M&D-C25 – Knight Of The Brazen Serpent (b)

Albert Pike – Morals and Dogma

Page 480

Setting out from the sign Taurus, Isis, as the Moon, went seeking for Osiris through all the superior signs, in each of which she became full in the successive months from the Autumnal to the Vernal Equinox, without finding him in either. Let us follow her in her allegorical wanderings.

Osiris was slain by Typhon his rival, with whom conspired a Queen of Ethiopia, by whom, says Plutarch, were designated the winds. The paranatellons of Scorpio, the sign occupied by the Sun when Osiris was slain, were the Serpents, reptiles which supplied the attributes of the Evil Genii and of Typhon, who himself bore the form of a serpent in the Egyptian planisphere. And in the division of Scorpio is also found Cassiopeia, Queen of Ethiopia, whose setting brings stormy winds.

Osiris descended to the shades or infernal regions. There he took the name of Serapis, identical with Pluto, and assumed his nature. He was then in conjunction with Serpentarius, identical with Æsculapius, whose form he took in his passage to the lower signs, where he takes the names of Pluto and Ades.

Then Isis wept for the death of Osiris, and the golden bull covered with crape was carried in procession. Nature mourned the impending loss of her Summer glories, and the advent of the empire of night, the withdrawing of the waters, made fruitful by the Bull in Spring, the cessation of the winds that brought rains to swell the Nile, the shortening of the days, and the despoiling of the earth. Then Taurus, directly opposite the Sun, entered into the cone of shadow which the earth projects, by which the Moon is eclipsed at full, and with which, making night, the Bull rises and descends as if covered with a veil, while he remains above our horizon.

The body of Osiris, enclosed in a chest or coffin, was cast into the Nile. Pan and the Satyrs, near Chemmis, first discovered his death, announced it by their cries, and everywhere created sorrow and alarm. Taurus, with the full Moon, then entered into the cone of shadow, and under him was the Celestial River, most properly called the Nile, and below, Perseus, the God of Chemmis, and Auriga, leading a she-goat, himself identical with Pan, whose wife Aiga the she-goat was styled.

Page 481

Then Isis went in search of the body. She first met certain children who had seen it, received from them their information, and gave them in return the gift of divination. The second full Moon occurred in Gemini, the Twins, who presided over the oracles of Didymus, and one of whom was Apollo, the God of Divination.

She learned that Osiris had, through mistake, had connection with her sister Nephte, which she discovered by a crown of leaves of the melilot, which he had left behind him. Of this connection a child was born, whom Isis, aided by her dogs, sought for, found, reared, and attached to herself, by the name of Anubis, her faithful guardian. The third full Moon occurs in Cancer, domicile of the Moon. The paranatellons of that sign are, the crown of Ariadne or Proserpine, made of leaves of the melilot, Procyon and Canis Major, one star of which was called the Star of Isis, while Sirius himself was honored in Egypt under the name of Anubis.

Isis repaired to Byblos, and seated herself near a fountain, where she was found by the women of the Court of a King. She was induced to visit his Court, and became the nurse of his son. The fourth full Moon was in Leo, domicile of the Sun, or of Adonis, King of Byblos. The paranatellons of this sign are the flowing water of Aquarius, and Cepheus, King of Ethiopia, called Regulus, or simply The King. Behind him rise Cassiopeia his wife, Queen of Ethiopia, Andromeda his daughter, and Perseus his son-in-law, all paranatellons in part of this sign, and in part of Virgo.

Isis suckled the child, not at her breast, but with the end of her finger, at night. She burned all the mortal parts of its body, and then, taking the shape of a swallow, she flew to the great column of the palace, made of the tamarisk-tree that grew up round the coffin containing the body of Osiris, and within which it was still enclosed. The fifth full Moon occurred in Virgo, the true image of Isis, and which Eratosthenes calls by that name. It pictured a woman suckling an infant, the son of Isis, born near the Winter Solstice. This sign has for paranatellons the mast of the Celestial Ship, and the swallow-tailed fish or swallow above it, and a portion of Perseus, son-in-law of the King of Ethiopia.

Page 482

Isis, having recovered the sacred coffer, sailed from Byblos in a vessel with the eldest son of the King, toward Boutos, where Anubis was, having charge of her son Horus; and in the morning dried up a river, whence arose a strong wind. Landing, she hid the coffer in a forest. Typhon, hunting a wild boar by moonlight, discovered it, recognized the body of his rival, and cut it into fourteen pieces, the number of days between the full and new Moon, and in every one of which days the Moon loses a portion of the light that at the commencement filled her whole disk. The sixth full Moon occurred in Libra, over the divisions separating which from Virgo are the Celestial Ship, Perseus, son of the King of Ethiopia and Boötes, said to have nursed Horus. The river of Orion that sets in the morning is also a paranatellon of Libra, as are Ursa Major, the Great Bear or Wild Boar of Erymanthus, and the Dragon of the North Pole, or the celebrated Python from which the attributes of Typhon were borrowed. All these surround the full Moon of Libra, last of the Superior Signs, and the one that precedes the new Moon of Spring, about to be reproduced in Taurus, and there be once more in conjunction with the Sun.

Isis collects the scattered fragments of the body of Osiris, buries them, and consecrates the phallus, carried in pomp at the Pamylia, or feasts of the Vernal Equinox, at which time the congress of Osiris and the Moon was celebrated. Then Osiris had returned from the shades, to aid Horus his son and Isis his wife against the forces of Typhon. He thus reappeared, say some, under the form of a wolf, or, others say, under that of a horse. The Moon, fourteen days after she is full in Libra, arrives at Taurus and unites herself to the Sun, whose fires she thereafter for fourteen days continues to accumulate on her disk from new Moon to full. Then she unites with herself all the months in that superior portion of the world where light always reigns, with harmony and order, and she borrows from him the force which is to destroy the germs of evil that Typhon had, during the winter, planted everywhere in nature. This passage of the Sun into Taurus, whose attributes he assumes on his return from the lower hemisphere or the shades, is marked by the rising in the evening of the Wolf and the Centaur, and by the heliacal setting of Orion, called the Star of Horns, and which thenceforward is in conjunction with the Sun of Spring, in his triumph over the darkness or Typhon.

Page 483

Isis, during the absence of Osiris, and after she had hidden the coffer in the place where Typhon found it, had rejoined that malignant enemy; indignant at which, Horns her son deprived her of her ancient diadem, when she rejoined Osiris as he was about to attack Typhon: but Mercury gave her in its place a helmet shaped like the head of a bull. Then Horus, as a mighty warrior, such as Orion was described, fought with and defeated Typhon; who, in the shape of the Serpent or Dragon of the Pole, had assailed his father. So, in Ovid, Apollo destroys the same Python, when Io, fascinated by Jupiter, is metamorphosed into a cow, and placed in the sign of the Celestial Bull, where she becomes Isis. The equinoctial year ends at the moment when the Sun and Moon, at the Vernal Equinox, are united with Orion, the Star of Horus, placed in the Heavens under Taurus. The new Moon becomes young again in Taurus, and shows herself as a crescent, for the first time, in the next sign, Gemini, the domicile of Mercury. Then Orion, in conjunction with the Sun, with whom he rises, precipitates the Scorpion, his rival, into the shades of night, causing him to set whenever he himself reappears on the eastern horizon, with the Sun. Day lengthens and the germs of evil are by degrees eradicated: and Horus (from Aur, Light) reigns triumphant, symbolizing, by his succession to the characteristics of Osiris, the eternal renewal of the Sun's youth and creative vigor at the Vernal Equinox.

Such are the coincidences of astronomical phenomena with the legend of Osiris and Isis; sufficing to show the origin of the legend, overloaded as it became at length with all the ornamentation natural to the poetical and figurative genius of the Orient.

Not only into this legend, but into those of all the ancient nations, enter the Bull, the Lamb, the Lion, and the Scorpion or the Serpent; and traces of the worship of the Sun yet linger in all religions. Everywhere, even in our Order, survive the equinoctial and solstitial feasts. Our ceilings still glitter with the greater and lesser luminaries of the Heavens, and our lights, in their number and arrangement, have astronomical references. In all churches and chapels, as in all Pagan temples and pagodas, the altar is in the East; and the ivy over the east windows of old churches is the Hedera Helix of Bacchus. Even the cross had an astronomical origin; and our Lodges are full of the ancient symbols.

The learned author of the Sabæan Researches, Landseer, advances another theory in regard to the legend of Osiris; in which he makes the constellation Boötes play a leading part. He observes that, as none of the stars were visible at the same time with the Sun, his actual place in the Zodiac, at any given time, could only be ascertained by the Sabæan astronomers by their observations of the stars, and of their heliacal and achronical risings and settings. There were many solar festivals among the Sabæans, and part of them agricultural ones; and the concomitant signs of those festivals were the risings and settings of the stars of the Husbandman, Bear-driver, or Hunter, BOÖTES. His stars were, among the Hierophants, the established nocturnal indices or signs of the Sun's place in the ecliptic at different seasons of the year, and the festivals were named, one, that of the Aphanism or disappearance; another, that of the Zetesis, or search, etc., of Osiris or Adonis, that is, of Boötes.

Page 484

The returns of certain stars, as connected with their concomitant seasons of spring (or seed-time) and harvest, seemed to the ancients, who had not yet discovered that gradual change, resulting from the apparent movement of the stars in longitude, which has been termed the precession of the equinoxes, to be eternal and immutable; and those periodical returns were to the initiated, even more than to the vulgar, celestial oracles, announcing the approach of those important changes, upon which the prosperity, and even the very existence of man must ever depend; and the oldest of the Sabæan constellations seem to have been, an astronomicalPriest, a King, a Queen, a Husbandman, and a Warrior; and these more frequently recur on the Sabæan cylinders than any other constellations whatever. The Kingwas Cepheus or Chepheus of Ethiopia: the Husbandman, Osiris, Bacchus, Sabazeus, Noah or Boötes. To the latter sign, the Egyptians were nationally, traditionally and habitually grateful; for they conceived that from Osiris all the greatest of terrestrial enjoyments were derived. The stars of the Husbandman were the signal for those successive agricultural labors on which the annual produce of the soil depended; and they came in consequence to be considered and hailed, in Egypt and Ethiopia, as the genial stars of terrestrial productiveness; to which the oblations, prayers, and vows of the pious Sabæan were regularly offered up.

Landseer says that the stars in Boötes, reckoning down to those of the 5th magnitude inclusive, are twenty-six, which, seeming achronically to disappear in succession, produced the fable of the cutting of Osiris into twenty-six pieces by Typhon. There are more stars than this in the constellation; but no more that the ancient votaries of Osiris, even in the clear atmosphere of the Sabæan climates, could observe without telescopes.

Plutarch says Osiris was cut into fourteen pieces: Diodorus, into twenty-six; in regard to which, and to the whole legend, Landseer's ideas, varying from those commonly entertained, are as follows:

Page 485

Typhon, Landseer thinks, was the ocean, which the ancients fabled or believed surrounded the Earth, and into which all the stars in their turn appear successively to sink; [perhaps it was DARKNESS personified, which the ancients called TYPHON. He was hunting by moonlight, says the old legend, when he met with Osiris].

The ancient Saba must have been near latitude 15° north. Axoum is nearly in 14°, and the Western Saba or Meroe is to the north of that. Forty-eight centuries ago, Aldebarán, the leading star of the year, had, at the Vernal Equinox, attained at daylight in the morning, an elevation of about 14 degrees, sufficient for him to have ceased to be combust, that is, to have emerged from the Sun's rays, so as to be visible. The ancients allowed twelve days for a star of the first magnitude to emerge from the solar rays; and there is less twilight, the further South we go.

At the same period, too, Cynosura was not the pole-star, but Alpha Draconis was; and the stars rose and set with very different degrees of obliquity from those of their present risings and settings. By having a globe constructed with circumvolving poles, capable of any adjustment with regard to the colures, Mr. Landseer ascertained that, at that remote period, in lat. 15° north, the 26 stars in Boötes, or 27, including Arcturus, did not set anchronically in succession; but several set simultaneously in couples, and six by threes simultaneously; so that, in all, there were but fourteen separate settings or disappearances, corresponding with thefourteen pieces into which Osiris was cut, according to Plutarch. Kappa, Iota, and Theta, in the uplifted western hand, disappeared together, and last of all. They really skirted the horizon; but were invisible in that low latitude, for the three or four days mentioned in some of the versions; while the Zetesis or search was proceeding, and the women of Phœnicia and Jerusalem sat weeping for the Wonder, Thammuz; after which they immediately reappeared, below and to the eastward of α Draconis.

And, on the very morning after the achronical departure of the last star of the Husbandman, Aldebarán rose heliacally, and became visible in the East in the morning before day.

And precisely at the moment of the heliacal rising of Arcturus, also rose Spica Virginis. One is near the middle of the Husbandman, and the other near that of the Virgin; and Arcturus may have been the part of Osiris which Isis did not recover with the other pieces of the body.

Page 486

At Dedan and Saba it was thirty-six days, from the beginning of the aphanism, i.e., the disappearances of these stars, to the heliacal rising of Aldebarán. During these days, or forty at Medina, or a few more at Babylon and Byblos, the stars of the Husbandman successively sank out of sight, during the crepusculum or short-lived morning twilight of those Southern climes. They disappear during the glancings of the dawn, the special season of ancient sidereal observation.

Thus the forty days of mourning for Osiris were measured out by the period of the departure of his Stars. When the last had sunken out of sight, the vernal season was ushered in; and the Sun arose with the splendid Aldebarán, the Tauric leader of the Hosts of Heaven; and the whole East rejoiced and kept holiday.

With the exception of the Stars χ, ι and δ, Boötes did not begin to reappear in the Eastern quarter of the Heavens till after the lapse of about four months. Then the Stars of Taurus had declined Westward, and Virgo was rising heliacally. In that latitude, also, the Stars of Ursa Major [termed anciently the Ark of Osiris] set; and Benetnasch, the last of them, returned to the Eastern horizon, with those in the head of Leo, a little before the Summer Solstice. In about a month, followed the Stars of the Husbandman; the chief of them, Ras, Mirach, and Arcturus, being very nearly simultaneous in their heliacal rising.

Thus the Stars of Boötes rose in the East immediately after Vindemiatrix, and as if under the genial influence of its rays; he had his annual career of prosperity; he revelled orientally for a quarter of a year, and attained his meridian altitude with Virgo; and then, as the Stars of the Water-Urn rose, and Aquarius began to pour forth his annual deluge, he declined Westward, preceded by the Ark of Osiris. In the East, he was the sign of that happiness in which Nature, the great Goddess of passive production, rejoiced. Now, in the West, as he declines toward the Northwestern horizon, his generative vigor gradually abates; the Solar year grows old; and as his Stars descend beneath the Western Wave, Osiris dies, and the world mourns.

Page 487

The Ancient Astronomers saw all the great Symbols of Masonry in the Stars. Sirius still glitters in our Lodges as the Blazing Star, (l’Etoile Flamboyante). The Sun is still symbolized by the point within a Circle; and, with the Moon and Mercury or Anubis, in the three Great Lights of the Lodge. Not only to these, but to the figures and numbers exhibited by the Stars, were ascribed peculiar and divine powers. The veneration paid to numbers had its source there. The three Kings in Orion are in a straight line, and equidistant from each other, the two extreme Stars being 3° apart, and each of the three distant from the one nearest it 1° 30'. And as the number three is peculiar to apprentices, so the straight line is the first principle of Geometry, having length but no breadth, and being but the extension of a point, and an emblem of Unity, and thus of Good, as the divided or broken line is of Duality or Evil. Near these Stars are the Hyades, five in number, appropriate to the Fellow-Craft; and close to them the Pleiades, of the master's number, seven; and thus these three sacred numbers, consecrated in Masonry as they were in the Pythagorean philosophy, always appear together in the Heavens, when the Bull, emblem of fertility and production, glitters among the Stars, and Aldebarán leads the Hosts of Heaven (Tsbauth).

Algenib in Perseus and Almaach and Algol in Andromeda form a right-angled triangle, illustrate the 47th problem, and display the Grand Master's square upon the skies. Denebola in Leo, Arcturus in Boötes, and Spica in Virgo form an equilateral triangle, universal emblem of Perfection, and the Deity with His Trinity of Infinite Attributes, Wisdom, Power, and Harmony; and that other, the generative, preserving, and destroying Powers. The Three Kings form, with Rigel in Orion, two triangles included in one: and Capella and Menkalina in Auriga, with Bellatrix and Betelgueux in Orion, form two isosceles triangles with β Tauri, that is equidistant from each pair; while the first four make a right-angled parallelogram, – the oblong square so often mentioned in our Degrees.

Julius Firmicus, in his description of the Mysteries, says, "But in those funerals and lamentations which are annually celebrated in honor of Osiris, their defenders pretend a physical reason. They call the seeds of fruit, Osiris; the Earth, Isis; the natural heat, Typhon: and because the fruits are ripened by the natural heat, and collected for the life of man, and are separated from their marriage to the earth, and are sown again when Winter approaches, this they would have to be the death of Osiris: but when the fruits, by the genial fostering of the earth, begin again to be generated by a new procreation, this is the finding of Osiris."

Page 488

No doubt the decay of vegetation and the falling of the leaves, emblems of dissolution and evidences of the action of that Power that changes Life into Death, in order to bring Life again out of Death, were regarded as signs of that Death that seemed coming upon all Nature; as the springing of leaves and buds and flowers in the spring was a sign of restoration to life: but these were all secondary, and referred to the Sun as first cause. It was his figurative death that was mourned, and not theirs; and that with that death, as with his return to life, many of the stars were connected.

We have already alluded to the relations which the twelve signs of the Zodiac bear to the legend of the Master's Degree. Some other coincidences may have sufficient interest to warrant mention.

Khir-Om was assailed at the East, West, and South Gates of the Temple. The two equinoxes were called, we have seen, by all the Ancients, the Gates of Heaven, and the Syrians and Egyptians considered the Fish (the Constellation near Aquarius, and one of the Stars whereof is Fomalhaut) to be indicative of violence and death.

Khir-Om lay several days in the grave; and, at the Winter Solstice, for five or six days, the length of the days did not perceptibly increase. Then, the Sun commencing again to climb Northward, as Osiris was said to arise from the dead, so Khir-Om was raised, by the powerful attraction of the Lion (Leo), who waited for him at the Summer Solstice, and drew him to himself.

The names of the three assassins may have been adopted from three Stars that we have already named. We search in vain in the Hebrew or Arabic for the namesJubelo, Jubela, and Jubelum. They embody an utter absurdity, and are capable of no explanation in those languages. Nor are the names Gibs, Gravelot, Hobhen, and the like, in the Ancient and Accepted Rite, any more plausible, or better referable to any ancient language. But when, by the precession of the Equinoxes, the Sun was in Libra at the Autumnal Equinox, he met in that sign, where the reign of Typhon commenced, three Stars forming a triangle, Zuben-es Chamali in the West,Zuben-Hak-Rabi in the East, and Zuben-El-Gubi in the South, the latter immediately below the Tropic of Capricorn, and so within the realm of Darkness. From these names, those of the murderers have perhaps been corrupted. In Zuben-Hak-Rabi we may see the original of Jubelum Akirop; and in Zuben-El-Gubi, that of Jubelo Gibs: and time and ignorance may even have transmuted the words Es Chamali into one as little like them as Gravelot.

Page 489

Isis, the Moon personified, sorrowing sought for her husband. Nine or twelve Fellow-Crafts (the Rites vary as to the number), in white aprons, were sent to search for Khir-Om, in the Legend of the Master's Degree; or, in this Rite, the Nine Knights Elu. Along the path that the Moon travels are nine conspicuous Stars, by which nautical men determine their longitude at Sea; – Arietis, Aldebarán, Pollux, Regulus, Spica Virginis, Antares, Altair, Fomalhaut, and Markab. These might well be said to accompany Isis in her search.

In the York Rite, twelve Fellow-Crafts were sent to search for the body of Khir-Om and the murderers. Their number corresponds with that of the Pleiades and Hyades in Taurus, among which Stars the Sun was found when Light began to prevail over Darkness, and the Mysteries were held. These Stars, we have shown, received early and particular attention from the astronomers and poets. The Pleiades were the Stars of the ocean to the benighted mariner; the. Virgins of Spring, heralding the season of blossoms.

As six Pleiades only are now visible, the number twelve may have been obtained by them, with Aldebarán, and five far more brilliant Stars than any other of the Hyades, in the same region of the Heavens, and which were always spoken of in connection with the Pleiades; – the Three Kings in the belt of Orion, and Bellatrix and Betelgueux on his shoulders; brightest of the flashing starry hosts.

"Canst thou," asks Job, "bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion?" And in the book of Amos we find these Stars connected with the victory of Light over Darkness: "Seek Him," says that Seer, "that maketh the Seven Stars (the familiar name of the Pleiades), and Orion, AND TURNETH THE SHADOW OF DEATH INTO MORNING."

An old legend in Masonry says that a dog led the Nine this to the cavern where Abiram was hid. Boötes was anciently called Caleb Anubach, a Barking Dog; and was personified in Anubis, who bore the head of a dog, and aided Isis in her search. Arcturus, one of his Stars, fiery red, as if fervent and zealous, is also connected by Job with the Pleiades and Orion. When Taurus opened the year, Arcturus rose after the Sun, at the time of the Winter Solstice, and seemed searching him through the darkness, until, sixty days afterward, he rose at the same hour, Orion then also, at the Winter Solstice, rose at noon, and at night seemed to be in search of the Sun.

Page 490

So, referring again to the time when the Sun entered the Autumnal Equinox, there are nine remarkable Stars that come to the meridian nearly at the same time, rising as Libra sets, and so seeming to chase that Constellation. They are Capella and Menkalina in the Charioteer, Aldebarán in Taurus, Bellatrix, Betelgueux, the Three Kings, and Rigel in Orion. Aldebarán passes the meridian first, indicating his right to .his peculiar title of Leader. Nowhere in the heavens are there, near the same meridian, so many splendid Stars. And close behind them, but further South, follows Sirius, the Dog-Star, who showed the nine Elus the way to the murderer's cave.

Besides the division of the signs into the ascending and descending series (referring to the upward and downward progress of the soul), the latter from Cancer to Capricorn, and the former from Capricorn to Cancer, there was another division of them not less important; that of the six superior and six inferior signs; the former, 2455 years before our era, from Taurus to Scorpio, and 300 years before our era, from Aries to Libra; and the latter, 2455 years B. C. from Scorpio to Taurus, and 300 years B. C. from Libra to Aries; of which we have already spoken, as the two Hemispheres, or Kingdoms of Good and Evil, Light and Darkness; of Ormuzd and Ahriman among the Persians, and Osiris and Typhon among the Egyptians.

With the Persians, the first six Genii, created by Ormuzd, presided over the first six signs, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, and Virgo: and the six evil Genii, or Devs, created by Ahriman, over the six others, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, and Pisces. The soul was fortunate and happy under the Empire of the first six; and began to be sensible of evil, when it passed under the Balance or Libra, the seventh sign. Thus the soul entered the realm of Evil and Darkness when it passed into the Constellations that belong to and succeed the Autumnal Equinox; and it re-entered the realm of Good and Light, when it arrived, returning, at those of the Vernal Equinox. It lost its felicity by means of the Balance, and regained it by means of the Lamb. This is a necessary consequence of the premises; and it is confirmed by the authorities and by emblems still extant.

Page 491

Sallust the Philosopher, speaking of the Feasts of Rejoicing celebrated at the Vernal Equinox, and those of Mourning, in memory of the rape of Proserpine, at the Autumnal Equinox, says that the former were celebrated, because then is effected, as it were, the return of the soul toward the Gods; that the time when the principle of Light recovered its superiority over that of Darkness, or day over night, was the most favorable one for souls that tend to re-ascend to their Principle; and that when Darkness and the Night again become victors, was most favorable to the descent of souls toward the infernal regions.

For that reason, the old astrologers, as Firmicus states, fixed the locality of the river Styx in the 8th degree of the Balance. And he thinks that by Styx was allegorically meant the earth.

The Emperor Julian gives the same explanation, but more fully developed. He states, as a reason why the august Mysteries of Ceres and Proserpine were celebrated at the Autumnal Equinox, that at that period of the year men feared lest the impious and dark power of the Evil Principle, then commencing to conquer, should do harm to their souls. They were a precaution and means of safety, thought to be necessary at the moment when the God of Light was passing into the opposite or adverse region of the world; while at the Vernal Equinox there was less to be feared, because then that God, present in one portion of the world, recalled souls to Him, he says, and showed Himself to be their Saviour. He had a little before developed that theological idea, of the attractive force which the Sun exercises over souls, drawing them to him and raising them to his luminous sphere. He attributes this effect to him at the feasts of Atys, dead and restored to life, or the feasts of Rejoicing, which at the end of three days succeeded the mourning for that death; and he inquires why those Mysteries were celebrated at the Vernal Equinox. The reason, he says, is evident. As the sun, arriving at the equinoctial point of Spring, drawing nearer to us, increases the length of the days, that period seems most appropriate for those ceremonies. For, besides that there is a great affinity between the substance of Light and the nature of the Gods, the Sun has that occult force of attraction, by which he draws matter toward himself, by means of his warmth, making plants to shoot and grow, etc.; and why can he not, by the same divine and pure action of his rays, attract and draw to him fortunate souls? Then, as light is analogous to the Divine Nature, and favorable to souls. struggling to return to their First Principle, and as that light so increases at the Vernal Equinox, that the days prevail in duration over the nights, and as the Sun has an attractive force, besides the visible energy of his rays, it follows that souls are attracted toward the solar light. He does not further pursue the explanation; because, he says, it belongs to a mysterious doctrine, beyond the reach of the vulgar and known only to those who understand the mode of action of Deity, like the Chaldæan author whom he cites, who had treated of the Mysteries of Light, or the God with seven rays.

Page 492

Souls, the Ancients held, having emanated from the Principle of Light, partaking of its destiny here below, cannot be indifferent to nor unaffected by these revolutions of the Great Luminary, alternately victor and overcome during every Solar revolution.

This will be found to be confirmed by an examination of some of the Symbols used in the Mysteries. One of the most famous of these was THE SERPENT, the peculiar Symbol also of this Degree. The Cosmogony of the Hebrews and that of the Gnostics designated this reptile as the author of the fate of Souls. It was consecrated in the Mysteries of Bacchus and in those of Eleusis. Pluto overcame the virtue of Proserpine under the form of a serpent; and, like the Egyptian God Serapis, was always pictured seated on a serpent, or with that reptile entwined about him. It is found on the Mithriac Monuments, and supplied with attributes of Typhon to the Egyptians. The sacred basilisc, in coil, with head and neck erect, was the royal ensign of the Pharaohs. Two of them were entwined around and hung suspended from the winged Globe on the Egyptian Monuments. On a tablet in one of the Tombs at Thebes, a God with a spear pierces a serpent's head. On a tablet from the Temple of Osiris at Philæ is a tree, with a man on one side, and a woman on the other, and in front of the woman an erect basilisc, with horns on its head and a disk between the horns. The head of Medusa was encircled by winged snakes, which, the head removed, left the Hierogram or Sacred Cypher of the Ophites or Serpent-worshippers. And the Serpent, in connection with the Globe or circle, is found upon the monuments of all the Ancient Nations.

Page 493

Over Libra, the sign through which souls were said to descend or fall, is found, on the Celestial Globe, the Serpent, grasped by Serpentarius, the Serpent-bearer. The head of the reptile is under Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, called by Ovid, Libera, or Proserpine; and the two Constellations rise, with the Balance, after the Virgin (or Isis), whose feet rest on the eastern horizon at Sunrise on the day of the equinox. As the Serpent extends over both signs, Libra and Scorpio, it has been the gate through which souls descend, during the whole time that those two signs in succession marked the Autumnal Equinox. To this alluded the Serpent, which, in the Mysteries of Bacchus Saba-Zeus, was flung into the bosom of the Initiate.

And hence came the enigmatical expression, the Serpent engenders the Bull, and the Bull the Serpent; alluding to the two ad-verse constellations, answering to the two equinoxes, one of which rose as the other set, and which were at the two points of the heavens through which souls passed, ascending and descending. By the Serpent of Autumn, souls fell; and they were regenerated again by the Bull on which Mithras sate, and whose attributes Bacchus-Zagreus and the Egyptian Osiris assumed, in their Mysteries, wherein were represented the fall and regeneration of souls, by the Bull slain and restored to life.

Afterward the regenerating Sun assumed the attributes of Aries or the Lamb; and in the Mysteries of Ammon, souls were regenerated by passing through that sign, after having fallen through the Serpent.

The Serpent-bearer, or Ophicus, was Æsculapius, God of Healing. In the Mysteries of Eleusis, that Constellation was placed in the eighth Heaven: and on the eighth day of those Mysteries, the feast of Æsculapius was celebrated. It was also termed Epidaurus, or the feast of the Serpent of Epidaurus. The Serpent was sacred to Æsculapius; and was connected in various ways with the mythological adventures of Ceres.

So the libations to Souls, by pouring wine on the ground, and looking toward the two gates of Heaven, those of day and night, referred to the ascent and descent of Souls.

Page 494

Ceres and the Serpent, Jupiter Ammon and the Bull, all figured in the Mysteries of Bacchus. Suppose Aries, or Jupiter Ammon occupied by the Sun setting in the West; – Virgo (Ceres) will be on the Eastern horizon, and in her train the Crown, or Proserpine. Suppose Taurus setting; – then the Serpent is in the East; and reciprocally; so that Jupiter Ammon, or the Sun of Aries, causes the Crown to rise after the Virgin, in the train of which comes the Serpent. Place reciprocally the Sun at the other equinox, with the balance in the West, in conjunction with the Serpent under the Crown; and we shall see the Bull and the Pleiades rise in the East. Thus are explained all the fables as to the generation of the Bull by the Serpent and of the Serpent by the Bull, the biting of the testicles of the Bull by the Scorpion, on the Mithriac Monuments; and that Jupiter made Ceres with child by tossing into her bosom the testicles of a Ram.

In the Mysteries of the bull-horned Bacchus, the officers held serpents in their hands, raised them above their heads, and cried aloud "Eva!" the generic oriental name of the serpent, and the particular name of the constellation in which the Persians placed Eve and the serpent. The Arabians call it Hevan, Ophiucus himself, Hawa, and the brilliant star in his head, Ras-al-Hawa. The use of this word Eva or Evoë caused Clemens of Alexandria to say that the priests in the Mysteries invoked Eve, by whom evil was brought into the world.

The mystic winnowing-fan, encircled by serpents, was used in the feasts of Bacchus. In the Isiac Mysteries a basilisc twined round the handle of the mystic vase. The Ophites fed a serpent in a mysterious ark, from which they took him when they celebrated the Mysteries, and allowed him to glide among the sacred bread. The Romans kept serpents in the Temples of Bona Dea and Æsculapius. In the Mysteries of Apollo, the pursuit of Latona by the serpent Python was represented. In the Egyptian Mysteries, the dragon Typhon pursued Isis.

According to Sanchoniathon, TAAUT, the interpreter of Heaven to men, attributed something divine to the nature of the dragon and serpents, in which die Phœnicians and Egyptians followed him. They have more vitality, more spiritual force, than any other creature; of a fiery nature, shown by the rapidity of their motions, without the limbs of other animals. They assume many shapes and attitudes, and dart with extraordinary quickness and force. When they have reached old age, they throw off that age and are young again, and increase in size and strength, for a certain period of years.

The Egyptian Priests fed the sacred serpents in the temple at Thebes. Taaut himself had in his writings discussed these mysteries in regard to the serpent. Sanchoniathon said in another work, that the serpent was immortal, and re-entered into himself; which, according to some ancient theosophists, particularly those of India, was an attribute of the Deity. And he also said that the serpent never died, unless by a violent death.

Page 495

The Phœnicians called the serpent Agathodemon [the good spirit]; and Kneph was the Serpent-God of the Egyptians.

The Egyptians, Sanchoniathon said, represented the serpent with the head of a hawk, on account of the swift flight of that bird: and the chief Hierophant, the sacred interpreter, gave very mysterious explanations of that symbol; saying that such a serpent was a very divine creature, and that, opening his eyes, he lighted with their rays the whole of first-born space: when he closes them, it is darkness again. In reality, the hawk-headed serpent, genius of light, or good genius, was the symbol of the Sun.

In the hieroglyphic characters, a snake was the letter T or DJ. It occurs many times on the Rosetta stone. The horned serpent was the hieroglyphic for a God.

According to Eusebius, the Egyptians represented the world by a blue circle, sprinkled with flames, within which was extended a serpent with the head of a hawk. Proclus says they represented the four quarters of the world by a cross, and the soul of the world, or Kneph, by a serpent surrounding it in the form of a circle.

We read in Anaxagoras, that Orpheus said, that the water, and the vessel that produced it, were the primitive principles of things, and together gave existence to an animated being, which was a serpent, with two heads, one of a lion and the other of a bull, between which was the figure of a God whose name was Hercules or Kronos: that from Hercules came the egg of the world, which produced Heaven and earth, by dividing itself into two hemispheres: and that the God Phanes, which issued from that egg, was in the shape of a serpent.

The Egyptian Goddess Ken, represented standing naked on a lion, held two serpents in her hand. She is the same as the Astarte or Ashtaroth of the Assyrians.Hera, worshipped in the Great Temple at Babylon, held in her right hand a serpent by the head; and near Khea, also worshipped there, were two large silver serpents.

In a sculpture from Kouyunjik, two serpents attached to poles are near a fire-altar, at which two eunuchs are standing. Upon it is the sacred fire, and a bearded figure leads a wild goat to the sacrifice.

Page 496

The serpent of the Temple of Epidaurus was sacred to Æsculapius, the God of Medicine, and 462 years after the building of the city, was taken to Rome after a pestilence.

The Phœnicians represented the God Nomu (Kneph or Amun-Kneph) by a serpent. In Egypt, a Sun supported by two asps was the emblem of Horhat the good genius; and the serpent with the winged globe was placed over the doors and windows of the Temples as a tutelary God. Antipater of Sidon calls Amun "the renowned Serpent," and the Cerastes is often found embalmed in the Thebaid.

On ancient Tyrian coins and Indian medals, a serpent was represented, coiled round the trunk of a tree. Python, the Serpent Deity, was esteemed oracular; and the tripod at Delphi was a triple-headed serpent of gold.

The portals of all the Egyptian Temples are decorated with the hierogram of the Circle and the Serpent. It is also found upon the Temple of Naki-Rustan in Persia; on the triumphal arch at Pechin, in China; over the gates of the great Temple of Chaundi Teeva, in Java; upon the walls of Athens; and in the Temple of Minerva at Tegea. The Mexican hierogram was formed by the intersecting of two great Serpents, which described the circle with their bodies, and had each a human head in its mouth.

All the Buddhists crosses in Ireland had serpents carved upon them. Wreaths of snakes are on the columns of the ancient Hindu Temple at Burwah-Sangor.

Among the Egyptians, it was a symbol of Divine Wisdom, when extended at length; and, with its tail in its mouth, of Eternity.

In the ritual of Zoroaster, the Serpent was a symbol of the Universe. In China, the ring between two Serpents was the symbol of the world governed by the power and wisdom of the Creator. The Bacchanals carried serpents in their hands or round their heads.

The Serpent entwined round an Egg, was a symbol common to the Indians, the Egyptians, and the Druids. It referred to the creation of the Universe. A Serpent with an egg in his mouth was a symbol of the Universe containing within itself the germ of all things that the Sun develops.

Page 497

The property possessed by the Serpent, of casting its skin, and apparently renewing its youth, made it an emblem of eternity and immortality. The Syrian women still employ it as a charm against barrenness, as did the devotees of Mithras and Saba-Zeus. The Earth-born civilizers of the early world, Fohi, Cecrops, and Erechtheus, were half-man, half-serpent. The snake was the guardian of the Athenian Acropolis. NAKHUSTAN, the brazen serpent of the wilderness, became naturalized among the Hebrews as a token of healing power. "Be ye," said Christ, "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

The Serpent was as often a symbol of malevolence and enmity. It appears among the emblems of Siva-Roudra, the power of desolation and death: it is the bane of Aëpytus, Idom, Archemorus, and Philoctetes: it gnaws the roots of the tree of life in the Eddas, and bites the heel of unfortunate Eurydice. In Hebrew writers it is generally a type of evil; and is particularly so in the Indian and Persian Mythologies. When the Sea is churned by Mount Mandar rotating within the coils of the Cosmical Serpent Vasouki, to produce the Amrita or water of immortality, the serpent vomits a hideous poison, which spreads through and infects the Universe, but which Vishnu renders harmless by swallowing it. Ahriman in serpent-form invades the realm of Ormuzd; and the Bull, emblem of life, is wounded by him and dies. It was therefore a religious obligation with every devout follower of Zoroaster to exterminate reptiles, and other impure animals, especially serpents. The moral and astronomical significance of the Serpent were connected. It became a maxim of the Zend-Avesta, that Ahriman, the Principle of Evil, made the Great Serpent of Winter, who assaulted the creation of Ormuzd.

A serpent-ring was a well-known symbol of time: and to express dramatically how time preys upon itself, the Egyptian priests fed vipers in a subterranean chamber, as it were in the sun's Winter abode on the fat of bulls, or the year's plenteousness. The dragon of Winter pursues Ammon, the golden ram, to Mount Casius. The Virgin of the zodiac is bitten in the heel by Serpens, who, with Scorpio, rises immediately behind her; and as honey, the emblem of purity and salvation, was thought to be an antidote to the serpent's bite, so the bees of Aristæus, the emblems of nature's abundance, are destroyed through the agency of the serpent, and regenerated within the entrails of the Vernal Bull.

Page 498

The Sun-God is finally victorious. Chrishna crushes the head of the serpent Calyia; Apollo destroys Python, and Hercules that Lernæan monster whose poison festered in the foot of Philoctetes, of Mopsus, of Chiron, or of Sagittarius. The infant Hercules destroys the pernicious snakes detested of the gods, and ever, like St. George of England and Michael the Archangel, wars against hydras and dragons.

The eclipses of the sun and moon were believed by the orientals to be caused by the assaults of a dæmon in dragon-form; and they endeavored to scare away the intruder by shouts and menaces. This was the original Leviathan or Crooked Serpent of old, transfixed in the olden time by the power of Jehovah, and suspended as a glittering trophy in the sky; yet also the Power of Darkness supposed to be ever in pursuit of the Sun and Moon. When it finally overtakes them, it will entwine them in its folds, and prevent their shining. In the last Indian Avatara, as in the Eddas, a serpent vomiting flames is expected to destroy the world, The serpent presides over the close of the year, where it guards the approach to the golden fleece of Aries, and the three apples or seasons of the Hesperides; presenting a formidable obstacle to the career of the Sun-God. The Great Destroyer of snakes is occasionally married to them; Hercules with the northern dragon begets the three ancestors of Scythia; for the Sun seems at one time to rise victorious from the contest with darkness, and at another to sink into its embraces. The northern constellation Draco, whose sinuosities wind like a river through the wintry bear, was made the astronomical cincture of the Universe, as the serpent encircles the mundane egg in Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The Persian Ahriman was called "The old serpent, the liar from the beginning, the Prince of Darkness, and the rover up and down." The Dragon was a well-known symbol of the waters and of great rivers; and it was natural that by the pastoral Asiatic Tribes, the powerful nations of the alluvial plains in their neighborhood who adored the dragon or Fish, should themselves be symbolized under the form of dragons; and overcome by the superior might of the Hebrew God, as monstrous Leviathans maimed and destroyed by him. Ophioneus, in the old Greek Theology, warred against Kronos, and was overcome and cast into his proper element, the sea. There he is installed as the Sea-God Oannes or Dragon, the Leviathan of the watery half of creation, the dragon who vomited a flood of water after the persecuted woman of the Apocalypse, the monster who threatened to devour Hesione and Andromeda, and who for a time became the grave of Hercules and Jonah; and he corresponds with the obscure name of Rahab, whom Jehovah is said in Job to have transfixed and overcome.

Page 499

In the Spring, the year or Sun-God appears as Mithras or Europa mounted on the Bull; but in the opposite half of the Zodiac he rides the emblem of the waters, the winged horse of Nestor or Poseidon: and the Serpent, rising heliacally at the Autumnal Equinox, besetting with poisonous influence the cold constellation Sagittarius, is explained as the reptile in the path who "bites the horse's heels, so that his rider falls backward." The same serpent, the Oannes Aphrenos or Musaros of Syncellus, was the Midgard Serpent which Odin sunk beneath the sea, but which grew to such a size as to encircle the whole earth.

For these Asiatic symbols of the contest of the Sun-God with the Dragon of darkness and Winter were imported not only into the Zodiac, but into the more homely circle of European legend; and both Thor and Odin fight with dragons, as Apollo did with Python, the great scaly snake, Achilles with the Scamander, and Bellerophon with the Chimæra. In the apocryphal book of Esther, dragons herald "a day of darkness and obscurity"; and St. George of England, a problematic Cappadocian Prince, was originally only a varying form of Mithras. Jehovah is said to have "cut Rahab and wounded the dragon." The latter is not only the type of earthly desolation, the dragon of the deep waters, but also the leader of the banded conspirators of the sky, of the rebellious stars, which, according to Enoch, "came not at the right time"; and his tail drew a third part of the Host of Heaven, and cast them to the earth. Jehovah "divided the sea by his strength, and broke the heads of the Dragons in the waters." And according to the Jewish and Persian belief, the Dragon would, in the latter days, the Winter of time, enjoy a short period of licensed impunity, which would be a season of the greatest suffering to the people of the earth; but he would finally be bound or destroyed in the great battle of Messiah; or, as it seems intimated by the Rabbinical figure of being eaten by the faithful, be, like Ahriman or Vasouki, ultimately absorbed by and united with the Principle of good.

Page 500

Near the image of Rhea, in the Temple of Bel at Babylon, were two large serpents of silver, says Diodorus, each weighing thirty talents; and in the same temple was an image of Juno, holding in her right hand the head of a serpent. The Greeks called Bel Beliar; and Hesychius interprets that word to mean a dragon or great serpent. We learn from the book of Bel and the Dragon, that in Babylon was kept a great, live serpent, which the people worshipped.

The Assyrians, the Emperors of Constantinople, the Parthians, Scythians, Saxons, Chinese, and Danes all bore the serpent as a standard, and among the spoils taken by Aurelian from Zenobia were such standards, Persici Dracones. The Persians represented Ormuzd and Ahriman by two serpents, contending for the mundane egg. Mithras is represented with a lion's head and human body, encircled by a serpent. In the Sadder is this precept: "When you kill serpents, you will repeat the Zend-Avesta, and thence you will obtain great merit; for it is the same as if you had killed so many devils."

Serpents encircling rings and globes, and issuing from globes, are common in the Persian, Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian monuments. Vishnu is represented reposing on a coiled serpent, whose folds form a canopy over him. Mahadeva is represented with a snake around his neck, one around his hair, and armlets of serpents on both arms. Bhairava sits on the coils of a serpent, whose head rises above his own. Parvati has snakes about her neck and waist. Vishnu is the Preserving Spirit, Mahadeva is Siva, the Evil Principle, Bhairava is his son, and Parvati his consort. The King of Evil Demons was called in Hindū Mythology, Naga, the King of Serpents, in which name we trace the Hebrew Nachash, serpent.

In Cashmere were seven hundred places where carved images of serpents were worshipped; and in Thibet the great Chinese Dragon ornamented the Temples of the Grand Lama. In China, the dragon was the stamp and symbol of royalty, sculptured in all the Temples, blazoned on the furniture of the houses, and interwoven with the vestments of the chief nobility. The Emperor bears it as his armorial device; it is engraved on his sceptre and diadem, and on all the vases of the imperial palace. The Chinese believe that there is a dragon of extraordinary strength and sovereign power, in Heaven, in the air, on the waters, and on the mountains. The God Fohi is said to have had the form of a man, terminating in the tail of a snake, a combination to be more fully explained to you in a subsequent Degree.

Page 501

The dragon and serpent are the 5th and 6th signs of the Chinese Zodiac; and the Hindus and Chinese believe that, at every eclipse, the sun or moon is seized by a huge serpent or dragon, the serpent Asootee of the Hindus, which enfolds the globe and the constellation Draco; to which also refers "the War in Heaven, when Michael and his Angels fought against the dragon."

Sanchoniathon says that Taaut was the author of the worship of serpents among the Phœnicians. He "consecrated," he says, "the species of dragons and serpents; and the Phœnicians and Egyptians followed him in this superstition." He was "the first who made an image of Cœlus"; that is; who represented the Heavenly Hosts of Stars by visible symbols; and was probably the same as the Egyptian Thoth. On the Tyrian coins of the age of Alexander, serpents are represented in many positions and attitudes, coiled around trees, erect in front of altars, and crushed by the Syrian Hercules.

The seventh letter of the Egyptian alphabet, called Zeuta or Life, was sacred to Thoth, and was expressed by a serpent standing on his tail; and that Deity, the God of healing, like Æsculapius, to whom the serpent was consecrated, leans on a knotted stick around which coils a snake. The Isiac tablet, describing the Mysteries of Isis, is charged with serpents in every part, as her emblems. The Asp was specially dedicated to her, and is seen on the heads of her statues, on the bonnets of her priests, and on the tiaras of the Kings of Egypt. Serapis was sometimes represented with a human head and serpentine tail: and in one engraving two minor Gods are represented with him, one by a serpent with a bull's head, and the other by a serpent with the radiated head of a lion.

On an ancient sacrificial vessel found in Denmark, having several compartments, a serpent is represented attacking a kneeling boy, pursuing him, retreating before him, appealed to beseechingly by him, and conversing with him. We are at once reminded of the Sun at the new year represented by a child sitting on a lotus, and of the relations of the Sun of Spring with the Autumnal Serpent, pursued by and pursuing him, and in conjunction with him. Other figures on this vessel belong to the Zodiac.

Page 502

The base of the tripod of the Pythian Priestess was a triple-headed serpent of brass, whose body, folded in circles growing wider and wider toward the ground, formed a conical column, while the three heads, disposed triangularly, upheld the tripod of gold. A similar column was placed on a pillar in the Hippodrome at Constantinople, by the founder of that city; one of the heads of which is said to have been broken off by Mahomet the Second, by a blow with his iron mace.

The British God Hu was called "The Dragon – Ruler of the World," and his car was drawn by serpents. His ministers were styled adders. A Druid in a poem of Taliessin says, "I am a Druid, I am an Architect, I am a Prophet, I am a Serpent (Gnadi)." The Car of the Goddess Ceridwen also was drawn by serpents.

In the elegy of Uther Pendragon, this passage occurs in a description of the religious rites of the Druids: "While the Sanctuary is earnestly invoking The Gliding King, before whom the Fair One retreats, upon the evil that covers the huge stones; whilst the Dragon moves round over the places which contain vessels of drink-offering, whilst the drink-offering is in the Golden Horns;" in which we readily discover the mystic and obscure allusion to the Autumnal Serpent pursuing the Sun along the circle of the Zodiac, to the celestial cup or crater, and the Golden horns of Virgil's milk-white Bull; and, a line or two further on, we find the Priest imploring the victorious Beli, the Sun-God of the Babylonians.

With the serpent, in the Ancient Monuments, is very often found associated the Cross. The Serpent upon a Cross was an Egyptian Standard. It occurs repeatedly upon the Grand Stair-case of the Temple of Osiris at Philæ; and on the pyramid of Ghizeh are represented two kneeling figures erecting a Cross, on the top of which is a serpent erect. The Crux Ansata was a Cross with a coiled Serpent above it; and it is perhaps the most common of all emblems on the Egyptian Monuments, carried in the hand of almost every figure of a Deity or a Priest. It was, as we learn by the monuments, the form of the iron tether-pins, used for making fast to the ground the cords by which young animals were confined: and as used by shepherds, became a symbol of Royalty to the Shepherd Kings.

A Cross like a Teutonic or Maltese one, formed by four curved lines within a circle, is also common on the Monuments, and represented the Tropics and the Colures.

Page 503

The Caduceus, borne by Hermes or Mercury, and also by Cybele, Minerva, Anubis, Hercules Ogmius the God of the Celts, and the personified Constellation Virgo, was a winged wand, entwined by two serpents. It was originally a simple Cross, symbolizing the equator and equinoctial Colure, and the four elements proceeding from a common centre. This Cross, surmounted by a circle, and that by a crescent, became an emblem of the Supreme Deity – or of the active power of generation and the passive power of production conjoined, – and was appropriated to Thoth or Mercury. It then assumed an improved form, the arms of the Cross being changed into wings, and the circle and crescent being formed by two snakes, springing from the wand, forming a circle by crossing each other, and their heads making the horns of the crescent; in which form it is seen in the hands of Anubis.

The triple Tau, in the centre of a circle and a triangle, typifies the Sacred Name; and represents the Sacred Triad, the Creating, Preserving, and Destroying Powers; as well as the three great lights of Masonry. If to the Masonic point within a Circle, and the two parallel lines, we add the single Tau Cross, we have the Ancient Egyptian Triple Tau.

A column in the form of a cross, with a circle over it, was used by the Egyptians to measure the increase of the inundations of the Nile. The Tau and Triple Tau are found in many Ancient Alphabets.

With the Tau or the Triple Tau may be connected, within two circles, the double cube, or perfection; or the perfect ashlar.

The Crux Ansata is found on the sculptures of Khorsabad; on the ivories from Nimroud, of the same age, carried by an Assyrian Monarch; and on cylinders of the later Assyrian period.

As the single Tau represents the one God, so, no doubt, the Triple Tau, the origin of which cannot be traced, was meant to represent the Trinity of his attributes, the three Masonic pillars, WISDOM, STRENGTH, and HARMONY.

The Prophet Ezekiel, in the 4th verse of the 9th chapter, says: "And the Lord said unto him, 'Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and mark the letter TAU upon the foreheads of those that sigh and mourn for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof." So the Latin Vulgate, and the probably most ancient copies of the Septuagint translate the passage. This Tau was in the form of the cross of this Degree, and it was the emblem of life andsalvation. The Samaritan Tau and the Ethiopic Tavvi are the evident prototype of the Greek τ; and we learn from Tertullian, Origen, and St. Jerome, that the Hebrew Tau was anciently written in the form of a Cross.

Page 504

In ancient times the mark Tau was set on those who had been acquitted by their judges, as a symbol of innocence. The military commanders placed it on soldiers who escaped unhurt from the field of battle, as a sign of their safety under the Divine Protection.

It was a sacred symbol among the Druids. Divesting a tree of part of its branches, they left it in the shape of a Tau Cross, preserved it carefully, and consecrated it with solemn ceremonies. On the tree they cut deeply the word THAU, by which they meant God. On the right arm of the Cross, they inscribed the word HESULS, on the left BELEN or BELENUS, and on the middle of the trunk THARAMIS. This represented the sacred Triad.

It is certain that the Indians, Egyptians, and Arabians paid veneration to the sign of the Cross, thousands of years before the coming of Christ. Everywhere it was a sacred symbol. The Hindus and the Celtic Druids built many of their Temples in the form of a Cross, as the ruins still remaining clearly show, and particularly the ancient Druidical Temple at Classerniss in the Island of Lewis in Scotland. The Circle is of 12 Stones. On each of the sides, east, west, and south, are three. In the centre was the image of the Deity; and on the north an avenue of twice nineteen stones, and one at the entrance. The Supernal Pagoda at Benares is in the form of a Cross; and the Druidical subterranean grotto at New Grange in Ireland.

The Statue of Osiris at Rome had the same emblem. Isis and Ceres also bore it; and the caverns of initiation were constructed in that shape with a pyramid over theSacellum.

Crosses were cut in the stones of the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria; and many Tau Crosses are to be seen in the sculptures of Alabastion and Esné, in Egypt. On coins, the symbol of the Egyptian God Kneph was a Cross within a Circle.

The Crux Ansata was the particular emblem of Osiris, and his sceptre ended with that figure. It was also the emblem of Hermes, and was considered a Sublime Hieroglyphic, possessing mysterious powers and virtues, as a wonder-working amulet.

Page 505

The Sacred Tau occurs in the hands of the mummy-shaped figures between the forelegs of the row of Sphynxes, in the great avenue leading from Luxor to Karnac. By the Tau Cross the Cabalists expressed the number 10, a perfect number, denoting Heaven, and the Pythagorean Tetractys, or incommunicable name of God. The Taft Cross is also found on the stones in front of the door of the Temple of Amunoth III, at Thebes, who reigned about the time when the Israelites took possession of Canaan: and the Egyptian Priests carried it in all the sacred processions.

Tertullian, who had been initiated, informs us that the Tau was inscribed on the forehead of every person who had been admitted into the Mysteries of Mithras.

As the simple Tau represented Life, so, when the Circle, symbol of Eternity, was added, it represented Eternal Life.

At the Initiation of a King, the Tau, as the emblem of life and key of the Mysteries, was impressed upon his lips.

In the Indian Mysteries, the Tau Cross, under the name of Tiluk, was marked upon the body of the candidate, as a sign that he was set apart for the Sacred Mysteries.

On the upright tablet of the King, discovered at Nimroud, are the names of thirteen Great Gods (among which are YAV and BEL); and the left-hand character of every one is a cross composed of two cuneiform characters.

The Cross appears upon an Ancient Phœnician medal found in the ruins of Citium; on the very ancient Buddhist Obelisk near Ferns in Ross-shire; on the Buddhist Round Towers in Ireland, and upon the splendid obelisk of the same era at Forres in Scot-land.

Upon the facade of a temple at Kalabche in Nubia are three regal figures, each holding a Crux Ansata.

Like the Subterranean Mithriatic Temple at New Grange in Scotland, the Pagodas of Benares and Mathura were in the form of a Cross. Magnificent Buddhist Crosses were erected, and are still standing, at Clonmacnoise, Finglas, and Kilcullen in Ireland. Wherever the monuments of Buddhism are found, in India, Ceylon, or Ireland, we find the Cross: for Buddha or Boudh was represented to have been crucified.

All the planets known to the Ancients were distinguished by the Mystic Cross, in conjunction with the solar or lunar symbols; Saturn by a cross over a crescent, Jupiter by a cross under a crescent, Mars by a cross resting obliquely on a circle, Venus by a cross under a circle, and Mercury by a cross surmounted by a circle and that by a crescent.

Page 506

The Solstices, Cancer and Capricorn, the two Gates of Heaven, are the two pillars of Hercules, beyond which he, the Sun, never journeyed: and they still appear in our Lodges, as the two great columns, Jachin and Boaz, and also as the two parallel lines that bound the circle, with a point in the centre, emblem of the Sun, between the two tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

The Blazing Star in our Lodges, we have already said, represents Sirius, Anubis, or Mercury, Guardian and Guide of Souls. Our Ancient English brethren also considered it an emblem of the Sun. In the old Lectures they said: "The Blazing Star or Glory in the centre refers us to that Grand Luminary the Sun, which enlightens the Earth, and by its genial influence dispenses blessings to mankind." It is also said in those lectures to be an emblem of Prudence. The word Prudentia means, in its original and fullest signification, Foresight: and accordingly the Blazing Star has been regarded as an emblem of Omniscience, or the All-Seeing Eye, which to the Ancients was the Sun.

Even the Dagger of the Elu of Nine is that used in the Mysteries of Mithras; which, with its blade black and hilt white, was an emblem of the two principles of Light and Darkness.

Isis, the same as Ceres, was, as we learn from Eratosthenes, the Constellation Virgo, represented by a woman holding an ear of wheat. The different emblems which accompany her in the description given by Apuleius, a serpent on either side, a golden vase, with a serpent twined round the handle, and the animals that marched in procession, the bear, the ape, and Pegasus, represented the Constellations that, rising with the. Virgin, when on the day of the Vernal Equinox she stood in the Oriental gate of Heaven, brilliant with the rays of the full moon, seemed to march in her train.

The cup, consecrated in the Mysteries both of Isis and Eleusis, was the Constellation Crater or the Cup. The sacred vessel of the Isiac ceremony finds its counterpart in the Heavens. The Olympic robe presented to the Initiate, a magnificent mantle, covered with figures of serpents and animals, and under which were twelve other sacred robes, wherewith he was clothed in the sanctuary, alluded to the starry Heaven and the twelve signs: while the seven preparatory immersions in the sea alluded to the seven spheres, through which the soul plunged, to arrive here below and take up its abode in a body.

Page 507

The Celestial Virgin, during the last three centuries that preceded the Christian era, occupied the horoscope or Oriental point, and that gate of Heaven through which the Sun and Moon ascended above the horizon at the two equinoxes. Again it occupied it at midnight, at the Winter Solstice, the precise moment when the year commenced. Thus it was essentially connected with the march of times and seasons, of the Sun, the Moon, and day and night, at the principal epochs of the year. At the equinoxes were celebrated the greater and lesser Mysteries of Ceres. When souls descended past the Balance, at the moment when the Sun occupied that point, the Virgin rose before him; she stood at the gates of day and opened them to him. Her brilliant Star, Spica Virginis, and Arcturus, in Boötes, northwest of it, heralded his coming. When he had returned to the Vernal Equinox, at the moment when souls were generated, again it was the Celestial Virgin that led the march of the signs of night; and in her stars came the beautiful full moon of that month. Night and day were in succession introduced by her, when they began to diminish in length; and souls, before arriving at the gates of Hell, were also led by her. In going through these signs, they passed the Styx in the 8th Degree of Libra. She was the famous Sibyl who initiated Eneas, and opened to him the way to the infernal regions.

This peculiar situation of the Constellation Virgo, has caused it to enter into all the sacred fables in regard to nature, under different names and the most varied forms. It often takes the name of Isis or the Moon, which, when at its full at the Vernal Equinox, was in union with it or beneath its feet. Mercury (or Anubis) having his domicile and exaltation in the sign Virgo, was, in all the sacred fables and Sanctuaries, the inseparable companion of Isis, without whose counsels she did nothing.

This relation between the emblems and mysterious recitals of the initiations, and the Heavenly bodies and order of the world, was still more clear in the Mysteries of Mithras, adored as the Sun in Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Armenia, and Persia, and whose Mysteries went to Rome in the time of Sylla. This is amply proved by the descriptions we have of the Mithriac cave, in which were figured the two movements of the Heavens, that of the fixed Stars and that of the Planets, the Constellations, the eight mystic gates of the spheres, and the symbols of the elements. So on a celebrated monument of that religion, found at Rome, were figured, the Serpent or Hydra under Leo, as in the Heavens, the Celestial Dog, the Bull, the Scorpion, the Seven Planets, represented by seven altars, the Sun, Moon, and emblems relating to Light, to Darkness, and to their succession during the year, where each in turn triumphs for six months.

Page 508

The Mysteries of Atys were celebrated when the Sun entered Aries; and among the emblems was a ram at the foot of a tree which was being cut down.

Thus, if not the whole truth, it is yet a large part of it, that the Heathen Pantheon, in its infinite diversity of names and personifications, was but a multitudinous, though in its origin unconscious allegory, of which physical phenomena, and principally the Heavenly Bodies, were the fundamental types. The glorious images of Divinity which formed Jehovah's Host, were the Divine Dynasty or real theocracy which governed the early world; and the men of the golden age, whose looks held commerce with the skies, and who watched the radiant rulers bringing Winter and Summer to mortals, might be said with poetic truth to live in immediate communication with Heaven, and, like the Hebrew Patriarchs, to see God face to face. Then the Gods introduced their own worship among mankind: then Oannes, Oe or Aquarius rose from the Red Sea to impart science to the Babylonians; then the bright Bull legislated for India and Crete; and the Lights of Heaven, personified as Liber and Ceres, hung the Bœotian hills with vine-yards, and gave the golden sheaf to Eleusis. The children of men were, in a sense, allied or married, to those sons of God who sang the jubilee of creation; and the encircling vault with its countless Stars, which to the excited imagination of the solitary Chaldæan wanderer appeared as animated intelligences, might naturally be compared to a gigantic ladder, on which, in their rising and setting, the Angel luminaries appeared to be ascending and descending between earth and Heaven. The original revelation died out of men's memories; they worshipped the Creature instead of the Creator; and holding all earthly things as connected by eternal links of harmony and sympathy with the heavenly bodies, they united in one view astronomy, astrology, and religion. Long wandering thus in error, they at length ceased to look upon the Stars and .external nature as Gods; and by directing their attention to the microcosm or narrower world of self, they again became acquainted with the True Ruler and Guide of the Universe, and used the old fables and superstitions as symbols and allegories, by which to convey and under which to hide the great truths which had faded out of most men's remembrance.

Page 509

In the Hebrew writings, the term "Heavenly Hosts" includes not only the counsellors and emissaries of Jehovah, but also the celestial luminaries; and the stars, imagined in the East to be animated intelligences, presiding over human weal and woe, are identified with the more distinctly impersonated messengers or angels, who execute the Divine decrees, and whose predominance in Heaven is in mysterious correspondence and relation with the powers and dominions of the earth. In Job, the Morning Stars and the Sons of God are identified; they join in the same chorus of praise to the Almighty; they are both susceptible of joy; they walk in brightness, and are liable to impurity and imperfection in the sight of God. The Elohim originally included not only foreign superstitious forms, but also all that host of Heaven which was revealed in poetry to the shepherds of the desert, now as an encampment of warriors, now as careering in chariots of fire, and now as winged messengers, ascending and descending the vault of Heaven, to communicate the will of God to mankind.

"The Eternal," says the Bereshith Rabba to Genesis, "called forth Abraham and his posterity out of the dominion of the stars; by nature, the Israelite was a servant to the stars, and born under their influence, as are the heathen; but by virtue of the law given on Mount Sinai, he became liberated from this degrading servitude." The Arabs had a similar legend. The Prophet Amos explicitly asserts that the Israelites, in the desert, worshipped, not Jehovah, but Moloch, or a Star-God, equivalent to Saturn. The Gods El or Jehovah were not merely planetary or solar. Their symbolism, like that of every other Deity, was coextensive with nature, and with the mind of man. Yet the astrological character is assigned even to Jehovah. He is described as seated on the pinnacle of the Universe, leading forth the Hosts of Heaven, and telling them unerringly by name and number. His stars are His sons and His eyes, which run through the whole world, keeping watch over men's deeds. The stars and planets were properly the angels. In Pharisaic tradition, as in the phraseology of the New Testament, the Heavenly Host appears as an Angelic Army, divided into regiments and brigades, under the command of imaginary chiefs, such as Massaloth, Legion, Kartor Gistra, etc., – each Gistra being captain of 365,000 myriads of stars.

Page 510

The Seven Spirits which stand before the throne, spoken of by several Jewish writers, and generally presumed to have been immediately derived from the Persian Amshaspands, were ultimately the seven planetary intelligences, the original model of the seven-branched golden candlestick exhibited to Moses on God's mountain. The stars were imagined to have fought in their courses against Sisera. The heavens were spoken of as holding a predominance over earth, as governing it by signs and ordinances, and as containing the elements of that astrological wisdom, more especially cultivated by the Babylonians and Egyptians.

Each nation was supposed by the Hebrews to have its own guardian angel, and its own provincial star. One of the chiefs of the Celestial Powers, at first Jehovah Himself in the character of the Sun, standing in the height of Heaven, overlooking and governing all things, afterward one of the angels or subordinate planetary genii of Babylonian or Persian mythology, was the patron and protector of their own nation, "the Prince that standeth for the children of thy people." The discords of earth were accompanied by a warfare in the sky; and no people underwent the visitation of the Almighty, without a corresponding chastisement being inflicted on its tutelary angel.

The fallen Angels were also fallen Stars; and the first allusion to a feud among the spiritual powers in early Hebrew Mythology, where Rahab and his confederates are defeated, like the Titans in a battle against the Gods, seems to identify the rebellious Spirits as part of the visible Heavens, where the "high ones on high" are punished or chained, as a signal proof of God's power and justice. God, it is said –

"Stirs the sea with His might by His understanding He smote Rahab – His breath clears the face of Heaven – His hand pierced the crooked Serpent… . God withdraws not His anger; beneath Him bow the confederates of Rahab."

Page 511

Rahab always means a sea-monster: probably some such legendary monstrous dragon, as in almost all mythologies is the adversary of Heaven and demon of eclipse, in whose belly, significantly called the belly of Hell, Hercules, like Jonah, passed three days, ultimately escaping with the loss of his hair or rays. Chesil, the rebellious giant Orion, represented in Job as riveted to the sky, was compared to Ninus or Nimrod, the mythical founder of Nineveh (City of Fish) the mighty hunter, who slew lions and panthers before the Lord. Rahab's confederates are probably the "High ones on High," the Chesilim or constellations in Isaiah, the Heavenly Host or Heavenly Powers, among whose number were found folly and disobedience.

"I beheld," says Pseudo-Enoch, "seven stars like great blazing mountains, and like Spirits, entreating me. And the angel said, This place, until the consummation of Heaven and Earth, will be the prison of the Stars and of the Host of Heaven. These are the Stars which overstepped God's command before their time arrived; and came not at their proper season; therefore was he offended with them, and bound them, until the time of the consummation of their crimes in the secret year." And again: "These Seven Stars are those which have transgressed the commandment of the Most High God, and which are here bound until the number of the days of their crimes be completed."

The Jewish and early Christian writers looked on the worship of the sun and the elements with comparative indulgence. Justin Martyr and Clemens of Alexandria admit that God had appointed the stars as legitimate objects of heathen worship, in order to preserve throughout the world some tolerable notions of natural religion. It seemed a middle point between Heathenism and Christianity; and to it certain emblems and ordinances of that faith seemed to relate. The advent of Christ was announced by a Star from the East; and His nativity was celebrated on the shortest day of the Julian Calendar, the day when, in the physical commemorations of Persia and Egypt, Mithras or Osiris was newly found. It was then that the acclamations of the Host of Heaven, the unfailing attendants of the Sun, surrounded, as at the spring-dawn of creation, the cradle of His birth-place, and that, in the words of Ignatius, "a star, with light inexpressible, shone forth in the Heavens, to destroy the power of magic and the bonds of wickedness; for God Himself had appeared, in the form of man, for the renewal of eternal life."

Page 512

But however infinite the variety of objects which helped to develop the notion of Deity, and eventually assumed its place, substituting the worship of the creature for that of the creator; of parts of the body, for that of the soul, of the Universe, still the notion itself was essentially one of unity. The idea of one God, of a creative, productive, governing unity, resided in the earliest exertion of thought: and this monotheism of the primitive ages, makes every succeeding epoch, unless it be the present, appear only as a stage in the progress of degeneracy and aberration. Everywhere in the old faiths we find the idea of a supreme or presiding Deity. Amun or Osiris presides among the many gods of Egypt; Pan, with the music of his pipe, directs the chorus of the constellations, as Zeus leads the solemn procession of the celestial troops in the astronomical theology of the Pythagoreans. "Amidst an infinite diversity of opinions on all other subjects," says Maximus Tyrius, "the whole world is unanimous in the belief of one only almighty King and Father of all."

There is always a Sovereign Power, a Zeus or Deus, Mahadeva or Adideva, to whom belongs the maintenance of the order of the Universe. Among the thousand gods of India, the doctrine of Divine Unity is never lost sight of; and the ethereal Jove, worshipped by the Persian in an age long before Xenophanes or Anaxagoras, appears as supremely comprehensive and independent of planetary or elemental subdivisions, as the "Vast One" or "Great Soul" of the Vedas.

But the simplicity of belief of the patriarchs did not exclude the employment of symbolical representations. 'Fl mind never rests satisfied with a mere feeling. That feeling ever strives to assume precision and durability as an idea, by some outward delineation of its thought. Even the ideas that are above and beyond the senses, as all ideas of God are, require the aid of the senses for their expression and communication. Hence come the representative forms and symbols which constitute the external investiture of every religion; attempts to express a religious sentiment that is essentially one, and that vainly struggles for adequate external utterance, striving to tell to one man, to paint to him, an idea existing in the mind of another, and essentially incapable of utterance or description, in a language all the words of which have a sensuous meaning. Thus, the idea being perhaps the same in all, its expressions and utterances are infinitely various, and branch into an infinite diversity of creeds and sects.

Page 513

All religious expression is symbolism; since we can describe only what we see; and the true objects of religion are unseen. The earliest instruments of education were symbols; and they and all other religious forms differed and still differ according to external circumstances and imagery, and according to differences of knowledge and mental cultivation. To present a visible symbol to the eye of another is not to inform him of the meaning which that symbol has to you. Hence the philosopher soon super-added to these symbols, explanations addressed to the ear, susceptible of more precision, but less effective, obvious, and impressive than the painted or sculptured forms which he despised. Out of these explanations grew by degrees a variety of narratives, whose true object and meaning were gradually forgotten. And when these were abandoned, and philosophy resorted to definitions and formulas, its language was but a more refined symbolism, grappling with and attempting to picture ideas impossible to be expressed. For the most abstract expression for Deity which language can supply, is but a sign or symbol for an object unknown, and no more truthful and adequate than the terms Osiris and Vishnu, except as being less sensuous and explicit. To say that He is a Spirit, is but to say that He is not matter. What spirit is, we can only define as the Ancients did, by resorting, as if in despair, to some sublimized species of matter, as Light, Fire, or Ether.

No symbol of Deity can be appropriate or durable except in a relative or moral sense. We cannot exalt words that have only a sensuous meaning, above sense. To call Him a Power or a Force, or an Intelligence, is merely to deceive ourselves into the belief that we use words that have a meaning to us, when they have none, or at least no more than the ancient visible symbols had. To call Him Sovereign, Father, Grand Architect of the Universe, Extension, Time, Beginning, Middle, and End, whose face is turned on all sides, the Source of life and death, is but to present other men with symbols by which we vainly endeavor to communicate to them 'the same vague ideas which men in all ages have impotently struggled to express. And it may be doubted whether we have succeeded either in communicating, or in forming in our own minds, any more distinct and definite and true and adequate idea of the Deity, with all our metaphysical conceits and logical subtleties, than the rude ancients did, who endeavored to symbolize and so to express His attributes, by the Fire, the Light, the Sun and Stars, the Lotus and the Scarabæus; all of them types of what, except by types, more or less sufficient, could not be expressed at all.

Page 514

The primitive man recognized the Divine Presence under a variety of appearances, without losing his faith in this unity and Supremacy. The invisible God, manifested and on one of His many sides visible, did not cease to be God to him. He recognized Him in the evening breeze of Eden, in the whirlwind of Sinai, in the Stone of Beth-El: and identified Him with the fire or thunder or the immovable rock adored in Ancient Arabia. To him the image of the Deity was reflected in all that was pre-eminent in excellence. He saw Jehovah, like Osiris and Bel, in the Sun as well as in the Stars, which were His children, His eyes, "which run through the whole world, and watch over the Sacred Soil of Palestine, from the year's commencement to its close." He was the sacred fire of Mount Sinai, of the burning bush, of the Persians, those Puritans of Paganism.

Naturally it followed that Symbolism soon became more complicated, and all the, powers of Heaven were reproduced on earth, until a web of fiction and allegory was woven, which the wit of man, with his limited means of explanation, will never unravel. Hebrew Theism itself became involved in symbolism and image-worship, to which all religions ever tend. We have already seen what was the symbolism of the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the Ark. The Hebrew establishment tolerated not only the use of emblematic vessels, vestments, and cherubs, of Sacred Pillars and Seraphim, but symbolical representations of Jehovah Himself, not even confined to poetical or illustrative language.

"Among the Adityas," says Chrishna, in the Bagvat Ghita, "I am Vishnu, the radiant Sun among the Stars; among the waters, I am ocean; among the mountains, the Himalaya; and among the mountain-tops, Meru." The Psalms and Isaiah are full of similar attempts to convey to the mind ideas of God, by ascribing to Him sensual proportions. He rides on the clouds, and sits on the wings of the wind. Heaven is His pavilion, and out of His mouth issue lightnings. Men cannot worship a mere abstraction. They require some outward form in which to clothe their conceptions, and invest their sympathies. If they do not shape and carve or paint visible images, they have invisible ones, perhaps quite as inadequate and unfaithful, within their own minds.

Page 515

The incongruous and monstrous in the Oriental images came from the desire to embody the Infinite, and to convey by multi-plied, because individually inadequate symbols, a notion of the Divine Attributes to the understanding. Perhaps we should find that we mentally do the same thing, and make within ourselves images quite as incongruous, if judged of by our own limited conceptions, if we were to undertake to analyze and gain a clear idea of the mass of infinite attributes which we assign to the Deity; and even of His infinite Justice and infinite Mercy and Love.

We may well say, in the language of Maximus Tyrius: "If, in the desire to obtain some faint conception of the Universal Father, the Nameless Lawgiver, men had recourse to words or names, to silver or gold, to animals or plants, to mountain-tops or flowing rivers, every one inscribing the most valued and most beautiful things with the name of Deity, and with the fondness of a lover clinging with rapture to each trivial reminiscence of the Beloved, why should we seek to reduce this universal practice of symbolism, necessary, indeed, since the mind often needs the excitement of the imagination to rouse it into activity, to one monotonous standard of formal propriety? Only let the image duly perform its task, and bring the divine idea with vividness and truth before the mental eye; if this be effected, whether by the art of Phidias, the poetry of Homer, the Egyptian Hieroglyph, or the Persian element, we need not cavil at external differences, or lament the seeming fertility of unfamiliar creeds, so long as the great essential is attained, THAT MEN ARE MADE TO REMEMBER, TO UNDERSTAND, AND TO LOVE."

Certainly, when men regarded Light and Fire as something spiritual, and above all the corruptions and exempt from all the decay of matter; when they looked upon the Sun and Stars and Planets as composed of this finer element, and as themselves great and mysterious Intelligences, infinitely superior to man, living Existences, gifted with mighty powers and wielding vast influences, those elements and bodies conveyed to them, when used as symbols of Deity, a far more adequate idea than they can now do to us, or than we can comprehend, now that Fire and Light are familiar to us as air and water, and the Heavenly Luminaries are lifeless worlds like our own. Perhaps they gave them ideas as adequate as we obtain from the mere words by which we endeavor to symbolize and shadow forth the ineffable mysteries and infinite attributes of God.

Page 516

There are, it is true, dangers inseparable from symbolism, which countervail its advantages, and afford an impressive lesson in regard to the similar risks attendant on the use of language. The imagination, invited to assist the reason, usurps its place, or leaves its ally helplessly entangled in its web. Names which stand for things are confounded with them; the means are mistaken for the end: the instrument of interpretation for the object; and thus symbols come to usurp an independent character as truths and persons. Though perhaps a necessary path, they were a dangerous one by which to approach the Deity; in which "many," says Plutarch, "mistaking the sign for the thing signified, fell into a ridiculous superstition; while others, in avoiding one extreme, plunged into the no less hideous gulf of irreligion and impiety."

All great Reformers have warred against this evil, deeply feeling the intellectual mischief arising out of a degraded idea of the Supreme Being: and have claimed for their own God an existence or personality distinct from the objects of ancient superstition; disowning in His name the symbols and images that had profaned His Temple. But they have not seen that the utmost which can be effected by human effort, is to substitute impressions relatively correct, for others whose falsehood has been detected, and to re-place a gross symbolism by a purer one. Every man, without being aware of it, worships a conception of his own mind; for all symbolism, as well as all language, shares the subjective character of the ideas it represents. The epithets we apply to God only recall either visible or intellectual symbols to the eye or mind. The modes or forms of manifestation of the reverential feeling that constitutes the religious sentiment, are incomplete and progressive; each term and symbol predicates a partial truth, remaining always amenable to improvement or modification, and, in its turn, to be superseded by others more accurate and comprehensive.

Idolatry consists in confounding the symbol with the thing signified, the substitution of a material for a mental object of worship, after a higher spiritualism has become possible; an ill-judged preference of the inferior to the superior symbol, an inadequate and sensual conception of the Deity: and every religion and every conception of God is idolatrous, in so far as it is imperfect, and as it substitutes a feeble and temporary idea in the shrine of that Undiscoverable Being who can be known only in part, and who can therefore be honored, even by the most enlightened among His worshippers, only in proportion to their limited powers of understanding and imagining to themselves His perfections.

Page 517

Like the belief in a Deity, the belief in the soul's immortality is rather a natural feeling, an adjunct of self-consciousness, than a dogma belonging to any particular age or country. It gives eternity to man's nature, and reconciles its seeming anomalies and contradictions; it makes him strong in weakness and perfectible in imperfection; and it alone gives an adequate object for his hopes and energies, and value and dignity to his pursuits. It is concurrent with the belief in an infinite, eternal Spirit, since it is chiefly through consciousness of the dignity of the mind within us, that we learn to appreciate its evidences in the Universe.

To fortify, and as far as possible to impart this hope, was the great aim of ancient wisdom, whether expressed in forms of poetry or philosophy; as it was of the Mysteries, and as it is of Masonry. Life rising out of death was the great mystery, which symbolism delighted to represent under a thousand ingenious forms. Nature was ransacked for attestations to the grand truth which seems to transcend all other gifts of imagination, or rather to be their essence and consummation. Such evidences were easily discovered. They were found in the olive and the lotus, in the evergreen myrtle of the Mystæ and of the grave of Polydorus, in the deadly but self-renewing serpent, the wonderful moth emerging from the coffin of the worm, the phenomena of germination, the settings and risings of the sun and stars, the darkening and growth of the moon, and in sleep, "the minor mystery of death."

The stories of the birth of Apollo from Latona, and of dead heroes, like Glaucus, resuscitated in caves, were allegories of the natural alternations of life and death in nature, changes that are but expedients to preserve her virginity and purity inviolable in the general sum of her operations, whose aggregate presents only a majestic calm, rebuking alike man's presumption and his despair. The typical death of the Nature-God, Osiris, Atys, Adonis, Hiram, was a profound but consolatory mystery: the heating charms of Orpheus were connected with his destruction; and his bones, those valued pledges of fertility and victory, were, by a beautiful contrivance, often buried within the sacred precincts of his immortal equivalent.

Page 518

In their doctrines as to the immortality of the soul, the Greek Philosophers merely stated with more precision ideas long before extant independently among themselves, in the form of symbolical suggestion. Egypt and Ethiopia in these matters learned from India, where, as everywhere else, the origin of the doctrine was as remote and untraceable as the origin of man himself. Its natural expression is found in the language of Chrishna, in the Bagvat Ghita: "I myself never was non-existent, nor thou, nor these princes of the Earth; nor shall we ever hereafter cease to be… The soul is not a thing of which a man may say, it hath been, or is about to be, or is to be hereafter; for it is a thing without birth; it is pre-existent, changeless, eternal, and is not to be destroyed with this mortal frame."

According to the dogma of antiquity, the thronging forms of life are a series of purifying migrations, through which the divine principle re-ascends to the unity of its source. Inebriated in the bowl of Dionusos, and dazzled in the mirror of existence, the souls, those fragments or sparks of the Universal Intelligence, forgot their native dignity, and passed into the terrestrial frames they coveted. The most usual type of the spirit's descent was suggested by the sinking of the Sun and Stars from the upper to the lower hemisphere. When it arrived within the portals of the proper empire of Dionusos, the God of this World, the scene of delusion and change, its individuality became clothed in a material form; and as individual bodies were compared to a garment, the world was the investiture of the Universal Spirit. Again, the body was compared to a vase or urn, the soul's recipient; the world being the mighty bowl which received the descending Deity. In another image, ancient as the Grottoes of the Magi and the denunciations of Ezekiel, the world was as a dimly illuminated cavern, where shadows seem realities, and where the soul becomes forgetful of its celestial origin in proportion to its proneness to material fascinations. By another, the period of the Soul's embodiment is as when exhalations are condensed, and the aerial element assumes the grosser form of water.

But if vapor falls in water, it was held, water is again the birth of vapors, which ascend and adorn the Heavens. If our mortal existence be the death of the spirit, our death may be the renewal of its life; as physical bodies are exalted from earth to water, from water to air, from air to fire, so the man may rise into the Hero, the Hero into the God. In the course of Nature, the soul, to re-cover its lost estate, must pass through a series of trials and migrations. The scene of those trials is the Grand Sanctuary of Initiations, the world: their primary agents are the elements; and Dionusos, as Sovereign of Nature, or the sensuous world personified, is official Arbiter of the Mysteries, and guide of the soul, which he introduces into the body and dismisses from it. He is the Sun, that liberator of the elements, and his spiritual mediation was suggested by the same imagery which made the Zodiac the supposed path of the spirits in their descent and their return, and Cancer and Capricorn the gates through which they passed.

Page 519

He was not only Creator of the World, but guardian, liberator, and Saviour of the Soul. Ushered into the world amidst lightning and thunder, he became the Liberator celebrated in the Mysteries of Thebes, delivering earth from Winter's chain, conducting the nightly chorus of the Stars and the celestial revolution of the year. His symbolism was the inexhaustible imagery employed to fill up the stellar devices of the Zodiac: he was the Vernal Bull, the Lion, the Ram, the Autumnal Goat, the Serpent: in short, the varied Deity, the resulting manifestation personified, the all in the many, the varied year, life passing into innumerable forms; essentially inferior to none, yet changing with the seasons, and undergoing their periodical decay.

He mediates and intercedes for man, and reconciles the Universal Unseen Mind with the individualized spirit of which he is emphatically the Perfecter; a consummation which he effects, first through the vicissitudes of the elemental ordeal, the alternate fire of Summer and the showers of Winter, "the trials or test of an immortal Nature"; and secondarily and symbolically through the Mysteries. He holds not only the cup of generation, but also that of wisdom or initiation, whose influence is contrary to that of the former, causing the soul to abhor its material bonds, and to long for its return. The first was the Cup of Forgetfulness; while the second is the Urn of Aquarius, quaffed by the returning spirit, as by the returning Sun at the Winter Solstice, and emblematic of the exchange of worldly impressions for the recovered recollections of the glorious sights and enjoyments of its pre-existence. Water nourishes and purifies; and the urn from which it flows was thought worthy to be a symbol of Deity, as of the Osiris-Canobus who with living water irrigated the soil of Egypt; and also an emblem of Hope that should cheer the dwellings of the dead.

Page 520

The second birth of Dionusos, like the rising of Osiris and Atys from the dead, and the raising of Khūrūm, is a type of the spiritual regeneration of man. Psyche (the Soul), like Ariadne, had two lovers, an earthly and an immortal one. The immortal suitor is Dionusos, the Eros-Phanes of the Orphici, gradually exalted by the progress of thought, out of the symbol of Sensuality into the torch-bearer of the Nuptials of the Gods; the Divine Influence which physically called the world into being, and which, awakening the soul from its Stygian trance, restores it from earth to Heaven.

Thus the scientific theories of the ancients, expounded in the Mysteries, as to the origin of the soul, its descent, its sojourn here below, and its return, were not a mere barren contemplation of the nature of the world, and of the intelligent beings existing there. They were not an idle speculation as to the order of the world, and about the soul, but a study of the means for arriving at the great object proposed, the perfecting of the soul; and, as a necessary consequence, that of morals and society. This Earth, to them, was not the Soul's home, but its place of exile. Heaven was its home, and there was its birth-place. To it, it ought incessantly to turn its eyes. Man was not a terrestrial plant. His roots were in Heaven. The soul had lost its wings, clogged by the viscosity of matter. It would recover them when it extricated itself from matter and commenced its upward flight.

Matter being, in their view, as it was in that of St. Paul, the principle of all the passions that trouble reason, mislead the intelligence, and stain the purity of the soul, the Mysteries taught man how to enfeeble the action of matter on the soul, and to restore to the latter its natural dominion. And lest the stains so contracted should continue after death, lustrations were used, fastings, expiations, macerations, continence, and above all, initiations. Many of these practices were at first merely symbolical, – material signs indicating the moral purity required of the Initiates; but they afterward came to be regarded as actual productive causes of that purity.

The effect of initiation was meant to be the same as that of philosophy, to purify the soul of its passions, to weaken the empire of the body over the divine portion of man, and to give him here below a happiness anticipatory of the felicity to be one day enjoyed by him, and of the future vision by him of the Divine Beings. And therefore Proclus and the other Platonists taught "that the Mysteries and initiations withdrew souls from this mortal and material life, to re-unite them to the gods; and dissipated for the adepts the shades of ignorance by the splendors of the Deity." Such were the precious fruits of the last Degree of the Mystic Science, – to see Nature in her springs and sources, and to become familiar with the causes of things and with real existences.

Page 521

Cicero says that the soul must exercise itself in the practice of the virtues, if it would speedily return to its place of origin. It should, while imprisoned in the body, free itself therefrom by the contemplation of superior beings, and in some sort be divorced from the body and the senses. Those who remain enslaved, subjugated by their passions and violating the sacred laws of religion and society, will re-ascend to Heaven, only after they shall have been purified through a long succession of ages.

The Initiate was required to emancipate himself from his passions, and to free himself from the hindrances of the senses and of matter, in order that he might rise to the contemplation of the Deity, or of that incorporeal and unchanging light in which live and subsist the causes of created natures. "We must," says Porphyry, "flee from everything sensual, that the soul may with ease re-unite itself with God, and live happily with Him." "This is the great work of initiation," says Hierocles; – "to recall the soul to what is truly good and beautiful, and make it familiar therewith, and they its own; to deliver it from the pains and ills it endures here below, enchained in matter as in a dark prison; to facilitate its return to the celestial splendors, and to establish it in the Fortunate Isles, by restoring it to its first estate. Thereby, when the hour of death arrives, the soul, freed of its mortal garmenting, which it leaves behind it as a legacy to earth, will rise buoyantly to its home among the Stars, there to re-take its ancient condition, and approach toward the Divine nature as far as man may do."

Page 522

Plutarch compares Isis to knowledge, and Typhon to ignorance, obscuring the light of the sacred doctrine whose 'blaze lights the soul of the Initiate. No gift of the gods, he holds, is so precious as the knowledge of the Truth, and that of the Nature of the gods, so far as our limited capacities allow us to rise toward them. The Valentinians termed initiation LIGHT. The Initiate, says Psellus, becomes an Epopt, when admitted to see THE DIVINE LIGHTS. Clemens of Alexandria, imitating the language of an Initiate in the Mysteries of Bacchus, and inviting this Initiate, whom he terms blind like Tiresias, to come to see Christ, Who will blaze upon his eyes with greater glory than the Sun, exclaims: "Oh Mysteries most truly holy! Oh pure Light! When the torch of the Dadoukos gleams, Heaven and the Deity are displayed to my eyes! I am initiated, and become holy!" This was the true object of initiation; to be sanctified, and TO SEE, that is, to have just and faithful conceptions of the Deity, the knowledge of Whom was THE LIGHT of the Mysteries. It was promised the Initiate at Samothrace, that he should become pure and just. Clemens says that by baptism, souls are illuminated, and led to the pure light with which mingles no darkness, nor anything material. The Initiate, become an Epopt, was called A SEER. "HAIL, NEW-BORN LIGHT!" the Initiates cried in the Mysteries of Bacchus.

Such was held to be the effect of complete initiation. It lighted up the soul with rays from the Divinity, and became for it, as it were, the eye with which, according to the Pythagoreans, it con-templates the field of Truth; in its mystical abstractions, wherein it rises superior to the body, whose action on it, it annuls for the time, to re-enter into itself, so as entirely to occupy itself with the view of the Divinity, and the means of coming to resemble Him.

Thus enfeebling the dominion of the senses and the passions over the soul, and as it were freeing the latter from a sordid slavery, and by the steady practice of all the virtues, active and contemplative, our ancient brethren strove to fit themselves to return to the bosom of the Deity. Let not our objects as Masons fall below theirs. We use the symbols which they used; and teach the same great cardinal doctrines that they taught, of the existence of an intellectual God, and the immortality of the soul of man. If the details of their doctrines as to the soul seem to us to verge on absurdity, let us compare them with the common notions of our own day, and be silent. If it seems to us that they regarded the symbol in some cases as the thing symbolized, and worshipped the sign as if it were itself Deity, let us reflect how insufficient are our own ideas of Deity, and how we worship those ideas and images formed and fashioned in our own minds, and not the Deity Himself: and if we are inclined to smile at the importance they attached to lustrations and fasts, let us pause and inquire whether the same weakness of human nature does not exist to-day, causing rites and ceremonies to be regarded as actively efficient for the salvation of souls.

Page 523

And let us ever remember the words of an old writer, with which we conclude this lecture: "It is a pleasure to stand on the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and see a battle and the adventures thereof: but no pleasure is comparable to the standing on the vantage-ground of TRUTH (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene), and to see the errors and wanderings, and mists and tempests, in the vale below;so always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride. Certainly it is Heaven upon Earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in Providence, AND TURN UPON THE POLES OF TRUTH."

— ~~ooOoo~~ —

Return to Top

Return to Index

— ~~ooOoo~~ —

Scanned at sacred-texts.com, January-February 2005. Proofed by John Bruno Hare. This text is in the public domain in the US because it was published prior to 1922. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact in all copies.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License