctrine given
to the initiates of the Lesser Mysteries. As the degree dealt largely with the miseries of those who failed
to make the best use of their philosophic opportunities, the chambers of initiation were subterranean and
the horrors of Hades were vividly depicted in a complicated ritualistic drama. After passing successfully
through the tortuous passageways, with their trials and dangers, the candidate received the honorary title
of Mystes. This meant one who saw through a veil or had a clouded vision. It also signified that the
candidate had been brought up to the veil, which would be torn away in the higher degree. The modern
word mystic, as referring to a seeker after truth according to the dictates of the heart along the path of
faith, is probably derived from this ancient word, for faith is belief in the reality of things unseen or
The Greater Mysteries (into which the candidate was admitted only after he had successfully passed
through the ordeals of the Lesser, and not always then) were sacred to Ceres, the mother of Persephone,
and represent her as wandering through the world in quest of her abducted daughter. Ceres carried two
torches, intuition and reason, to aid her in the search for her lost child (the soul). At last she found
Persephone not far from Eleusis, and out of gratitude taught the people there to cultivate corn, which is
sacred to her. She also founded the Mysteries. Ceres appeared before Pluto, god of the souls of the dead,
and pleaded with him to allow Persephone to return to her home. This the god at first refused to do,
because Persephone had eaten of the pomegranate, the fruit of mortality. At last, however, he
compromised and agreed to permit Persephone to live in the upper world half of the year if she would
stay with him in the darkness of Hades for the remaining half.
The Greeks believed that Persephone was a manifestation of the solar energy, which in the winter
months lived under the earth with Pluto, but in the summer returned again with the goddess of
productiveness. There is a legend that the flowers loved Persephone and that every year when she left
for the dark realms of Pluto, the plants and shrubs would die of grief. While the profane and uninitiated
had their own opinions on these subjects, the truths of the Greek allegories remained safely concealed by
the priests, who alone recognized the sublimity of these great philosophic and religious parables.
Thomas Taylor epitomizes the doctrines of the Greater Mysteries in the following statement: "The
Greater (Mysteries) obscurely intimated, by mystic and splendid visions, the felicity of the soul both
here and hereafter when purified from the defilement of a material nature, and constantly elevated to the
realities of intellectual (spiritual) vision."
Just as the Lesser Mysteries discussed the prenatal epoch of man when the consciousness in its nine days
(embryologically, months) was descending into the realm of illusion and assuming the veil of unreality,
so the Greater Mysteries discussed the principles of spiritual regeneration and revealed to initiates not
only the simplest but also the most direct and complete method of liberating their higher natures from
the bondage of material ignorance. Like Prometheus chained to the top of Mount Caucasus, man's higher
nature is chained to his inadequate personality. The nine days of initiation were also symbolic of the
nine spheres through which the human soul descends during the process of assuming a terrestrial form.
The secret exercises for spiritual unfoldment given to disciples of the higher degrees are unknown, but
there is every reason to believe that they were similar to the Brahmanic Mysteries, since it is known that
the Eleusinian ceremonies were closed with the Sanskrit words "Konx Om Pax."
That part of the allegory referring to the two six-month periods during one of which Persephone must
remain with Pluto, while during the other she may revisit the upper world, offers material for deep
consideration. It is probable that the Eleusinians realized that the soul left the body during steep, or at
least was made capable of leaving by the special training which undoubtedly they were in a position to
give. Thus Persephone would remain as the queen of Pluto's realm during the waking hours, but would
ascend to the spiritual worlds during the periods of sleep. The initiate was taught how to intercede with
Pluto to permit Persephone (the initiate's soul) to ascend from the darkness of his material nature into the
light of understanding. When thus freed from the shackles of clay and crystallized concepts, the initiate
was liberated not only for the period of his life but for all eternity, for never thereafter was he divested of
those soul qualities which after death were his vehicles for manifestation and expression in the so-called
heaven world.
In contrast to the idea of Hades as a state of darkness below, the gods were said to inhabit the tops of
mountains, a well-known example being Mount Olympus, where the twelve deities of the Greek
pantheon were said to dwell together. In his initiatory wanderings the neophyte therefore entered
chambers of ever-increasing brilliancy to portray the ascent of the spirit from the lower worlds into the
realms of bliss. As the climax to such wanderings he entered a great vaulted room, in the center of which
stood a brilliantly illumined statue of the goddess Ceres. Here, in the presence of the hierophant and
surrounded by priests in magnificent robes, he was instructed in the highest of the secret mysteries of the
Eleusis. At the conclusion of this ceremony he was hailed as an Epoptes, which means one who has
beheld or seen directly. For this reason also initiation was termed autopsy. The Epoptes was then given
certain sacred books, probably written in cipher, together with tablets of stone on which secret
instructions were engraved.
In The Obelisk in Freemasonry, John A. Weisse describes the officiating personages of the Eleusinian
Mysteries as consisting of a male and a female hierophant who directed the initiations; a male and a
female torchbearer; a male herald; and a male and a female altar attendant. There were also numerous
minor officials. He states that, according to Porphyry, the hierophant represents Plato's Demiurgus, or
Creator of the world; the torch bearer, the Sun; the altar man, the Moon; the herald, Hermes, or Mercury;
and the other officials, minor stars.
From the records available, a number of strange and apparently supernatural phenomena accompanied
the rituals. Many initiates claim to have actually seen the living gods themselves. Whether this was the
result of religious ecstasy or the actual cooperation of invisible powers with the visible priests must
remain a mystery. In The Metamorphosis, or Golden Ass, Apuleius thus describes what in all probability
is his initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries:
"I approached to the confines of death, and having trod on the threshold of Proserpine I, returned from it,
being carried through all the elements. At midnight I saw the sun shining with a splendid light; and I
manifestly drew near to, the gods beneath, and the gods above, and proximately adored them."
Women and children were admitted to the Eleusinian Mysteries, and at one time there were literally
thousands of initiates. Because this vast host was not prepared for the highest spiritual and mystical
doctrines, a division necessarily took place within the society itself. The higher teachings were given to
only a limited number of initiates who, because of superior mentality, showed a comprehensive grasp of
their underlying philosophical concepts. Socrates refused to be initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries,
for knowing its principles without being a member of the order he realized that membership would seal
his tongue. That the Mysteries of Eleusis were based upon great and eternal truths is attested by the
veneration in which they were held by the great minds of the ancient world. M. Ouvaroff asks, "Would
Pindar, Plato, Cicero, Epictetus, have spoken of them with such admiration, if the hierophant had
satisfied himself with loudly proclaiming his own opinions, or those of his order?"
The garments in which candidates were initiated were preserved for many years and were believed to
possess almost sacred properties. Just as the soul can have no covering save wisdom and virtue, so the
candidates--being as yet without true knowledge--were presented to the Mysteries unclothed, being first:
given the skin of an animal and later a consecrated robe to symbolize the philosophical teachings
received by the initiate. During the course of initiation the candidate
Click to enlarge
From a mural painting in Pompeii.
Ceres, or Demeter, was the daughter of Kronos and Rhea, and by Zeus the mother of Persephone. Some believe
her to be the goddess of the earth, but more correctly she is the deity protecting agriculture in general and corn in
particular. The Poppy is sacred to Ceres and she is often shown carrying or ornamented by a garland of these
flowers. In the Mysteries, Ceres represented riding in a chariot drawn by winged serpents.
p. 31
Click to enlarge
From Ovid's Metamorphosis.
In the initiation, of the Bacchic Mysteries, the rôle of Bacchus is played by the candidate who, set upon by priests
in the guise of the Titans, is slain and finally restored to life amidst great rejoicing. The Bacchic Mysteries were
given every three years, and like the Eleusinian Mysteries, were divided into two degrees. The initiates were
crowned with myrtle and ivy, plants which were sacred to Bacchus.
In the Anacalypsis, Godfrey Higgins conclusively establishes Bacchus (Dionysos) as one of the early pagan
forms of the Christos myth, "The birthplace of Bacchus, called Sabazius or Sabaoth, was claimed by several
places in Greece; but on Mount Zelmisus, in Thrace, his worship seems to have been chiefly celebrated. He was
born of a virgin on the 25th of December; he performed great miracles for the good of mankind; particularly one
in which he changed water into wine; he rode in a triumphal procession on an ass; he was put to death by the
Titans, and rose again from the dead on the 25th of March: he was always called the Saviour. In his mysteries, he
was shown to the people, as an infant is by the Christians at this day, on Christmas Day morning in Rome."
While Apollo most generally represents the sun, Bacchus is also a form of solar energy, for his resurrection was
accomplished with the assistance of Apollo. The resurrection of Bacchus signifies merely the extraction or
disentanglement of the various Parts of the Bacchic constitution from the Titanic constitution of the world. This
is symbolized by the smoke or soot rising from the burned bodies of the Titans. The soul is symbolized by smoke
because it is extracted by the fire of the Mysteries. Smoke signifies the ascension of the soul, far evolution is the
process of the soul rising, like smoke, from the divinely consumed material mass. At me time the Bacchic Rites
were of a high order, but later they became much degraded . The Bacchanalia, or orgies of Bacchus, are famous
in literature.
p. 32
passed through two gates. The first led downward into the lower worlds and symbolized his birth into
ignorance. The second led upward into a room brilliantly lighted by unseen lamps, in which was the
statue of Ceres and which symbolized the upper world, or the abode of Light and Truth. Strabo states
that the great temple of Eleusis would hold between twenty and thirty thousand people. The caves
dedicated by Zarathustra also had these two doors, symbolizing the avenues of birth and death.
The following paragraph from Porphyry gives a fairly adequate conception of Eleusinian symbolism:
"God being a luminous principle, residing in the midst of the most subtile fire, he remains for ever
invisible to the eyes of those who do not elevate themselves above material life: on this account, the
sight of transparent bodies, such as crystal, Parian marble, and even ivory, recalls the idea of divine
light; as the sight of gold excites an idea of its purity, for gold cannot he sullied. Some have thought by a
black stone was signified the invisibility of the divine essence. To express supreme reason, the Divinity
was represented under the human form--and beautiful, for God is the source of beauty; of different ages,
and in various attitudes, sitting or upright; of one or the other sex, as a virgin or a young man, a husband
or a bride, that all the shades and gradations might be marked. Every thing luminous was subsequently
attributed to the gods; the sphere, and all that is spherical, to the universe, to the sun and the moon--
sometimes to Fortune and to Hope. The circle, and all circular figures, to eternity--to the celestial
movements; to the circles and zones of the heavens. The section of circles, to the phases of the moon;
and pyramids and obelisks, to the igneous principle, and through that to the gods of Heaven. A cone
expresses the sun, a cylinder the earth; the phallus and triangle (a symbol of the matrix) designate
generation." (From Essay on the Mysteries of Eleusis by M. Ouvaroff.)
The Eleusinian Mysteries, according to Heckethorn, survived all others and did not cease to exist as an
institution until nearly four hundred years after Christ, when they were finally suppressed by Theodosius
(styled the Great), who cruelly destroyed all who did not accept the Christian faith. Of this greatest of all
philosophical institutions Cicero said that it taught men not only how to live but also how to die.
Orpheus, the Thracian bard, the great initiator of the Greeks, ceased to be known as a man and was
celebrated as a divinity several centuries before the Christian Era. "As to Orpheus himself * * *, " writes
Thomas Taylor, "scarcely a vestige of his life is to be found amongst the immense ruins of time. For
who has ever been able to affirm any thing with certainty of his origin, his age, his country, and
condition? This alone may be depended on, from general assent, that there formerly lived a person
named Orpheus, who was the founder of theology among the Greeks; the institutor of their lives and
morals; the first of prophets, and the prince of poets; himself the offspring of a Muse; who taught the
Greeks their sacred rites and mysteries, and from whose wisdom, as from a perennial and abundant
fountain, the divine muse of Homer and the sublime theology of Pythagoras and Plato flowed." (See The
Mystical Hymns of Orpheus.)
Orpheus was founder of the Grecian mythological system which he used as the medium for the
promulgation of his philosophical doctrines. The origin of his philosophy is uncertain. He may have got
it from the Brahmins, there being legends to the effect that he got it was a Hindu, his name possibly
being derived from •ρφαν•ος, meaning "dark." Orpheus was initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries, from
which he secured extensive knowledge of magic, astrology, sorcery, and medicine. The Mysteries of the
Cabiri at Samothrace were also conferred upon him, and these undoubtedly contributed to his knowledge
of medicine and music.
The romance of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the tragic episodes of Greek mythology and apparently
constitutes the outstanding feature
p. 32
of the Orphic Rite. Eurydice, in her attempt to escape from a villain seeking to seduce her, died from the
venom of a poisonous serpent which stung her in the heel. Orpheus, penetrating to the very heart of the
underworld, so charmed Pluto and Persephone with the beauty of his music that they agreed to permit
Eurydice to return to life if Orpheus could lead her back to the sphere of the living without once looking
round to see if she were following. So great was his fear, however, that she would stray from him that he
turned his head, and Eurydice with a heartbroken cry was swept back into the land of death.
Orpheus wandered the earth for a while disconsolate, and there are several conflicting accounts of the
manner of his death. Some declare that he was slain by a bolt of lightning; others, that failing to save his
beloved Eurydice, he committed suicide. The generally accepted version of his death, however, is that he
was torn to pieces by Ciconian women whose advances he had spurned. In the tenth book of Plato's
Republic it is declared that, because of his sad fate at the hands of women, the soul that had once been
Orpheus, upon being destined to live again in the physical world, chose rather to return in the body of a
swan than be born of woman. The head of Orpheus, after being torn from his body, was cast with his
lyre into the river Hebrus, down which it floated to the sea, where, wedging in a cleft in a rock, it gave
oracles for many years. The lyre, after being stolen from its shrine and working the destruction of the
thief, was picked up by the gods and fashioned into a constellation.
Orpheus has long been sung as the patron of music. On his seven-stringed lyre he played such perfect
harmonies that the gods themselves were moved to acclaim his power. When he touched the strings of
his instrument the birds and beasts gathered about him, and as he wandered through the forests his
enchanting melodies caused even the ancient trees with mighty effort to draw their gnarled roots from
out the earth and follow him. Orpheus is one of the many Immortals who have sacrificed themselves that
mankind might have the wisdom of the gods. By the symbolism of his music he communicated the
divine secrets to humanity, and several authors have declared that the gods, though loving him, feared
that he would overthrow their kingdom and therefore reluctantly encompassed his destruction.
As time passed on the historical Orpheus became hopelessly confounded with the doctrine he
represented and eventually became the symbol of the Greek school of the ancient wisdom. Thus
Orpheus was declared to be the son of Apollo, the divine and perfect truth, and Calliope, the Muse of
harmony and rhythm. In other words, Orpheus is the secret doctrine (Apollo) revealed through music
(Calliope). Eurydice is humanity dead from the sting of the serpent of false knowledge and imprisoned
in the underworld of ignorance. In this allegory Orpheus signifies theology, which wins her from the
king of the dead but fails to accomplish her resurrection because it falsely estimates and mistrusts the
innate understanding within the human soul. The Ciconian women who tore Orpheus limb from limb
symbolize the various contending theological factions which destroy the body of Truth. They cannot
accomplish this, however, until their discordant cries drown out the harmony drawn by Orpheus from his
magic lyre. The head of Orpheus signifies the esoteric doctrines of his cult. These doctrines continue to
live and speak even after his body (the cult) has been destroyed. The lyre is the secret teaching of
Orpheus; the seven strings are the seven divine truths which are the keys to universal knowledge. The
differing accounts of his death represent the various means used to destroy the secret teachings: wisdom
can die in many ways at the same time. The allegory of Orpheus incarnating in the white swan merely
signifies that the spiritual truths he promulgated will continue and will be taught by the illumined
initiates of all future ages. The swan is the symbol of the initiates of the Mysteries; it is a symbol also of
the divine power which is the progenitor of the world.
The Bacchic Rite centers around the allegory of the youthful Bacchus (Dionysos or Zagreus) being torn
to pieces by the Titans. These giants accomplished the destruction of Bacchus by causing him to become
fascinated by his own image in a mirror. After dismembering him, the Titans first boiled the pieces in
water and afterwards roasted them. Pallas rescued the heart of the murdered god, and by this precaution
Bacchus (Dionysos) was enabled to spring forth again in all his former glory. Jupiter, the Demiurgus,
beholding the crime of the Titans, hurled his thunderbolts and slew them, burning their bodies to ashes
with heavenly fire. Our of the ashes of the Titans--which also contained a portion of the flesh of
Bacchus, whose body they had partly devoured--the human race was created. Thus the mundane life of
every man was said to contain a portion of the Bacchic life.
For this reason the Greek Mysteries warned against suicide. He who attempts to destroy himself raises
his hand against the nature of Bacchus within him, since man's body is indirectly the tomb of this god
and consequently must be preserved with the greatest care.
Bacchus (Dionysos) represents the rational soul of the inferior world. He is the chief of the Titans--the
artificers of the mundane spheres. The Pythagoreans called him the Titanic monad. Thus Bacchus is the
all-inclusive idea of the Titanic sphere and the Titans--or gods of the fragments--the active agencies by
means of which universal substance is fashioned into the pattern of this idea. The Bacchic state signifies
the unity of the rational soul in a state of self-knowledge, and the Titanic state the diversity of the
rational soul which, being scattered throughout creation, loses the consciousness of its own essential one-
ness. The mirror into which Bacchus gazes and which is the cause of his fall is the great sea of illusion--
the lower world fashioned by the Titans. Bacchus (the mundane rational soul), seeing his image before
him, accepts the image as a likeness of himself and ensouls the likeness; that is, the rational idea ensouls
its reflection--the irrational universe. By ensouling the irrational image it implants in it the urge to
become like its source, the rational image. Therefore the ancients said that man does not know the gods
by logic or by reason but rather by realizing the presence of the gods within himself.
After Bacchus gazed into the mirror and followed his own reflection into matter, the rational soul of the
world was broken up and distributed by the Titans throughout the mundane sphere of which it is the
essential nature, but the heart, or source, of it they could not: scatter. The Titans took the dismembered
body of Bacchus and boiled it in water--symbol of immersion in the material universe--which represents
the incorporation of the Bacchic principle in form. The pieces were afterwards roasted to signify the
subsequent ascension of the spiritual nature out of form.
When Jupiter, the father of Bacchus and the Demiurgus of the universe, saw that the Titans were
hopelessly involving the rational or divine idea by scattering its members through the constituent parts
of the lower world, he slew the Titans in order that the divine idea might not be entirely lost. From the
ashes of the Titans he formed mankind, whose purpose of existence was to preserve and eventually to
release the Bacchic idea, or rational soul, from the Titanic fabrication. Jupiter, being the Demiurgus and
fabricator of the material universe, is the third person of the Creative Triad, consequently the Lord of
Death, for death exists only in the lower sphere of being over which he presides. Disintegration takes
place so that reintegration may follow upon a higher level of form or intelligence. The thunderbolts of
Jupiter are emblematic of his disintegrative power; they reveal the purpose of death, which is to rescue
the rational soul from the devouring power of the irrational nature.
Man is a composite creature, his lower nature consisting of the fragments of the Titans and his higher
nature the sacred, immortal flesh (life) of Bacchus. Therefore man is capable of either a Titanic
(irrational) or a Bacchic (rational) existence. The Titans of Hesiod, who were twelve in number, are
probably analogous to the celestial zodiac, whereas the Titans who murdered and dismembered Bacchus
represent the zodiacal powers distorted by their involvement in the material world. Thus Bacchus
represents the sun who is dismembered by the signs of the zodiac and from whose body the universe is
formed. When the terrestrial forms were created from the various parts of his body the sense of
wholeness was lost and the sense of separateness established. The heart of Bacchus, which was saved by
Pallas, or Minerva, was lifted out of the four elements symbolized by his dismembered body and placed
in the ether. The heart of Bacchus is the immortal center of the rational soul.
After the rational soul had been distributed throughout creation and the nature of man, the Bacchic
Mysteries were instituted for the purpose of disentangling it from the irrational Titanic nature. This
disentanglement was the process of lifting the soul out of the state of separateness into that of unity. The
various parts and members of Bacchus were collected from the different corners of the earth. When all
the rational parts are gathered Bacchus is resurrected.
The Rites of Dionysos were very similar to those of Bacchus, and by many these two gods are
considered as one. Statues of Dionysos were carried in the Eleusinian Mysteries, especially the lesser
degrees. Bacchus, representing the soul of the mundane sphere, was capable of an infinite multiplicity of
form and designations. Dionysos apparently was his solar aspect.
The Dionysiac Architects constituted an ancient secret society, in principles and doctrines much like the
modern Freemasonic Order. They were an organization of builders bound together by their secret
knowledge of the relationship between the earthly and the divine sciences of architectonics. They were
supposedly employed by King Solomon in the building of his Temple, although they were not Jews, nor
did they worship the God of the Jews, being followers of Bacchus and Dionysos. The Dionysiac
Architects erected many of the great monuments of antiquity. They possessed a secret language and a
system of marking their stones. They had annual convocations and sacred feasts. The exact nature of
their doctrines is unknown. It is believed that CHiram Abiff was an initiate of this society.
Next: Atlantis and the Gods of Antiquity
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
Atlantis and the Gods of Antiquity
p. 33
ATLANTIS is the subject of a short but important article appearing in the Annual Report of the Board of
Regents of The Smithsonian Institution for the year ending June 30th, 1915. The author, M. Pierre
Termier, a member of the Academy of Sciences and Director of Service of the Geologic Chart of France,
in 1912 delivered a lecture on the Atlantean hypothesis before the Institut Océanographique; it is the
translated notes of this remarkable lecture that are published in the Smithsonian report.
"After a long period of disdainful indifference," writes M. Termier, "observe how in the last few years
science is returning to the study of Atlantis. How many naturalists, geologists, zoologists, or botanists
are asking one another today whether Plato has not transmitted to us, with slight amplification, a page
from the actual history of mankind. No affirmation is yet permissible; but it seems more and more
evident that a vast region, continental or made up of great islands, has collapsed west of the Pillars of
Hercules, otherwise called the Strait of Gibraltar, and that its collapse occurred in the not far distant past.
In any event, the question of Atlantis is placed anew before men of science; and since I do not believe
that it can ever be solved without the aid of oceanography, I have thought it natural to discuss it here, in
this temple of maritime science, and to call to such a problem, long scorned but now being revived, the
attention of oceanographers, as well as the attention of those who, though immersed in the tumult of
cities, lend an ear to the distant murmur of the sea."
In his lecture M. Termier presents geologic, geographic, and zoologic data in substantiation of the
Atlantis theory. Figuratively draining the entire bed of the Atlantic Ocean, he considers the inequalities
of its basin and cites locations on a line from the Azores to Iceland where dredging has brought lava to
the surface from a depth of 3,000 meters. The volcanic nature of the islands now existing in the Atlantic
Ocean corroborates Plato's statement that the Atlantean continent was destroyed by volcanic cataclysms.
M. Termier also advances the conclusions of a young French zoologist, M. Louis Germain, who
admitted the existence of an Atlantic continent connected with the Iberian Peninsula and with
Mauritania and prolonged toward the south so as to include some regions of desert climate. M. Termier
concludes his lecture with a graphic picture of the engulfment of that continent.
The description of the Atlantean civilization given by Plato in the Critias may be summarized as
follows. In the first ages the gods divided the earth among themselves, proportioning it according to
their respective dignities. Each became the peculiar deity of his own allotment and established therein
temples to himself, ordained a priestcraft, and instituted a system of sacrifice. To Poseidon was given the
sea and the island continent of Atlantis. In the midst of the island was a mountain which was the
dwelling place of three earth-born primitive human beings--Evenor; his wife, Leucipe; and their only
daughter, Cleito. The maiden was very beautiful, and after the sudden death of her parents she was
wooed by Poseidon, who begat by her five pairs of male children. Poseidon apportioned his continent
among these ten, and Atlas, the eldest, he made overlord of the other nine. Poseidon further called the
country Atlantis and the surrounding sea the Atlantic in honor of Atlas. Before the birth of his ten sons,
Poseidon divided the continent and the coastwise sea into concentric zones of land and water, which
were as perfect as though turned upon a lathe. Two zones of land and three of water surrounded the
central island, which Poseidon caused to be irrigated with two springs of water--one warm and the other
The descendants of Atlas continued as rulers of Atlantis, and with wise government and industry
elevated the country to a position of surpassing dignity. The natural resources of Atlantis were
apparently limitless. Precious metals were mined, wild animals domesticated, and perfumes distilled
from its fragrant flowers. While enjoying the abundance natural to their semitropic location, the
Atlanteans employed themselves also in the erection of palaces, temples, and docks. They bridged the
zones of sea and later dug a deep canal to connect the outer ocean with the central island, where stood
the palaces And temple of Poseidon, which excelled all other structures in magnificence. A network of
bridges and canals was created by the Atlanteans to unite the various parts of their kingdom.
Plato then describes the white, black, and red stones which they quarried from beneath their continent
and used in the construction of public buildings and docks. They circumscribed each of the land zones
with a wall, the outer wall being covered with brass, the middle with tin, and the inner, which
encompassed the citadel, with orichalch. The citadel, on the central island, contained the pal aces,
temples, and other public buildings. In its center, surrounded by a wall of gold, was a sanctuary
dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon. Here the first ten princes of the island were born and here each year
their descendants brought offerings. Poseidon's own temple, its exterior entirely covered with silver and
its pinnacles with gold, also stood within the citadel. The interior of the temple was of ivory, gold, silver,
and orichalch, even to the pillars and floor. The temple contained a colossal statue of Poseidon standing
in a chariot drawn by six winged horses, about him a hundred Nereids riding on dolphins. Arranged
outside the building were golden statues of the first ten kings and their wives.
In the groves and gardens were hot and cold springs. There were numerous temples to various deities,
places of exercise for men and for beasts, public baths, and a great race course for horses. At various
vantage points on the zones were fortifications, and to the great harbor came vessels from every
maritime nation. The zones were so thickly populated that the sound of human voices was ever in the air.
That part of Atlantis facing the sea was described as lofty and precipitous, but about the central city was
a plain sheltered by mountains renowned for their size, number, and beauty. The plain yielded two crops
each year,, in the winter being watered by rains and in the summer by immense irrigation canals, which
were also used for transportation. The plain was divided into sections, and in time of war each section
supplied its quota of fighting men and chariots.
The ten governments differed from each other in details concerning military requirements. Each of the
kings of Atlantis had complete control over his own kingdom, but their mutual relationships were
governed by a code engraved by the first ten kings on a column' of orichalch standing in the temple of
Poseidon. At alternate intervals of five and six years a pilgrimage was made to this temple that equal
honor might be conferred upon both the odd and the even numbers. Here, with appropriate sacrifice,
each king renewed his
Click to enlarge
From Cartari's Imagini degli Dei degli Antichi.
By ascending successively through the fiery sphere of Hades, the spheres of water, Earth, and air, and the
heavens of the moon, the plane of Mercury is reached. Above Mercury are the planes of Venus, the sun, Mars,
Jupiter, and Saturn, the latter containing the symbols of the Zodiacal constellations. Above the arch of the
heavens (Saturn) is the dwelling Place of the different powers controlling the universe. The supreme council of
the gods is composed of twelve deities--six male and six female--which correspond to the positive and negative
signs of the zodiac. The six gods are Jupiter, Vulcan, Apollo, Mars, Neptune, and Mercury; the six goddesses are
Juno, Ceres, Vesta, Minerva, Venus, and Diana. Jupiter rides his eagle as the symbol of his sovereignty over the
world, and Juno is seated upon a peacock, the proper symbol of her haughtiness and glory.
p. 34
oath of loyalty upon the sacred inscription. Here also the kings donned azure robes and sat in judgment.
At daybreak they wrote their sentences upon a golden tablet: and deposited them with their robes as
memorials. The chief laws of the Atlantean kings were that they should not take up arms against each
other and that they should come to the assistance of any of their number who was attacked. In matters of
war and great moment the final decision was in the hands of the direct descendants of the family of
Atlas. No king had the power of life and death over his kinsmen without the assent of a majority of the
Plato concludes his description by declaring that it was this great empire which attacked the Hellenic
states. This did not occur, however, until their power and glory had lured the Atlantean kings from the
pathway of wisdom and virtue. Filled with false ambition, the rulers of Atlantis determined to conquer
the entire world. Zeus, perceiving the wickedness of the Atlanteans, gathered the gods into his holy
habitation and addressed them. Here Plato's narrative comes to an abrupt end, for the Critias was never
finished. In the Timæus is a further description of Atlantis, supposedly given to Solon by an Egyptian
priest and which concludes as follows:
"But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of rain all
your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared,
and was sunk beneath the sea. And that is the reason why the sea in those parts is impassable and
impenetrable, because there is such a quantity of shallow mud in the way; and this was caused by the
subsidence of the island."
In the introduction to his translation of the Timæus, Thomas Taylor quotes from a History of Ethiopia
written by Marcellus, which contains the following reference to Atlantis: "For they relate that in their
time there were seven islands in the Atlantic sea, sacred to Proserpine; and besides these, three others of
an immense magnitude; one of which was sacred to Pluto, another to Ammon, and another, which is the
middle of these, and is of a thousand stadia, to Neptune." Crantor, commenting upon Plato, asserted that
the Egyptian priests declared the story of Atlantis to be written upon pillars which were still preserved
circa 300 B.C. (See Beginnings or Glimpses of Vanished Civilizations.) Ignatius Donnelly, who gave the
subject of Atlantis profound study, believed that horses were first domesticated by the Atlanteans, for
which reason they have always been considered peculiarly sacred to Poseidon. (See Atlantis.)
From a careful consideration of Plato's description of Atlantis it is evident that the story should not be
regarded as wholly historical but rather as both allegorical and historical. Origen, Porphyry, Proclus,
Iamblichus, and Syrianus realized that the story concealed a profound philosophical mystery, but they
disagreed as to the actual interpretation. Plato's Atlantis symbolizes the threefold nature of both the
universe and the human body. The ten kings of Atlantis are the tetractys, or numbers, which are born as
five pairs of opposites. (Consult Theon of Smyrna for the Pythagorean doctrine of opposites.) The
numbers 1 to 10 rule every creature, and the numbers, in turn, are under the control of the Monad, or 1--
the Eldest among them.
With the trident scepter of Poseidon these kings held sway over the inhabitants of the seven small and
three great islands comprising Atlantis. Philosophically, the ten islands symbolize the triune powers of
the Superior Deity and the seven regents who bow before His eternal throne. If Atlantis be considered as
the archetypal sphere, then its immersion signifies the descent of rational, organized consciousness into
the illusionary, impermanent realm of irrational, mortal ignorance. Both the sinking of Atlantis and the
Biblical story of the "fall of man" signify spiritual involution--a prerequisite to conscious evolution.
Either the initiated Plato used the Atlantis allegory to achieve two widely different ends or else the
accounts preserved by the Egyptian priests were tampered with to perpetuate the secret doctrine. This
does not mean to imply that Atlantis is purely mythological, but it overcomes the most serious obstacle
to acceptance of the Atlantis theory, namely, the fantastic accounts of its origin, size, appearance, and
date of destruction--9600 B.C. In the midst of the central island of Atlantis was a lofty mountain which
cast a shadow five thousand stadia in extent and whose summit touched the sphere of æther. This is the
axle mountain of the world, sacred among many races and symbolic of the human head, which rises out
of the four elements of the body. This sacred mountain, upon whose summit stood the temple of the
gods, gave rise to the stories of Olympus, Meru, and Asgard. The City of the Golden Gates--the capital
of Atlantis--is the one now preserved among numerous religions as the City of the Gods or the Holy City.
Here is the archetype of the New Jerusalem, with its streets paved with gold and its twelve gates shining
with precious stones.
"The history of Atlantis," writes Ignatius Donnelly, "is the key of the Greek mythology. There can be no
question that these gods of Greece were human beings. The tendency to attach divine attributes to great
earthly rulers is one deeply implanted in human nature." (See Atlantis.)
The same author sustains his views by noting that the deities of the Greek pantheon were nor looked
upon as creators of the universe but rather as regents set over it by its more ancient original fabricators.
The Garden of Eden from which humanity was driven by a flaming sword is perhaps an allusion to the
earthly paradise supposedly located west of the Pillars of Hercules and destroyed by volcanic
cataclysms. The Deluge legend may be traced also to the Atlantean inundation, during which a "world"
was destroyed by water.,
Was the religious, philosophic, and scientific knowledge possessed by the priestcrafts of antiquity
secured from Atlantis, whose submergence obliterated every vestige of its part in the drama of world
progress? Atlantean sun worship has been perpetuated in the ritualism and ceremonialism of both
Christianity and pagandom. Both the cross and the serpent were Atlantean emblems of divine wisdom.
The divine (Atlantean) progenitors of the Mayas and Quichés of Central America coexisted within the
green and azure radiance of Gucumatz, the "plumed" serpent. The six sky-born sages came into
manifestation as centers of light bound together or synthesized by the seventh--and chief--of their order,
the "feathered" snake. (See the Popol Vuh.) The title of "winged" or "plumed" snake was applied to
Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulcan, the Central American initiate. The center of the Atlantean Wisdom-Religion
was presumably a great pyramidal temple standing on the brow of a plateau rising in the midst of the
City of the Golden Gates. From here the Initiate-Priests of the Sacred Feather went forth, carrying the
keys of Universal Wisdom to the uttermost parts of the earth.
The mythologies of many nations contain accounts of gods who "came out of the sea." Certain shamans
among the American Indians tell of holy men dressed in birds' feathers and wampum who rose out of the
blue waters and instructed them in the arts and crafts. Among the legends of the Chaldeans is that of
Oannes, a partly amphibious creature who came out of the sea and taught the savage peoples along the
shore to read and write, till the soil, cultivate herbs for healing, study the stars, establish rational forms
of government, and become conversant with the sacred Mysteries. Among the Mayas, Quetzalcoatl, the
Savior-God (whom some Christian scholars believe to have been St. Thomas), issued from the waters
and, after instructing the people in the essentials of civilization, rode out to sea on a magic raft of
serpents to escape the wrath of the fierce god of the Fiery Mirror, Tezcatlipoca.
May it not have been that these demigods of a fabulous age who, Esdras-like, came out of the sea were
Atlantean priests? All that primitive man remembered of the Atlanteans was the glory of their golden
ornaments, the transcendency of their wisdom, and the sanctity of their symbols--the cross and the
serpent. That they came in ships was soon forgotten, for untutored minds considered even boats as
supernatural. Wherever the Atlanteans proselyted they erected pyramids and temples patterned after the
great sanctuary in the City of the Golden Gates. Such is the origin of the pyramids of Egypt, Mexico,
and Central America. The mounds in Normandy and Britain, as well as those of the American Indians,
are remnants of a similar culture. In the midst of the Atlantean program of world colonization and
conversion, the cataclysms which sank Atlantis began. The Initiate-Priests of the Sacred Feather who
promised to come back to their missionary settlements never returned; and after the lapse of centuries
tradition preserved only a fantastic account of gods who came from a place where the sea now is.
H. P. Blavatsky thus sums up the causes which precipitated the Atlantean disaster: "Under the evil
insinuations of their demon, Thevetat, the Atlantis-race became a nation of wicked magicians. In
consequence of this, war was declared, the story of which would be too long to narrate; its substance
may be found in the disfigured allegories of the race of Cain, the giants, and that of Noah and his
righteous family. The conflict came to an end by the submersion of the Atlantis; which finds its
imitation in the stories of the Babylonian and Mosaic flood: The giants and magicians '* * * and all flesh
died * * * and every man.' All except Xisuthrus and Noah, who are substantially identical with the great
Father of the Thlinkithians in the Popol Vuh, or the sacred book of the Guatemaleans, which also tells of
his escaping in a large boat, like the Hindu Noah--Vaiswasvata. " (See Isis Unveiled.)
From the Atlanteans the world has received not only the heritage of arts and crafts, philosophies and
sciences, ethics and religions, but also the heritage of hate, strife, and perversion. The Atlanteans
instigated the first war; and it has been said that all subsequent wars were fought in a fruitless effort to
justify the first one and right the wrong which it caused. Before Atlantis sank, its spiritually illumined
Initiates, who realized that their land was doomed because it had departed from the Path of Light,
withdrew from the ill-fated continent. Carrying with them the sacred and secret doctrine, these
p. 35
established themselves in Egypt, where they became its first "divine" rulers. Nearly all the great
cosmologic myths forming the foundation of the various sacred books of the world are based upon the
Atlantean Mystery rituals.
The myth of Tammuz and Ishtar is one of the earliest examples of the dying-god allegory, probably
antedating 4000 B. C. (See Babylonia and Assyria by Lewis Spence.) The imperfect condition of the
tablets upon which the legends are inscribed makes it impossible to secure more than a fragmentary
account of the Tammuz rites. Being the esoteric god of the sun, Tammuz did not occupy a position
among the first deities venerated by the Babylonians, who for lack of deeper knowledge looked upon
him as a god of agriculture or a vegetation spirit. Originally he was described as being one of the
guardians of the gates of the underworld. Like many other Savior-Gods, he is referred to as a "shepherd"
or "the lord of the shepherd seat." Tammuz occupies the remarkable position of son and husband of
Ishtar, the Babylonian and Assyrian Mother-goddess. Ishtar--to whom the planer Venus was sacred--was
the most widely venerated deity of the Babylonian and Assyrian pantheon. She was probably identical
with Ashterorh, Astarte, and Aphrodite. The story of her descent into the underworld in search
presumably for the sacred elixir which alone could restore Tammuz to life is the key to the ritual of her
Mysteries. Tammuz, whose annual festival took place just before the summer solstice, died in
midsummer in the ancient month which bore his name, and was mourned with elaborate ceremonies.
The manner of his death is unknown, but some of the accusations made against Ishtar by Izdubar
(Nimrod) would indicate that she, indirectly at least, had contributed to his demise. The resurrection of
Tammuz was the occasion of great rejoicing, at which time he was hailed as a "redeemer" of his people.
With outspread wings, Ishtar, the daughter of Sin (the Moon), sweeps downward to the gates of death.
The house of darkness--the dwelling of the god Irkalla--is described as "the place of no return." It is
without light; the nourishment of those who dwell therein is dust and their food is mud. Over the bolts
on the door of the house of Irkalla is scattered dust, and the keepers of the house are covered with
feathers like birds. Ishtar demands that the keepers open the gates, declaring that if they do not she will
shatter the doorposts and strike the hinges and raise up dead devourers of the living. The guardians of
the gates beg her to be patient while they go to the queen of Hades from whom they secure permission to
admit Ishtar, but only in the same manner as all others came to this dreary house. Ishtar thereupon
descends through the seven gates which lead downward into the depths of the underworld. At the first
gate the great crown is removed from her head, at the second gate the earrings from her ears, at the third
gate the necklace from her neck, at the fourth gate the ornaments from her breast, at the fifth gate the
girdle from her waist, at the sixth gate the bracelets from her hands and feet, and at the seventh gate the
covering cloak of her body. Ishtar remonstrates as each successive article of apparel is taken from her,
bur the guardian tells her that this is the experience of all who enter the somber domain of death.
Enraged upon beholding Ishtar, the Mistress of Hades inflicts upon her all manner of disease and
imprisons her in the underworld.
As Ishtar represents the spirit of fertility, her loss prevents the ripening of the crops and the maturing of
all life upon the earth.
In this respect the story parallels the legend of Persephone. The gods, realizing that the loss of Ishtar is
disorganizing all Nature, send a messenger to the underworld and demand her release. The Mistress of
Hades is forced to comply, and the water of life is poured over Ishtar. Thus cured of the infirmities
inflicted on her, she retraces her way upward through the seven gates, at each of which she is reinvested
with the article of apparel which the guardians had removed. (See The Chaldean Account of Genesis.)
No record exists that Ishtar secured the water of life which would have wrought the resurrection of
The myth of Ishtar symbolizes the descent of the human spirit through the seven worlds, or spheres of
the sacred planets, until finally, deprived of its spiritual adornments, it incarnates in the physical body--
Hades--where the mistress of that body heaps every form of sorrow and misery upon the imprisoned
consciousness. The waters of life--the secret doctrine--cure the diseases of ignorance; and the spirit,
ascending again to its divine source, regains its God-given adornments as it passes upward through the
rings of the planets.
Another Mystery ritual among the Babylonians and Assyrians was that of Merodach and the Dragon.
Merodach, the creator of the inferior universe, slays a horrible monster and out of her body forms the
universe. Here is the probable source of the so-called Christian allegory of St. George and the Dragon.
The Mysteries of Adonis, or Adoni, were celebrated annually in many parts of Egypt, Phœnicia, and
Biblos. The name Adonis, or Adoni, means "Lord" and was a designation applied to the sun and later
borrowed by the Jews as the exoteric name of their God. Smyrna, mother of Adonis, was turned into a
tree by the gods and after a time the bark burst open and the infant Savior issued forth. According to one
account, he was liberated by a wild boar which split the wood of the maternal tree with its tusks. Adonis
was born at midnight of the 24th of December, and through his unhappy death a Mystery rite was
established that wrought the salvation of his people. In the Jewish month of Tammuz (another name for
this deity) he was gored to death by a wild boar sent by the god Ars (Mars). The Adoniasmos was the
ceremony of lamenting the premature death of the murdered god.
In Ezekiel viii. 14, it is written that women were weeping for Tammuz (Adonis) at the north gate of the
Lord's House in Jerusalem. Sir James George Frazer cites Jerome thus: "He tells us that Bethlehem, the
traditionary birthplace of the Lord, was shaded by a grove of that still older Syrian Lord, Adonis, and
that where the infant Jesus had wept, the lover of Venus was bewailed." (See The Golden Bough.) The
effigy of a wild boar is said to have been set over one of the gates of Jerusalem in honor of Adonis, and
his rites celebrated in the grotto of the Nativity at Bethlehem. Adonis as the "gored" (or "god") man is
one of the keys to Sir Francis Bacon's use of the "wild boar" in his cryptic symbolism.
Adonis was originally an androgynous deity who represented the solar power which in the winter was
destroyed by the evil principle of cold--the boar. After three days (months) in the tomb, Adonis rose
triumphant on the 25th day of March, amidst the acclamation of his priests and followers, "He is risen!"
Adonis was born out of a myrrh tree. Myrrh, the symbol of death because of its connection with the
process of embalming, was one of the gifts brought by the three Magi to the manger of Jesus.
In the Mysteries of Adonis the neophyte passed through the symbolic death of the god and, "raised" by
the priests, entered into the blessed state of redemption made possible by the sufferings of Adonis.
Nearly all authors believe Adonis to have been originally a vegetation god directly connected with the
growth and maturing of flowers
Click to enlarge
From Kircher's Œdipus Ægyptiacus.
The great Pan was celebrated as the author and director of the sacred dances which he is supposed to have
instituted to symbolize the circumambulations of the heavenly bodies. Pan was a composite creature, the upper
part--with the exception of his horns--being human, and the lower part in the form of a goat. Pan is the prototype
of natural energy and, while undoubtedly a phallic deity, should nor be confused with Priapus. The pipes of Pan
signify the natural harmony of the spheres, and the god himself is a symbol of Saturn because this planet is
enthroned in Capricorn, whose emblem is a goat. The Egyptians were initiated into the Mysteries of Pan, who
was regarded as a phase of Jupiter, the Demiurgus. Pan represented the impregnating power of the sun and was
the chief of a horde rustic deities, and satyrs. He also signified the controlling spirit of the lower worlds. The
fabricated a story to the effect that at the time of the birth of Christ the oracles were silenced after giving
utterance to one last cry, "Great Pan is dead!"
p. 36
and fruits. In support of this viewpoint they describe the "gardens of Adonis, " which were small baskets
of earth in which seeds were planted and nurtured for a period of eight days. When those plants
prematurely died for lack of sufficient earth, they were considered emblematic of the murdered Adonis
and were usually cast into the sea with images of the god.
In Phrygia there existed a remarkable school of religious philosophy which centered around the life and
untimely fate of another Savior-God known as Atys, or Attis, by many considered synonymous with
Adonis. This deity was born at midnight on the 24th day of December. Of his death there are two
accounts. In one he was gored to death like Adonis; in the other he emasculated himself under a pine
tree and there died. His body was taken to a cave by the Great Mother (Cybele), where it remained
through the ages without decaying. To the rites of Atys the modern world is indebted for the symbolism
of the Christmas tree. Atys imparted his immortality to the tree beneath which he died, and Cybele took
the tree with her when she removed the body. Atys remained three days in the tomb, rose upon a date
corresponding with Easter morn, and by this resurrection overcame death for all who were initiated into
his Mysteries.
"In the Mysteries of the Phrygians, "says Julius Firmicus, "which are called those of the MOTHER OF
THE GODS, every year a PINE TREE is cut down and in the inside of the tree the image of a YOUTH
is tied in! In the Mysteries of Isis the trunk of a PINE TREE is cut: the middle of the trunk is nicely
hollowed out; the idol of Osiris made from those hollowed pieces is BURIED. In the Mysteries of
Proserpine a tree cut is put together into the effigy and form of the VIRGIN, and when it has been
carried within the city it is MOURNED 40 nights, but the fortieth night it is BURNED!" (See Sod, the
Mysteries of Adoni.)
The Mysteries of Atys included a sacramental meal during which the neophyte ate out of a drum and
drank from a cymbal. After being baptized by the blood of a bull, the new initiate was fed entirely on
milk to symbolize that he was still a philosophical infant, having but recently been born out of the sphere
of materiality. (See Frazer's The Golden Bough.) Is there a possible connection between this lacteal diet
prescribed by the Attic rite and St. Paul's allusion to the food for spiritual babes? Sallust gives a key to
the esoteric interpretation of the Attic rituals. Cybele, the Great Mother, signifies the vivifying powers of
the universe, and Atys that aspect of the spiritual intellect which is suspended between the divine and
animal spheres. The Mother of the gods, loving Atys, gave him a starry hat, signifying celestial powers,
but Atys (mankind), falling in love with a nymph (symbolic of the lower animal propensities), forfeited
his divinity and lost his creative powers. It is thus evident that Atys represents the human consciousness
and that his Mysteries are concerned with the reattainment of the starry hat. (See Sallust on the Gods and
the World.)
The rites of Sabazius were very similar to those of Bacchus and it is generally believed that the two
deities are identical. Bacchus was born at Sabazius, or Sabaoth, and these names are frequently assigned
to him. The Sabazian Mysteries were performed at night, and the ritual included the drawing of a live
snake across the breast of the candidate. Clement of Alexandria writes: "The token of the Sabazian
Mysteries to the initiated is 'the deity gliding over the breast.'" A golden serpent was the symbol of
Sabazius because this deity represented the annual renovation of the world by the solar power. The Jews
borrowed the name Sabaoth from these Mysteries and adopted it as one of the appellations of their
supreme God. During the time the Sabazian Mysteries were celebrated in Rome, the cult gained many
votaries and later influenced the symbolism of Christianity.
The Cabiric Mysteries of Samothrace were renowned among the ancients, being next to the Eleusinian
in public esteem. Herodotus declares that the Samothracians received their doctrines, especially those
concerning Mercury, from the Pelasgians. Little is known concerning the Cabiric rituals, for they were
enshrouded in the profoundest secrecy. Some regard the Cabiri as seven in number and refer to them as
"the Seven Spirits of fire before the throne of Saturn." Others believe the Cabiri to be the seven sacred
wanderers, later called the planets.
While a vast number of deities are associated with the Samothracian Mysteries, the ritualistic drama
centers around four brothers. The first three--Aschieros, Achiochersus, and Achiochersa--attack and
murder the fourth--Cashmala (or Cadmillus). Dionysidorus, however, identifies Aschieros with
Demeter, Achiochersus with Pluto, Achiochersa with Persephone, and Cashmala with Hermes.
Alexander Wilder notes that in the Samothracian ritual "Cadmillus is made to include the Theban
Serpent-god, Cadmus, the Thoth of Egypt, the Hermes of the Greeks, and the Emeph or Æsculapius of
the Alexandrians and Phœnicians. " Here again is a repetition of the story of Osiris, Bacchus, Adonis,
Balder, and Hiram Abiff. The worship of Atys and Cybele was also involved in the Samothracian
Mysteries. In the rituals of the Cabiri is to be traced a form of pine-tree worship, for this tree, sacred to
Atys, was first trimmed into the form of a cross and then cut down in honor of the murdered god whose
body was discovered at its foot.
"If you wish to inspect the orgies of the Corybantes, " writes Clement, "Then know that, having killed
their third brother, they covered the head of the dead body with a purple cloth, crowned it, and carrying
it on the point of a spear, buried it under the roots of Olympus. These mysteries are, in short, murders
and funerals. [This ante-Nicene Father in his efforts to defame the pagan rites apparently ignores the fact
that, like the Cabirian martyr, Jesus Christ was foully betrayed, tortured, and finally murdered!] And the
priests Of these rites, who are called kings of the sacred rites by those whose business it is to name them,
give additional strangeness to the tragic occurrence, by forbidding parsley with the roots from being
placed on the table, for they think that parsley grew from the Corybantic blood that flowed forth; just as
the women, in celebrating the Thcsmophoria, abstain from eating the seeds of the pomegranate, which
have fallen on the ground, from the idea that pomegranates sprang from the drops of the blood of
Dionysus. Those Corybantes also they call Cabiric; and the ceremony itself they announce as the Cabiric
The Mysteries of the Cabiri were divided into three degrees, the first of which celebrated the death of
Cashmala, at the hands of his three brothers; the second, the discovery of his mutilated body, the parts of
which had been found and gathered after much labor; and the third--accompanied by great rejoicing and
happiness--his resurrection and the consequent salvation of the world. The temple of the Cabiri at
Samothrace contained a number of curious divinities, many of them misshapen creatures representing
the elemental powers of Nature, possibly the Bacchic Titans. Children were initiated into the Cabirian
cult with the same dignity as adults, and criminals who reached the sanctuary were safe from pursuit.
The Samothracian rites were particularly concerned with navigation, the Dioscuri--Castor and Pollux, or
the gods of navigation--being among those propitiated by members of that cult. The Argonautic
expedition, listening to the advice of Orpheus, stopped at the island of Samothrace for the purpose of
having its members initiated into the Cabiric rites.
Herodotus relates that when Cambyses entered the temple of the Cabiri he was unable to restrain his
mirth at seeing before him the figure of a man standing upright and, facing the man, the figure of a
woman standing on her head. Had Cambyses been acquainted with the principles of divine astronomy,
he would have realized that he was then in the presence of the key to universal equilibrium. "'I ask,' says
Voltaire, 'who were these Hierophants, these sacred Freemasons, who celebrated their Ancient Mysteries
of Samothracia, and whence came they and their gods Cabiri?'" (See Mackey's Encyclopædia of
Freemasonry.) Clement speaks of the Mysteries of the Cabiri as "the sacred Mystery of a brother slain
by his brethren," and the "Cabiric death" was one of the secret symbols of antiquity. Thus the allegory of
the Self murdered by the not-self is perpetuated through the religious mysticism of all peoples. The
philosophic death and the philosophic resurrection are the Lesser and the Greater Mysteries respectively.
A curious aspect of the dying-god myth is that of the Hanged Man. The most important example of this
peculiar conception is found in the Odinic rituals where Odin hangs himself for nine nights from the
branches of the World Tree and upon the same occasion also pierces his own side with the sacred spear.
As the result of this great sacrifice, Odin, while suspended over the depths of Nifl-heim, discovered by
meditation the runes or alphabets by which later the records of his people were preserved. Because of
this remarkable experience, Odin is sometimes shown seated on a gallows tree and he became the patron
deity of all who died by the noose. Esoterically, the Hanged Man is the human spirit which is suspended
from heaven by a single thread. Wisdom, not death, is the reward for this voluntary sacrifice during
which the human soul, suspended above the world of illusion, and meditating upon its unreality, is
rewarded by the achievement of self-realization.
From a consideration of all these ancient and secret rituals it becomes evident that the mystery of the
dying god was universal among the illumined and venerated colleges of the sacred teaching. This
mystery has been perpetuated in Christianity in the crucifixion and death of the God-man-Jesus the
Christ. The secret import of this world tragedy and the Universal Martyr must be rediscovered if
Christianity is to reach the heights attained by the pagans in the days of their philosophic supremacy.
The myth of the dying god is the key to both universal and individual redemption and regeneration, and
those who do not comprehend the true nature of this supreme allegory are not privileged to consider
themselves either wise or truly religious.
Next: The Life and Teachings of Thoth Hermes Trismegistus
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 37
The Life and Teachings of Thoth Hermes
THUNDER rolled, lightning flashed, the veil of the Temple was rent from top to bottom. The venerable
initiator, in his robes of blue and gold, slowly raised his jeweled wand and pointed with it into the
darkness revealed by the tearing of the silken curtain: "Behold the Light of Egypt! " The candidate, in
his plain white robe, gazed into the utter blackness framed by the two great Lotus-headed columns
between which the veil had hung. As he watched, a luminous haze distributed itself throughout the
atmosphere until the air was a mass of shining particles. The face of the neophyte was illumined by the
soft glow as he scanned the shimmering cloud for some tangible object. The initiator spoke again: "This
Light which ye behold is the secret luminance of the Mysteries. Whence it comes none knoweth, save the
'Master of the Light.' Behold Him!" Suddenly, through the gleaming mist a figure appeared, surrounded
by a flickering greenish sheen. The initiator lowered his wand and, bowing his head, placed one hand
edgewise against his breast in humble salutation. The neophyte stepped back in awe, partly blinded by
the glory of the revealed figure. Gaining courage, the youth gazed again at the Divine One. The Form
before him was considerably larger than that of a mortal man. The body seemed partly transparent so
that the heart and brain could be seen pulsating and radiant. As the candidate watched, the heart
changed into an ibis, and the brain into a flashing emerald. In Its hand this mysterious Being bore a
winged rod, entwined with serpents. The aged initiator, raising his wand, cried out in a loud voice: "All
hail Thee, Thoth Hermes, Thrice Greatest; all hail Thee, Prince of Men; all hail Thee who standeth
upon the head of Typhon!" At the same instant a lurid writhing dragon appeared--a hideous monster,
part serpent, part crocodile, and part hog. From its mouth and nostrils poured sheets of flame and
horrible sounds echoed through the vaulted chambers. Suddenly Hermes struck the advancing reptile
with the serpent-wound staff and with snarling cry the dragon fell over upon its side, while the flames
about it slowly died away. Hermes placed His foot upon the skull of the vanquished Typhon. The next
instant, with a blaze of unbearable glory that sent the neophyte staggering backward against a pillar,
the immortal Hermes, followed by streamers of greenish mist, passed through the chamber and faded
into nothingness.
Iamblichus averred that Hermes was the author of twenty thousand books; Manetho increased the
number to more than thirty-six thousand (see James Gardner)--figures which make it evident that a
solitary individual, even though he be overshadowed by divine prerogative, could scarcely have
accomplished such a monumental labor. Among the arts and sciences which it is affirmed Hermes
revealed to mankind were medicine, chemistry, law, arc, astrology, music, rhetoric, Magic, philosophy,
geography, mathematics (especially geometry), anatomy, and oratory. Orpheus was similarly acclaimed
by the Greeks.
In his Biographia Antiqua, Francis Barrett says of Hermes: "* * * if God ever appeared in man, he
appeared in him, as is evident both from his books and his Pymander; in which works he has
communicated the sum of the Abyss, and the divine knowledge to all posterity; by which he has
demonstrated himself to have been not only an inspired divine, but also a deep philosopher, obtaining
his wisdom from God and heavenly things, and not from man."
His transcendent learning caused Hermes to be identified with many of the early sages and prophets. In
his Ancient Mythology, Bryant writes: "I have mentioned that Cadmus was the same as the Egyptian
Thoth; and it is manifest from his being Hermes, and from the invention of letters being attributed to
him. " (In the chapter on the theory of Pythagorean Mathematics will be found the table of the original
Cadmean letters.) Investigators believe that it was Hermes who was known to the Jews as "Enoch,"
called by Kenealy the "Second Messenger of God." Hermes was accepted into the mythology of the
Greeks, later becoming the Mercury of the Latins. He was revered through the form of the planet
Mercury because this body is nearest to the sun: Hermes of all creatures was nearest to God, and became
known as the Messenger of the Gods.
In the Egyptian drawings of him, Thoth carries a waxen writing tablet and serves as the recorder during
the weighing of the souls of the dead in the judgment Hall of Osiris--a ritual of great significance.
Hermes is of first importance to Masonic scholars, because he was the author of the Masonic initiatory
rituals, which were borrowed from the Mysteries established by Hermes. Nearly all of the Masonic
symbols are Hermetic in character. Pythagoras studied mathematics with the Egyptians and from them
gained his knowledge of the symbolic geometric solids. Hermes is also revered for his reformation of the
calendar system. He increased the year from 360 to 365 days, thus establishing a precedent which still
prevails. The appellation "Thrice Greatest" was given to Hermes because he was considered the greatest
of all philosophers, the greatest of all priests, and the greatest of all kings. It is worthy of note that the
last poem of America's beloved poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was a lyric ode to Hermes. (See
Chambers' Encyclopædia.)
On the subject of the Hermetic books, James Campbell Brown, in his History of Chemistry, has written:
"Leaving the Chaldean and earliest Egyptian periods, of which we have remains but no record, and from
which no names of either chemists or philosophers have come down to us, we now approach the Historic
Period, when books were written, not at first upon parchment or paper, but upon papyrus. A series of
early Egyptian books is attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, who may have been a real savant, or may be
a personification of a long succession of writers. * * * He is identified by some with the Greek god
Hermes, and the Egyptian Thoth or Tuti, who was the moon-god, and is represented in ancient paintings
as ibis-headed with the disc and crescent of the moon. The Egyptians regarded him as the god of
wisdom, letters, and the recording of time. It is in consequence of the great respect entertained for
Hermes by the old alchemists that chemical writings were called 'hermetic,' and that the phrase
'hermetically sealed' is still in use to designate the closing of a glass vessel by fusion, after the manner of
chemical manipulators. We find the same root in the hermetic medicines of Paracelsus, and the hermetic
freemasonry of the Middle Ages."
Among the fragmentary writings believed to have come from the stylus of Hermes are two famous
works. The first is the Emerald Table, and the second is the Divine Pymander, or, as it is more
commonly called, The Shepherd of Men, a discussion of which follows. One outstanding point in
connection with Hermes is that he was one of the few philosopher-priests of pagandom upon whom the
early Christians did not vent their spleen. Some Church Fathers went so far as to declare that Hermes
exhibited many symptoms of intelligence, and that if he had only been born in a more enlightened age so
that he might have benefited by their instructions he would have been a really great man!
In his Stromata, Clement of Alexandria, one of the few chroniclers of pagan lore whose writings have
been preserved to this age, gives practically all the information that is known concerning the original
forty-two books of Hermes and the importance with which these books were regarded by both the
temporal and spiritual powers of Egypt. Clement describes one of their ceremonial processions as
"For the Egyptians pursue a philosophy of their own. This is
Click to enlarge
From Historia Deorum Fatidicorum.
Master of all arts and sciences. perfect in all crafts, Ruler of the Three Worlds, Scribe of the Gods, and Keeper of
the Books of Life, Thoth Hermes Trismegistus--the Three Times Greatest, the "First Intelligencer"--was regarded
by the ancient Egyptians as the embodiment of the Universal Mind. While in all probability there actually existed
a great sage and educator by the name of Hermes, it is impossible to extricate the historical man from the mass of
legendary accounts which attempt to identify him with the Cosmic Principle of Thought.
p. 38
principally shown by their sacred ceremonial. For first advances the Singer, bearing some one of the
symbols of music. For they say that he must learn two of the books of Hermes, the one of which
contains the hymns of the gods, the second the regulations for the king's life. And after the Singer
advances the Astrologer, with a horologe in his hand, and a palm, the symbols of astrology. He must
have the astrological books of Hermes, which are four in number, always in his mouth. Of these, one is
about the order of the fixed stars that are visible, and another about the conjunctions and luminous
appearances of the sun and moon; and the rest respecting their risings. Next in order advances the sacred
Scribe, with wings on his head, and in his hand a book and rule, in which were writing ink and the reed,
with which they write. And he must be acquainted with what are called hieroglyphics, and know about
cosmography and geography, the position of the sun and moon, and about the five planets; also the
description of Egypt, and the chart of the Nile; and the description of the equipment of the priests and of
the place consecrated to them, and about the measures and the things in use in the sacred rites. Then the
Stole-keeper follows those previously mentioned, with the cubit of justice and the cup for libations. He
is acquainted with all points called Pædeutic (relating to training) and Moschophaltic (sacrificial). There
are also ten books which relate to the honour paid by them to their gods, and containing the Egyptian
worship; as that relating to sacrifices, first-fruits, hymns, prayers, processions, festivals, and the like.
And behind all walks the Prophet, with the water-vase carried openly in his arms; who is followed by
those who carry the issue of loaves. He, as being the governor of the temple, learns the ten books called
'Hieratic'; and they contain all about the laws, and the gods, and the whole of the training of the priests.
For the Prophet is, among the Egyptians, also over the distribution of the revenues. There are then forty-
two books of Hermes indispensably necessary; of which the six-and-thirty containing the whole
philosophy of the Egyptians are learned by the forementioned personages; and the other six, which are
medical, by the Pastophoroi (image-bearers),--treating of the structure of the body, and of disease, and
instruments, and medicines, and about the eyes, and the last about women.
One of the greatest tragedies of the philosophic world was the loss of nearly all of the forty-two books of
Hermes mentioned in the foregoing. These books disappeared during the burning of Alexandria, for the
Romans--and later the Christians--realized that until these books were eliminated they could never bring
the Egyptians into subjection. The volumes which escaped the fire were buried in the desert and their
location is now known to only a few initiates of the secret schools.
While Hermes still walked the earth with men, he entrusted to his chosen successors the sacred Book of
Thoth. This work contained the secret processes by which the regeneration of humanity was to be
accomplished and also served as the key to his other writings. Nothing definite is known concerning the
contents of the Book of Thoth other than that its pages were covered with strange hieroglyphic figures
and symbols, which gave to those acquainted with their use unlimited power over the spirits of the air
and the subterranean divinities. When certain areas of the brain are stimulated by the secret processes of
the Mysteries, the consciousness of man is extended and he is permitted to behold the Immortals and
enter into the presence of the superior gods. The Book of Thoth described the method whereby this
stimulation was accomplished. In truth, therefore, it was the "Key to Immortality."
According to legend, the Book of Thoth was kept in a golden box in the inner sanctuary of the temple.
There was but one key and this was in the possession of the "Master of the Mysteries," the highest
initiate of the Hermetic Arcanum. He alone knew what was written in the secret book. The Book of
Thoth was lost to the ancient world with the decay of the Mysteries, but its faithful initiates carried it
sealed in the sacred casket into another land. The book is still in existence and continues to lead the
disciples of this age into the presence of the Immortals. No other information can be given to the world
concerning it now, but the apostolic succession from the first hierophant initiated by Hermes himself
remains unbroken to this day, and those who are peculiarly fitted to serve the Immortals may discover
this priceless document if they will search sincerely and tirelessly for it.
It has been asserted that the Book of Thoth is, in reality, the mysterious Tarot of the Bohemians--a
strange emblematic book of seventy-eight leaves which has been in possession of the gypsies since the
time when they were driven from their ancient temple, the Serapeum. (According to the Secret Histories
the gypsies were originally Egyptian priests.) There are now in the world several secret schools
privileged to initiate candidates into the Mysteries, but in nearly every instance they lighted their altar
fires from the flaming torch of Herm. Hermes in his Book of Thoth revealed to all mankind the "One
Way," and for ages the wise of every nation and every faith have reached immortality by the "Way"
established by Hermes in the midst of the darkness for the redemption of humankind.
The Divine Pymander of Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus is one of the earliest of the Hermetic writings
now extant. While probably not in its original form, having been remodeled during the first centuries of
the Christian Era and incorrectly translated since, this work undoubtedly contains many of the original
concepts of the Hermetic cultus. The Divine Pymander consists of seventeen fragmentary writings
gathered together and put forth as one work. The second book of The Divine Pymander, called
Poimandres, or The Vision, is believed to describe the method by which the divine wisdom was first
revealed to Hermes. It was after Hermes had received this revelation that he began his ministry, teaching
to all who would listen the secrets of the invisible universe as they had been unfolded to him.
The Vision is the most: famous of all the Hermetic fragments, and contains an exposition of Hermetic
cosmogony and the secret sciences of the Egyptians regarding the culture and unfoldment of the human
soul. For some time it was erroneously called "The Genesis of Enoch," but that mistake has now been
rectified. At hand while preparing the following interpretation of the symbolic philosophy concealed
within The Vision of Hermes the present author has had these reference works: The Divine Pymander of
Hermes Mercurius Trismegistus (London, 1650), translated out of the Arabic and Greek by Dr. Everard;
Hermetica (Oxford, 1924), edited by Walter Scott; Hermes, The Mysteries of Egypt (Philadelphia,
1925), by Edouard Schure; and the Thrice-Greatest Hermes (London, 1906), by G. R. S. Mead. To the
material contained in the above volumes he has added commentaries based upon the esoteric philosophy
of the ancient Egyptians, together with amplifications derived partly from other Hermetic fragments and
partly from the secret arcanum of the Hermetic sciences. For the sake of clarity, the narrative form has
been chosen in preference to the original dialogic style, and obsolete words have given place to those in
current use.
Hermes, while wandering in a rocky and desolate place, gave himself over to meditation and prayer.
Following the secret instructions of the Temple, he gradually freed his higher consciousness from the
bondage of his bodily senses; and, thus released, his divine nature revealed to him the mysteries of the
transcendental spheres. He beheld a figure, terrible and awe-inspiring. It was the Great Dragon, with
wings stretching across the sky and light streaming in all directions from its body. (The Mysteries taught
that the Universal Life was personified as a dragon.) The Great Dragon called Hermes by name, and
asked him why he thus meditated upon the World Mystery. Terrified by the spectacle, Hermes prostrated
himself before the Dragon, beseeching it to reveal its identity. The great creature answered that it was
Poimandres, the Mind of the Universe, the Creative Intelligence, and the Absolute Emperor of all.
(Schure identifies Poimandres as the god Osiris.) Hermes then besought Poimandres to disclose the
nature of the universe and the constitution of the gods. The Dragon acquiesced, bidding Trismegistus
hold its image in his mind.
Immediately the form of Poimandres changed. Where it had stood there was a glorious and pulsating
Radiance. This Light was the spiritual nature of the Great Dragon itself. Hermes was "raised" into the
midst of this Divine Effulgence and the universe of material things faded from his consciousness.
Presently a great darkness descended and, expanding, swallowed up the Light. Everything was troubled.
About Hermes swirled a mysterious watery substance which gave forth a smokelike vapor. The air was
filled with inarticulate moanings and sighings which seemed to come from the Light swallowed up in
the darkness. His mind told Hermes that
Click to enlarge
From Wilkinson's Manners & Customs of the Ancient Egyptians.
It is doubtful that the deity called Thoth by the Egyptians was originally Hermes, but the two personalities were
blended together and it is now impossible to separate them. Thoth was called "The Lord of the Divine Books"
and "Scribe of the Company of the Gods." He is generally depicted with the body of a man and the head of an
ibis. The exact symbolic meaning of this latter bird has never been discovered. A careful analysis of the peculiar
shape of the ibis--especially its head and beak--should prove illuminating.
p. 39
the Light was the form of the spiritual universe and that the swirling darkness which had engulfed it
represented material substance.
Then out of the imprisoned Light a mysterious and Holy Word came forth and took its stand upon the
smoking waters. This Word--the Voice of the Light--rose out of the darkness as a great pillar, and the
fire and the air followed after it, but the earth and the water remained unmoved below. Thus the waters
of Light were divided from the waters of darkness, and from the waters of Light were formed the worlds
above and from the waters of darkness were formed the worlds below. The earth and the water next
mingled, becoming inseparable, and the Spiritual Word which is called Reason moved upon their
surface, causing endless turmoil.
Then again was heard the voice of Poimandres, but His form was not revealed: "I Thy God am the Light
and the Mind which were before substance was divided from spirit and darkness from Light. And the
Word which appeared as a pillar of flame out of the darkness is the Son of God, born of the mystery of
the Mind. The name of that Word is Reason. Reason is the offspring of Thought and Reason shall divide
the Light from the darkness and establish Truth in the midst of the waters. Understand, O Hermes, and
meditate deeply upon the mystery. That which in you sees and hears is not of the earth, but is the Word
of God incarnate. So it is said that Divine Light dwells in the midst of mortal darkness, and ignorance
cannot divide them. The union of the Word and the Mind produces that mystery which is called Life. As
the darkness without you is divided against itself, so the darkness within you is likewise divided. The
Light and the fire which rise are the divine man, ascending in the path of the Word, and that which fails
to ascend is the mortal man, which may not partake of immortality. Learn deeply of the Mind and its
mystery, for therein lies the secret of immortality."
The Dragon again revealed its form to Hermes, and for a long time the two looked steadfastly one upon
the other, eye to eye, so that Hermes trembled before the gaze of Poimandres. At the Word of the
Dragon the heavens opened and the innumerable Light Powers were revealed, soaring through Cosmos
on pinions of streaming fire. Hermes beheld the spirits of the stars, the celestials controlling the
universe, and all those Powers which shine with the radiance of the One Fire--the glory of the Sovereign
Mind. Hermes realized that the sight which he beheld was revealed to him only because Poimandres had
spoken a Word. The Word was Reason, and by the Reason of the Word invisible things were made
manifest. Divine Mind--the Dragon--continued its discourse:
"Before the visible universe was formed its mold was cast. This mold was called the Archetype, and this
Archetype was in the Supreme Mind long before the process of creation began. Beholding the
Archetypes, the Supreme Mind became enamored with Its own thought; so, taking the Word as a mighty
hammer, It gouged out caverns in primordial space and cast the form of the spheres in the Archetypal
mold, at the same time sowing in the newly fashioned bodies the seeds of living things. The darkness
below, receiving the hammer of the Word, was fashioned into an orderly universe. The elements
separated into strata and each brought forth living creatures. The Supreme Being--the Mind--male and
female, brought forth the Word; and the Word, suspended between Light and darkness, was delivered of
another Mind called the Workman, the Master-Builder, or the Maker of Things.
"In this manner it was accomplished, O Hermes: The Word moving like a breath through space called
forth the Fire by the friction of its motion. Therefore, the Fire is called the Son of Striving. The
Workman passed as a whirlwind through the universe, causing the substances to vibrate and glow with
its friction, The Son of Striving thus formed Seven Governors, the Spirits of the Planets, whose orbits
bounded the world; and the Seven Governors controlled the world by the mysterious power called
Destiny given them by the Fiery Workman. When the Second Mind (The Workman) had organized
Chaos, the Word of God rose straightway our of its prison of substance, leaving the elements without
Reason, and joined Itself to the nature of the Fiery Workman. Then the Second Mind, together with the
risen Word, established Itself in the midst of the universe and whirled the wheels of the Celestial
Powers. This shall continue from an infinite beginning to an infinite end, for the beginning and the
ending are in the same place and state.
"Then the downward-turned and unreasoning elements brought forth creatures without Reason.
Substance could not bestow Reason, for Reason had ascended out of it. The air produced flying things
and the waters such as swim. The earth conceived strange four-footed and creeping beasts, dragons,
composite demons, and grotesque monsters. Then the Father--the Supreme Mind--being Light and Life,
fashioned a glorious Universal Man in Its own image, not an earthy man but a heavenly Man dwelling in
the Light of God. The Supreme Mind loved the Man It had fashioned and delivered to Him the control of
the creations and workmanships.
"The Man, desiring to labor, took up His abode in the sphere of generation and observed the works of
His brother--the Second Mind--which sat upon the Ring of the Fire. And having beheld the
achievements of the Fiery Workman, He willed also to make things, and His Father gave permission.
The Seven Governors, of whose powers He partook, rejoiced and each gave the Man a share of Its own
"The Man longed to pierce the circumference of the circles and understand the mystery of Him who sat
upon the Eternal Fire. Having already all power, He stooped down and peeped through the seven
Harmonies and, breaking through the strength of the circles, made Himself manifest to Nature stretched
out below. The Man, looking into the depths, smiled, for He beheld a shadow upon the earth and a
likeness mirrored in the waters, which shadow and likeness were a reflection of Himself. The Man fell in
love with His own shadow and desired to descend into it. Coincident with the desire, the Intelligent
Thing united Itself with the unreasoning image or shape.
"Nature, beholding the descent, wrapped herself about the Man whom she loved, and the two were
mingled. For this reason, earthy man is composite. Within him is the Sky Man, immortal and beautiful;
without is Nature, mortal and destructible. Thus, suffering is the result of the Immortal Man's falling in
love with His shadow and giving up Reality to dwell in the darkness of illusion; for, being immortal,
man has the power of the Seven Governors--also the Life, the Light, and the Word-but being mortal, he
is controlled by the Rings of the Governors--Fate or Destiny.
"Of the Immortal Man it should be said that He is hermaphrodite, or male and female, and eternally
watchful. He neither slumbers nor sleeps, and is governed by a Father also both male and female, and
ever watchful. Such is the mystery kept hidden to this day, for Nature, being mingled in marriage with
the Sky Man, brought forth a wonder most wonderful--seven men, all bisexual, male and female, and
upright of stature, each one exemplifying the natures of the Seven Governors. These O Hermes, are the
seven races, species, and wheels.
"After this manner were the seven men generated. Earth was the female element and water the male
element, and from the fire and the æther they received their spirits, and Nature produced bodies after the
species and shapes of men. And man received the Life and Light of the Great Dragon, and of the Life
was made his Soul and of the Light his Mind. And so, all these composite creatures containing
immortality, but partaking of mortality, continued in this state for the duration of a period. They
reproduced themselves out of themselves, for each was male and female. But at the end of the period the
knot of Destiny was untied by the will of God and the bond of all things was loosened.
"Then all living creatures, including man, which had been hermaphroditical, were separated, the males
being set apart by themselves and the females likewise, according to the dictates of Reason.
"Then God spoke to the Holy Word within the soul of all things, saying: 'Increase in increasing and
multiply in multitudes, all you, my creatures and workmanships. Let him that is endued with Mind know
himself to be immortal and that the cause of death is the love of the body; and let him learn all things
that are, for he who has recognized himself enters into the state of Good.'
Click to enlarge
From Bryant's Mythology.
The name Hermes is derived from "Herm," a form of CHiram, the Personified Universal Life Principle, generally
represented by fire. The Scandinavians worshiped Hermes under the name of Odin; the Teutons as Wotan, and
certain of the Oriental peoples as Buddha, or Fo. There are two theories concerning his demise. The first declares
that Hermes was translated like Enoch and carried without death into the presence of God, the second states that
he was buried in the Valley of Ebron and a great treasure placed in his tomb--not a treasure of gold but of books
and sacred learning.
The Egyptians likened humanity to a flock of sheep. The Supreme and Inconceivable Father was the Shepherd,
and Hermes was the shepherd dog. The origin of the shepherd's crook in religious symbolism may be traced to
the Egyptian rituals. The three scepters of Egypt include the shepherd's crook, symbolizing that by virtue of the
power reposing in that symbolic staff the initiated Pharaohs guided the destiny of their people.
p. 40
"And when God had said this, Providence, with the aid of the Seven Governors and Harmony, brought
the sexes together, making the mixtures and establishing the generations, and all things were multiplied
according to their kind. He who through the error of attachment loves his body, abides wandering in
darkness, sensible and suffering the things of death, but he who realizes that the body is but the tomb of
his soul, rises to immortality."
Then Hermes desired to know why men should be deprived of immortality for the sin of ignorance
alone. The Great Dragon answered:, To the ignorant the body is supreme and they are incapable of
realizing the immortality that is within them. Knowing only the body which is subject to death, they
believe in death because they worship that substance which is the cause and reality of death."
Then Hermes asked how the righteous and wise pass to God, to which Poimandres replied: "That which
the Word of God said, say I: 'Because the Father of all things consists of Life and Light, whereof man is
made.' If, therefore, a man shall learn and understand the nature of Life and Light, then he shall pass into
the eternity of Life and Light."
Hermes next inquired about the road by which the wise attained to Life eternal, and Poimandres
continued: "Let the man endued with a Mind mark, consider, and learn of himself, and with the power of
his Mind divide himself from his not-self and become a servant of Reality."
Hermes asked if all men did not have Minds, and the Great Dragon replied: "Take heed what you say,
for I am the Mind--the Eternal Teacher. I am the Father of the Word--the Redeemer of all men--and in
the nature of the wise the Word takes flesh. By means of the Word, the world is saved. I, Thought
(Thoth)--the Father of the Word, the Mind--come only unto men that are holy and good, pure and
merciful, and that live piously and religiously, and my presence is an inspiration and a help to them, for
when I come they immediately know all things and adore the Universal Father. Before such wise and
philosophic ones die, they learn to renounce their senses, knowing that these are the enemies of their
immortal souls.
"I will not permit the evil senses to control the bodies of those who love me, nor will I allow evil
emotions and evil thoughts to enter them. I become as a porter or doorkeeper, and shut out evil,
protecting the wise from their own lower nature. But to the wicked, the envious and the covetous, I come
not, for such cannot understand the mysteries of Mind; therefore, I am unwelcome. I leave them to the
avenging demon that they are making in their own souls, for evil each day increases itself and torments
man more sharply, and each evil deed adds to the evil deeds that are gone before until finally evil
destroys itself. The punishment of desire is the agony of unfulfillment."
Hermes bowed his head in thankfulness to the Great Dragon who had taught him so much, and begged
to hear more concerning the ultimate of the human soul. So Poimandres resumed: "At death the material
body of man is returned to the elements from which it came, and the invisible divine man ascends to the
source from whence he came, namely the Eighth Sphere. The evil passes to the dwelling place of the
demon, and the senses, feelings, desires, and body passions return to their source, namely the Seven
Governors, whose natures in the lower man destroy but in the invisible spiritual man give life.
"After the lower nature has returned to the brutishness, the higher struggles again to regain its spiritual
estate. It ascends the seven Rings upon which sit the Seven Governors and returns to each their lower
powers in this manner: Upon the first ring sits the Moon, and to it is returned the ability to increase and
diminish. Upon the second ring sits Mercury, and to it are returned machinations, deceit, and craftiness.
Upon the third ring sits Venus, and to it are returned the lusts and passions. Upon the fourth ring sits the
Sun, and to this Lord are returned ambitions. Upon the fifth ring sits Mars, and to it are returned
rashness and profane boldness. Upon the sixth ring sits Jupiter, and to it are returned the sense of
accumulation and riches. And upon the seventh ring sits Saturn, at the Gate of Chaos, and to it are
returned falsehood and evil plotting.
"Then, being naked of all the accumulations of the seven Rings, the soul comes to the Eighth Sphere,
namely, the ring of the fixed stars. Here, freed of all illusion, it dwells in the Light and sings praises to
the Father in a voice which only the pure of spirit may understand. Behold, O Hermes, there is a great
mystery in the Eighth Sphere, for the Milky Way is the seed-ground of souls, and from it they drop into
the Rings, and to the Milky Way they return again from the wheels of Saturn. But some cannot climb the
seven-runged ladder of the Rings. So they wander in darkness below and are swept into eternity with the
illusion of sense and earthiness.
"The path to immortality is hard, and only a few find it. The rest await the Great Day when the wheels of
the universe shall be stopped and the immortal sparks shall escape from the sheaths of substance. Woe
unto those who wait, for they must return again, unconscious and unknowing, to the seed-ground of
stars, and await a new beginning. Those who are saved by the light of the mystery which I have revealed
unto you, O Hermes, and which I now bid you to establish among men, shall return again to the Father
who dwelleth in the White Light, and shall deliver themselves up to the Light and shall be absorbed into
the Light, and in the Light they shall become Powers in God. This is the Way of Good and is revealed
only to them that have wisdom.
"Blessed art thou, O Son of Light, to whom of all men, I, Poimandres, the Light of the World, have
revealed myself. I order you to go forth, to become as a guide to those who wander in darkness, that all
men within whom dwells the spirit of My Mind (The Universal Mind) may be saved by My Mind in you,
which shall call forth My Mind in them. Establish My Mysteries and they shall not fail from the earth,
for I am the Mind of the Mysteries and until Mind fails (which is never) my Mysteries cannot fail." With
these parting words, Poimandres, radiant with celestial light, vanished, mingling with the powers of the
heavens. Raising his eyes unto the heavens, Hermes blessed the Father of All Things and consecrated his
life to the service of the Great Light.
Thus preached Hermes: "O people of the earth, men born and made of the elements, but with the spirit
of the Divine Man within you, rise from your sleep of ignorance! Be sober and thoughtful. Realize that
your home is not in the earth but in the Light. Why have you delivered yourselves over unto death,
having power to partake of immortality? Repent, and change your minds. Depart from the dark light and
forsake corruption forever. Prepare yourselves to climb through the Seven Rings and to blend your souls
with the eternal Light."
Some who heard mocked and scoffed and went their way, delivering themselves to the Second Death
from which there is no salvation. But others, casting themselves before the feet of Hermes, besought him
to teach them the Way of Life. He lifted them gently, receiving no approbation for himself, and staff in
hand, went forth teaching and guiding mankind, and showing them how they might be saved. In the
worlds of men, Hermes sowed the seeds of wisdom and nourished the seeds with the Immortal Waters.
And at last came the evening of his life, and as the brightness of the light of earth was beginning to go
down, Hermes commanded his disciples to preserve his doctrines inviolate throughout all ages. The
Vision of Poimandres he committed to writing that all men desiring immortality might therein find the
In concluding his exposition of the Vision, Hermes wrote: "The sleep of the body is the sober
watchfulness of the Mind and the shutting of my eyes reveals the true Light. My silence is filled with
budding life and hope, and is full of good. My words are the blossoms of fruit of the tree of my soul. For
this is the faithful account of what I received from my true Mind, that is Poimandres, the Great Dragon,
the Lord of the Word, through whom I became inspired by God with the Truth. Since that day my Mind
has been ever with me and in my own soul it hath given birth to the Word: the Word is Reason, and
Reason hath redeemed me. For which cause, with all my soul and all my strength, I give praise and
blessing unto God the Father, the Life and the Light, and the Eternal Good.
"Holy is God, the Father of all things, the One who is before the First Beginning.
"Holy is God, whose will is performed and accomplished by His own Powers which He hath given birth
to out of Himself.
"Holy is God, who has determined that He shall be known, and who is known by His own to whom He
reveals Himself.
"Holy art Thou, who by Thy Word (Reason) hast established all things.
"Holy art Thou, of whom all Nature is the image.
"Holy art Thou, whom the inferior nature has not formed.
"Holy art Thou, who art stronger than all powers.
"Holy art Thou, who art greater than all excellency.
"Holy art Thou, who art better than all praise.
"Accept these reasonable sacrifices from a pure soul and a heart stretched out unto Thee.
"O Thou Unspeakable, Unutterable, to be praised with silence!
"I beseech Thee to look mercifully upon me, that I may not err from the knowledge of Thee and that I
may enlighten those that are in ignorance, my brothers and Thy sons.
"Therefore I believe Thee and bear witness unto Thee, and depart in peace and in trustfulness into Thy
Light and Life.
"Blessed art Thou, O Father! The man Thou hast fashioned would be sanctified with Thee as Thou hast
given him power to sanctify others with Thy Word and Thy Truth."
The Vision of Hermes, like nearly all of the Hermetic writings, is an allegorical exposition of great
philosophic and mystic truths, and its hidden meaning may be comprehended only by those who have
been "raised" into the presence of the True Mind.
Next: The Initiation of the Pyramid
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 41
The Initiation of the Pyramid
SUPREME among the wonders of antiquity, unrivaled by the achievements of later architects and
builders, the Great Pyramid of Gizeh bears mute witness to an unknown civilization which, having
completed its predestined span, passed into oblivion. Eloquent in its silence, inspiring in its majesty,
divine in its simplicity, the Great Pyramid is indeed a sermon in stone. Its magnitude overwhelms the
puny sensibilities of man. Among the shifting sands of time it stands as a fitting emblem of eternity
itself. Who were the illumined mathematicians who planned its parts and dimensions, the master
craftsmen who supervised its construction, the skilled artisans who trued its blocks of stone?
The earliest and best-known account of the building of the Great Pyramid is that given by that highly
revered but somewhat imaginative historian, Herodotus. "The pyramid was built in steps, battlement-
wise, as it is called, or, according to others, altar-wise. After laying the stones for the base, they raised
the remaining stones to their places by means of machines formed of short wooden planks. The first
machine raised them from the ground to the top of the first step. On this there was another machine,
which received the stone upon its arrival, and conveyed it to the second step, whence a third machine
advanced it still higher. Either they had as many machines as there were steps in the pyramid, or
possibly they had but a single machine, which, being easily moved, was transferred from tier to tier as
the stone rose. Both accounts are given, and therefore I mention both. The upper portion of the pyramid
was finished first, then the middle, and finally the part which was lowest and nearest the ground. There
is an inscription in Egyptian characters on the pyramid which records the quantity of radishes, onions,
and garlick consumed by the labourers who constructed it; and I perfectly well remember that the
interpreter who read the writing to me said that the money expended in this way was 1600 talents of
silver. If this then is a true record, what a vast sum must have been spent on the iron tools used in the
work, and on the feeding and clothing of the labourers, considering the length of time the work lasted,
which has already been stated [ten years], and the additional time--no small space, I imagine--which
must have been occupied by the quarrying of the stones, their conveyance, and the formation of the
underground apartments."
While his account is extremely colorful, it is apparent that the Father of History, for reasons which he
doubtless considered sufficient, concocted a fraudulent story to conceal the true origin and purpose of
the Great Pyramid. This is but one of several instances in his writings which would lead the thoughtful
reader to suspect that Herodotus himself was an initiate of the Sacred Schools and consequently
obligated to preserve inviolate the secrets of the ancient orders. The theory advanced by Herodotus and
now generally accepted that the Pyramid was the tomb of the Pharaoh Cheops cannot be substantiated.
In fact, Manetho, Eratosthenes, and Diodorus Siculus all differ from Herodotus--as well as from each
other--regarding the name of the builder of this supreme edifice. The sepulchral vault, which, according
to the Lepsius Law of pyramid construction, should have been finished at the same time as the
monument or sooner, was never completed. There is no proof that the building was erected by the
Egyptians, for the elaborate carvings with which the burial chambers of Egyptian royalty are almost
invariably ornamented are entirely lacking and it embodies none of the elements of their architecture or
decoration, such as inscriptions, images, cartouches, paintings, and other distinctive features associated
with dynastic mortuary art. The only hieroglyphics to be found within the Pyramid are a few builders'
marks sealed up in the chambers of construction, first opened by Howard Vyse. These apparently were
painted upon the stones before they were set in position, for in a number of instances the marks were
either inverted or disfigured by the operation of fitting the blocks together. While Egyptologists have
attempted to identify the crude dabs of paint as cartouches of Cheops, it is almost inconceivable that this
ambitious ruler would have permitted his royal name to suffer such indignities. As the most eminent
authorities on the subject are still uncertain as to the true meaning of these crude markings, whatever
proof they might be that the building was erected during the fourth dynasty is certainly offset by the sea
shells at the base of the Pyramid which Mr. Gab advances as evidence that it was erected before the
Deluge--a theory substantiated by the much-abused Arabian traditions. One Arabian historian declared
that the Pyramid was built by the Egyptian sages as a refuge against the Flood, while another proclaimed
it to have been the treasure house of the powerful antediluvian king Sheddad Ben Ad. A panel of
hieroglyphs over the entrance, which the casual observer might consider to afford a solution of the
mystery, unfortunately dates back no further than A.D. 1843, having been cut at that time by Dr. Lepsius
as a tribute to the King of Prussia.
Caliph al Mamoun, an illustrious descendant of the Prophet, inspired by stories of the immense treasures
sealed within its depths, journeyed from Bagdad to Cairo, A.D. 820, with a great force of workmen to
open the mighty Pyramid. When Caliph al Mamoun first reached the foot of the "Rock of Ages" and
gazed up at its smooth glistening surface, a tumult of emotions undoubtedly racked his soul. The casing
stones must have been in place at the time of his visit, for the Caliph could find no indication of an
entrance--four perfectly smooth surfaces confronted him. Following vague rumors, he set his followers
to work on the north side of the Pyramid, with instructions to keep on cutting and chiseling until they
discovered something. To the Moslems with their crude instruments and vinegar it was a herculean
effort to tunnel a full hundred feet through the limestone. Many times they were on the point of
rebellion, but the word of the Caliph was law and the hope of a vast fortune buoyed them up.
At last on the eve of total discouragement fate came to their rescue. A great stone was heard to fall
somewhere in the wall near the toiling and disgruntled Arabs. Pushing on toward the sound with
renewed enthusiasm, they finally broke into the descending passage which leads into the subterranean
chamber. They then chiseled their way around the great stone portcullis which had fallen into a position
barring their progress, and attacked and removed one after another the granite plugs which for a while
continued to slide down the passage leading from the Queen's Chamber above.
Finally no more blocks descended and the way was clear for the followers of the Prophet. But where
were the treasures? From room to room the frantic workmen rushed, looking in vain for loot. The
discontent of the Moslems reached such a height that Caliph al Mamoun--who had inherited much of the
wisdom of his illustrious father, the Caliph al Raschid--sent to Bagdad for funds, which he caused to be
secretly buried near the entrance of the Pyramid. He then ordered his men to dig at that spot and great
was their rejoicing when the treasure was discovered, the workmen being deeply impressed by the
wisdom of the antediluvian monarch who had carefully estimated their wages and thoughtfully caused
the exact amount to be buried for their benefit!
The Caliph then returned to the city of his fathers and the Great Pyramid was left to the mercy of
succeeding generations. In the ninth century the sun's rays striking the highly polished surfaces of the
original casing stones caused each side of the Pyramid to appear as
Click to enlarge
From Levi's Les Mystères de la Kaballe.
The Egyptian Sphinx is closely related to the Greek legend of Œdipus, who first solved the famous riddle
propounded by the mysterious creature with the body of a winged lion and the head of a woman which
frequented the highway leading to Thebes. To each who passed her lair the sphinx addressed the question, "What
animal is it that in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two feet, and in the evening on three feet?" These
who failed to answer her riddle she destroyed. Œdipus declared the answer to be man himself, who in childhood
crawled upon his hands and knees, in manhood stood erect, and in old age shuffled along supporting himself by a
staff. Discovering one who knew the answer to her riddle, the sphinx cast herself from the cliff which bordered
the road and perished.
There is still another answer to the riddle of the sphinx, an answer best revealed by a consideration of the
Pythagorean values of numbers. The 4, the 2 and the 3 produce the sum of 9, which is the natural number of man
and also of the lower worlds. The 4 represents the ignorant man, the 2 the intellectual man, and the 3 the spiritual
man. Infant humanity walks on four legs, evolving humanity on two legs, and to the power of his own mind the
redeemed and illumined magus adds the staff of wisdom. The sphinx is therefore the mystery of Nature, the
embodiment of the secret doctrine, and all who cannot solve her riddle perish. To pass the sphinx is to attain
personal immortality.
p. 42
a dazzling triangle of light. Since that time, all but two of these casing stones have disappeared.
Investigation has resulted in their discovery, recut and resurfaced, in the walls of Mohammedan
mosques and palaces in various parts of Cairo and its environs.
C. Piazzi Smyth asks: "Was the Great Pyramid, then, erected before the invention of hieroglyphics, and
previous to the birth of the Egyptian religion?" Time may yet prove that the upper chambers of the
Pyramid were a sealed mystery before the establishment of the Egyptian empire. In the subterranean
chamber, however, are markings which indicate that the Romans gained admission there. In the light of
the secret philosophy of the Egyptian initiates, W. W. Harmon, by a series of extremely complicated yet
exact mathematical calculations; determines that the first ceremonial of the Pyramid was performed
68,890 years ago on the occasion when the star Vega for the first time sent its ray down the descending
passage into the pit. The actual building of the Pyramid was accomplished in the period of from ten to
fifteen years immediately preceding this date.
While such figures doubtless will evoke the ridicule of modern Egyptologists, they are based upon an
exhaustive study of the principles of sidereal mechanics as incorporated into the structure of the Pyramid
by its initiated builders. If the casing stones were in position at the beginning of the ninth century, the so-
called erosion marks upon the outside were not due to water. The theory also that the salt upon the
interior stones of the Pyramid is evidence that the building was once submerged is weakened by the
scientific fact that this kind of stone is subject to exudations of salt. While the building may have been
submerged, at least in part, during the many thousands of years since its erection, the evidence adduced
to prove this point is not conclusive.
The Great Pyramid was built of limestone and granite throughout, the two kinds of rock being combined
in a peculiar and significant manner. The stones were trued with the utmost precision, and the cement
used was of such remarkable quality that it is now practically as hard as the stone itself. The limestone
blocks were sawed with bronze saws, the teeth of which were diamonds or other jewels. The chips from
the stones were piled against the north side of the plateau on which the structure stands, where they form
an additional buttress to aid in supporting the weight of the structure. The entire Pyramid is an example
of perfect orientation and actually squares the circle. This last is accomplished by dropping a vertical
line from the apex of the Pyramid to its base line. If this vertical line be considered as the radius of an
imaginary circle, the length of the circumference of such a circle will be found to equal the sum of the
base lines of the four sides of the Pyramid.
If the passage leading to the King's Chamber and the Queen's Chamber was sealed up thousands of years
before the Christian Era, those later admitted into the Pyramid Mysteries must have received their
initiations in subterranean galleries now unknown. Without such galleries there could have been no
possible means of ingress or egress, since the single surface entrance was completely dosed with casing
stones. If not blocked by the mass of the Sphinx or concealed in some part of that image, the secret
entrance may be either in one of the adjacent temples or upon the sides of the limestone plateau.
Attention is called to the granite plugs filling the ascending passageway to the Queen's Chamber which
Caliph al Mamoun was forced practically to pulverize before he could clear a way into the upper
chambers. C. Piazzi Smyth notes that the positions of the stones demonstrate that they were set in place
from above--which made it necessary for a considerable number of workmen to depart from the upper
chambers. How did they do it? Smyth believes they descended through the well (see diagram), dropping
the ramp stone into place behind them. He further contends that robbers probably used the well as a
means of getting into the upper chambers. The ramp stone having been set in a bed of plaster, the
robbers were forced to break through it, leaving a jagged opening. Mr. Dupré, an architect who has spent
years investigating the pyramids, differs from Smyth, however, in that he believes the well itself to be a
robbers' hole, being the first successful attempt made to enter the upper chambers from the subterranean
chamber, then the only open section of the Pyramid.
Mr. Dupré bases his conclusion upon the fact that the well is merely a rough hole and the grotto an
irregular chamber, without any evidence of the architectural precision with which the remainder of the
structure was erected. The diameter of the well also precludes the possibility of its having been dug
downward; it must have been gouged out from below, and the grotto was necessary to supply air to the
thieves. It is inconceivable that the Pyramid builders would break one of their own ramp stones and
leave its broken surface and a gaping hole in the side wall of their otherwise perfect gallery. If the well is
a robbers' hole, it may explain why the Pyramid was empty when Caliph al Mamoun entered it and what
happened to the missing coffer lid. A careful examination of the so-called unfinished subterranean
chamber, which must have been the base of operations for the robbers, might disclose traces of their
presence or show where they piled the rubble which must have accumulated as a result of their
operations. While it is not entirely clear by what entrance the robbers reached the subterranean chamber,
it is improbable that they used the descending passageway.
There is a remarkable niche in the north wall of the Queen's Chamber which the Mohammedan guides
glibly pronounce to be a shrine. The general shape of this niche, however, with its walls converging by a
series of overlaps like those of the Grand Gallery, would indicate that originally it had been intended as
a passageway. Efforts made to explore this niche have been nonproductive, but Mr. Dupré believes an
entrance to exist here through which--if the well did not exist at the time--the workmen made their exit
from the Pyramid after dropping the stone plugs into the ascending gallery.
Biblical scholars have contributed a number of most extraordinary conceptions regarding the Great
Pyramid. This ancient edifice has been identified by them as Joseph's granary (despite its hopelessly
inadequate capacity); as the tomb prepared for the unfortunate Pharaoh of the Exodus who could not be
buried there because his body was never recovered from the Red Sea; and finally as a perpetual
confirmation of the infallibility of the numerous prophecies contained in the Authorized Version!
Although the Great Pyramid, as Ignatius Donnelly has demonstrated, is patterned after an antediluvian
type of architecture, examples of which are to be found in nearly every part of the world, the Sphinx
(Hu) is typically Egyptian. The stele between its paws states the Sphinx is an image of the Sun God,
Harmackis, which was evidently made in the similitude of the Pharaoh during whose reign it was
chiseled. The statue was restored and completely excavated by Tahutmes IV as the result of a vision in
which the god had appeared and declared himself oppressed by the weight of the sand about his body.
The broken beard of the Sphinx was discovered during excavations between the front paws. The steps
leading up to the sphinx and also the temple and altar between the paws are much later additions,
probably Roman, for it is known that the Romans reconstructed many Egyptian antiquities. The shallow
depression in the crown of the head, once thought to be the terminus of a closed up passageway leading
from the Sphinx to the Great Pyramid, was merely intended to help support a headdress now missing.
Metal rods have been driven into the Sphinx in a vain effort to discover chambers or passages within its
body. The major part of the Sphinx is a single stone, but the front paws have been built up of smaller
stones. The Sphinx is about 200 feet long, 70 feet high, and 38 feet wide across the shoulders. The main
stone from which it was carved is believed by some to have been transported from distant quarries by
methods unknown, while others assert it to be native rock, possibly an outcropping somewhat
resembling the form into which it was later carved. The theory once advanced that both the Pyramid and
the Sphinx were built from artificial stones made on the spot has been abandoned. A careful analysis of
the limestone shows it to be composed of small sea creatures called mummulites.
The popular supposition that the Sphinx was the true portal of the Great Pyramid, while it survives with
surprising tenacity, has never been substantiated. P. Christian presents this theory as follows, basing it in
part upon the authority of Iamblichus:
"The Sphinx of Gizeh, says the author of the Traité des Mystères, served as the entrance to the sacred
subterranean chambers in which the trials of the initiate were undergone. This entrance, obstructed in
our day by sands and rubbish, may still be traced between the forelegs of the crouched colossus. It was
formerly closed by a bronze gate whose secret spring could be operated only by the Magi. It was
guarded by public respect: and a sort of religious fear maintained its inviolability better than armed
protection would have done. In the belly of the Sphinx were cut out galleries leading to the subterranean
part of the Great Pyramid. These galleries were so artfully crisscrossed along their course to the Pyramid
that in setting forth into the passage without a guide through this network, one ceaselessly and inevitably
returned to the starting point." (See Histoire de la Magie.)
Unfortunately, the bronze door referred to cannot be found, nor is there any evidence that it ever existed.
The passing centuries have wrought many changes in the colossus, however, and the original opening
may have been closed.
Nearly all students of the subject believe that subterranean chambers exist beneath the Great Pyramid.
Robert Ballard writes: "The priests of the Pyramids of Lake Mœris had their vast subterranean
residences. It appears to me more than probable that those of Gizeh were similarly provided. And I may
go further:--Out of these very caverns may have been excavated the limestone of which the Pyramids
were built. * * * In the bowels of the limestone ridge on which
p. 43
Click to enlarge
From Smyth's Life and Wok at the Great Pyramid.
The Great Pyramid stands upon a limestone plateau at the base of which, according to ancient history, the Nile
once flooded, thus supplying a method for the huge blocks used in its construction. Presuming that the capstone
as originally in place, the Pyramid is, according to John Taylor, in round figures 486 feet high; the base of each
side is 764 feet long, and the entire structure covers a ground area of more than 13 acres.
The Great Pyramid is the only one in the group at Gizeh--in fact, as far as known, the only one in Egypt--that has
chambers within the actual body of the Pyramid itself. Far this reason it is said to refute the Lepsius Law, which
asserts that each of these structures is a monument raised over a subterranean chamber in which a ruler is
entombed. The Pyramid contains four chambers, which in the diagram are lettered K, H, F, and O.
The King's Chamber (K) is an oblong apartment 39 feet long, 17 felt wide, and 19 feet high (disregarding
fractional parts of a foot in each case), with a flat roof consisting of nine great stones, the largest in the Pyramid.
Above the King's Chamber are five low compartments (L), generally termed construction chambers. In the lowest
of these the so-called hieroglyphs of the Pharaoh Cheops are located. The roof of the fifth construction chamber
is peaked. At the end of the King's Chamber opposite the entrance stands the famous sarcophagus, or coffer (I),
and behind it is a shallow opening that was dug in the hope of discovering valuables. Two air vents (M, N)
passing through the entire body of the Pyramid ventilate the King's Chamber. In itself this is sufficient to
establish that the building was not intended for a tomb.
Between the upper end of the Grand Gallery (G. G.) and the King's Chamber is a small antechamber (H), its
extreme length 9 feet, its extreme width 5 feet, and its extreme height 12 feet, with its walls grooved far purposes
now unknown. In the groove nearest the Grand Gallery is a slab of stone in two sections, with a peculiar boss or
knob protruding about an inch from the surface of the upper part facing the Grand Gallery. This stone does not
reach to the floor of the antechamber and those entering the King's Chamber must pass under the slab. From the
King's Chamber, the Grand Gallery--157 feet in length, 28 feet in height, 7 feet in width at its widest point and
decreasing to 31⁄2 feet as the result of seven converging overlaps, of the stones forming the walls--descends to a
little above the level of the Queen's Chamber. Here a gallery (E) branches off, passing mere than 100 feet back
towards the center of the Pyramid and opening into the Queen's Chamber (F). The Queen's Chamber is 19 feet
long, 17 feet wide, and 20 feet high. Its roof is peaked and composed of great slabs of stone. Air passages not
shown lead from the Queen's Chamber, but these were not open originally. In the east wall of the Queen's
Chamber is a peculiar niche of gradually converging stone, which in all likelihood, may prove to be a new lost
entrance way.
At the paint where the Grand Gallery ends and the horizontal passage towards the Queen's Chamber begins is the
entrance to the well and also the opening leading down the first ascending passage (D) to the point where this
passage meets the descending passage (A) leading from the outer wall of the Pyramid down to the subterranean
chamber. After descending 59 feet down the well (P), the grotto is reached. Continuing through the floor of the
grotto the well leads downward 133 feet to the descending entrance passage (A), which it meets a short distance
before this passage becomes horizontal and leads into the subterranean chamber.
The subterranean chamber (O) is about 46 feet long and 27 feet wide, but is extremely low, the ceiling varying in
height from a little over 3 feet to about 13 feet from the rough and apparently unfinished floor. From the south
side of the subterranean chamber a low tunnel runs about 50 feet and then meets a blank wall. These constitute
the only known openings in the Pyramid, with the exception of a few niches, exploration holes, blind passages,
and the rambling cavernous tunnel (B) hewn out by the Moslems under the leadership of the Prophet's
descendant, Caliph al Mamoun.
the Pyramids are built will yet be found, I feel convinced, ample information as to their uses. A good
diamond drill with two or three hundred feet of rods is what is wanted to test this, and the solidarity of
the Pyramids at the same time." (See The Solution of the Pyramid Problem.)
Mr. Ballard's theory of extensive underground apartments and quarries brings up an important problem
in architectonics. The Pyramid builders were too farsighted to endanger the permanence of the Great
Pyramid by placing over five million tons of limestone and granite on any but a solid foundation. It is
therefore reasonably certain that such chambers or passageways as may exist beneath the building are
relatively insignificant, like those within the body of the structure, which occupy less than one sixteen-
hundredth of the cubic contents of the Pyramid.
The Sphinx was undoubtedly erected for symbolical purposes at the instigation of the priestcraft. The
theories that the uræus upon its forehead was originally the finger of an immense sundial and that both
the Pyramid and the Sphinx were used to measure time, the seasons, and the precession of the equinoxes
are ingenious but not wholly convincing. If this great creature was erected to obliterate the ancient
passageway leading into the subterranean temple of the Pyramid, its symbolism would be most
appropriate. In comparison with the overwhelming size and dignity of the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx is
almost insignificant. Its battered face, upon which may still be seen vestiges of the red paint with which
the figure was originally covered, is disfigured beyond recognition. Its nose was broken off by a
fanatical Mohammedan, lest the followers of the Prophet be led into idolatry. The very nature of its
construction and the present repairs necessary to prevent the head from falling off indicate that it could
not have survived the great periods of time which have elapsed since the erection of the Pyramid.
To the Egyptians, the Sphinx was the symbol of strength and intelligence. It was portrayed as
androgynous to signify that they recognized the initiates and gods as partaking of both the positive and
negative creative powers. Gerald Massey writes: "This is the secret of the Sphinx. The orthodox sphinx
of Egypt is masculine in front and feminine behind. So is the image of Sut-Typhon, a type of horn and
tail, male in front and female behind. The Pharaohs, who wore the tail of the Lioness or Cow behind
them, were male in front and female behind. Like the Gods they included the dual totality of Being in
one person, born of the Mother, but of both sexes as the Child." (See The Natural Genesis.)
Most investigators have ridiculed the Sphinx and, without even deigning to investigate the great
colossus, have turned their attention to the more overwhelming mystery of the Pyramid.
The word pyramid is popularly supposed to be derived from π•ρ, fire, thus signifying that it is the
symbolic representation of the One Divine Flame, the life of every creature. John Taylor believes the
word pyramid to mean a "measure of wheat, " while C. Piazzi Smyth favors the Coptic meaning, "a
division into ten." The initiates of
p. 44
old accepted the pyramid form as the ideal symbol of both the secret doctrine and those institutions
established for its dissemination. Both pyramids and mounds are antitypes of the Holy Mountain, or
High Place of God, which was believed to stand in the "midst" of the earth. John P. Lundy relates the
Great Pyramid to the fabled Olympus, further assuming that its subterranean passages correspond to the
tortuous byways of Hades.
The square base of the Pyramid is a constant reminder that the House of Wisdom is firmly founded upon
Nature and her immutable laws. "The Gnostics," writes Albert Pike, "claimed that the whole edifice of
their science rested on a square whose angles were: Σιγη, Silence; Βυθος, Profundity; Νους,
Intelligence; and Αληθεια Truth." (See Morals and Dogma.) The sides of the Great Pyramid face the
four cardinal angles, the latter signifying according to Eliphas Levi the extremities of heat and cold
(south and north) and the extremities of light and darkness (east and west). The base of the Pyramid
further represents the four material elements or substances from the combinations of which the
quaternary body of man is formed. From each side of the square there rises a triangle, typifying the
threefold divine being enthroned within every quaternary material nature. If each base line be considered
a square from which ascends a threefold spiritual power, then the sum of the lines of the four faces (12)
and the four hypothetical squares (16) constituting the base is 28, the sacred number of the lower world.
If this be added to the three septenaries composing the sun (21), it equals 49, the square of 7 and the
number of the universe.
The twelve signs of the zodiac, like the Governors' of the lower worlds, are symbolized by the twelve
lines of the four triangles--the faces of the Pyramid. In the midst of each face is one of the beasts of
Ezekiel, and the structure as a whole becomes the Cherubim. The three main chambers of the Pyramid
are related to the heart, the brain, and the generative system--the spiritual centers of the human
constitution. The triangular form of the Pyramid also is similar to the posture assumed by the body
during the ancient meditative exercises. The Mysteries taught that the divine energies from the gods
descended upon the top of the Pyramid, which was likened to an inverted tree with its branches below
and its roots at the apex. From this inverted tree the divine wisdom is disseminated by streaming down
the diverging sides and radiating throughout the world.
The size of the capstone of the Great Pyramid cannot be accurately determined, for, while most
investigators have assumed that it was once in place, no vestige of it now remains. There is a curious
tendency among the builders of great religious edifices to leave their creations unfinished, thereby
signifying that God alone is complete. The capstone--if it existed--was itself a miniature pyramid, the
apex of which again would be capped by a smaller block of similar shape, and so on ad infinitum. The
capstone therefore is the epitome of the entire structure. Thus, the Pyramid may be likened to the
universe and the capstone to man. Following the chain of analogy, the mind is the capstone of man, the
spirit the capstone of the mind, and God--the epitome of the whole--the capstone of the spirit. As a
rough and unfinished block, man is taken from the quarry and by the secret culture of the Mysteries
gradually transformed into a trued and perfect pyramidal capstone. The temple is complete only when
the initiate himself becomes the living apex through which the divine power is focused into the
diverging structure below.
W. Marsham Adams calls the Great Pyramid "the House of the Hidden Places"; such indeed it was, for it
represented the inner sanctuary of pre-Egyptian wisdom. By the Egyptians the Great Pyramid was
associated with Hermes, the god of wisdom and letters and the Divine Illuminator worshiped through the
planet Mercury. Relating Hermes to the Pyramid emphasizes anew the fact that it was in reality the
supreme temple of the Invisible and Supreme Deity. The Great Pyramid was not a lighthouse, an
observatory, or a tomb, but the first temple of the Mysteries, the first structure erected as a repository for
those secret truths which are the certain foundation of all arts and sciences. It was the perfect emblem of
the microcosm and the macrocosm and, according to the secret teachings, the tomb of Osiris, the black
god of the Nile. Osiris represents a certain manifestation of solar energy, and therefore his house or tomb
is emblematic of the universe within which he is entombed and upon the cross of which he is crucified.
Through the mystic passageways and chambers of the Great Pyramid passed the illumined of antiquity.
They entered its portals as men; they came forth as gods. It was the place of the "second birth," the
"womb of the Mysteries," and wisdom dwelt in it as God dwells in the hearts of men. Somewhere in the
depths of its recesses there resided an unknown being who was called "The Initiator," or "The Illustrious
One," robed in blue and gold and bearing in his hand the sevenfold key of Eternity. This was the lion-
faced hierophant, the Holy One, the Master of Masters, who never left the House of Wisdom and whom
no man ever saw save he who had passed through the gates of preparation and purification. It was in
these chambers that Plato--he of the broad brow---came face to face with the wisdom of the ages
personified in the Master of the Hidden House.
Who was the Master dwelling in the mighty Pyramid, the many rooms of which signified the worlds in
space; the Master whom none might behold save those who had been "born again"? He alone fully knew
the secret of the Pyramid, but he has departed the way of the wise and the house is empty. The hymns of
praise no longer echo in muffled tones through the chambers; the neophyte no longer passes through the
elements and wanders among the seven stars; the candidate no longer receives the "Word of Life" from
the lips of the Eternal One. Nothing now remains that the eye of man can see but an empty shell--the
outer symbol of an inner truth--and men call the House of God a tomb!
The technique of the Mysteries was unfolded by the Sage Illuminator, the Master of the Secret House.
The power to know his guardian spirit was revealed to the new initiate; the method of disentangling his
material body from. his divine vehicle was explained; and to consummate the magnum opus, there was
revealed the Divine Name--the secret and unutterable designation of the Supreme Deity, by the very
knowledge of which man and his God are made consciously one. With the giving of the Name, the new
initiate became himself a pyramid, within the chambers of whose soul numberless other human beings
might also receive spiritual enlightenment.
In the King's Chamber was enacted the drama of the "second death." Here the candidate, after being
crucified upon the cross of the solstices and the equinoxes, was buried in the great coffer. There is a
profound mystery to the atmosphere and temperature of the King's Chamber: it is of a peculiar deathlike
cold which cuts to the marrow of the bone. This room was a doorway between the material world and
the transcendental spheres of Nature. While his body lay in the coffer, the soul of the neophyte soared as
a human-headed hawk through the celestial realms, there to discover first hand the eternity of Life,
Light, and Truth, as well as the illusion of Death, Darkness, and Sin. Thus in one sense the Great
Pyramid may be likened to a gate through which the ancient priests permitted a few to pass toward the
attainment of individual completion. It is also to be noted incidentally that if the coffer in the King's
Chamber be struck, the sound emitted has no counterpart in any known musical scale. This tonal value
may have formed part of that combination of circumstances which rendered the King's Chamber an ideal
setting for the conferment of the highest degree of the Mysteries.
The modern world knows little of these ancient rites. The scientist and the theologian alike gaze upon
the sacred structure, wondering what fundamental urge inspired the herculean labor. If they would but
think for a moment, they would realize that there is only one urge in the soul of man capable of
supplying the required incentive--namely, the desire to know, to understand, and to exchange the
narrowness of human mortality for the greater breadth and scope of divine enlightenment. So men say of
the Great Pyramid that it is the most perfect building in the world, the source of weights and measures,
the original Noah's Ark, the origin of languages, alphabets,. and scales of temperature and humidity.
Few realize, however, that it is the gateway to the Eternal.
Though the modern world may know a million secrets, the ancient world knew one--and that one was
greater than the million; for the million secrets breed death, disaster, sorrow, selfishness, lust, and
avarice, but the one secret confers life, light, and truth. The time will come when the secret wisdom shall
again be the dominating religious and philosophical urge of the world. The day is at hand when the
doom of dogma shall be sounded. The great theological Tower of Babel, with its confusion of tongues,
was built of bricks of mud and the mortar of slime. Out of the cold ashes of lifeless creeds, however,
shall rise phœnixlike the ancient Mysteries. No other institution has so completely satisfied the religious
aspirations of humanity, for since the destruction of the Mysteries there never has been a religious code
to which Plato could have subscribed. The unfolding of man's spiritual nature is as much an exact
science as astronomy, medicine or jurisprudence. To accomplish this end religions were primarily
established; and out of religion have come science, philosophy, and logic as methods whereby this
divine purpose might be realized.
The Dying God shall rise again! The secret room in the House of the Hidden Places shall be
rediscovered. The Pyramid again shall stand as the ideal emblem of solidarity, inspiration, aspiration,
resurrection, and regeneration. As the passing sands of time bury civilization upon civilization beneath
their weight, the Pyramid shall remain as the Visible covenant between Eternal Wisdom and the world.
The time may yet come when the chants of the illumined shall be heard once more in its ancient
passageways and the Master of the Hidden House shall await in the Silent Place for the coming of that
man who, casting aside the fallacies of dogma and tenet, seeks simply Truth and will be satisfied with
neither substitute nor counterfeit.
Next: Isis, the Virgin of the World
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 45
Isis, the Virgin of the World
IT is especially fitting that a study of Hermetic symbolism should begin with a discussion of the symbols
and attributes of the Saitic Isis. This is the Isis of Sais, famous for the inscription concerning her which
appeared on the front of her temple in that city: "I, Isis, am all that has been, that is or shall be; no
mortal Man hath ever me unveiled."
Plutarch affirms that many ancient authors believed this goddess to be the daughter of Hermes; others
held the opinion that she was the child of Prometheus. Both of these demigods were noted for their
divine wisdom. It is not improbable that her kinship to them is merely allegorical. Plutarch translates the
name Isis to mean wisdom. Godfrey Higgins, in his Anacalypsis, derives the name of Isis from the
Hebrew •••, Iso, and the Greek ζωω, to save. Some authorities, however, for example, Richard Payne
Knight (as stated in his Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology), believe the word to be of
Northern extraction, possibly Scandinavian or Gothic. In these languages the name is pronounced Isa,
meaning ice, or water in its most passive, crystallized, negative state.
This Egyptian deity under many names appears as the principle of natural fecundity among nearly all the
religions of the ancient world. She was known as the goddess with ten thousand appellations and was
metamorphosed by Christianity into the Virgin Mary, for Isis, although she gave birth to all living
things--chief among them the Sun--still remained a virgin, according to the legendary accounts.
Apuleius in the eleventh book of The Golden Ass ascribes to the goddess the following statement
concerning her powers and attributes: "Behold, * *, I, moved by thy prayers, am present with thee; I,
who am Nature, the parent of things, the queen of all the elements, the primordial progeny of ages, the
supreme of Divinities, the sovereign of the spirits of the dead, the first of the celestials, and the uniform
resemblance of Gods and Goddesses. I, who rule by my nod the luminous summits of the heavens, the
salubrious breezes of the sea, and the deplorable silences of the realms beneath, and whose one divinity
the whole orb of the earth venerates under a manifold form, by different rites and a variety of
appellations. Hence the primogenial Phrygians call me Pessinuntica, the mother of the Gods, the Attic
Aborigines, Cecropian Minerva; the floating Cyprians, Paphian Venus; the arrow-bearing Cretans,
Diana Dictynna; the three-tongued Sicilians, Stygian Proserpine; and the Eleusinians, the ancient
Goddess Ceres. Some also call me Juno, others Bellona, others Hecate, and others Rhamnusia. And
those who are illuminated by the incipient rays of that divinity the Sun, when he rises, viz. the
Ethiopians, the Arii, and the Egyptians skilled in ancient learning, worshipping me by ceremonies
perfectly appropriate, call me by my true name, Queen Isis."
Le Plongeon believes that the Egyptian myth of Isis had a historical basis among the Mayas of Central
America, where this goddess was known as Queen Moo. In Prince Coh the same author finds a
correspondence to Osiris, the brother-husband of Isis. Le Plongeon's theory is that Mayan civilization
was far more ancient than that of Egypt. After the death of Prince Coh, his widow, Queen Moo, fleeing
to escape the wrath of his murderers, sought refuge among the Mayan colonies in Egypt, where she was
accepted as their queen and was given the name of Isis. While Le Plongeon may be right, the possible
historical queen sinks into insignificance when compared with the allegorical, symbolic World Virgin;
and the fact that she appears among so many different races and peoples discredits the theory that she
was a historical individual.
According to Sextus Empyricus, the Trojan war was fought over a statue of the moon goddess. For this
lunar Helena, and not for a woman, the Greeks and Trojans struggled at the gates of Troy.
Several authors have attempted to prove that Isis, Osiris, Typhon, Nephthys, and Aroueris (Thoth, or
Mercury) were grandchildren of the great Jewish patriarch Noah by his son Ham. But as the story of
Noah and his ark is a cosmic allegory concerning the repopulation of planets at the beginning of each
world period, this only makes it less likely that they were historical personages. According to Robert
Fludd, the sun has three properties--life, light, and heat. These three vivify and vitalize the three worlds--
spiritual, intellectual, and material. Therefore, it is said "from one light, three lights," i. e. the first three
Master Masons. In all probability, Osiris represents the third, or material, aspect of solar activity, which
by its beneficent influences vitalizes and enlivens the flora and fauna of the earth. Osiris is not the sun,
but the sun is symbolic of the vital principle of Nature, which the ancients knew as Osiris. His symbol,
therefore, was an opened eye, in honor of the Great Eye of the universe, the sun. Opposed to the active,
radiant principle of impregnating fire, hear, and motion was the passive, receptive principle of Nature.
Modern science has proved that forms ranging in magnitude from solar systems to atoms are composed
of positive, radiant nuclei surrounded by negative bodies that exist upon the emanations of the central
life. From this allegory we have the story of Solomon and his wives, for Solomon is the sun and his
wives and concubines are the planets, moons, asteroids, and other receptive bodies within his house--the
solar mansion. Isis, represented in the Song of Solomon by the dark maid of Jerusalem, is symbolic of
receptive Nature--the watery, maternal principle which creates all things out of herself after
impregnation has been achieved by the virility of the sun.
In the ancient world the year had 360 days. The five extra days were gathered together by the God of
Cosmic Intelligence to serve as the birthdays of the five gods and goddesses who are called the sons and
daughters of Ham. Upon the first of these special days Osiris was born and upon the fourth of them Isis.
(The number four shows the relation that this goddess bears to the earth and its elements.) Typhon, the
Egyptian Demon or Spirit of the Adversary, was born upon the third day. Typhon is often symbolized by
a crocodile; sometimes his body is a combination of crocodile and hog. Isis stands for knowledge and
wisdom, and according to Plutarch the word Typhon means insolence and pride. Egotism, self-
centeredness, and pride are the deadly enemies of understanding and truth. This part of the allegory is
After Osiris, here symbolized as the sun, had become King of Egypt and had given to his people the full
advantage of his intellectual light, he continued his path through the heavens, visiting the peoples of
other nations and converting all with whom he came in contact. Plutarch further asserts that the Greeks
recognized in Osiris the same person whom they revered under the names of Dionysos and Bacchus.
While he was away from his country, his brother, Typhon, the Evil One, like the Loki of Scandinavia,
plotted against the Sun God to destroy him. Gathering seventy-two persons as fellow conspirators, he
attained his nefarious end in a most subtle manner. He had a wonderful ornamented box made just the
size of the body of Osiris. This he brought into a banquet hall where the gods and goddesses were
feasting together. All admired the beautiful chest, and Typhon promised to give it to the one whose body
fitted it most perfectly. One after another lay down in the box, but in disappointment
Click to enlarge
From Mosaize Historie der Hebreeuwse Kerke.
Diodorus writes of a famous inscription carved on a column at Nysa, in Arabia, wherein Isis described herself as
follows: "I am Isis, Queen of this country. I was instructed by Mercury. No one can destroy the laws which I
have established. I am the eldest daughter of Saturn, most ancient of the gods. I am the wife and sister of Osiris
the King. I first made known to mortals the use of wheat. I am the mother of Orus the King. In my honor was the
city of Bubaste built. Rejoice, O Egypt, rejoice, land that gave me birth!" (See "Morals and Dogma," by Albert
p. 46
rose again, until at last Osiris also tried. The moment he was in the chest Typhon and his accomplices
nailed the cover down and sealed the cracks with molten lead. They then cast the box into the Nile,
down which it floated to the sea. Plutarch states that the date upon which this occurred was the
seventeenth day of the month Athyr, when the sun was in the constellation of Scorpio. This is most
significant, for the Scorpion is the symbol of treachery. The time when Osiris entered the chest was also
the same season that Noah entered the ark to escape from the Deluge.
Plutarch further declares that the Pans and Satyrs (the Nature spirits and elementals) first discovered that
Osiris had been murdered. These immediately raised an alarm, and from this incident the word panic,
meaning fright or amazement of the multitudes, originated. Isis, upon receiving the news of her
husband's murder, which she learned from some children who had seen the murderers making off with
the box, at once robed herself in mourning and started forth in quest of him.
At length Isis discovered that the chest had floated to the coast of Byblos. There it had lodged in the
branches of a tree, which in a short time miraculously grew up around the box. This so amazed the king
of that country that he ordered the tree to be cut down and a pillar made from its trunk to support the
roof of his palace. Isis, visiting Byblos, recovered the body of her husband, but it was again stolen by
Typhon, who cut it into fourteen parts, which he scattered all over the earth. Isis, in despair, began
gathering up the severed remains of her husband, but found only thirteen pieces. The fourteenth part (the
phallus) she reproduced in gold, for the original had fallen into the river Nile and had been swallowed by
a fish.
Typhon was later slain in battle by the son of Osiris. Some of the Egyptians believed that the souls of the
gods were taken to heaven, where they shone forth as stars. It was supposed that the soul of Isis gleamed
from the Dog Star, while Typhon became the constellation of the Bear. It is doubtful, however, whether
this idea was ever generally accepted.
Among the Egyptians, Isis is often represented with a headdress consisting of the empty throne chair of
her murdered husband, and this peculiar structure was accepted during certain dynasties as her
hieroglyphic. The headdresses of the Egyptians have great symbolic and emblematic importance, for
they represent the auric bodies of the superhuman intelligences, and are used in the same way that the
nimbus, halo, and aureole are used in Christian religious art. Frank C. Higgins, a well-known Masonic
symbolist, has astutely noted that the ornate headgears of certain gods and Pharaohs are inclined
backward at the same angle as the earth's axis. The robes, insignia, jewels, and ornamentations of the
ancient hierophants symbolized the spiritual energies radiating from the human body. Modern science is
rediscovering many of the lost secrets of Hermetic philosophy. One of these is the ability to gauge the
mental development, the soul qualities, and the physical health of an individual from the streamers of
semi-visible electric force which pour through the surface of the skin of every human being at all times
during his life. (For details concerning a scientific process for making the auric emanations visible, see
The Human Atmosphere by Dr. Walter J. Kilner.)
Isis is sometimes symbolized by the head of a cow; occasionally the entire animal is her symbol. The
first gods of the Scandinavians were licked out of blocks of ice by the Mother Cow (Audhumla), who
symbolized the principle of natural nutriment and fecundity because of her milk. Occasionally Isis is
represented as a bird. She often carries in one hand the crux ansata, the symbol of eternal life, and in the
other the flowered scepter, symbolic of her authority.
Thoth Hermes Trismegistus, the founder of Egyptian learning, the Wise Man of the ancient world, gave
to the priests and philosophers of antiquity the secrets which have been preserved to this day in myth
and legend. These allegories and emblematic figures conceal the secret formulæ for spiritual, mental,
moral, and physical regeneration commonly known as the Mystic Chemistry of the Soul (alchemy).
These sublime truths were communicated to the initiates of the Mystery Schools, but were concealed
from the profane. The latter, unable to understand the abstract philosophical tenets, worshiped the
concrete sculptured idols which were emblematic of these secret truths. The wisdom and secrecy of
Egypt are epitomized in the Sphinx, which has preserved its secret from the seekers of a hundred
generations. The mysteries of Hermeticism, the great spiritual truths hidden from the world by the
ignorance of the world, and the keys of the secret doctrines of the ancient philosophers, are all
symbolized by the Virgin Isis. Veiled from head to foot, she reveals her wisdom only to the tried and
initiated few who have earned the right to enter her sacred presence, tear from the veiled figure of
Nature its shroud of obscurity, and stand face to face with the Divine Reality.
The explanations in these pages of the symbols peculiar to the Virgin Isis are based (unless otherwise
noted) on selections from a free translation of the fourth book of Bibliotèque des Philosophes
Hermétiques, entitled "The Hermetical Signification of the Symbols and Attributes of Isis," with
interpolations by the compiler to amplify and clarify the text.
The statues of Isis were decorated with the sun, moon, and stars, and many emblems pertaining to the
earth, over which Isis was believed to rule (as the guardian spirit of Nature personified). Several images
of the goddess have been found upon which the marks of her dignity and position were still intact.
According to the ancient philosophers, she personified Universal Nature, the mother of all productions.
The deity was generally represented as a partly nude woman, often pregnant, sometimes loosely covered
with a garment either of green or black color, or of four different shades intermingled-black, white,
yellow, and red.
Apuleius describes her as follows: "In the first place, then, her most copious and long hairs, being
gradually intorted, and promiscuously scattered on her divine neck, were softly defluous. A multiform
crown, consisting of various flowers, bound the sublime summit of her head. And in the middle of the
crown, just on her forehead, there was a smooth orb resembling a mirror, or rather a white refulgent
light, which indicated that she was the moon. Vipers rising up after the manner of furrows, environed the
crown on the right hand and on the left, and Cerealian ears of corn were also extended from above. Her
garment was of many colours, and woven from the finest flax, and was at one time lucid with a white
splendour, at another yellow from the flower of crocus, and at another flaming with a rosy redness. But
that which most excessively dazzled my sight, was a very black robe, fulgid with a dark splendour, and
which, spreading round and passing under her right side, and ascending to her left shoulder, there rose
protuberant like the center of a shield, the dependent part of the robe falling in many folds, and having
small knots of fringe, gracefully flowing in its extremities. Glittering stars were dispersed through the
embroidered border of the robe, and through the whole of its surface: and the full moon, shining in the
middle of the stars, breathed forth flaming fires. Nevertheless, a crown, wholly consisting of flowers and
fruits of every kind, adhered with indivisible connexion to the border of that conspicuous robe, in all its
undulating motions. What she carried in her hands also consisted of things of a very different nature. For
her right hand, indeed, bore a brazen rattle [sistrum] through the narrow lamina of which bent like a belt,
certain rods passing, produced a sharp triple sound, through the vibrating motion of her arm. An oblong
vessel, in the shape of a boat, depended from her left hand, on the handle of which, in that part in which
it was conspicuous, an asp raised its erect head and largely swelling neck. And shoes woven from the
leaves of the victorious palm tree covered her immortal feet."
The green color alludes to the vegetation which covers the face of the earth, and therefore represents the
robe of Nature. The black represents death and corruption as being the way to a new life and generation.
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John iii. 3.) White, yellow, and red
signify the three principal colors of the alchemical, Hermetical, universal medicine after the blackness of
its putrefaction is over.
The ancients gave the name Isis to one of their occult medicines; therefore the description here given
relates somewhat to chemistry. Her black drape also signifies that the moon, or the lunar humidity--the
sophic universal mercury and the operating substance of Nature in alchemical terminology--has no light
of its own, but receives its light, its fire, and its vitalizing force from the sun. Isis was
Click to enlarge
"The sistrum is designed * * * to represent to us, that every thing must be kept in continual agitation, and never
cease from motion; that they ought to be mused and well-shaken, whenever they begin to grow drowsy as it were,
and to droop in their motion. For, say they, the sound of these sistra averts and drives away Typho; meaning
hereby, that as corruption clogs and puts a stop to the regular course of nature; so generation, by the means of
motion, loosens it again, and restores it to its former vigour. Now the outer surface of this instrument is of a
convex figure, as within its circumference are contained those four chords or bars [only three shown], which
make such a rattling when they are shaken--nor is this without its meaning; for that part of the universe which is
subject to generation and corruption is contained within the sphere of the moon; and whatever motions or
changes may happen therein, they are all effected by the different combinations of the four elementary bodies,
fire, earth, water, and air--moreover, upon the upper part of the convex surface of the sistrum is carved the
effigies of a cat with a human visage, as on the lower edge of it, under those moving chords, is engraved on the
one side the face of Isis, and on the other that of Nephthys--by the faces symbolically representing generation and
corruption (which, as has been already observed, is nothing but the motion and alteration of the four elements one
amongst another),"
(From Plutarch's Isis and Osiris.)
p. 47
the image or representative of the Great Works of the wise men: the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir of
Life, and the Universal Medicine.
Other hieroglyphics seen in connection with Isis are no less curious than those already described, but it
is impossible to enumerate all, for many symbols were used interchangeably by the Egyptian Hermetists.
The goddess often wore upon her head a hat made of cypress branches, to signify mourning for her dead
husband and also for the physical death which she caused every creature to undergo in order to receive a
new life in posterity or a periodic resurrection. The head of Isis is sometimes ornamented with a crown
of gold or a garland of olive leaves, as conspicuous marks of her sovereignty as queen of the world and
mistress of the entire universe. The crown of gold signifies also the aurific unctuosity or sulphurous
fatness of the solar and vital fires which she dispenses to every individual by a continual circulation of
the elements, this circulation being symbolized by the musical rattle which she carries in her hand. This
sistrum is also the yonic symbol of purity.
A serpent interwoven among the olive leaves on her head, devouring its own tail, denotes that the aurific
unctuosity was soiled with the venom of terrestrial corruption which surrounded it and must be mortified
and purified by seven planetary circulations or purifications called flying eagles (alchemical
terminology) in order to make it medicinal for the restoration of health. (Here the emanations from the
sun are recognized as a medicine for the healing of human ills.) The seven planetary circulations are
represented by the circumambulations of the Masonic lodge; by the marching of the Jewish priests seven
times around the walls of Jericho, and of the Mohammedan priests seven times around the Kabba at
Mecca. From the crown of gold project three horns of plenty, signifying the abundance of the gifts of
Nature proceeding from one root having its origin in the heavens (head of Isis).
In this figure the pagan naturalists represent all the vital powers of the three kingdoms and families of
sublunary nature-mineral, plant, and animal (man considered as an animal). At one of her ears was the
moon and at the other the sun, to indicate that these two were the agent and patient, or father and mother
principles of all natural objects; and that Isis, or Nature, makes use of these two luminaries to
communicate her powers to the whole empire of animals, vegetables, and minerals. On the back of her
neck were the characters of the planets and the signs of the zodiac which assisted the planets in their
functions. This signified that the heavenly influences directed the destinies of the principles and sperms
of all things, because they were the governors of all sublunary bodies, which they transformed into little
worlds made in the image of the greater universe.
Isis holds in her right hand a small sailing ship with the spindle of a spinning wheel for its mast. From
the top of the mast projects a water jug, its handle shaped like a serpent swelled with venom. This
indicates that Isis steers the bark of life, full of troubles and miseries, on the stormy ocean of Time. The
spindle symbolizes the fact that she spins and cuts the thread of Life. These emblems further signify that
Isis abounds in humidity, by means of which she nourishes all natural bodies, preserving them from the
heat of the sun by humidifying them with nutritious moisture from the atmosphere. Moisture supports
vegetation, but this subtle humidity (life ether) is always more or less infected by some venom
proceeding from corruption or decay. It must be purified by being brought into contact with the invisible
cleansing fire of Nature. This fire digests, perfects, and revitalizes this substance, in order that the
humidity may become a universal medicine to heal and renew all the bodies in Nature.
The serpent throws off its skin annually and is thereby renewed (symbolic of the resurrection of the
spiritual life from the material nature). This renewal of the earth takes place every spring, when the
vivifying spirit of the sun returns to the countries of the Northern Hemisphere,
The symbolic Virgin carries in her left hand a sistrum and a cymbal, or square frame of metal, which
when struck gives the key-note of Nature (Fa); sometimes also an olive branch, to indicate the harmony
she preserves among natural things with her regenerating power. By the processes of death and
corruption she gives life to a number of creatures of diverse forms through periods of perpetual change.
The cymbal is made square instead of the usual triangular shape in order to symbolize that all things are
transmuted and regenerated according to the harmony of the four elements.
Dr. Sigismund Bacstrom believed that if a physician could establish harmony among the elements of
earth, fire, air, and water, and unite them into a stone (the Philosopher's Stone) symbolized by the six-
pointed star or two interlaced triangles, he would possess the means of healing all disease. Dr. Bacstrom
further stated that there was no doubt in his mind that the universal, omnipresent fire (spirit) of Nature:
"does all and is all in all." By attraction, repulsion, motion, heat, sublimation, evaporation, exsiccation,
inspissation, coagulation, and fixation, the Universal Fire (Spirit) manipulates matter, and manifests
throughout creation. Any individual who can understand these principles and adapt them to the three
departments of Nature becomes a true philosopher.
From the right breast of Isis protruded a bunch of grapes and from, the left an ear of corn or a sheaf of
wheat, golden in color. These indicate that Nature is the source of nutrition for plant, animal, and human
life, nourishing all things from herself. The golden color in the wheat (corn) indicates that in the sunlight
or spiritual gold is concealed the first sperm of all life.
On the girdle surrounding the upper part of the body of the statue appear a number of mysterious
emblems. The girdle is joined together in front by four golden plates (the elements), placed in the form
of a square. This signified that Isis, or Nature, the first matter (alchemical terminology), was the
essence- of the four elements (life, light, heat, and force), which quintessence generated all things.
Numerous stars are represented on this girdle, thereby indicating their influence in darkness as well as
the influence of the sun in light. Isis is the Virgin immortalized in the constellation of Virgo, where the
World Mother is placed with the serpent under her feet and a crown. of stars on her head. In her arms
she carries a sheaf of grain and sometimes the young Sun God.
The statue of Isis was placed on a pedestal of dark stone ornamented with rams' heads. Her feet trod
upon a number of venomous reptiles. This indicates that Nature has power to free from acidity or
saltness all corrosives and to overcome all impurities from terrestrial corruption adhering to bodies. The
rams' heads indicate that the most auspicious time for the generation of life is during the period when the
sun passes through the sign of Aries. The serpents under her feet indicate that Nature is inclined to
preserve life and to heal disease by expelling impurities and corruption.
In this sense the axioms known to the ancient philosophers are verified; namely:
Nature contains Nature,
Nature rejoices in her own nature,
Nature surmounts Nature;
Nature cannot be amended but in her own nature.
Therefore, in contemplating the statue of Isis, we must not lose sight of the occult
[paragraph continues]
sense of its allegories; otherwise, the Virgin remains an inexplicable enigma.
From a golden ring on her left arm a line descends, to the end of which is suspended a deep box filled
with flaming coals and incense. Isis, or Nature personified, carries with her the sacred fire, religiously
preserved and kept burning in. a special temple by the vestal virgins. This fire is the genuine, immortal
flame of Nature--ethereal, essential, the author of life. The inconsumable oil; the balsam of life, so much
praised by the wise and so often referred to in the Scriptures, is frequently symbolized as the fuel of this
immortal flame.
From the right arm of the figure also descends a thread, to the end of which is fastened a pair of scales,
to denote the exactitude of Nature in her weights and measures. Isis is often represented as the symbol of
justice, because Nature is eternally consistent.
Click to enlarge
From Lenoir's La Franche-Maconnerie.
Aroueris, or Thoth, one of the five immortals, protected the infant Horus from the wrath of Typhon after the
murder of Osiris. He also revised the ancient Egyptian calendar by increasing the year from 360 days to 365.
Thoth Hermes was called "The Dog-Headed" because of his faithfulness and integrity. He is shown crowned with
a solar nimbus, carrying in one hand the Crux Ansata, the symbol of eternal life, and in the other a serpent-wound
staff symbolic of his dignity as counselor of the gods.
Click to enlarge
From Lenoir's La Franche-Maconnerie.
Isis is shown with her son Horus in her arms. She is crowned with the lunar orb, ornamented with the horns of
rams or bulls. Orus, or Horus as he is more generally known, was the son of Isis and Osiris. He was the god of
time, hours, days, and this narrow span of life recognized as mortal existence. In all probability, the four sons of
Horus represent the four kingdoms of Nature. It was Horus who finally avenged the murder of his father, Osiris,
by slaying Typhon, the spirit of Evil.
p. 48
The World Virgin is sometimes shown standing between two great pillars--the Jachin and Boaz of
Freemasonry--symbolizing the fact that Nature attains productivity by means of polarity. As wisdom
personified, Isis stands between the pillars of opposites, demonstrating that understanding is always
found at the point of equilibrium and that truth is often crucified between the two thieves of apparent
The sheen of gold in her dark hair indicates that while she is lunar, her power is due to the sun's rays,
from which she secures her ruddy complexion. As the moon is robed in the reflected light of the sun, so
Isis, like the virgin of Revelation, is clothed in the glory of solar luminosity. Apuleius states that while
he was sleeping he beheld the venerable goddess Isis rising out of the ocean. The ancients realized that
the primary forms of life first came out of water, and modem science concurs in this view. H. G. Wells,
in his Outline of History, describing primitive life on the earth, states: "But though the ocean and
intertidal water already swarmed with life, the land above the high-tide line was still, so far as we can
guess, a stony wilderness without a trace of life." In the next chapter he adds: "Wherever the shore-line
ran there was life, and that life went on in and by and with water as its home, its medium, and its
fundamental necessity." The ancients believed that the universal sperm proceeded from warm vapor,
humid but fiery. The veiled Isis, whose very coverings represent vapor, is symbolic of this humidity,
which is the carrier or vehicle for the sperm life of the sun, represented by a child in her arms. Because
the sun, moon, and stars in setting appear to sink into the sea and also because the water receives their
rays into itself, the sea was believed to be the breeding ground for the sperm of living things. This sperm
is generated from the combination of the influences of the celestial bodies; hence Isis is sometimes
represented as pregnant.
Frequently the statue of Isis was accompanied by the figure of a large black and white ox. The ox
represents either Osiris as Taurus, the bull of the zodiac, or Apis, an animal sacred to Osiris because of
its peculiar markings and colorings. Among the Egyptians, the bull was a beast of burden. Hence the
presence of the animal was a reminder of the labors patiently performed by Nature that all creatures may
have life and health. Harpocrates, the God of Silence, holding his fingers to his mouth, often
accompanies the statue of Isis. He warns all to keep the secrets of the wise from those unfit to know
The Druids of Britain and Gaul had a deep knowledge concerning the mysteries of Isis and worshiped
her under the symbol of the moon. Godfrey Higgins considers it a mistake to regard Isis as synonymous
with the moon. The moon was chosen for Isis because of its dominion over water. The Druids
considered the sun to be the father and the moon the mother of all things. By means of these symbols
they worshiped Universal Nature.
The figure of Isis is sometimes used to represent the occult and magical arts, such as necromancy,
invocation, sorcery, and thaumaturgy. In one of the myths concerning her, Isis is said to have conjured
the invincible God of Eternities, Ra, to tell her his secret and sacred name, which he did. This name is
equivalent to the Lost Word of Masonry. By means of this Word, a magician can demand obedience
from the invisible and superior deities. The priests of Isis became adepts in the use of the unseen forces
of Nature. They understood hypnotism, mesmerism, and similar practices long before the modem world
dreamed of their existence.
Plutarch describes the requisites of a follower of Isis in this manner: "For as 'tis not the length of the
beard, or the coarseness of the habit which makes a philosopher, so neither will those frequent shavings,
or the mere wearing [of] a linen vestment constitute a votary of Isis; but he alone is a true servant or
follower of this Goddess, who after he has heard, and been made acquainted in a proper manner with the
history of the actions of these Gods, searches into the hidden truths which he concealed under them, and
examines the whole by the dictates of reason and philosophy."
During the Middle Ages the troubadours of Central Europe preserved in song the legends of this
Egyptian goddess. They composed sonnets to the most beautiful woman in all the world. Though few
ever discovered her identity, she was Sophia, the Virgin of Wisdom, whom all the philosophers of the
world have wooed. Isis represents the mystery of motherhood, which the ancients recognized as the most
apparent proof of Nature's omniscient wisdom and God's overshadowing power. To the modern seeker
she is the epitome of the Great Unknown, and only those who unveil her will be able to solve the
mysteries of life, death, generation, and regeneration.
Servius, commenting on Virgil's Æneid, observes that "the wise Egyptians took care to embalm their
bodies, and deposit them in catacombs, in order that the soul might be preserved for a long time in
connection with the body, and might not soon be alienated; while the Romans, with an opposite design,
committed the remains of their dead to the funeral pile, intending that the vital spark might immediately
be restored to the general element, or return to its pristine nature." (From Prichard's An Analysis of the
Egyptian Mythology.)
No complete records are available which give the secret doctrine of the Egyptians concerning the
relationship existing between the spirit, or consciousness, and the body which it inhabited. It is
reasonably certain, however, that Pythagoras, who had been initiated in the Egyptian temples, when he
promulgated the doctrine of metempsychosis, restated, in part at least, the teachings of the Egyptian
initiates. The popular supposition that the Egyptians mummified their dead in order to preserve the form
for a physical resurrection is untenable in the light of modern knowledge regarding their philosophy of
death. In the fourth book of On Abstinence from Animal Food, Porphyry describes an Egyptian custom
of purifying the dead by removing the contents of the abdominal cavity, which they placed in a separate
chest. He then reproduces the following oration which had been translated out of the Egyptian tongue by
Euphantus: "O sovereign Sun, and all ye Gods who impart life to men, receive me, and deliver me to the
eternal Gods as a cohabitant. For I have always piously worshipped those divinities which were pointed
out to me by my parents as long as I lived in this age, and have likewise always honored those who
procreated my body. And, with respect to other men, I have never slain any one, nor defrauded any one
of what he deposited with me, nor have I committed any other atrocious deed. If, therefore, during my
life I have acted erroneously, by eating or drinking things which it is unlawful to cat or drink, I have not
erred through myself, but through these" (pointing to the chest which contained the viscera). The
removal of the organs identified as the seat of the appetites was considered equivalent to the purification
of the body from their evil influences.
So literally did the early Christians interpret their Scriptures that they preserved the bodies of their dead
by pickling them in salt water, so that on the day of resurrection the spirit of the dead might reenter a
complete and perfectly preserved body. Believing that the incisions necessary to the embalming process
and the removal of the internal organs would prevent the return of the spirit to its body, the Christians
buried their dead without resorting to the more elaborate mummification methods employed by the
Egyptian morticians.
In his work on Egyptian Magic, S.S.D.D. hazards the following speculation concerning the esoteric
purposes behind the practice of mummification. "There is every reason to suppose," he says, "that only
those who had received some grade of initiation were mummified; for it is certain that, in the eyes of the
Egyptians, mummification effectually prevented reincarnation. Reincarnation was necessary to
imperfect souls, to those who had failed to pass the tests of initiation; but for those who had the Will and
the capacity to enter the Secret Adytum, there was seldom necessity for that liberation of the soul which
is said to be effected by the destruction of the body. The body of the Initiate was therefore preserved
after death as a species of Talisman or material basis for the manifestation of the Soul upon earth."
During the period of its inception mummification was limited to the Pharaoh and such other persons of
royal rank as presumably partook of the attributes of the great Osiris, the divine, mummified King of the
Egyptian Underworld.
Click to enlarge
Osiris is often represented with the lower par, of his body enclosed in a mummy case or wrapped about with
funeral bandages. Man's spirit consists of three distinct parts, only one of which incarnates in physical form. The
human body was considered to be a tomb or sepulcher of this incarnating spirit. Therefore Osiris, a symbol of the
incarnating ego, was represented with the lower half of his body mummified to indicate that he was the living
spirit of man enclosed within the material form symbolized by the mummy case.
There is a romance between the active principle of God and the passive principle of Nature. From the union of
these two principles is produced the rational creation. Man is a composite creature. From his Father (the active
principle) he inherits his Divine Spirit, the fire of aspiration--that immortal part of himself which rises triumphant
from the broken clay of mortality: that part which remains after the natural organisms have disintegrated or have
been regenerated. From his Mother (the passive principle) he inherits his body--that part over which the laws of
Nature have control: his humanity, his mortal personality, his appetites, his feelings, and his emotions. The
Egyptians also believed that Osiris was the river Nile and that Isis (his sister-wife) was the contiguous land,
which, when inundated by the river, bore fruit and harvest. The murky water of the Nile were believed to account
for the blackness of Osiris, who was generally symbolized as being of ebony hue.
Next: The Sun, A Universal Deity
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 49
The Sun, A Universal Deity
THE adoration of the sun was one of the earliest and most natural forms of religious expression.
Complex modern theologies are merely involvements and amplifications of this simple aboriginal belief.
The primitive mind, recognizing the beneficent power of the solar orb, adored it as the proxy of the
Supreme Deity. Concerning the origin of sun worship, Albert Pike makes the following concise
statement in his Morals and Dogma: "To them [aboriginal peoples] he [the sun] was the innate fire of
bodies, the fire of Nature. Author of Life, heat, and ignition, he was to them the efficient cause of all
generation, for without him there was no movement, no existence, no form. He was to them immense,
indivisible, imperishable, and everywhere present. It was their need of light, and of his creative energy,
that was felt by all men; and nothing was more fearful to them than his absence. His beneficent
influences caused his identification with the Principle of Good; and the BRAHMA of the Hindus, and
MITHRAS of the Persians, and ATHOM, AMUN, PHTHA, and OSIRIS, of the Egyptians, the BEL of
the Chaldeans, the ADONAI of the Phœnicians, the ADONIS and APOLLO of the Greeks, became but
personifications of the Sun, the regenerating Principle, image of that fecundity which perpetuates and
rejuvenates the world's existence."
Among all the nations of antiquity, altars, mounds, and temples were dedicated to the worship of the orb
of day. The ruins of these sacred places yet remain, notable among them being the pyramids of Yucatan
and Egypt, the snake mounds of the American Indians, the Zikkurats of Babylon and Chaldea, the round
towers of Ireland, and the massive rings of uncut stone in Britain and Normandy. The Tower of Babel,
which, according to the Scriptures, was built so that man might reach up to God, was probably an
astronomical observatory.
Many early priests and prophets, both pagan and Christian, were versed in astronomy and astrology;
their writings are best understood when read in the light of these ancient sciences. With the growth of
man's knowledge of the constitution and periodicity of the heavenly bodies, astronomical principles and
terminology were introduced into his religious systems. The tutelary gods were given planetary thrones,
the celestial bodies being named after the deities assigned to them. The fixed stars were divided into
constellations, and through these constellations wandered the sun and its planets, the latter with their
accompanying satellites.
The sun, as supreme among the celestial bodies visible to the astronomers of antiquity, was assigned to
the highest of the gods and became symbolic of the supreme authority of the Creator Himself. From a
deep philosophic consideration of the powers and principles of the sun has come the concept of the
Trinity as it is understood in the world today. The tenet of a Triune Divinity is not peculiar to Christian
or Mosaic theology, but forms a conspicuous part of the dogma of the greatest religions of both ancient
and modern times. The Persians, Hindus, Babylonians, and Egyptians had their Trinities. In every
instance these represented the threefold form of one Supreme Intelligence. In modern Masonry, the
Deity is symbolized by an equilateral triangle, its three sides representing the primary manifestations of
the Eternal One who is Himself represented as a tiny flame, called by the Hebrews Yod (•). Jakob
Böhme, the Teutonic mystic, calls the Trinity The Three Witnesses, by means of which the Invisible is
made known to the visible, tangible universe.
The origin of the Trinity is obvious to anyone who will observe the daily manifestations of the sun. This
orb, being the symbol of all Light, has three distinct phases: rising, midday, and setting. The
philosophers therefore divided the life of all things into three distinct parts: growth, maturity, and decay.
Between the twilight of dawn and the twilight of evening is the high noon of resplendent glory. God the
Father, the Creator of the world, is symbolized by the dawn. His color is blue, because the sun rising in
the morning is veiled in blue mist. God the Son he Illuminating One sent to bear witness of His Father
before all the worlds, is the celestial globe at noonday, radiant and magnificent, the maned Lion of
Judah, the Golden-haired Savior of the World. Yellow is His color and His power is without end. God
the Holy Ghost is the sunset phase, when the orb of day, robed in flaming red, rests for a moment upon
the horizon line and then vanishes into the darkness of the night to wandering the lower worlds and later
rise again triumphant from the embrace of darkness.
To the Egyptians the sun was the symbol of immortality, for, while it died each night, it rose again with
each ensuing dawn. Not only has the sun this diurnal activity, but it also has its annual pilgrimage,
during which time it passes successively through the twelve celestial houses of the heavens, remaining
in each for thirty days. Added to these it has a third path of travel, which is called the precession of the
equinoxes, in which it retrogrades around the zodiac through the twelve signs at the rate of one degree
every seventy-two years.
Concerning the annual passage of the sun through the twelve houses of the heavens, Robert Hewitt
Brown, 32°, makes the following statement: "The Sun, as he pursued his way among these 'living
creatures' of the zodiac, was said, in allegorical language, either to assume the nature of or to triumph
over the sign he entered. The sun thus became a Bull in Taurus, and was worshipped as such by the
Egyptians under the name of Apis, and by the Assyrians as Bel, Baal, or Bul. In Leo the sun became a
Lion-slayer, Hercules, and an Archer in Sagittarius. In Pisces, the Fishes, he was a fish--Dagon, or
Vishnu, the fish-god of the Philistines and Hindoos."
A careful analysis of the religious systems of pagandom uncovers much evidence of the fact that its
priests served the solar energy and that their Supreme Deity was in every case this Divine Light
personified. Godfrey Higgins, after thirty years of inquiry into the origin of religious beliefs, is of the
opinion that "All the Gods of antiquity resolved themselves into the solar fire, sometimes itself as God,
or sometimes an emblem or shekinah of that higher principle, known by the name of the creative Being
or God."
The Egyptian priests in many of their ceremonies wore the skins of lions, which were symbols of the
solar orb, owing to the fact that the sun is exalted, dignified, and most fortunately placed in the
constellation of Leo, which he rules and which was at one time the keystone of the celestial arch. Again,
Hercules is the Solar Deity, for as this mighty hunter performed his twelve labors, so the sun, in
traversing the twelve houses of the zodiacal band, performs during his pilgrimage twelve essential and
benevolent labors for the human race and for Nature in general, Hercules, like the Egyptian priests, wore
the skin of a lion for a girdle. Samson, the Hebrew hero, as his
Click to enlarge
From Maurice's Indian Antiquities.
The sun rising over the back of the lion or, astrologically, in the back of the lion, has always been considered
symbolic of power and rulership. A symbol very similar to the one above appears on the flag of Persia, whose
people have always been sun worshipers. Kings and emperors have frequently associated their terrestrial power
with the celestial Power of the solar orb, and have accepted the sun, or one of its symbolic beasts or birds, as their
emblem. Witness the lion of the Great Mogul and the eagles of Cæsar and Napoleon.
Click to enlarge
From Maurice's Indian Antiquities.
This symbol, which appears over the Pylons or gates of many Egyptian palaces and temples, is emblematic of the
three persons of the Egyptian Trinity. The wings, the serpents, and the solar orb are the insignia of Ammon, Ra,
and Osiris.
p. 50
name implies, is also a solar deity. His fight with the Nubian lion, his battles with the Philistines, who
represent the Powers of Darkness, and his memorable feat of carrying off the gates of Gaza, all refer to
aspects of solar activity. Many of the ancient peoples had more than one solar deity; in fact, all of the
gods and goddesses were supposed to partake, in part at least, of the sun's effulgence.
The golden ornaments used by the priestcraft of the various world religions are again a subtle reference
to the solar energy, as are also the crowns of kings. In ancient times, crowns had a number of points
extending outward like the rays of the sun, but modern conventionalism has, in many cases, either
removed the points or else bent: them inward, gathered them together, and placed an orb or cross upon
the point where they meet. Many of the ancient prophets, philosophers, and dignitaries carried a scepter,
the upper end of which bore a representation of the solar globe surrounded by emanating rays. All the
kingdoms of earth were but copies of the kingdoms of Heaven, and the kingdoms of Heaven were best
symbolized by the solar kingdom, in which the sun was the supreme ruler, the planets his privy council,
and all Nature the subjects of his empire.
Many deities have been associated with the sun. The Greeks believed that Apollo, Bacchus, Dionysos,
Sabazius, Hercules, Jason, Ulysses, Zeus, Uranus, and Vulcan partook of either the visible or invisible
attributes of the sun. The Norwegians regarded Balder the Beautiful as a solar deity, and Odin is often
connected with the celestial orb, especially because of his one eye. Among the Egyptians, Osiris, Ra,
Anubis, Hermes, and even the mysterious Ammon himself had points of resemblance with the solar disc.
Isis was the mother of the sun, and even Typhon, the Destroyer, was supposed to be a form of solar
energy. The Egyptian sun myth finally centered around the person of a mysterious deity called Serapis.
The two Central American deities, Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl, while often associated with the winds,
were also undoubtedly solar gods.
In Masonry the sun has many symbols. One expression of the solar energy is Solomon, whose name
SOL-OM-ON is the name for the Supreme Light in three different languages. Hiram Abiff, the CHiram
(Hiram) of the Chaldees, is also a solar deity, and the story of his attack and murder by the Ruffians,
with its solar interpretation, will be found in the chapter The Hiramic Legend. A striking example of the
important part which the sun plays in the symbols and rituals of Freemasonry is given by George Oliver,
D.D., in his Dictionary of Symbolical Masonry, as follows:
"The sun rises in the east, and in the east is the place for the Worshipful Master. As the sun is the source
of all light and warmth, so should the Worshipful Master enliven and warm the brethren to their work.
Among the ancient Egyptians the sun was the symbol of divine providence." The hierophants of the
Mysteries were adorned with many. insignia emblematic of solar power. The sunbursts of gilt
embroidery on the back of the vestments of the Catholic priesthood signify that the priest is also an
emissary and representative of Sol Invictus.
For reasons which they doubtless considered sufficient, those who chronicled the life and acts of Jesus
found it advisable to metamorphose him into a solar deity. The historical Jesus was forgotten; nearly all
the salient incidents recorded in the four Gospels have their correlations in the movements, phases, or
functions of the heavenly bodies.
Among other allegories borrowed by Christianity from pagan antiquity is the story of the beautiful, blue-
eyed Sun God, with His golden hair falling upon His shoulders, robed from head to foot in spotless
white and carrying in His arms the Lamb of God, symbolic of the vernal equinox. This handsome youth
is a composite of Apollo, Osiris, Orpheus, Mithras, and Bacchus, for He has certain characteristics in
common with each of these pagan deities.
The philosophers of Greece and Egypt divided the life of the sun during the year into four parts;
therefore they symbolized the Solar Man by four different figures. When He was born in the winter
solstice, the Sun God was symbolized as a dependent infant who in some mysterious manner had
managed to escape the Powers of Darkness seeking to destroy Him while He was still in the cradle of
winter. The sun, being weak at this season of the year, had no golden rays (or locks of hair), but the
survival of the light through the darkness of winter was symbolized by one tiny hair which alone
adorned the head of the Celestial Child. (As the birth of the sun took place in Capricorn, it was often
represented as being suckled by a goat.)
At the vernal equinox, the sun had grown to be a beautiful youth. His golden hair hung in ringlets on his
shoulders and his light, as Schiller said, extended to all parts of infinity. At the summer solstice, the sun
became a strong man, heavily bearded, who, in the prime of maturity, symbolized the fact that Nature at
this period of the year is strongest and most fecund. At the autumnal equinox, the sun was pictured as an
aged man, shuffling along with bended back and whitened locks into the oblivion of winter darkness.
Thus, twelve months were assigned to the sun as the length of its life. During this period it circled the
twelve signs of the zodiac in a magnificent triumphal march. When fall came, it entered, like Samson,
into the house of Delilah (Virgo), where its rays were cut off and it lost its strength. In Masonry, the
cruel winter months are symbolized by three murderers who sought to destroy the God of Light and
The coming of the sun was hailed with joy; the time of its departure was viewed as a period to be set
aside for sorrow and unhappiness. This glorious, radiant orb of day, the true light "which lighteth every
man who cometh into the world," the supreme benefactor, who raised all things from the dead, who fed
the hungry multitudes, who stilled the tempest, who after dying rose again and restored all things to life--
this Supreme Spirit of humanitarianism and philanthropy is known to Christendom as Christ, the
Redeemer of worlds, the Only Begotten of The Father, the Word made Flesh, and the Hope of Glory.
The pagans set aside the 25th of December as the birthday of the Solar Man. They rejoiced, feasted,
gathered in processions, and made offerings in the temples. The darkness of winter was over and the
glorious son of light was returning to the Northern Hemisphere. With his last effort the old Sun God had
torn down the house of the Philistines (the Spirits of Darkness) and had cleared the way for the new sun
who was born that day from the depths of the earth amidst the symbolic beasts of the lower world.
Concerning this season of celebration, an anonymous Master of Arts of Balliol College, Oxford, in his
scholarly treatise, Mankind Their Origin and Destiny, says: "The Romans also had their solar festival,
and their games of the circus in honor of the birth of the god of day. It took place the eighth day before
the kalends of January--that is, on December 25. Servius, in his commentary on verse 720 of the seventh
book of the Æneid, in which Virgil speaks of the new sun, says that, properly speaking, the sun is new
on the 8th of the Kalends of January-that is, December 25. In the time of Leo I. (Leo, Serm. xxi., De
Nativ. Dom. p. 148), some of the Fathers of the Church said that 'what rendered the festival (of
Christmas) venerable was less the birth of Jesus Christ than the return, and, as they expressed it, the new
birth of the sun.' It was on the same day that the birth of the Invincible Sun (Natalis solis invicti), was
celebrated at Rome, as can be seen in the Roman calendars, published in the reign of Constantine and of
Julian (Hymn to the Sun, p. 155). This epithet 'Invictus' is the same as the Persians gave to this same
god, whom they worshipped by the name of Mithra, and whom they caused to be born in a grotto
(Justin. Dial. cum Trips. p. 305), just as he is represented as being born in a stable, under the name of
Christ, by the Christians."
Concerning the Catholic Feast of the Assumption and its parallel in astronomy, the same author adds:
"At the end of eight months, when the sun-god, having increased, traverses the eighth sign, he absorbs
the celestial Virgin in his fiery course, and she disappears in the midst of the luminous rays and the glory
of her son. This phenomenon, which takes place every year about the middle of August, gave rise to a
festival which still exists, and in which it is supposed that the mother of Christ, laying aside her earthly
life, is associated with the glory of her son, and is placed at his side in the heavens. The Roman calendar
of Columella (Col. 1. II. cap. ii. p. 429) marks the death or disappearance of Virgo at this period. The
sun, he says, passes into Virgo on the thirteenth day before the kalends of September. This is where the
Catholics place the Feast of the Assumption, or the reunion of the Virgin to her Son. This feast
Click to enlarge
From Lilly's Astrological Predictions for 1648, 1649, and 1650.)
The following description of this phenomenon appears in a letter written by Jeremiah Shakerley in Lancashire,
March 4th, 1648:--"On Monday the 28th of February last, there arose with the Sun two Parelii, on either side one;
their distance from him was by estimation, about ten degrees; they continued still of the same distance from the
Zenith, or height above the Horizon, that the Sun did; and from the parts averse to the Sun, there seemed to issue
out certain bright rays, not unlike those which the Sun sendeth from behind a cloud, but brighter. The parts of
these Parelii which were toward the Sun, were of a mixt colour, wherein green and red were most predominant. A
little above them was a thin rainbow, scarcely discernible, of a bright colour, with the concave towards the Sun,
and the ends thereof seeming to touch the Parelii: Above that, in a clear diaphanous ayr, [air], appeared another
conspicuous Rainbow, beautified with divers colours; it was as neer as I could discern to the Zenith; it seemed of
something a lesser radius than the other, they being back to back, yet a pretty way between. At or neer the
apparent time of the full Moon, they vanished, leaving abundance of terror and amazement in those that saw
them. (See William Lilly.)
p. 51
was formerly called the feast of the Passage of the Virgin (Beausobre, tome i. p. 350); and in the Library
of the Fathers (Bibl. Part. vol. II. part ii. p. 212) we have an account of the Passage of the Blessed
Virgin. The ancient Greeks and Romans fix the assumption of Astraea, who is also this same Virgin, on
that day."
This Virgin mother, giving birth to the Sun God which Christianity has so faithfully preserved, is a
reminder of the inscription concerning her Egyptian prototype, Isis, which appeared on the Temple of
Sais: "The fruit which I have brought forth is the Sun." While the Virgin was associated with the moon
by the early pagans, there is no doubt that they also understood her position as a constellation in the
heavens, for nearly all the peoples of antiquity credit her as being the mother of the sun, and they
realized that although the moon could not occupy that position, the sign of Virgo could, and did, give
birth to the sun out of her side on the 25th day of December. Albertus Magnus states, "We know that the
sign of the Celestial Virgin rose over the Horizon at the moment at which we fix the birth of our Lord
Jesus Christ.
Among certain of the Arabian and Persian astronomers the three stars forming the sword belt of Orion
were called the Magi who came to pay homage to the young Sun God. The author of Mankind--Their
Origin and Destiny contributes the following additional information: "In Cancer, which had risen to the
meridian at midnight, is the constellation of the Stable and of the Ass. The ancients called it Præsepe
Jovis. In the north the stars of the Bear are seen, called by the Arabians Martha and Mary, and also the
coffin of Lazarus. "Thus the esotericism of pagandom was embodied in Christianity, although its keys
are lost. The Christian church blindly follows ancient customs, and when asked for a reason gives
superficial and unsatisfactory explanations, either forgetting or ignoring the indisputable fact that each
religion is based upon the secret doctrines of its predecessor.
The solar orb, like the nature of man, was divided by the ancient sages into three separate bodies.
According to the mystics, there are three suns in each solar system, analogous to the three centers of life
in each individual constitution. These are called three lights: the spiritual sun, the intellectual or soular
sun, and the material sun (now symbolized in Freemasonry by three candles). The spiritual sun
manifests the power of God the Father; the soular sun radiates the life of God the Son; and the material
sun is the vehicle of manifestation for God the Holy Spirit. Man's nature was divided by the mystics into
three distinct parts: spirit, soul, and body. His physical body was unfolded and vitalized by the material
sun; his spiritual nature was illuminated by the spiritual sun; and his intellectual nature was redeemed by
the true light of grace--the soular sun. The alignment of these three globes in the heavens was one
explanation offered for the peculiar fact that the orbits of the planets are not circular but elliptical.
The pagan priests always considered the solar system as a Grand Man, and drew their analogy of these
three centers of activity from the three main centers of life in the human body: the brain, the heart, and
the generative system. The Transfiguration of Jesus describes three tabernacles, the largest being in the
center (the heart), and a smaller one on either side (the brain and the generative system). It is possible
that the philosophical hypothesis of the existence of the three suns is based upon a peculiar natural
phenomenon which has occurred many times in history. In the fifty- first year after Christ three suns
were seen at once in the sky and also in the sixty-sixth year. In the sixty-ninth year, two suns were seen
together. According to William Lilly, between the years 1156 and 1648 twenty similar occurrences were
Recognizing the sun as the supreme benefactor of the material world, Hermetists believed that there was
a spiritual sun which ministered to the needs of the invisible and divine part of Nature--human and
universal. Anent this subject, the great Paracelsus wrote: "There is an earthly sun, which is the cause of
all heat, and all who are able to see may see the sun; and those who are blind and cannot see him may
feel his heat. There is an Eternal Sun, which is the source of all wisdom, and those whose spiritual
senses have awakened to life will see that sun and be conscious of His existence; but those who have not
attained spiritual consciousness may yet feel His power by an inner faculty which is called Intuition."
Certain Rosicrucian scholars have given special appellations to these three phases of the sun: the
spiritual sun they called Vulcan; the soular and intellectual sun, Christ and Lucifer respectively; and the
material sun, the Jewish Demiurgus Jehovah. Lucifer here represents the intellectual mind without the
illumination of the spiritual mind; therefore it is "the false light. " The false light is finally overcome and
redeemed by the true light of the soul, called the Second Logos or Christ. The secret processes by which
the Luciferian intellect is transmuted into the Christly intellect constitute one of the great secrets of
alchemy, and are symbolized by the process of transmuting base metals into gold.
In the rare treatise The Secret Symbols of The Rosicrucians, Franz Hartmann defines the sun
alchemically as: "The symbol of Wisdom. The Centre of Power or Heart of things. The Sun is a centre
of energy and a storehouse of power. Each living being contains within itself a centre of life, which may
grow to be a Sun. In the heart of the regenerated, the divine power, stimulated by the Light of the Logos,
grows into a Sun which illuminates his mind." In a note, the same author amplifies his description by
adding: "The terrestrial sun is the image or reflection of the invisible celestial sun; the former is in the
realm of Spirit what the latter is in the realm of Matter; but the latter receives its power from the former."
In the majority of cases, the religions of antiquity agree that the material visible sun was a reflector
rather than a source of power. The sun was sometimes represented as a shield carried on the arm of the
Sun God, as for example, Frey, the Scandinavian Solar Deity. This sun reflected the light of the invisible
spiritual sun, which was the true source of life, light, and truth. The physical nature of the universe is
receptive; it is a realm of effects. The invisible causes of these effects belong to the spiritual world.
Hence, the spiritual world is the sphere of causation; the material world is the sphere of effects; while
the intellectual--or soul--world is the sphere of mediation. Thus Christ, the personified higher intellect
and soul nature, is called "the Mediator" who, by virtue of His position and power, says: "No man
cometh to the Father, but by me."
What the sun is to the solar system, the spirit is to the bodies of man; for his natures, organs, and
functions are as planets surrounding the central life (or sun) and living upon its emanations. The solar
power in man is divided into three parts, which are termed the threefold human spirit of man. All three
of these spiritual natures are said to be radiant and transcendent; united, they form the Divinity in man.
Man's threefold lower nature--consisting of his physical organism, his emotional nature, and his mental
faculties--reflects the light of his threefold Divinity and bears witness of It in the physical world. Man's
three bodies are symbolized by an upright triangle; his threefold spiritual nature by an inverted triangle.
These two triangles, when united in the form of a six-pointed star, were called by the Jews "the Star of
David," "the Signet of Solomon," and are more commonly known today as "the Star of Zion." These
triangles symbolize the spiritual and material universes linked together in the constitution of the human
creature, who partakes of both Nature and Divinity. Man's animal nature partakes of the earth; his divine
nature of the heavens; his human nature of the mediator.
The Rosicrucians and the Illuminati, describing the angels, archangels, and other celestial creatures,
declared that they resembled small suns, being centers of radiant energy surrounded by streamers of
Vrilic force. From these outpouring streamers of force is derived the popular belief that angels have
wings. These wings are corona-like fans of light, by means of which the celestial creatures propel
themselves through the subtle essences of the superphysical worlds.
True mystics are unanimous in their denial of the theory that the angels and archangels are human in
form, as so often pictured. A human figure would be utterly useless in the ethereal substances through
which they manifest. Science has long debated the probability of the other planers being inhabited.
Objections to the idea are based upon the argument that creatures with human organisms could nor
possibly exist in the environments of Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune. This argument fails to take
into account Nature's universal law of adjustment to environment. The ancients asserted that life
originated from the sun, and that everything when bathed in the light of the solar orb was capable of
absorbing the solar life elements and later radiating them as flora and fauna. One philosophical
Click to enlarge
From Moor's Hindu Pantheon.
Moor describes this figure as follows: "The cast is nine inches in height, representing the glorious god of day-
holding the attributes of VISHNU, seated on a seven-headed serpent; his car drawn by a seven-headed horse,
driven by the legless ARUN, a personification of the dawn, or AURORA." (See Moor's Hindu Pantheon.)
p. 52
concept regarded the sun as a parent and the planers as embryos still connected to the solar body by
means of ethereal umbilical cords which served as channels to convey life and nourishment to the
Some secret orders have taught that the sun was inhabited by a race of creatures with bodies composed
of a radiant, spiritual ether not unlike in its constituency the actual glowing ball of the sun itself. The
solar heat had no harmful effect upon them, because their organisms were sufficiently refined and
sensitized to harmonize with the sun's tremendous vibratory rate. These creatures resemble miniature
suns, being a little larger than a dinner plate in size, although some of the more powerful are
considerably larger. Their color is the golden white light of the sun, and from them emanate four
streamers of Vril. These streamers are often of great length and are in constant motion. A peculiar
palpitation is to be noted throughout the structure of the globe and is communicated in the form of
ripples to the emanating streamers. The greatest and most luminous of these spheres is the Archangel
Michael; and the entire order of solar life, which resemble him and dwell upon the sun, are called by
modern Christians "the archangels" or "the spirits of the light.
Gold is the metal of the sun and has been considered by many as crystallized sunlight. When gold is
mentioned in alchemical tracts, it may be either the metal itself or the celestial orb which is the source,
or spirit, of gold. Sulphur because of its fiery nature was also associated with the sun.
As gold was the symbol of spirit and the base metals represented man's lower nature, certain alchemists
were called "miners" and were pictured with picks and shovels digging into the earth in search of the
precious metal--those finer traits of character buried in the earthiness of materiality and ignorance. The
diamond concealed in the heart of the black carbon illustrated the same principle. The Illuminati used a
pearl hidden in the shell of an oyster at the bottom of the sea to signify spiritual powers. Thus the seeker
after truth became a pearl-fisher: he descended into the sea of material illusion in search of
understanding, termed by the initiates "the Pearl of Great Price."
When the alchemists stated that every animate and inanimate thing in the universe contained the seeds of
gold, they meant that even the grains of sand possessed a spiritual nature, for gold was the spirit of all
things. Concerning these seeds of spiritual gold the following Rosicrucian axiom is significant: "A seed
is useless and impotent unless it is put in its appropriate matrix." Franz Hartmann comments on this
axiom with these illuminating words: "A soul cannot develop and progress without an appropriate body,
because it is the physical body that furnishes the material for its development." (See In the Pronaos of
the Temple of Wisdom.)
The purpose of alchemy was not to make something out of nothing but rather to fertilize and nurture the
seed which was already present. Its processes did nor actually create gold but rather made the ever-
present seed of gold grow and flourish. Everything which exists has a spirit--the seed of Divinity within
itself--and regeneration is not the process of attempting to place something where it previously had not
existed. Regeneration actually means the unfoldment of the omnipresent Divinity in man, that this
Divinity may shine forth as a sun and illumine all with whom it comes in contact.
Apuleius said when describing his initiation (vide ante): "At midnight I saw the sun shining with a
splendid light." The midnight sun was also part of the mystery of alchemy. It symbolized the spirit in
man shining through the darkness of his human organisms. It also referred to the spiritual sun in the
solar system, which the mystic could see as well at midnight as at high noon, the material earth bring
powerless to obstruct the rays of this Divine orb. The mysterious lights which illuminated the temples of
the Egyptian Mysteries during the nocturnal hours were said by some to he reflections of the spiritual
sun gathered by the magical powers of the priests. The weird light seen ten miles below the surface of
the earth by I-AM-THE-MAN in that remarkable Masonic allegory Etidorhpa (Aphrodite spelt
backward) may well refer to the mysterious midnight sun of the ancient rites.
Primitive conceptions concerning the warfare between the principles of Good and Evil were often based
upon the alternations of day and night. During the Middle Ages, the practices of black magic were
confined to the nocturnal hours; and those who served the Spirit of Evil were called black magicians,
while those who served the Spirit of Good were called white magicians. Black and white were
associated respectively with night and day, and the endless conflict of light and shadow is alluded to
many times in the mythologies of various peoples.
The Egyptian Demon, Typhon, was symbolized as part crocodile and part: hog because these animals
are gross and earthy in both appearance and temperament. Since the world began, living things have
feared the darkness; those few creatures who use it as a shield for their maneuvers were usually
connected with the Spirit of Evil. Consequently cats, bats, toads, and owls are associated with
witchcraft. In certain parts of Europe it is still believed that at night black magicians assume the bodies
of wolves and roam around destroying. From this notion originated the stories of the werewolves.
Serpents, because they lived in the earth, were associated with the Spirit of Darkness. As the battle
between Good and Evil centers around the use of the generative forces of Nature, winged serpents
represent the regeneration of the animal nature of man or those Great Ones in whom this regeneration is
complete. Among the Egyptians the sun's rays are often shown ending in human hands. Masons will find
a connection between these hands and the well-known Paw of the Lion which raises all things to life
with its grip.
The theory so long held of three primary and four secondary colors is purely exoteric, for since the
earliest periods it has been known that there are seven, and not three, primary colors, the human eye
being capable of estimating only three of them. Thus, although green can be made by combining blue
and yellow, there is also a true or primary green which is not a compound. This can he proved by
breaking up the spectrum with a prism. Helmholtz found that the so-called secondary colors of the
spectrum could not be broken up into their supposed primary colors. Thus the orange of the spectrum, if
passed through a second prism, does not break up into red and yellow but remains orange.
Consciousness, intelligence, and force are fittingly symbolized by the colors blue, yellow, and red. The
therapeutic effects of the colors, moreover, are in harmony with this concept, for blue is a fine, soothing,
electrical color; yellow, a vitalizing and refining color; and red, an agitating and heat-giving color. It has
also been demonstrated that minerals and plants affect the human constitution according to their colors.
Thus a yellow flower generally yields a medicine that affects the constitution in a manner similar to
yellow light or the musical tone mi. An orange flower will influence in a manner similar to orange light
and, being one of the so-called secondary colors, corresponds either to the tone re or to the chord of do
and mi.
The ancients conceived the spirit of man to correspond with the color blue, the mind with yellow, and
the body with red. Heaven is therefore blue, earth yellow, and hell--or the underworld--red. The fiery
condition of the inferno merely symbolizes the nature of the sphere or plane of force of which it is
composed. In the Greek Mysteries the irrational sphere was always considered as red, for it represented
that condition in which the consciousness is enslaved by the lusts and passions of the lower nature. In
India certain of the gods--usually attributes of Vishnu--are depicted with blue skin to signify their divine
and supermundane constitution. According to esoteric philosophy, blue is the true and sacred color of
the sun. The apparent orange-yellow shade of this orb is the result of its rays being immersed in the
substances of the illusionary world.
In the original symbolism of the Christian Church, colors were of first importance and their use was
regulated according to carefully prepared rules. Since the Middle Ages, however, the carelessness with
which colors have been employed has resulted in the loss of their deeper emblematic meanings. In its
primary aspect, white or silver signified life, purity, innocence, joy, and light; red, the suffering and
death of Christ and His saints, and also divine love, blood, and warfare or suffering; blue, the heavenly
sphere and the states of godliness and contemplation; yellow or gold, glory, fruitfulness, and goodness;
green, fecundity, youthfulness, and prosperity; violet, humility, deep affection, and sorrow; black, death,
destruction, and humiliation. In early church art the colors of robes and ornaments also revealed whether
a saint had been martyred, as well as the character of the work that he had done to deserve canonization.
In addition to the colors of the spectrum there are a vast number of vibratory color waves, some too low
and others too high to be registered by the human optical apparatus. It is appalling to contemplate man's
colossal ignorance concerning these vistas of abstract space. As in the past man explored unknown
continents, so in the future, armed with curious implements fashioned for the purpose, he will explore
these little known fastnesses of light, color, sound, and consciousness.
Click to enlarge
From Montfaucon's Antiquities.
The corona of the sun is here shown in the form of a lion's mane. This is a subtle reminder of the fact that at one
time the summer solstice took place in the sign of Leo, the Celestial Lion.
Next: The Zodiac and Its Signs
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 53
The Zodiac and Its Signs
IT is difficult for this age to estimate correctly the profound effect produced upon the religions,
philosophies, and sciences of antiquity by the study of the planets, luminaries, and constellations. Not
without adequate reason were the Magi of Persia called the Star Gazers. The Egyptians were honored
with a special appellation because of their proficiency in computing the power and motion of the
heavenly bodies and their effect upon the destinies of nations and individuals. Ruins of primitive
astronomical observatories have been discovered in all parts of the world, although in many cases
modern archæologists are unaware of the true purpose for which these structures were erected. While the
telescope was unknown to ancient astronomers, they made many remarkable calculations with
instruments cut from blocks of granite or pounded from sheets of brass and cop per. In India such
instruments are still in use, and they posses a high degree of accuracy. In Jaipur, Rajputana, India, an
observatory consisting largely of immense stone sundials is still in operation. The famous Chinese
observatory on the wall of Peking consists of immense bronze instruments, including a telescope in the
form of a hollow tube without lenses.
The pagans looked upon the stars as living things, capable of influencing the destinies of individuals,
nations, and races. That the early Jewish patriarchs believed that the celestial bodies participated in the
affairs of men is evident to any student of Biblical literature, as, for example, in the Book of Judges:
"They fought from heaven, even the stars in their courses fought against Sisera." The Chaldeans,
Phœnicians, Egyptians, Persians, Hindus, and Chinese all had zodiacs that were much alike in general
character, and different authorities have credited each of these nations with being the cradle of astrology
and astronomy. The Central and North American Indians also had an understanding of the zodiac, but
the patterns and numbers of the signs differed in many details from those of the Eastern Hemisphere.
The word zodiac is derived from the Greek ζωδιακ•ς (zodiakos), which means "a circle of animals," or,
as some believe, "little animals." It is the name given by the old pagan astronomers to a band of fixed
stars about sixteen degrees wide, apparently encircling the earth. Robert Hewitt Brown, 32°, states that
the Greek word zodiakos comes from zo-on, meaning "an animal." He adds: "This latter word is
compounded directly from the primitive Egyptian radicals, zo, life, and on, a being."
The Greeks, and later other peoples influenced by their culture, divided the band of the zodiac into
twelve sections, each being sixteen degrees in width and thirty degrees in length. These divisions were
called the Houses of the Zodiac. The sun during its annual pilgrimage passed through each of these in
turn, Imaginary creatures were traced in the Star groups bounded by these rectangles; and because most
of them were animal--or part animal--in form, they later became known as the Constellations, or Signs,
of the Zodiac.
There is a popular theory concerning the origin of the zodiacal creatures to the effect that they were
products of the imagination of shepherds, who, watching their flocks at night, occupied their minds by
tracing the forms of animals and birds in the heavens. This theory is untenable, unless the "shepherds"
be regarded as the shepherd priests of antiquity. It is unlikely that the zodiacal signs were derived from
the star groups which they now represent. It is far more probable that the creatures assigned to the
twelve houses are symbolic of the qualities and intensity of the sun's power while it occupies different
parts of the zodiacal belt.
On this subject Richard Payne Knight writes: "The emblematical meaning, which certain animals were
employed to signify, was only some particular property generalized; and, therefore, might easily be
invented or discovered by the natural operation of the mind: but the collections of stars, named after
certain animals, have no resemblance whatever to those animals; which are therefore merely signs of
convention adopted to distinguish certain portions of the heavens, which were probably consecrated to
those particular personified attributes, which they respectively represented." (The Symbolical Language
of Ancient Art and Mythology.)
Some authorities are of the opinion that the zodiac was originally divided into ten (instead of twelve)
houses, or "solar mansions." In early times there were two separate standards--one solar and the other
lunar--used for the measurement of the months, years, and seasons. The solar year was composed of ten
months of thirty-six days each, and five days sacred to the gods. The lunar year consisted of thirteen
months of twenty-eight days each, with one day left over. The solar zodiac at that time consisted often
houses of thirty-six degrees each.
The first six signs of the zodiac of twelve signs were regarded as benevolent, because the sun occupied
them while traversing the Northern Hemisphere. The 6,000 years during which, according to the
Persians, Ahura-Mazda ruled His universe in harmony and peace, were symbolic of these six signs. The
second six were considered malevolent, because while the sun was traveling the Southern Hemisphere it
was winter with the Greeks, Egyptians, and Persians. Therefore these six months symbolic of the 6,000
years of misery and suffering caused by the evil genius of the Persians, Ahriman, who sought to
overthrow the power of Ahura-Mazda.
Those who hold the opinion that before its revision by the Greeks the zodiac consisted of only ten signs
adduce evidence to show that Libra (the Scales) was inserted into the zodiac by dividing the
constellation of Virgo Scorpio (at that time one sign) into two parts, thus establishing "the balance" at
the point of equilibrium between the ascending northern and the descending southern signs. (See The
Rosicrucians, Their Rites and Mysteries, by Hargrave Jennings.) On this subject Isaac Myer states: "We
think that the Zodiacal constellations were first ten and represented an immense androgenic man or
deity; subsequently this was changed, resulting in Scorpio and Virgo and making eleven; after this from
Scorpio, Libra, the Balance, was taken, making the present twelve." (The Qabbalah.)
Each year the sun passes entirely around the zodiac and returns to the point from which it started--the
vernal equinox--and each year it falls just a little short of making the complete circle of the heavens in
the allotted period of time. As a result, it crosses the equator just a little behind the spot in the zodiacal
sign where it crossed the previous year. Each sign of the zodiac consists of thirty degrees, and as the sun
loses about one degree every seventy two years, it regresses through one entire constellation (or sign) in
approximately 2,160 years, and through the entire zodiac in about [paragraph continues]
Click to enlarge
From Kircher's Œdipus Ægyptiacus.
The ornamental border contains groups of names of animal, mineral, and vegetable substances, Their relationship
to corresponding parts of the human body is shown by the dotted lines. The words in capital letters on the dotted
lines indicate to what corporeal member, organ, or disease, the herb or other substance is related. The favorable
positions in relation to the time of year are shown by the signs of the zodiac, each house of which is divided by
crosses into its three decans. This influence is further emphasized by the series of planetary signs placed on either
side of the figure.
Click to enlarge
The plane of the zodiac intersects the celestial equator at an angle of approximately 23° 28'. The two points of
intersection (A and B) are called the equinoxes.
p. 54
25,920 years. (Authorities disagree concerning these figures.) This retrograde motion is called the
precession of the equinoxes. This means that in the course of about 25,920 years, which constitute one
Great Solar or Platonic Year, each one of the twelve constellations occupies a position at the vernal
equinox for nearly 2,160 years, then gives place to the previous sign.
Among the ancients the sun was always symbolized by the figure and nature of the constellation through
which it passed at the vernal equinox. For nearly the past 2,000 years the sun has crossed the equator at
the vernal equinox in the constellation of Pisces (the Two Fishes). For the 2,160 years before that it
crossed through the constellation of Aries (the Ram). Prior to that the vernal equinox was in the sign of
Taurus (the Bull). It is probable that the form of the bull and the bull's proclivities were assigned to this
constellation because the bull was used by the ancients to plow the fields, and the season set aside for
plowing and furrowing corresponded to the time at which the sun reached the segment of the heavens
named Taurus.
Albert Pike describes the reverence which the Persians felt for this sign and the method of astrological
symbolism in vogue among them, thus: "In Zoroaster's cave of initiation, the Sun and Planets were
represented, overhead, in gems and gold, as was also the Zodiac. The Sun appeared, emerging from the
back of Taurus. " In the constellation of the Bull are also to be found the "Seven Sisters"--the sacred
Pleiades--famous to Freemasonry as the Seven Stars at the upper end of the Sacred Ladder.
In ancient Egypt it was during this period--when the vernal equinox was in the sign of Taurus--that the
Bull, Apis, was sacred to the Sun God, who was worshiped through the animal equivalent of the celestial
sign which he had impregnated with his presence at the time of its crossing into the Northern
Hemisphere. This is the meaning of an ancient saying that the celestial Bull "broke the egg of the year
with his horns."
Sampson Arnold Mackey, in his Mythological Astronomy of the Ancients Demonstrated, makes note of
two very interesting points concerning the bull in Egyptian symbolism. Mr. Mackey is of the opinion
that the motion of the earth that we know as the alternation of the poles has resulted in a great change of
relative position of the equator and the zodiacal band. He believes that originally the band of the zodiac
was at right angles to the equator, with the sign of Cancer opposite the north pole and the sign of
Capricorn opposite the south pole. It is possible that the Orphic symbol of the serpent twisted around the
egg attempts to show the motion of the sun in relation to the earth under such conditions. Mr. Mackey
advances the Labyrinth of Crete, the name Abraxas, and the magic formula, abracadabra, among other
things, to substantiate his theory. Concerning abracadabra he states:
"But the slow progressive disappearance of the Bull is most happily commemorated in the vanishing
series of letters so emphatically expressive of the great astronomical fact. For ABRACADABRA is The
Bull, the only Bull. The ancient sentence split into its component parts stands thus: Ab'r-achad-ab'ra, i.
e., Ab'r, the Bull; achad, the only, &c.--Achad is one of the names of the Sun, given him in consequence
of his Shining ALONE,--he is the ONLY Star to be seen when he is seen--the remaining ab'ra, makes
the whole to be, The Bull, the only Bull; while the repetition of the name omitting a letter, till all is gone,
is the most simple, yet the most satisfactory method that could have been devised to preserve the
memory of the fact; and the name of Sorapis, or Serapis, given to the Bull at the above ceremony puts it
beyond all doubt. * * * This word (Abracadabra) disappears in eleven decreasing stages; as in the figure.
And what is very remarkable, a body with three heads is folded up by a Serpent with eleven Coils, and
placed by Sorapis: and the eleven Volves of the Serpent form a triangle similar to that formed by the
ELEVEN diminishing lines of the abracadabra."
Nearly every religion of the world shows traces of astrological influence. The Old Testament of the
Jews, its writings overshadowed by Egyptian culture, is a mass of astrological and astronomical
allegories. Nearly all the mythology of Greece and Rome may be traced in star groups. Some writers are
of the opinion that the original twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet were derived from groups of
stars, and that the starry handwriting on the wall of the heavens referred to words spelt out, with fixed
stars for consonants, and the planets, or luminaries, for vowels. These, coming into ever-different
combinations, spelt words which, when properly read, foretold future events.
As the zodiacal band marks the pathway of the sun through the constellations, it results in the
phenomena of the seasons. The ancient systems of measuring the year were based upon the equinoxes
and the solstices. The year always began with the vernal equinox, celebrated March 21 with rejoicing to
mark the moment when the sun crossed the equator northward up the zodiacal arc. The summer solstice
was celebrated when the sun reached its most northerly position, and the day appointed was June 21.
After that time the sun began to descend toward the equator, which it recrossed southbound at the
autumnal equinox, September 21. The sun reached its most southerly position at the winter solstice,
December 21.
Four of the signs of the zodiac have been permanently dedicated to the equinoxes and the solstices; and,
while the signs no longer correspond with the ancient constellations to which they were assigned, and
from which they secured their names, they are accepted by modern astronomers as a basis of calculation.
The vernal equinox is therefore said to occur in the constellation of Aries (the Ram). It is fitting that of
all beasts a Ram should be placed at the head of the heavenly flock forming the zodiacal band. Centuries
before the Christian Era, the pagans revered this constellation. Godfrey Higgins states: "This
constellation was called the 'Lamb of God.' He was also called the 'Savior,' and was said to save
mankind from their sins. He was always honored with the appellation of 'Dominus' or 'Lord.' He was
called the 'Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.' The devotees addressing him in their
litany, constantly repeated the words, 'O Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world, have mercy
upon us. Grant us Thy peace."' Therefore, the Lamb of God is a title given to the sun, who is said to be
reborn every year in the Northern Hemisphere in the sign of the Ram, although, due to the existing
discrepancy between the signs of the zodiac and the actual star groups, it actually rises in the sign of
The summer solstice is regarded as occurring in Cancer (the Crab), which the Egyptians called the
scarab--a beetle of the family Lamellicornes, the head of the insect kingdom, and sacred to the
Egyptians as the symbol of Eternal Life. It is evident that the constellation of the Crab is represented by
this peculiar creature because the sun, after passing through this house, proceeds to walk backwards, or
descend the zodiacal arc. Cancer is the symbol of generation, for it is the house of the Moon, the great
Mother of all things and the patroness of the life forces of Nature. Diana, the moon goddess of the
Greeks, is called the Mother of the World. Concerning the worship of the feminine or maternal principle,
Richard Payne Knight writes:
"By attracting or heaving the waters of the ocean, she naturally appeared to be the sovereign of
humidity; and by seeming to operate so powerfully upon the constitutions of women, she equally
appeared to be the patroness and regulatress of nutrition and passive generation: whence she is said to
have received her nymphs, or subordinate personifications, from the ocean; and is often represented by
the symbol of the sea crab, an animal that has the property of spontaneously detaching from its own
body any limb that has been hurt or mutilated, and reproducing another in its place." (The Symbolical
Language of Ancient Art and Mythology.) This water sign, being symbolic of the maternal principle of
Nature, and recognized by the pagans as the origin of all life, was a natural and consistent domicile of
the moon.
The autumnal equinox apparently occurs in the constellation of Libra (the Balances). The scales tipped
and the solar globe began its pilgrimage toward the house of winter. The constellation of the Scales was
placed in the zodiac to symbolize the power of choice, by means of which man may weigh one problem
against another. Millions of years ago, when the human race was in the making, man was like the angels,
who knew neither good nor evil. He fell into the state of the knowledge of good and evil when the gods
gave him the seed for the mental nature. From man's mental reactions to his environments he distills the
product of experience, which then aids him to regain his lost position plus an individualized intelligence.
Paracelsus said: "The body comes from the elements, the soul from the stars, and the spirit from God.
All that the intellect can conceive of comes from the stars [the spirits of the stars, rather than the material
The constellation of Capricorn, in which the winter solstice theoretically takes place, was called The
House of Death, for in winter all life in the Northern Hemisphere is at its lowest ebb. Capricorn is a
composite creature, with the head and upper body of a goat and the tail of a fish. In this constellation the
sun is least powerful
Click to enlarge
From Schotus' Margarita Philosophica.
The pagans believed that the zodiac formed the body of the Grand Man of the Universe. This body, which they
called the Macrocosm (the Great World), was divided into twelve major parts, one of which was under the
control of the celestial powers reposing in each of the zodiacal constellations. Believing that the entire universal
system was epitomized in man's body, which they called the Microcosm (the Little World), they evolved that
now familiar figure of "the cut-up man in the almanac" by allotting a sign of the zodiac to each of twelve major
parts of the human body.
p. 55
in the Northern Hemisphere, and after passing through this constellation it immediately begins to
increase. Hence the Greeks said that Jupiter (a name of the Sun God) was suckled by a goat. A new and
different sidelight on zodiacal symbolism is supplied by John Cole, in A Treatise on the Circular Zodiac
of Tentyra, in Egypt: "The symbol therefore of the Goat rising from the body of a fish [Capricorn],
represents with the greatest propriety the mountainous buildings of Babylon rising out of its low and
marshy situation; the two horns of the Goat being emblematical of the two towns, Nineveh and Babylon,
the former built on the Tigris, the latter on the Euphrates; but both subjected to one sovereignty."
The period of 2,160 years required for the regression of the sun through one of the zodiacal
constellations is often termed an age. According to this system, the age secured its name from the sign
through which the sun passes year after year as it crosses the equator at the vernal equinox. From this
arrangement are derived the terms The Taurian Age, The Aryan Age, The Piscean Age, and The
Aquarian Age. During these periods, or ages, religious worship takes the form of the appropriate
celestial sign--that which the sun is said to assume as a personality in the same manner that a spirit
assumes a body. These twelve signs are the jewels of his breastplate and his light shines forth from
them, one after the other.
From a consideration of this system, it is readily understood why certain religious symbols were adopted
during different ages of the earth's history; for during the 2,160 years the sun was in the constellation of
Taurus, it is said that the Solar Deity assumed the body of Apis, and the Bull became sacred to Osiris.
(For details concerning the astrological ages as related to Biblical symbolism, see The Message of the
Stars by Max and Augusta Foss Heindel.) During the Aryan Age the Lamb was held sacred and the
priests were called shepherds. Sheep and goats were sacrificed upon the altars, and a scapegoat was
appointed to bear the sins of Israel.
During the Age of Pisces, the Fish was the symbol of divinity and the Sun God fed the multitude with
two small fishes. The frontispiece of Inman's Ancient Faiths shows the goddess Isis with a fish on her
head; and the Indian Savior God, Christna, in one of his incarnations was cast from the mouth of a fish.
Not only is Jesus often referred to as the Fisher of Men, but as John P. Lundy writes: "The word Fish is
an abbreviation of this whole title, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, and Cross; or as St. Augustine
expresses it, 'If you join together the initial letters of the five Greek words, •ησο•ς Χριστος Θεου Υι•σ
Σωτ•ρ, which mean Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, they will make ΙΧΘΥΣ, Fish, in which word
Christ is mystically understood, because He was able to live in the abyss of this mortality as in the depth
of waters, that is, without sin.'" (Monumental Christianity.) Many Christians observe Friday, which is
sacred to the Virgin (Venus), upon which day they shall eat fish and not meat. The sign of the fish was
one of the earliest symbols of Christianity; and when drawn upon the sand, it informed one Christian
that another of the same faith was near.
Aquarius is called the Sign of the Water Bearer, or the man with a jug of water on his shoulder
mentioned in the New Testament. This is sometimes shown as an angelic figure, supposedly
androgynous, either pouring water from an urn or carrying the vessel upon its shoulder. Among Oriental
peoples, a water vessel alone is often used. Edward Upham, in his History and Doctrine of Budhism,
describes Aquarius as being "in the shape of a pot and of a color between blue and yellow; this Sign is
the single house of Saturn."
When Herschel discovered the planet Uranus (sometimes called by the name of its discoverer), the
second half of the sign of Aquarius was allotted to this added member of the planetary family. The water
pouring from the urn of Aquarius under the name of "the waters of eternal life" appears many times in
symbolism. So it is with all the signs. Thus the sun in its path controls whatever form of worship man
offers to the Supreme Deity.
There are two distinct systems of astrological philosophy. One of them, the Ptolemaic, is geocentric: the
earth is considered the center of the solar system, around which the sun, moon, and planets revolve.
Astronomically, the geocentric system is incorrect; but for thousands of years it has proved its accuracy
when applied to the material nature of earthly things. A careful consideration of the writings of the great
occultists and a study of their diagrams reveal the fact that many of them were acquainted with another
method of arranging the heavenly bodies.
The other system of astrological philosophy is called the heliocentric. This posits the sun in the center of
the solar system, where it naturally belongs, with the planets and their moons revolving about it. The
great difficulty, however, with the heliocentric system is that, being comparatively new, there has not
been sufficient time to experiment successfully and catalogue the effects of its various aspects and
relationships. Geocentric astrology, as its name implies, is confined to the earthy side of nature, while
heliocentric astrology may be used to analyze the higher intellectual and spiritual faculties of man.
The important point to be remembered is that when the sun was said to be in a certain sign of the zodiac,
the ancients really meant that the sun occupied the opposite sign and cast its long ray into the house in
which they enthroned it. Therefore, when it is said that the sun is in Taurus, it means (astronomically)
that the sun is in the sign opposite to Taurus, which is Scorpio. This resulted in two distinct schools of
philosophy: one geocentric and exoteric, the other heliocentric and esoteric. While the ignorant
multitudes worshiped the house of the sun's reflection, which in the case described would be the Bull,
the wise revered the house of the sun's actual dwelling, which would be the Scorpion, or the Serpent, the
symbol of the concealed spiritual mystery. This sign has three different symbols. The most common is
that of a Scorpion, who was called by the ancients the backbiter, being the symbol of deceit and
perversion; the second (and less common) form of the sign is a Serpent, often used by the ancients to
symbolize wisdom.
Probably the rarest form of Scorpio is that of an Eagle. The arrangement of the stars of the constellation
bears as much resemblance to a flying bird as to a scorpion. Scorpio, being the sign of occult initiation,
the flying eagle--the king of birds--represents the highest and most spiritual type of Scorpio, in which it
transcends the venomous insect of the earth. As Scorpio and Taurus are opposite each other in the
zodiac, their symbolism is often closely intermingled. The Hon. E. M. Plunket, in Ancient Calendars
and Constellations, says: "The Scorpion (the constellation Scorpio of the Zodiac opposed to Taurus)
joins with Mithras in his attack upon the Bull, and always the genii of the spring and autumn equinoxes
are present in joyous and mournful attitudes."
The Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, who knew the sun as a Bull, called the zodiac a
series of furrows, through which the great celestial Ox dragged the plow of the sun. Hence the populace
offered up sacrifice and led through the streets magnificent steers, bedecked with flowers and
surrounded with priests, dancing girls of the temple, and musicians. The philosophic elect did not
participate in these idolatrous ceremonials, but advocated them as most suitable for the types of mind
composing the mass of the population. These few possessed a far deeper understanding, as the Serpent
of Scorpio upon their foreheads--the Uræus--bore witness.
The sun is often symbolized with its rays in the form of a shaggy mane. Concerning the Masonic
significance of Leo, Robert Hewitt Brown, 32°, has written: "On the 21st of June, when the sun arrives
at the summer solstice, the constellation Leo--being but 30° in advance of the sun--appears to be leading
the way, and to aid by his powerful paw in lifting the sun up to the summit of the zodiacal arch. * * *
This visible connection between the constellation Leo and the return of the sun to his place of power and
glory, at the summit of the Royal Arch of heaven, was the principal reason why that constellation was
held in such high esteem and reverence by the ancients. The astrologers distinguished Leo as the 'sole
house of the sun,' and taught that the world was created when the sun was in that sign. 'The lion was
adored in the East and the West by the Egyptians and the Mexicans. The chief Druid of Britain was
styled a lion.'" (Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy.) When the Aquarian Age is thoroughly
established, the sun will be in Leo, as will be noted from the explanation previously given in this chapter
regarding the distinction between geocentric and heliocentric astrology. Then, indeed, will the secret
religions of the world include once more the raising to initiation by the Grip of the Lion's Paw. (Lazarus
will come forth.)
Click to enlarge
From Cole's Treatise--the Circular Zodiac of Tentyra, in Egypt.
The oldest circular zodiac known is the one found at Tentyra, in Egypt, and now in the possession of the French
government. Mr. John Cole describes this remarkable zodiac as follows: "The diameter of the medallion in which
the constellations are sculptured, is four feet nine inches, French measure. It is surrounded by another circle of
much larger circumference, containing hieroglyphic characters; this second circle is enclosed in a square, whose
sides are seven feet nine inches long. * * * The asterisms, constituting the Zodiacal constellations mixed with
others, are represented in a spiral. The extremities of this spiral, after one revolution, are Leo and Cancer. Leo is
no doubt at the head. It appears to be trampling on a serpent, and its tail to be held by a woman. Immediately
after the Lion comes the Virgin holding an ear of corn, Further on, we perceive two scales of a balance, above
which, in a medal lion, is the figure of Harpocrates. Then follows the Scorpion and Sagittarius, to whom the
Egyptians gave wings, and two faces. After Sagittarius are successively placed, Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces,
the Ram, the Bull, and the Twins. This Zodiacal procession is, as we have already observed, terminated by
Cancer, the Crab."
p. 56
The antiquity of the zodiac is much in dispute. To contend that it originated but a mere few thousand
years before the Christian Era is a colossal mistake on the part of those who have sought to compile
data, concerning its origin. The zodiac necessarily must be ancient enough to go backward to that period
when its signs and symbols coincided exactly with the positions of the constellations whose various
creatures in their natural functions exemplified the outstanding features of the sun's activity during each
of the twelve months. One author, after many years of deep study on the subject, believed man's concept
of the zodiac to be at least five million years old. In all probability it is one of the many things for which
the modem world is indebted to the Atlantean or the Lemurian civilizations. About ten thousand years
before the Christian Era there was a period of many ages when knowledge of every kind was
suppressed, tablets destroyed, monuments torn down, and every vestige of available material concerning
previous civilizations completely obliterated. Only a few copper knives, some arrowheads, and crude
carvings on the walls of caves bear mute witness of those civilizations which preceded this age of
destruction. Here and there a few gigantic structures have remained which, like the strange monoliths on
Easter Island, are evidence of lost arts and sciences and lost races. The human race is exceedingly old.
Modern science counts its age in tens of thousands of years; occultism, in tens of millions. There is an
old saying that "Mother Earth has shaken many civilizations from her back," and it is not beyond reason
that the principles of astrology and astronomy were evolved millions of years before the first white man
The occultists of the ancient world had a most remarkable understanding of the principle of evolution.
They recognized all life as being in various stages of becoming. They believed that grains of sand were
in the process of becoming human in consciousness but not necessarily in form; that human creatures
were in the process of becoming planets; that planets were in the process of becoming solar systems; and
that solar systems were in the process of becoming cosmic chains; and so on ad infinitum. One of the
stages between the solar system and the cosmic chain was called the zodiac; therefore they taught that at
a certain time a solar system breaks up into a zodiac. The house of the zodiac become the thrones for
twelve Celestial Hierarchies, or as certain of the ancients state, ten Divine Orders. Pythagoras taught that
10, or the unit of the decimal system, was the most perfect of all numbers, and he symbolized the
number ten by the lesser tetractys, an arrangement of ten dots in the form of an upright triangle.
The early star gazers, after dividing the zodiac into its houses, appointed the three brightest scars in each
constellation to be the joint rulers of that house. Then they divided the house into three sections of ten
degrees each, which they called decans. These, in turn, were divided in half, resulting in the breaking up
of the zodiac into seventy-two duodecans of five degrees each. Over each of these duodecans the
Hebrews placed a celestial intelligence, or angel, and from this system, has resulted the Qabbalistic
arrangement of the seventy-two sacred names, which correspond to the seventy-two flowers, knops, and
almonds upon the seven-branched Candlestick of the Tabernacle, and the seventy-two men who were
chosen from the Twelve Tribes to represent Israel.
The only two signs not already mentioned are Gemini and Sagittarius. The constellation of Gemini is
generally represented as two small children, who, according to the ancients, were born out of eggs,
possibly the ones that the Bull broke with his horns. The stories concerning Castor and Pollux, and
Romulus and Remus, may be the result of amplifying the myths of these celestial Twins. The symbols of
Gemini have passed through many modifications. The one used by the Arabians was the peacock. Two
of the important stars in the constellation of Gemini still bear the names of Castor and Pollux. The sign
of Gemini is supposed to have been the patron of phallic worship, and the two obelisks, or pillars, in
front of temples and churches convey the same symbolism as the Twins.
The sign of Sagittarius consists of what the ancient Greeks called a centaur--a composite creature, the
lower half of whose body was in the form of a horse, while the upper half was human. The centaur is
generally shown with a bow and arrow in his hands, aiming a shaft far off into the stars. Hence
Sagittarius stands for two distinct principles: first, it represents the spiritual evolution of man, for the
human form is rising from the body of the beast; secondly, it is the symbol of aspiration and ambition,
for as the centaur aims his arrow at the stars, so every human creature aims at a higher mark than he can
Albert Churchward, in The Signs and Symbols of Primordial Man, sums up the influence of the zodiac
upon religious symbolism in the following words: "The division here [is] in twelve parts, the twelve
signs of the Zodiac, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve gates of heaven mentioned in Revelation, and twelve
entrances or portals to be passed through in the Great Pyramid, before finally reaching the highest
degree, and twelve Apostles in the Christian doctrines, and the twelve original and perfect points in
The ancients believed that the theory of man's being made in the image of God was to be understood
literally. They maintained that the universe was a great organism not unlike the human body, and that
every phase and function of the Universal Body had a correspondence in man. The most precious Key to
Wisdom that the priests communicated to the new initiates was what they termed the law of analogy.
Therefore, to the ancients, the study of the stars was a sacred science, for they saw in the movements of
the celestial bodies the ever-present activity of the Infinite Father.
The Pythagoreans were often undeservedly criticized for promulgating the so-called doctrine of
metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls. This concept as circulated among the uninitiated was
merely a blind, however, to conceal a sacred truth. Greek mystics believed that the spiritual nature of
man descended into material existence from the Milky Way--the seed ground of souls--through one of
the twelve gates of the great zodiacal band. The spiritual nature was therefore said to incarnate in the
form of the symbolic creature created by Magian star gazers to represent the various zodiacal
constellations. If the spirit incarnated through the sign of Aries, it was said to be born in the body of a
ram; if in Taurus, in the body of the celestial bull. All human beings were thus symbolized by twelve
mysterious creatures through the natures of which they were able to incarnate into the material world.
The theory of transmigration was not applicable to the visible material body of man, but rather to the
invisible immaterial spirit wandering along the pathway of the stars and sequentially assuming in the
course of evolution the forms of the sacred zodiacal animals.
In the Third Book of the Mathesis of Julius Firmicus Maternus appears the following extract concerning
the positions of the heavenly bodies at the time of the establishment of the inferior universe: "According
to Æsculapius, therefore, and Anubius, to whom especially the divinity Mercury committed the secrets
of the astrological science, the geniture of the world is as follows: They constituted the Sun in the 15th
part of Leo, the Moon in the 15th part of Cancer, Saturn in the 15th part of Capricorn, Jupiter in the 15th
part of Sagittary, Mars in the 15th part of Scorpio, Venus in the 15th part of Libra, Mercury in the 15th
part of Virgo, and the Horoscope in the 15th part of Cancer. Conformably to this geniture, therefore, to
these conditions of the stars, and the testimonies which they adduce in confirmation of this geniture,
they are of opinion that the destinies of men, also, are disposed in accordance with the above
arrangement, as maybe learnt from that book of Æsculapius which is called Μυριογενεσις, (i.e. Ten
Thousand, or an innumerable multitude of Genitures) in order that nothing in the several genitures of
men may be found to be discordant with the above-mentioned geniture of the world." The seven ages of
man are under the control of the planets in the following order: infancy, the moon; childhood, Mercury;
adolescence, Venus; maturity, the sun; middle age, Mars; advanced age, Jupiter; and decrepitude and
dissolution, Saturn.
Click to enlarge
From Kircher's Œdipus Ægyptiacus.
The inner circle contains the hieroglyph of Hemphta, the triform and pantamorphic deity. In the six concentric
bands surrounding the inner circle are (from within outward): (1) the numbers of the zodiacal houses in figures
and also in words; (2) the modern names of the houses.(3) the Greek or the Egyptian names of the Egyptian
deities assigned to the houses; (4) the complete figures of these deities; (5) the ancient or the modem zodiacal
signs, sometimes both; (6) the number of decans or subdivisions of the houses.
Next: The Bembine Table of Isis
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 57
Click to enlarge
Concerning the theurgic or magic sense in which the Egyptian priests exhibited in the Bembine Table of Isis the
philosophy of sacrifice, rites, and ceremonies by a system of occult symbols, Athanasius Kircher writes:
"The early priests believed that a great spiritual power was invoked by correct and unabridged sacrificial
ceremonies. If one feature were lacking, the whole was vitiated, says Iamblichus. Hence they were most careful
in all details, for they considered it absolutely essential for the entire chain of logical connections to be exactly
according to ritual. Certainly for no other reason did they prepare and prescribe for future use the manuals, as it
were, for conducting the rites. They learned, too, what the first hieromancers--possessed, as it were, by a divine
fury--devised as a system of symbolism for exhibiting their mysteries. These they placed in this Tablet of Isis,
before the eyes of those admitted to the sanctum sanctorum in order to teach the nature of the Gods and the
prescribed forms of sacrifice. Since each of the orders of Gods had its own peculiar symbols, gestures, costumes,
and ornaments, they thought it necessary to observe these in the whole apparatus of worship, as nothing was
more efficacious in drawing the benign attention of the deities and genii. * * * Thus their temples, remote from
the usual haunts of men, contained representations of nearly every form in nature. First, in the pavement, they
symbolized the physical economy of the world, using minerals, stones and other things suitable for ornaments,
including little streams of water. The walls showed the starry world, and the done the world of genii. In the center
was the altar, to suggest the emanations of the Supreme Mind from its center. Thus the entire interior constituted
a picture of the Universe of Worlds. The priests in making sacrifices wore raiment adorned with figures similar to
those attributed to the Gods. Their bodies were partially bare like those of the deities, and they themselves were
divested of all material cares and practices the strictest chastity. * * * Their heads were veiled to indicate their
charge of earthly things. Their heads and bodies were shaved, for they regarded hair as a useless excrescence.
Upon the head they bore the same insignia as those attributed to the Gods. Thus arrayed, they regarded
themselves to be transformed into that intelligence with which they constantly desired to be identified. For
example, in order to call down to the world the soul and spirit of the Universe, they stood before the image
shown in the center of our Tablet, wearing the same symbols as that figure and its attendants, and offered
sacrifices. By these and the accompanying singing of hymns they believed that they infallibly drew the God's
attention to their prayer. And so they did in regard to other regions of the Tablet, believing of necessity the proper
ritual properly carried out would evoke the deity desired. That this was the origin of the science of oracles is
apparent. As a touched chord produces a harmony of sound, likewise the adjoining chords respond though not
touched. Similarly the idea they expressed by their concurrent acts while adoring the God came into accord with
basic Idea and, by an intellectual union, it was returned to them deiformed, and they thus obtained the Idea of
Ideas. Hence there sprang up in their souls, they thought, the gift of prophecy and divination, and they believed
they could foretell future events, impending evils, etc. For as in the Supreme Mind everything is simultaneous
and spaceless, the future is therefore present in that Mind; and they thought that while the human mind was
absorbed in the Supreme by contemplation, by that union they were enabled to know all the future. Nearly all that
is represented in our Tablet consists of amulets which, by analogy above described, would inspire them, under
the described conditions, with the virtues of the Supreme Power and enable them to receive good and avert evil.
They also believed they could in this magical manner effect cures of diseases; that genii could be induced to
appear to them during sleep and cure or teach them to cure the sick. In this belief they consulted the Gods about
all sort of doubts and difficulties, while adorned with the simulacra of the mystic rite and intently contemplating
the Divine Ideas; and while so enraptured they believed the God by some sign, nod or gesture communicated
with them, whether asleep or awake, concerning the truth or falsity of the matter in point." (See Œdipus
The Bembine Table of Isis
A MANUSCRIPT by Thomas Taylor contains the following remarkable paragraph:
"Plato was initiated into the 'Greater Mysteries' at the age of 49. The initiation took place in one of the
subterranean halls of the Great Pyramid in Egypt. The ISIAC TABLE formed the altar, before which the
Divine Plato stood and received that which was always his, but which the ceremony of the Mysteries
enkindled and brought from its dormant state. With this ascent, after three days in the Great Hall, he was
received by the Hierophant of the Pyramid (the Hierophant was seen only by those who had passed the
three days, the three degrees, the three dimensions) and given verbally the Highest Esoteric Teachings,
each accompanied with Its appropriate Symbol. After a further three months' sojourn in the halls of the
Pyramid, the Initiate Plato was sent out into the world to do the work of the Great Order, as Pythagoras
and Orpheus had been before him."
Before the sacking of Rome in 1527 there is no historical mention of the Mensa Isiaca, (Tablet of Isis).
At that time the Tablet came into the possession of a certain locksmith or ironworker, who sold it at an
exorbitant price to Cardinal Bembo, a celebrated antiquary, historiographer of the Republic of Venice,
and afterwards librarian of St. Mark's. After his death in 1547 the Isiac Tablet was acquired by the
House of Mantua, in whose museum it remained until 1630, when troops of Ferdinand II captured the
city of Mantua. Several early writers on the subject have assumed that the Tablet was demolished by the
ignorant soldiery for the silver it contained. The assumption, however, was erroneous. The Tablet fell
into the hands of Cardinal Pava, who presented it to the Duke of Savoy, who in turn presented it to the
King of Sardinia. When the French conquered Italy in 1797 the Tablet was carried to Paris. In 1809,
Alexandre Lenoir, writing of the Mensa Isiaca, said it was on exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale.
Upon the establishment of peace between the two countries it was returned to Italy. In his Guide to
Northern Italy, Karl Baedeker describes the Mensa Isiaca as being in the center of Gallery 2 in the
Museum of Antiquities at Turin.
A faithful reproduction of the original Tablet was made in 1559 by the celebrated Æneas Vicus of
Parma, and a copy of the engraving was given by the Chancellor of the Duke of Bavaria to the Museum
of Hieroglyphics. Athanasius Kircher describes the Tablet as "five palms long and four wide." W. Wynn
Westcott says it measures 50 by 30 inches. It was made of bronze and decorated with encaustic or smalt
enamel and silver inlay. Fosbroke adds: "The figures are cut very shallow, and the contour of most of
them is encircled by threads of silver. The bases upon which the figures were seated or reclined, and left
blank in the prints, were of silver and are torn away." (See Encyclopædia of Antiquities.)
Those familiar with the fundamental principles of Hermetic philosophy will recognize in the Mensa
Isiaca the key to Chaldean, Egyptian, and Greek theology. In his Antiquities, the learned Benedictine,
Father Montfaucon, admits his inability to cope with the intricacies of its symbolism. He therefore
doubts that the emblems upon the Tablet possess any significance worthy of consideration and ridicules
Kircher, declaring him to be more obscure than the Tablet itself. Laurentius Pignorius reproduced the
Tablet in connection with a descriptive essay in 1605, but his timidly advanced explanations
demonstrated his ignorance concerning the actual interpretation of the figures.
In his Œdipus Ægyptiacus, published in 1654, Kircher attacked the problem with characteristic avidity.
Being peculiarly qualified for such a task by years of research in matters pertaining to the secret
doctrines of antiquity, and with the assistance of a group of eminent scholars, Kircher accomplished
much towards an exposition of the mysteries of the Tablet. The master secret, however, eluded even
him, as Eliphas Levi has shrewdly noted in his History of Magic.
"The learned Jesuit, " writes Levi, "divined that it contained the hieroglyphic key to sacred alphabets,
though he was unable to develop the explanation. It is divided into three equal compartments; above are
the twelve houses of heaven and below are the corresponding distributions of labor [work periods]
throughout the year, while in the middle place are twenty-one sacred signs answering to the letters of the
alphabet. In the midst of all is a seated figure of the pantomorphic IYNX, emblem of universal being and
corresponding as such to the Hebrew Yod, or to that unique letter from which all the other letters were
formed. The IYNX is encircled by the Ophite triad, answering to the Three Mother Letters of the
Egyptian and Hebrew alphabets. On the right are the Ibimorphic and Serapian triads; on the left are
those of Nepthys and Hecate, representing active and passive, fixed and volatile, fructifying fire and
generating water. Each pair of triads in conjunction with the center produces a septenary, and a
septenary is contained in the center. The three septenaries furnish the absolute number of the three
worlds, as well as the complete number of primitive letters, to which a complementary sign is added,
like zero to the nine numerals."
Levi's hint may be construed to mean that the twenty-one figures in the center section of the Table
represent the twenty-one major trumps of the Tarot cards. If this be so, is not the zero card, cause of so
much controversy, the nameless crown of the Supreme Mind, the crown being symbolized by the hidden
triad in the upper part of the throne in the center of the Table? Might not the first emanation of this
Supreme Mind be well symbolized by a juggler or magician with the symbols of the four lower worlds
spread out on a table before him: the rod, the sword, the cup, and the coin? Thus considered, the zero
card belongs nowhere among the others but is in fact the fourth dimensional point from which they all
emanated and consequently is broken up into the twenty-one cards (letters) which, when gathered
together, produce the zero. The cipher appearing upon this card would substantiate this interpretation,
for the cipher, or circle, is emblematic of the superior sphere from which issue the lower worlds, powers,
and letters.
Westcott carefully collected the all too meager theories advanced by various authorities and in 1887
published his now extremely rare volume, which contains the only detailed description of the Isiac
Tablet published in English since Humphreys translated Montfaucon's worthless description in 1721.
After explaining his reticence to reveal that which Levi evidently felt was better left concealed, Westcott
sums up his interpretation of the Tablet as follows:
"The diagram of Levi, by which he explains the mystery of the Tablet, shows the Upper Region divided
into the four seasons of the year, each with three signs of the Zodiac, and he has added the four-lettered
sacred name, the Tetragrammaton, assigning Jod to Aquarius, that is Canopus, He to Taurus, that is
Apis, Vau to Leo, that is Momphta, and He final to Typhon. Note the Cherubic parallel--Man, Bull, Lion
and Eagle. The fourth form is found either as Scorpion or Eagle depending upon the Occult good or evil
intention: in the Demotic Zodiac, the Snake replaces the Scorpion.
"The Lower Region he ascribes to the twelve simple Hebrew letters, associating them with the four
quarters of the horizon. Compare the Sepher Yerzirah, Cap. v., sec. 1.
"The Central Region he ascribes to the Solar powers and the
Click to enlarge
From Levi's History of Magic.
"The Isiac Tablet, writes Levi, is a Key to the Ancient Book of Thoth, which has survived to some extent the
lapse of centuries and is pictured to us in the still comparatively ancient set of Tarocchi Cards. To him the Book
of Thoth was a résumé of the esoteric learning of the Egyptians, after the decadence of their civilization, this lore
became crystallized in a hieroglyphic form as the Tarot; this Tarot having become partially or entirely forgotten
or misunderstood, its pictured symbols fell into the hands of the sham diviners, and of the providers of the public
amusement by games of Cards. The modem Tarot, or Tarocchi pack of cards consists of 78 cards, of which 22
form a special group of trumps, of pictorial design: the remaining 56 are composed of four suits of 10 numerals
and four court cards, King, Queen, Knight, and Knave or Valet; the suits are Swords (Militaryism), Cups
(Sacerdocy), Clubs or Wands (Agriculture), and Shekels or Coins (Commerce), answering respectively to our
Spades, Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds. Our purpose is with the 22 trumps, these form the special characteristic of
the Pack and are the lineal descendants of the Hieroglyphics of the Tarot. These 22 respond to the letters of the
Hebrew and other sacred alphabets, which fall naturally into three classes of a Trio of Mothers, a Heptad of
doubles, and a duodecad of simple letters. They are also considered as a triad of Heptads and one apart, a system
of Initiation and an Uninitiate." (See Westcott's The Isiac Tablet.)
p. 58
Planetary. In the middle we see above, the Sun, marked Ops, and below it is a
[paragraph continues]
Solomon's Seal, above a cross; a double triangle Hexapla, one light and one dark triangle superposed,
the whole forming a sort of complex symbol of Venus. To the Ibimorphos he gives the three dark
planets, Venus, Mercury, and Mars placed around a dark triangle erect, denoting Fire. To the Nephthæan
triad he gives three light planets, Saturn, Luna, and Jupiter, around a light inverted triangle which
denotes Water. There is a necessary connection between water, female power, passive principle, Binah,
and Sephirotic Mother, and Bride. (See the Kabbalah by Mathers.) Note the ancient signs for the planets
were all composed of a Cross, Solar Disc and Crescent: Venus is a cross below a Sun disc, Mercury, a
disc With a crescent above and cross below, Saturn is a Cross whose lowest point touches the apex of
the crescent; Jupiter is a Crescent whose lowest point touches the left hand end of a cross: all these are
deep mysteries. Note that Levi in his original plate transposed Serapis and Hecate, but not the Apis noir
and Apis blanc, perhaps because of the head of Bes being associated by him with Hecate. Note that
having referred the 12 simple letters to the lower, the 7 double must correspond to the central region of
the planets, and then the great triad A.M.S. the mother letters representing Air, Water, and Fire remain to
be pictured, around S the Central Iynx, or Yod, by the Ophionian Triad the two Serpents and the
Leonine Sphynx. Levi's word OPS in the centre is the Latin Ops, Terra, genius of the Earth; and the
Greek Ops, Rhea, or Kubele (Cybele) often drawn as a goddess seated in a chariot drawn by lions; she is
crowned with turrets, and holds a Key." (See The Isiac Tablet.)
The essay published in French by Alexandre Lenoir in 1809, while curious and original, contains little
real information on the Tablet, which the author seeks to prove was an Egyptian calendar or astrological
chart. As both Montfaucon and Lenoir--in fact all writers on the subject since 1651--either have based
their work upon that of Kircher or have been influenced considerably by him, a careful translation has
been made of the latter's original article (eighty pages of seventeenth century Latin). The double-page
plate at the beginning of this chapter is a faithful reproduction made by Kircher from the engraving in
the Museum of Hieroglyphics. The small letters and numbers used to designate the figures were added
by him to clarify his commentary and will be used for the same purpose in this work.
Like nearly all religious and philosophical antiquities, the Bembine Table of Isis has been the subject of
much controversy. In a footnote, A. E. Waite--unable to differentiate between the true and the purported
nature or origin of the Tablet--echoes the sentiments of J.G. Wilkinson, another eminent exotericus:
"The original [Table] is exceedingly late and is roughly termed a forgery." On the other hand, Eduard
Winkelmann, a man of profound learning, defends the genuineness and antiquity of the Tablet. A sincere
consideration of the Mensa Isiaca discloses one fact of paramount importance: that although whoever
fashioned the Table was not necessarily an Egyptian, he was an initiate of the highest order, conversant
with the most arcane tenets of Hermetic esotericism.
The following necessarily brief elucidation of the Bembine Table is based upon a digest of the writings
of Kircher supplemented by other information gleaned by the present author from the mystical writings
of the Chaldeans, Hebrews, Egyptians, and Greeks. The temples of the Egyptians were so designed that
the arrangement of chambers, decorations, and utensils was all of symbolic significance, as shown by
the hieroglyphics that covered them. Beside the altar, which usually was in the center of each room, was
the cistern of Nile water which flowed in and out through unseen pipes. Here also were images of the
gods in concatenated series, accompanied by magical inscriptions. In these temples, by use of symbols
and hieroglyphics, neophytes were instructed in the secrets of the sacerdotal caste.
The Tablet of Isis was originally a table or altar, and its emblems were part of the mysteries explained
by priests. Tables were dedicated to the various gods and goddesses; in this case Isis was so honored.
The substances from which the tables were made differed according to the relative dignities of the
deities. The tables consecrated to Jupiter and Apollo were of gold; those to Diana, Venus, and Juno were
of silver; those to the other superior gods, of marble; those to the lesser divinities, of wood. Tables were
also made of metals corresponding to the planets governed by the various celestials. As food for the
body is spread on a banquet table, so on these sacred altars were spread the symbols which, when
understood, feed the invisible nature of man.
In his introduction to the Table, Kircher summarizes its symbolism thus: "It teaches, in the first place,
the whole constitution of the threefold world--archetypal, intellectual, and sensible. The Supreme
Divinity is shown moving from the center to the circumference of a universe made up of both sensible
and inanimate things, all of which are animated and agitated by the one supreme power which they call
the Father Mind and represented by a threefold symbol. Here also are shown three triads from the
Supreme One, each manifesting one attribute of the first Trimurti. These triads are called the
Foundation, or the base of all things. In the Table is also set forth the arrangement and distribution of
those divine creatures that aid the Father Mind in the control of the universe. Here [in the upper panel]
are to be seen the Governors of the worlds, each with its fiery, ethereal, and material insignia. Here also
[in the lower panel] are the Fathers of Fountains, whose duty it is to care for and preserve the principles
of all things and sustain the inviolable laws of Nature. Here are the gods of the spheres and also those
who wander from place to place, laboring with all substances and forms (Zonia and Azonia), grouped
together as figures of both sexes, with their faces turned to their superior deity."
The Mensa Isiaca, which is divided horizontally into three chambers or panels, may represent the
ground plan of the chambers in which the Isiac Mysteries were given. The center panel is divided into
seven parts or lesser rooms, and the lower has two gates, one at each end. The entire Table contains
forty-five figures of first importance and a number of lesser symbols. The forty-five main figures are
grouped into fifteen triads, of which four are in the upper panel, seven in the central, and four in the
lower. According to both Kircher and Levi, the triads are divided in the following manner:
In the upper section
1. P, S, V--Mendesian Triad.
2. X, Z, A--Ammonian Triad.
3. B, C, D--Momphtæan Triad.
4. F, G, H-Omphtæan Triad.
In the center section
1. G, I, K--Isiac Triad.
2. L, M, N--Hecatine Triad.
3. O, Q, R--Ibimorphous Triad.
4. V, S, W--Ophionic Triad.
5. X, Y, Z--Nephtæan Triad.
6. ζ, η, θ--Serapæan Triad.
7. γ, δ (not shown), ε--Osirian Triad.
In the lower section
1. λ, Μ, Ν--Horæan Triad.
2. ξ, Ο, Σ--Pandochæan Triad.
3. Τ, Φ, Χ--Thaustic Triad.
4. Ψ, F, Η--Æluristic Triad.
Of these fifteen triads Kircher writes: "The figures differ from each other in eight highly important
respects, i. e., according to form, position, gesture, act, raiment, headdress, staff, and, lastly, according to
the hieroglyphics placed around them, whether these be flowers, shrubs, small letters or animals." These
eight symbolic methods of portraying the secret powers of the figures are subtle reminders of the eight
spiritual senses of cognition by means of which the Real Self in man may be comprehended. To express
this spiritual truth the Buddhists used the wheel with eight spokes and raised their consciousness by
means of the noble eightfold path. The ornamented border enclosing the three main panels of the Table
contains many symbols consisting of birds, animals, reptiles, human beings, and composite forms.
According to one reading of the Table, this border represents the four elements; the creatures are
elemental beings. According to another interpretation, the border represents the archetypal spheres, and
in its frieze of composite figures are the patterns of those forms which in various combinations will
subsequently manifest themselves in the material world. The four flowers at the corners of the Table are
those which, because their blossoms always face the sun and follow its course across the sky, are sacred
emblems of that finer part of man's nature which delights in facing its Creator.
According to the secret doctrine of the Chaldeans, the universe is divided into four states of being
(planes or spheres): archetypal, intellectual, sidereal, and elemental. Each of these reveals the others; the
superior controlling the inferior, and the inferior receiving influence from the superior. The archetypal
plane was considered synonymous with the intellect of the Triune Divinity. Within this divine,
incorporeal, and eternal sphere are included all the lower manifestations of life-all that is, has been, or
ever shall be. Within the Kosmic Intellect all things spiritual or material exist as archetypes, or divine
thought-forms, which is shown in the Table by a chain of secret similes.
In the middle region of the Table appears the all-form-containing personified Spiritual Essence--the
source and substance of all things. From this proceed the lower worlds as nine emanations in groups of
three (the Ophionic, Ibimorphous, and Nephtæan Triads). Consider in this connection the analogy of the
Qabbalistic Sephiroth, or the nine spheres issuing from Kether, the Crown. The twelve Governors of the
Universe (the Mendesian, Ammonian, Momphtæan, and Omphtæan Triads)--vehicles for the distribution
of the creative influences, and shown in the upper region of the Table-are directed in their activities by
the Divine Mind patterns existing in the archetypal sphere, The archetypes are abstract patterns
formulated in the Divine Mind and by them all the inferior activities are controlled.
p. 59
In the lower region of the Table are the Father Fountains (the Horæan, Pandochæan,
[paragraph continues]
Thaustic, and Æluristic Triads), keepers of the great gates of the universe. These distribute to the lower
worlds the influences descending from the Governors shown above.
In the theology of the Egyptians, goodness takes precedence and all things partake of its nature to a
higher or lower degree. Goodness is sought by all. It is the Prime Cause of causes. Goodness is self-
diffused and hence exists in all things, for nothing can produce that which it does not have in itself. The
Table demonstrates that all is in God and God is in all; that all is in all and each is in each. In the
intellectual world are invisible spiritual counterparts of the creatures which inhabit the elemental world.
Therefore, the lowest exhibits the highest, the corporeal declares the intellectual, and the invisible i,.
made manifest by its works. For this reason the Egyptians made images of substances existing in the
inferior sensible world to serve as visible exemplars of superior and invisible powers. To the corruptible
images they assigned the virtues of the incorruptible divinities, thus demonstrating arcanely that this
world is but the shadow of God, the outward picture of the paradise within. All that is in the invisible
archetypal sphere is revealed in the sensible corporeal world by the light of Nature.
The Archetypal and Creative Mind--first through its Paternal Foundation and afterwards through
secondary Gods called Intelligences--poured our the whole infinity of its powers by continuous
exchange from highest to lowest. In their phallic symbolism the Egyptians used the sperm to represent
the spiritual spheres, because each contains all that comes forth from it. The Chaldeans and Egyptians
also held that everything which is a result dwells in the cause of itself and turns to that cause as the lotus
to the sun. Accordingly, the Supreme Intellect, through its Paternal Foundation, first created light--the
angelic world. Out of that light were then created the invisible hierarchies of beings which some call the
stars; and out of the stars the four elements and the sensible world were formed. Thus all are in all, after
their respective kinds. All visible bodies or elements are in the invisible stars or spiritual elements, and
the stars are likewise in those bodies; the stars are in the angels and the angels in the stars; the angels are
in God and God is in all. Therefore, all are divinely in the Divine, angelically in the angels, and
corporeally in the corporeal world, and vice versa. just as the seed is the tree folded up, so the world is
God unfolded.
Proclus says: "Every property of divinity permeates all creation and gives itself to all inferior creatures.
"One of the manifestations of the Supreme Mind is the power of reproduction according to species
which it confers upon every creature of which it is the divine part. Thus souls, heavens, elements,
animals, plants, and stones generate themselves each according to its pattern, but all are dependent upon
the one fertilizing principle existing in the Supreme Mind. The fecundative power, though of itself a
unit, manifests differently through the various substances, for in the mineral it contributes to material
existence, in the plant it manifests as vitality, and in the animal as sensibility. It imparts motion to the
heavenly bodies, thought to the souls of men, intellectuality to the angels, and superessentiality to God.
Thus it is seen that all forms are of one substance and all life of one force, and these are co-existent in
the nature of the Supreme One.
This doctrine was first expounded by Plato. His disciple, Aristotle, set it forth in these words: "We say
that this Sensible World is an image of another; therefore since this world is vivid or alive, how much
more, then, that other must live. * * * Yonder, therefore, above the stellar virtues, stand other heavens to
be attained, like the heavens of this world; beyond them, because they are of a higher kind, brighter and
vaster; nor are they distant from each Other like this one, for they are incorporeal. Yonder, too, exists an
earth, not of inanimate matter, but vivid with animal life and all natural terrestrial phenomena like this
one, but of other kinds and perfections. There are plants, also, and gardens, and flowing water; there are
aquatic animals but of nobler species. Yonder is air and life appropriate to it, all immortal. And although
the life there is analogous to ours, yet it is nobler, seeing that it is intellectual, perpetual and unalterable.
For if anyone should object and ask, How in the world above do the plants, etc. above mentioned find
footing, we should answer that they do not have objective existence, for they were produced by the
primal Author in an absolute condition and without exteriorization. They are, therefore, in the same case
as intellect and soul; they suffer no defect such as waste and corruption, since the beings yonder are full
of energy, strength and joy, as living in a life sublime and being the issue of one fount and of one
quality, compounded of all like sweet savors, delicate perfumes, harmonious color and sound, and other
perfections. Nor do they move violently about nor intermix nor corrupt each other, but each perfectly
preserves its own essential character; and they are simple and do not multiply as corporeal beings do."
In the midst of the Table is a great covered throne with a seated female figure representing Isis, but here
called the Pantomorphic IYNX. G. R. S. Mead defines the IYNX as "a transmitting intelligence." Others
have declared it to be a symbol of Universal Being. Over the head of the goddess the throne is
surmounted by a triple crown, and beneath her feet is the house of material substance. The threefold
crown is here symbolic of the Triune Divinity, called by the Egyptians the Supreme Mind, and described
in the Sepher ha Zohar as being "hidden and unrevealed." According to the Hebrew system of
Qabbalism, the Tree of the Sephiroth was divided into two parts, the upper invisible and the lower
visible. The upper consisted of three parts and the lower of seven. The three uncognizable Sephiroth
were called Kether, the Crown; Chochmah, Wisdom; and Binah, Understanding. These are too abstract
to permit of comprehension, whereas the lower seven spheres that came forth from them were within the
grasp of human consciousness. The central panel contains seven triads of figures. These represent the
lower Sephiroth, all emanating from the concealed threefold crown over the throne.
Kircher writes: "The throne denotes the diffusion of the triform Supreme Mind along the universal paths
of the three worlds. Out of these three intangible spheres emerges the sensible universe, which Plutarch
calls the 'House of Horns' and the Egyptians, the 'Great Gate of the Gods.' The top of the throne is in the
midst of diffused serpent-shaped flames, indicating that the Supreme Mind is filled with light and life,
eternal and incorruptible, removed from all material contact. How the Supreme Mind communicated His
fire to all creatures is clearly set forth in the symbolism of the Table. The Divine Fire is communicated c
to lower spheres through the universal power of Nature personified by the World Virgin, Isis, here
denominated the IYNX, or the polymorphous all-containing Universal Idea." The word Idea is here used
in its Platonic sense. "Plato believed that there are eternal forms of all possible things which exist
without matter; and to these eternal and immaterial forms he gave the name of ideas. In the Platonic
sense, ideas were the patterns according to which the Deity fashioned the phenomenal or ectypal
world." (Sir W. Hamilton.)
Kircher describes the 21 figures in the central panel thus: "Seven principal triads, corresponding to seven
superior worlds, are shown in the central section of the Table. They all originate from the fiery, invisible
archetype [the triple crown of the throne]. The first, the Ophionic or IYNX Triad, V S W, corresponds to
the vital and fiery world and is the first intellectual world, called by the ancients the Aetherium.
Zoroaster says of it: 'Oh, what rigorous rulers this world has!' The second, or Ibimorphous Triad, O Q R,
corresponds to the second intellectual, or ethereal, world, and is concerned with the principle of
humidity. The third, or Nephtæan Triad, X Y Z, corresponds to the third intellectual and ethereal [world]
and is concerned with fecundity. These are the three triads of the ethereal worlds, which correspond to
the Father Foundation. Then follow the four triads of the sensible, or material, worlds, of which the first
two correspond to the sidereal worlds, G I K and γ δ ε, namely, Osiris and Isis, Sun and Moon, indicated
by two bulls. They are followed by two triads--the Hecatine, LM N, and the Serapæan, ζ η θ,
corresponding to the sublunary and subterranean worlds. These complete the seven worlds of primary
Genii ruling the natural universe. Psellus quotes Zoroaster: 'The Egyptians and the Chaldeans, taught
that there were seven corporeal worlds (i. e., worlds ruled by the intellectual powers);the first is of pure
fire; the second, third, and fourth, ethereal; the fifth, sixth, and seventh, material; the seventh being the
one called terrestrial and hater of light, and is located under the Moon, comprising
Click to enlarge
From Westcott's The Isiac Tablet.
Zoroaster declared that the number three shines throughout the world. This is revealed in the Bembine, Table by
a series of triads representing the creative impulses. Of the Isiac Table Alexandre Lenoir writes: "The Isiac Table,
as a work of art, is not of great interest. it is but a composition, rather cold and insignificant, whose figures,
summarily sketched and methodically placed near each other, give but little impression of life. But, if on the
contrary after examining it, we understand the purpose of the author, we become soon convinced that the Isiac
Table is an image of the heavenly sphere divided in small parts to be used very like, for general teaching.
According to that idea, we can conclude that the Isiac Table was originally the introduction to a collection
followed by the Mysteries of Isis. It was engraved on copper in order to be used in the ceremonial of
initiation." (See New Essay on the Isiac Table.)
p. 60
within itself the matter called fundus, or foundation. 'These seven, plus the one invisible crown,
constitute the eight worlds. * * *
"Plato writes that it is needful for the philosopher to know how the seven circles beneath the first one are
arranged according to the Egyptians. The first triad of fire denotes life; the second, water, over which
rule the Ibimorphous divinities; and the third, air, ruled by Nephta. From the fire the heavens were
created, from the water the earth, and air was the mediator between them. In the Sephira Yetzirah it is
said that from the three originate the seven, i. e., the height, the depth, the East, the West, the North, and
the South, and the Holy Temple in the center sustaining them all. Is not the Holy Temple in the center
the great throne of the many-formed Spirit of Nature which is shown in the middle of the Tablet? What
are the seven triads but the seven Powers that rule over the world? Psellus writes: 'The Egyptians
worshipped the triad of faith, truth, and love; and the seven fountains: the Sun as ruler--the fountain of
matter; then the fountain of the archangels; the fountain of the senses; of judgment; of lightning; of
reflections; and of characters of unknown composition. They say that the highest material fountains are
those of Apollo, Osiris, and Mercury--the fountains of the centers of the elements. 'Thus, they
understood by the Sun as ruler the solar world; by the material archangelic, the lunar world; by the
fountain of the senses, the world of Saturn; by judgment, Jupiter; by lightning, Mars; by that of the
reflections, or mirrors, the world of Venus; by the fountain of characters, the world of Mercury. All
these are shown by the figures in the center pane of the Tablet."
The upper panel contains the twelve figures of the zodiac arranged in four triads. The center figure in
each group represents one of the four fixed signs of the zodiac. S is the sign of Aquarius; Z, Taurus; C,
Leo; and G, Scorpio. These are called the Fathers. In the secret teachings of the Far East these four
figures--the man, the bull, the lion, and the eagle--are called the winged globes or the four Maharajahs
who stand upon the corners of creation. The four cardinal signs--P, Capricorn; X, Aries; B, Cancer; F,
Libra--are called the Powers. The four common signs--V, Pisces; A, Gemini; E, Virgo; H, Sagittarius--
are called the Minds of the Four Lords. This explains the meaning of the winged globes of Egypt, for the
four central figures--Aquarius, Taurus, Leo, and Scorpio (called by Ezekiel the Cherubim)--are the
globes; the cardinal and common signs on either side are the wings. Therefore the twelve signs of the
zodiac may be symbolized by four globes, each with two wings.
The celestial triads are further shown by the Egyptians as a globe (the Father) from which issue a
serpent (the Mind) and wings (the Power). These twelve forces are the fabricators of the world, and from
them emanate the microcosm, or the mystery of the twelve sacred animals--representing in the universe
the twelve parts of the world and in man the twelve parts of the human body. Anatomically, the twelve
figures in the upper panel may well symbolize the twelve convolutions of the brain and the twelve
figures in the lower panel the twelve zodiacal members and organs of the human body, for man is a
creature formed of the twelve sacred animals with his members and organs under the direct control of
the twelve governors or powers resident in the brain.
A more profound interpretation is found in the correspondences between the twelve figures in the upper
panel and the twelve in the lower. This furnishes a key to one of the most arcane of ancient secrets--the
relationship existing between the two great zodiacs the fixed and the movable. The fixed zodiac is
described as an immense dodecahedron, its twelve surfaces representing the outermost walls of abstract
space. From each surface of this dodecahedron a great spiritual power, radiating inward, becomes
embodied as one of the hierarchies of the movable zodiac, which is a band of circumambulating so-
called fixed stars. Within this movable zodiac are posited the various planetary and elemental bodies.
The relation of these two zodiacs to the subzodiacal spheres has a correlation in the respiratory system of
the human body. The great fixed zodiac may be said to represent the atmosphere, the movable zodiac the
lungs, and the subzodiacal worlds the body. The spiritual atmosphere containing the vivifying energies
of the twelve divine powers of the great fixed zodiac is inhaled by the cosmic lungs--the movable
zodiac--and distributed by them through the constitution of the twelve holy animals which are the parts
and members of the material universe. The functional cycle is completed when the poisonous effluvia of
the lower worlds collected by the movable zodiac are exhaled into the great fixed zodiac, there to be
purified by being passed through the divine natures of its twelve eternal hierarchies.
The Table as a whole is susceptible of many interpretations. If the border of the Table with its
hieroglyphic figures be accepted as the spiritual source, then the throne in the center represents the
physical body within which human nature is enthroned. From this point of view the entire Table
becomes emblematic of the auric bodies of man, with the border as the outer extremity or shell of the
auric egg. If the throne be accepted as the symbol of the spiritual sphere, the border typifies the
elements, and the various panels surrounding the central one become emblematic of the worlds or planes
emanating from the one divine source. If the Table be considered from a purely physical basis, the
throne becomes symbolic of the generative system and the Table reveals the secret processes of
embryology as applied to the formation of the material worlds. If a purely physiological and anatomical
interpretation be desired, the central throne becomes the heart, the Ibimorphous Triad the mind, the
Nephtæan Triad the generative system, and the surrounding hieroglyphics the various parts and
members of the human body. From the evolutionary viewpoint the central gate becomes the point of
both entrance and exit. Here also is set forth the process of initiation, in which the candidate after
passing successfully through the various ordeals is finally brought into the presence of his own soul,
which he alone is capable of unveiling.
If cosmogony be the subject of consideration, the central panel represents the spiritual worlds, the upper
panel the intellectual worlds, and the lower panel the material worlds. The central panel may also
symbolize the nine invisible worlds, and the creature marked T the physical nature--the footstool of Isis,
the Spirit of Universal Life. Considered in the light of alchemy, the central panel contains the metals and
the borders the alchemical processes. The figure seated on the throne is the Universal Mercury--the
"stone of the wise"; the flaming canopy of the throne above is the Divine Sulphur; and the cube of earth
beneath is the elemental salt.
The three triads--or the Paternal Foundation--in the central panel represent the Silent Watchers, the
three invisible parts of the nature of man; the two panels on either side are the quaternary lower nature of
man. In the central panel are 21 figures. This number is sacred to the sun--which consists of three great
powers, each with seven attributes--and by Qabbalistic reduction 21 becomes 3, or the Great Triad.
It will yet be proved that the Table of Isis is directly connected with Egyptian Gnosticism, for in a
Gnostic papyrus preserved in the Bodleian Library there is a direct reference to the twelve Fathers or
Paternities beneath whom are twelve Fountains. (See Egyptian Magic by S.S.D.D.) That the lower panel
represents the underworld is further emphasized by the two gates--the great gate of the East and the great
gate of the West--for in the Chaldean theology the sun rises and sets through gates in the underworld,
where it wanders during the hours of darkness. As Plato was for thirteen years under the instruction of
the Magi Patheneith, Ochoaps, Sechtnouphis, and Etymon of Sebbennithis, his philosophy consequently
is permeated with the Chaldean and Egyptian system of triads. The Bembine Table is a diagrammatic
exposition of the so-called Platonic philosophy, for in its design is epitomized the entire theory of mystic
cosmogony and generation. The most valuable guide to the interpretation of this Table is the
Commentaries of Proclus on the Theology of Plato. The Chaldean Oracles of Zoroaster also contains
many allusions to the theogonic principles which are demonstrated by the Table.
The Theogony of Hesiod contains the most complete account of the Greek cosmogony myth. Orphic
cosmogony has left its impress upon the various forms of philosophy and religion--Greek, Egyptian, and
Syrian--which it contacted. Chief of the Orphic symbols was the mundane egg from which Phanes
sprang into light. Thomas Taylor considers the Orphic egg to be synonymous with the mixture from
bound and infinity mentioned by Plato in the Philebus. The egg is furthermore the third Intelligible Triad
and the proper symbol of the Demiurgus, whose auric body is the egg of the inferior universe.
Eusebius, on the authority of Porphyry, declared that the Egyptians acknowledged one intellectual
Author or Creator of the world under the name of Cneph and that they worshiped him in a statue of
human form and dark blue complexion, holding in his hand a girdle and a scepter, wearing on his head a
royal plume, and thrusting forth an egg out of his mouth. (See An Analysis of the Egyptian Mythology)
While the Bembine Table is rectangular-shaped, it signifies philosophically the Orphic egg of the
universe with its contents. In the esoteric doctrines the supreme individual achievement is the breaking
of the Orphic egg, which is equivalent to the return of the spirit to the Nirvana--the absolute condition--
of the Oriental mystics.
The New Pantheon by Samuel Boyse contains three plates showing various sections of the Bembine
Table. The author, however, makes no important contribution to the knowledge of the subject. In The
Mythology and Fables of the Ancients Explained from History, the Abbé Banier devotes a chapter to a
consideration of the Mensa Isiaca. After reviewing the conclusions of Montfaucon, Kircher, and
Pignorius, he adds: "I am of the opinion that: it was a votive table, which some prince or private person
had consecrated to Isis, as an acknowledgment for some benefit which he believed she had conferred
upon him."
Next: Wonders of Antiquity
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 61
Wonders of Antiquity
IT was a common practice among the early Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans to seal lighted lamps in the
sepulchers of their dead as offerings to the God of Death. Possibly it was also believed that the deceased
could use these lights in finding his way through the Valley of the Shadow. Later as the custom became
generally established, not only actual lamps but miniatures of them in terra cotta were buried with the
dead. Some of the lamps were enclosed in circular vessels for protection; and instances have been
recorded in which the original oil was found in them, in a perfect state of preservation, after more than
2,000 years. There is ample proof that many of these lamps were burning when the sepulchers were
sealed, and it has been declared that they were still burning when the vaults were opened hundreds of
years later. The possibility of preparing a fuel which would renew itself as rapidly as it was consumed
has been a source of considerable controversy among mediæval authors. After due consideration of the
evidence at hand, it seems well within the range of possibility that the ancient priest-chemists did
manufacture lamps that burned, if not indefinitely, at least for considerable periods of time.
Numerous authorities have written on the subject of ever-burning lamps. W. Wynn Westcott estimates
the number of writers who have given the subject consideration as more than 150, and H. P. Blavatsky
as 173. While conclusions reached by different authors are at variance, a majority admit the existence of
these phenomenal lamps. Only a few maintained that the lamps would burn forever, but many were
willing to concede that they might remain alight for several centuries without replenishment of the fuel.
Some considered the so-called perpetual lights as mere artifices of the crafty pagan priests, while a great
many, admitting that the lamps actually burned, made the sweeping assertion that the Devil was using
this apparent miracle to ensnare the credulous and thereby lead their souls to perdition.
On this subject the learned Jesuit, Athanasius Kircher, usually dependable, exhibits a striking
inconsistency. In his Œdipus Ægyptiacus he writes: "Not a few of these ever-burning lamps have been
found to be the devices of devils, * * * And I take it that all the lamps found in the tombs of the Gentiles
dedicated to the worship of certain gods, were of this kind, not because they burned, or have been
reported to burn, with a perpetual flame, but because probably the devil set them there, maliciously
intending thereby to obtain fresh credence for a false worship."
Having admitted that dependable authorities defend the existence of the ever-burning lamps, and that
even the Devil lends himself to their manufacture, Kircher next declared the entire theory to be desperate
and impossible, and to be classed with perpetual motion and the Philosopher's Stone. Having already
solved the problem to his satisfaction once, Kircher solves it again--but differently--in the following
words: "In Egypt there are rich deposits of asphalt and petroleum. What did these clever fellows [the
priests] do, then, but connect an oil deposit by a secret duct with one or more lamps, provided with
wicks of asbestos! How could such lamps help burning perpetually? * * * In my opinion this is the
solution of the riddle of the supernatural everlastingness of these ancient lamps."
Montfaucon, in his Antiquities, agrees in the main with the later deductions of Kircher, believing the
fabled perpetual lamps of the temples to be cunning mechanical contrivances. He further adds that the
belief that lamps burned indefinitely in tombs was the result of the noteworthy fact that in some cases
fumes resembling smoke poured forth from the entrances of newly opened vaults. Parties going in later
and discovering lamps scattered about the floor assumed that they were the source of the fumes.
There are several interesting stories concerning the discoveries of ever-burning lamps in various parts of
the world. In a tomb on the Appian Way which was opened during the papacy of Paul III was found a
burning lamp which had remained alight in a hermetically sealed vault for nearly 1,600 years. According
to an account written by a contemporary, a body--that of a young and beautiful girl with long golden
hair--was found floating in an unknown transparent liquid and as well preserved as though death had
occurred but a few hours before. About the interior of the vault were a number of significant objects,
which included several lamps, one of them alight. Those entering the sepulcher declared that the draft
caused by the opening of the door blew out the light and the lamp could not be relighted. Kircher
reproduces an epitaph, "TULLIOLAE FILIAE MEAE," supposedly found in the tomb, but which
Montfaucon declares never existed, the latter adding that although conclusive evidence was not found,
the body was generally believed to be that of Tulliola, the daughter of Cicero.
Ever-burning lamps have been discovered in all parts of the world. Not only the Mediterranean countries
but also India, Tibet, China, and South America have contributed records of lights which burned
continuously without fuel. The examples which follow were selected at random from the imposing list
of perpetual lamps found in different ages.
Plutarch wrote of a lamp that burned over the door of a temple to Jupiter Ammon; the priests declared
that it had remained alight for centuries without fuel.
St. Augustine described a perpetual lamp, guarded in a temple in Egypt sacred to Venus, which neither
wind nor water could extinguish. He believed it to be the work of the Devil.
An ever-burning lamp was found at Edessa, or Antioch, during the reign of the Emperor Justinian. It was
in a niche over the city gate, elaborately enclosed to protect it from the elements. The date upon it
proved that the lamp had been burning for more than 500 years. It was destroyed by soldiers.
During the early Middle Ages a lamp was found in England which had burned since the third century
after Christ. The monument containing it was believed to be the tomb of the father of Constantine the
The Lantern of Pallas was discovered near Rome in A.D. 1401. It was found in the sepulcher of Pallas,
son of Evander, immortalized by Virgil in his Æneid. The lamp was placed at the head of the body and
had burned with a steady glow for more than 2,000 years.
In A.D. 1550 on the island of Nesis, in the Bay of Naples, a magnificent marble vault was opened in
which was found a lamp still alight which had been placed there before the beginning of the Christian
Pausanias described a beautiful golden lamp in the temple of Minerva which burned steadily for a year
without refueling or having the wick trimmed. The ceremony of filling the lamp took place annually,
and time was measured by the ceremony.
According to the Fama Fraternitatis, the crypt of Christian Rosencreutz when opened 120 years after
his death was found to be brilliantly illuminated by a perpetual lamp suspended from the ceiling.
Numa Pompilius, King of Rome and magician of considerable power, caused a perpetual light to burn in
the dome of a temple he had created in honor of an elemental being.
In England a curious tomb was found containing
Click to enlarge
From Montfaucon's Antiquities.
The windings of these serpents formed the base, and the three heads sustained the three feet of the tripod. It is
impossible to secure satisfactory information concerning the shape and size of the celebrated Delphian tripod.
Theories concerning it are based (in most part) upon small ornamental tripods discovered in various temples.
Click to enlarge
From Beaumont's Gleanings of Antiquities.
According to Beaumont, the above is the most authentic form of the Delphian tripod extant; but as the tripod
must have changed considerably during the life of the oracle, hasty conclusions are unwise. In his description of
the tripod, Beaumont divides it into four Parts: (1) a frame with three (2), a reverberating basin or bowl set in the
frame; (e) a flat plate or table upon which the Pythia sat; and (4) a cone-shaped cover over the table, which
completely concealed the priestess and from beneath which her voice sounded forth in weird and hollow tones,
Attempts have been made to relate the Delphian tripod with the Jewish Ark of the Covenant. The frame of three
legs was likened to the Ark of the Covenant; the flat plate or table to the Mercy Seat; and the cone-shaped
covering to the tent of the Tabernacle itself. This entire conception differs widely from that popularly accepted,
but discloses a valuable analogy between Jewish and Greek symbolism.
p. 62
an automaton which moved when certain stones in the floor of the vault were stepped upon by an
intruder. At that time the Rosicrucian controversy was at its height, so it was decided that the tomb was
that of a Rosicrucian initiate. A countryman, discovering the tomb and entering, found the interior
brilliantly lighted by a lamp hanging from the ceiling. As he walked, his weight depressed some of the
floor stones. At once a seated figure in heavy armor began to move. Mechanically it rose to its feet and
struck the lamp with an iron baton, completely destroying it, and thus effectually preventing the
discovery of the secret substance which maintained the flame. How long the lamp had burned is
unknown, but certainly it had been for a considerable number of years.
It is related that among the tombs near Memphis and in the Brahmin temples of India lights have been
found in sealed chambers and vessels, but sudden exposure to the air has extinguished them and caused
their fuel to evaporate.
It is now believed that the wicks of these perpetual lamps were made of braided or woven asbestos,
called by the alchemists salamander's wool, and that the fuel was one of the products of alchemical
research. Kircher attempted to extract oil from asbestos, being convinced that as the substance itself was
indestructible by fire an oil extracted from it would supply the lamp with a fuel likewise indestructible.
After spending two years in fruitless experimental work, he concluded that the task was impossible of
Several formulæ for the making of the fuel for the lamps have been preserved. In Isis Unveiled, H. P.
Blavatsky reprints two of these formulæ from early authors--Tritenheim and Bartolomeo Korndorf. One
will suffice to give a general understanding of the process:
"Sulphur. Alum ust. a • iv.; sublime them into flowers to • ij., of which add of crystalline Venetian borax
(powdered) • j.; upon these affuse high rectified spirit of wine and digest it, then abstract it and pour on
fresh; repeat this so often till the sulphur melts like wax without any smoke, upon a hot plate of brass:
this is for the pabulum, but the wick is to be prepared after this manner: gather the threads or thrums of
the Lapis asbestos, to the thickness of your middle and the length of your little finger, then put them into
a Venetian glass, and covering them over with the aforesaid depurated sulphur or aliment set the glass in
sand for the space of twenty-four hours, so hot that the sulphur may bubble all the while. The wick being
thus besmeared and anointed, is to be put into a glass like a scallop-shell, in such manner that some part
of it may lie above the mass of prepared sulphur; then setting this glass upon hot sand, you must melt the
sulphur, so that it may lay hold of the wick, and when it is lighted, it will burn with a perpetual flame
and you may set this lamp in any place where you please."
The worship of Apollo included the establishment and maintenance of places of prophecy by means of
which the gods could communicate with mankind and reveal futurity to such as deserved the boon. The
early history of Greece abounds with accounts of talking trees, rivers, statues, and caves in which
nymphs, dryads, or dæmons had taken up their abodes and from which they delivered oracles. While
Christian authors have tried to prove that oracular revelations were delivered by the Devil for the
purpose of misleading humanity, they have not dared to attack the theory of oracles, because of the
repeated reference to it in their own sacred writings. If the onyx stones on the shoulders of Israel's high
priest made known by their flashings the will of Jehovah, then a black dove, temporarily endowed with
the faculty of speech, could indeed pronounce oracles in the temple of Jupiter Ammon. If the witch of
Endor could invoke the shade of Samuel, who in turn gave prophecies to Saul, could not a priestess of
Apollo call up the specter of her liege to foretell the destiny of Greece?
The most famous oracles of antiquity were those of Delphi, Dodona, Trophonius, and Latona, of which
the talking oak trees of Dodona were the oldest. Though it is impossible to trace back to the genesis of
the theory of oracular prophecy, it is known that many of the caves and fissures set aside by the Greeks
as oracles were sacred long before the rise of Greek culture.
The oracle of Apollo at Delphi remains one of the unsolved mysteries of the ancients. Alexander Wilder
derives the name Delphi from delphos, the womb. This name was chosen by the Greeks be cause of the
shape of the cavern and the vent leading into the depths of the earth. The original name of the oracle was
Pytho, so called because its chambers had been the abode of the great serpent Python, a fearsome
creature that had crept out of the slime left by the receding flood that had destroyed all human beings
except Deucalion and Pyrrha. Apollo, climbing the side of Mount Parnassus, slew the serpent after a
prolonged combat, and threw the body down the fissure of the oracle. From that time the Sun God,
surnamed the Pythian Apollo, gave oracles from the vent. With Dionysos he shared the honor of being
the patron god of Delphi.
After being vanquished by Apollo, the spirit of Python remained at Delphi as the representative of his
conqueror, and it was with the aid of his effluvium that the priestess was able to become en rapport with
the god. The fumes rising from the fissure of the oracle were supposed to come from the decaying body
of Python. The name Pythoness, or Pythia, given to the female hierophant of the oracle, means literally
one who has been thrown into a religious frenzy by inhaling fumes rising from decomposing matter. It is
of further interest to note that the Greeks believed the oracle of Delphi to be the umbilicus of the earth,
thus proving that they considered the planet an immense human being. The connection between the
principle of oracular revelation and the occult significance of the navel is an important secret belonging
to the ancient Mysteries.
The oracle, however, is much older than the foregoing account indicates. A story of this kind was
probably invented by the priests to explain the phenomena to those inquisitive persons whom they did
not consider worthy of enlightenment regarding the true esoteric nature of the oracle. Some believe that
the Delphic fissure was discovered by a Hypoborean priest, but as far back as recorded history goes the
cave was sacred, and persons came from all parts of Greece and the surrounding countries to question
the dæmon who dwelt in its chimney-like vent. Priests and priestesses guarded it closely and served the
spirit who dwelt therein and who enlightened humanity through the gift of prophecy.
The story of the original discovery of the oracle is somewhat as follows: Shepherds tending their flocks
on the side of Mount Parnassus were amazed at the peculiar antics of goats that wandered close to a
great chasm on its southwestern spur. The animals jumped about as though trying to dance, and emitted
strange cries unlike anything before heard. At last one of the shepherds, curious to learn the cause of the
phenomenon, approached the vent, from which were rising noxious fumes. Immediately he was seized
with a prophetic ecstasy; he danced with wild abandon, sang, jabbered inarticulate sounds, and foretold
future events. Others went close to the fissure, with the same result. The fame of the place spread, and
many came to learn of the future by inhaling the mephitic fumes, which exhilarated to the verge of
Some of those who came, being unable to control themselves, and having temporarily the strength of
madmen, tore themselves from those seeking to restrain them, and, jumping into the vent, perished. In
order to prevent others from doing likewise, a wall was erected around the fissure and a prophetess was
appointed to act as mediator between the oracle and those who came to question it. According to later
authorities, a tripod of gold, ornamented with carvings of Apollo in the form of Python, the great
serpent, was placed over the cleft, and on this was arranged a specially prepared seat, so constructed that
a person would have difficulty in falling off while under the influence of the oracular fumes. just before
this time, a story had been circulated that the fumes of the oracle arose from the decaying body of
Python. It is possible that the oracle revealed its own origin.
For many centuries during its early history, virgin maidens were consecrated to the service of the oracle.
They were called the Phœbades, or Pythiæ, and constituted that famous order now known as the Pythian
priesthood. It is probable that women were chosen to receive the oracles because their sensitive and
emotional nature responded
Click to enlarge
From Historia Deorum Fatidicorum.
Apollo, the twin brother of Diana, was the son of Jupiter and Latona. Apollo was fully adult at the time of his
birth. He was considered to be the first physician and the inventor of music and song. The Greeks also acclaimed
him to be father of the bow and arrow. The famous temple of Apollo at Delphi was rebuilt five times. The first
temple was formed only of laurel branches; the second was somewhat similar; the third was brass and the fourth
and fifth were probably of marble, of considerable size and great beauty. No other oracle in Greece equaled in
magnificence that of Delphi in the zenith of its power. Writers declared that it contained many statues of solid
gold and silver, marvelous ornaments, and implements of the most valuable materials and beautiful
workmanship, donated by princes and kings who came from all parts of the civilized world to consult the spirit of
Apollo dwelling in this sanctuary.
p. 63
more quickly and completely to "the fumes of enthusiasm." Three days before the time set to receive the
communications from Apollo, the virgin priestess began the ceremony of purification. She bathed in the
Castalian well, abstained from all food, drank only from the fountain of Cassotis, which was brought
into the temple through concealed pipes, and just before mounting the tripod, she chewed a few leaves of
the sacred bay tree. It has been said that the water was drugged to bring on distorted visions, or the
priests of Delphi were able to manufacture an exhilarating and intoxicating gas, which they conducted
by subterranean ducts and released into the shaft of the oracle several feet below the surface. Neither of
these theories has been proved, however, nor does either in any way explain the accuracy of the
When the young prophetess had completed the process of purification, she was clothed in sanctified
raiment and led to the tripod, upon which she seated herself, surrounded by the noxious vapors rising
from the yawning fissure. Gradually, as she inhaled the fumes, a change came over her. It was as if a
different spirit had entered her body. She struggled, tore her clothing, and uttered inarticulate cries. After
a time her struggles ceased. Upon becoming calm a great majesty seemed to posses her, and with eyes
fixed on space and body rigid, she uttered the prophetic words. The predictions were usually in the form
of hexameter verse, but the words were often ambiguous and sometimes unintelligible. Every sound that
she made, every motion of her body, was carefully recorded by the five Hosii, or holy men, who were
appointed as scribes to preserve the minutest details of each divination. The Hosii were appointed for
life, and were chosen from the direct descendants of Deucalion.
After the oracle was delivered, the Pythia began to struggle again, and the spirit released her. She was
then carried or supported to a chamber of rest, where she remained till the nervous ecstasy had passed
Iamblichus, in his dissertation on The Mysteries, describes how the spirit of the oracle--a fiery dæmon,
even Apollo himself--took control of the Pythoness and manifested through her: "But the prophetess in
Delphi, whether she gives oracles to mankind through an attenuated and fiery spirit, bursting from the
mouth of the cavern; or whether being seated in the adytum on a brazen tripod, or on a stool with four
feet, she becomes sacred to the God; whichsoever of these is the case, she entirely gives herself up to a
divine spirit, and is illuminated with a ray of divine fire. And when, indeed, fire ascending from the
mouth of the cavern circularly invests her in collected abundance, she becomes filled from it with a
divine splendour. But when she places herself on the seat of the God, she becomes co-adapted to his
stable prophetic power: and from both of these preparatory operations she becomes wholly possessed by
the God. And then, indeed, he is present with and illuminates her in a separate manner, and is different
from the fire, the spirit, the proper seat, and, in short, from all the visible apparatus of the place, whether
physical or sacred."
Among the celebrities who visited the oracle of Delphi were the immortal Apollonius of Tyana and his
disciple Damis. He made his offerings and, after being crowned with a laurel wreath and given a branch
of the same plant to carry in his hand, he passed behind the statue of Apollo which stood before the
entrance to the cave, and descended into the sacred place of the oracle. The priestess was also crowned
with laurel and her head bound with a band of white wool. Apollonius asked the oracle if his name
would be remembered by future generations. The Pythoness answered in the affirmative, but declared
that it would always be calumniated. Apollonius left the cavern in anger, but time has proved the
accuracy of the prediction, for the early church fathers perpetuated the name of Apollonius as the
Antichrist. (For details of the story see Histoire de la Magie.)
The messages given by the virgin prophetess were turned over to the philosophers of the oracle, whose
duty it was to interpret and apply them. The communications were then delivered to the poets, who
immediately translated them into odes and lyrics, setting forth in exquisite form the statements
supposedly made by Apollo and making them available for the populace.
Serpents were much in evidence at the oracle of Delphi. The base of the tripod upon which the Pythia sat
was formed of the twisted bodies of three gigantic snakes. According to some authorities, one of the
processes used to produce the prophetic ecstasy was to force the young priestess to gaze into the eyes of
a serpent. Fascinated and hypnotized, she then spoke with the voice of the god.
Although the early Pythian priestesses were always maidens--some still in their teens--a law was later
enacted that only women past fifty years of age should be the mouthpiece of the oracle. These older
women dressed as young girls and went through the same ceremonial as the first Pythiæ. The change
was probably the indirect result of a series of assaults made upon the persons of the priestesses by the
During the early history of the Delphian oracle the god spoke only at each seventh birthday of Apollo.
As time went on, however, the demand became so great that the Pythia was forced to seat herself upon
the tripod every month. The times selected for the consultation and the questions to be asked were
determined by lot or by vote of the inhabitants of Delphi.
It is generally admitted that the effect of the Delphian oracle upon Greek culture was profoundly
constructive. James Gardner sums up its influence in the following words: "It responses revealed many a
tyrant and foretold his fate. Through its means many an unhappy being was saved from destruction and
many a perplexed mortal guided in the right way. It encouraged useful institutions, and promoted the
progress of useful discoveries. Its moral influence was on the side of virtue, and its political influence in
favor of the advancement of civil liberty." (See The Faiths of The World.)
The oracle of Dodona was presided over by Jupiter, who uttered prophecies through oak trees, birds, and
vases of brass. Many writers have noted the similarities between the rituals of Dodona and those of the
Druid priests of Britain and Gaul. The famous oracular dove of Dodona, alighting upon the branches of
the sacred oaks, not only discoursed at length in the Greek tongue upon philosophy and religion, but also
answered the queries of those who came from distant places to consult it.
The "talking" trees stood together, forming a sacred grove. When the priests desired answers to
important questions, after careful and solemn purifications they retired to the grove. They then accosted
the trees, beseeching a reply from the god who dwelt therein. When they had stated their questions, the
trees spoke with the voices of human beings, revealing to the priests the desired information. Some
assert that there was but one tree which spoke--an oak or a beech standing in the very heart of the
ancient grove. Because Jupiter was believed to inhabit this tree he was sometimes called Phegonæus, or
one who lives in a beech tree.
Most curious of the oracles of Dodona were the "talking" vases, or kettles. These were made of brass
and so carefully fashioned that when struck they gave off sound for hours. Some writers have described
a row of these vases and have declared that if one of them was struck its vibrations would be
communicated to all the others and a terrifying din ensue. Other authors describe a large single vase,
standing upon a pillar, near which stood another column, supporting the statue of a child holding a whip.
At the end of the whip were a number of swinging cords tipped with small metal balls, and the wind,
which blew incessantly through the open building, caused the balls to strike against the vase. The
number and intensity of the impacts and the reverberations of the vase were all carefully noted, and the
priests delivered their oracles accordingly.
When the original priests of Dodona--the Selloi--mysteriously vanished, the oracle was served for many
centuries by three priestesses who interpreted the vases and at midnight interrogated the sacred trees.
The patrons of the oracles were expected to bring offerings and to make contributions.
Another remarkable oracle was the Cave of Trophonius, which stood upon the side of a hill with an
entrance so small that it seemed impossible for a human being to enter. After the consultant had made
his offering at the statue of Trophonius and had donned the sanctified garments, he climbed the hill to
the cave, carrying in one hand a cake of honey. Sitting down at the edge of the opening, he lowered his
feet into the cavern. Thereupon his entire body was precipitately
Click to enlarge
From Historia Deorum Fatidicorum.
Jupiter was called Dodonean after the city of Dodona in Epirus. Near this city was a hill thickly covered with oak
trees which from the most ancient times had been sacred to Jupiter. The grove was further venerated because
dryads, fauns, satyrs, and nymphs were believed to dwell in its depths. From the ancient oaks and beeches were
hung many chains of tiny bronze bells which tinkled day and night as the wind swayed the branches. Some assert
that the celebrated talking dove of Dodona was in reality a woman, because in Thessaly both prophetesses and
doves were called Peleiadas. It is supposed that the first temple of Dodona was erected by Deucalion and those
who survived the great flood with him. For this reason the oracle at Dodona was considered the oldest in Greece.
p. 64
drawn into the cave, which was described by those who had entered it as having only the dimensions of
a fair-sized oven. When the oracle had completed its revelation, the consultant, usually delirious, was
forcibly ejected from the cave, feet foremost.
Near the cave of the oracle two fountains bubbled out of the earth within a few feet of each other. Those
about to enter the cave drank first from these fountains, the waters of which seemed to possess peculiar
occult properties. The first contained the water of forgetfulness, and all who drank thereof forgot their
earthly sorrows. From the second fountain flowed the sacred water of Mnemosyne, or remembrance, for
later it enabled those who partook of it to recall their experiences while in the cave.
Though its entrance was marked by two brass obelisks, the cave, surrounded by a wall of white stones
and concealed in the heart of a grove of sacred trees, did not present an imposing appearance. There is
no doubt that those entering it passed through strange experiences, for they were obliged to leave at the
adjacent temple a complete account of what they saw and heard while in the oracle. The prophecies were
given in the form of dreams and visions, and were accompanied by severe pains in the head; some never
completely recovered from the after effects of their delirium. The confused recital of their experiences
was interpreted by the priests according to the question to be answered. While the priests probably used
some unknown herb to produce the dreams or visions of the cavern, their skill in interpreting them
bordered on the Supernatural. Before consulting the oracle, it was necessary to offer a ram to the dæmon
of the cave, and the priest decided by hieromancy whether the time chosen was propitious and the
sacrifice was satisfactory.
Many of the sculptors and architects of the ancient world were initiates of the Mysteries, particularly the
Eleusinian rites. Since the dawn of time, the truers of stone and the hewers of wood have constituted a
divinely overshadowed caste. As civilization spread slowly over the earth, cities were built and deserted;
monuments were erected to heroes at present unknown; temples were built to gods who lie broken in the
dust of the nations they inspired. Research has proved not only that the builders of these cities and
monuments and the sculptors who chiseled out the inscrutable faces of the gods were masters of their
crafts, but that in the world today there are none to equal them. The profound knowledge of mathematics
and astronomy embodied in ancient architecture, and the equally profound knowledge of anatomy
revealed in Greek statuary, prove that the fashioners of both were master minds, deeply cultured in the
wisdom which constituted the arcana of the Mysteries .Thus was established the Guild of the Builders,
progenitors of modern Freemasons. When employed to build palaces, temples or combs, or to carve
statues for the wealthy, those initiated architects and artists concealed in their works the secret doctrine,
so that now, long after their bones have returned to dust, the world realizes that those first artisans were
indeed duly initiated and worthy to receive the wages of Master Masons.
The Seven Wonders of the World, while apparently designed for divers reasons, were really monuments
erected to perpetuate the arcana of the Mysteries. They were symbolic structures, placed in peculiar
spots, and the real purpose of their erection can be sensed only by the initiated. Eliphas Levi has noted
the marked correspondence between these Seven Wonders and the seven planets. The Seven Wonders of
the World were built by Widow's sons in honor of the seven planetary genii. Their secret symbolism is
identical with that of the seven seals of Revelation and the seven churches of Asia.
1. The Colossus of Rhodes, a gigantic brass statue about 109 feet in height and requiring over twelve
years to build, was the work of an initiated artist, Chares of Lindus. The popular theory--accepted for
several hundred years--that the figure stood with one foot on each side of the entrance to the harbor of
Rhodes and that full-rigged ships passed between its feet, has never been substantiated. Unfortunately,
the figure remained standing but fifty-six years, being thrown down by an earthquake in 224 B.C. The
shattered parts of the Colossus lay scattered about the ground for more than 900 years, when they were
finally sold to a Jewish merchant, who carried the metal away on the backs of 700 camels. Some
believed that the brass was converted into munitions and others that it was made into drainage pipes.
This gigantic gilded figure, with its crown of solar rays and its upraised torch, signified occultly the
glorious Sun Man of the Mysteries, the Universal Savior.
2. The architect Ctesiphon, in the fifth century B.C., submitted to the Ionian cities a plan for erecting a
joint monument to their patron goddess, Diana. The place chosen was Ephesus, a city south of Smyrna.
The building was constructed of marble. The roof was supported by 127 columns, each 60 feet high and
weighing over 150 tons. The temple was destroyed by black magic about 356 B.C., but the world fixes
the odious crime upon the tool by means of which the destruction was accomplished--a mentally
deranged man named Herostratus. It was later rebuilt, but the symbolism was lost. The original temple,
designed as a miniature of the universe, was dedicated to the moon, the occult symbol of generation.
3. Upon his exile from Athens, Phidias--the greatest of all the Greek sculptors--went to Olympia in the
province of Elis and there designed his colossal statue of Zeus, chief of the gods of Greece. There is not
even an accurate description of this masterpiece now in existence; only a few old coins give an
inadequate idea of its general appearance. The body of the god was overlaid with ivory and the robes
were of beaten gold. In one hand he is supposed to have held a globe supporting a figure of the Goddess
of Victory, in the other a scepter surmounted by an eagle. The head of Zeus was archaic, heavily
bearded, and crowned with an olive wreath. The statue was seated upon an elaborately decorated throne.
As its name implies, the monument was dedicated to the spirit of the planet Jupiter,--one of the seven
Logi who bow before the Lord of the Sun.
4. Eliphas Levi includes the Temple of Solomon among the Seven Wonders of the World, giving it the
place occupied by the Pharos, or Lighthouse, of Alexandria. The Pharos, named for the island upon
which it stood, was designed and constructed by Sostratus of Cnidus during the reign of Ptolemy (283-
247 B.C.). It is described as being of white marble and over 600 feet high. Even in that ancient day it
cost nearly a million dollars. Fires were lighted in the top of it and could be seen for miles out at sea. It
was destroyed by an earthquake in the thirteenth century, but remains of it were visible until A.D. 1350.
Being the tallest of all the Wonders, it: was naturally assigned to Saturn, the Father of the gods and the
true illuminator of all humanity.
5. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was a magnificent monument erected by Queen Artemisia in
memory of her dead husband, King Mausolus, from whose name the word mausoleum is derived. The
designers of the building were Satyrus and Pythis, and four great sculptors were employed to ornament
the edifice. The building, which was 114 feet long and 92 feet wide, was divided into five major sections
(the senses) and surmounted by a pyramid (the spiritual nature of man). The pyramid rose in 24 steps (a
sacred number), and upon the apex was a statue of King Mausolus in a chariot. His figure was 9 feet 91⁄2
inches tall. Many attempts have been made to reconstruct the monument, which. was destroyed by an
earthquake, but none has been altogether successful. This monument was sacred to the planet Mars and
was built by an initiate for the enlightenment of the world.
6. The Gardens of Semiramis at Babylon--more commonly known as the Hanging Gardens--stood
within the palace grounds of Nebuchadnezzar, near the Euphrates River. They rose in a terrace-like
pyramid and on the top was a reservoir for the watering of the gardens. They were built about 600 B.C.,
but the name of the landscape artist has not been preserved. They symbolized the planes of the invisible
world, and were consecrated to Venus as the goddess of love and beauty.
7. The Great Pyramid was supreme among the temples of the Mysteries. In order to be true to its
astronomical symbolism, it must have been constructed about 70,000 years ago. It was the tomb of
Osiris, and was believed to have been built by the gods themselves, and the architect may have been the
immortal Hermes. It is the monument of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, and the universal symbol
of wisdom and letters.
Click to enlarge
from Historia Deorum Fatidicorum.
Trophonius and his brother Agamedes were famous architects. While building a certain treasure vault, they
contrived to leave one stone movable so that they might secretly enter and steal the valuables stored there. A trap
was set by the owner, who had discovered the plot, and Agamedes was caught. To prevent discovery, Trophonius
decapitated his brother and fled, hotly pursued. He hid in the grove of Lebadia, where the earth opened and
swallowed him up. The spirit of Trophonius thereafter delivered oracles in the grove and its caverns. The name
Trophonius means "to be agitated, excited, or roiled." It was declared that the terrible experiences through which
consultants passed in the oracular caverns so affected them that they never smiled again. The bees which
accompany the figure of Trophonius were sacred because they led the first envoys from Bœtia to the site of the
oracle. The figure above is said to be a production of a statue of Trophonius which was placed on the brow of the
hill above the oracle and surrounded with sharply pointed stakes that it could not be touched.
Next: The Life and Philosophy of Pythagoras
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 65
The Life and Philosophy of Pythagoras
WHILE Mnesarchus, the father of Pythagoras, was in the city of Delphi on matters pertaining to his
business as a merchant, he and his wife, Parthenis, decided to consult the oracle of Delphi as to whether
the Fates were favorable for their return voyage to Syria. When the Pythoness (prophetess of Apollo)
seated herself on the golden tripod over the yawning vent of the oracle, she did not answer the question
they had asked, but told Mnesarchus that his wife was then with child and would give birth to a son who
was destined to surpass all men in beauty and wisdom, and who throughout the course of his life would
contribute much to the benefit of mankind. Mnesarchus was so deeply impressed by the prophecy that he
changed his wife's name to Pythasis, in honor of the Pythian priestess. When the child was born at Sidon
in Phœnicia, it was--as the oracle had said--a son. Mnesarchus and Pythasis named the child Pythagoras,
for they believed that he had been predestined by the oracle.
Many strange legends have been preserved concerning the birth of Pythagoras. Some maintained that he
was no mortal man: that he was one of the gods who had taken a human body to enable him to come into
the world and instruct the human race. Pythagoras was one of the many sages and saviors of antiquity
for whom an immaculate conception is asserted. In his Anacalypsis, Godfrey Higgins writes: "The first
striking circumstance in which the history of Pythagoras agrees with the history of Jesus is, that they
were natives of nearly the same country; the former being born at Sidon, the latter at Bethlehem, both in
Syria. The father of Pythagoras, as well as the father of Jesus, was prophetically informed that his wife
should bring forth a son, who should be a benefactor to mankind. They were both born when their
mothers were from home on journeys, Joseph and his wife having gone up to Bethlehem to be taxed, and
the father of Pythagoras having travelled from Samos, his residence, to Sidon, about his mercantile
concerns. Pythais [Pythasis], the mother of Pythagoras, had a connexion with an Apolloniacal spectre, or
ghost, of the God Apollo, or God Sol, (of course this must have been a holy ghost, and here we have the
Holy Ghost) which afterward appeared to her husband, and told him that he must have no connexion
with his wife during her pregnancy--a story evidently the same as that relating to Joseph and Mary.
From these peculiar circumstances, Pythagoras was known by the same title as Jesus, namely, the son of
God; and was supposed by the multitude to be under the influence of Divine inspiration."
This most famous philosopher was born sometime between 600 and 590 B.C., and the length of his life
has been estimated at nearly one hundred years.
The teachings of Pythagoras indicate that he was thoroughly conversant with the precepts of Oriental
and Occidental esotericism. He traveled among the Jews and was instructed by the Rabbins concerning
the secret traditions of Moses, the lawgiver of Israel. Later the School of the Essenes was conducted
chiefly for the purpose of interpreting the Pythagorean symbols. Pythagoras was initiated into the
Egyptian, Babylonian, and Chaldean Mysteries. Although it is believed by some that he was a disciple of
Zoroaster, it is doubtful whether his instructor of that name was the God-man now revered by the
Parsees. While accounts of his travels differ, historians agree that he visited many countries and studied
at the feet of many masters.
"After having acquired all which it was possible for him to learn of the Greek philosophers and,
presumably, become an initiate in the Eleusinian mysteries, he went to Egypt, and after many rebuffs
and refusals, finally succeeded in securing initiation in the Mysteries of Isis, at the hands of the priests of
Thebes. Then this intrepid 'joiner' wended his way into Phoenicia and Syria where the Mysteries of
Adonis were conferred upon him, and crossing to the valley of the Euphrates he tarried long enough to
become versed in, the secret lore of the Chaldeans, who still dwelt in the vicinity of Babylon. Finally, he
made his greatest and most historic venture through Media and Persia into Hindustan where he remained
several years as a pupil and initiate of the learned Brahmins of Elephanta and Ellora." (See Ancient
Freemasonry, by Frank C. Higgins, 32°.) The same author adds that the name of Pythagoras is still
preserved in the records of the Brahmins as Yavancharya, the Ionian Teacher.
Pythagoras was said to have been the first man to call himself a philosopher; in fact, the world is
indebted to him for the word philosopher. Before that time the wise men had called themselves sages,
which was interpreted to mean those who know. Pythagoras was more modest. He coined the word
philosopher, which he defined as one who is attempting to find out.
After returning from his wanderings, Pythagoras established a school, or as it has been sometimes
called, a university, at Crotona, a Dorian colony in Southern Italy. Upon his arrival at Crotona he was
regarded askance, but after a short time those holding important positions in the surrounding colonies
sought his counsel in matters of great moment. He gathered around him a small group of sincere
disciples whom he instructed in the secret wisdom which had been revealed to him, and also in the
fundamentals of occult mathematics, music, and astronomy, which he considered to be the triangular
foundation of all the arts and sciences.
When he was about sixty years old, Pythagoras married one of his disciples, and seven children resulted
from the union. His wife was a remarkably able woman, who not only inspired him during the years of
his life but after his assassination continued to promulgate his doctrines.
As is so often the case with genius, Pythagoras by his outspokenness incurred both political and personal
enmity. Among those who came for initiation was one who, because Pythagoras refused to admit him,
determined to destroy both the man and his philosophy. By means of false propaganda, this disgruntled
one turned the minds of the common people against the philosopher. Without warning, a band of
murderers descended upon the little group of buildings where the great teacher and his disciples dwelt,
burned the structures and killed Pythagoras.
Accounts of the philosopher's death do not agree. Some say that he was murdered with his disciples;
others that, on escaping from Crotona with a small band of followers, he was trapped and burned alive
by his enemies in a little house where the band had decided to rest for the night. Another account states
that, finding themselves trapped in the burning structure, the disciples threw themselves into the flames,
making of their own bodies a bridge over which Pythagoras escaped, only to die of a broken heart a
short time afterwards as the result of grieving over the apparent fruitlessness of his efforts to serve and
illuminate mankind.
His surviving disciples attempted to perpetuate his doctrines, but they were persecuted on every hand
and very little remains today as a testimonial to the greatness of this philosopher. It is said that the
disciples of Pythagoras never addressed him or referred to him by his own name, but always as The
Master or That Man. This may have been because of the fact that the name Pythagoras was believed to
consist of a certain number of specially arranged letters with great sacred significance. The Word
magazine has printed an article by T. R. Prater, showing that Pythagoras initiated his candidates by
means of a certain formula concealed within
Click to enlarge
From Historia Deorum Fatidicorum.
During his youth, Pythagoras was a disciple of Pherecydes and Hermodamas, and while in his teens became
renowned for the clarity of his philosophic concepts. In height he exceeded six feet; his body was as perfectly
formed as that of Apollo. Pythagoras was the personification of majesty and power, and in his presence a felt
humble and afraid. As he grew older, his physical power increased rather than waned, so that as he approached
the century mark he was actually in the prime of life. The influence of this great soul over those about him was
such that a word of praise from Pythagoras filled his disciples with ecstasy, while one committed suicide because
the Master became momentarily irritate over something he had dome. Pythagoras was so impressed by this
tragedy that he never again spoke unkindly to or about anyone.
p. 66
the letters of his own name. This may explain why the word Pythagoras was so highly revered.
After the death of Pythagoras his school gradually disintegrated, but those who had benefited by its
teachings revered the memory of the great philosopher, as during his life they had reverenced the man
himself. As time went on, Pythagoras came to be regarded as a god rather than a man, and his scattered
disciples were bound together by their common admiration for the transcendent genius of their teacher.
Edouard Schure, in his Pythagoras and the Delphic Mysteries, relates the following incident as
illustrative of the bond of fellowship uniting the members of the Pythagorean School:
"One of them who had fallen upon sickness and poverty was kindly taken in by an innkeeper. Before
dying he traced a few mysterious signs (the pentagram, no doubt) on the door of the inn and said to the
host, 'Do not be uneasy, one of my brothers will pay my debts.' A year afterwards, as a stranger was
passing by this inn he saw the signs and said to the host, 'I am a Pythagorean; one of my brothers died
here; tell me what I owe you on his account.'"
Frank C. Higgins, 32°, gives an excellent compendium of the Pythagorean tenets in the following
"Pythagoras' teachings are of the most transcendental importance to Masons, inasmuch as they are the
necessary fruit of his contact with the leading philosophers of the whole civilized world of his own day,
and must represent that in which all were agreed, shorn of all weeds of controversy. Thus, the
determined stand made by Pythagoras, in defense of pure monotheism, is sufficient evidence that the
tradition to the effect that the unity of God was the supreme secret of all the ancient initiations is
substantially correct. The philosophical school of Pythagoras was, in a measure, also a series of
initiations, for he caused his pupils to pass through a series of degrees and never permitted them
personal contact with himself until they had reached the higher grades. According to his biographers, his
degrees were three in number. The first, that of 'Mathematicus,' assuring his pupils proficiency in
mathematics and geometry, which was then, as it would be now if Masonry were properly inculcated,
the basis upon which all other knowledge was erected. Secondly, the degree of 'Theoreticus,' which dealt
with superficial applications of the exact sciences, and, lastly, the degree of 'Electus,' which entitled the
candidate to pass forward into the light of the fullest illumination which he was capable of absorbing.
The pupils of the Pythagorean school were divided into 'exoterici,' or pupils in the outer grades, and
'esoterici,' after they had passed the third degree of initiation and were entitled to the secret wisdom.
Silence, secrecy and unconditional obedience were cardinal principles of this great order." (See Ancient
The study of geometry, music, and astronomy was considered essential to a rational understanding of
God, man, or Nature, and no one could accompany Pythagoras as a disciple who was not thoroughly
familiar with these sciences. Many came seeking admission to his school. Each applicant was tested on
these three subjects, and if found ignorant, was summarily dismissed.
Pythagoras was not an extremist. He taught moderation in all things rather than excess in anything, for
he believed that an excess of virtue was in itself a vice. One of his favorite statements was: "We must
avoid with our utmost endeavor, and amputate with fire and sword, and by all other means, from the
body, sickness; from the soul, ignorance; from the belly, luxury; from a city, sedition; from a family,
discord; and from all things, excess." Pythagoras also believed that there was no crime equal to that of
All men know what they want, but few know what they need. Pythagoras warned his disciples that when
they prayed they should not pray for themselves; that when they asked things of the gods they should not
ask things for themselves, because no man knows what is good for him and it is for this reason
undesirable to ask for things which, if obtained, would only prove to be injurious.
The God of Pythagoras was the Monad, or the One that is Everything. He described God as the Supreme
Mind distributed throughout all parts of the universe--the Cause of all things, the Intelligence of all
things, and the Power within all things. He further declared the motion of God to be circular, the body of
God to be composed of the substance of light, and the nature of God to be composed of the substance of
Pythagoras declared that the eating of meat clouded the reasoning faculties. While he did not condemn
its use or totally abstain therefrom himself, he declared that judges should refrain from eating meat
before a trial, in order that those who appeared before them might receive the most honest and astute
decisions. When Pythagoras decided (as he often did) to retire into the temple of God for an extended
period of time to meditate and pray, he took with his supply of specially prepared food and drink. The
food consisted of equal parts of the seeds of poppy and sesame, the skin of the sea onion from which the
juice had been thoroughly extracted, the flower of daffodil, the leaves of mallows, and a paste of barley
and peas. These he compounded together with the addition of wild honey. For a beverage he took the
seeds of cucumbers, dried raisins (with seeds removed), the flowers of coriander, the seeds of mallows
and purslane, scraped cheese, meal, and cream, mixed together and sweetened with wild honey.
Pythagoras claimed that this was the diet of Hercules while wandering in the Libyan desert and was
according to the formula given to that hero by the goddess Ceres herself.
The favorite method of healing among the Pythagoreans was by the aid of poultices. These people also
knew the magic properties of vast numbers of plants. Pythagoras highly esteemed the medicinal
properties of the sea onion, and he is said to have written an entire volume on the subject. Such a work,
however, is not known at the present time. Pythagoras discovered that music had great therapeutic power
and he prepared special harmonies for various diseases. He apparently experimented also with color,
attaining considerable success. One of his unique curative processes resulted from his discovery of the
healing value of certain verses from the Odyssey and the Iliad of Homer. These he caused to be read to
persons suffering from certain ailments. He was opposed to surgery in all its forms and also objected to
cauterizing. He would not permit the disfigurement of the human body, for such, in his estimation, was a
sacrilege against the dwelling place of the gods.
Pythagoras taught that friendship was the truest and nearest perfect of all relationships. He declared that
in Nature there was a friendship of all for all; of gods for men; of doctrines one for another; of the soul
for the body; of the rational part for the irrational part; of philosophy for its theory; of men for one
another; of countrymen for one another; that friendship also existed between strangers, between a man
and his wife, his children, and his servants. All bonds without friendship were shackles, and there was
no virtue in their maintenance. Pythagoras believed that relationships were essentially mental rather than
physical, and that a stranger of sympathetic intellect was closer to him than a blood relation whose
viewpoint was at variance with his own. Pythagoras defined knowledge as the fruitage of mental
accumulation. He believed that it would be obtained in many ways, but principally through observation.
Wisdom was the understanding of the source or cause of all things, and this could be secured only by
raising the intellect to a point where it intuitively cognized the invisible manifesting outwardly through
the visible, and thus became capable of bringing itself en rapport with the spirit of things rather than
with their forms. The ultimate source that wisdom could cognize was the Monad, the mysterious
permanent atom of the Pythagoreans.
Pythagoras taught that both man and the universe were made in the image of God; that both being made
in the same image, the understanding of one predicated the knowledge of the other. He further taught
that there was a constant interplay between the Grand Man (the universe) and man (the little universe).
Pythagoras believed that all the sidereal bodies were alive and that the forms of the planets and stars
were merely bodies encasing souls, minds, and spirits in the same manner that the visible human form is
but the encasing vehicle for an invisible spiritual organism which is, in reality, the conscious individual.
Pythagoras regarded the planets as magnificent deities, worthy of the adoration and respect of man. All
these deities, however, he considered subservient to the One First Cause within whom they all existed
temporarily, as mortality exists in the midst of immortality.
The famous Pythagorean Υ signified the power of choice and was used in the Mysteries as emblematic
of the Forking of the Ways. The central stem separated into two parts, one branching to
Click to enlarge
To the five symmetrical solids of the ancients is added the sphere (1), the most perfect of all created forms. The
five Pythagorean solids are: the tetrahedron (2) with four equilateral triangles as faces; the cube (3) with six
squares as faces; the octahedron (4) with eight equilateral triangles as faces; the icosahedron (5) with twenty
equilateral triangles as faces; and the dodecahedron (6) with twelve regular pentagons as faces.
p. 67
the right and the other to the left. The branch to the right was called Divine Wisdom and the one to the
left Earthly Wisdom. Youth, personified by the candidate, walking the Path of Life, symbolized by the
central stem of the Υ, reaches the point where the Path divides. The neophyte must then choose whether
he will take the left-hand path and, following the dictates of his lower nature, enter upon a span of folly
and thoughtlessness which will inevitably result in his undoing, or whether he will take the right-hand
road and through integrity, industry, and sincerity ultimately regain union with the immortals in the
superior spheres.
It is probable that Pythagoras obtained his concept of the Υ from the Egyptians, who included in certain
of their initiatory rituals a scene in which the candidate was confronted by two female figures. One of
them, veiled with the white robes of the temple, urged the neophyte to enter into the halls of learning;
the other, bedecked with jewels, symbolizing earthly treasures, and bearing in her hands a tray loaded
with grapes (emblematic of false light), sought to lure him into the chambers of dissipation. This symbol
is still preserved among the Tarot cards, where it is called The Forking of the Ways. The forked stick has
been the symbol of life among many nations, and it was placed in the desert to indicate the presence of
Concerning the theory of transmigration as disseminated by Pythagoras, there are differences of opinion.
According to one view, he taught that mortals who during their earthly existence had by their actions
become like certain animals, returned to earth again in the form of the beasts which they had grown to
resemble. Thus, a timid person would return in the form of a rabbit or a deer; a cruel person in the form
of a wolf or other ferocious animal; and a cunning person in the guise of a fox. This concept, however,
does not fit into the general Pythagorean scheme, and it is far more likely that it was given in an
allegorical rather than a literal sense. It was intended to convey the idea that human beings become
bestial when they allow themselves to be dominated by their own lower desires and destructive
tendencies. It is probable that the term transmigration is to be understood as what is more commonly
called reincarnation, a doctrine which Pythagoras must have contacted directly or indirectly in India and
The fact that Pythagoras accepted the theory of successive reappearances of the spiritual nature in
human form is found in a footnote to Levi's History of Magic: "He was an important champion of what
used to be called the doctrine of metempsychosis, understood as the soul's transmigration into successive
bodies. He himself had been (a) Aethalides, a son of Mercury; (b) Euphorbus, son of Panthus, who
perished at the hands of Menelaus in the Trojan war; (c) Hermotimus, a prophet of Clazomenae, a city of
Ionia; (d) a humble fisherman; and finally (e) the philosopher of Samos."
Pythagoras also taught that each species of creatures had what he termed a seal, given to it by God, and
that the physical form of each was the impression of this seal upon the wax of physical substance. Thus
each body was stamped with the dignity of its divinely given pattern. Pythagoras believed that ultimately
man would reach a state where he would cast off his gross nature and function in a body of spiritualized
ether which would be in juxtaposition to his physical form at all times and which might be the eighth
sphere, or Antichthon. From this he would ascend into the realm of the immortals, where by divine
birthright he belonged.
Pythagoras taught that everything in nature was divisible into three parts and that no one could become
truly wise who did not view every problem as being diagrammatically triangular. He said, "Establish the
triangle and the problem is two-thirds solved"; further, "All things consist of three." In conformity with
this viewpoint, Pythagoras divided the universe into three parts, which he called the Supreme World, the
Superior World, and the Inferior World. The highest, or Supreme World, was a subtle, interpenetrative
spiritual essence pervading all things and therefore the true plane of the Supreme Deity itself, the Deity
being in every sense omnipresent, omniactive, omnipotent, and omniscient. Both of the lower worlds
existed within the nature of this supreme sphere.
The Superior World was the home of the immortals. It was also the dwelling place of the archetypes, or
the seals; their natures in no manner partook of the material of earthiness, but they, casting their shadows
upon the deep (the Inferior World), were cognizable only through their shadows. The third, or Inferior
World, was the home of those creatures who partook of material substance or were engaged in labor
with or upon material substance. Hence, this sphere was the home of the mortal gods, the Demiurgi, the
angels who labor with men; also the dæmons who partake of the nature of the earth; and finally mankind
and the lower kingdoms, those temporarily of the earth but capable of rising above that sphere by reason
and philosophy.
The digits 1 and 2 are not considered numbers by the Pythagoreans, because they typify the two
supermundane spheres. The Pythagorean numbers, therefore, begin with 3, the triangle, and 4, the
square. These added to the 1 and the 2, produce the 10, the great number of all things, the archetype of
the universe. The three worlds were called receptacles. The first was the receptacle of principles, the
second was the receptacle of intelligences, and the third, or lowest, was the receptacle of quantities.
"The symmetrical solids were regarded by Pythagoras, and by the Greek thinkers after him, as of the
greatest importance. To be perfectly symmetrical or regular, a solid must have an equal number of faces
meeting at each of its angles, and these faces must be equal regular polygons, i. e., figures whose sides
and angles are all equal. Pythagoras, perhaps, may be credited with the great discovery that there are
only five such solids.* * *
'Now, the Greeks believed the world [material universe] to be composed of four elements--earth, air,
fire, water--and to the Greek mind the conclusion was inevitable that the shapes of the particles of the
elements were those of the regular solids. Earth-particles were cubical, the cube being the regular solid
possessed of greatest stability; fire-particles were tetrahedral, the tetrahedron being the simplest and,
hence, lightest solid. Water-particles were icosahedral for exactly the reverse reason, whilst air-particles,
as intermediate between the two latter, were octahedral. The dodecahedron was, to these ancient
mathematicians, the most mysterious of the solids; it was by far the most difficult to construct, the
accurate drawing of the regular pentagon necessitating a rather elaborate application of Pythagoras' great
theorem. Hence the conclusion, as Plato put it, that 'this (the regular dodecahedron) the Deity employed
in tracing the plan of the Universe.' (H. Stanley Redgrove, in Bygone Beliefs.)
Mr. Redgrove has not mentioned the fifth element of the ancient Mysteries, that which would make the
analogy between the symmetrical solids and the elements complete. This fifth element, or ether, was
called by the Hindus akasa. It was closely correlated with the hypothetical ether of modern science, and
was the interpenetrative substance permeating all of the other elements and acting as a common solvent
and common denominator of them. The twelve-faced solid also subtly referred to the Twelve Immortals
who surfaced the universe, and also to the twelve convolutions of the human brain--the vehicles of those
Immortals in the nature of man.
While Pythagoras, in accordance with others of his day, practiced divination (possibly arithmomancy),
there is no accurate information concerning the methods which he used. He is believed to have had a
remarkable wheel by means of which he could predict future events, and to have learned hydromancy
from the Egyptians. He believed that brass had oracular powers, because even when everything was
perfectly still there was always a rumbling sound in brass bowls. He once addressed a prayer to the spirit
of a river and out of the water arose a voice, "Pythagoras, I greet thee." It is claimed for him that he was
able to cause dæmons to enter into water and disturb its surface, and by means of the agitations certain
things were predicted.
After having drunk from a certain spring one day, one of the Masters of Pythagoras announced that the
spirit of the water had just predicted that a great earthquake would occur the next day--a prophecy which
was fulfilled. It is highly probable that Pythagoras possessed hypnotic power, not only over man but also
over animals. He caused a bird to change the course of its flight, a bear to cease its ravages upon a
community, and a bull to change its diet, by the exercise of mental influence. He was also gifted with
second sight, being able to see things at a distance and accurately describe incidents that had not yet
come to pass.
Iamblichus gathered thirty-nine of the symbolic sayings of Pythagoras and interpreted them. These have
been translated from the Greek by Thomas Taylor. Aphorismic statement was one of the favorite
methods of instruction used in the Pythagorean university of Crotona. Ten of the most representative of
these aphorisms are reproduced below with a brief elucidation of their concealed meanings.
I. Declining from the public ways, walk in unfrequented paths. By this it is to be understood that those
who desire wisdom must seek it in solitude.
Click to enlarge
Pythagoras taught that the dot symbolized the power of the number 1, the line the power of the number 2, the
surface the power of the number 3, and the solid the power of the number 4.
p. 68
II. Govern your tongue before all other things, following the gods. This aphorism warns man that his
words, instead of representing him, misrepresent him, and that when in doubt as to what he should say,
he should always be silent.
III. The wind blowing, adore the sound. Pythagoras here reminds his disciples that the fiat of God is
heard in the voice of the elements, and that all things in Nature manifest through harmony, rhythm,
order, or procedure the attributes of the Deity.
IV. Assist a man in raising a burden; but do not assist him in laying it down. The student is instructed to
aid the diligent but never to assist those who seek to evade their responsibilities, for it is a great sin to
encourage indolence.
V. Speak not about Pythagoric concerns without light. The world is herein warned that it should not
attempt to interpret the mysteries of God and the secrets of the sciences without spiritual and intellectual
VI. Having departed from your house, turn not back, for the furies will be your attendants. Pythagoras
here warns his followers that any who begin the search for truth and, after having learned part of the
mystery, become discouraged and attempt to return again to their former ways of vice and ignorance,
will suffer exceedingly; for it is better to know nothing about Divinity than to learn a little and then stop
without learning all.
VII. Nourish a cock, but sacrifice it not; for it is sacred to the sun and moon. Two great lessons are
concealed in this aphorism. The first is a warning against the sacrifice of living things to the gods,
because life is sacred and man should not destroy it even as an offering to the Deity. The second warns
man that the human body here referred to as a cock is sacred to the sun (God) and the moon (Nature),
and should be guarded and preserved as man's most precious medium of expression. Pythagoras also
warned his disciples against suicide.
VIII. Receive not a swallow into your house. This warns the seeker after truth not to allow drifting
thoughts to come into his mind nor shiftless persons to enter into his life. He must ever surround himself
with rationally inspired thinkers and with conscientious workers.
IX. Offer not your right hand easily to anyone. This warns the disciple to keep his own counsel and not
offer wisdom and knowledge (his right hand) to such as are incapable of appreciating them. The hand
here represents Truth, which raises those who have fallen because of ignorance; but as many of the
unregenerate do not desire wisdom they will cut off the hand that is extended in kindness to them. Time
alone can effect the redemption of the ignorant masses
X. When rising from the bedclothes, roll them together, and obliterate the impression of the body.
Pythagoras directed his disciples who had awakened from the sleep of ignorance into the waking state of
intelligence to eliminate from their recollection all memory of their former spiritual darkness; for a wise
man in passing leaves no form behind him which others less intelligent, seeing, shall use as a mold for
the casting of idols.
The most famous of the Pythagorean fragments are the Golden Verses, ascribed to Pythagoras himself,
but concerning whose authorship there is an element of doubt. The Golden Verses contain a brief
summary of the entire system of philosophy forming the basis of the educational doctrines of Crotona,
or, as it is more commonly known, the Italic School. These verses open by counseling the reader to love
God, venerate the great heroes, and respect the dæmons and elemental inhabitants. They then urge man
to think carefully and industriously concerning his daily life, and to prefer the treasures of the mind and
soul to accumulations of earthly goods. The verses also promise man that if he will rise above his lower
material nature and cultivate self-control, he will ultimately be acceptable in the sight of the gods, be
reunited with them, and partake of their immortality. (It is rather significant to note that Plato paid a
great price for some of the manuscripts of Pythagoras which had been saved from the destruction of
Crotona. See Historia Deorum Fatidicorum, Geneva, 1675.)
According to Pythagoras, the position of each body in the universe was determined by the essential
dignity of that body. The popular concept of his day was that the earth occupied the center of the solar
system; that the planets, including the sun and moon, moved about the earth; and that the earth itself was
flat and square. Contrary to this concept, and regardless of criticism, Pythagoras declared that fire was
the most important of all the elements; that the center was the most important part of every body; and
that, just as Vesta's fire was in the midst of every home, so in the midst of the universe was a flaming
sphere of celestial radiance. This central globe he called the Tower of Jupiter, the Globe of Unity, the
Grand Monad, and the Altar of Vesta. As the sacred number 10 symbolized the sum of all parts and the
completeness of all things, it was only natural for Pythagoras to divide the universe into ten spheres,
symbolized by ten concentric circles. These circles began at the center with the globe of Divine Fire;
then came the seven planers, the earth, and another mysterious planet, called Antichthon, which was
never visible.
Opinions differ as to the nature of Antichthon. Clement of Alexandria believed that it represented the
mass of the heavens; others held the opinion that it was the moon. More probably it was the mysterious
eighth sphere of the ancients, the dark planet which moved in the same orbit as the earth but which was
always concealed from the earth by the body of the sun, being in exact opposition to the earth at all
times. Is this the mysterious Lilith concerning which astrologers have speculated so long?
Isaac Myer has stated: "The Pythagoreans held that each star was a world having its own atmosphere,
with an immense extent surrounding it, of aether." (See The Qabbalah.) The disciples of Pythagoras also
highly revered the planet Venus, because it was the only planet bright enough to cast a shadow. As the
morning star, Venus is visible before sunrise, and as the evening star it shines forth immediately after
sunset. Because of these qualities, a number of names have been given to it by the ancients. Being
visible in the sky at sunset, it was called vesper, and as it arose before the sun, it was called the false
light, the star of the morning, or Lucifer, which means the light-bearer. Because of this relation to the
sun, the planet was also referred to as Venus, Astarte, Aphrodite, Isis, and The Mother of the Gods. It is
possible that: at some seasons of the year in certain latitudes the fact that Venus was a crescent could be
detected without the aid of a telescope. This would account for the crescent which is often seen in
connection with the goddesses of antiquity, the stories of which do not agree with the phases of the
moon. The accurate knowledge which Pythagoras possessed concerning astronomy he undoubtedly
secured in the Egyptian temples, for their priests understood the true relationship of the heavenly bodies
many thousands of years before that knowledge was revealed to the uninitiated world. The fact that the
knowledge he acquired in the temples enabled him to make assertions requiring two thousand years to
check proves why Plato and Aristotle so highly esteemed the profundity of the ancient Mysteries. In the
midst of comparative scientific ignorance, and without the aid of any modern instruments, the priest-
philosophers had discovered the true fundamentals of universal dynamics.
An interesting application of the Pythagorean doctrine of geometric solids as expounded by Plato is
found in The Canon. "Nearly all the old philosophers," says its anonymous author, "devised an harmonic
theory with respect to the universe, and the practice continued till the old mode of philosophizing died
out. Kepler (1596), in order to demonstrate the Platonic doctrine, that the universe was formed of the
five regular solids, proposed the following rule. 'The earth is a circle, the measurer of all. Round it
describe a dodecahedron; the circle inclosing this will be Mars. Round Mars describe a tetrahedron; the
sphere inclosing this will be Jupiter. Describe a cube round Jupiter; the sphere containing this will be
Saturn. Now inscribe in the earth an icosahedron; the circle inscribed in it will be Venus. Inscribe an
octahedron in Venus; the circle inscribed in it will be Mercury' (Mysterium Cosmographicum, 1596).
This rule cannot be taken seriously as a real statement of the proportions of the cosmos, fox it bears no
real resemblance to the ratios published by Copernicus in the beginning of the sixteenth century. Yet
Kepler was very proud of his formula, and said he valued it more than the Electorate of Saxony. It was
also approved by those two eminent authorities, Tycho and Galileo, who evidently understood it. Kepler
himself never gives the least hint of how his precious rule is to be interpreted." Platonic astronomy was
not concerned with the material constitution or arrangement of the heavenly bodies, but considered the
stars and planers primarily as focal points of Divine intelligence. Physical astronomy was regarded as
the science of "shadows," philosophical astronomy the science of "realities."
Click to enlarge
Theon of Smyrna declares that the ten dots, or tetractys of Pythagoras, was a symbol of the greatest importance,
for to the discerning mind it revealed the mystery of universal nature. The Pythagoreans bound themselves by the
following oath: "By Him who gave to our soul the tetractys, which hath the fountain and root of ever-springing
Click to enlarge
By connecting the ten dots of the tetractys, nine triangles are formed. Six of these are involved in the forming of
the cube. The same triangles, when lines are properly drawn between them, also reveal the six-pointed star with a
dot in the center. Only seven dots are used in forming the cube and the star. Qabbalistically, the three unused
corner dots represent the threefold, invisible causal nature of the universe, while the seven dots involved in the
cube and the star are the Elohim--the Spirits of the seven creative periods. The Sabbath, or seventh day, is the
central dot.
Next: Pythagorean Mathematics
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 69
Pythagorean Mathematics
CONCERNING the secret significance of numbers there has been much speculation. Though many
interesting discoveries have been made, it may be safely said that with the death of Pythagoras the great
key to this science was lost. For nearly 2500 years philosophers of all nations have attempted to unravel
the Pythagorean skein, but apparently none has been successful. Notwithstanding attempts made to
obliterate all records of the teachings of Pythagoras, fragments have survived which give clues to some
of the simpler parts of his philosophy. The major secrets were never committed to writing, but were
communicated orally to a few chosen disciples. These apparently dated not divulge their secrets to the
profane, the result being that when death sealed their lips the arcana died with diem.
Certain of the secret schools in the world today are perpetuations of the ancient Mysteries, and although
it is quite possible that they may possess some of the original numerical formulæ, there is no evidence of
it in the voluminous writings which have issued from these groups during the last five hundred years.
These writings, while frequently discussing Pythagoras, show no indication of a more complete
knowledge of his intricate doctrines than the post-Pythagorean Greek speculators had, who talked much,
wrote little, knew less, and concealed their ignorance under a series of mysterious hints and promises.
Here and there among the literary products of early writers are found enigmatic statements which they
made no effort: to interpret. The following example is quoted from Plutarch:
"The Pythagoreans indeed go farther than this, and honour even numbers and geometrical diagrams with
the names and titles of the gods. Thus they call the equilateral triangle head-born Minerva and
Tritogenia, because it may be equally divided by three perpendiculars drawn from each of the angles. So
the unit they term Apollo, as to the number two they have affixed the name of strife and audaciousness,
and to that of three, justice. For, as doing an injury is an extreme on the one side, and suffering one is an
extreme on the on the one side, and suffering in the middle between them. In like manner the number
thirty-six, their Tetractys, or sacred Quaternion, being composed of the first four odd numbers added to
the first four even ones, as is commonly reported, is looked upon by them as the most solemn oath they
can take, and called Kosmos." (Isis and Osiris.)
Earlier in the same work, Plutarch also notes: "For as the power of the triangle is expressive of the
nature of Pluto, Bacchus, and Mars; and the properties of the square of Rhea, Venus, Ceres, Vesta, and
Juno; of the Dodecahedron of Jupiter; so, as we are informed by Eudoxus, is the figure of fifty-six
angles expressive of the nature of Typhon." Plutarch did not pretend to explain the inner significance of
the symbols, but believed that the relationship which Pythagoras established between the geometrical
solids and the gods was the result of images the great sage had seen in the Egyptian temples.
Albert Pike, the great Masonic symbolist, admitted that there were many points concerning which he
could secure no reliable information. In his Symbolism, for the 32° and 33°, he wrote: "I do not
understand why the 7 should be called Minerva, or the cube, Neptune." Further on he added:
"Undoubtedly the names given by the Pythagoreans to the different numbers were themselves
enigmatical and symbolic-and there is little doubt that in the time of Plutarch the meanings these names
concealed were lost. Pythagoras had succeeded too well in concealing his symbols with a veil that was
from the first impenetrable, without his oral explanation * * *."
This uncertainty shared by all true students of the subject proves conclusively that it is unwise to make
definite statements founded on the indefinite and fragmentary information available concerning the
Pythagorean system of mathematical philosophy. The material which follows represents an effort to
collect a few salient points from the scattered records preserved by disciples of Pythagoras and others
who have since contacted his philosophy.
The first step in obtaining the numerical value of a word is to resolve it back into its original tongue.
Only words of Greek or Hebrew derivation can be successfully analyzed by this method, and all words
must be spelled in their most ancient and complete forms. Old Testament words and names, therefore,
must be translated back into the early Hebrew characters and New Testament words into the Greek. Two
examples will help to clarify this principle.
The Demiurgus of the Jews is called in English Jehovah, but when seeking the numerical value of the
name Jehovah it is necessary to resolve the name into its Hebrew letters. It becomes ••••, and is read
from right to left. The Hebrew letters are: •, He; •, Vau; •, He; •, Yod; and when reversed into the
English order from left to right read: Yod-He-Vau-He. By consulting the foregoing table of letter values,
it is found that the four characters of this sacred name have the following numerical significance: Yod
equals 10. He equals 5, Vau equals 6, and the second He equals 5. Therefore, 10+5+6+5=26, a synonym
of Jehovah. If the English letters were used, the answer obviously would not be correct.
The second example is the mysterious Gnostic pantheos Abraxas. For this name the Greek table is used.
Abraxas in Greek is •βραξας. Α = 1, β = 2, ρ = 100, α = 1, ξ =60, α = 1, ς = 200, the sum being 365,
the number of days in the year. This number furnishes the key to the mystery of Abraxas, who is
symbolic of the 365 Æons, or Spirits of the Days, gathered together in one composite personality.
Abraxas is symbolic of five creatures, and as the circle of the year actually consists of 360 degrees, each
of the emanating deities is one-fifth of this power, or 72, one of the most sacred numbers in the Old
Testament of the Jews and in their Qabbalistic system. This same method is used in finding the
numerical value of the names of the gods and goddesses of the Greeks and Jews.
All higher numbers can be reduced to one of the original ten numerals, and the 10 itself to 1. Therefore,
all groups of numbers resulting from the translation of names of deities into their numerical equivalents
have a basis in one of the first ten numbers. By this system, in which the digits are added together, 666
becomes 6+6+6 or 18, and this, in turn, becomes 1+8 or 9. According to Revelation, 144,000 are to be
saved. This number becomes 1+4+4+0+0+0, which equals 9, thus proving that both the Beast of
Babylon and the number of the saved refer to man himself, whose symbol is the number 9. This system
can be used successfully with both Greek and Hebrew letter values.
The original Pythagorean system of numerical philosophy contains nothing to justify the practice now in
vogue of changing the given name or surname in the hope of improving the temperament or financial
condition by altering the name vibrations.
There is also a system of calculation in vogue for the English language, but its accuracy is a matter of
legitimate dispute. It is comparatively modern and has no relationship either to the Hebrew Qabbalistic
system or to the Greek procedure. The claim made by some that it is Pythagorean is not supported by
any tangible evidence, and there are many reasons why such a contention is untenable. The fact that
Pythagoras used 10 as the basis of calculation, while this system uses 9--an imperfect number--is in
itself almost conclusive. Furthermore, the arrangement of the Greek and Hebrew letters does not agree
closely enough with the English to permit the application of the number sequences of one language to
the number sequences of the others. Further experimentation with
Click to enlarge
From Higgins' Celtic Druids.
1 Names of the Hebrew letters.
2 Samaritan Letters.
3 Hebrew and Chaldean letters.
4 Numerical equivalents of the letters.
5 Capital and small Greek letters.
6 The letters marked with asterisks are those brought to Greece from Phœnicia by Cadmus.
7 Name of the Greek letters.
8 Nearest English equivalents to the Hebrew, Greek, and Samaritan Letters.
NOTE. When used at the end of a word, the Hebrew Tau has the numerical value 440, Caph 500, Mem 600, Nun
700, Pe 800, Tzadi 900. A dotted Alpha and a dashed Aleph have the value of 1,000.
p. 70
the system may prove profitable, but it is without basis in antiquity. The arrangement of the letters and
numbers is as follows:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
The letters under each of the numbers have the value of the figure at: the top of the column. Thus, in the
word man, M = 4, A = 1, N = 5: a total of 10. The values of the numbers are practically the same as those
given by the Pythagorean system.
(The following outline of Pythagorean mathematics is a paraphrase of the opening chapters of Thomas
Taylor's Theoretic Arithmetic, the rarest and most important compilation of Pythagorean mathematical
fragments extant.)
The Pythagoreans declared arithmetic to be the mother of the mathematical sciences. This is proved by
the fact that geometry, music, and astronomy are dependent upon it but it is not dependent upon them.
Thus, geometry may be removed but arithmetic will remain; but if arithmetic be removed, geometry is
eliminated. In the same manner music depends upon arithmetic, but the elimination of music affects
arithmetic only by limiting one of its expressions. The Pythagoreans also demonstrated arithmetic to be
prior to astronomy, for the latter is dependent upon both geometry and music. The size, form, and
motion of the celestial bodies is determined by the use of geometry; their harmony and rhythm by the
use of music. If astronomy be removed, neither geometry nor music is injured; but if geometry and
music be eliminated, astronomy is destroyed. The priority of both geometry and music to astronomy is
therefore established. Arithmetic, however, is prior to all; it is primary and fundamental.
Pythagoras instructed his disciples that the science of mathematics is divided into two major parts. The
first is concerned with the multitude, or the constituent parts of a thing, and the second with the
magnitude, or the relative size or density of a thing.
Magnitude is divided into two parts--magnitude which is stationary and magnitude which is movable,
the stationary pare having priority. Multitude is also divided into two parts, for it is related both to itself
and to other things, the first relationship having priority. Pythagoras assigned the science of arithmetic to
multitude related to itself, and the art of music to multitude related to other things. Geometry likewise
was assigned to stationary magnitude, and spherics (used partly in the sense of astronomy) to movable
magnitude. Both multitude and magnitude were circumscribed by the circumference of mind. The
atomic theory has proved size to be the result of number, for a mass is made up of minute units though
mistaken by the uninformed for a single simple substance.
Owing to the fragmentary condition of existing Pythagorean records, it is difficult to arrive at exact
definitions of terms. Before it is possible, however, to unfold the subject further some light must he cast
upon the meanings of the words number, monad, and one.
The monad signifies (a) the all-including ONE. The Pythagoreans called the monad the "noble number,
Sire of Gods and men." The monad also signifies (b) the sum of any combination of numbers considered
as a whole. Thus, the universe is considered as a monad, but the individual parts of the universe (such as
the planets and elements) are monads in relation to the parts of which they themselves are composed,
though they, in turn, are parts of the greater monad formed of their sum. The monad may also be likened
(c) to the seed of a tree which, when it has grown, has many branches (the numbers). In other words, the
numbers are to the monad what the branches of the tree are to the seed of the tree. From the study of the
mysterious Pythagorean monad, Leibnitz evolved his magnificent theory of the world atoms--a theory in
perfect accord with the ancient teachings of the Mysteries, for Leibnitz himself was an initiate of a secret
school. By some Pythagoreans the monad is also considered (d) synonymous with the one.
Number is the term applied to all numerals and their combinations. (A strict interpretation of the term
number by certain of the Pythagoreans excludes 1 and 2.) Pythagoras defines number to be the extension
and energy of the spermatic reasons contained in the monad. The followers of Hippasus declared
number to be the first pattern used by the Demiurgus in the formation of the universe.
The one was defined by the Platonists as "the summit of the many." The one differs from the monad in
that the term monad is used to designate the sum of the parts considered as a unit, whereas the one is the
term applied to each of its integral parts.
There are two orders of number: odd and even. Because unity, or 1, always remains indivisible, the odd
number cannot be divided equally. Thus, 9 is 4+1+4, the unity in the center being indivisible.
Furthermore, if any odd number be divided into two parts, one part will always be odd and the other
even. Thus, 9 may be 5+4, 3+6, 7+2, or 8+1. The Pythagoreans considered the odd number--of which
the monad was the prototype--to be definite and masculine. They were not all agreed, however, as to the
nature of unity, or 1. Some declared it to be positive, because if added to an even (negative) number, it
produces an odd (positive) number. Others demonstrated that if unity be added to an odd number, the
latter becomes even, thereby making the masculine to be feminine. Unity, or 1, therefore, was
considered an androgynous number, partaking of both the masculine and the feminine attributes;
consequently both odd and even. For this reason the Pythagoreans called it evenly-odd. It was customary
for the Pythagoreans to offer sacrifices of an uneven number of objects to the superior gods, while to the
goddesses and subterranean spirits an even number was offered.
Any even number may be divided into two equal parts, which are always either both odd or both even.
Thus, 10 by equal division gives 5+5, both odd numbers. The same principle holds true if the 10 be
unequally divided. For example, in 6+4, both parts are even; in 7+3, both parts are odd; in 8+2, both
parts are again even; and in 9+1, both parts are again odd. Thus, in the even number, however it may be
divided, the parts will always be both odd or both even. The Pythagoreans considered the even number-
of which the duad was the prototype--to be indefinite and feminine.
The odd numbers are divided by a mathematical contrivance--called "the Sieve of Eratosthenes"--into
three general classes: incomposite, composite, and incomposite-composite.
The incomposite numbers are those which have no divisor other than themselves and unity, such as 3, 5,
7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, and so forth. For example, 7 is divisible only by 7, which
goes into itself once, and unity, which goes into 7 seven times.
The composite numbers are those which are divisible not only by themselves and unity but also by some
other number, such as 9, 15, 21, 25, 27, 33, 39, 45, 51, 57, and so forth. For example, 21 is divisible not
only by itself and by unity, but also by 3 and by 7.
The incomposite-composite numbers are those which have no common divisor, although each of itself is
capable of division, such as 9 and 25. For example, 9 is divisible by 3 and 25 by 5, but neither is
divisible by the divisor of the other; thus they have no common divisor. Because they have individual
divisors, they are called composite; and because they have no common divisor, they are called in,
composite. Accordingly, the term incomposite-composite was created to describe their properties.
Even numbers are divided into three classes: evenly-even, evenly-odd, and oddly-odd.
The evenly-even numbers are all in duple ratio from unity; thus: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, and
1,024. The proof of the perfect evenly-even number is that it can be halved and the halves again halved
back to unity, as 1/2 of 64 = 32; 1/2 of 32 = 16; 1/2 of 16 = 8; 1/2 of 8 = 4; 1/2 of 4 = 2; 1/2 of 2 = 1;
beyond unity it is impossible to go.
The evenly-even numbers possess certain unique properties. The sum of any number of terms but the last
term is always equal to the last term minus one. For example: the sum of the first and second terms (1
+2) equals the third term (4) minus one; or, the sum of the first, second, third, and fourth terms (1+2+4
+8) equals the fifth term (16) minus one.
In a series of evenly-even numbers, the first multiplied by the last equals the last, the second multiplied
by the second from the last equals the last, and so on until in an odd series one number remains, which
multiplied by itself equals the last number of the series; or, in an even series two numbers remain, which
multiplied by each other give the last number of the series. For example: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 is an odd series.
The first number (1) multiplied by the last number (16) equals the last number (16). The second number
(2) multiplied by the second from the last number (8) equals the last number (16). Being an odd series,
the 4 is left in the center, and this multiplied by itself also equals the last number (16).
The evenly-odd numbers are those which, when halved, are incapable of further division by halving.
They are formed by taking the odd numbers in sequential order and multiplying them by 2. By this
process the odd numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 produce the evenly-odd numbers, 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, 22. Thus,
every fourth number is evenly-odd. Each of the even-odd numbers may be divided once, as 2, which
becomes two 1's and cannot be divided further; or 6, which becomes two 3's and cannot be divided
Another peculiarity of the evenly-odd numbers is that if the divisor be odd the quotient is always even,
and if the divisor be even the quotient is always odd. For example: if 18 be divided by 2 (an even
divisor) the quotient is 9 (an odd number); if 18 be divided by 3 (an odd divisor) the quotient is 6 (an
even number).
The evenly-odd numbers are also remarkable in that each term is one-half of the sum of the terms on
either side of it. For example: [paragraph continues]
p. 71
Click to enlarge
Redrawn from Taylor's Theoretic Arithmetic.
This sieve is a mathematical device originated by Eratosthenes about 230 B.C. far the purpose of segregating the
composite and incomposite odd numbers. Its use is extremely simple after the theory has once been mastered. All
the odd numbers are first arranged in their natural order as shown in the second panel from the bottom,
designated Odd Numbers. It will then be seen that every third number (beginning with 3) is divisible by 3, every
fifth number (beginning with 5;) is divisible by 5, every seventh number (beginning with 7) is divisible by 7,
every ninth number (beginning with 9) is divisible by 9, every eleventh number (beginning with 11) is divisible
by 11, and so on to infinity. This system finally sifts out what the Pythagoreans called the "incomposite"
numbers, or those having no divisor other than themselves and unity. These will be found in the lowest panel,
designated Primary and Incomposite Numbers. In his History of Mathematics, David Eugene Smith states that
Eratosthenes was one of the greatest scholars of Alexandria and was called by his admirers "the second Plato."
Eratosthenes was educated at Athens, and is renowned not only for his sieve but for having computed, by a very
ingenious method, the circumference and diameter of the earth. His estimate of the earth's diameter was only 50
miles less than the polar diameter accepted by modern scientists. This and other mathematical achievements of
Eratosthenes, are indisputable evidence that in the third century before Christ the Greeks not only knew the earth
to be spherical in farm but could also approximate, with amazing accuracy, its actual size and distance from both
the sun and the moon. Aristarchus of Samos, another great Greek astronomer and mathematician, who lived
about 250 B.C., established by philosophical deduction and a few simple scientific instruments that the earth
revolved around the sun. While Copernicus actually believed himself to be the discoverer of this fact, he but
restated the findings advanced by Aristarchus seventeen hundred years earlier.
10 is one-half of the sum of 6 and 14; 18 is one-half the sum of 14 and 22; and 6 is one-
[paragraph continues]
half the sum of 2 and 10.
The oddly-odd, or unevenly-even, numbers are a compromise between the evenly-even and the evenly-
odd numbers. Unlike the evenly-even, they cannot be halved back to unity; and unlike the evenly-odd,
they are capable of more than one division by halving. The oddly-odd numbers are formed by
multiplying the evenly-even numbers above 2 by the odd numbers above one. The odd numbers above
one are 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and so forth. The evenly-even numbers above 2 are 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and soon. The
first odd number of the series (3) multiplied by 4 (the first evenly-even number of the series) gives 12,
the first oddly-odd number. By multiplying 5, 7, 9, 11, and so forth, by 4, oddly-odd numbers are found.
The other oddly-odd numbers are produced by multiplying 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and so forth, in turn, by the
other evenly-even numbers (8, 16, 32, 64, and so forth). An example of the halving of the oddly-odd
number is as follows: 1/2 of 12 = 6; 1/2 of 6 = 3, which cannot be halved further because the
Pythagoreans did not divide unity.
Even numbers are also divided into three other classes: superperfect, deficient, and perfect.
Superperfect or superabundant numbers are such as have the sum of their fractional parts greater than
themselves. For example: 1/2 of 24 = 12; 1/4 = 6; 1/3 = 8; 1/6 = 4; 1/12 = 2; and 1/24 = 1. The sum of
these parts (12+6+8+4+2+1) is 33, which is in excess of 24, the original number.
Deficient numbers are such as have the sum of their fractional parts less than themselves. For example:
1/2 of 14 = 7; 1/7 = 2; and 1/14 = 1. The sum of these parts (7+2+1) is 10, which is less than 14, the
original number.
Perfect numbers are such as have the sum of their fractional parts equal to themselves. For example: 1/2
of 28 = 14; 1/4 = 7; 1/7 = 4; 1/14 = 2; and 1/28 = 1. The sum of these parts (14+7+4+2+1) is equal to 28.
The perfect numbers are extremely rare. There is only one between 1 and 10, namely, 6; one between 10
and 100, namely, 28; one between 100 and 1,000, namely, 496; and one between 1,000 and 10,000,
namely, 8,128. The perfect numbers are found by the following rule: The first number of the evenly-
even series of numbers (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and so forth) is added to the second number of the series, and
if an incomposite number results it is multiplied by the last number of the series of evenly-even numbers
whose sum produced it. The product is the first perfect number. For example: the first and second
evenly-even numbers are 1 and 2. Their sum is 3, an incomposite number. If 3 be multiplied by 2, the
last number of the series of evenly-even numbers used to produce it, the product is 6, the first perfect
number. If the addition of the evenly-even numbers does not result in an incomposite number, the next
evenly-even number of the series must be added until an incomposite number results. The second perfect
number is found in the following manner: The sum of the evenly-even numbers 1, 2, and 4 is 7, an
incomposite number. If 7 be multiplied by 4 (the last of the series of evenly-even numbers used to
produce it) the product is 28, the second perfect number. This method of calculation may be continued to
Perfect numbers when multiplied by 2 produce superabundant numbers, and when divided by 2 produce
deficient numbers.
The Pythagoreans evolved their philosophy from the science of numbers. The following quotation from
Theoretic Arithmetic is an excellent example of this practice:
"Perfect numbers, therefore, are beautiful images of the virtues which are certain media between excess
and defect, and are not summits, as by some of the ancients they were supposed to be. And evil indeed is
opposed to evil, but both are opposed to one good. Good, however, is never opposed to good, but to two
evils at one and the same time. Thus timidity is opposed to audacity, to both [of] which the want of true
courage is common; but both timidity and audacity are opposed to fortitude. Craft also is opposed to
fatuity, to both [of] which the want of intellect is common; and both these are opposed to prudence.
Thus, too, profusion is opposed to avarice, to both [of] which illiberality is common; and both these are
opposed to liberality. And in a similar manner in the other virtues; by all [of] which it is evident that
perfect numbers have a great similitude to the virtues. But they also resemble the virtues on another
account; for they are rarely found, as being few, and they are generated in a very constant order. On the
contrary, an infinite multitude of superabundant and diminished numbers may be found, nor are they
disposed in any orderly series, nor generated from any certain end; and hence they have a great
similitude to the vices, which are numerous, inordinate, and indefinite."
(The following outline of the Pythagorean numbers is a paraphrase of the writings of Nicomachus,
Theon of Smyrna, Proclus, Porphyry, Plutarch, Clement of Alexandria, Aristotle, and other early
Monad--1--is so called because it remains always in the same condition--that is, separate from multitude. Its
attributes are as follows: It is called mind, because the mind is stable and has preeminence; hermaphrodism,
because it is both male and female; odd and even, for being added to the even it makes odd, and to the odd, even;
God, because it is the beginning and end of all, but itself has neither beginning nor end; good, for such is the
nature of God; the receptacle of matter, because it produces the duad, which is essentially material.
By the Pythagoreans monad was called chaos, obscurity, chasm, Tartarus, Styx, abyss, Lethe, Atlas, Axis,
Morpho (a name for Venus), and Tower or Throne of Jupiter, because of the great power which abides in the
center of the universe and controls the circular motion of the planers about itself. Monad is also called germinal
reason, because it is the origin of all the thoughts in the universe. Other names given to it were: Apollo, because
of its relation to the sun; Prometheus, because he brought man light; Pyralios, one who exists in fire; geniture,
because without it no number can exist; substance, because substance is primary; cause of truth; and constitution
of symphony: all these because it is the primordial one.
Between greater and lesser the monad is equal; between intention and remission it is middle; in multitude it is
mean; and in time it is now, because
p. 72
eternity knows neither past nor future. It is called Jupiter, because he is Father and head of the gods; Vesta, the
fire of the home, because it is located in the midst of the universe and remains there inclining to no side as a dot
in a circle; form, because it circumscribes, comprehends, and terminates; love, concord, and piety, because it is
indivisible. Other symbolic names for the monad are ship, chariot, Proteus (a god capable of changing his form),
Mnemosyne, and Polyonymous (having many names).
The following symbolic names were given to the duad--2--because it has been divided, and is two rather than
one; and when there are two, each is opposed to the other: genius, evil, darkness, inequality, instability,
movability, boldness, fortitude, contention, matter, dissimilarity, partition between multitude and monad, defect,
shapelessness, indefiniteness, indeterminate ness, harmony, tolerance, root, feet of fountain-abounding idea, top,
Phanes, opinion, fallacy, alterity, diffidence, impulse, death, motion, generation, mutation, division, longitude,
augmentation, composition, communion, misfortune, sustentation, imposition, marriage, soul, and science.
In his book, Numbers, W. Wynn Westcott says of the duad: "it was called 'Audacity,' from its being the earliest
number to separate itself from the Divine One; from the 'Adytum of God-nourished Silence,' as the Chaldean
oracles say."
As the monad is the father, so the duad is the mother; therefore, the duad has certain points in common with the
goddesses Isis, Rhea (Jove's mother), Phrygia, Lydia, Dindymene (Cybele), and Ceres; Erato (one of the Muses);
Diana, because the moon is forked; Dictynna, Venus, Dione, Cytherea; Juno, because she is both wife and sister
of Jupiter; and Maia, the mother of Mercury.
While the monad is the symbol of wisdom, the duad is the symbol of ignorance, for in it exists the sense of
separateness--which sense is the beginning of ignorance. The duad, however, is also the mother of wisdom, for
ignorance--out of the nature of itself--invariably gives birth to wisdom.
The Pythagoreans revered the monad but despised the duad, because it was the symbol of polarity. By the power
of the duad the deep was created in contradistinction to the heavens. The deep mirrored the heavens and became
the symbol of illusion, for the below was merely a reflection of the above. The below was called maya, the
illusion, the sea, the Great Void, and to symbolize it the Magi of Persia carried mirrors. From the duad arose
disputes and contentions, until by bringing the monad between the duad, equilibrium was reestablished by the
Savior-God, who took upon Himself the form of a number and was crucified between two thieves for the sins of
The triad--3--is the first number actually odd (monad not always being considered a number). It is the first
equilibrium of unities; therefore, Pythagoras said that Apollo gave oracles from a tripod, and advised offer of
libation three times. The keywords to the qualities of the triad are friendship, peace, justice, prudence, piety,
temperance, and virtue. The following deities partake of the principles of the triad: Saturn (ruler of time), Latona,
Cornucopiæ, Ophion (the great serpent), Thetis, Hecate, Polyhymnia (a Muse), Pluto, Triton, President of the
Sea, Tritogenia, Achelous, and the Faces, Furies, and Graces. This number is called wisdom, because men
organize the present, foresee the future, and benefit by the experiences of the fast. It is cause of wisdom and
understanding. The triad is the number of knowledge--music, geometry, and astronomy, and the science of the
celestials and terrestrials. Pythagoras taught that the cube of this number had the power of the lunar circle.
The sacredness of the triad and its symbol--the triangle--is derived from the fact that it is made up of the monad
and the duad. The monad is the symbol of the Divine Father and the duad of the Great Mother. The triad being
made of these two is therefore androgynous and is symbolic of the fact that God gave birth to His worlds out of
Himself, who in His creative aspect is always symbolized by the triangle. The monad passing into the duad was
thus capable of becoming the parent of progeny, for the duad was the womb of Meru, within which the world was
incubated and within which it still exists in embryo.
The tetrad--4--was esteemed by the Pythagoreans as the primogenial number, the root of all things, the fountain
of Nature and the most perfect number. All tetrads are intellectual; they have an emergent order and encircle the
world as the Empyreum passes through it. Why the Pythagoreans expressed God as a tetrad is explained in a
sacred discourse ascribed to Pythagoras, wherein God is called the Number of Numbers. This is because the
decad, or 10, is composed of 1, 2, 3, and 4. The number 4 is symbolic of God because it is symbolic of the first
four numbers. Moreover, the tetrad is the center of the week, being halfway between 1 and 7. The tetrad is also
the first geometric solid.
Pythagoras maintained that the soul of man consists of a tetrad, the four powers of the soul being mind, science,
opinion, and sense. The tetrad connects all beings, elements, numbers, and seasons; nor can anything be named
which does not depend upon the tetractys. It is the Cause and Maker of all things, the intelligible God, Author of
celestial and sensible good, Plutarch interprets this tetractys, which he said was also called the world, to be 36,
consisting of the first four odd numbers added to the first four even numbers, thus:
1 + 3 +5 +7 = 16
2+4+6+8 = 20
Keywords given to the tetrad are impetuosity, strength, virility, two-mothered, and the key keeper of Nature,
because the universal constitution cannot be without it. It is also called harmony and the first profundity. The
following deities partook of the nature of the tetrad: Hercules, Mercury, Vulcan, Bacchus, and Urania (one of the
The triad represents the primary colors and the major planets, while the tetrad represents the secondary colors and
the minor planets. From the first triangle come forth the seven spirits, symbolized by a triangle and a square.
These together form the Masonic apron.
The pentad--5--is the union of an odd and an even number (3 and 2). Among the Greeks, the pentagram was a
sacred symbol of light, health, and vitality. It also symbolized the fifth element--ether--because it is free from the
disturbances of the four lower elements. It is called equilibrium, because it divides the perfect number 10 into
two equal parts.
The pentad is symbolic of Nature, for, when multiplied by itself it returns into itself, just as grains of wheat,
starting in the form of seed, pass through Nature's processes and reproduce the seed of the wheat as the ultimate
form of their own growth. Other numbers multiplied by themselves produce other numbers, but only 5 and 6
multiplied by themselves represent and retain their original number as the last figure in their products.
The pentad represents all the superior and inferior beings. It is sometimes referred to as the hierophant, or the
priest of the Mysteries, because of its connection with the spiritual ethers, by means of which mystic
development is attained. Keywords of the pentad are reconciliation, alternation, marriage, immortality, cordiality,
Providence, and sound. Among the deities who partook of the nature of the pentad were Pallas, Nemesis,
Bubastia (Bast), Venus, Androgynia, Cytherea, and the messengers of Jupiter.
The tetrad (the elements) plus the monad equals the pentad. The Pythagoreans taught that the elements of earth,
fire, air, and water were permeated by a substance called ether--the basis of vitality and life. Therefore, they
chose the five-pointed star, or pentagram, as the symbol of vitality, health, and interpenetration.
It was customary for the philosophers to conceal the element of earth under the symbol of a dragon, and many of
the heroes of antiquity were told to go forth and slay the dragon. Hence, they drove their sword (the monad) into
the body of the dragon (the tetrad). This resulted in the formation of the pentad, a symbol of the victory of the
spiritual nature over the material nature. The four elements are symbolized in the early Biblical writings as the
four rivers that poured out of Garden of Eden. The elements themselves are under the control of the composite
Cherubim of Ezekiel.
The Pythagoreans held the hexad--6--to represent, as Clement of Alexandria conceived, the creation of the world
according to both the prophets and the ancient Mysteries. It was called by the Pythagoreans the perfection of all
the parts. This number was particularly sacred to Orpheus, and also to the Fate, Lachesis, and the Muse, Thalia. It
was called the form of forms, the articulation of the universe, and the maker of the soul.
Among the Greeks, harmony and the soul were considered to be similar in nature, because all souls are harmonic.
The hexad is also the symbol of marriage, because it is formed by the union of two triangles, one masculine and
the other feminine. Among the keywords given to the hexad are: time, for it is the measure of duration; panacea,
because health is equilibrium, and the hexad is a balance number; the world, because the world, like the hexad, is
often seen to consist of contraries by harmony; omnisufficient, because its parts are sufficient for totality (3 +2 +
1 = 6); unwearied, because it contains the elements of immortality.
By the Pythagoreans the heptad--7--was called "worthy of veneration." It was held to be the number of religion,
because man is controlled by seven celestial spirits to whom it is proper for him to make offerings. It was called
the number of life, because it was believed that human creatures born in the seventh month of embryonic life
usually lived, but those born in the eighth month often died. One author called it the Motherless Virgin, Minerva,
because it was nor born of a mother but out of the crown, or the head of the Father, the monad. Keywords of the
heptad are fortune, occasion, custody, control, government, judgment, dreams, voices, sounds, and that which
leads all things to their end. Deities whose attributes were expressed by the heptad were Ægis, Osiris, Mars, and
Cleo (one of the Muses).
Among many ancient nations the heptad is a sacred number. The Elohim of the Jews were supposedly seven in
number. They were the Spirits of the Dawn, more commonly known as the Archangels controlling the planets.
The seven Archangels, with the three spirits controlling the sun in its threefold aspect, constitute the 10, the
sacred Pythagorean decad. The mysterious Pythagorean tetractys, or four rows of dots, increasing from 1 to 4,
was symbolic of the stages of creation. The great Pythagorean truth that all things in Nature are regenerated
through the decad, or 10, is subtly preserved in Freemasonry through these grips being effected by the uniting of
10 fingers, five on the hand of each person.
The 3 (spirit, mind, and soul) descend into the 4 (the world), the sum being the 7, or the mystic nature of man,
consisting of a threefold spiritual body and a fourfold material form. These are symbolized by the cube, which
has six surfaces and a mysterious seventh point within. The six surfaces are the directions: north, east, south,
west, up, and down; or, front, back, right, left, above, and below; or again, earth, fire, air, water, spirit, and
matter. In the midst of these stands the 1, which is the upright figure of man, from whose center in the cube
radiate six pyramids. From this comes the great occult axiom: "The center is the father of the directions, the
dimensions, and the distances."
The heptad is the number of the law, because it is the number of the Makers of Cosmic law, the Seven Spirits
before the Throne.
The ogdoad--8--was sacred because it was the number of the first cube, which form had eight corners, and was
the only evenly-even number under 10 (1-2-4-8-4-2-1). Thus, the 8 is divided into two 4's, each 4 is divided into
two 2's, and each 2 is divided into two 1's, thereby reestablishing the monad. Among the keywords of the ogdoad
are love, counsel, prudence, law, and convenience. Among the divinities partaking of its nature were Panarmonia,
Rhea, Cibele, Cadmæa, Dindymene, Orcia, Neptune, Themis, and Euterpe (a Muse).
The ogdoad was a mysterious number associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece and the Cabiri. It was
called the little holy number. It derived its form partly from the twisted snakes on the Caduceus of Hermes and
partly from the serpentine motion of the celestial bodies; possibly also from the moon's nodes.
The ennead--9--was the first square of an odd number (3x3). It was associated with failure and shortcoming
because it fell short of the perfect number 10 by one. It was called the called the number of man, because of the
nine months of his embryonic life. Among its keywords are ocean and horizon, because to the ancients these
were boundless. The ennead is the limitless number because there is nothing beyond it but the infinite 10. It was
called boundary and limitation, because it gathered all numbers within itself. It was called the sphere of the air,
because it surrounded the numbers as air surrounds the earth, Among the gods and goddesses who partook in
greater or less degree of its nature were Prometheus, Vulcan, Juno, the sister and wife of Jupiter, Pæan, and
Aglaia, Tritogenia, Curetes, Proserpine, Hyperion, and Terpsichore (a Muse).
The 9 was looked upon as evil, because it was an inverted 6. According to the Eleusinian Mysteries, it was the
number of the spheres through which the consciousness passed on its way to birth. Because of its close
resemblance to the spermatozoon, the 9 has been associated with germinal life.
The decad--10--according to the Pythagoreans, is the greatest of numbers, not only because it is the tetractys (the
10 dots) but because it comprehends all arithmetic and harmonic proportions. Pythagoras said that 10 is the
nature of number, because all nations reckon to it and when they arrive at it they return to the monad. The decad
was called both heaven and the world, because the former includes the latter. Being a perfect number, the decad
was applied by the Pythagoreans to those things relating to age, power, faith, necessity, and the power of
memory. It was also called unwearied, because, like God, it was tireless. The Pythagoreans divided the heavenly
bodies into ten orders. They also stated that the decad perfected all numbers and comprehended within itself the
nature of odd and even, moved and unmoved, good and ill. They associated its power with the following deities:
Atlas (for it carried the numbers on its shoulders), Urania, Mnemosyne, the Sun, Phanes, and the One God.
The decimal system can probably be traced back to the time when it was customary to reckon on the fingers,
these being among the most primitive of calculating devices and still in use among many aboriginal peoples.
Next: The Human Body in Symbolism
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 73
The Human Body in Symbolism
THE oldest, the most profound, the most universal of all symbols is the human body. The Greeks,
Persians, Egyptians, and Hindus considered a philosophical analysis of man's triune nature to be an
indispensable part of ethical and religious training. The Mysteries of every nation taught that the laws,
elements, and powers of the universe were epitomized in the human constitution; that everything which
existed outside of man had its analogue within man. The universe, being immeasurable in its immensity
and inconceivable in its profundity, was beyond mortal estimation. Even the gods themselves could
comprehend but a part of the inaccessible glory which was their source. When temporarily permeated
with divine enthusiasm, man may transcend for a brief moment the limitations of his own personality
and behold in part that celestial effulgence in which all creation is bathed. But even in his periods of
greatest illumination man is incapable of imprinting upon the substance of his rational soul a perfect
image of the multiform expression of celestial activity.
Recognizing the futility of attempting to cope intellectually with that which transcends the
comprehension of the rational faculties, the early philosophers turned their attention from the
inconceivable Divinity to man himself, with in the narrow confines of whose nature they found
manifested all the mysteries of the external spheres. As the natural outgrowth of this practice there was
fabricated a secret theological system in which God was considered as the Grand Man and, conversely,
man as the little god. Continuing this analogy, the universe was regarded as a man and, conversely, man
as a miniature universe. The greater universe was termed the Macrocosm--the Great World or Body--and
the Divine Life or spiritual entity controlling its functions was called the Macroprosophus. Man's body,
or the individual human universe, was termed the Microcosm, and the Divine Life or spiritual entity
controlling its functions was called the Microprosophus. The pagan Mysteries were primarily concerned
with instructing neophytes in the true relationship existing between the Macrocosm and the Microcosm--
in other words, between God and man. Accordingly, the key to these analogies between the organs and
functions of the Microcosmic man and those of the Macrocosmic Man constituted the most prized
possession of the early initiates.
In Isis Unveiled, H. P. Blavatsky summarizes the pagan concept of man as follows: "Man is a little
world--a microcosm inside the great universe. Like a fetus, he is suspended, by all his three spirits, in
the matrix of the macrocosmos; and while his terrestrial body is in constant sympathy with its parent
earth, his astral soul lives in unison with the sidereal anima mundi. He is in it, as it is in him, for the
world-pervading element fills all space, and is space itself, only shoreless and infinite. As to his third
spirit, the divine, what is it but an infinitesimal ray, one of the countless radiations proceeding directly
from the Highest Cause--the Spiritual Light of the World? This is the trinity of organic and inorganic
nature--the spiritual and the physical, which are three in one, and of which Proclus says that 'The first
monad is the Eternal God; the second, eternity; the third, the paradigm, or pattern of the universe;' the
three constituting the Intelligible Triad."
Long before the introduction of idolatry into religion, the early priests caused the statue of a man to be
placed in the sanctuary of the temple. This human figure symbolized the Divine Power in all its intricate
manifestations. Thus the priests of antiquity accepted man as their textbook, and through the study of
him learned to understand the greater and more abstruse mysteries of the celestial scheme of which they
were a part. It is not improbable that this mysterious figure standing over the primitive altars was made
in the nature of a manikin and, like certain emblematic hands in the Mystery schools, was covered with
either carved or painted hieroglyphs. The statue may have opened, thus showing the relative positions of
the organs, bones, muscles, nerves, and other parts. After ages of research, the manikin became a mass
of intricate hieroglyphs and symbolic figures. Every part had its secret meaning. The measurements
formed a basic standard by means of which it was possible to measure all parts of cosmos. It was a
glorious composite emblem of all the knowledge possessed by the sages and hierophants.
Then came the age of idolatry. The Mysteries decayed from within. The secrets were lost and none knew
the identity of the mysterious man who stood over the altar. It was remembered only that the figure was
a sacred and glorious symbol of the Universal Power, and it: finally came to be looked upon as a god--
the One in whose image man was made. Having lost the knowledge of the purpose for which the
manikin was originally constructed, the priests worshiped this effigy until at last their lack of spiritual
understanding brought the temple down in ruins about their heads and the statue crumbled with the
civilization that had forgotten its meaning.
Proceeding from this assumption of the first theologians that man is actually fashioned in the image of
God, the initiated minds of past ages erected the stupendous structure of theology upon the foundation of
the human body. The religious world of today is almost totally ignorant of the fact that the science of
biology is the fountainhead of its doctrines and tenets. Many of the codes and laws believed by modern
divines to have been direct revelations from Divinity are in reality the fruitage of ages of patient delving
into the intricacies of the human constitution and the infinite wonders revealed by such a study.
In nearly all the sacred books of the world can be traced an anatomical analogy. This is most evident in
their creation myths. Anyone familiar with embryology and obstetrics will have no difficulty in
recognizing the basis of the allegory concerning Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, the nine
degrees of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the Brahmanic legend of Vishnu's incarnations. The story of the
Universal Egg, the Scandinavian myth of Ginnungagap (the dark cleft in space in which the seed of the
world is sown), and the use of the fish as the emblem of the paternal generative power--all show the true
origin of theological speculation. The philosophers of antiquity realized that man himself was the key to
the riddle of life, for he was the living image of the Divine Plan, and in future ages humanity also will
come to realize more fully the solemn import of those ancient words: "The proper study of mankind is
Both God and man have a twofold constitution, of which the superior part is invisible and the inferior
visible. In both there is also an intermediary sphere, marking the point where these visible and invisible
natures meet. As the spiritual nature of God controls His objective universal form-which is actually a
crystallized idea--so the spiritual nature of man is the invisible cause and controlling power of his visible
material personality. Thus it is evident that the spirit of man bears the same relationship to his material
body that God bears to the objective universe. The Mysteries taught that spirit, or life, was anterior to
form and that what is anterior includes all that is posterior to itself. Spirit being anterior to form, form is
therefore included within the realm of spirit. It is also a popular statement or belief that man's spirit is
within his body. According to the conclusions of philosophy and theology, however, this belief is
erroneous, for spirit first circumscribes an area and then manifests within it. Philosophically speaking,
form, being a part of spirit, is within spirit; but: spirit is more than the sum of form, As the material
nature of man is therefore within the sum of spirit, so the Universal Nature, including the entire sidereal
system, is within the all-pervading essence of God--the Universal Spirit.
According to another concept of the ancient wisdom, all bodies--whether spiritual or material--have
three centers, called by the Greeks the upper center, the middle center, and the lower center. An apparent
ambiguity will here be noted. To diagram or symbolize adequately abstract mental verities is impossible,
for the diagrammatic representation of one aspect of metaphysical relationships may be an actual
contradiction of some other aspect. While that which
Click to enlarge
From Böhme's Libri Apologetici.
The Tetragrammaton, or four-lettered Name of God, is here arranged as a tetractys within the inverted human
heart. Beneath, the name Jehovah is shown transformed into Jehoshua by the interpolation of the radiant Hebrew
letter ••, Shin. The drawing as a whole represents the throne of God and His hierarchies within the heart of man.
In the first book of his Libri Apologetici, Jakob Böhme thus describes the meaning of the symbol: "For we men
have one book in common which points to God. Each has it within himself, which is the priceless Name of God.
Its letters are the flames of His love, which He out of His heart in the priceless Name of Jesus has revealed in us.
Read these letters in your hearts and spirits and you have books enough. All the writings of the children of God
direct you unto that one book, for therein lie all the treasures of wisdom. * * * This book is Christ in you."
p. 74
is above is generally considered superior in dignity and power, in reality that which is in the center is
superior and anterior to both that which is said to be above and that which is said to be below. Therefore,
it must be said that the first--which is considered as being above--is actually in the center, while both of
the others (which are said to be either above or below) are actually beneath. This point can be further
simplified if the reader will consider above as indicating degree of proximity to source and below as
indicating degree of distance from source, source being posited in the actual center and relative distance
being the various points along the radii from the center toward the circumference. In matters pertaining
to philosophy and theology, up may be considered as toward the center and down as toward the
circumference. Center is spirit; circumference is matter. Therefore, up is toward spirit along an
ascending scale of spirituality; down is toward matter along an ascending scale of materiality. The latter
concept is partly expressed by the apex of a cone which, when viewed from above, is seen as a point in
the exact center of the circumference formed by the base of the cone.
These three universal centers--the one above, the one below, and the link uniting them-represent three
suns or three aspects of one sun--centers of effulgence. These also have their analogues in the three
grand centers of the human body, which, like the physical universe, is a Demiurgic fabrication. "The
first of these [suns]," says Thomas Taylor, "is analogous to light when viewed subsisting in its fountain
the sun; the second to the light immediately proceeding from the sun; and the third to the splendour
communicated to other natures by this light."
Since the superior (or spiritual) center is in the midst of the other two, its analogue in the physical body
is the heart--the most spiritual and mysterious organ in the human body. The second center (or the link
between the superior and inferior worlds) is elevated to the position of greatest physical dignity--the
brain. The third (or lower) center is relegated to the position of least physical dignity but greatest
physical importance--the generative system. Thus the heart is symbolically the source of life; the brain
the link by which, through rational intelligence, life and form are united; and the generative system--or
infernal creator--the source of that power by which physical organisms are produced. The ideals and
aspirations of the individual depend largely upon which of these three centers of power predominates in
scope and activity of expression. In the materialist the lower center is the strongest, in the intellectualist
the higher center; but in the initiate the middle center--by bathing the two extremes in a flood of spiritual
effulgence--controls wholesomely both the mind and the body.
As light bears witness of life-which is its source-so the mind bears witness of the spirit, and activity in a
still lower plane bears witness of intelligence. Thus the mind bears witness of the heart, while the
generative system, in turn, bears witness of the mind. Accordingly, the spiritual nature is most
commonly symbolized by a heart; the intellectual power by an opened eye, symbolizing the pineal gland
or Cyclopean eye, which is the two-faced Janus of the pagan Mysteries; and the generative system by a
flower, a staff, a cup, or a hand.
While all the Mysteries recognized the heart as the center of spiritual consciousness, they often
purposely ignored this concept and used the heart in its exoteric sense as the symbol of the emotional
nature, In this arrangement the generative center represented the physical body, the heart the emotional
body, and the brain the mental body. The brain represented the superior sphere, but after the initiates had
passed through the lower degrees they were instructed that the brain was the proxy of the spiritual flame
dwelling in the innermost recesses of the heart. The student of esotericism discovers ere long that the
ancients often resorted to various blinds to conceal the true interpretations of their Mysteries. The
substitution of the brain for the heart was one of these blinds.
The three degrees of the ancient Mysteries were, with few exceptions, given in chambers which
represented the three great centers of the human and Universal bodies. If possible, the temple itself was
constructed in the form of the human body. The candidate entered between the feet and received the
highest degree in the point corresponding to the brain. Thus the first degree was the material mystery
and its symbol was the generative system; it raised the candidate through the various degrees of concrete
thought. The second degree was given in the chamber corresponding to the heart, but represented the
middle power which was the mental link. Here the candidate was initiated into the mysteries of abstract
thought and lifted as high as the mind was capable of penetrating. He then passed into the third chamber,
which, analogous to the brain, occupied the highest position in the temple but, analogous to the heart,
was of the greatest dignity. In the brain chamber the heart mystery was given. Here the initiate for the
first time truly comprehended the meaning of those immortal words: "As a man thinketh in his heart, so
is he." As there are seven hearts in the brain so there are seven brains in the heart, but this is a matter of
superphysics of which little can be said at the present time.
Proclus writes on this subject in the first book of On the Theology of Plato: "Indeed, Socrates in the
(First) Alcibiades rightly observes, that the soul entering into herself will behold all other things, and
deity itself. For verging to her own union, and to the centre of all life, laying aside multitude, and the
variety of the all manifold powers which she contains, she ascends to the highest watch-tower offerings.
And as in the most holy of the mysteries, they say, that the mystics at first meet with the multi form, and
many-shaped genera, which are hurled forth before the gods, but on entering the temple, unmoved, and
guarded by the mystic rites, they genuinely receive in their bosom [heart] divine illumination, and
divested of their garments, as they would say, participate of a divine nature; the same mode, as it appears
to me, takes place in the speculation of wholes. For the soul when looking at things posterior to herself,
beholds the shadows and images of beings, but when she converts herself to herself she evolves her own
essence, and the reasons which she contains. And at first indeed, she only as it were beholds herself; but,
when she penetrates more profoundly into the knowledge of herself, she finds in herself both intellect,
and the orders of beings. When however, she proceeds into her interior recesses, and into the adytum as
it were of the soul, she perceives with her eye closed [without the aid of the lower mind], the genus of
the gods, and the unities of beings. For all things are in us psychically, and through this we are naturally
capable of knowing all things, by exciting the powers and the images of wholes which we contain."
The initiates of old warned their disciples that an image is not a reality but merely the objectification of a
subjective idea. The image, of the gods were nor designed to be objects of worship but were to be
regarded merely as emblems or reminders of invisible powers and principles. Similarly, the body of man
must not be considered as the individual but only as the house of the individual, in the same manner that
the temple was the House of God. In a state of grossness and perversion man's body is the tomb or
prison of a divine
Click to enlarge
From an old print, courtesy of Carl Oscar Borg.
Upon the twelve phalanges of the fingers, appear the likenesses of the Apostles, each bearing its own appropriate
symbol. In the case of those who suffered martyrdom the symbol signifies the instrument of death. Thus, the
symbol of St. Andrew is a cross; of St. Thomas, a javelin or a builder's square; of St. James the Less, a club; of St
Philip, a cross; of St. Bartholomew, a large knife or scimitar; of St. Matthew, a sword or spear (sometimes a
purse); of St. Simon, a club or saw; of St. Matthias, an axe; and of St. Judas, a halbert. The Apostles whose
symbols do not elate to their martyrdom are St. Peter, who carries two crossed keys, one gold and one silver; St.
James the Great, who bears a pilgrim's staff and an escalop shell; and St. John, who holds a cup from which the
poison miraculously departed in the form of a serpent. (See Handbook of Christian Symbolism.) The figure of
Christ upon the second phalange of the thumb does not follow the pagan system of assigning the first Person of
the Creative Triad to this Position. God the Father should occupy the second Phalange, God the Son the first
phalange, while to God the Holy Spirit is assigned the base of the thumb.--Also, according to the Philosophic
arrangement, the Virgin should occupy the base of the thumb, which is sacred to the moon.
p. 75
principle; in a state of unfoldment and regeneration it is the House or Sanctuary of the Deity by whose
creative powers it was fashioned. "Personality is suspended upon a thread from the nature of Being,"
declares the secret work. Man is essentially a permanent and immortal principle; only his bodies pass
through the cycle of birth and death. The immortal is the reality; the mortal is the unreality. During each
period of earth life, reality thus dwells in unreality, to be liberated from it temporarily by death and
permanently by illumination.
While generally regarded as polytheists, the pagans gained this reputation not because they worshiped
more than one God but rather because they personified the attributes of this God, thereby creating a
pantheon of posterior deities each manifesting a part of what the One God manifested as a whole. The
various pantheons of ancient religions therefore actually represent the catalogued and personified
attributes of Deity. In this respect they correspond to the hierarchies of the Hebrew Qabbalists. All the
gods and goddesses of antiquity consequently have their analogies in the human body, as have also the
elements, planets, and constellations which were assigned as proper vehicles for these celestials. Four
body centers are assigned to the elements, the seven vital organs to the planets, the twelve principal parts
and members to the zodiac, the invisible parts of man's divine nature to various supermundane deities,
while the hidden God was declared to manifest through the marrow in the bones.
It is difficult for many to realize that they are actual universes; that their physical bodies are a visible
nature through the structure of which countless waves of evolving life are unfolding their latent
potentialities. Yet through man's physical body not only are a mineral, a plant, and an animal kingdom
evolving, but also unknown classifications and divisions of invisible spiritual life. just as cells are
infinitesimal units in the structure of man, so man is an infinitesimal unit in the structure of the universe.
A theology based upon the knowledge and appreciation of these relationships is as profoundly just as it
is profoundly true.
As man's physical body has five distinct and important extremities--two legs, two arms, and a head, of
which the last governs the first four--the number 5 has been accepted as the symbol of man. By its four
corners the pyramid symbolizes the arms and legs, and by its apex the head, thus indicating that one
rational power controls four irrational corners. The hands and feet are used to represent the four
elements, of which the two feet are earth and water, and the two hands fire and air. The brain then
symbolizes the sacred fifth element--æther--which controls and unites the other four. If the feet are
placed together and the arms outspread, man then symbolizes the cross with the rational intellect as the
head or upper limb.
The fingers and toes also have special significance. The toes represent the Ten Commandments of the
physical law and the fingers the Ten Commandments of the spiritual law. The four fingers of each hand
represent the four elements and the three phalanges of each finger represent the divisions of the element,
so that in each hand there are twelve parts to the fingers, which are analogous to the signs of the zodiac,
whereas the two phalanges and base of each thumb signify the threefold Deity. The first phalange
corresponds to the creative aspect, the second to the preservative aspect, and the base to the generative
and destructive aspect. When the hands are brought together, the result is the twenty-four Elders and the
six Days of Creation.
In symbolism the body is divided vertically into halves, the right half being considered as light and the
left half as darkness. By those unacquainted with the true meanings of light and darkness the light half
was denominated spiritual and the left half material. Light is the symbol of objectivity; darkness of
subjectivity. Light is a manifestation of life and is therefore posterior to life. That which is anterior to
light is darkness, in which light exists temporarily but darkness permanently. As life precedes light, its
only symbol is darkness, and darkness is considered as the veil which must eternally conceal the true
nature of abstract and undifferentiated Being.
In ancient times men fought with their right arms and defended the vital centers with their left arms, on
which was carried the protecting shield. The right half of the body was regarded therefore as offensive
and the left half defensive. For this reason also the right side of the body was considered masculine and
the left side feminine. Several authorities are of the opinion that the present prevalent right-handedness
of the race is the outgrowth of the custom of holding the left hand in restraint for defensive purposes.
Furthermore, as the source of Being is in the primal darkness which preceded light, so the spiritual
nature of man is in the dark part of his being, for the heart is on the left side.
Among the curious misconceptions arising from the false practice of associating darkness with evil is
one by which several early nations used the right hand for all constructive labors and the left hand for
only those purposes termed unclean and unfit for the sight of the gods. For the same reason black magic
was often referred to as the left-hand path, and heaven was said to be upon the right and hell upon the
left. Some philosophers further declared that there were two methods of writing: one from left to right,
which was considered the exoteric method; the other from right to left, which was considered esoteric.
The exoteric writing was that which was done out or away from the heart, while the esoteric writing was
that which--like the ancient Hebrew--was written toward the heart.
The secret doctrine declares that every part and member of the body is epitomized in the brain and, in
turn, that all that is in the brain is epitomized in the heart. In symbolism the human head is frequently
used to represent intelligence and self-knowledge. As the human body in its entirety is the most perfect
known product of the earth's evolution, it was employed to represent Divinity--the highest appreciable
state or condition. Artists, attempting to portray Divinity, often show only a hand emerging from an
impenetrable cloud. The cloud signifies the Unknowable Divinity concealed from man by human
limitation. The hand signifies the Divine activity, the only part of God which is cognizable to the lower
The face consists of a natural trinity: the eyes representing the spiritual power which comprehends; the
nostrils representing the preservative and vivifying power; and the mouth and ears representing the
material Demiurgic power of the lower world. The first sphere is eternally existent and is creative; the
second sphere pertains to the mystery of the creative breach; and the third sphere
Click to enlarge
Redrawn from Gichtel's Theosophia Practica.
Johann Georg Gichtel, a profound Philosopher and mystic, the most illumined of the disciples of Jakob Böhme,
secretly circulated the above diagrams among a small group of devoted friends and students. Gichtel republished
the writings of Böhme, illustrating them with numerous remarkable figures. According to Gichtel, the diagrams
above, represent the anatomy of the divine (or inner) man, and graphically set forth its condition during its
human, infernal, and divine states. The plates in the William Law edition of Böhme's works are based apparently
upon Gichtel's diagrams, which they follow in all essentials. Gichtel gives no detailed description of his figures,
and the lettering on the original diagrams here translated out of the German is the only clue to the interpretation
of the charts.
The two end figures represent the obverse and reverse of the same diagram and are termed Table Three. They are
"designed to show the Condition of the whole Man, as to all his three essential Parts, Spirit, Soul, and Body, in
his Regenerated State." The third figure from the left is called the Second Table, and sets forth "the Condition of
Man in his old, lapsed, and corrupted State; without any respect to, or consideration of his renewing by
regeneration." The third figure, however, does not correspond with the First Table of William Law. The First
Table presumably represents the condition of humanity before the Fall, but the Gichtel plate pertains to the third,
or regenerated, state of mankind. William Law thus describes the purpose of the diagrams, and the symbols upon
them: "These three tables are designed to represent Man in his different Threefold State: the First before his Fall,
in Purity, Dominion, and Glory: the Second after his Fall, in Pollution and Perdition: and the Third in his rising
from the Fall, or on the Way of regeneration, in Sanctification and Tendency to his last Perfection." The student
of Orientalism will immediately recognize in the symbols upon the figures the Hindu chakras, or centers of
spiritual force, the various motions and aspects of which reveal the condition of the disciple's internal divine
p. 76
to the creative word. By the Word of God the material universe was fabricated, and the seven creative
powers, or vowel sounds--which had been brought into existence by the speaking of the Word--became
the seven Elohim or Deities by whose power and ministration the lower world was organized.
Occasionally the Deity is symbolized by an eye, an ear, a nose, or a mouth. By the first, Divine
awareness is signified; by the second, Divine interest; by the third, Divine vitality; and by the fourth,
Divine command.
The ancients did not believe that spirituality made men either righteous or rational, but rather that
righteousness and rationality made men spiritual. The Mysteries taught that spiritual illumination was
attained only by bringing the lower nature up to a certain standard of efficiency and purity. The
Mysteries were therefore established for the purpose of unfolding the nature of man according to certain
fixed rules which, when faithfully followed, elevated the human consciousness to a point where it was
capable of cognizing its own constitution and the true purpose of existence. This knowledge of how
man's manifold constitution could be most quickly and most completely regenerated to the point of
spiritual illumination constituted the secret, or esoteric, doctrine of antiquity. Certain apparently physical
organs and centers are in reality the veils or sheaths of spiritual centers. What these were and how they
could be unfolded was never revealed to the unregenerate, for the philosophers realized that once he
understands the complete working of any system, a man may accomplish a prescribed end without being
qualified to manipulate and control the effects which he has produced. For this reason long periods of
probation were imposed, so that the knowledge of how to become as the gods might remain the sole
possession of the worthy.
Lest that knowledge be lost, however, it was concealed in allegories and myths which were meaningless
to the profane but self-evident to those acquainted with that theory of personal redemption which was
the foundation of philosophical theology. Christianity itself may be cited as an example. The entire New
Testament is in fact an ingeniously concealed exposition of the secret processes of human regeneration.
The characters so long considered as historical men and women are really the personification of certain
processes which take place in the human body when man begins the task of consciously liberating
himself from the bondage of ignorance and death.
The garments and ornamentations supposedly worn by the gods are also keys, for in the Mysteries
clothing was considered as synonymous with form. The degree of spirituality or materiality of the
organisms was signified by the quality, beauty, and value of the garments worn. Man's physical body
was looked upon as the robe of his spiritual nature; consequently, the more developed were his super-
substantial powers the more glorious his apparel. Of course, clothing was originally worn for
ornamentation rather than protection, and such practice still prevails among many primitive peoples. The
Mysteries caught that man's only lasting adornments were his virtues and worthy characteristics; that he
was clothed in his own accomplishments and adorned by his attainments. Thus the white robe was
symbolic of purity, the red robe of sacrifice and love, and the blue robe of altruism and integrity. Since
the body was said to be the robe of the spirit, mental or moral deformities were depicted as deformities
of the body.
Considering man's body as the measuring rule of the universe, the philosophers declared that all things
resemble in constitution--if not in form--the human body. The Greeks, for example, declared Delphi to
be the navel of the earth, for the physical planet was looked upon as a gigantic human being twisted into
the form of a ball. In contradistinction to the belief of Christendom that the earth is an inanimate thing,
the pagans considered not only the earth but also all the sidereal bodies as individual creatures
possessing individual intelligences. They even went so far as to view the various kingdoms of Nature as
individual entities. The animal kingdom, for example, was looked upon as one being--a composite of all
the creatures composing that kingdom. This prototypic beast was a mosaic embodiment of all animal
propensities and within its nature the entire animal world existed as the human species exists within the
constitution of the prototypic Adam.
In the same manner, races, nations, tribes, religions, states, communities, and cities were viewed as
composite entities, each made up of varying numbers of individual units. Every community has an
individuality which is the sum of the individual attitudes of its inhabitants. Every religion is an
individual whose body is made up of a hierarchy and vast host of individual worshipers. The
organization of any religion represents its physical body, and its individual members the cell life making
up this organism. Accordingly, religions, races, and communities--like individuals--pass through
Shakespeare's Seven Ages, for the life of man is a standard by which the perpetuity of all things is
According to the secret doctrine, man, through the gradual refinement of his vehicles and the ever-
increasing sensitiveness resulting from that refinement, is gradually overcoming the limitations of matter
and is disentangling himself from his mortal coil. When humanity has completed its physical evolution,
the empty shell of materiality left behind will be used by other life waves as steppingstones to their own
liberation. The trend of man's evolutionary growth is ever toward his own essential Selfhood. At the
point of deepest materialism, therefore, man is at the greatest distance from Himself. According to the
Mystery teachings, not all the spiritual nature of man incarnates in matter. The spirit of man is
diagrammatically shown as an equilateral triangle with one point downward. This lower point, which is
one-third of the spiritual nature but in comparison to the dignity of the other two is much less than a
third, descends into the illusion of material existence for a brief space of time. That which never clothes
itself in the sheath of matter is the Hermetic Anthropos--the Overman-- analogous to the Cyclops or
guardian dæmon of the Greeks, the angel of Jakob Böhme, and the Oversoul of Emerson, "that Unity,
that Oversoul, within which every man's particular being is contained and made one with all other."
At birth only a third part of the Divine Nature of man temporarily dissociates itself from its own
immortality and takes upon itself the dream of physical birth and existence, animating with its own
celestial enthusiasm a vehicle composed of material elements, part of and bound to the material sphere.
At death this incarnated part awakens from the dream of physical existence and reunites itself once more
with its eternal condition. This periodical descent of spirit into matter is termed the wheel of life and
death, and the principles involved are treated at length by the philosophers under the subject of
metempsychosis. By initiation into the Mysteries and a certain process known as operative theology, this
law of birth and death is transcended, and during the course of physical existence that part of the spirit
which is asleep in form is awakened without the intervention of death--the inevitable Initiator--and is
consciously reunited with the Anthropos, or the overshadowing substance of itself. This is at once the
primary purpose and the consummate achievement of the Mysteries: that man shall become aware of and
consciously be reunited with the divine source of himself without tasting of physical dissolution.
Click to enlarge
From Law's Figures of Jakob Böhme.
Just as the diagram representing the front view of man illustrates his divine principles in their regenerated state,
so the back view of the same figure sets forth the inferior, or "night," condition of the sun. From the Sphere of the
Astral Mind a line ascends through the Sphere of reason into that of the Senses. The Sphere of the Astral Mind
and of the Senses are filled with stars to signify the nocturnal condition of their natures. In the sphere of reason,
the superior and the inferior are reconciled, Reason in the mortal man corresponding to Illumined Understanding
in the spiritual man.
Click to enlarge
From Law's Figures of Jakob Böhme.
A tree with its roots in the heart rises from the Mirror of the Deity through the Sphere of the Understanding to
branch forth in the Sphere of the Senses. The roots and trunk of this tree represent the divine nature of man and
may be called his spirituality; the branches of the tree are the separate parts of the divine constitution and may be
likened to the individuality; and the leaves--because of their ephemeral nature--correspond to the personality,
which partakes of none of the permanence of its divine source.
Next: The Hiramic Legend
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
The Hiramic Legend
p. 77
WHEN Solomon--the beloved of God, builder of the Everlasting House, and Grand Master of the Lodge
of Jerusalem--ascended the throne of his father David he consecrated his life to the erection of a temple
to God and a palace for the kings of Israel. David's faithful friend, Hiram, King of Tyre, hearing that a
son of David sat upon the throne of Israel, sent messages of congratulation and offers of assistance to the
new ruler. In his History of the Jews, Josephus mentions that copies of the letters passing between the
two kings were then to be seen both at Jerusalem and at Tyre. Despite Hiram's lack of appreciation for
the twenty cities of Galilee which Solomon presented to him upon the completion of the temple, the two
monarchs remained the best of friends. Both were famous for their wit and wisdom, and when they
exchanged letters each devised puzzling questions to test the mental ingenuity of the other. Solomon
made an agreement with Hiram of Tyre promising vast amounts of barley, wheat, corn, wine, and oil as
wages for the masons and carpenters from Tyre who were to assist the Jews in the erection of the
temple. Hiram also supplied cedars and other fine trees, which were made into rafts and floated down
the sea to Joppa, whence they were taken inland by Solomon's workmen to the temple site.
Because of his great love for Solomon, Hiram of Tyre sent also the Grand Master of the Dionysiac
Architects, CHiram Abiff, a Widow's Son, who had no equal among the craftsmen of the earth. CHiram
is described as being "a Tyrian by birch, but of Israelitish descent," and "a second Bezaleel, honored by
his king with the title of Father." The Freemason's Pocket Companion (published in 1771) describes
CHiram as "the most cunning, skilful and curious workman that ever lived, whose abilities were not
confined to building alone, but extended to all kinds of work, whether in gold, silver, brass or iron;
whether in linen, tapestry, or embroidery; whether considered as an architect, statuary [sic]; founder or
designer, separately or together, he equally excelled. From his designs, and under his direction, all the
rich and splendid furniture of the Temple and its several appendages were begun, carried on, and
finished. Solomon appointed him, in his absence, to fill the chair, as Deputy Grand-Master; and in his
presence, Senior Grand-Warden, Master of work, and general overseer of all artists, as well those whom
David had formerly procured from Tyre and Sidon, as those Hiram should now send." (Modem Masonic
writers differ as to the accuracy of the last sentence.)
Although an immense amount of labor was involved in its construction, Solomon's Temple--in the
words of George Oliver--"was only a small building and very inferior in point of size to some of our
churches." The number of buildings contiguous to it and the vast treasure of gold and precious stones
used in its construction concentrated a great amount of wealth within the temple area. In the midst of the
temple stood the Holy of Holies, sometimes called the Oracle. It was an exact cube, each dimension
being twenty cubits, and exemplified the influence of Egyptian symbolism. The buildings of the temple
group were ornamented with 1,453 columns of Parian marble, magnificently sculptured, and 2,906
pilasters decorated with capitals. There was a broad porch facing the east, and the sanctum sanctorum
was upon the west. According to tradition, the various buildings and courtyards could hold in all
300,000 persons. Both the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies were entirely lined with solid gold plates
encrusted with jewels.
King Solomon began the building of the temple in the fourth year of his reign on what would be,
according to modern calculation, the 21st day of April, and finished it in the eleventh year of his reign
on the 23rd day of October. The temple was begun in the 480th year after the children of Israel had
passed the Red Sea. Part of the labor of construction included the building of an artificial foundation on
the brow of Mount Moriah. The stones for the temple were hoisted from quarries directly beneath Mount
Moriah and were trued before being brought to the surface. The brass and golden ornaments for the
temple were cast in molds in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredatha, and the wooden parts
were all finished before they reached the temple site. The building was put together, consequently,
without sound and without instruments, all its parts fitting exactly "without the hammer of contention,
the axe of division, or any tool of mischief."
Anderson's much-discussed Constitutions of the Free-Masons, published in London in 1723, and
reprinted by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1734, thus describes the division of the laborers
engaged in the building of the Everlasting House:
"But Dagon's Temple, and the finest structures of Tyre and Sidon, could not be compared with the
Eternal God's Temple at Jerusalem, * * * there were employed about it no less than 3,600 Princes, or
Master-Masons, to conduct the work according to Solomon's directions, with 80,000 hewers of stone in
the mountain, or Fellow Craftsmen, and 70,000 labourers, in all 153,600 besides the levy under
Adoniram to work in the mountains of Lebanon by turns with the Sidonians, viz., 30,000, being in all
183,600." Daniel Sickels gives 3,300 overseers, instead of 3,600, and lists the three Grand Masters
separately. The same author estimates the cost of the temple at nearly four thousand millions of dollars.
The Masonic legend of the building of Solomon's Temple does not in every particular parallel the
Scriptural version, especially in those portions relating to CHiram Abiff. According to the Biblical
account, this Master workman returned to his own country; in the Masonic allegory he is foully
murdered. On this point A. E. Waite, in his New Encyclopædia of Freemasonry, makes the following
explanatory comment:
"The legend of the Master-Builder is the great allegory of Masonry. It happens that his figurative story is
grounded on the fact of a personality mentioned in Holy Scripture, but this historical background is of
the accidents and not the essence; the significance is in the allegory and not in any point of history which
may lie behind it."
CHiram, as Master of the Builders, divided his workmen into three groups, which were termed Entered
Apprentices, Fellow-Craftsmen, and Master Masons. To each division he gave certain
Click to enlarge
From an early hand-painted Masonic apron.
While the mystic symbolism of Freemasonry decrees that the apron shall be a simple square of white lambskin
with appropriate flap, Masonic aprons are frequently decorated with curious and impressive figures. "When silk
cotton, or linen is worn," writes Albert Pike, "the symbolism is lost. Nor is one clothed who blots, defaces, and
desecrates the white surface with ornamentation, figuring, or colors of any kind." (See Symbolism.)
To Mars, the ancient plane of cosmic energy, the Atlantean and Chaldean "star gazers" assigned Aries as a
diurnal throne and Scorpio as a nocturnal throne. Those not raised to spiritual life by initiation are described as
"dead from the sting of a scorpion," for they wander in the night side of divine power. Through the mystery of the
Paschal Lamb, or the attainment of the Golden Fleece, these soul are raised into the constructive day Power of
Mars in Aries--the symbol of the Creator.
When worn over the area related to the animal passions, the pure lambskin signifies the regeneration of the
procreative forces and their consecration to the service of the Deity. The size of the apron, exclusive of the flap,
makes it the symbol of salvation, for the Mysteries declare that it must consist of 144 square inches.
The apron shown above contains a wealth of symbolism: the beehive, emblematic of the Masonic lodge itself, the
trowel, the mallet, and the trestleboad; the rough and trued ashlars; the pyramids and hills of Lebanon; the pillars,
the Temple, and checkerboard floor; and the blazing star and tools of the Craft. The center of the apron is
occupied by the compass and square, representative of the Macrocosm an the microcosm, and the alternately
black and white serpent of astral light. Below is an acacia branch with seven sprigs, signifying the life Centers of
the superior and the inferior man. The skull and cross bones are a continual reminder that the spiritual nature
attains liberation only after the philosophical death of man's sensuous personality.
p. 78
passwords and signs by which their respective excellence could be quickly determined. While all were
classified according to their merits some were dissatisfied, for they desired a more exalted position than
they were capable of filling. At last three Fellow-Craftsmen, more daring than their companions,
determined to force CHiram to reveal to them the password of the Master's degree. Knowing that
CHiram always went into the unfinished sanctum sanctorum at high noon to pray, these ruffians--whose
names were Jubela, Jubelo, and Jubelum--lay in wait for him, one at each of the main gates of the
temple. CHiram, about to leave the temple by the south gate, was suddenly confronted by Jubela armed
with a twenty-four-inch gauge. Upon CHiram's refusal to reveal the Master's Word, the ruffian struck
him on the throat with the rule, and the wounded Master then hastened to the west gate, where Jubelo,
armed with a square, awaited him and made a similar demand. Again CHiram was silent, and the second
assassin struck him on the breast with the square. CHiram thereupon staggered to the east gate, only to
be met there by Jubelum armed with a maul. When CHiram, refused him the Master's Word, Jubelum
struck the Master between the eyes with the mallet and CHiram fell dead.
The body of CHiram was buried by the murderers over the brow of Mount Moriah and a sprig of acacia
placed upon the grave. The murderers then sought to escape punishment for their crime by embarking
for Ethiopia, but the port was closed. All three were finally captured, and after admitting their guilt were
duly executed. Parties of three were then sent out by King Solomon, and one of these groups discovered
the newly made grave marked by the evergreen sprig. After the Entered Apprentices and the Fellow-
Craftsmen had failed to resurrect their Master from the dead he was finally raised by the Master Mason
with the "strong grip of a Lion's Paw."
To the initiated Builder the name CHiram Abiff signifies "My Father, the Universal Spirit, one in
essence, three in aspect." Thus the murdered Master is a type of the Cosmic Martyr--the crucified Spirit
of Good, the dying god--whose Mystery is celebrated throughout the world. Among the manuscripts of
Dr. Sigismund Bastrom, the initiated Rosicrucian, appears the following extract from von Welling
concerning the true philosophic nature of the Masonic CHiram:
"The original word ••••, CHiram, is a radical word consisting of three consonants • • and • i. e. Cheth,
Resh and Mem. (1) •, Cheth, signifies Chamah, the Sun's light, i. e. the Universal, invisible, cold fire of
Nature attracted by the Sun, manifested into light and sent down to us and to every planetary body
belonging to the solar system. (2) •, Resh, signifies ••• Ruach, i. e. Spirit, air, wind, as being the Vehicle
which conveys and collects the light into numberless Foci, wherein the solar rays of light are agitated by
a circular motion and manifested in Heat and burning Fire. (3) •, or • Mem, signifies majim, water,
humidity, but rather the mother of water, i. e. Radical Humidity or a particular kind of condensed air.
These three constitute the Universal Agent or fire of Nature in one word, ••••, CHiram, not Hiram."
Albert Pike mentions several forms of the name CHiram: Khirm, Khurm, and Khur-Om, the latter
ending in the sacred Hindu monosyllable OM, which may also be extracted from the names of the three
murderers. Pike further relates the three ruffians to a triad of stars in the constellation of Libra and also
calls attention to the fact that the Chaldean god Bal--metamorphosed into a demon by the Jews--appears
in the name of each of the murderers, Jubela, Jubelo, and Jubelum. To interpret the Hiramic legend
requires familiarity with both the Pythagorean and Qabbalistic systems of numbers and letters, and also
the philosophic and astronomic cycles of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Brahmins. For example,
consider the number 33. The first temple of Solomon stood for thirty-three years in its pristine splendor.
At the end of that time it was pillaged by the Egyptian King Shishak, and finally (588 B.C.) it was
completely destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the people of Jerusalem were led into captivity to
Babylon. (See General History of Freemasonry, by Robert Macoy.) Also King David ruled for thirty-
three years in Jerusalem; the Masonic Order is divided into thirty-three symbolic degrees; there are
thirty-three segments in the human spinal column; and Jesus was crucified in the thirty-third year of His
The efforts made to discover the origin of the Hiramic legend show that, while the legend in its present
form is comparatively modem, its underlying principles run back to remotest antiquity. It is generally
admitted by modem Masonic scholars that the story of the martyred CHiram is based upon the Egyptian
rites of Osiris, whose death and resurrection figuratively portrayed the spiritual death of man and his
regeneration through initiation into the Mysteries. CHiram is also identified with Hermes through the
inscription on the Emerald Table. From these associations it is evident that CHiram is to be considered
as a prototype of humanity; in fact he is Plato's Idea (archetype) of man. As Adam after the Fall
symbolizes the Idea of human degeneration, so CHiram through his resurrection symbolizes the Idea of
human regeneration.
On the 19th day of March, 1314, Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templars, was
burned on a pyre erected upon that point of the islet of the Seine, at Paris, where afterwards was erected
the statue of King Henry IV. (See The Indian Religions, by Hargrave Jennings.) "It is mentioned as a
tradition in some of the accounts of the burning," writes Jennings, "that Molay, ere he expired,
summoned Clement, the Pope who had pronounced the bull of abolition against the Order and had
condemned the Grand Master to the flames, to appear, within forty days, before the Supreme Eternal
judge, and Philip [the king] to the same awful tribunal within the space of a year. Both predictions were
fulfilled." The close relationship between Freemasonry and the original Knights Templars has caused the
story of CHiram to be linked with the martyrdom of Jacques de Molay. According to this interpretation,
the three ruffians who cruelly slew their Master at the gates of the temple because he refused to reveal
the secrets of his Order represent the Pope, the king, and the executioners. De Molay died maintaining
his innocence and refusing to disclose the philosophical and magical arcana of the Templars.
Those who have sought to identify CHiram with the murdered King Charles the First conceive the
Hiramic legend to have been invented for that purpose by Elias Ashmole, a mystical philosopher, who
was probably a member of the Rosicrucian Fraternity. Charles was dethroned in 1647 and died on the
block in 1649, leaving the Royalist party leaderless. An attempt has been made to relate the term "the
Sons of the Widow" (an appellation frequently applied to members of the Masonic Order) to this
incident in English history, for by the murder of her king England became a Widow and all Englishmen
Widow's Sons.
To the mystic Christian Mason, CHiram. represents the Christ who in three days (degrees) raised the
temple of His body from its earthly sepulcher. His three murderers were Cæsar's agent (the state), the
Sanhedrin (the church), and the incited populace (the mob). Thus considered, CHiram becomes the
higher nature of man and the murderers are ignorance, superstition, and fear. The indwelling Christ can
give expression to Himself in this world only through man's thoughts, feelings, and actions. Right
thinking, right feeling, and right action--these are three gates through which the Christ power passes into
the material world, there to labor in the erection of the Temple of Universal Brotherhood. Ignorance,
superstition, and fear are three ruffians through whose agencies the Spirit of Good is murdered and a
false kingdom, controlled by wrong thinking, wrong feeling, and wrong action, established in its stead.
In the material universe evil appears ever victorious.
"In this sense," writes Daniel Sickels, "the myth of the Tyrian is perpetually repeated in the history of
human affairs. Orpheus was murdered, and his body thrown into the Hebrus; Socrates was made to drink
the hemlock; and, in all ages, we have seen Evil temporarily triumphant, and Virtue and Truth
calumniated, persecuted, crucified, and slain. But Eternal justice marches surely and swiftly through the
world: the Typhons, the children of darkness, the plotters of crime, all the infinitely varied forms of evil,
are swept into oblivion; and Truth and Virtue--for a time laid low--come forth, clothed with diviner
majesty, and crowned with everlasting glory!" (See General Ahiman Rezon.)
If, as there is ample reason to suspect, the modern Freemasonic Order was profoundly influenced by, if
it is not an actual outgrowth of, Francis Bacon's secret society, its symbolism is undoubtedly permeated
with Bacon's two great ideals: universal education and universal democracy. The deadly enemies of
universal education are ignorance, superstition, and fear, by which the human soul is held in bondage to
the lowest part of its own constitution. The arrant enemies of universal democracy have ever been the
crown, the tiara, and the torch. Thus CHiram symbolizes that ideal state of spiritual, intellectual, and
physical emancipation which has ever been sacrificed upon the altar of human selfishness. CHiram is the
Beautifier of the Eternal House. Modern utilitarianism, however, sacrifices the beautiful for the
practical, in the same breath declaring the obvious lie that selfishness, hatred, and discord are practical.
Dr. Orville Ward Owen found a considerable part of the first
Click to enlarge
From Montfaucon's Antiquities.
A hand covered with numerous symbols was extended to the neophytes when they entered into the Temple of
Wisdom. An understanding of the embossed upon the surface of the hand brought with it Divine power and
regeneration Therefore, by means of these symbolic hands the candidate was said to be raised from the dead.
p. 79
thirty-two degrees of Freemasonic ritualism hidden in the text of the First Shakespeare Folio. Masonic
emblems are to be observed also upon the title pages of nearly every book published by Bacon. Sir
Francis Bacon considered himself as a living sacrifice upon the altar of human need; he was obviously
cut down in the midst of his labors, and no student of his New Atlantis can fail to recognize the Masonic
symbolism contained therein. According to the observations of Joseph Fort Newton, the Temple of
Solomon described by Bacon in that utopian romance was not a house at all but the name of an ideal
state. Is it not true that the Temple of Freemasonry is also emblematic of a condition of society? While,
as before stated, the principles of the Hiramic legend are of the greatest antiquity, it is not impossible
that its present form may be based upon incidents in the life of Lord Bacon, who passed through the
philosophic death and was raised in Germany.
In an old manuscript appears the statement that the Freemasonic Order was formed by alchemists and
Hermetic philosophers who had banded themselves together to protect their secrets against the infamous
methods used by avaricious persons to wring from them the secret of gold-making. The fact that the
Hiramic legend contains an alchemical formula gives credence to this story. Thus the building of
Solomon's Temple represents the consummation of the magnum opus, which cannot be realized without
the assistance of CHiram, the Universal Agent. The Masonic Mysteries teach the initiate how to prepare
within his own soul a miraculous powder of projection by which it is possible for him to transmute the
base lump of human ignorance, perversion, and discord into an ingot of spiritual and philosophic gold.
Sufficient similarity exists between the Masonic CHiram and the Kundalini of Hindu mysticism to
warrant the assumption that CHiram may be considered a symbol also of the Spirit Fire moving through
the sixth ventricle of the spinal column. The exact science of human regeneration is the Lost Key of
Masonry, for when the Spirit Fire is lifted up through the thirty-three degrees, or segments of the spinal
column, and enters into the domed chamber of the human skull, it finally passes into the pituitary body
(Isis), where it invokes Ra (the pineal gland) and demands the Sacred Name. Operative Masonry, in the
fullest meaning of that term, signifies the process by which the Eye of Horus is opened. E. A. Wallis
Budge has noted that in some of the papyri illustrating the entrance of the souls of the dead into the
judgment hall of Osiris the deceased person has a pine cone attached to the crown of his head. The
Greek mystics also carried a symbolic staff, the upper end being in the form of a pine cone, which was
called the thyrsus of Bacchus. In the human brain there is a tiny gland called the pineal body, which is
the sacred eye of the ancients, and corresponds to the third eye of the Cyclops. Little is known
concerning the function of the pineal body, which Descartes suggested (more wisely than he knew)
might be the abode of the spirit of man. As its name signifies, the pineal gland is the sacred pine cone in
man--the eye single, which cannot be opened until CHiram (the Spirit Fire) is raised through the sacred
seals which are called the Seven Churches in Asia.
There is an Oriental painting which shows three sun bursts. One sunburst covers the head, in the midst
of which sits Brahma with four heads, his body a mysterious dark color. The second sunburst--which
covers the heart, solar plexus, and upper abdominal region--shows Vishnu sitting in the blossom of the
lotus on a couch formed of the coils of the serpent of cosmic motion, its seven-hooded head forming a
canopy over the god. The third sunburst is over the generative system, in the midst of which sits Shiva,
his body a grayish white and the Ganges River flowing out of the crown of his head. This painting was
the work of a Hindu mystic who spent many years subtly concealing great philosophical principles
within these figures. The Christian legends could be related also to the human body by the same method
as the Oriental, for the arcane meanings hidden in the teachings of both schools are identical.
As applied to Masonry, the three sunbursts represent the gates of the temple at which CHiram was
struck, there being no gate in the north because the sun never shines from the northern angle of the
heavens. The north is the symbol of the physical because of its relation to ice (crystallized water) and to
the body (crystallized spirit). In man the light shines toward the north but never from it, because the
body has no light of its own but shines with the reflected glory of the divine life-particles concealed
within physical substance. For this reason the moon is accepted as the symbol of man's physical nature.
CHiram is the mysterious fiery, airy water which must be raised through the three grand centers
symbolized by the ladder with three rungs and the sunburst flowers mentioned in the description of the
Hindu painting. It must also pass upward by means of the ladder of seven rungs-the seven plexuses
proximate to the spine. The nine segments of the sacrum and coccyx are pierced by ten foramina,
through which pass the roots of the Tree of Life. Nine is the sacred number of man, and in the
symbolism of the sacrum and coccyx a great mystery is concealed. That part of the body from the
kidneys downward was termed by the early Qabbalists the Land of Egypt into which the children of
Israel were taken during the captivity. Out of Egypt, Moses (the illuminated mind, as his name implies)
led the tribes of Israel (the twelve faculties) by raising the brazen serpent in the wilderness upon the
symbol of the Tau cross. Not only CHiram but the god-men of nearly every pagan Mystery ritual are
personifications of the Spirit Fire in the human spinal cord.
The astronomical aspect of the Hiramic legend must not be overlooked. The tragedy of CHiram is
enacted annually by the sun during its passage through the signs of the zodiac.
"From the journey of the Sun through the twelve signs," writes Albert Pike, "come the legend of the
twelve labors of Hercules, and the incarnations of Vishnu and Buddha. Hence came the legend of the
murder of Khurum, representative of the Sun, by the three Fellow-Crafts, symbols of the Winter signs,
Capricornus, Aquarius, and Pisces, who assailed him at the three gates of Heaven and slew him at the
Winter Solstice. Hence the search for him by the nine Fellow-Crafts, the other nine signs, his finding,
burial, and resurrection." (See Morals and Dogma.)
Other authors consider Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius as the three murderers of the sun, inasmuch as
Osiris was murdered by Typhon, to whom were assigned the thirty degrees of the constellation of
Scorpio. In the Christian Mysteries also Judas signifies the Scorpion, and the thirty pieces of silver for
which he betrayed His Lord represent the number of degrees in that sign. Having been struck by Libra
(the state), Scorpio (the church), and Sagittarius (the mob), the sun (CHiram) is secretly home through
the darkness by the signs of Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces and buried over the brow of a hill (the
vernal equinox). Capricorn has for its symbol an old man with a scythe in his hand. This is Father Time--
a wayfarer--who is symbolized in Masonry as straightening out the ringlets of a young girl's hair. If the
Weeping Virgin be considered a symbol of Virgo, and Father Time with his scythe a symbol of
Capricorn, then the interval of ninety degrees between these two signs will be found to correspond to
that occupied by the three murderers. Esoterically, the urn containing the ashes of CHiram represents the
human heart. Saturn, the old man who lives at the north pole, and brings with him to the children of men
a sprig of evergreen (the Christmas tree), is familiar to the little folks under the name of Santa Claus, for
he brings each winter the gift of a new year.
The martyred sun is discovered by Aries, a Fellow-Craftsman, and at the vernal equinox the process of
raising him begins. This is finally accomplished by the Lion of Judah, who in ancient times occupied the
position of the keystone of the Royal Arch of Heaven. The precession of the equinoxes causes various
signs to play the rôle of the murderers of the sun during the different ages of the world, but the principle
involved remains unchanged. Such is the cosmic story of CHiram, the Universal Benefactor, the Fiery
Architect: of the Divine House, who carries with him to the grave that Lost Word which, when spoken,
raises all life to power and glory. According to Christian mysticism, when the Lost Word is found it is
discovered in a stable, surrounded by beasts and marked by a star. "After the sun leaves Leo," writes
Robert Hewitt Brown, "the days begin to grow unequivocally shorter as the sun declines toward the
autumnal equinox, to be again slain by the three autumnal months, lie dead through the three winter
ones, and be raised again by the three vernal ones. Each year the great tragedy is repeated, and the
glorious resurrection takes place." (See Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy.)
CHiram is termed dead because in the average individual the cosmic creative forces are limited in their
manifestation to purely physical--and correspondingly materialistic--expression. Obsessed by his belief
in the reality and permanence of physical existence, man does not correlate the material universe with
the blank north wall of the temple. As the solar light symbolically is said to die as it approaches the
winter solstice, so the physical world may be termed
Click to enlarge
From Montfaucon's Antiquities.
Crowned with a triple tower-like tiara and her form adorned with symbolic creatures representative of her
spiritual powers, Diana stood for the source of that imperishable doctrine which, flowing from the bosom of the
Great Multimammia, is the spiritual food of those aspiring men and women who have consecrated their lives to
the contemplation of reality. As the physical body of man receives its nutriment from the Great Earth Mother, so
the spiritual nature of man is fed from the never failing fountains of Truth pouring outward from the invisible
p. 80
the winter solstice of the spirit. Reaching the winter solstice, the sun apparently stands still for three days
and then, rolling away the stone of winter, begins its triumphal march north towards the summer
solstice. The condition of ignorance may be likened to the winter solstice of philosophy; spiritual
understanding to the summer solstice. From this point of view, initiation into the Mysteries becomes the
vernal equinox of the spirit, at which time the CHiram in man crosses from the realm of mortality into
that of eternal life. The autumnal equinox is analogous to the mythological fall of man, at which time the
human spirit descended into the realms of Hades by being immersed in the illusion of terrestrial
In An Essay on the Beautiful, Plotinus describes the refining effect of beauty upon the unfolding
consciousness of man. Commissioned to decorate the Everlasting House, CHiram Abiff is the
embodiment of the beautifying principle. Beauty is essential to the natural unfoldment of the human
soul. The Mysteries held that man, in part at least, was the product of his environment. Therefore they
considered it imperative that every person be surrounded by objects which would evoke the highest and
noblest sentiments. They proved that it was possible to produce beauty in life by surrounding life with
beauty. They discovered that symmetrical bodies were built by souls continuously in the presence of
symmetrical bodies; that noble thoughts were produced by minds surrounded by examples of mental
nobility. Conversely, if a man were forced to look upon an ignoble or asymmetrical structure it would
arouse within him a sense of ignobility which would provoke him to commit ignoble deeds. If an ill-
proportioned building were erected in the midst of a city there would be ill-proportioned children born in
that community; and men and women, gazing upon the asymmetrical structure, would live inharmonious
lives. Thoughtful men of antiquity realized that their great philosophers were the natural products of the
æsthetic ideals of architecture, music, and art established as the standards of the cultural systems of the
The substitution of the discord of the fantastic for the harmony of the beautiful constitutes one of the
great tragedies of every civilization. Not only were the Savior-Gods of the ancient world beautiful, but
each performed a ministry of beauty, seeking to effect man's regeneration by arousing within him the
love of the beautiful. A renaissance of the golden age of fable can be made possible only by the
elevation of beauty to its rightful dignity as the all-pervading, idealizing quality in the religious, ethical,
sociological, scientific, and political departments of life. The Dionysiac Architects were consecrated to
the raising of their Master Spirit--Cosmic Beauty--from the sepulcher of material ignorance and
selfishness by erecting buildings which were such perfect exemplars of symmetry and majesty that they
were actually magical formulæ by which was evoked the spirit of the martyred Beautifier entombed
within a materialistic world.
In the Masonic Mysteries the triune spirit of man (the light Delta) is symbolized by the three Grand
Masters of the Lodge of Jerusalem. As God is the pervading principle of three worlds, in each of which
He manifests as an active principle, so the spirit of man, partaking of the nature of Divinity, dwells upon
three planes of being: the Supreme, the Superior, and the Inferior spheres of the Pythagoreans. At the
gate of the Inferior sphere (the underworld, or dwelling place of mortal creatures) stands the guardian of
Hades--the three--headed dog Cerberus, who is analogous to the three murderers of the Hiramic legend.
According to this symbolic interpretation of the triune spirit, CHiram is the third, or incarnating, part--
the Master Builder who through all ages erects living temples of flesh and blood as shrines of the Most
High. CHiram comes forth as a flower and is cut down; he dies at the gates of matter; he is buried in the
elements of creation, but--like Thor--he swings his mighty hammer in the fields of space, sets the
primordial atoms in motion, and establishes order out of Chaos. As the potentiality of cosmic power
within each human soul, CHiram lies waiting for man by the elaborate ritualism of life to transmute
potentiality into divine potency. As the sense perceptions of the individual increase, however, man gains
ever greater control over his various parts, and the spirit of life within gradually attains freedom. The
three murderers represent the laws of the Inferior world--birth, growth, and decay--which ever frustrate
the plan of the Builder. To the average individual, physical birch actually signifies the death of CHiram,
and physical death the resurrection of CHiram. To the initiate, however, the resurrection of the spiritual
nature is accomplished without the intervention of physical death.
The curious symbols found in the base of Cleopatra's Needle now standing in Central Park, New York,
were interpreted as being of first Masonic significance by S. A. Zola, 33° Past Grand Master of the
Grand Lodge of Egypt. Masons' marks and symbols are to be found on the stones of numerous public
buildings not only in England and on the Continent but also in Asia. In his Indian Masons' Marks of the
Moghul Dynasty, A. Gorham describes scores of markings appearing on the walls of buildings such as
the Taj Mahal, the Jama Masjid, and that: famous Masonic structure, the Kutab Minar. According to
those who regard Masonry as an outgrowth of the secret society of architects and builders which for
thousands of years formed a caste of master craftsmen, CHiram Abiff was the Tyrian Grand Master of a
world-wide organization of artisans, with headquarters in Tyre. Their philosophy consisted of
incorporating into the measurements and ornamentation of temples, palaces, mausoleums, fortresses, and
other public buildings their knowledge of the laws controlling the universe. Every initiated workman
was given a hieroglyphic with which he marked the stones he trued to show to all posterity that he thus
dedicated to the Supreme Architect of the Universe each perfected product of his labor. Concerning
Masons' marks, Robert Freke Gould writes:
"It is very remarkable that these marks are to be found in all countries--in the chambers of the Great
Pyramid at Gizeh, on the underground walls of Jerusalem, in Herculaneum and Pompeii, on Roman
walls and Grecian temples, in Hindustan, Mexico, Peru, Asia Minor--as well as on the great ruins of
England, France, Germany, Scotland, Italy, Portugal and Spain." (See A Concise History of
From this viewpoint the story of CHiram may well represent the incorporation of the divine secrets of
architecture into the actual parts and dimensions of earthly buildings. The three degrees of the Craft bury
the Grand Master (the Great Arcanum) in the actual structure they erect, after first having killed him
with the builders' tools, by reducing the dimensionless Spirit of Cosmic Beauty to the limitations of
concrete form. These abstract ideals of architecture can be resurrected, however, by the Master Mason
who, by meditating upon the structure, releases therefrom the divine principles of architectonic
philosophy incorporated or buried within it. Thus the physical building is actually the tomb or
embodiment of the Creative Ideal of which its material dimensions are but the shadow.
Moreover, the Hiramic legend may be considered to embody the vicissitudes of philosophy itself. As
institutions for the dissemination of ethical culture, the pagan Mysteries were the architects of
civilization. Their power and dignity were personified in CHiram Abiff--the Master Builder--but they
eventually fell a victim to the onslaughts of that recurrent trio of state, church, and mob. They were
desecrated by the state, jealous of their wealth and power; by the early church, fearful of their wisdom;
and by the rabble or soldiery incited by both state and church. As CHiram when raised from his grave
whispers the Master Mason's Word which was lost through his untimely death, so according to the tenets
of philosophy the reestablishment or resurrection of the ancient Mysteries will result in the rediscovery
of that secret teaching without which civilization must continue in a state of spiritual confusion and
When the mob governs, man is ruled by ignorance; when the church governs, he is ruled by superstition;
and when the state governs, he is ruled by fear. Before men can live together in harmony and
understanding, ignorance must be transmuted into wisdom, superstition into an illumined faith, and fear
into love. Despite statements to the contrary, Masonry is a religion seeking to unite God and man by
elevating its initiates to that level of consciousness whereon they can behold with clarified vision the
workings of the Great Architect of the Universe. From age to age the vision of a perfect civilization is
preserved as the ideal for mankind. In the midst of that civilization shall stand a mighty university
wherein both the sacred and secular sciences concerning the mysteries of life will be freely taught to all
who will assume the philosophic life. Here creed and dogma will have no place; the superficial will be
removed and only the essential be preserved. The world will be ruled by its most illumined minds, and
each will occupy the position for which he is most admirably fitted.
The great university will be divided into grades, admission to which will be through preliminary tests or
initiations. Here mankind will be instructed in the most sacred, the most secret, and the most enduring of
all Mysteries--Symbolism. Here the initiate will be taught that every visible object, every abstract
thought, every emotional reaction is but the symbol of an eternal principle. Here mankind will learn that
CHiram (Truth) lies buried in every atom of Kosmos; that every form is a symbol and every symbol the
tomb of an eternal verity. Through education--spiritual, mental, moral, and physical--man will learn to
release living truths from their lifeless coverings. The perfect government of the earth must be patterned
eventually after that divine government by which the universe is ordered. In that day when perfect order
is reestablished, with peace universal and good triumphant, men will no longer seek for happiness, for
they shall find it welling up within themselves. Dead hopes, dead aspirations, dead virtues shall rise
from their graves, and the Spirit of Beauty and Goodness repeatedly slain by ignorant men shall again be
the Master of Work. Then shall sages sit upon the seats of the mighty and the gods walk with men.
Next: The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 81
The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color
HARMONY is a state recognized by great philosophers as the immediate prerequisite of beauty. A compound is termed beautiful only
when its parts are in harmonious combination. The world is called beautiful and its Creator is designated the Good because good perforce
must act in conformity with its own nature; and good acting according to its own nature is harmony, because the good which it
accomplishes is harmonious with the good which it is. Beauty, therefore, is harmony manifesting its own intrinsic nature in the world of
The universe is made up of successive gradations of good, these gradations ascending from matter (which is the least degree of good) to
spirit (which is the greatest degree of good). In man, his superior nature is the summum bonum. It therefore follows that his highest nature
most readily cognizes good because the good external to him in the world is in harmonic ratio with the good present in his soul. What man
terms evil is therefore, in common with matter, merely the least degree of its own opposite. The least degree of good presupposes likewise
the least degree of harmony and beauty. Thus deformity (evil) is really the least harmonious combination of elements naturally harmonic
as individual units. Deformity is unnatural, for, the sum of all things being the Good, it is natural that all things should partake of the Good
and be arranged in combinations that are harmonious. Harmony is the manifesting expression of the Will of the eternal Good.
It is highly probable that the Greek initiates gained their knowledge of the philosophic and therapeutic aspects of music from the
Egyptians, who, in turn, considered Hermes the founder of the art. According to one legend, this god constructed the first lyre by stretching
strings across the concavity of a turtle shell. Both Isis and Osiris were patrons of music and poetry. Plato, in describing the antiquity of
these arts among the Egyptians, declared that songs and poetry had existed in Egypt for at least ten thousand years, and that these were of
such an exalted and inspiring nature that only gods or godlike men could have composed them. In the Mysteries the lyre was regarded as
the secret symbol of the human constitution, the body of the instrument representing the physical form, the strings the nerves, and the
musician the spirit. Playing upon the nerves, the spirit thus created the harmonies of normal functioning, which, however, became discords
if the nature of man were defiled.
While the early Chinese, Hindus, Persians, Egyptians, Israelites, and Greeks employed both vocal and instrumental music in their religious
ceremonials, also to complement their poetry and drama, it remained for Pythagoras to raise the art to its true dignity by demonstrating its
mathematical foundation. Although it is said that he himself was not a musician, Pythagoras is now generally credited with the discovery
of the diatonic scale. Having first learned the divine theory of music from the priests of the various Mysteries into which he had been
accepted, Pythagoras pondered for several years upon the laws governing consonance and dissonance. How he actually solved the problem
is unknown, but the following explanation has been invented.
One day while meditating upon the problem of harmony, Pythagoras chanced to pass a brazier's shop where workmen were pounding out a
piece of metal upon an anvil. By noting the variances in pitch between the sounds made by large hammers and those made by smaller
implements, and carefully estimating the harmonies and discords resulting from combinations of these sounds, he gained his first clue to
the musical intervals of the diatonic scale. He entered the shop, and after carefully examining the tools and making mental note of their
weights, returned to his own house and constructed an arm of wood so that it: extended out from the wall of his room. At regular intervals
along this arm he attached four cords, all of like composition, size, and weight. To the first of these he attached a twelve-pound weight, to
the second a nine-pound weight, to the third an eight-pound weight, and to the fourth a six-pound weight. These different weights
corresponded to the sizes of the braziers' hammers.
Pythagoras thereupon discovered that the first and fourth strings when sounded together produced the harmonic interval of the octave, for
doubling the weight had the same effect as halving the string. The tension of the first string being twice that of the fourth string, their ratio
was said to be 2:1, or duple. By similar experimentation he ascertained that the first and third string produced the harmony of the diapente,
or the interval of the fifth. The tension of the first string being half again as much as that of the third string, their ratio was said to be 3:2, or
sesquialter. Likewise the second and fourth strings, having the same ratio as the first and third strings, yielded a diapente harmony.
Continuing his investigation, Pythagoras discovered that the first and second strings produced the harmony of the diatessaron, or the
interval of the third; and the tension of the first string being a third greater than that of the second string, their ratio was said to be 4:3, or
sesquitercian. The third and fourth strings, having the same ratio as the first and second strings, produced another harmony of the
diatessaron. According to Iamblichus, the second and third strings had the ratio of 8:9, or epogdoan.
The key to harmonic ratios is hidden in the famous Pythagorean tetractys, or pyramid of dots. The tetractys is made up of the first four
numbers--1, 2, 3, and 4--which in their proportions reveal the intervals of the octave, the diapente, and the diatessaron. While the law of
harmonic intervals as set forth above is true, it has been subsequently proved that hammers striking metal in the manner
Click to enlarge
From Stanley's The History of Philosophy.
In the Pythagorean concept of the music of the spheres, the interval between the earth and the sphere of the fixed stars was considered to be a
diapason--the most perfect harmonic interval. The allowing arrangement is most generally accepted for the musical intervals of the planets between
the earth and the sphere of the fixed stars: From the sphere of the earth to the sphere of the moon; one tone; from the sphere of the moon to that of
Mercury, one half-tone; from Mercury to Venus, one-half; from Venus to the sun, one and one-half tones; from the sun to Mars, one tone; from Mars
to Jupiter, one-half tone; from Jupiter to Saturn, one-half tone; from Saturn to the fixed stars, one-half tone. The sum of these intervals equals the six
whole tones of the octave.
Click to enlarge
From Fludd's De Musica Mundana.
This diagrammatic sector represents the major gradations of energy and substance between elemental earth and absolute unconditioned force.
Beginning with the superior, the fifteen graduated spheres descend in the following order: Limitless and Eternal Life; the superior, the middle, and the
inferior Empyrean; the seven planets; and the four elements. Energy is symbolized by Fludd as a pyramid with its base upon the concave surface of the
superior Empyrean, and substance as another Pyramid with its base upon the convex surface of the sphere (not planet) of earth. These pyramids
demonstrate the relative proportions of energy and substance entering into the composition of the fifteen planes of being. It will be noted that the
ascending pyramid of substance touches but does not pierce the fifteenth sphere--that of Limitless and Eternal Life. Likewise, the descending pyramid
of energy touches but does not pierce the first sphere--the grossest condition of substance. The plane of the sun is denominated the sphere of equality,
for here neither energy nor substance predominate. The mundane monochord consists of a hypothetical string stretched from the base of the pyramid
of energy to the base of the pyramid of substance.
p. 82
described will not produce the various tones ascribed to them. In all probability, therefore, Pythagoras actually worked out his theory of
harmony from the monochord--a contrivance consisting of a single string stretched between two pegs and supplied with movable frets.
To Pythagoras music was one of the dependencies of the divine science of mathematics, and its harmonies were inflexibly controlled by
mathematical proportions. The Pythagoreans averred that mathematics demonstrated the exact method by which the good established and
maintained its universe. Number therefore preceded harmony, since it was the immutable law that governs all harmonic proportions. After
discovering these harmonic ratios, Pythagoras gradually initiated his disciples into this, the supreme arcanum of his Mysteries. He divided
the multitudinous parts of creation into a vast number of planes or spheres, to each of which he assigned a tone, a harmonic interval, a
number, a name, a color, and a form. He then proceeded to prove the accuracy of his deductions by demonstrating them upon the different
planes of intelligence and substance ranging from the most abstract logical premise to the most concrete geometrical solid. From the
common agreement of these diversified methods of proof he established the indisputable existence of certain natural laws.
Having once established music as an exact science, Pythagoras applied his newly found law of harmonic intervals to all the phenomena of
Nature, even going so far as to demonstrate the harmonic relationship of the planets, constellations, and elements to each other. A notable
example of modern corroboration of ancient philosophical reaching is that of the progression of the elements according to harmonic ratios.
While making a list of the elements in the ascending order of their atomic weights, John A. Newlands discovered at every eighth element a
distinct repetition of properties. This discovery is known as the law of octaves in modern chemistry.
Since they held that harmony must be determined not by the sense perceptions but by reason and mathematics, the Pythagoreans called
themselves Canonics, as distinguished from musicians of the Harmonic School, who asserted taste and instinct to be the true normative
principles of harmony. Recognizing, however, the profound effect: of music upon the senses and emotions, Pythagoras did not hesitate to
influence the mind and body with what he termed "musical medicine."
Pythagoras evinced such a marked preference for stringed instruments that he even went so far as to warn his disciples against allowing
their ears to be defiled by the sounds of flutes or cymbals. He further declared that the soul could be purified from its irrational influences
by solemn songs sung to the accompaniment of the lyre. In his investigation of the therapeutic value of harmonics, Pythagoras discovered
that the seven modes--or keys--of the Greek system of music had the power to incite or allay the various emotions. It is related that while
observing the stars one night he encountered a young man befuddled with strong drink and mad with jealousy who was piling faggots
about his mistress' door with the intention of burning the house. The frenzy of the youth was accentuated by a flutist a short distance away
who was playing a tune in the stirring Phrygian mode. Pythagoras induced the musician to change his air to the slow, and rhythmic
Spondaic mode, whereupon the intoxicated youth immediately became composed and, gathering up his bundles of wood, returned quietly
to his own home.
There is also an account of how Empedocles, a disciple of Pythagoras, by quickly changing the mode of a musical composition he was
playing, saved the life of his host, Anchitus, when the latter was threatened with death by the sword of one whose father he had condemned
to public execution. It is also known that Esculapius, the Greek physician, cured sciatica and other diseases of the nerves by blowing a loud
trumpet in the presence of the patient.
Pythagoras cured many ailments of the spirit, soul, and body by having certain specially prepared musical compositions played in the
presence of the sufferer or by personally reciting short selections from such early poets as Hesiod and Homer. In his university at Crotona
it was customary for the Pythagoreans to open and to close each day with songs--those in the morning calculated to clear the mind from
sleep and inspire it to the activities of the coming day; those in the evening of a mode soothing, relaxing, and conducive to rest. At the
vernal equinox, Pythagoras caused his disciples to gather in a circle around one of their number who led them in song and played their
accompaniment upon a lyre.
The therapeutic music of Pythagoras is described by Iamblichus thus: "And there are certain melodies devised as remedies against the
passions of the soul, and also against despondency and lamentation, which Pythagoras invented as things that afford the greatest assistance
in these maladies. And again, he employed other melodies against rage and anger, and against every aberration of the soul. There is also
another kind of modulation invented as a remedy against desires." (See The Life of Pythagoras.)
It is probable that the Pythagoreans recognized a connection between the seven Greek modes and the planets. As an example, Pliny
declares that Saturn moves in the Dorian mode and Jupiter in the Phrygian mode. It is also apparent that the temperaments are keyed to the
various modes, and the passions likewise. Thus, anger--which is a fiery passion--may be accentuated by a fiery mode or its power
neutralized by a watery mode.
The far-reaching effect exercised by music upon the culture of the Greeks is thus summed up by Emil Nauman: "Plato depreciated the
notion that music was intended solely to create cheerful and agreeable emotions, maintaining rather that it should inculcate a love of all
that is noble, and hatred of all that is mean, and that nothing could more strongly influence man's innermost feelings than melody and
rhythm. Firmly convinced of this, he agreed with Damon of Athens, the musical instructor of Socrates, that the introduction of a new and
presumably enervating scale would endanger the future of a whole nation, and that it was not possible to alter a key without shaking the
very foundations of the State. Plato affirmed that music which ennobled the mind was of a far higher kind than that which merely appealed
to the senses, and he strongly insisted that it was the paramount duty of the Legislature to suppress all music of an effeminate and
lascivious character, and to encourage only s that which was pure and dignified; that bold and stirring melodies were for men, gentle and
soothing ones for women. From this it is evident that music played a considerable part in the education of the Greek youth. The greatest
care was also to be taken in the selection of instrumental music, because the absence of words rendered its signification doubtful, and it
was difficult to foresee whether it would exercise upon the people a benign or baneful influence. Popular taste, being always tickled by
sensuous and meretricious effects, was to be treated with deserved contempt. (See The History of Music.)
Even today martial music is used with telling effect in times of war, and religious music, while no longer developed in accordance with the
ancient theory, still profoundly influences the emotions of the laity.
The most sublime but least known of all the Pythagorean speculations was that of sidereal harmonics. It was said that of all men only
Pythagoras heard the music of the spheres. Apparently the Chaldeans were the first people to conceive of the heavenly bodies joining in a
cosmic chant as they moved in stately manner across the sky. Job describes a time "when the stars of the morning sang together," and in
The Merchant of Venice the author of the Shakesperian plays
Click to enlarge
From Fludd's De Musica Mundana.
In this chart is set forth a summary of Fludd's theory of universal music. The interval between the element of earth and the highest heaven is
considered as a double octave, thus showing the two extremes of existence to be in disdiapason harmony. It is signifies that the highest heaven, the
sun, and the earth have the same time, the difference being in pitch. The sun is the lower octave of the highest heaven and the earth the lower octave of
the sun. The lower octave (Γ to G) comprises that part of the universe in which substance predominate over energy. Its harmonies, therefore, are more
gross than those of the higher octave (G to g) wherein energy predominates over substance. "If struck in the more spiritual part," writes Fludd, "the
monochord will give eternal life; if in the more material part, transitory life." It will be noted that certain elements, planets, and celestial spheres
sustain a harmonic ratio to each other, Fludd advanced this as a key to the sympathies and antipathies existing between the various departments of
p. 83
writes: "There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st but in his motion like an angel sings." So little remains, however, of the
Pythagorean system of celestial music that it is only possible to approximate his actual theory.
Pythagoras conceived the universe to be an immense monochord, with its single string connected at its upper end to absolute spirit and at
its lower end to absolute matter--in other words, a cord stretched between heaven and earth. Counting inward from the circumference of
the heavens, Pythagoras, according to some authorities, divided the universe into nine parts; according to others, into twelve parts. The
twelvefold system was as follows: The first division was called the empyrean, or the sphere of the fixed stars, and was the dwelling place
of the immortals. The second to twelfth divisions were (in order) the spheres of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the sun, Venus, Mercury, and the
moon, and fire, air, water, and earth. This arrangement of the seven planets (the sun and moon being regarded as planets in the old
astronomy) is identical with the candlestick symbolism of the Jews--the sun in the center as the main stem with three planets on either side
of it.
The names given by the Pythagoreans to the various notes of the diatonic scale were, according to Macrobius, derived from an estimation
of the velocity and magnitude of the planetary bodies. Each of these gigantic spheres as it rushed endlessly through space was believed to
sound a certain tone caused by its continuous displacement of the æthereal diffusion. As these tones were a manifestation of divine order
and motion, it must necessarily follow that they partook of the harmony of their own source. "The assertion that the planets in their
revolutions round the earth uttered certain sounds differing according to their respective 'magnitude, celerity and local distance,' was
commonly made by the Greeks. Thus Saturn, the farthest planet, was said to give the gravest note, while the Moon, which is the nearest,
gave the sharpest. 'These sounds of the seven planets, and the sphere of the fixed stars, together with that above us [Antichthon], are the
nine Muses, and their joint symphony is called Mnemosyne.'" (See The Canon.)This quotation contains an obscure reference to the
ninefold division of the universe previously mentioned.
The Greek initiates also recognized a fundamental relationship between the individual heavens or spheres of the seven planets, and the
seven sacred vowels. The first heaven uttered the sound of the sacred vowel Α (Alpha); the second heaven, the sacred vowel Ε (Epsilon);
the third, Η (Eta); the fourth, Ι (Iota); the fifth, Ο (Omicron); the sixth, Υ (Upsilon); and the seventh heaven, the sacred vowel Ω (Omega).
When these seven heavens sing together they produce a perfect harmony which ascends as an everlasting praise to the throne of the
Creator. (See Irenæus' Against Heresies.) Although not so stated, it is probable that the planetary heavens are to be considered as ascending
in the Pythagorean order, beginning with the sphere of the moon, which would be the first heaven.
Many early instruments had seven Strings, and it is generally conceded that Pythagoras was the one who added the eighth string to the lyre
of Terpander. The seven strings were always related both to their correspondences in the human body and to the planets. The names of
God were also conceived to be formed from combinations of the seven planetary harmonies. The Egyptians confined their sacred songs to
the seven primary sounds, forbidding any others to be uttered in their temples. One of their hymns contained the following invocation:
"The seven sounding tones praise Thee, the Great God, the ceaseless working Father of the whole universe." In another the Deity describes
Himself thus: "I am the great indestructible lyre of the whole world, attuning the songs of the heavens. (See Nauman's History of Music.)
The Pythagoreans believed that everything which existed had a voice and that all creatures were eternally singing the praise of the Creator.
Man fails to hear these divine melodies because his soul is enmeshed in the illusion of material existence. When he liberates himself from
the bondage of the lower world with its sense limitations, the music of the spheres will again be audible as it was in the Golden Age.
Harmony recognizes harmony, and when the human soul regains its true estate it will not only hear the celestial choir but also join with it
in an everlasting anthem of praise to that Eternal Good controlling the infinite number of parts and conditions of Being.
The Greek Mysteries included in their doctrines a magnificent concept of the relationship existing between music and form. The elements
of architecture, for example, were considered as comparable to musical modes and notes, or as having a musical counterpart. Consequently
when a building was erected in which a number of these elements were combined, the structure was then likened to a musical chord, which
was harmonic only when it fully satisfied the mathematical requirements of harmonic intervals. The realization of this analogy between
sound and form led Goethe to declare that "architecture is crystallized music."
In constructing their temples of initiation, the early priests frequently demonstrated their superior knowledge of the principles underlying
the phenomena known as vibration. A considerable part of the Mystery rituals consisted of invocations and intonements, for which purpose
special sound chambers were constructed. A word whispered in one of these apartments was so intensified that the reverberations made the
entire building sway and be filled with a deafening roar. The very wood and stone used in the erection of these sacred buildings eventually
became so thoroughly permeated with the sound vibrations of the religious ceremonies that when struck they would reproduce the same
tones thus repeatedly impressed into their substances by the rituals.
Every element in Nature has its individual keynote. If these elements are combined in a composite structure the result is a chord that, if
sounded, will disintegrate the compound into its integral parts. Likewise each individual has a keynote that, if sounded, will destroy him.
The allegory of the walls of Jericho falling when the trumpets of Israel were sounded is undoubtedly intended to set forth the arcane
significance of individual keynote or vibration.
"Light," writes Edwin D. Babbitt, "reveals the glories of the external world and yet is the most glorious of them all. It gives beauty, reveals
beauty and is itself most beautiful. It is the analyzer, the truth-teller and the exposer of shams, for it shows things as they are. Its infinite
streams measure off the universe and flow into our telescopes from stars which are quintillions of miles distant. On the other hand it
descends to objects inconceivably small, and reveals through the microscope objects fifty millions of times less than can be seen by the
naked eye. Like all other fine forces, its movement is wonderfully soft, yet penetrating and powerful. Without its vivifying influence,
vegetable, animal, and human life must immediately perish from the earth, and general ruin take place. We shall do well, then, to consider
this potential and beautiful principle of light and its component colors, for the more deeply we penetrate into its inner laws, the more will it
present itself as a marvelous storehouse of power to vitalize, heal, refine, and delight mankind." (See The Principles of Light and Color.)
Since light is the basic physical manifestation of life, bathing all creation in its radiance, it is highly important to realize, in part at least, the
subtle nature of this divine substance. That which is called light is actually a rate of vibration causing certain reactions upon the optic
nerve. Few realize how they are walled in by the limitations
Click to enlarge
From Fludd's De Musica Mundana.
In this diagram two interpenetrating pyramids are again employed, one of which represents fire and the other earth. It is demonstrated according to the
law of elemental harmony that fire does not enter into the composition of earth nor earth into the composition of fire. The figures on the chart disclose
the harmonic relationships existing between the four primary elements according to both Fludd and the Pythagoreans. Earth consists of four parts of its
own nature; water of three parts of earth and one part of fire. The sphere of equality is a hypothetical point where there is an equilibrium of two parts
of earth and two parts of fire. Air is composed of three parts of fire and one part of earth; fire, of four parts of its own nature. Thus earth and water
bear to each other the ratio of 4 to 3, or the diatessaron harmony, and water and the sphere of equality the ratio of 3 to 2, or the diapente harmony. Fire
and air also bear to each other the ratio of 4 to 3, or the diatessaron harmony, and air and the sphere of equality the ratio of 3 to 2, or the diapente
harmony. As the sum of a diatessaron and a diapente equals a diapason, or octave, it is evident that both the sphere of fire and the sphere of earth are in
diapason harmony with the sphere of equality, and also that fire and earth are in disdiapason harmony with each other.
p. 84
of the sense perceptions. Not only is there a great deal more to light than anyone has ever seen but there are also unknown forms of light
which no optical equipment will ever register. There are unnumbered colors which cannot be seen, as well as sounds which cannot be
heard, odors which cannot be smelt, flavors which cannot be tasted, and substances which cannot be felt. Man is thus surrounded by a
supersensible universe of which he knows nothing because the centers of sense perception within himself have not been developed
sufficiently to respond to the subtler rates of vibration of which that universe is composed.
Among both civilized and savage peoples color has been accepted as a natural language in which to couch their religious and philosophical
doctrines. The ancient city of Ecbatana as described by Herodotus, its seven walls colored according to the seven planets, revealed the
knowledge of this subject possessed by the Persian Magi. The famous zikkurat or astronomical tower of the god Nebo at Borsippa
ascended in seven great steps or stages, each step being painted in the key color of one of the planetary bodies. (See Lenormant's Chaldean
Magic.) It is thus evident that the Babylonians were familiar with the concept of the spectrum in its relation to the seven Creative Gods or
Powers. In India, one of the Mogul emperors caused a fountain to be made with seven levels. The water pouring down the sides through
specially arranged channels changed color as it descended, passing sequentially through all shades of the spectrum. In Tibet, color is
employed by the native artists to express various moods. L. Austine Waddell, writing of Northern Buddhist art, notes that in Tibetan
mythology "White and yellow complexions usually typify mild moods, while the red, blue, and black belong to fierce forms, though
sometimes light blue, as indicating the sky, means merely celestial. Generally the gods are pictured white, goblins red, and devils black,
like their European relative." (See The Buddhism of Tibet.)
In Meno, Plato, speaking through Socrates, describes color as "an effluence of form, commensurate with sight, and sensible." In Theætetus
he discourses more at length on the subject thus: "Let us carry out the principle which has just been affirmed, that nothing is self-existent,
and then we shall see that every color, white, black, and every other color, arises out of the eye meeting the appropriate motion, and that
what we term the substance of each color is neither the active nor the passive element, but something which passes between them, and is
peculiar to each percipient; are you certain that the several colors appear to every animal--say a dog--as they appear to you?"
In the Pythagorean tetractys--the supreme symbol of universal forces and processes--are set forth the theories of the Greeks concerning
color and music. The first three dots represent the threefold White Light, which is the Godhead containing potentially all sound and color.
The remaining seven dots are the colors of the spectrum and the notes of the musical scale. The colors and tones are the active creative
powers which, emanating from the First Cause, establish the universe. The seven are divided into two groups, one containing three powers
and the other four a relationship also shown in the tetractys. The higher group--that of three--becomes the spiritual nature of the created
universe; the lower group--that of four--manifests as the irrational sphere, or inferior world.
In the Mysteries the seven Logi, or Creative Lords, are shown as streams of force issuing from the mouth of the Eternal One. This signifies
the spectrum being extracted from the white light of the Supreme Deity. The seven Creators, or Fabricators, of the inferior spheres were
called by the Jews the Elohim. By the Egyptians they were referred to as the Builders (sometimes as the Governors) and are depicted with
great knives in their hands with which they carved the universe from its primordial substance. Worship of the planets is based upon their
acceptation as the cosmic embodiments of the seven creative attributes of God. The Lords of the planets were described as dwelling within
the body of the sun, for the true nature of the sun, being analogous to the white light, contains the seeds of all the tone and color potencies
which it manifests.
There are numerous arbitrary arrangements setting forth the mutual relationships of the planets, the colors, and the musical notes. The most
satisfactory system is that based upon the law of the octave. The sense of hearing has a much wider scope than that of sight, for whereas
the ear can register from nine to eleven octaves of sound the eye is restricted to the cognition of but seven fundamental color tones, or one
tone short of the octave. Red, when posited as the lowest color tone in the scale of chromatics, thus corresponds to do, the first note of the
musical scale. Continuing the analogy, orange corresponds to re, yellow to mi, green to fa, blue to sol, indigo to la, and violet to si (ti). The
eighth color tone necessary to complete the scale should be the higher octave of red, the first color tone. The accuracy of the above
arrangement is attested by two striking facts: (1) the three fundamental notes of the musical scale--the first, the third, and the fifth--
correspond with the three primary colors--red, yellow, and blue; (2) the seventh, and least perfect, note of the musical scale corresponds
with purple, the least perfect tone of the color scale.
In The Principles of Light and Color, Edwin D. Babbitt confirms the correspondence of the color and musical scales: "As C is at the
bottom of the musical scale and made with the coarsest waves of air, so is red at the bottom of the chromatic scale and made with the
coarsest waves of luminous ether. As the musical note B [the seventh note of the scale] requires 45 vibrations of air every time the note C
at the lower end of the scale requires 24, or but little over half as many, so does extreme violet require about 300 trillions of vibrations of
ether in a second, while extreme red requires only about 450 trillions, which also are but little more than half as many. When one musical
octave is finished another one commences and progresses with just twice as many vibrations as were used in the first octave, and so the
same notes are repeated on a finer scale. In the same way when the scale of colors visible to the ordinary eye is completed in the violet,
another octave of finer invisible colors, with just twice as many vibrations, will commence and progress on precisely the same law."
When the colors are related to the twelve signs of the zodiac, they are arranged as the spokes of a wheel. To Aries is assigned pure red; to
Taurus, red-orange; to Gemini, pure orange; to Cancer, orange-yellow; to Leo, pure yellow; to Virgo, yellow-green; to Libra, pure green;
to Scorpio, green-blue; to Sagittarius, pure blue; to Capricorn, blue-violet; to Aquarius, pure violet; and to Pisces, violet-red.
In expounding the Eastern system of esoteric philosophy, H. P, Blavatsky relates the colors to the septenary constitution of man and the
seven states of matter as follows:
Violet Chaya, or Etheric Double Ether
Indigo Higher Manas, or Spiritual Intelligence Critical State called Air
Blue Auric Envelope Steam or Vapor
Green Lower Manas, or Animal Soul Critical State
Yellow Buddhi, or Spiritual Soul Water
Orange Prana, or Life Principle Critical State
Red Kama Rupa, or Seat of Animal Life Ice
This arrangement of the colors of the spectrum and the musical notes of the octave necessitates a different grouping of the planets in order
to preserve their proper tone and color analogies. Thus do becomes Mars; re, the sun; mi, Mercury; fa, Saturn; sol, Jupiter; la, Venus; si (ti)
the moon. (See The E. S. Instructions.)
Click to enlarge
From Fludd's De Musica Mundana.
In this diagram Fludd has divided each of the four Primary elements into three subdivisions. The first division of each element is the grossest,
partaking somewhat of the substance directly inferior to itself (except in the case of the earth, which has no state inferior to itself). The second division
consists of the element in its relatively pure state, while the third division is that condition wherein the element partakes somewhat of the substance
immediately superior to itself. For example the lowest division of the element of water is sedimentary, as it contains earth substance in solution; the
second division represents water in its most common state--salty--as in the case of the ocean; and the third division is water in its purest state--free
from salt. The harmonic interval assigned to the lowest division of each element is one tone, to the central division also a tone, but to the higher
division a half-tone because it partakes of the division immediately above it. Fludd emphasizes the fact that as the elements ascend in series of two and
a half tones, the diatessaron is the dominating harmonic interval of the elements.
Next: Fishes, Insects, Animals, Reptiles and Birds (Part One)
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 85
Fishes, Insects, Animals, Reptiles and Birds
Part One
THE creatures inhabiting the water, air, and earth were held in veneration by all races of antiquity.
Realizing that visible bodies are only symbols of invisible forces, the ancients worshiped the Divine
Power through the lower kingdoms of Nature, because those less evolved and more simply constituted
creatures responded most readily to the creative impulses of the gods. The sages of old studied living
things to a point of realization that God is most perfectly understood through a knowledge of His
supreme handiwork--animate and inanimate Nature.
Every existing creature manifests some aspect of the intelligence or power of the Eternal One, who can
never be known save through a study and appreciation of His numbered but inconceivable parts. When a
creature is chosen, therefore, to symbolize to the concrete human mind some concealed abstract
principle it is because its characteristics demonstrate this invisible principle in visible action. Fishes,
insects, animals, reptiles, and birds appear in the religious symbolism of nearly all nations, because the
forms and habits of these creatures and the media in which they exist closely relate them to the various
generative and germinative powers of Nature, which were considered as prima-facie evidence of divine
The early philosophers and scientists, realizing that all life has its origin in water, chose the fish as the
symbol of the life germ. The fact that fishes are most prolific makes the simile still more apt. While the
early priests may not have possessed the instruments necessary to analyze the spermatozoon, they
concluded by deduction that it resembled a fish.
Fishes were sacred to the Greeks and Romans, being connected with the worship of Aphrodite (Venus).
An interesting survival of pagan ritualism is found in the custom of eating fish on Friday. Freya, in
whose honor the day was named, was the Scandinavian Venus, and this day was sacred among many
nations to the goddess of beauty and fecundity. This analogy further links the fish with the procreative
mystery. Friday is also sacred to the followers of the Prophet Mohammed.
The word nun means both fish and growth, and as Inman says: "The Jews were led to victory by the Son
of the Fish whose other names were Joshua and Jesus (the Savior). Nun is still the name of a female
devotee" of the Christian faith. Among early Christians three fishes were used to symbolize the Trinity,
and the fish is also one of the eight sacred symbols of the great Buddha. It is also significant that the
dolphin should be sacred to both Apollo (the Solar Savior) and Neptune. It was believed that this fish
carried shipwrecked sailors to heaven on its back. The dolphin was accepted by the early Christians as
an emblem of Christ, because the pagans had viewed this beautiful creature as a friend and benefactor of
man. The heir to the throne of France, the Dauphin, may have secured his title from this ancient pagan
symbol of the divine preservative power. The first advocates of Christianity likened converts to fishes,
who at the time of baptism "returned again into the sea of Christ."
Primitive peoples believed the sea and land were inhabited by strange creatures, and early books on
zoology contain curious illustrations of composite beasts, reptiles, and fishes, which did not exist at the
time the mediæval authors compiled these voluminous books. In the ancient initiatory rituals of the
Persian, Greek, and Egyptian Mysteries the priests disguised themselves as composite creatures, thereby
symbolizing different aspects of human consciousness. They used birds and reptiles as emblems of their
various deities, often creating forms of grotesque appearance and assigning to them imaginary traits,
habits, and places of domicile, all of which were symbolic of certain spiritual and transcendental truths
thus concealed from the profane. The phœnix made its nest of incense and flames. The unicorn had the
body of a horse, the feet of an elephant, and the tail of a wild boar. The upper half of the centaur's body
was human and the lower half equine. The pelican of the Hermetists fed its young from its own breast,
and to this bird were assigned other mysterious attributes which could have been true only allegorically.
Though regarded by many writers of the Middle Ages as actual living creatures, none of these--the
pelican excepted--ever existed outside the symbolism of the Mysteries. Possibly they originated in
rumors of animals then little known. In the temple, however, they became a reality, for there they
signified the manifold characteristics of man's nature. The mantichora had certain points in common
with the hyena; the unicorn may have been the single-horned rhinoceros. To the student of the secret
wisdom these composite animals. and birds simply represent various forces working in the invisible
worlds. This is a point which nearly all writers on the subject of mediæval monsters seem to have
overlooked. (See Vlyssis Aldrovandi's Monstrorum Historia, 1642, and Physica Curiosa, by P. Gaspare
Schotto, 1697.)
There are also legends to the effect that long before the appearance of human beings there existed a race
or species of composite creatures which was destroyed by the gods. The temples of antiquity preserved
their own historical records and possessed information concerning the prehistoric world that has never
been revealed to the uninitiated. According to these records, the human race evolved from a species of
creature that partook somewhat of the nature of an amphibian, for at that time primitive man had the
gills of a fish and was partly covered with scales. To a limited degree, the human embryo demonstrates
the possibility of such a condition. As a result of the theory of man's origin in water, the fish was looked
upon as the progenitor of the human family. This gave rise to the ichthyolatry of the Chaldeans,
Phœnicians, and Brahmins. The American Indians believe that the waters of lakes, rivers, and oceans are
inhabited by a mysterious people, the "Water Indians."
The fish has been used as an emblem of damnation; but among the Chinese it typified contentment and
good fortune, and fishes appear on many of their coins. When Typhon, or Set, the Egyptian evil genius,
had divided the body of the god Osiris into fourteen parts, he cast one part into the river Nile, where,
according to Plutarch, it was devoured by three fishes--the lepidotus (probably the lepidosiren), the
phagrus, and the oxyrynchus (a form of pike). For this reason the Egyptians would not eat the flesh of
these fishes, believing that to do so would be to devour the body of their god. When used as a symbol of
evil, the fish represented the earth (man's lower nature) and the tomb (the sepulcher of the Mysteries).
Thus was Jonah three days in the belly of the "great fish," as Christ was three days in the tomb.
Several early church fathers believed that the "whale" which swallowed Jonah was the symbol of God
the Father, who, when the hapless prophet was thrown overboard, accepted Jonah into His own nature
until a place of safety was reached. The story of Jonah is really a legend of initiation into the Mysteries,
and the "great fish" represents the darkness of ignorance which engulfs man when he is thrown over the
side of the ship (is born) into the sea (life). The custom of building ships in the form of fishes or birds,
common in ancient times, could give rise to the story, and mayhap Jonah was merely picked up by
Click to enlarge
From Picart's Religious Ceremonials.
The fish has often been associated with the World Saviors. Vishnu, the Hindu Redeemer, who takes upon himself
ten forms for the redemption of the universe, was expelled from the mouth of a fish in his first incarnation. Isis,
while nursing the infant Horus, is often shown with a fish on her headdress. Oannes, the Chaldean Savior
(borrowed from the Brahmins), is depicted with the head and body of a fish, from which his human form
protrudes at various points. Jesus was often symbolized by a fish. He told His disciples that they should became
"fishers of men." The sign of the fish was also the first monogram of the Christians. The mysterious Greek name
of Jesus, ΙΧΘΥΣ, means "a fish." The fish was accepted as a symbol of the Christ by a number of early canonized
church fathers. St. Augustine likened the Christ to a fish that had been broiled, and it was also pointed out that the
flesh of that Fish was the food of righteous and holy men.
p. 86
another vessel and carried into port, the pattern of the ship causing it to be called a "great
fish." ("Veritatis simplex oratio est!") More probably the "whale" of Jonah is based upon the pagan
mythological creature, hippocampus, part horse and part dolphin, for the early Christian statues and
carvings show the composite creature and not a true whale.
It is reasonable to suppose that the mysterious sea serpents, which, according to the Mayan and Toltec
legends, brought the gods to Mexico were Viking or Chaldean ships, built in the shape of composite sea
monsters or dragons. H. P. Blavatsky advances the theory that the word cetus, the great whale, is derived
from keto, a name for the fish god, Dagon, and that Jonah was actually confined in a cell hollowed out in
the body of a gigantic statue of Dagon after he had been captured by Phœnician sailors and carried to
one of their cities. There is no doubt a great mystery in the gigantic form of cetus, which is still
preserved as a constellation.
According to many scattered fragments extant, man's lower nature was symbolized by a tremendous,
awkward creature resembling a great sea serpent, or dragon, called leviathan. All symbols having
serpentine form or motion signify the solar energy in one of its many forms. This great creature of the
sea therefore represents the solar life force imprisoned in water and also the divine energy coursing
through the body of man, where, until transmuted, it manifests itself as a writhing, twisting monster---
man's greeds, passions, and lusts. Among the symbols of Christ as the Savior of men are a number
relating to the mystery of His divine nature concealed within the personality of the lowly Jesus.
The Gnostics divided the nature of the Christian Redeemer into two parts--the one Jesus, a mortal man;
the other, Christos, a personification of Nous, the principle of Cosmic Mind. Nous, the greater, was for
the period of three years (from baptism to crucifixion) using the fleshly garment of the mortal man
(Jesus). In order to illustrate this point and still conceal it from the ignorant, many strange, and often
repulsive, creatures were used whose rough exteriors concealed magnificent organisms. Kenealy, in his
notes on the Book of Enoch, observes: "Why the caterpillar was a symbol of the Messiah is evident;
because, under a lowly, creeping, and wholly terrestrial aspect, he conceals the beautiful butterfly-form,
with its radiant wings, emulating in its varied colors the Rainbow, the Serpent, the Salmon, the Scarab,
the Peacock, and the dying Dolphin * * *.
In 1609 Henry Khunrath's Amphitheatrum Sapientiæ Æternæ was published. Eliphas Levi declared that
within its pages are concealed all the great secrets of magical philosophy. A remarkable plate in this
work shows the Hermetic sciences being attacked by the bigoted and ignorant pedagogues of the
seventeenth century. In order to express his complete contempt for his slanderers, Khunrath made out of
each a composite beast, adding donkey ears to one and a false tail to another. He reserved the upper part
of the picture for certain petty backbiters whom he gave appropriate forms. The air was filled with
strange creatures--great dragon flies, winged frogs, birds with human heads, and other weird forms
which defy description--heaping venom, gossip, spite, slander, and other forms of persecution upon the
secret arcanum of the wise. The drawing indicated that their attacks were ineffectual. Poisonous insects
were often used to symbolize the deadly power of the human tongue.
Insects of all kinds were also considered emblematic of the Nature spirits and dæmons, for both were
believed to inhabit the atmosphere. Mediæval drawings showing magicians in the act of invoking spirits,
often portray the mysterious powers of the other world, which the conjurer has exorcised, as appearing
to him in composite part-insect forms. The early philosophers apparently held the opinion that the
disease which swept through communities in the form of plagues were actually living creatures, but
instead of considering a number of tiny germs they viewed the entire plague as one individuality and
gave it a hideous shape to symbolize its destructiveness. The fact that plagues came in the air caused an
insect or a bird to be used as their symbol.
Beautiful symmetrical forms were assigned to all natural benevolent conditions or powers, but to
unnatural or malevolent powers were assigned contorted and abnormal figures. The Evil One was either
hideously deformed or else of the nature of certain despised animals. A popular superstition during the
Middle Ages held that the Devil had the feet of a rooster, while the Egyptians assigned to Typhon
(Devil) the body of a hog.
The habits of the insects were carefully studied. Therefore the ant was looked upon as emblematic of
industry and foresight, as it stored up supplies for the winter and also had strength to move objects many
times its own weight. The locusts which swept down in clouds, and in some parts of Africa and Asia
obscured the sun and destroyed every green thing, were considered fit emblems of passion, disease, hate,
and strife; for these emotions destroy all that is good in the soul of man and leave a barren desert behind
them. In the folklore of various nations, certain insects are given special significance, but the ones which
have received world-wide veneration and consideration ate the scarab, the king of the insect kingdom;
the scorpion, the great betrayer; the butterfly, the emblem of metamorphosis; and the bee, the symbol of
The Egyptian scarab is one of the most remarkable symbolic figures ever conceived by the mind of man.
It was evolved by the erudition of the priestcraft from a simple insect which, because of its peculiar
habits and appearance, properly symbolized the strength of the body, the resurrection of the soul, and the
Eternal and Incomprehensible Creator in His aspect as Lord of the Sun. E. A. Wallis Budge says, in
effect, of the worship of the scarab by the Egyptians:
"Yet another view held in primitive times was that the sky was a vast meadow over which a huge beetle
crawled, pushing the disk of the sun before him. This beetle was the Sky-god, and, arguing from the
example of the beetle (Scarabæus sacer), which was observed to roll along with its hind legs a ball that
was believed to contain its eggs, the early Egyptians thought that the ball of the Sky-god contained his
egg and that the sun was his offspring. Thanks, however, to the investigations of the eminent
entomologist, Monsieur J. H. Fabre, we now know that the ball which the Scarabæus sacer rolls along
contains not its eggs, but dung that is to serve as food for its egg, which it lays in a carefully prepared
Initiates of the Egyptian Mysteries were sometimes called scarabs; again, lions and panthers. The scarab
was the emissary of the sun, symbolizing light, truth, and regeneration. Stone scarabs, called heart
scarabs, about three inches long, were placed in the heart cavity of the dead when that organ was
removed to be embalmed separately as part of the process of mummifying. Some maintain that the stone
beetles were merely wrapped in the winding cloths at the time of preparing the body for eternal
preservation. The following passage concerning this appears in the great Egyptian book of initiation, The
Book of the Dead: "And behold, thou shalt make a scarab of green stone, which shalt be placed in the
breast of a man, and it shall perform for him, 'the opening of the mouth.'" The funeral rites of many
nations bear a striking resemblance to the initiatory ceremonies of their Mysteries.
Ra, the god of the sun, had three important aspects. As the Creator of the universe he was symbolized by
the head of a scarab and was called Khepera, which signified the resurrection of the soul and a new life
at the end of the mortal span. The mummy cases of the Egyptian dead were nearly always ornamented
with scarabs. Usually one of these beetles, with outspread wings, was painted on the mummy case
directly over the breast of the dead. The finding of such great numbers of small stone scarabs indicates
that they were a favorite article of adornment among the Egyptians. Because of its relationship to the
sun, the scarab symbolized the divine part of man's nature. The fact that its beautiful wings were
concealed under its glossy shell typified the winged soul of man hidden within its earthly sheath. The
Egyptian soldiers were given the scarab as their special symbol because the ancients believed that these
creatures were all of the male sex and consequently appropriate emblems of virility, strength, and
Plutarch noted the fact that the scarab rolled its peculiar ball of dung backwards, while the insect itself
faced the opposite direction. This made it an especially fitting symbol for the sun, because this orb
(according to Egyptian astronomy) was rolling from west to east, although apparently moving in the
opposite direction. An Egyptian allegory states that the sunrise is caused by the scarab unfolding
Click to enlarge
From Redgrove's Bygone Beliefs.
The most remarkable of allegorical creatures was the mantichora, which Ctesias describes as having aflame-
colored body, lionlike in shape, three rows of teeth, a human head and ears, blue eyes, a tail ending in a series of
spikes and stings, thorny and scorpionlike, and a voice which sounded like the blare of trumpets. This synthetic
quadruped ambled into mediæval works on natural history, but, though seriously considered, had never been
seen, because it inhabited inaccessible regions and consequently was difficult to locate.
Click to enlarge
From Hall's Catalogue of Egyptian Scarabs, Etc., in the British Museum.
The flat under side of a scarab usually bears an inscription relating to the dynasty during which it was cut. These
scarabs were sometimes used as seals. Some were cut from ordinary or precious stones; others were made of
clay, baked and glazed. Occasionally the stone scarabs were also glazed. The majority of the small scarabs are
pierced as though originally used as beads. Some are so hard that they will cut glass. In the picture above, A
shows top and side views of the scarab, and B and B the under surface with the name of Men-ka-Ra within the
central cartouche.
p. 87
its wings, which stretch out as glorious colors on each side of its body--the solar globe--and that when it
folds its wings under its dark shell at sunset, night follows. Khepera, the scarab-headed aspect of Ra, is
often symbolized riding through the sea of the sky in a wonderful ship called the Boat of the Sun.
The scorpion is the symbol of both wisdom and self-destruction. It was called by the Egyptians the
creature accursed; the time of year when the sun entered the sign of Scorpio marked the beginning of the
rulership of Typhon. When the twelve signs of the zodiac were used to represent the twelve Apostles
(although the reverse is true), the scorpion was assigned to Judas Iscariot--the betrayer.
The scorpion stings with its tail, and for this reason it has been called a backbiter, a false and deceitful
thing. Calmet, in his Dictionary of the Bible, declares the scorpion to be a fit emblem of the wicked and
the symbol of persecution. The dry winds of Egypt are said to be produced by Typhon, who imparts to
the sand the blistering heat of the infernal world and the sting of the scorpion. This insect was also the
symbol of the spinal fire which, according to the Egyptian Mysteries, destroyed man when it was
permitted to gather at the base of his spine (the tail of the scorpion).The red star Antares in the back of
the celestial scorpion was considered the worst light in the heavens. Kalb al Akrab, or the heart of the
scorpion, was called by the ancients the lieutenant or deputy of Mars. (See footnote to Ptolemy's
Tetrabiblos.) Antares was believed to impair the eyesight, often causing blindness if it rose over the
horizon when a child was born. This may refer again to the sand storm, which was capable of blinding
unwary travelers.
The scorpion was also the symbol of wisdom, for the fire which it controlled was capable of illuminating
as well as consuming. Initiation into the Greater Mysteries among the pagans was said to take place only
in the sign of the scorpion. In the papyrus of Ani (The Book of the Dead), the deceased likens his soul to
a scorpion, saying: "I am a swallow, I am that scorpion, the daughter of Ra!" Elizabeth Goldsmith, in her
treatise on Sex Symbolism, states that the scorpions were a "symbol of Selk, the Egyptian goddess of
writing, and also [were] revered by the Babylonians and Assyrians as guardians of the gateway of the
sun. Seven scorpions were said to have accompanied Isis when she searched for the remains of Osiris
scattered by Set" (Typhon).
In his Chaldean Account of the Genesis, George Smith, copying from the cuneiform cylinders, in
describing the wanderings of the hero Izdubar (Nimrod), throws some light on the scorpion god who
guards the sun. The tablet which he translated is not perfect, but the meaning is fairly clear: "* * * who
each day guard the rising sun. Their crown was at the lattice of heaven, under hell their feet were placed
[the spinal column]. The scorpion man guarded the gate, burning with terribleness, their appearance was
like death, the might of his fear shook the forest. At the rising of the sun and the setting of the sun, they
guarded the sun; Izdubar saw them and fear and terror came into his face." Among the early Latins there
was a machine of war called the scorpion. It was used for firing arrows and probably obtained its name
from a long beam, resembling a scorpion's tail, which flew up to hurl the arrows. The missiles
discharged by this machine were also called scorpions.
The butterfly (under the name of Psyche, a beautiful maiden with wings of opalescent light) symbolizes
the human soul because of the stages it passes through in order to unfold its power of flight. The three
divisions through which the butterfly passes in its unfoldment resemble closely the three degrees of the
Mystery School, which degrees are regarded as consummating the unfoldment of man by giving him
emblematic wings by which he may soar to the skies. Unregenerate man, ignorant and helpless, is
symbolized by the stage between ovum and larva; the disciple, seeking truth and dwelling in medication,
by the second stage, from larva to pupa, at which time the insect enters its chrysalis (the tomb of the
Mysteries); the third stage, from pupa to imago (wherein the perfect butterfly comes forth), typifies the
unfolded enlightened soul of the initiate rising from the tomb of his baser nature.
Night moths typify the secret wisdom, because they are hard to discover and are concealed by the
darkness (ignorance). Some are emblems of death, as Acherontia atropos, the death's-head moth, which
has a marking on its body somewhat like a human skull. The death-watch beetle, which was believed to
give warning of approaching death by a peculiar ticking sound, is another instance of insects involved in
human affairs.
Opinions differ concerning the spider. Its shape makes it an appropriate emblem of the nerve plexus and
ganglia of the human body. Some Europeans consider it extremely bad luck to kill a spider--possibly
because it is looked upon as an emissary of the Evil One, whom no person desires to offend. There is a
mystery concerning all poisonous creatures, especially insects. Paracelsus taught that the spider was the
medium for a powerful but evil force which the Black Magicians used in their nefarious undertakings.
Certain plants, minerals, and animals have been sacred among all the nations of the earth because of
their peculiar sensitiveness to the astral fire--a mysterious agency in Nature which the scientific world
has contacted through its manifestations as electricity and magnetism. Lodestone and radium in the
mineral world and various parasitic growths in the plant kingdom are strangely susceptible to this
cosmic electric fire, or universal life force. The magicians of the Middle Ages surrounded themselves
with such creatures as bats, spiders, cats, snakes, and monkeys, because they were able to appropriate
the life forces of these species and use them to the attainment of their own ends. Some ancient schools of
wisdom taught that all poisonous insects and reptiles are germinated out of the evil nature of man, and
that when intelligent human beings no longer breed hate in their own souls there will be no more
ferocious animals, loathsome diseases, or poisonous plants and insects.
Among the American Indians is the legend of a "Spider Man," whose web connected the heaven worlds
with the earth. The secret schools of India symbolize certain of the gods who labored with the universe
during its making as connecting the realms of light with those of darkness by means of webs. Therefore
the builders of the cosmic system who held the embryonic universe together with threads of invisible
force were sometimes referred to as the Spider Gods and their ruler was designated The Great Spider.
The beehive is found in Masonry as a reminder that in diligence and labor for a common good true
happiness and prosperity are found. The bee is a symbol of wisdom, for as this tiny insect collects pollen
from the flowers, so men may extract wisdom from the experiences of daily life. The bee is sacred to the
goddess Venus and, according to mystics, it is one of several forms of life which came to the earth from
the planet Venus millions of years ago. Wheat and bananas are said to be of similar origin. This is the
reason why the origin of these three forms of life cannot be traced. The fact that bees are ruled by queens
is one reason why this insect is considered a sacred feminine symbol.
In India the god Prana--the personification of the universal life force--is sometimes shown surrounded
by a circle of bees. Because of its importance in pollenizing flowers, the bee is the accepted symbol of
the generative power. At one time the bee was the emblem of the French kings. The rulers of France
wore robes embroidered with bees, and the canopies of their thrones were decorated with gigantic
figures of these insects.
The fly symbolizes the tormentor, because of the annoyance it causes to animals. The Chaldean god
Baal was often called Baal-Zebul, or the god of the dwelling place. The word zebub, or zabab, means a
fly, and Baal-Zebul became Baalzebub, or Beelzebub, a word which was loosely translated to mean
Jupiter's fly. The fly was looked upon as a form of the divine power, because of its ability to destroy
decaying substances and thus promote health. The fly may have obtained its name Zebub from its
peculiar buzzing or humming. Inman believes that Baalzebub, which the Jews ridiculed as My Lord of
Flies, really means My Lord Who Hums or Murmurs.
Inman recalls the singing Memnon on the Egyptian desert, a tremendous figure with an Æolian harp on
the top of its head. When the wind blows strongly this great Statue sighs, or hums. The Jews changed
Baalzebub into Beelzebub, and made him their prince of devils by interpreting dæmon as "demon."
Naudæus, in defending Virgil from accusations of sorcery, attempted a wholesale denial of the miracles
supposedly performed by Virgil and produced enough evidence to convict the poet on all counts. Among
other strange fears, Virgil fashioned a fly out of brass, and after certain mysterious ceremonies, placed it
over one of the gates of Naples. As a result, no flies entered the city for more than eight years.
The serpent was chosen as the head of the reptilian family. Serpent worship in some form has permeated
nearly all parts of the
Click to enlarge
The bee was used as, a symbol of royalty by the immortal Charlemagne, and it is probable that the fleur-de-lis, or
lily of France, is merely a conventionalized bee and not a flower. There is an ancient Greek legend to the effect
that the nine Muses occasionally assumed the form of bees.
Click to enlarge
From Paracelsus' Archidoxes Magica.
The scorpion often appears upon the talismans and charms of the Middle Ages. This hieroglyphic Arachnida was
supposed to have the power of curing disease. The scorpion shown above was composed of several metals, and
was made under certain planetary configurations. Paracelsus advised that it be worn by those suffering from any
derangement of the reproductive system.
p. 88
earth. The serpent mounds of the American Indian; the carved-stone snakes of Central and South
America; the hooded cobras of India; Python, the great snake o the Greeks; the sacred serpents of the
Druids; the Midgard snake of Scandinavia; the Nagas of Burma, Siam, and Cambodia; the brazen
serpent of the Jews; the mystic serpent of Orpheus; the snakes at the oracle; of Delphi twining
themselves around the tripod upon which the Pythian priestess sat, the tripod itself being in the form of
twisted serpents; the sacred serpents preserved in the Egyptian temples; the Uræus coiled upon the
foreheads of the Pharaohs and priests;--all these bear witness to the universal veneration in which the
snake was held. In the ancient Mysteries the serpent entwining a staff was the symbol of the physician.
The serpent-wound staff of Hermes remains the emblem of the medical profession. Among nearly all
these ancient peoples the serpent was accepted as the symbol of wisdom or salvation. The antipathy
which Christendom feels towards the snake is based upon the little-understood allegory of the Garden of
The serpent is true to the principle of wisdom, for it tempts man to the knowledge of himself. Therefore
the knowledge of self resulted from man's disobedience to the Demiurgus, Jehovah. How the serpent
came to be in the garden of the Lord after God had declared that all creatures which He had made during
the six days of creation were good has not been satisfactorily answered by the interpreters of Scripture.
The tree that grows in the midst of the garden is the spinal fire; the knowledge of the use of that spinal
fire is the gift of the great serpent. Notwithstanding statements to the contrary, the serpent is the symbol
and prototype of the Universal Savior, who redeems the worlds by giving creation the knowledge of
itself and the realization of good and evil. If this be not so, why did Moses raise a brazen serpent upon a
cross in the wilderness that all who looked upon it might be saved from the sting of the lesser snakes?
Was not the brazen serpent a prophecy of the crucified Man to come? If the serpent be only a thing of
evil, why did Christ instruct His disciples to be as wise as serpents?
The accepted theory that the serpent is evil cannot be substantiated. It has long been viewed as the
emblem of immortality. It is the symbol of reincarnation, or metempsychosis, because it annually sheds
its skin, reappearing, as it were, in a new body. There is an ancient superstition to the effect that snakes
never die except by violence and that, if uninjured, they would live forever. It was also believed that
snakes swallowed themselves, and this resulted in their being considered emblematic of the Supreme
Creator, who periodically reabsorbed His universe back into Himself.
In Isis Unveiled, H. P. Blavatsky makes this significant statement concerning the origin of serpent
worship: "Before our globe had become egg-shaped or round it was a long trail of cosmic dust or fire-
mist, moving and writhing like a serpent. This, say the explanations, was the Spirit of God moving on
the chaos until its breath had incubated cosmic matter and made it assume the annular shape of a serpent
with its tail in its month--emblem of eternity in its spiritual and of our world in its physical sense."
The seven-headed snake represents the Supreme Deity manifesting through His Elohim, or Seven
Spirits, by whose aid He established His universe. The coils of the snake have been used by the pagans
to symbolize the motion and also the orbits of the celestial bodies, and it is probable that the symbol of
the serpent twisted around the egg--which was common to many of the ancient Mystery schools--
represented both the apparent motion of the sun around the earth, and the bands of astral light, or the
great magical agent, which move about the planet incessantly.
Electricity was commonly symbolized by the serpent because of its motion. Electricity passing between
the poles of a spark gap is serpentine in its motion. Force projected through atmosphere was called The
Great Snake. Being symbolic of universal force, the serpent was emblematic of both good and evil.
Force can tear down as rapidly as it can build up. The serpent with its tail in its mouth is the symbol of
eternity, for in this position the body of the reptile has neither beginning nor end. The head and tail
represent the positive and negative poles of the cosmic life circuit. The initiates of the Mysteries were
often referred to as serpents, and their wisdom was considered analogous to the divinely inspired power
of the snake. There is no doubt that the title "Winged Serpents" (the Seraphim?) was given to one of the
invisible hierarchies that labored with the earth during its early formation.
There is a legend that in the beginning of the world winged serpents reigned upon the earth. These were
probably the demigods which antedate the historical civilization of every nation. The symbolic
relationship between the sun and the serpent found literal witness in the fact that life remains in the
snake until sunset, even though it be cut into a dozen parts. The Hopi Indians consider the serpent to be
in close communication with the Earth Spirit. Therefore, at the time of their annual snake dance they
send their prayers to the Earth Spirit by first specially sanctifying large numbers of these reptiles and
then liberating them to return to the earth with the prayers of the tribe.
The great rapidity of motion manifested by lizards has caused them to be associated with Mercury, the
Messenger of the Gods, whose winged feet traveled infinite distances almost instantaneously. A point
which must not be overlooked in connection with reptiles in symbolism is clearly brought out by the
eminent scholar, Dr. H. E. Santee, in his Anatomy of the Brain and Spinal Cord: "In reptiles there are
two pineal bodies, an anterior and a posterior, of which the posterior remains undeveloped but the
anterior forms a rudimentary, cyclopean eye. In the Hatteria, a New Zealand lizard, it projects through
the parietal foramen and presents an imperfect lens and retina and, in its long stalk, nerve fibers."
Crocodiles were regarded by the Egyptians both as symbols of Typhon and emblems of the Supreme
Deity, of the latter because while under water the crocodile is capable of seeing--Plutarch asserts--
though its eyes are covered by a thin membrane. The Egyptians declared that no matter how far away the
crocodile laid its eggs, the Nile would reach up to them in its next inundation, this reptile being endowed
with a mysterious sense capable of making known the extent of the flood months before it took place.
There were two kinds of crocodiles. The larger and more ferocious was hated by the Egyptians, for they
likened it to the nature of Typhon, their destroying demon. Typhon waited to devour all who failed to
pass the judgment of the Dead, which rite took place in the Hall of Justice between the earth and the
Elysian Fields. Anthony Todd Thomson thus describes the good treatment accorded the smaller and
tamer crocodiles, which the Egyptians accepted as personifications of good: "They were fed daily and
occasionally had mulled wine poured down their throats. Their ears were ornamented with rings of gold
and precious stones, and their forefeet adorned with bracelets."
To the Chinese the turtle was a symbol of longevity. At a temple in Singapore a number of sacred turtles
are kept, their age recorded by carvings on their shells. The American Indians use the ridge down the
back of the turtle shell as a symbol of the Great Divide between life and death. The turtle is a symbol of
wisdom because it retires into itself and is its own protection. It is also a phallic symbol, as its relation to
long life would signify. The Hindus symbolized the universe as being supported on the backs of four
great elephants who, in turn, are standing upon an immense turtle which is crawling continually through
The Egyptian sphinx, the Greek centaur, and the Assyrian man-bull have much in common. All are
composite creatures combining human and animal members; in the Mysteries all signify the composite
nature of man and subtly refer to the hierarchies of celestial beings that have charge of the destiny of
mankind. These hierarchies are the twelve holy animals now known as constellations--star groups which
are merely symbols of impersonal spiritual impulses. Chiron, the centaur, teaching the sons of men,
symbolizes the intelligences of the constellation of Sagittarius, who were the custodians of the secret
doctrine while (geocentrically) the sun was passing through the sign of Gemini. The five-footed
Assyrian man-bull with the wings of an eagle and the head of a man is a reminder that the invisible
nature of man has the wings of a god, the head of a man, and the body of a beast. The same concept was
expressed through the sphinx--that armed guardian of the Mysteries who, crouching at the gate of the
temple, denied entrance to the profane. Thus placed between man and his divine possibilities, the sphinx
also represented the secret doctrine itself. Children's fairy stories abound with descriptions of symbolic
monsters, for nearly all such tales are based upon the ancient mystic folklore.
Click to enlarge
From Kircher's Œdipus Ægyptiacus.
The spinal cord was symbolized by a snake, and the serpent coiled upon the foreheads of the Egyptian initiates
represented the Divine Fire which had crawled serpentlike up the Tree of Life.
Click to enlarge
From Maurice's Indian Antiquities.
Both Mithras, the Persian Redeemer, and Serapis, the Egyptian God of the Earth, are symbolized by serpents
coiled about their bodies. This remarkable drawing shows the good and evil principles of Persia--Ahura-Mazda
and Ahriman--contending for the Egg of the Earth, which each trying to wrench from the teeth of the other.
Next: Fishes, Insects, Animals, Reptiles and Birds (Part Two) Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 89
Fishes, Insects, Animals, Reptiles and Birds
(Part Two)
AS appropriate emblems of various human and divine attributes birds were included in religious and
philosophic symbolism that of pagans and of Christians alike. Cruelty was signified by the buzzard;
courage by the eagle; self-sacrifice by the pelican; and pride by the peacock. The ability of birds to leave
the earth and fly aloft toward the source of light has resulted in their being associated with aspiration,
purity, and beauty. Wings were therefore often added to various terrene creatures in an effort to suggest
transcendency. Because their habitat was among the branches of the sacred trees in the hearts of ancient
forests, birds were also regarded as the appointed messengers of the tree spirits and Nature gods
dwelling in these consecrated groves, and through their clear notes the gods themselves were said to
speak. Many myths have been fabricated to explain the brilliant plumage of birds. A familiar example is
the story of Juno's peacock, in whose tail feathers were placed the eyes of Argus. Numerous American
Indian legends also deal with birds and the origin of the various colors of feathers. The Navahos declare
that when all living things climbed to the stalk of a bamboo to escape the Flood, the wild turkey was on
the lowest branch and his tail feathers trailed in the water; hence the color was all washed out.
Gravitation, which is a law in the material world, is the impulse toward the center of materiality;
levitation, which is a law in the spiritual world, is the impulse toward the center of spirituality. Seeming
to be capable of neutralizing the effect of gravity, the bird was said to partake of a nature superior to
other terrestrial creation; and its feathers, because of their sustaining power, came to be accepted as
symbols of divinity, courage, and accomplishment. A notable example is the dignity attached to eagle
feathers by the American Indians, among whom they are insignia of merit. Angels have been invested
with wings because, like birds, they were considered to be the intermediaries between the gods and men
and to inhabit the air or middle kingdom betwixt heaven and earth. As the dome of the heavens was
likened to a skull in the Gothic Mysteries, so the birds which flew across the sky were regarded as
thoughts of the Deity. For this reason Odin's two messenger ravens were called Hugin and Munin--
thought and memory.
Among the Greeks and Romans, the eagle was the appointed bird of Jupiter and consequently signified
the swiftly moving forces of the Demiurgus; hence it was looked upon as the mundane lord of the birds,
in contradistinction to the phœnix, which was symbolic of the celestial ruler. The eagle typified the sun
in its material phase and also the immutable Demiurgic law beneath which all mortal creatures must
bend. The eagle was also the Hermetic symbol of sulphur, and signified the mysterious fire of Scorpio--
the most profoundly significant sign of the zodiac and the Gate of the Great Mystery. Being one of the
three symbols of Scorpio, the eagle, like the Goat of Mendes, was an emblem of the theurgic art and the
secret processes by which the infernal fire of the scorpion was transmuted into the spiritual light-fire of
the gods.
Among certain American Indian tribes the thunderbird is held in peculiar esteem. This divine creature is
said to live above the clouds; the flapping of its wings causes the rumbling which accompanies storms,
while the flashes from its eyes are the lightning. Birds were used to signify the vital breath; and among
the Egyptians, mysterious hawklike birds with human heads, and carrying in their claws the symbols of
immortality, are often shown hovering as emblems of the liberated soul over the mummified bodies of
the dead. In Egypt the hawk was the sacred symbol of the sun; and Ra, Osiris, and Horns are often
depicted with the heads of hawks. The cock, or rooster, was a symbol of Cashmala (Cadmillus) in the
Samothracian Mysteries, and is also a phallic symbol sacred to the sun. It was accepted by the Greeks as
the emblem of Ares (Mars) and typified watchfulness and defense. When placed in the center of a
weather vane it signifies the sun in the midst of the four corners of creation. The Greeks sacrificed a
rooster to the gods at the time of entering the Eleusinian Mysteries. Sir Francis Bacon is supposed to
have died as the result of stuffing a fowl with snow. May this not signify Bacon's initiation into the
pagan Mysteries which still existed in his day?
Both the peacock and the ibis were objects of veneration because they destroyed the poisonous reptiles
which were popularly regarded as the emissaries of the infernal gods. Because of the myriad of eyes in
its tail feathers the peacock was accepted as the symbol of wisdom, and on account of its general
appearance it was often confused with the fabled phœnix of the Mysteries. There is a curious belief that
the flesh of the peacock will not putrefy even though kept for a considerable time. As an outgrowth of
this belief the peacock became the emblem of immortality, because the spiritual nature of man--like the
flesh of this bird--is incorruptible.
The Egyptians paid divine honors to the ibis and it was a cardinal crime to kill one, even by accident. It
was asserted that the ibis could live only in Egypt and that if transported to a foreign country it would
die of grief. The Egyptians declared this bird to be the preserver of crops and especially worthy of
veneration because it drove out the winged serpents of Libya which the wind blew into Egypt. The ibis
was sacred to Thoth, and when its head and neck were tucked under its wing its body closely resembled
a human heart. (See Montfaucon's Antiquities.) The black and white ibis was sacred to the moon; but all
forms were revered because they destroyed crocodile eggs, the crocodile being a symbol of the detested
Nocturnal birds were appropriate symbols of both sorcery and the secret divine sciences: sorcery
because black magic cannot function in the light of truth (day) and is powerful only when surrounded by
ignorance (night); and the divine sciences because those possessing the arcana are able to see through
the darkness of ignorance and materiality. Owls and bats were consequently often associated with either
witchcraft or wisdom. The goose was an emblem of the first primitive substance or condition from
which and within which the worlds were fashioned. In the Mysteries, the universe was likened to an egg
which the Cosmic Goose had laid in space. Because of its blackness the crow was the symbol of chaos
or the chaotic darkness preceding the light of creation. The grace and purity of the swan were
emblematic of the spiritual grace and purity of the initiate. This bird also represented the Mysteries
which unfolded these qualities in humanity. This explains the allegories of the gods (the secret wisdom)
incarnating in the body of a swan (the initiate).
Being scavengers, the vulture, the buzzard, and the condor signified that form of divine power which by
disposing of refuse and other matter dangerous to the life and health of humanity cleanses and purifies
the lower spheres. These birds were therefore adopted as symbols of the disintegrative processes which
accomplish good while apparently destroying, and by some religions have been mistakenly regarded as
evil. Birds such as the parrot and raven were accorded veneration because, being able to mimic the
human voice, they were looked upon as links between the human and animal kingdoms.
The dove, accepted by Christianity as the emblem of the Holy Ghost, is an extremely ancient and highly
revered pagan yonic emblem. In many of the ancient Mysteries it represented the third person of the
Creative Triad, or the Fabricator of the world. As the lower worlds were brought into existence through
a generative process, so the dove has been associated with those deities identified with the procreative
functions. It is sacred to Astarte, Cybele, Isis, Venus, Juno, Mylitta, and Aphrodite. On account of its
gentleness and devotion to its young, the dove was looked upon as the embodiment of the maternal
instinct. The dove is also an emblem of wisdom, for it represents the power and order by which the
lower worlds are maintained. It has long been accepted as a messenger of the divine will, and signifies
the activity of God.
The name dove has been given to oracles and to prophets. "The true name of the dove was Ionah or
Iönas; it was a very sacred emblem, and atone time almost universally received; it was adopted by the
Hebrews; and the mystic Dove was regarded as a symbol
Click to enlarge
From Lycosthenes' Prodigiorum, ac Ostentorum Chronicon.
The phœnix is the most celebrated of all the symbolic creatures fabricated by the ancient Mysteries for the
purpose of concealing the great truths of esoteric philosophy. Though modern scholars of natural history declare
the existence of the phœnix to be purely mythical, Pliny describes the capture of one of these birds and it
exhibition in the Roman Forum during the reign of the Emperor Claudius.
p. 90
from the days of Noah by all those who were of the Church of God. The prophet sent to Ninevah as
God's messenger was called Jonah or the Dove; our Lord's forerunner, the Baptist, was called in Greek
by the name of Ioannes; and so was the Apostle of Love, the author Of the fourth Gospel and of the
Apocalypse, named Ioannes." (Bryant's Analysis of Ancient Mythology.)
In Masonry the dove is the symbol of purity and innocence. It is significant that in the pagan Mysteries
the dove of Venus was crucified upon the four spokes of a great wheel, thus foreshadowing the mystery
of the crucified Lord of Love. Although Mohammed drove the doves from the temple at Mecca,
occasionally he is depicted with a dove sitting upon his shoulder as the symbol of divine inspiration. In
ancient times the effigies of doves were placed upon the heads of scepters to signify that those bearing
them were overshadowed by divine prerogative. In mediæval art, the dove frequently was pictured as an
emblem of divine benediction.
Clement, one of the ante-Nicæan Fathers, describes, in the first century after Christ, the peculiar nature
and habits of the phœnix, in this wise: "There is a certain bird which is called a Phœnix. This is the only
one of its kind and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must
die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is
fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being
nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it
takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia
into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them
on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect
the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed."
Although admitting that he had not seen the phœnix bird (there being only one alive at a time),
Herodotus amplifies a bit the description given by Clement: "They tell a story of what this bird does
which does not seem to me to be credible: that he comes all the way from Arabia, and brings the parent
bird, all plastered with myrrh, to the temple of the sun, and there buries the body. In order to bring him,
they say, he first forms a ball of myrrh as big as he finds that he can carry; then he hollows out the ball,
and puts his parent inside; after which he covers over the opening with fresh myrrh, and the ball is then
of exactly the same weight as at first; so he brings it to Egypt, plastered over as I have said, and deposits
it in the temple of the sun. Such is the story they tell of the doings of this bird."
Both Herodotus and Pliny noted the general resemblance in shape between the phœnix and the eagle, a
point which the reader should carefully consider, for it is reasonably certain that the modern Masonic
eagle was originally a phœnix. The body of the phœnix is described as having been covered with glossy
purple feathers, while its long tail feathers were alternately blue and red. Its head was light in color and
about its neck was a circlet of golden plumage. At the back of its head the phœnix had a peculiar tuft of
feathers, a fact quite evident, although it has been overlooked by most writers and symbolists.
The phœnix was regarded as sacred to the sun, and the length of its life (500 to 1000 years) was taken as
a standard for measuring the motion of the heavenly bodies and also the cycles of time used in the
Mysteries to designate the periods of existence. The diet of the bird was unknown. Some writers declare
that it subsisted upon the atmosphere; others that it ate at rare intervals but never in the presence of man.
Modern Masons should realize the special Masonic significance of the phœnix, for the bird is described
as using sprigs of acacia in the manufacture of its nest.
The phœnix (which is the mythological Persian roc) is also the name of a Southern constellation, and
therefore it has both an astronomical and an astrological significance. In all probability, the phœnix was
the swan of the Greeks, the eagle of the Romans, and the peacock of the Far East. To the ancient mystics
the phœnix was a most appropriate symbol of the immortality of the human soul, for just as the phœnix
was reborn out of its own dead self seven times seven, so again and again the spiritual nature of man
rises triumphant from his dead physical body.
Mediæval Hermetists regarded the phœnix as a symbol of the accomplishment of alchemical
transmutation, a process equivalent to human regeneration. The name phœnix was also given to one of
the secret alchemical formula. The familiar pelican of the Rose Croix degree, feeding its young from its
own breast, is in reality a phœnix, a fact which can be confirmed by an examination of the head of the
bird. The ungainly lower part of the pelican's beak is entirely missing, the head of the phœnix being far
more like that of an eagle than of a pelican. In the Mysteries it was customary to refer to initiates as
phœnixes or men who had been born again, for just as physical birth gives man consciousness in the
physical world, so the neophyte, after nine degrees in the womb of the Mysteries, was born into a
consciousness of the Spiritual world. This is the mystery of initiation to which Christ referred when he
said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John iii. 3). The phœnix is a
fitting symbol of this spiritual truth.
European mysticism was not dead at the time the United States of America was founded. The hand of
the Mysteries controlled in the establishment of the new government, for the signature of the Mysteries
may still be seen on the Great Seal of the United States of America. Careful analysis of the seal discloses
a mass of occult and Masonic symbols, chief among them the so-called American eagle--a bird which
Benjamin Franklin declared unworthy to be chosen as the emblem of a great, powerful, and progressive
people. Here again only the student of symbolism can see through the subterfuge and realize that the
American eagle upon the Great Seal is but a conventionalized phœnix, a fact plainly discernible from an
examination of the original seal. In his sketch of The History of the Seal of the United States, Gaillard
Hunt unwittingly brings forward much material to substantiate the belief that the original seal carried the
Phœnix bird on its obverse surface and the Great Pyramid of Gizeh upon its reverse surface. In a colored
sketch submitted as a design for the Great Seal by William Barton in 1782, an actual phœnix appears
sitting upon a nest of flames. This itself demonstrates a tendency towards the use of this emblematic bird.
Click to enlarge
On the left is the bird's head from the first Great Seal of the United States (1782) and on the right the Great Seal
of 1902. When the first great Seal was actually cut, the bird represented upon it was very different from the eagle
which now appears; the neck was much longer and the tuft of feathers, at the upper back part of the head was
quite noticeable; the beak bore little resemblance to that of the eagle; and the entire bird was much thinner and its
wings shorter. It requires very little imagination to trace in this first so-called eagle the mythological Phœnix of
antiquity. What is more, there is every reason why a phœnix bird should be used to represent a new country rising
out of an old, while as Benjamin Franklin caustically noted, the eagle was not a bird of good moral character!
Click to enlarge
From Wilkinson's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians.
The Egyptians occasionally represented the Phœnix as having the body of a man and the wings of a bird. This
biform, creature had a tuft of feathers upon its head and its arms were upraised in an attitude of prayer. As the
phœnix was the symbol of regeneration, the tuft of feathers on the back of its head might well symbolize the
activity of the Pineal gland, or third eye, the occult function of which was apparently well understood by the
ancient priestcraft.
Click to enlarge
From Hunt's History of the Seal of the United States.
The significance of the mystical number 13, which frequently appears upon the Great Seal of the United States, is
not limited to the number of the original colonies. The sacred emblem of the ancient initiates, here composed of
13 stars,, also appears above the head of the "eagle." The motto, E Pluribus Unum, contains 13 letters, as does
also the inscription, Annuit Cœptis. The "eagle" clutches in its right talon a branch bearing 13 leaves and 13
berries and in its left a sheaf of 13 arrows. The face of the pyramid, exclusive of the panel containing the date,
consists of 72 stones arranged in 13 rows.
p. 91
If any one doubts the presence of Masonic and occult influences at the time the Great Seal was designed,
he should give due consideration to the comments of Professor Charles Eliot Norton of Harvard, who
wrote concerning the unfinished pyramid and the All-Seeing Eye which adorned the reverse of the seal,
as follows: "The device adopted by Congress is practically incapable of effective treatment; it can hardly
(however artistically treated by the designer) look otherwise than as a dull emblem of a Masonic
fraternity." (The History of the Seal of the United States.)
The eagles of Napoleon and Cæsar and the zodiacal eagle of Scorpio are really phœnixes, for the latter
bird--not the eagle--is the symbol of spiritual victory and achievement. Masonry will be in a position to
solve many of the secrets of its esoteric doctrine when it realizes that both its single- and double-headed
eagles are phœnixes, and that to all initiates and philosophers the phœnix is the symbol of the
transmutation and regeneration of the creative energy--commonly called the accomplishment of the
Great Work. The double-headed phœnix is the prototype of an androgynous man, for according to the
secret teachings there will come a time when the human body will have two spinal cords, by means of
which vibratory equilibrium will be maintained in the body.
Not only were many of the founders of the United States Government Masons, but they received aid
from a secret and august body existing in Europe, which helped them to establish this country for a
peculiar and particular purpose known only to the initiated few. The Great Seal is the signature of this
exalted body--unseen and for the most part unknown--and the unfinished pyramid upon its reverse side
is a trestleboard setting forth symbolically the task to the accomplishment of which the United States
Government was dedicated from the day of its inception.
The lion is the king of the animal family and, like the head of each kingdom, is sacred to the sun, whose
rays are symbolized by the lion's shaggy mane. The allegories perpetuated by the Mysteries (such as the
one to the effect that the lion opens the secret book) signify that the solar power opens the seed pods,
releasing the spiritual life within. There was also a curious belief among the ancients that the lion sleeps
with his eyes open, and for this reason the animal was chosen as a symbol of vigilance. The figure of a
lion placed on either side of doors and gateways is an emblem of divine guardianship. King Solomon
was often symbolized as a lion. For ages the feline family has been regarded with peculiar veneration. In
several of the Mysteries--most notably the Egyptian--the priests wore the skins of lions, tigers, panthers,
pumas, or leopards. Hercules and Samson (both solar symbols) slew the lion of the constellation of Leo
and robed themselves in his skin, thus signifying that they represented the sun itself when at the summit
of the celestial arch.
At Bubastis in Egypt was the temple of the famous goddess Bast, the cat deity of the Ptolemies. The
Egyptians paid homage to the cat, especially when its fur was of three shades or its eyes of different
colors. To the priests the cat was symbolic of the magnetic forces of Nature, and they surrounded
themselves with these animals for the sake of the astral fire which emanated from their bodies. The cat
was also a symbol of eternity, for when it sleeps it curls up into a ball with its head and tail touching.
Among the Greeks and Latins the cat was sacred to the goddess Diana. The Buddhists of India invested
the cat with special significance, but for a different reason. The cat was the only animal absent at the
death of the great Buddha, because it had stopped on the way to chase a mouse. That the symbol of the
lower astral forces should not be present at the liberation of the Buddha is significant.
Regarding the cat, Herodotus says: "Whenever a fire breaks out, cats are agitated with a kind of divine
motion, which they that keep them observe, neglecting the fire: The cats, however, in spite of their care,
break from them, leaping even over the heads of their keepers to throw themselves into the fire. The
Egyptians then make great mourning for their death. If a cat dies a natural death in a house, all they of
that house shave their eyebrows: If a dog, they shave the head and all the body. They used to embalm
their dead cats, and carry them to Bubastis to be interred in a sacred house. (Montfaucon's Antiquities.)
The most important of all symbolic animals was the Apis, or Egyptian bull of Memphis, which was
regarded as the sacred vehicle for the transmigration of the soul of the god Osiris. It was declared that
the Apis was conceived by a bolt of lightning, and the ceremony attendant upon its selection and
consecration was one of the most impressive in Egyptian ritualism. The Apis had to be marked in a
certain manner. Herodotus states that the bull must be black with a square white spot on his forehead,
the form of an eagle (probably a vulture) on his back, a beetle upon (under) his tongue, and the hair of
his tail lying two ways. Other writers declare that the sacred bull was marked with twenty-nine sacred
symbols, his body was spotted, and upon his right side was a white mark in the form of a crescent. After
its sanctification the Apis was kept in a stable adjacent to the temple and led in processionals through the
streets of the city upon certain solemn occasions. It was a popular belief among the Egyptians that any
child upon whom the bull breathed would become illustrious. After reaching a certain age (twenty-five
years) the Apis was taken either to the river Nile or to a sacred fountain (authorities differ on this point)
and drowned, amidst the lamentations of the populace. The mourning and wailing for his death
continued until the new Apis was found, when it was declared that Osiris had reincarnated, whereupon
rejoicing took the place of grief.
The worship of the bull was not confined to Egypt, but was prevalent in many nations of the ancient
world. In India, Nandi--the sacred white bull of Siva--is still the object of much veneration; and both the
Persians and the Jews accepted the bull as an important religious symbol. The Assyrians, Phœnicians,
Chaldeans, and even the Greeks reverenced this animal, and Jupiter turned himself into a white bull to
abduct Europa. The bull was a powerful phallic emblem signifying the paternal creative power of the
Demiurgus. At his death he was frequently mummified and buried with the pomp and dignity of a god in
a specially prepared sarcophagus. Excavations in the Serapeum at Memphis have uncovered the tombs
of more than sixty of these sacred animals.
As the sign rising over the horizon at the vernal equinox constitutes the starry body for the annual
incarnation of the sun, the bull not only was the celestial symbol of the Solar Man but, because the
vernal equinox took place in the constellation of Taurus, was called the breaker or opener of the year.
For this reason in astronomical symbolism the bull is often shown breaking the annular egg with his
horns. The Apis further signifies that the God-Mind is incarnated in the body of a beast and therefore
that the physical beast form is the sacred vehicle of divinity. Man's lower personality is the Apis in
which Osiris incarnates. The result of the combination is the creation of Sor-Apis (Serapis)-the material
soul as ruler of the irrational material body and involved therein. After a certain period (which is
determined by the square of five, or twenty-five years), the body of the Apis is destroyed and the soul
liberated by the water which drowns the material life. This was indicative of the washing away of the
material nature by the baptismal waters of divine light and truth. The drowning of the Apis is the symbol
of death; the resurrection of Osiris in the new bull is the symbol of eternal renovation. The white bull
was also symbolically sacred as the appointed emblem of the initiates, signifying the spiritualized
material bodies of both man and Nature.
When the vernal equinox no longer occurred in the sign of Taurus, the Sun God incarnated in the
constellation of Aries and the ram then became the vehicle of the solar power. Thus the sun rising in the
sign of the Celestial Lamb triumphs over the symbolic serpent of darkness. The lamb is a familiar
emblem of purity because of its gentleness and the whiteness of its wool. In many of the pagan
Mysteries it signified the Universal Savior, and in Christianity it is the favorite symbol of Christ. Early
church paintings show a lamb standing upon a little hill, and from its feet pour four streams of living
water signifying the four Gospels. The blood of the lamb is the solar life pouring into the world through
the sign of Aries.
The goat is both a phallic symbol and also an emblem of courage or aspiration because of its
surefootedness and ability to scale the loftiest peaks. To the alchemists the goat's head was the symbol of
sulphur. The practice among the ancient Jews of choosing a scapegoat upon which to heap the sins of
mankind is merely an allegorical
p. 09100
From Kircher's Sphinx Mystagoga.
The importance of the bull as the symbol of the sun at the vernal equinox is discussed in the chapter on
The Zodiac and Its Signs. The bull and the ox are ancient emblems of the element of earth--consequently
of the planet itself. They also signify the animal nature of man, and for this reason were sacrificed upon
the altars of such ancient Mysteries as the Jewish and Druidic. Plutarch wrote: "The Apis ought to be
regarded by us, as a fair and beautiful image of the soul of Osiris." Osiris represents the spiritual nature
of the lower world which is murdered and distributed throughout the substance of the physical spheres;
Apis is the emblem of the material world within which is the spiritual nature--Osiris. The Apis is also
the symbol of the exoteric (or profane) doctrine, in contradistinction to the esoteric (or divine) teachings
represented by the uræus worn upon the foreheads of the priests. Front this is derived the mythological
allegory of Serapis, who in a certain sense is not only the composite figure of Osiris and the lower world
in which he is incarnated but also of the Mysteries, which are the terrestrial bodies containing the secret
teachings, or the spiritual soul.
p. 92
depiction of the Sun Man who is the scapegoat of the world and upon whom are cast the sins of the
twelve houses (tribes) of the celestial universe. Truth is the Divine Lamb worshiped throughout
pagandom and slain for the sins of the world, and since the dawn of time the Savior Gods of all religions
have been personifications of this Truth. The Golden Fleece sought by Jason and his Argonauts is the
Celestial Lamb--the spiritual and intellectual sun. The secret doctrine is also typified by the Golden
Fleece--the wool of the Divine Life, the rays of the Sun of Truth. Suidas declares the Golden Fleece to
have been in reality a book, written upon skin, which contained the formulæ for the production of gold
by means of chemistry. The Mysteries were institutions erected for the transmutation of base ignorance
into precious illumination. The dragon of ignorance was the terrible creature set to guard the Golden
Fleece, and represents the darkness of the old year which battles with the sun at the time of its
equinoctial passage.
Deer were sacred in the Bacchic Mysteries of the Greeks; the Bacchantes were often clothed in
fawnskins. Deer were associated with the worship of the moon goddess and the Bacchic orgies were
usually conducted at night. The grace and speed of this animal caused it to be accepted as the proper
symbol of esthetic abandon. Deer were objects of veneration with many nations. In Japan, herds of them
are still maintained in connection with the temples.
The wolf is usually associated with the principle of evil, because of the mournful discordance of its howl
and the viciousness of its nature. In Scandinavian mythology the Fenris Wolf was one of the sons of
Loki, the infernal god of the fires. With the temple of Asgard in flames about them, the gods under the
command of Odin fought their last great battle against the chaotic forces of evil. With frothing jowls the
Fenris Wolf devoured Odin, the Father of the Gods, and thus destroyed the Odinic universe. Here the
Fenris Wolf represents those mindless powers of Nature that overthrew the primitive creation.
The unicorn, or monoceros, was a most curious creation of the ancient initiates. It is described by
Thomas Boreman as "a beast, which though doubted of by many writers, yet is by others thus described:
He has but one horn, and that an exceedingly rich one, growing out of the middle of his forehead. His
head resembles an hart's, his feet an elephant's, his tail a boar's, and the rest of his body an horse's. The
horn is about a foot and half in length. His voice is like the lowing of an ox. His mane and hair are of a
yellowish colour. His horn is as hard as iron, and as rough as any file, twisted or curled, like a flaming
sword; very straight, sharp, and every where black, excepting the point. Great virtues are attributed to it,
in expelling of poison and curing of several diseases. He is not a beast of prey. " (See Redgrove's
Bygone Beliefs.)
While the unicorn is mentioned several times in Scripture, no proof has yet been discovered of its
existence. There are a number of drinking horns in various museums presumably fashioned from its
spike. It is reasonably certain, however, that these drinking vessels were really made either from the
tusks of some large mammal or the horn of a rhinoceros. J. P. Lundy believes that the horn of the
unicorn symbolizes the hem of salvation mentioned by St. Luke which, pricking the hearts of men, turns
them to a consideration of salvation through Christ. Mediæval Christian mystics employed the unicorn
as an emblem of Christ, and this creature must therefore signify the spiritual life in man. The single horn
of the unicorn may represent the pineal gland, or third eye, which is the spiritual cognition center in the
brain. The unicorn was adopted by the Mysteries as a symbol of the illumined spiritual nature of the
initiate, the horn with which it defends itself being the flaming sword of the spiritual doctrine against,
which nothing can prevail.
In the Book of Lambspring, a rare Hermetic tract, appears an engraving showing a deer and a unicorn
standing together in a wood. The picture is accompanied by the following text: "The Sages say truly that
two animals are in this forest: One glorious, beautiful, and swift, a great and strong deer; the other an
unicorn. * * * If we apply the parable of our art, we shall call the forest the body. * * * The unicorn will
be the spirit at all times. The deer desires no other name but that of the soul; * * *. He that knows how to
tame and master them by art, to couple them together, and to lead them in and our of the form, may
justly be called a Master."
The Egyptian devil, Typhon, was often symbolized by the Set monster whose identity is obscure. It has a
queer snoutlike nose and pointed ears, and may have been a conventional hyena. The Set monster lived
in the sand storms and wandered about the world promulgating evil. The Egyptians related the howling
of the desert winds with the moaning cry of the hyena. Thus when in the depths of the night the hyena
sent forth its doleful wail it sounded like the last despairing cry of a lost soul in the clutches of Typhon.
Among the duties of this evil creature was that of protecting the Egyptian dead against: grave robbers.
Among other symbols of Typhon was the hippopotamus, sacred to the god Mars because Mars was
enthroned in the sign of Scorpio, the house of Typhon. The ass was also sacred to this Egyptian demon.
Jesus riding into Jerusalem upon the back of an ass has the same significance as Hermes standing upon
the prostrate form of Typhon. The early Christians were accused of worshiping the head of an ass. A
most curious animal symbol is the hog or sow, sacred to Diana, and frequently employed in the
Mysteries as an emblem of the occult art. The wild boar which gored Atys shows the use of this animal
in the Mysteries.
According to the Mysteries, the monkey represents the condition of man before the rational soul entered
into his constitution. Therefore it typifies the irrational man. By some the monkey is looked upon as a
species not ensouled by the spiritual hierarchies; by others as a fallen state wherein man has been
deprived of his divine nature through degeneracy. The ancients, though evolutionists, did not trace man's
ascent through the monkey; the monkey they considered as having separated itself from the main stem
of progress. The monkey was occasionally employed as a symbol of learning. Cynocephalus, the dog-
headed ape, was the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol of writing, and was closely associated with Thoth.
Cynocephalus is symbolic of the moon and Thoth of the planet Mercury. Because of the ancient belief
that the moon followed Mercury about the heavens the dog-ape was described as the faithful companion
of Thoth.
The dog, because of its faithfulness, denotes the relationship which should exist between disciple and
master or between the initiate and his God. The shepherd dog was a type of the priestcraft. The dog's
ability to sense and follow unseen persons for miles symbolized the transcendental power by which the
philosopher follows the thread of truth through the labyrinth of earthly error. The dog is also the symbol
of Mercury. The Dog Star, Sirius or Sothis, was sacred to the Egyptians because it presaged the annual
inundations of the Nile.
As a beast of burden the horse was the symbol of the body of man forced to sustain the weight of his
spiritual constitution. Conversely, it also typified the spiritual nature of man forced to maintain the
burden of the material personality. Chiron, the centaur, mentor of Achilles, represents the primitive
creation which was the progenitor and instructor of mankind, as described by Berossus. The winged
horse and the magic carpet both symbolize the secret doctrine and the spiritualized body of man. The
wooden horse of Troy, secreting an army for the capture of the city, represents man's body concealing
within it those infinite potentialities which will later come forth and conquer his environment. Again,
like Noah's Ark, it represents the spiritual nature of man as containing a host of latent potentialities
which subsequently become active. The siege of Troy is a symbolic account of the abduction of the
human soul (Helena) by the personality (Paris) and its final redemption, through persevering struggle, by
the secret doctrine--the Greek army under the command of Agamemnon.
Click to enlarge
From Virgil's Æneid. (Dryden's translation.)
Among the mythological creatures of the Mysteries were the harpies--projections into material substance of
beings existing in the invisible world of Nature. They were described the Greeks as being composite, with the
heads of maidens and the bodies of birds. The wings of the harpies were composed of metal and their flight was,
accompanied by a terrible clanging noise. During his wanderings, Æneas, the Trojan hero, landed on the island of
the harpies, where he and his followers vainly battled with these monsters. One of the harpies perched upon a
cliff and there prophesied to Æneid that his attack upon them would bring dire calamity to the Trojans.
Next: Flowers, Plants, Fruits, and Trees Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 93
Flowers, Plants, Fruits, and Trees
THE yoni and phallus were worshiped by nearly all ancient peoples as appropriate symbols of God's
creative power. The Garden of Eden, the Ark, the Gate of the Temple, the Veil of the Mysteries, the
vesica piscis or oval nimbus, and the Holy Grail are important yonic symbols; the pyramid, the obelisk,
the cone, the candle, the tower, the Celtic monolith, the spire, the campanile, the Maypole, and the
Sacred Spear are symbolic of the phallus. In treating the subject of Priapic worship, too many modern
authors judge pagan standards by their own and wallow in the mire of self-created vulgarity. The
Eleusinian Mysteries--the greatest of all the ancient secret societies--established one of the highest
known standards of morality and ethics, and those criticizing their use of phallic symbols should ponder
the trenchant words of King Edward III, "Honi soit qui mal y pense."
The obscene rites practiced by the later Bacchanalia and Dionysia were no more representative of the
standards of purity originally upheld by the Mysteries than the orgies occasionally occurring among the
adherents of Christianity till the eighteenth century were representative of primitive Christianity. Sir
William Hamilton, British Minister at the Court of Naples, declares that in 1780, Isernia, a community
of Christians in Italy, worshiped with phallic ceremonies the pagan god Priapus under the name of St.
Cosmo. (See Two Essays on the Worship of Priapus, by Richard Payne Knight.)
Father, mother, and child constitute the natural trinity. The Mysteries glorified the home as the supreme
institution consisting of this trinity functioning as a unit. Pythagoras likened the universe to the family,
declaring that as the supreme fire of the universe was in the midst of its heavenly bodies, so, by analogy,
the supreme fire of the world was upon its hearthstones. The Pythagorean and other schools of
philosophy conceived the one divine nature of God to manifest itself in the threefold aspect of Father,
Mother, and Child. These three constituted the Divine Family, whose dwelling place is creation and
whose natural and peculiar symbol is the 47th problem of Euclid. God the Father is spirit, God the
Mother is matter, and God the Child--the product of the two--represents the sum of living things born
out of and constituting Nature. The seed of spirit is sown in the womb of matter, and by an immaculate
(pure) conception the progeny is brought into being. Is not this the true mystery of the Madonna holding
the Holy Babe in her arms? Who dares to say that such symbolism is improper? The mystery of life is
the supreme mystery, revealed in all of its divine dignity and glorified as Nature's per feet achievement
by the initiated sages and seers of all ages.
The prudery of today, however, declares this same mystery to be unfit for the consideration of holy-
minded people. Contrary to the dictates of reason, a standard has been established which affirms that
innocence bred of ignorance is more to be desired than virtue born of knowledge. Eventually, however,
man will learn that he need never be ashamed of truth. Until he does learn this, he is false to his God, to
his world, and to himself. In this respect, Christianity has woefully failed in its mission. While declaring
man's body to be the living temple of the living God, in the same breath it asserts the substances and
functions of this temple to be unclean and their study defiling to the sensitive sentiments of the
righteous. By this unwholesome attitude, man's body--the house of God--is degraded and defamed. Yet
the cross itself is the oldest of phallic emblems, and the lozenge-shaped windows of cathedrals are proof
that yonic symbols have survived the destruction of the pagan Mysteries. The very structure of the
church itself is permeated with phallicism. Remove from the Christian Church all emblems of Priapic
origin and nothing is left, for even the earth upon which it stands was, because of its fertility, the first
yonic symbol. As the presence of these emblems of the generative processes is either unknown or
unheeded by the majority, the irony of the situation is not generally appreciated. Only those conversant
with the secret language of antiquity are capable of understanding the divine significance of these
Flowers were chosen as symbols for many reasons. The great variety of flora made it possible to find
some plant or flower which would be a suitable figure for nearly any abstract quality or condition. A
plant might be chosen because of some myth connected with its origin, as the stories of Daphne and
Narcissus; because of the peculiar environment in which it thrived, as the orchid and the fungus; because
of its significant shape, as the passion flower and the Easter lily; because of its brilliance or fragrance, as
the verbena and the sweet lavender; because it preserved its form indefinitely, as the everlasting flower;
because of unusual characteristics as the sunflower and heliotrope, which have long been sacred because
of their affinity for the sun.
The plant might also be considered worthy of veneration because from its crushed leaves, petals, stalks,
or roots could be extracted healing unctions, essences, or drugs affecting the nature and intelligence of
human beings--such as the poppy and the ancient herbs of prophecy. The plant might also be regarded as
efficacious in the cure of many diseases because its fruit, leaves, petals, or roots bore a resemblance in
shape or color to parts or organs of the human body. For example, the distilled juices of certain species
of ferns, also the hairy moss growing upon oaks, and the thistledown were said to have the power of
growing hair; the dentaria, which resembles a tooth in shape, was said to cure the toothache; and the
palma Christi plant, because of its shape, cured all afflictions of the hands.
The blossom is really the reproductive system of the plant and is therefore singularly appropriate as a
symbol of sexual purity--an absolute requisite of the ancient Mysteries. Thus the flower signifies this
ideal of beauty and regeneration which must ultimately take the place of lust and degeneracy.
Of all symbolic flowers the locus blossom of India and Egypt and the rose of the Rosicrucians are the
most important. In their symbolism these two flowers are considered identical. The esoteric doctrines for
which the Eastern lotus stands have been perpetuated in modern Europe under the form of the rose. The
rose and the lotus are yonic emblems, signifying primarily the maternal creative mystery, while the
Easter lily is considered to be phallic.
The Brahmin and Egyptian initiates, who undoubtedly understood the secret systems of spiritual culture
whereby the latent centers of cosmic energy in man may be stimulated, employed the lotus blossoms to
represent the spinning vortices of spiritual energy located at various points along the spinal column and
called chakras, or whirling wheels, by the Hindus. Seven of these chakras are of prime importance and
have their individual correspondences in the nerve ganglia and plexuses. According to the secret
schools, the sacral ganglion is called the four-petaled lotus; the prostatic plexus, the six-petaled lotus; the
epigastric plexus and navel, the ten-petaled lotus; the cardiac plexus, the twelve-petaled lotus; the
pharyngeal plexus, the sixteen-petaled locus; the cavernous plexus, the two-petaled lotus; and the pineal
gland or adjacent unknown center, the thousand-petaled locus. The color, size, and number of petals
upon the
Click to enlarge
This remarkable example of the use of the tree in symbolism is from the Chateau de Pierrefonds in the little town
of Pierrefonds, northern France. The eight side branches end in conventional cup-like flowers, from each of
which rises the body of a knight carrying in his hand a ribbon bearing his name. The central stem is surmounted
by a larger flower, from which emerges the body of King Arthur himself. The tree is a favorite motif in heraldry.
The one trunk with its multitude of branches caused the tree to be frequently used in diagramming family lineage,
from which practice has arisen the custom of terming such tables "family trees."
p. 94
lotus are the keys to its symbolic import. A hint concerning the unfoldment of spiritual understanding
according to the secret science of the Mysteries is found in the story of Aaron's rod that budded, and also
in Wagner's great opera, Tannhäuser, where the budding staff of the Pope signifies the unfolding
blossoms upon the sacred rod of the Mysteries--the spinal column.
The Rosicrucians used a garland of roses to signify the same spiritual vortices, which are referred to in
the Bible as the seven lamps of the candlestick and the seven churches of Asia. In the 1642 edition of Sir
Francis Bacon's History of Henry the Seventh is a frontispiece showing Lord Bacon with Rosicrucian
roses for shoe buckles.
In the Hindu system of philosophy, each petal of the lotus bears a certain symbol which gives an added
clue to the meaning of the flower. The Orientals also used the lotus plant to signify the growth of man
through the three periods of human consciousness--ignorance, endeavor, and understanding. As the lotus
exists in three elements (earth, water, and air) so man lives in three worlds--material, intellectual, and
spiritual. As the plant, with its roots in the mud and the slime, grows upward through the water and
finally blossoms forth in the light and air, so the spiritual growth of man is upward from the darkness of
base action and desire into the light of truth and understanding, the water serving as a symbol of the ever-
changing world of illusion through which the soul must pass in its struggle to reach the state of spiritual
illumination. The rose and its Eastern equivalent, the lotus, like all beautiful flowers, represent spiritual
unfoldment and attainment: hence, the Eastern deities are often shown seated upon the open petals of the
lotus blossoms.
The lotus was also a universal motif in Egyptian art and architecture. The roofs of many temples were
upheld by lotus columns, signifying the eternal wisdom; and the lotus-headed scepter--symbolic of self-
unfoldment and divine prerogative--was often carried in religious processions. When the flower had nine
petals, it was symbolic of man; when twelve, of the universe and the gods; when seven, of the planets
and the law; when five, of the senses and the Mysteries; and when three, of the chief deities and the
worlds. The heraldic rose of the Middle Ages generally has either five or ten petals thereby showing its
relationship to the spiritual mystery of man through the Pythagorean pentad and decad.
The worship of trees as proxies of Divinity was prevalent throughout the ancient world. Temples were
often built in the heart of sacred groves, and nocturnal ceremonials were conducted under the wide-
spreading branches of great trees, fantastically decorated and festooned in honor of their patron deities.
In many instances the trees themselves were believed to possess the attributes of divine power and
intelligence, and therefore supplications were often addressed to them. The beauty, dignity, massiveness,
and strength of oaks, elms, and cedars led to their adoption as symbols of power, integrity, permanence,
virility, and divine protection.
Several ancient peoples--notably the Hindus and Scandinavians---regarded the Macrocosm, or Grand
Universe, as a divine tree growing from a single seed sown in space. The Greeks, Persians, Chaldeans,
and Japanese have legends describing the axle tree or reed upon which the earth revolves. Kapila
declares the universe to be the eternal tree, Brahma, which springs from an imperceptible and intangible
seed--the material monad. The mediæval Qabbalists represented creation as a tree with its roots in the
reality of spirit and its branches in the illusion of tangible existence. The Sephirothic tree of the
Qabbalah was therefore inverted, with its roots in heaven and its branches upon the earth. Madam
Blavatsky notes that the Great Pyramid was considered to be a symbol of this inverted tree, with its root
at the apex of the pyramid and its branches diverging in four streams towards the base.
The Scandinavian world-tree, Yggdrasil, supports on its branches nine spheres or worlds,--which the
Egyptians symbolized by the nine stamens of the persea or avocado. All of these are enclosed within the
mysterious tenth sphere or cosmic egg--the definitionless Cipher of the Mysteries. The Qabbalistic tree
of the Jews also consists of nine branches, or worlds, emanating from the First Cause or Crown, which
surrounds its emanations as the shell surrounds the egg. The single source of life and the endless
diversity of its expression has a perfect analogy in the structure of the tree. The trunk represents the
single origin of all diversity; the roots, deeply imbedded in the dark earth, are symbolic of divine
nutriment; and its multiplicity of branches spreading from the central trunk represent the infinity of
universal effects dependent upon a single cause.
The tree has also been accepted as symbolic of the Microcosm, that is, man. According to the esoteric
doctrine, man first exists potentially within the body of the world-tree and later blossoms forth into
objective manifestation upon its branches. According to an early Greek Mystery myth, the god Zeus
fabricated the third race of men from ash trees. The serpent so often shown wound around the trunk of
the tree usually signifies the mind--the power of thought--and is the eternal tempter or urge which leads
all rational creatures to the ultimate discovery of reality and thus overthrows the rule of the gods. The
serpent hidden in the foliage of the universal tree represents the cosmic mind; and in the human tree, the
individualized intellect.
The concept that all life originates from seeds caused grain and various plants to be accepted as
emblematic of the human spermatozoon, and the tree was therefore symbolic of organized life unfolding
from its primitive germ. The growth of the universe from its primitive seed may be likened to the growth
of the mighty oak from the tiny acorn. While the tree is apparently much greater than its own source,
nevertheless that source contains potentially every branch, twig, and leaf which will later be objectively
unfolded by the processes of growth.
Man's veneration for trees as symbols of the abstract qualities of wisdom and integrity also led him to
designate as trees those individuals who possessed these divine qualities to an apparently superhuman
degree. Highly illumined philosophers and priests were therefore often referred to as trees or tree men--
for example, the Druids, whose name, according to one interpretation, signifies the men of the oak trees,
or the initiates of certain Syrian Mysteries who were called cedars; in fact it is far more credible and
probable that the famous cedars of Lebanon, cut down for the building of King Solomon's Temple, were
really illumined, initiated sages. The mystic knows that the true supports of God's Glorious House were
not the logs subject to decay but the immortal and imperishable intellects of the tree hierophants.
Trees are repeatedly mentioned in the Old and New Testaments, and in the scriptures of various pagan
nations. The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil mentioned in Genesis, the
burning bush in which the angel appeared to Moses, the famous vine and fig tree of the New Testament,
the grove of olives in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray, and the miraculous tree of
Revelation, which bore twelve manners of fruit and whose leaves were for the healing of the nations, all
bear witness to the esteem in which trees were held by the scribes of Holy Writ. Buddha received his
illumination while under the bodhi tree, near Madras in India, and several of the Eastern gods are
pictured sitting in meditation beneath the spreading branches of mighty trees. Many of the great sages
and saviors carried wands, rods, or staves cut from the wood of sacred trees, as the rods of Moses and
Aaron; Gungnir--the spear of Odin--cut from the Tree of Life; and the consecrated rod of Hermes,
around which the fighting serpents entwined themselves.
The numerous uses which the ancients made of the tree and its products are factors in its symbolism. Its
worship was, to a certain degree, based upon its usefulness. Of this J. P. Lundy writes: "Trees occupy
such an important place in the economy of nature by way of attracting and retaining moisture, and
shading the water-sources and the soil so as to prevent barrenness and desolation; the), are so
Click to enlarge
From the "Breeches" Bible of 1599.
Most Bibles published during the Middle Ages contain a section devoted to genealogical tables showing the
descent of humanity from Father Adam to the advent of Jesus Christ. The tree growing from the roof of the Ark
represents the body of Noah and its three branches, his sons--Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The nations by the
descendents of Noah's three sons are appropriately shown in the circles upon the branches of the tree. While such
tables are hopelessly incorrect from a historical point of view, to the symbolist their allegorical interpretations are
of inestimable importance.
p. 95
useful to man for shade, for fruit, for medicine, for fuel, for building houses and ships, for furniture, for
almost every department of life, that it is no wonder that some of the more conspicuous ones, such as the
oak, the pine, the palm, and the sycamore, have been made sacred and used for worship." (See
Monumental Christianity.)
The early Fathers of the church sometimes used the tree to symbolize Christ. They believed that
ultimately Christianity would grow up like a mighty oak and overshadow all other faiths of mankind.
Because it annually discards its foliage, the tree was also looked upon as an appropriate emblem of
resurrection and reincarnation, for though apparently dying each fall it blossomed forth again with
renewed verdure each ensuing spring.
Under the appellations of the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is concealed
the great arcanum of antiquity--the mystery of equilibrium. The Tree of Life represents the spiritual point
of balance--the secret of immortality. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, as its name implies,
represents polarity, or unbalance--the secret of mortality. The Qabbalists reveal this by assigning the
central column of their Sephirothic diagram to the Tree of Life and the two side branches to the Tree of
the Knowledge of Good and Evil. "Unbalanced forces perish in the void," declares the secret work, and
all is made known. The apple represents the knowledge of the procreative processes, by the awakening
of which the material universe was established. The allegory of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is
a cosmic myth, revealing the methods of universal and individual establishment. The literal story,
accepted for so many centuries by an unthinking world, is preposterous, but the creative mystery of
which it is the symbol is one of Nature's profoundest verities. The Ophites (serpent worshipers) revered
the Edenic snake because it was the cause of individual existence. Though humanity is still wandering in
a world of good and evil, it will ultimately attain completion and eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life
growing in the midst of the illusionary garden of worldly things. Thus the Tree of Life is also the
appointed symbol of the Mysteries, and by partaking of its fruit man attains immortality.
The oak, the pine, the ash, the cypress, and the palm are the five trees of greatest symbolic importance.
The Father God of the Mysteries was often worshiped under the form of an oak; the Savior God--
frequently the World Martyr--in the form of a pine; the world axis and the divine nature in humanity in
the form of an ash; the goddesses, or maternal principle, in the form of a cypress; and the positive pole
of generation in the form of the inflorescence of the mate date palm. The pine cone is a phallic symbol
of remote antiquity. The thyrsus of Bacchus--a long wand or staff surmounted by a pine cone or cluster
of grapes and entwined with ivy or grape-vine leaves, sometimes ribbons--signifies that the wonders of
Nature may only be accomplished by the aid of solar virility, as symbolized by the cone or grapes. In the
Phrygian Mysteries, Atys--the ever-present sun-savior--dies under the branches of the pine tree (an
allusion to the solar globe at the winter solstice) and for this reason the pine tree was sacred to his cult.
This tree was also sacred in the Mysteries of Dionysos and Apollo.
Among the ancient Egyptians and Jews the acacia, or tamarisk, was held in the highest religious esteem;
and among modern Masons, branches of acacia, cypress, cedar, or evergreen are still regarded as most
significant emblems. The shittim-wood used by the children of Israel in the construction of the
Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant was a species of acacia. In describing this sacred tree, Albert
Pike has written: "The genuine acacia, also, is the thorny tamarisk, the same tree which grew around the
body of Osiris. It was a sacred tree among the Arabs, who made of it the idol Al-Uzza, which
Mohammed destroyed. It is abundant as a bush in the desert of Thur; and of it the 'crown of thorns' was
composed, which was set on the forehead of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a fit type of immortality on account
of its tenacity of life; for it has been known, when planted as a door-post, to take root again and shoot
out budding boughs above the threshold." (See Morals and Dogma.)
It is quite possible that much of the veneration accorded the acacia is due to the peculiar attributes of the
mimosa, or sensitive plant, with which it was often identified by the ancients. There is a Coptic legend to
the effect that the sensitive plant was the first of all trees or shrubs to worship Christ. The rapid growth
of the acacia and its beauty have also caused it to be regarded as emblematic of fecundity and generation.
The symbolism of the acacia is susceptible of four distinct interpretations: (1) it is the emblem of the
vernal equinox--the annual resurrection of the solar deity; (2) under the form of the sensitive plant which
shrinks from human touch, the acacia signifies purity and innocence, as one of the Greek meanings of its
name implies; (3) it fittingly typifies human immortality and regeneration, and under the form of the
evergreen represents that immortal part of man which survives the destruction of his visible nature; (4) it
is the ancient and revered emblem of the Mysteries, and candidates entering the tortuous passageways in
which the ceremonials were given carried in their hands branches of these sacred plants or small clusters
of sanctified flowers.
Albert G. Mackey calls attention to the fact that each of the ancient Mysteries had its own peculiar plant
sacred to the gods or goddesses in whose honor the rituals were celebrated. These sacred plants were
later adopted as the symbols of the various degrees in which they were used. Thus, in the Mysteries of
Adonis, lettuce was sacred; in the Brahmin and Egyptian rites, the lotus; among the Druids, the
mistletoe; and among certain of the Greek Mysteries, the myrtle. (See Encyclopædia of Freemasonry.)
As the legend of CHiram Abiff is based upon the ancient Egyptian Mystery ritual of the murder and
resurrection of Osiris, it is natural that the sprig of acacia should be preserved as symbolic of the
resurrection of CHiram. The chest containing the body of Osiris was washed ashore near Byblos and
lodged in the roots of a tamarisk, or acacia, which, growing into a mighty tree, enclosed within its trunk
the body of the murdered god. This is undoubtedly the origin of the story that a sprig of acacia marks the
grave of CHiram. The mystery of the evergreen marking the grave of the dead sun god is also
perpetuated in the Christmas tree.
The apricot and quince are familiar yonic symbols, while the bunch of grapes and the fig are phallic. The
pomegranate is the mystic fruit of the Eleusinian rites; by eating it, Prosperine bound herself to the
realms of Pluto. The fruit here signifies the sensuous life which, once tasted, temporarily deprives man
of immortality. Also on account of its vast number of seeds the pomegranate was often employed to
represent natural fecundity. For the same reason, Jacob Bryant in his Ancient Mythology notes that the
ancients recognized in this fruit an appropriate emblem of the Ark of the Deluge,
Click to enlarge
From Kircher's Magnes sive de Arte Magnetica Opus Tripartitum.
The above diagram illustrates a curious experiment in plant magnetism reproduced with several other
experiments in Athanasius Kircher's rare volume on magnetism. Several plants were sacred to the ancient
Egyptians, Greeks, and Hindus because of the peculiar effect which the sun exerted over them. As it is difficult
for man to look upon the face of the sun without being blinded by the light, those plants which turned and
deliberately faced the solar orb were considered typical of very highly advanced souls. Since the sun was
regarded as the personification of the Supreme Deity, those forms of life over which it exercised marked
influence were venerated as being sacred to Divinity. The sunflower, because of its plainly perceptible affinity
for the sun, was given high rank among sacred plants.
p. 96
which contained the seeds of the new human race. Among the ancient Mysteries the pomegranate was
also considered to be a divine symbol of such peculiar significance that its true explanation could not be
divulged. It was termed by the Cabiri "the forbidden secret." Many Greek gods and goddesses are
depicted holding the fruit or flower of the pomegranate in their hands, evidently to signify that they are
givers of life and plenty. Pomegranate capitals were placed upon the pillars of Jachin and Boaz standing
in front of King Solomon's Temple; and by the order of Jehovah, pomegranate blossoms were
embroidered upon the bottom of the High Priest's ephod.
Strong wine made from the juice of the grape was looked upon as symbolic of the false life and false
light of the universe, for it was produced by a false process--artificial fermentation. The rational faculties
are clouded by strong drink, and the animal nature, liberated from bondage, controls the individual--facts
which necessarily were of the greatest spiritual significance. As the lower nature is the eternal tempter
seeking co lead man into excesses which inhibit the spiritual faculties, the grape and its product were
used to symbolize the Adversary.
The juice of the grape was thought by the Egyptians to resemble human blood more closely than did any
other substance. In fact, they believed that the grape secured its life from the blood of the dead who had
been buried in the earth. According to Plutarch, "The priests of the sun at Heliopolis never carry any
wine into their temples, * * * and if they made use of it at any time in their libations to the gods, it was
not because they looked upon it as in its own nature acceptable to them; but they poured it upon their
altars as the blood of those enemies who formerly had fought against them. For they look upon the vine
to have first sprung out of the earth after it was fattened with the carcasses of those who fell in the wars
against the gods. And this, say they, is the reason why drinking its juice in great quantities makes men
mad and beside themselves, filling them as it were with the blood of their own ancestors." (See Isis and
Among some cults the state of intoxication was viewed as a condition somewhat akin to ecstasy, for the
individual was believed to be possessed by the Universal Spirit of Life, whose chosen vehicle was the
vine. In the Mysteries, the grape was often used to symbolize lust and debauchery because of its
demoralizing effect upon the emotional nature. The fact was recognized, however, that fermentation was
the certain evidence of the presence of the solar fire, hence the grape was accepted as the proper symbol
of the Solar Spirit--the giver of divine enthusiasm. In a somewhat similar manner, Christians have
accepted wine as the emblem of the blood of Christ, partaking of it in Holy Communion. Christ, the
exoteric emblem of the Solar Spirit, said, "I am the vine." He was therefore worshiped with the wine of
ecstasy in the same manner as were his pagan prototypes--Bacchus, Dionysos, Arys, and Adonis.
The mandragora officinarum, or mandrake, is accredited with possessing the most remarkable magical
powers. Its narcotic properties were recognized by the Greeks, who employed it to deaden pain during
surgical operations, and it has been identified also with baaras, the mystic herb used by the Jews for
casting out demons. In the Jewish Wars, Josephus describes the method of securing the baaras, which he
declares emits flashes of lightning and destroys all who seek to touch it, unless they proceed according
to certain rules supposedly formulated by King Solomon himself.
The occult properties of the mandrake, while little understood, have been responsible for the adoption of
the plant as a talisman capable of increasing the value or quantity of anything with which it was
associated. As a phallic charm, the mandrake was considered to be an infallible cure for sterility. It was
one of the Priapic symbols which the Knights Templars were accused of worshiping. The root of the
plant closely resembles a human body and often bore the outlines of the human head, arms, or legs. This
striking similarity between the body of man and the mandragora is one of the puzzles of natural science
and is the real basis for the veneration in which this plant was held. In Isis Unveiled, Madam Blavatsky
notes that the mandragora seems to occupy upon earth the point where the vegetable and animal
kingdoms meet, as the zoophites and polypi do in die sea. This thought opens a vast field of speculation
concerning the nature of this animal-plant.
According to a popular superstition, the mandrake shrank from being touched and, crying out with a
human voice, clung desperately to the soil in which it was imbedded. Anyone who heard its cry while
plucking it either immediately died or went mad. To circumvent this tragedy, it was customary to dig
around the roots of the mandrake until the plant was thoroughly loosened and then to tie one end of a
cord about the stalk and fasten the other end to a dog. The dog, obeying his master's call, thereupon
dragged the root from the earth and became the victim of the mandragora curse. When once uprooted,
the plant could be handled with immunity.
During the Middle Ages, mandrake charms brought great prices and an art was evolved by which the
resemblance between the mandragora root and the human body was considerably accentuated. Like most
superstitions, the belief in the peculiar powers of the mandrake was founded upon an ancient secret
doctrine concerning the true nature of the plant. "It is slightly narcotic," says Eliphas Levi, "and an
aphrodisiacal virtue was ascribed to it by the ancients, who represented it as being sought by Thessalian
sorcerers for the composition of philtres. Is this root the umbilical vestige of our terrestrial origin, as a
certain magical mysticism has suggested? We dare not affirm it seriously, but it is true all the same that
man issued from the slime of earth and his first appearance must have been in the form of a rough
sketch. The analogies of Nature compel us to admit the notion, at least as a possibility. The first men
were, in this case, a family of gigantic, sensitive mandrogores, animated by the sun, who rooted
themselves up from the earth." (See Transcendental Magic.)
The homely onion was revered by the Egyptians as a symbol of the universe because its rings and layers
represented the concentric planes into which creation was divided according to the Hermetic Mysteries.
It was also regarded as possessing great medicinal virtue. Because of peculiar properties resulting from
its pungency, the garlic plant was a powerful agent in transcendental magic. To this day no better
medium has been found for the treatment of obsession. Vampirism and certain forms of insanity--
especially those resulting from mediumship and the influences of elemental larvæ--respond immediately
to the use of garlic. In the Middle Ages, its presence in a house was believed to ward off all evil powers.
Trifoliate plants, such as the shamrock, were employed by many religious cults to represent the principle
of the Trinity. St. Patrick is supposed to have used the shamrock to illustrate this doctrine of the triune
Divinity. The reason for the additional sanctity conferred by a fourth leaf is that the fourth principle of
the Trinity is man, and the presence of this leaf therefore signifies the redemption of humanity.
Wreaths were worn during initiation into the Mysteries and the reading of the sacred books to signify
that these processes were consecrated to the deities. On the symbolism of wreaths, Richard Payne
Knight writes: "Instead of beads, wreaths of foliage, generally of laurel, olive, myrtle, ivy, or oak,
appear upon coins, sometimes encircling the symbolical figures, and sometimes as chaplets upon their
heads. All these were sacred to some peculiar personifications of the deity, and significant of some
particular attributes, and, in general, all evergreens were Dionysiac planes; that is, symbols of the
generative power, signifying perpetuity of youth and vigor, as the circles of beads and diadems signify
perpetuity of existence. (See Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology.)
Click to enlarge
From Musæum Hermeticum Reformatum et Amplificatum.
The alchemists were went to symbolize their metals by means of a tree, to indicate that all seven were branches
dependent upon the single trunk of solar life. As the Seven Spirits depend upon God and are branches of a tree of
which He is the root, trunk, and the spiritual earth from which the root derives its nourishment, so the single
trunk of divine life and power nourishes all the multitudinous forms of which the universe is composed.
In Gloria Mundi, from which the above illustration is reproduced, there is contained an important thought
concerning the plantlike growth of metals: "All trees, herbs, stones, metals, and minerals grow and attain to
perfection without being necessarily touched by any human hand: for the seed is raised up from the ground, puts
forth flowers, and bears fruit, simply through the agency of natural influences. As it is with plants, so it is with
metals. While they lie in the heart of the earth, in their natural ore, they grow and are developed, day by day,
through the influence of the four elements: their fire is the splendor of the Sun and Moon; the earth conceives in
her womb the splendor of the Sun, and by it the seeds of the metals are well and equally warmed, just like the
grain in the fields. * * * For as each tree of the field has its own peculiar shape, appearance, and fruit, so each
mountain bears its own particular ore; those stones and that earth being the soil in which the metals grow." (See
Translation of 1893.)
Next: Stones, Metals and Gems
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 97
Stones, Metals and Gems
EACH of the four primary elements as taught by the early philosophers has its analogue in the
quaternary terrestrial constitution of man. The rocks and earth correspond to the bones and flesh; the
water to the various fluids; the air to the gases; and the fire to the bodily heat. Since the bones are the
framework that sustains the corporeal structure, they may be regarded as a fitting emblem of the spirit--
that divine foundation which supports the composite fabric of mind, soul, and body. To the initiate, the
skeleton of death holding in bony fingers the reaper's scythe denotes Saturn (Kronos), the father of the
gods, carrying the sickle with which he mutilated Ouranos, his own sire.
In the language of the Mysteries, the spirits of men are the powdered bones of Saturn. The latter deity
was always worshiped under the symbol of the base or footing, inasmuch as he was considered to be the
substructure upholding creation. The myth of Saturn has its historical basis in the fragmentary records
preserved by the early Greeks and Phœnicians concerning a king by that name who ruled over the
ancient continent of Hyperborea. Polaris, Hyperborea, and Atlantis, because they lie buried beneath the
continents and oceans of the modern world, have frequently been symbolized as rocks supporting upon
their broad surfaces new lands, races, and empires. According to the Scandinavian Mysteries, the stones
and cliffs were formed from the bones of Ymir, the primordial giant of the seething clay, while to the
Hellenic mystics the rocks were the bones of the Great Mother, Gæa.
After the deluge sent by the gods to destroy mankind at the close of the Iron Age, only Deucalion and
Pyrrha were left alive. Entering a ruined sanctuary to pray, they were directed by an oracle to depart
from the temple and with heads veiled and garments unbound cast behind them the bones of their
mother. Construing the cryptic message of the god to mean that the earth was the Great Mother of all
creatures, Deucalion picked up loose rocks and, bidding Pyrrha do likewise, cast them behind him. From
these rocks there sprang forth a new and stalwart race of human beings, the rocks thrown by Deucalion
becoming men and those thrown by Pyrrha becoming women. In this allegory is epitomized the mystery
of human evolution; for spirit, by ensouling matter, becomes that indwelling power which gradually but
sequentially raises the mineral to the status of the plant; the plant to the plane of the animal; the animal
to the dignity of man; and man to the estate of the gods.
The solar system was organized by forces operating inward from the great ring of the Saturnian sphere;
and since the beginnings of all things were under the control of Saturn, the most reasonable inference is
that the first forms of worship were dedicated to him and his peculiar symbol--the stone. Thus the
intrinsic nature of Saturn is synonymous with that spiritual rock which is the enduring foundation of the
Solar Temple, and has its antitypc or lower octave in that terrestrial rock--the planet Earth--which
sustains upon its jagged surface the diversified genera of mundane life.
Although its origin is uncertain, litholatry undoubtedly constitutes one of the earliest forms of religious
expression. "Throughout all the world, " writes Godfrey Higgins, "the first object of Idolatry seems to
have been a plain, unwrought stone, placed in the ground, as an emblem of the generative or procreative
powers of nature." (See The Celtic Druids.) Remnants of stone worship are distributed over the greater
part of the earth's surface, a notable example being the menhirs at Carnac, in Brittany, where several
thousand gigantic uncut stones are arranged in eleven orderly rows. Many of these monoliths stand over
twenty feet out of the sand in which they are embedded, and it has been calculated that some of the
larger ones weigh as much as 250,000 pounds. By some it is believed that certain of the menhirs mark
the location of buried treasure, but the most plausible view is that which regards Carnac as a monument
to the astronomical knowledge of antiquity. Scattered throughout the British Isles and Europe, these
cairns, dolmens, menhirs, and cistvaens stand as mute but eloquent testimonials to the existence and
achievements of races now extinct.
Of particular interest are the rocking or logan stones, which evince the mechanical skill of these early
peoples. These relics consist of enormous boulders poised upon one or two small points in such a
manner that the slightest pressure will sway them, but the greatest effort is not sufficient to overthrow
them. These were called living stones by the Greeks and Latins, the most famous one being the Gygorian
stone in the Strait of Gibraltar. Though so perfectly balanced that it could be moved with the stalk of a
daffodil, this rock could not be upset by the combined weight of many men. There is a legend that
Hercules raised a rocking stone over the graves of the two sons of Boreas whom he had killed in combat.
This stone was so delicately poised that it swayed back and forth with the wind, but no application of
force could overturn it. A number of logan stones have been found in Britain, traces of one no longer
standing having been discovered in Stonehenge. (See The Celtic Druids.) It is interesting to note that the
green stones forming the inner ring of Stonehenge are believed to have been brought from Africa.
In many cases the monoliths are without carving or inscription, for they undoubtedly antedate both the
use of tools and the art of writing. In some instances the stones have been trued into columns or obelisks,
as in the runic monuments and the Hindu lingams and sakti stones; in other instances they are fashioned
into rough likenesses of the human body, as in the Easter Island statues, or into the elaborately
sculptured figures of the Central American Indians and the Khmers of Cambodia. The first rough-stone
images can hardly be considered as effigies of any particular deity but rather as the crude effort of
primitive man to portray in the enduring qualities of stone the procreative attributes of abstract Divinity.
An instinctive recognition of the stability of Deity has persisted through all the intervening ages between
primitive man and modem civilization. Ample proof of the survival of litholatry in the Christian faith is
furnished by allusions to the rock of refuge, the rock upon which the church of Christ was to be founded,
the corner stone which the builders rejected, Jacob's stony pillow which he set up and anointed with oil,
the sling stone of David, the rock Moriah upon which the altar of King Solomon's Temple was erected,
the white stone of Revelation, and the Rock of Ages.
Stones were highly venerated by prehistoric peoples primarily because of their usefulness. Jagged bits of
stone were probably man's first weapons; rocky cliffs and crags constituted his first fortifications, and
from these vantage points he hurled loose boulders down upon marauders. In caverns or rude huts
fashioned from slabs of rock the first humans protected themselves from the rigors of the elements.
Stones were set up as markers and monuments to primitive achievement; they were also placed upon the
graves of the dead, probably as a precautionary measure to prevent the depredations of wild beasts.
During migrations, it was apparently customary for primitive peoples to carry about with them stones
taken from their original habitat. As the homeland or birthplace of a race was considered sacred, these
stones were emblematic of that universal regard shared by all nations for the place of their geniture. The
discovery that fire could be produced by striking together two pieces of stone augmented man's
reverence for stones, but ultimately the hitherto unsuspected world of wonders opened by the newly
discovered element of fire caused pyrolatry to supplant stone worship. The dark, cold Father--stone--
gave birth out of itself to the bright, glowing Son-fire; and the newly born flame, by displacing its
parent, became the most impressive and mysterious of all religio-philosophic symbols, widespread and
enduring through the ages.
Click to enlarge
From Catrari's Imagini degli Dei degli Antichi.
Saturn, having been warned by his parents that one of his own children would dethrone him, devoured each child
at birth. At last Rhea, his wife, in order to save Jupiter, her sixth child substituted for him a rock enveloped in
swaddling clothes--which Saturn, ignorant of the deception practiced upon him, immediately swallowed. Jupiter
was concealed on the island of Crete until he attained manhood, when he forced his father to disgorge the five
children he had eaten. The stone swallowed by Saturn in lieu of his youngest son was placed by Jupiter at Delphi,
where it was held in great veneration and was daily anointed.
p. 98
The body of every thing was likened to a rock, trued either into a cube or more ornately chiseled to form
a pedestal, while the spirit of everything was likened to the elaborately carved figure surmounting it.
Accordingly, altars were erected as a symbol of the lower world, and fires were kept burning upon them
to represent that spiritual essence illuminating the body it surmounted. The square is actually one surface
of a cube, its corresponding figure in plane geometry, and its proper philosophic symbol. Consequently,
when considering the earth as an element and not as a body, the Greeks, Brahmins, and Egyptians
always referred to its four corners, although they were fully aware that the planet itself was a sphere.
Because their doctrines were the sure foundation of all knowledge and the first step in the attainment of
conscious immortality, the Mysteries were often represented as cubical or pyramidal stones. Conversely,
these stones themselves became the emblem of that condition of self-achieved godhood. The
unchangeability of the stone made it an appropriate emblem of God--the immovable and unchangeable
Source of Existence--and also of the divine sciences--the eternal revelation of Himself to mankind. As
the personification of the rational intellect, which is the true foundation of human life, Mercury, or
Hermes, was symbolized in a like manner. Square or cylindrical pillars, surmounted by a bearded head
of Hermes and called hermæ, were set up in public places. Terminus, a form of Jupiter and god of
boundaries and highways, from whose name is derived the modern word terminal, was also symbolized
by an upright stone, sometimes ornamented with the head of the god, which was placed at the borders of
provinces and the intersections of important roads.
The philosopher's stone is really the philosophical stone, for philosophy is truly likened to a magic jewel
whose touch transmutes base substances into priceless gems like itself. Wisdom is the alchemist's
powder of projection which transforms many thousand times its own weight of gross ignorance into the
precious substance of enlightenment.
While upon the heights of Mount Sinai, Moses received from Jehovah two tablets bearing the characters
of the Decalogue traced by the very finger of Israel's God. These tables were fashioned from the divine
sapphire, Schethiyâ, which the Most High, after removing from His own throne, had cast into the Abyss
to become the foundation and generator of the worlds. This sacred stone, formed of heavenly dew, was
sundered by the breath of God, and upon the two parts were drawn in black fire the figures of the Law.
These precious inscriptions, aglow with celestial splendor, were delivered by the Lord on the Sabbath
day into the hands of Moses, who was able to read the illumined letters from the reverse side because of
the transparency of the great jewel. (See The Secret Doctrine in Israel or The Zohar for details of this
The Ten Commandments are the ten shining gems placed by the Holy One in the sapphire sea of Being,
and in the depths of matter the reflections of these jewels are seen as the laws governing the sublunary
spheres. They are the sacred ten by which the Supreme Deity has stamped His will upon the face of
Nature. This same decad was celebrated by the Pythagoreans under the form of the tetractys--that
triangle of spermatic points which reveals to the initiated the whole working of the cosmic scheme; for
ten is the number of perfection, the key to creation, and the proper symbol of God, man, and the universe.
Because of the idolatry of the Israelites, Moses deemed the people unworthy to receive the sapphire
tables; hence he destroyed them, that the Mysteries of Jehovah should not be violated. For the original
set Moses substituted two tablets of rough stone into the surface of which he had cut ten ancient letters.
While the former tables--partaking of the divinity of the Tree of Life--blazed forth eternal verities, the
latter--partaking of the nature of the Tree of Good and Evil--revealed only temporal truths. Thus the
ancient tradition of Israel returned again to heaven, leaving only its shadow with the children of the
twelve tribes.
One of the two tables of stone delivered by the Lawgiver to his followers stood for the oral, the other for
the written traditions upon which the Rabbinical School was founded. Authorities differ widely as to the
size and substance of the inferior tables. Some describe them as being so small that they could be held in
the hollow of a man's hand; others declare that each table was ten or twelve cubits in length and of
enormous weight. A few even deny that the tables were of stone, maintaining that they were of a wood
called sedr, which, according to the Mohammedans, grows profusely in Paradise.
The two tables signify respectively the superior and the inferior worlds--the paternal and the maternal
formative principles. In their undivided state they represent the Cosmic Androgyne. The breaking of the
tables signifies obscurely the separation of the superior and the inferior spheres and also the division of
the sexes. In the religious processionals of the Greeks and Egyptians an ark or ship was carried which
contained stone tablets, cones, and vessels of various shapes emblematic of the procreative processes.
The Ark of the Israelites--which was patterned after the sacred chests of the Isiac Mysteries--contained
three holy objects, each having an important phallic interpretation: the pot of manna, the rod that
budded, and the Tablets of the Law--the first, second, and third Principles of the Creative Triad. The
manna, the blossoming staff, and the stone tables are also appropriate images respectively of the
Qabbalah, the Mishna, and the written law--the spirit, soul, and body of Judaism. When placed in King
Solomon's Everlasting House, the Ark of the Covenant contained only the Tablets of the Law. Does this
indicate that even at that early date the secret tradition had been lost and the letter of the revelation alone
As representing the power that fabricated the lower, or Demiurgic, sphere, the tablets of stone were
sacred to Jehovah in contradistinction to the tablets of sapphire that signified the potency that established
the higher, or celestial, sphere. Without doubt the Mosaic tablets have their prototype in the stone pillars
or obelisks placed on either side of the entrance to pagan temples. These columns may pertain to that
remote time when men worshiped the Creator through His zodiacal sign of Gemini, the symbol of which
is still the phallic pillars of the Celestial Twins. "The Ten Commandments, writes Hargrave Jennings,
"are inscribed in two groups of five each, in columnar form. The five to the right (looking from the altar)
mean the 'Law'; the five to the left mean the 'Prophets.' The right stone is masculine, the left stone is
feminine. They correspond to the two disjoined pillars of stone (or towers) in the front of every
cathedral, and of every temple in the heathen times." (See The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries.)
The same author states that the Law is masculine because it was delivered direct from the Deity, while
the Prophets, or Gospels, were feminine because born through the nature of man.
The right Tablet of the Law further signifies Jachin--the white pillar of light; the left Tablet, Boaz--the
shadowy pillar of darkness. These were the names of the two pillars cast from brass set up on the porch
of King Solomon's Temple. They were eighteen cubits in height and beautifully ornamented with
wreaths of chainwork, nets, and pomegranates. On the top of each pillar was a large bowl--now
erroneously called a ball or globe--one of the bowls probably containing fire and the other water. The
celestial globe (originally the bowl of fire), surmounting the right-hand column (Jachin), symbolized the
divine man; the terrestrial globe (the bowl of water), surmounting the left-hand column (Boaz), signified
the earthly man. These two pillars respectively connote also the active and the passive expressions of
Divine Energy, the sun and the moon, sulphur and salt, good and bad, light and darkness. Between them
is the door leading into the House of God, and standing thus at the gates of Sanctuary they are a
reminder that Jehovah is both an androgynous and an anthropomorphic deity. As two parallel columns
they denote the zodiacal signs of Cancer and Capricorn, which were formerly placed in the chamber of
initiation to represent birth and death--the extremes of physical life. They accordingly signify the
summer and the winter solstices, now known to Freemasons under the comparatively modern
appellation of the "two St. Johns."
In the mysterious Sephirothic Tree of the Jews, these two pillars symbolize Mercy and Severity.
Standing before the gate of King Solomon's Temple, these columns had the same symbolic import as the
obelisks before the sanctuaries of Egypt. When interpreted Qabbalistically, the names of the two pillars
mean "In strength shall
Click to enlarge
From an old Bible.
Moses Maimonides, the great Jewish Philosopher of the twelfth century, in describing the Tables of the Law
written by the finger of God, divides all productions into two general orders: products of Nature and products of
art. God works through Nature and man through art, he asserts in his Guide for the Perplexed. Thus the Word of
the Lord is the hand, or active principle, by which the will of the Creator is traced upon the face of His creation.
The Tannaim, or initiates of the Jewish Mystery School, alone possessed a complete understanding of the
significance of the Ten Commandments. These laws are esoterically related to the ten degrees of contemplation
constituting the Path of Ecstasy, which winds upward through he four worlds and ends in the effulgence of AIN
p. 99
My House be established. "In the splendor of mental and spiritual illumination, the
[paragraph continues]
High Priest stood between the pillars as a mute witness to the perfect virtue of equilibrium--that
hypothetical point equidistant from all extremes. He thus personified the divine nature of man in the
midst of his compound constitution--the mysterious Pythagorean Monad in the presence of the Duad. On
one side towered the stupendous column of the intellect; on the other, the brazen pillar of the flesh.
Midway between these two stands the glorified wise man, but he cannot reach this high estate without
first suffering upon the cross made by joining these pillars together. The early Jews occasionally
represented the two pillars, Jachin and Boaz, as the legs of Jehovah, thereby signifying to the modern
philosopher that Wisdom and Love, in their most exalted sense, support the whole order of creation--
both mundane and supermundane.
Like the sapphire Schethiyâ, the Lapis Exilis, crown jewel of the Archangel Lucifer, fell from heaven.
Michael, archangel of the sun and the Hidden God of Israel, at the head of the angelic hosts swooped
down upon Lucifer and his legions of rebellious spirits. During the conflict, Michael with his flaming
sword struck the flashing Lapis Exilis from the coronet of his adversary, and the green stone fell through
all the celestial rings into the dark and immeasurable Abyss. Out of Lucifer's radiant gem was fashioned
the Sangreal, or Holy Grail, from which Christ is said to have drunk at the Last Supper.
Though some controversy exists as to whether the Grail was a cup or a platter, it is generally depicted in
art as a chalice of considerable size and unusual beauty. According to the legend, Joseph of Arimathea
brought the Grail Cup to the place of the crucifixion and in it caught the blood pouring from the wounds
of the dying Nazarene. Later Joseph, who had become custodian of the sacred relics--the Sangreal and
the Spear of Longinus--carried them into a distant country. According to one version, his descendants
finally placed these relics in Glastonbury Abbey in England; according to another, in a wonderful castle
on Mount Salvat, Spain, built by angels in a single night. Under the name of Preston John, Parsifal, the
last of the Grail Kings, carried the Holy Cup with him into India, and it disappeared forever from the
Western World. Subsequent search for the Sangreal was the motif for much of the knight errantry of the
Arthurian legends and the ceremonials of the Round Table. (See the Morte d'Arthur.)
No adequate interpretation has ever been given to the Grail Mysteries. Some believe the Knights of the
Holy Grail to have been a powerful organization of Christian mystics perpetuating the Ancient Wisdom
under the rituals and sacraments of the oracular Cup. The quest for the Holy Grail is the eternal search
for truth, and Albert G. Mackey sees in it a variation of the Masonic legend of the Lost Word so long
sought by the brethren of the Craft. There is also evidence to support the claim that the story of the Grail
is an elaboration of an early pagan Nature myth which has been preserved by reason of the subtle
manner in which it was engrafted upon the cult of Christianity. From this particular viewpoint, the Holy
Grail is undoubtedly a type of the ark or vessel in which the life of the world is preserved and therefore
is significant of the body of the Great Mother--Nature. Its green color relates it to Venus and to the
mystery of generation; also to the Islamic faith, whose sacred color is green and whose Sabbath is
Friday, the day of Venus.
The Holy Grail is a symbol both of the lower (or irrational) world and of the bodily nature of man,
because both are receptacles for the living essences of the superior worlds. Such is the mystery of the
redeeming blood which, descending into the condition of death, overcomes the last enemy by ensouling
all substance with its own immortality. To the Christian, whose mystic faith especially emphasizes the
love element, the Holy Grail typifies the heart in which continually swirls the living water of eternal life.
Moreover, to the Christian, the search for the Holy Grail is the search for the real Self which, when
found, is the consummation of the magnum opus.
The Holy Cup can be discovered only by those who have raised themselves above the limitations of
sensuous existence. In his mystic poem, The Vision of Sir Launfal, James Russell Lowell discloses the
true nature of the Holy Grail by showing that it is visible only to a certain state of spiritual
consciousness. Only upon returning from the vain pursuit of haughty ambition did the aged and broken
knight see in the transformed leper's cup the glowing chalice of his lifelong dream. Some writers trace a
similarity between the Grail legend and the stories of the martyred Sun Gods whose blood, descending
from heaven into the earth, was caught in the cup of matter and liberated therefrom by the initiatory
rites. The Holy Grail may also be the seed pod so frequently employed in the ancient Mysteries as an
emblem of germination and resurrection; and if the cuplike shape of the Grail be derived from the
flower, it signifies the regeneration and spiritualization of the generative forces in man.
There are many accounts of stone images which, because of the substances entering into their
composition and the ceremonials attendant upon their construction, were ensouled by the divinities
whom they were created to resemble. To such images were ascribed various human faculties and
powers, such as speech, thought, and even motion. While renegade priests doubtless resorted to trickery--
an instance of which is related in a curious apocryphal fragment entitled Bel and the Dragon and
supposedly deleted from the end of the Book of Daniel--many of the phenomena recorded in connection
with sanctified statues and relics can hardly be explained unless the work of supernatural agencies be
History records the existence of stones which, when struck, threw all who heard the sound into a state of
ecstasy. There were also echoing images which whispered for hours after the room itself had become
silent, and musical stones productive of the sweetest harmonies. In recognition of the sanctity which the
Greeks and Latins ascribed to stones, they placed their hands upon certain consecrated pillars when
taking an oath. In ancient times stones played a part in determining the fate of accused persons, for it
was customary for juries to reach their verdicts by dropping pebbles into a bag.
Divination by stones was often resorted to by the Greeks, and Helena is said to have foretold by
lithomancy the destruction of Troy. Many popular superstitions about stones survive the so-called Dark
Ages. Chief among these is the one concerning the famous black stone in the seat of the coronation chair
in Westminster Abbey, which is declared to be the actual rock used by Jacob as a pillow. The black
stone also appears several times in religious symbolism. It was called Heliogabalus, a word presumably
derived from Elagabal, the Syro-Phœnician sun god. This stone was sacred to the sun and declared to
possess great and diversified properties. The black stone in the Caaba at Mecca is still revered
throughout the Mohammedan world. It is said to have been white originally and of such brilliancy that it
could be seen many days' journey from Mecca, but as ages passed it became blackened by the tears of
pilgrims and the sins of the world.
According to the teachings of the Mysteries, the rays of the celestial bodies, striking the crystallizing
influences of the lower world, become the various elements. Partaking of the astral virtues of their
source, these elements neutralize certain unbalanced forms of celestial activity and, when properly
combined, contribute much to the well-being of man. Little is known today concerning these magical
properties, but the modern world may yet find it profitable to consider the findings of the early
philosophers who determined these relationships by extensive experimentation. Out of such research
arose the practice of identifying the metals with the bones of the various deities. For example, the
Egyptians, according to Manetho, considered iron to be the bone of Mars and the lodestone the bone of
Horus. By analogy, lead would be the physical skeleton of Saturn, copper of Venus, quicksilver of
Mercury, gold of the sun, silver of the moon, and antimony of the earth. It is possible that uranium
Click to enlarge
From Christie's Disquisitions upon the Painted Greek Vases.
The Primitive custom of worshiping the gods in the form of heaps of stones gave place to the practice of erecting
phallic pillars, or cones, in their honor. These columns differed widely in size and appearance. Some were of
gigantic proportions and were richly ornamented with inscriptions or likenesses of the gods and heroes; others--
like the votive offerings of the Babylonians--were but a few inches high, without ornament, and merely bore a
brief statement of the purpose for which they had been prepared or a hymn to the god of the temple in which they
were placed. These small baked clay cones were identical in their symbolic meaning with the large hermæ set up
by the roadside and in other public places. Later the upper end of the column was surmounted by a human head.
Often two projections, or tenons, corresponding to shoulders were placed, one on either side, to support the
wreaths of flowers adorning the columns. Offerings, usually of food, were placed near the hermæ. Occasionally
these columns were used to uphold roofs and were numbered among the art objects ornamenting the villas of
wealthy Romans.
p. 100
will prove to be the metal of Uranus and radium to be the metal of Neptune.
The four Ages of the Greek mystics--the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age--
are metaphoric expressions referring to the four major periods in the life of all things. In the divisions of
the day they signify dawn, midday, sunset, and midnight; in the duration of gods, men, and universes,
they denote the periods of birth, growth, maturity, and decay. The Greek Ages also bear a close
correspondence to the four Yugas of the Hindus: Krita-Yuga, Treta-Yuga, Dvapara-Yuga, and Kali-
Yuga. Their method of calculation is described by Ullamudeian as follows: "In each of the 12 signs there
are 1800 minutes; multiply this number by 12 you have 21600; e.g. 1800 X 12=21600. Multiply this
21600 by 80 and it will give 1,728,000, which is the duration of the first age, called Krita-Yuga. If the
same number be multiplied by 60, it will give 1,296,000, the years of the second age, Treta-Yuga. The
same number multiplied by 40 gives 864,000, the length of the third age, Dvapara-Yuga. The same
multiplied by 20 gives 432,000, the fourth age, Kali-Yuga." (It will be noted that these multipliers
decrease in inverse ratio to the Pythagorean tetractys: 1, 2, 3, and 4.)
H. P. Blavatsky declares that Orpheus taught his followers how to affect a whole audience by means of a
lodestone, and that Pythagoras paid particular attention to the color and nature of precious stones. She
adds: "The Buddhists assert that the sapphire produces peace of mind, equanimity, and chases all evil
thoughts by establishing a healthy circulation in man. So does an electric battery, with its well-directed
fluid, say our electricians. 'The sapphire,' say the Buddhists, 'will open barred doors and dwellings (for
the spirit of man); it produces a desire for prayer, and brings with it more peace than any other gem; but
he who would wear it must lead a pure and holy life."' (See Isis Unveiled.)
Mythology abounds with accounts of magical rings and talismanic jewels. In the second book of his
Republic, Plato describes a ring which, when the collet was turned in ward, rendered its wearer invisible.
With this Gyges, the shepherd, secured for himself the throne of Lydia. Josephus also describes magical
rings designed by Moses and King Solomon, and Aristotle mentions one which brought love and honor
to its possessor. In his chapter dealing with the subject, Henry Cornelius Agrippa not only mentions the
same rings, but states, upon the authority of Philostratus Jarchus, that Apollonius of Tyana extended his
life to over 20 years with the aid of seven magical rings presented to him by an East Indian prince. Each
of these seven rings was set with a gem partaking of the nature of one of the seven ruling planets of the
week, and by daily changing the rings Apollonius protected himself against sickness and death by the
intervention of the planetary influences. The philosopher also instructed his disciples in the virtues of
these talismanic jewels, considering such information to be indispensable to the theurgist. Agrippa
describes the preparation of magical rings as follows: "When any Star [planet] ascends fortunately, with
the fortunate aspect or conjunction of the Moon, we must take a stone and herb that is under that Star,
and make a ring of the metal that is suitable to this Star, and in it fasten the stone, putting the herb or
root under it-not omitting the inscriptions of images, names, and characters, as also the proper
suffumigations." (See Three Books of Occult Philosophy.)
The ring has long been regarded as the symbol of attainment, perfection, and immortality-the last
because the circlet of precious metal had neither beginning nor end. In the Mysteries, rings chased to
resemble a serpent with its tail in its mouth were worn by the initiates as material evidence of the
position reached by them in the order. Signet rings, engraved with certain secret emblems, were worn by
the hierophants, and it was not uncommon for a messenger to prove that he was the official
representative of a prince or other dignitary by bringing with his message either an impression from his
master's ring or the signet itself. The wedding ring originally was intended to imply that in the nature of
the one who wore it the state of equilibrium and completion had been attained. This plain band of gold
therefore bore witness of the union of the Higher Self (God) with the lower self (Nature) and the
ceremony consummating this indissoluble blending of Divinity and humanity in the one nature of the
initiated mystic constituted the hermetic marriage of the Mysteries.
In describing the regalia of a magician, Eliphas Levi declares that on Sunday (the day of the sun) he
should carry in his right hand a golden wand, set with a ruby or chrysolite; on Monday (the day of the
moon) he should wear a collar of three strands consisting of pearls, crystals, and selenites; on Tuesday
(the day of Mars) he should carry a wand of magnetized steel and a ring of the same metal set with an
amethyst, on Wednesday (the day of Mercury) he should wear a necklace of pearls or glass beads
containing mercury, and a ring set with an agate; on Thursday (the day of Jupiter) he should carry a
wand of glass or resin and wear a ring set with an emerald or a sapphire; on Friday (the day of Venus) he
should carry a wand of polished copper and wear a ring set with a turquoise and a crown or diadem
decorated with lapis lazuli and beryl; and on Saturday (the day of Saturn) he should carry a wand
ornamented with onyx stone and wear a ring set with onyx and a chain about the neck formed of lead.
(See The Magical Ritual of the Sanctum Regnum.)
Paracelsus, Agrippa, Kircher, Lilly, and numerous other magicians and astrologers have tabulated the
gems and stones corresponding to the various planets and zodiacal signs. The following list has been
compiled from their writings. To the sun is assigned the carbuncle, ruby, garnet---especially the pyrope--
and other fiery stones, sometimes the diamond; to the moon, the pearl, selenite, and other forms of
crystal; to Saturn, the onyx, jasper, topaz, and sometimes the lapis lazuli; to Jupiter, the sapphire,
emerald, and marble; to Mars, the amethyst, hyacinth, lodestone, sometimes the diamond; to Venus, the
turquoise, beryl, emerald, and sometimes the pearl, alabaster, coral, and carnelian; to Mercury, the
chrysolite, agate, and variegated marble.
To the zodiac the same authorities assigned the following gems and stones: To Aries the sardonyx,
bloodstone, amethyst, and diamond; to Taurus the carnelian, turquoise, hyacinth, sapphire, moss agate,
and emerald; to Gemini the topaz, agate, chrysoprase, crystal, and aquamarine; to Cancer the topaz,
chalcedony, black onyx, moonstone, pearl, cat's-eye, crystal, and sometimes the emerald; to Leo the
jasper, sardonyx, beryl, ruby, chrysolite, amber, tourmaline, sometimes the diamond; to Virgo the
emerald, camelian, jade, chrysolite, and sometimes the pink jasper and hyacinth; to Libra the beryl,
sardius, coral, lapis lazuli, opal, and sometimes the diamond; to Scorpio the amethyst, beryl, sardonyx,
aquamarine, carbuncle, lodestone, topaz, and malachite; to Sagittarius die hyacinth, topaz, chrysolite,
emerald, carbuncle, and turquoise; to Capricorn the chrysoprase, ruby, malachite, black onyx, white
onyx, jet, and moonstone; to Aquarius the crystal, sapphire, garnet, zircon, and opal; to Pisces the
sapphire, jasper, chrysolite, moonstone, and amethyst
Both the magic mirror and the crystal ball are symbols little understood. Woe to that benighted mortal
who accepts literally the stories circulated concerning them! He will discover--often at the cost of sanity
and health--that sorcery and philosophy, while often confused, have nothing in common. The Persian
Magi carried mirrors as an emblem of the material sphere which reflects Divinity from its every part.
The crystal ball, long misused as a medium for the cultivation of psychical powers, is a threefold
symbol: (1) it signifies the crystalline Universal Egg in whose transparent depths creation exists; (2) it is
a proper figure of Deity previous to Its immersion in matter; (3) it signifies the ætheric sphere of the
world in whose translucent essences is impressed and preserved the perfect image of all terrestrial
Meteors, or rocks from heaven, were considered tokens of divine favor and enshrined as evidence of a
pact between the gods and the community in which they fell. Curiously marked or chipped natural
stones are occasionally found. In China there is a slab of marble the grain of which forms a perfect
likeness of the Chinese dragon. The Oberammergau stone, chipped by Nature into a close resemblance
to the popular conception of the face of Christ, is so remarkable that even the crowned heads of Europe
requested the privilege of beholding it. Stones of such nature were held in the highest esteem among
primitive peoples and even today exert a wide influence upon the religiously-minded.
Click to enlarge
From Cartari's Imagini degli Dei degli Antichi.
The number five was peculiarly associated by the Pythagoreans with the art of healing, and the pentagram, or
five-pointed star, was to them the symbol of health. The above figure represents a magical ring set with a
talismanic gem bearing the pentalpha, or star formed by five different positions of the Greek Alpha. On this
subject Mackey writes: "The disciples of Pythagoras, who were indeed its real inventors, placed within each of its
interior angles one of the letters of the Greek word ΥΓΕΙΑ, or the Latin one SALUS, both of which signify health;
and thus it was made the talisman of health. They placed it at the beginning of their epistles as a greeting to
invoke a secure health to their correspondent. But its use was not confined to the disciples of Pythagoras. As a
talisman, it was employed all over the East as a charm to resist evil spirits."
Next: Ceremonial Magic and Sorcery
Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 101
CEREMONIAL magic is the ancient art of invoking and controlling spirits by a scientific application of
certain formulæ. A magician, enveloped in sanctified vestments and carrying a wand inscribed with
hieroglyphic figures, could by the power vested in certain words and symbols control the invisible
inhabitants of the elements and of the astral world. While the elaborate ceremonial magic of antiquity
was not necessarily evil, there arose from its perversion several false schools of sorcery, or black magic.
Egypt, a great center of learning and the birthplace of many arts and sciences, furnished an ideal
environment for transcendental experimentation. Here the black magicians of Atlantis continued to
exercise their superhuman powers until they had completely undermined and corrupted the morals of the
primitive Mysteries. By establishing a sacerdotal caste they usurped the position formerly occupied by
the initiates, and seized the reins of spiritual government. Thus black magic dictated the state religion
and paralyzed the intellectual and spiritual activities of the individual by demanding his complete and
unhesitating acquiescence in the dogma formulated by the priestcraft. The Pharaoh became a puppet in
the hands of the Scarlet Council--a committee of arch-sorcerers elevated to power by the priesthood.
These sorcerers then began the systematic destruction of all keys to the ancient wisdom, so that none
might have access to the knowledge necessary to reach adeptship without first becoming one of their
order. They mutilated the rituals of the Mysteries while professing to preserve them, so that even though
the neophyte passed through the degrees he could not secure the knowledge to which he was entitled.
Idolatry was introduced by encouraging the worship of the images which in the beginning the wise had
erected solely as symbols for study and meditation. False interpretations were given to the emblems and
figures of the Mysteries, and elaborate theologies were created to confuse the minds of their devotees.
The masses, deprived of their birthright of understanding and groveling in ignorance, eventually became
the abject slaves of the spiritual impostors. Superstition universally prevailed and the black magicians
completely dominated national affairs, with the result that humanity still suffers from the sophistries of
the priestcrafts of Atlantis and Egypt.
Fully convinced that their Scriptures sanctioned it, numerous mediæval Qabbalists devoted their lives to
the practice of ceremonial magic. The transcendentalism of the Qabbalists is founded upon the ancient
and magical formula of King Solomon, who has long been considered by the Jews as the prince of
ceremonial magicians.
Among the Qabbalists of the Middle Ages were a great number of black magicians who strayed from the
noble concepts of the Sepher Yetzirah and became enmeshed in demonism and witchcraft. They sought
to substitute magic mirrors, consecrated daggers, and circles spread around posts of coffin nails, for the
living of that virtuous life which, without the assistance of complicated rituals or submundane creatures,
unfailingly brings man to the state of true individual completion.
Those who sought to control elemental spirits through ceremonial magic did so largely with the hope of
securing from the invisible worlds either rare knowledge or supernatural power. The little red demon of
Napoleon Bonaparte and the infamous oracular heads of de Medici are examples of the disastrous results
of permitting elemental beings to dictate the course of human procedure. While the learned and godlike
dæmon of Socrates seems to have been an exception, this really proves that the intellectual and moral
status of the magician has much to do with the type of elemental he is capable of invoking. But even the
dæmon of Socrates deserted the philosopher when the sentence of death was passed.
Transcendentalism and all forms of phenomenalistic magic are but blind alleys--outgrowths of Atlantean
sorcery; and those who forsake the straight path of philosophy to wander therein almost invariably fall
victims to their imprudence. Man, incapable of controlling his own appetites, is not equal to the task of
governing the fiery and tempestuous elemental spirits.
Many a magician has lost his life as the result of opening a way whereby submundane creatures could
become active participants in his affairs. When Eliphas Levi invoked the spirit of Apollonius of Tyana,
what did he hope to accomplish? Is the gratification of curiosity a motive sufficient to warrant the
devotion of an entire lifetime to a dangerous and unprofitable pursuit? If the living Apollonius refused to
divulge his secrets to the profane, is there any probability that after death he would disclose them to the
curious-minded? Levi himself did not dare to assert that the specter which appeared to him was actually
the great philosopher, for Levi realized only too well the proclivity of elementals to impersonate those
who have passed on. The majority of modern mediumistic apparitions are but elemental creatures
masquerading through bodies composed of thought substance supplied by the very persons desiring to
behold these wraiths of decarnate beings.
Some understanding of the intricate theory and practice of ceremonial magic may be derived from a
brief consideration of its underlying premises.
First. The visible universe has an invisible counterpart, the higher planes of which are peopled by good
and beautiful spirits; the lower planes, dark and foreboding, are the habitation of evil spirits and demons
under the leadership of the Fallen Angel and his ten Princes.
Second. By means of the secret processes of ceremonial magic it is possible to contact these invisible
creatures and gain their help in some human undertaking. Good spirits willingly lend their assistance to
any worthy enterprise, but the evil spirits serve only those who live to pervert and destroy.
Third. It is possible to make contracts with spirits whereby the magician becomes for a stipulated time
the master of an elemental being.
Fourth. True black magic is performed with the aid of a demoniacal spirit, who serves the sorcerer for
the length of his earthly life, with the understanding that after death the magician shall become the
servant of his own demon. For this reason a black magician will go to inconceivable ends to prolong his
physical life, since there is nothing for him beyond the grave.
The most dangerous form of black magic is the scientific perversion of occult power for the gratification
of personal desire. Its less complex and more universal form is human selfishness, for selfishness is the
fundamental cause of all worldly evil. A man will barter his eternal soul for temporal power, and down
through the ages a mysterious process has been evolved which actually enables him to make this
exchange. In its various branches the black art includes nearly all forms of ceremonial magic,
necromancy, witchcraft, sorcery, and vampirism. Under the same general heading are also included
mesmerism and hypnotism, except when used solely for medical purposes, and even then there is an
element of risk for all concerned.
Though the demonism of the Middle Ages seems to have disappeared, there is abundant evidence that in
many forms of modern thought--especially the so-called "prosperity" psychology, "willpower-building"
metaphysics, and systems of "high-pressure" salesmanship--
Click to enlarge
From Levi's Transcendental Magic.
The practice of magic--either white or black--depends upon the ability of the adept to control the universal life
force--that which Eliphas Levi calls the great magical agent or the astral light. By the manipulation of this fluidic
essence the phenomena of transcendentalism are produced. The famous hermaphroditic Goat of Mendes was a
composite creature formulated to symbolize this astral light. It is identical with Baphomet the mystic pantheos of
those disciples of ceremonial magic, the Templars, who probably obtained it from the Arabians.
p. 102
black magic has merely passed through a metamorphosis, and although its name be changed its nature
remains the same.
A well-known magician of the Middle Ages was Dr. Johannes Faustus, more commonly known as Dr.
Faust. By a study of magical writings he was enabled to bind to his service an elemental who served him
for many years in various capacities. Strange legends are told concerning the magical powers possessed
by Dr. Faust. Upon one occasion the philosopher, being apparently in a playful mood, threw his mantle
over a number of eggs in a market-woman's basket, causing them to hatch instantly. At another time,
having fallen overboard from a small boat, he was picked up and returned to the craft with his clothes
still dry. But, like nearly all other magicians, Dr. Faust came at length to disaster; he was found one
morning with a knife in his back, and it was commonly believed that his familiar spirit had murdered
him. Although Goethe's Dr. Faust is generally regarded as merely a fictional character, this old magician
actually lived during the sixteenth century. Dr. Faust wrote a book describing his experiences with
spirits, a section of which is reprinted below. (Dr. Faust must not be confused with Johann Fust, the
(An abridged translation from the original German of a book ordered destroyed.)
"From my youth I followed art and science and was tireless in my reading of books. Among those which
came to my hand was a volume containing all kinds of invocations and magical formulæ. In this book I
discovered information to the effect that a spirit, whether he be of the fire, the water, the earth or the air,
can be compelled to do the will of a magician capable of controlling him. I also discovered that
according as one spirit has more power than another, each is adapted for a different operation and each is
capable of producing certain supernatural effects.
"After reading this wonderful book, I made several experiments, desiring to rest the accuracy of the
statements made therein. At first I had little faith that what was promised would take place. But at the
very first invocation which I attempted a mighty spirit manifested to me, desiring to know why I had
invoked him. His coming so amazed me that I scarcely knew what to say, but finally asked him if he
would serve me in my magical investigations. He replied that if certain conditions were agreed upon he
would. The conditions were that I should make a pact with him. This I did not desire to do, but as in my
ignorance I had not protected myself with a circle and was actually at the mercy of the spirit, I did not
dare to refuse his request and resigned myself to the inevitable, considering it wisest to turn my mantle
according to the wind.
"I then told him that if he would be serviceable to me according to my desires and needs for a certain
length of time, I would sign myself over to him. After the pact had been arranged, this mighty spirit,
whose name was Asteroth, introduced me to another spirit by the name of Marbuel, who was appointed
to be my servant. I questioned Marbuel as to his suitability for my needs. I asked him how quick he was,
and he answered, 'As swift as the winds.' This did not satisfy me, so I replied, 'You cannot become my
servant. Go again whence you have come.' Soon another spirit manifested itself, whose name was
Aniguel. Upon asking him the same question he answered that he was swift as a bird in the air. I said,
'You are still too slow for me. Go whence you came.' In the same moment another spirit by the name of
Aciel manifested himself. For the third time I asked my question and he answered, 'I am as swift as
human thought.' 'You shall serve me,' I replied. This spirit was faithful for a long time, but to tell you
how he served me is not possible in a document of this length and I will here only indicate how spirits
are to be invoked and how the circles for protection are to be prepared. There are many kinds of spirits
which will permit themselves to be invoked by man and become his servant. Of these I will list a few:
"Aciel: The mightiest among those who serve men. He manifests in pleasing human form about three
feet high. He must be invoked three times before he will come forth into the circle prepared for him. He
will furnish riches and will instantly fetch things from a great distance, according to the will of the
magician. He is as swift as human thought.
"Aniguel: Serviceable and most useful, and comes in the form of a ten-year-old boy. He must be invoked
three times. His special power is to discover treasures and minerals hidden in the ground, which he will
furnish to the magician.
"Marbuel: A true lord of the mountains and swift as a bird on the wing. He is an opposing and
troublesome spirit, hard to control. You must invoke him four times. He appears in the person of Mars [a
warrior in heavy armor]. He will furnish the magician those things which grow above and under the
earth. He is particularly the lord of the spring-root. [The spring-root is a mysterious herb, possibly of a
reddish color, which mediæval magicians asserted had the property of drawing forth or opening anything
it touched. If placed against a locked door, it would open the door. The Hermetists believed that the red-
capped woodpecker was specially endowed with the faculty of discovering spring-root, so they followed
this bird to its nest, and then stopped up the hole in the tree where its young were. The red-crested
woodpecker went at once in quest of the spring-root, and, discovering it, brought it to the tree. It
immediately drew forth the stopper from the entrance to the nest. The magician then secured the root
from the bird. It was also asserted that because of its structure, the etheric body of the spring-root was
utilized as a vehicle of expression by certain elemental spirits which manifested through the proclivity of
drawing out or opening things.]
"Aciebel: A mighty ruler of the sea, controlling things both upon and under the water. He furnishes
things lost or sunk in rivers, lakes, and oceans, such as sunken ships and treasures. The more sharply you
invoke him, the swifter he is upon his errands.
"Machiel: Comes in the form of a beautiful maiden and by her aid the magician is raised to honor and
dignity. She makes those she serves worthy and noble, gracious and kindly, and assists in all matters of
litigation and justice. She will not come unless invoked twice.
"Baruel: The master of all arts. He manifests as a master workman and comes wearing an apron. He can
teach a magician more in a moment than all the master workmen of the world combined could
accomplish in twenty years. He must be invoked three times.
"These are the spirits most serviceable to man, but there are numerous others which, for lack of space, I
am unable to describe. Now, if you desire the aid of the spirit to get this or that, then you must first draw
the sign of the spirit whom you desire to invoke. The drawing must be made just in front of a circle
made before sunrise, in which you and your assistants will stand. If you desire financial assistance, then
you must invoke the spirit Aciel. Draw his sign in front of the circle. If you need other things, then draw
the sign of the spirit capable of furnishing them. On the place where you intend to make the circle, you
must first draw a great cross with a large sword with which no one ever has been hurt. Then you must
make three concentric circles. The innermost circle is made of a
Click to enlarge
From Levi's The Magical Ritual.
Eliphas Levi describes the preparation of a magical sword in substance as follows: The steel blade should be
forged in the hour of Mars, with new tools. The pommel should be of hollow silver containing quicksilver, and
the symbols of Mercury and the moon and the signatures of Gabriel and Samael should be engraved upon it. The
hilt should be encased with tin, with the symbol of Jupiter and the signature of Michael engraved upon it. A
copper triangle should extend from the hilt along the blade a short distance on each side: these should bear the
symbols of Mercury and Venus. Five Sephiroth should be engraved upon the handle, as shown. The blade itself
should have the word Malchut upon one side and Quis ut Deus upon the other. The sword should be consecrated
on Sunday.
Click to enlarge
From The Complete Book of Magic Science (unpublished).
The above figure is a complete and faithful representation of a magic circle as designed by mediæval conjurers
for the invocation of spirits. The magician accompanied by his assistant takes his place at the point formed by the
crossing of the central lines marked MAGISTER. The words about the circle are the names of the invisible
intelligences, and the small crosses mark points at which certain prayers and invocations are recited. The small
circle outside is prepared for the spirit to be invoked, and while in use has the signature of the desired intelligence
traced within the triangle.
p. 103
long narrow strip of virgin parchment and must be hung upon twelve crosses made of the wood of cross-
thorn. Upon the parchment you must write the names and symbols according to the figure which
follows. Outside this first circle make the second as follows:
"First secure a thread of red silk that has been spun or twisted to the left instead of the right. Then place
in the ground twelve crosses made of laurel leaves, and also prepare a long strip of new white paper.
Write with an unused pen the characters and symbols as seen on the second circle. Wind this latter strip
of paper around with the red silken thread and pin them upon the twelve crosses of laurel leaves. Outside
this second circle make a third one which is also of virgin parchment and pinned upon twelve crosses of
consecrated palm. When you have made these three circles, retire into them until at last you stand in the
center upon a pentagram drawn in the midst of the great cross first drawn. Now, to insure success, do
everything according to the description, and when you have read off the sacred invocation pronounce the
name of the spirit which you desire to appear. It is essential that you pronounce the name very distinctly.
You must also note the day and the hour, for each spirit can only be invoked at certain times."
While the black magician at the time of signing his pact with the elemental demon maybe fully
convinced that he is strong enough to control indefinitely the powers placed at his disposal, he is
speedily undeceived. Before many years elapse he must turn all his energies to the problem of self-
preservation. A world of horrors to which he has attuned himself by his own covetousness looms nearer
every day, until he exists upon the edge of a seething maelstrom, expecting momentarily to be sucked
down into its turbid depths. Afraid to die--because he will become the servant of his own demon--the
magician commits crime after crime to prolong his wretched earthly existence. Realizing that life is
maintained by the aid of a mysterious universal life force which is the common property of all creatures,
the black magician often becomes an occult vampire, stealing this energy from others. According to
mediæval superstition, black magicians turned themselves into werewolves and roamed the earth at
night, attacking defenseless victims for the life force contained in their blood.
The following condensed extract from an ancient manuscript is reproduced herewith as representative of
the ritualism of ceremonial magic. The extract is from The Complete Book of Magic Science, an
unpublished manuscript (original in the British Museum), with pentacles in colors, mentioned by Francis
Barrett in his Magus.
"Opening Prayer
"Omnipotent and Eternal God who hath ordained the whole creation for thy praise and glory and for the
salvation of man, I earnestly beseech thee that thou wouldst send one of thy spirits of the order of
Jupiter, one of the messengers of Zadkiel whom thou hast appointed governor of thy firmament at the
present time, most faithfully, willingly, and readily to show me these things which I shall ask, command
or require of him, and truly execute my desires. Nevertheless, O Most Holy God, thy will and not mine
be done through JC, thine only begotten Son our Lord. Amen.
"The Invocation.
[The magician, having properly consecrated his vestments and utensils and being protected by his circle,
now calls upon the spirits to appear and accede to his demands.]
"Spirits, whose assistance I require, behold the sign and the very Hallowed Names of God full of power.
Obey the power of this our pentacle; go out your hidden caves and dark places; cease your hurtful
occupations to those unhappy mortals whom without ceasing you torment; come into this place where
the Divine Goodness has assembled us; be attentive to our orders and known to our just demands;
believe not that your resistance will cause us to abandon our operations. Nothing can dispense with your
obeying us. We command you by the Mysterious Names Elohe Agla Elohim Adonay Gibort. Amen.
"I call upon thee, Zadkiel, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, blessed
Trinity, unspeakable Unity.
"I invoke and intreat thee, Zadkiel, in this hour to attend to the words and conjurations which I shall use
this day by the Holy Names of God Elohe El Elohim Elion Zebaoth Escerehie Iah Adonay
"I conjure thee, I exorcise thee, thou Spirit Zadkiel, by these Holy Names Hagios O Theos Iscyros
Athanatos Paracletus Agla on Alpha et Omega Ioth Aglanbroth Abiel Anathiel Tetragrammaton: And by
all other great and glorious, holy and unspeakable, mysterious, mighty, powerful, incomprehensible
Names of God, that you attend unto the words of my mouth, and send unto me Pabiel or other of your
ministering, serving Spirits, who may show me such things as I shall demand of him in the Name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
"I intreat thee, Pabiel, by the whole Spirit of Heaven, Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations,
Witnesses, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, by the holy, great, and glorious Angels
Orphaniel Tetra-Dagiel Salamla Acimoy pastor poti, that thou come forthwith, readily show thyself that
we may see you and audibly hear you, speak unto us and fulfil our desires, and by your star which is
Jupiter, and by all the constellations of Heaven, and by whatsoever you obey, and by your character
which you have given, proposed, and confirmed, that you attend unto me according to the prayer and
petitions which I have made unto Almighty God, and that you forthwith send me one of your ministering
Spirits, who may willingly, truly, and faithfully fulfil all my desires, and that you command him to
appear unto me in the form of a beautiful Angel, gently, courteously, affably, and meekly, entering into
communication with me, and that he neither permitting any evil Spirit to approach in any sort of hurt,
terrify or affright me in any way nor deceiving me in any wise. Through the virtue of Our Lord JC, in
whose Name I attend, wait for, and expect thy appearance. Fiat, fiat, fiat. Amen, Amen, Amen.
[Having summoned the spirit unto his presence, the magician shall question him as follows:]
"'Comest thou in peace in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost?' [And the spirit
shall answer:] 'Yes.'
"'Thou art welcome, noble Spirit. What is thy Name?' [And the spirit shall answer:] 'Pabiel.'
"'I have called thee in the Name of Jesu of Nazareth at whose Name every knee doth bow in heaven,
earth, and hell, and every tongue shall confess there is no name like unto the Name of Jesus, who hath
given power unto man to bind and to loose all things in his most Holy Name, yea even unto those that
trust in his salvation.
"'Art thou the messenger of Zadkiel?' [And the spirit shall answer:] 'Yes.'
"'Wilt thou confirm thyself unto me at this time and henceforth reveal all things unto me that I shall
desire to know, and teach me how I may increase in wisdom and knowledge and show unto me all the
secrets of the Magic Art, and of all liberal sciences, that I may thereby set forth the glory of Almighty
God?' [And the spirit shall answer:] 'Yes.'
"'Then I pray thee give and confirm thy character unto me whereby I may call thee at all times, and also
swear unto me this oath and I will religiously keep my vow and covenant unto Almighty God and will
courteously receive thee at all times where thou dost appear unto me.'
"License to Depart.
"'Forasmuch as thou comest in peace and quietness and hath answered
Click to enlarge
From Levi's Transcendental Magic.
THE PENTAGRAM. The pentagram is the figure of the microcosm--the magical formula of man. It is the one
rising out of the four--the human soul rising from the bondage of the animal nature. It is the true light--the "Star
of the morning." It marks the location of five mysterious centers of force, the awakening of which is the supreme
secret of white magic.
Click to enlarge
From The Complete Book of Magic Science.
The aforesaid Bond of spirits, together with the seal and character of the planetary angel, must be written m
virgin Parchment and laid before the Spirit [for signature] when he appears; at that time the invocant must not
lost confidence but be patient, firm, bold, and Persevering, and take care that he asks nor requires nothing of the
Spirit but with a view to the glory of God and the well-being fellow creatures. Having obtained his desires of the
Spirit, the invocant may license him to depart."
p. 104
unto my petitions, I give humble and hearty thanks unto Almighty God in whose Name I called and thou
camest, and now thou mayest depart in peace unto thine orders and return unto me again at what time
soever I shall call thee by thine oath, or by thy name or by thine order, or by thine office which is
granted thee from the Creator, and the power of God be with me and thee and upon the whole issue of
God, Amen.
"'Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.'
[Note.] "It would be advisable for the invocant to remain in the circle for a few minutes after reciting the
license, and if the place of operation be in the open air, let him destroy all traces of the circle, etcetera,
and return quietly to his home. But should the operation be performed in a retired part of a house, cc
cetera, the circle may remain, as it might serve in alike future operation, but the room or building must
be locked up to avoid the intrusion of strangers."
The agreement set forth above is purely ceremonial magic. In the case of black magic, it is the magician
and not the demon who must sign the pact. When the black magician binds an elemental to his service, a
battle of wits ensues, which the demon eventually wins. With his own blood the magician signs the pact
between himself and the demon, for in the arcanum of magic it is declared that "he controls the soul who
controls the blood of another." As long as the magician does not fail, the elemental will fulfil to the letter
his obligation under the pact, but the demon will try in every possible way to prevent the magician from
carrying out his part of the contract. When the conjurer, ensconced within his circle, has evoked the
spirit he desires to control and has made known his intention, the spirit will answer somewhat as
follows: "I cannot accede to your request nor fulfil it, unless after fifty years you give yourself to me,
body and soul, to do with as I may please."
If the magician refuses, other terms will be discussed. The spirit may say: "I will remain in your service
as long as on every Friday morning you will go forth upon the public street giving alms in the name of
Lucifer. The first time you fail in this you belong to me."
If the magician still refuses, realizing that the demon will make it impossible for him to fulfil his
contract, other terms will be discussed, until at last a pact is agreed upon. It may read as follows: "I
hereby promise the Great Spirit Lucifuge, Prince of Demons, that each year I will bring unto him a
human soul to do with as it may please him, and in return Lucifuge promises to bestow upon me the
treasures of the earth and fulfil my every desire for the length of my natural life. If I fail to bring him
each year the offering specified above, then my own soul shall be forfeit to him. Signed . . . . . . . . . . . . .
" [Invocant signs pact with his own blood.]
In symbolism, an inverted figure always signifies a perverted power. The average person does not even
suspect the occult properties of emblematic pentacles. On this subject the great Paracelsus has written:
"No doubt many will scoff at the seals, their characters and their uses, which are described in these
books, because it seems incredible to them that metals and characters which are dead should have any
power and effect. Yet no one has ever proved that the metals and also the characters as we know them
are dead, for the salts, sulphur, and quintessences of metals are the highest preservatives of human life
and are far superior to all other simples." (Translated from the original German.)
The black magician cannot use the symbols of white magic without bringing down upon himself the
forces of white magic, which would be fatal to his schemes. He must therefore distort the hierograms so
that they typify the occult fact that he himself is distorting the principles for which the symbols stand.
Black magic is not a fundamental art; it is the misuse of an art. Therefore it has no symbols of its own. It
merely takes the emblematic figures of white magic, and by inverting and reversing them signifies that it
is left-handed.
A good instance of this practice is found in the pentagram, or five-pointed star, made of five connected
lines. This figure is the time-honored symbol of the magical arts, and signifies the five properties of the
Great Magical Agent, the five senses of man, the five elements of nature, the five extremities of the
human body. By means of the pentagram within his own soul, man not only may master and govern all
creatures inferior to himself, but may demand consideration at the hands of those superior to himself.
The pentagram is used extensively in black magic, but when so used its form always differs in one of
three ways: The star may be broken at one point by not permitting the converging lines to touch; it may
be inverted by having one point down and two up; or it may be distorted by having the points of varying
lengths. When used in black magic, the pentagram is called the "sign of the cloven hoof," or the
footprint of the Devil. The star with two points upward is also called the "Goat of Mendes," because the
inverted star is the same shape as a goat's head. When the upright star turns and the upper point falls to
the bottom, it signifies the fall of the Morning Star.
Click to enlarge
From a mediæval Book of Spirits (unpublished).
The seven large circle are the planets, while the two small circles under each contain the seal and the character of
the controlling intelligence of the planet.
Next: The Elements and Their Inhabitants Sacred Texts Esoteric Index Previous Next
p. 105
The Elements and Their Inhabitants
FOR the most comprehensive and lucid exposition of occult pneumatology (the branch of philosophy
dealing with spiritual substances) extant, mankind is indebted to Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus
(Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim), prince of alchemists and Hermetic philosophers and true
possessor of the Royal Secret (the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life). Paracelsus believed that
each of the four primary elements known to the ancients (earth, fire, air, and water) consisted of a subtle,
vaporous principle and a gross corporeal substance.
Air is, therefore, twofold in nature-tangible atmosphere and an intangible, volatile substratum which
may be termed spiritual air. Fire is visible and invisible, discernible and indiscernible--a spiritual,
ethereal flame manifesting through a material, substantial flame. Carrying the analogy further, water
consists of a dense fluid and a potential essence of a fluidic nature. Earth has likewise two essential
parts--the lower being fixed, terreous, immobile; the higher, rarefied, mobile, and virtual. The general
term elements has been applied to the lower, or physical, phases of these four primary principles, and the
name elemental essences to their corresponding invisible, spiritual constitutions. Minerals, plants,
animals, and men live in a world composed of the gross side of these four elements, and from various
combinations of them construct their living organisms.
Henry Drummond, in Natural Law in the Spiritual World, describes this process as follows: "If we
analyse this material point at which all life starts, we shall find it to consist of a clear structureless, jelly-
like substance resembling albumen or white of egg. It is made of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and
Nitrogen. Its name is protoplasm. And it is not only the structural unit with which all living bodies start
in life, but with which they are subsequently built up. 'Protoplasm,' says Huxley, 'simple or nucleated, is
the formal basis of all life. It is the clay of the Potter.'"
The water element of the ancient philosophers has been metamorphosed into the hydrogen of modern
science; the air has become oxygen; the fire, nitrogen; the earth, carbon.
Just as visible Nature is populated by an infinite number of living creatures, so, according to Paracelsus,
the invisible, spiritual counterpart of visible Nature (composed of the tenuous principles of the visible
elements) is inhabited by a host of peculiar beings, to whom he has given the name elementals, and
which have later been termed the Nature spirits. Paracelsus divided these people of the elements into
four distinct groups, which he called gnomes, undines, sylphs, and salamanders. He taught that they
were really living entities, many resembling human beings in shape, and inhabiting worlds of their own,
unknown to man because his undeveloped senses were incapable of functioning beyond the limitations
of the grosser elements.
The civilizations of Greece, Rome, Egypt, China, and India believed implicitly in satyrs, sprites, and
goblins. They peopled the sea with mermaids, the rivers and fountains with nymphs, the air with fairies,
the fire with Lares and Penates, and the earth with fauns, dryads, and hamadryads. These Nature spirits
were held in the highest esteem, and propitiatory offerings were made to them. Occasionally, as the
result of atmospheric conditions or the peculiar sensitiveness of the devotee, they became visible. Many
authors wrote concerning them in terms which signify that they had actually beheld these inhabitants of
Nature's finer realms. A number of authorities are of the opinion that many of the gods worshiped by the
pagans were elementals, for some of these invisibles were believed to be of commanding stature and
magnificent deportment.
The Greeks gave the name dæmon to some of these elementals, especially those of the higher orders, and
worshiped them. Probably the most famous of these dæmons is the mysterious spirit which instructed
Socrates, and of whom that great philosopher spoke in the highest terms. Those who have devoted much
study to the invisible constitution of man realize that it is quite probable the dæmon of Socrates and the
angel of Jakob Böhme were in reality not elementals, but the overshadowing divine natures of these
philosophers themselves. In his notes to Apuleius on the God of Socrates, Thomas Taylor says:
"As the dæmon of Socrates, therefore, was doubtless one of the highest order, as may be inferred from
the intellectual superiority of Socrates to most other men, Apuleius is justified in calling this dæmon a
God. And that the dæmon of Socrates indeed was divine, is evident from the testimony of Socrates
himself in the First Alcibiades: for in the course of that dialogue he clearly says, 'I have long been of the
opinion that the God did not as yet direct me to hold any conversation with you.' And in the Apology he
most unequivocally evinces that this dæmon is allotted a divine transcendency, considered as ranking in
the order of dæmons."
The idea once held, that the invisible elements surrounding and interpenetrating the earth were peopled
with living, intelligent beings, may seem ridiculous to the prosaic mind of today. This doctrine,
however, has found favor with some of the greatest intellects of the world. The sylphs of Facius Cardin,
the philosopher of Milan; the salamander seen by Benvenuto Cellini; the pan of St. Anthony; and le petit
homme rouge (the little red man, or gnome) of Napoleon Bonaparte, have found their places in the pages
of history.
Literature has also perpetuated the concept of Nature spirits. The mischievous Puck of Shakespeare's
Midsummer Night's Dream; the elementals of Alexander Pope's Rosicrucian poem, The Rape of the
Lock, the mysterious creatures of Lord Lytton's Zanoni; James Barrie's immortal Tinker Bell; and the
famous bowlers that Rip Van Winkle encountered in the Catskill Mountains, are well-known characters
to students of literature. The folklore and mythology of all peoples abound in legends concerning these
mysterious little figures who haunt old castles, guard treasures in the depths of the earth, and build their
homes under the spreading protection of toadstools. Fairies are the delight of childhood, and most
children give them up with reluctance. Not so very long ago the greatest minds of the world believed in
the existence of fairies, and it is still an open question as to whether Plato, Socrates, and Iamblichus
were wrong when they avowed their reality.
Paracelsus, when describing the substances which constitute the bodies of the elementals, divided flesh
into two kinds, the first being that which we have all inherited through Adam. This is the visible,
corporeal flesh. The second was that flesh which had not descended from Adam and, being more
attenuated, was not subject to the limitations of the former. The bodies of the elementals were composed
of this transubstantial flesh. Paracelsus stated that there is as much difference between the bodies of men
and the bodies of the Nature spirits as there is between matter and spirit.
"Yet," he adds, "the Elementals are not spirits, because they have flesh, blood and bones; they live and
propagate offspring; they cat and talk, act and sleep, &c., and consequently they cannot be properly
called 'spirits.' They are beings occupying a place between men and spirits, resembling men and spirits,
resembling men and women in their organization and form, and resembling spirits in the rapidity of their
locomotion." (Philosophia Occulta, translated by Franz Hartmann.) Later the same author calls these
creatures composita, inasmuch as the substance out of which they are composed seems to be a composite
of spirit and matter. He uses color to explain the idea. Thus, the mixture of blue and red gives purple, a
new color, resembling neither of the others yet composed of both. Such is the case with the Nature
spirits; they resemble neither spiritual creatures nor material beings, yet are composed of the substance
which we may call spiritual matter, or ether.
Paracelsus further adds that whereas man is composed of several natures (spirit, soul, mind, and body)
combined in one unit, the elemental has but one principle, the ether out of which it is composed and in
which it lives. The reader must remember that by ether
Click to enlarge
From Paracelsus' Auslegung von 30 magischen Figuren.
The Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Persians often mistook the salamanders for gods, because of their radiant splendor
and great power. The Greeks, following the example of earlier nations, deified the fire spirits and in their honor
kept incense and altar fire, burning perpetually.
p. 106
is meant the spiritual essence of one of the four elements. There areas many ethers as there are elements
and as many distinct families of Nature spirits as there are ethers. These families are completely isolated
in their own ether and have no intercourse with the denizens of the other ethers; but, as man has within
his own nature centers of consciousness sensitive to the impulses of all the four ethers, it is possible for
any of the elemental kingdoms to communicate with him under proper conditions.
The Nature spirits cannot be destroyed by the grosser elements, such as material fire, earth, air, or water,
for they function in a rate of vibration higher than that of earthy substances. Being composed of only one
element or principle (the ether in which they function), they have no immortal spirit and at death merely
disintegrate back into the element from which they were originally individualized. No individual
consciousness is preserved after death, for there is no superior vehicle present to contain it. Being made
of but one substance, there is no friction between vehicles: thus there is little wear or tear incurred by
their bodily functions, and they therefore live to great age. Those composed of earth ether are the
shortest lived; those composed of air ether, the longest. The average length of life is between three
hundred and a thousand years. Paracelsus maintained that they live in conditions similar to our earth
environments, and are somewhat subject to disease. These creatures are thought to be incapable of
spiritual development, but most of them are of a high moral character.
Concerning the elemental ethers in which the Nature spirits exist, Paracelsus wrote: "They live in the
four elements: the Nymphæ in the element of water, the Sylphes in that of the air, the Pigmies in the
earth, and the Salamanders in fire. They are also called Undinæ, Sylvestres, Gnomi, Vulcani, &c. Each
species moves only in the element to which it belongs, and neither of them can go out of its appropriate
element, which is to them as the air is to us, or the water to fishes; and none of them can live in the
element belonging to another class. To each elemental being the element in which it lives is transparent,
invisible and respirable, as the atmosphere is to ourselves." (Philosophia Occulta, translated by Franz
The reader should be careful not to confuse the Nature spirits with the true life waves evolving through
the invisible worlds. While the elementals are composed of only one etheric (or atomic) essence, the
angels, archangels, and other superior, transcendental entities have composite organisms, consisting of a
spiritual nature and a chain of vehicles to express that nature not unlike those of men, but not including
the physical body with its attendant limitations.
To the philosophy of Nature spirits is generally attributed an Eastern origin, probably Brahmanic; and
Paracelsus secured his knowledge of them from Oriental sages with whom he came in contact during his
lifetime of philosophical wanderings. The Egyptians and Greeks gleaned their information from the
same source. The four main divisions of Nature spirits must now be considered separately, according to
the teachings of Paracelsus and the Abbé de Villars and such scanty writings of other authors as are

From the book
by Manly P. Hall
[1928, copyright not renewed]

click here to continue reading Part 2...



At 14:35, Anonymous Anonymous said...

found you site over misterwong... but one question do you have twitter or facebook, where i can be connected with you blog...? thanks

At 10:48, Blogger Mitch said...


Post a Comment

<< Home