|Gods in Review
Names of Power
The Immortal Soul
The Mysteries and Masonry
The Third Degree
More About Numbers
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Degree XXVIII Question Set 2
Degree XXVIII Question Set 3
Degree XXVIII Question Set 4
Degree XXVIII Question Set 5
You have heretofore, in some of the degrees through which you have passed, heard much of the ancient worship of the Sun, the Moon, and the other bright luminaries of Heaven, and of the Elements and Powers of Universal Nature. You have been made to some extent familiar with their personifications as Heroes suffering or triumphant, or as personal Gods or Goddesses, with human characteristics and passions, and with the multitude of legends and fables that do but allegorically represent their risings and settings, their courses, their conjunctions and oppositions, their domiciles and places of exaltation.
Perhaps you have supposed that we, like many who have written on these subjects, have intended to represent this worship to you as the most ancient and original worship of the first men that lived. To undeceive you, if such was your conclusion, we have re-produced in this Degree that ancient worship, and personified in the different officers of our Council the Great Luminary of Heaven, under the names by which He was known to the Fathers of our race, before men came to worship the visible manifestations of the Supreme Power and Magnificence and the supposed Attributes of the Universal Deity in the Elements and in the glittering armies that Night regularly marshals and arrays upon the dark field of the firmament.
We ask now your attention to a still further development of these truths, after we shall have added something to what we have already said in regard to the Chief Luminary of Heaven in explanation of the names and characteristics of the several officers of the Council who represent him.
Our Presiding Officer, named Athom or Athom-Re, is the representative of the Chief and Oldest Supreme God of Upper Egypt worshipped at Thebes, the same as the OM or AUM of the Hindus whose name was unpronounceable and who, like their Brehm was "The Being that was, and is, and is to come; the Great God, the Great Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent One, the Greatest in the Universe, the Lord"; whose emblem was a perfect sphere, showing that He was first, last, midst, and without end; superior to all Nature-Gods, and all personifications of Powers, Elements, and Luminaries; symbolised by Light, the Principle of Life.
The Senior Warden, named Amun, is the representative of the Nature-God or Spirit of Nature, called by that name or Amun-Re, and worshipped at Memphis in Lower Egypt and in Libya, as well as in Upper Egypt. He was the Libyan Jupiter, and represented the intelligent and organising force that develops itself in Nature when the intellectual types or forms of bodies are revealed to the senses in the world's order, by their union with matter, whereby the generations of bodies is affected. He was the same with Kneph, from whose mouth issued the Orphic Egg out of which came the Universe.
The Junior Warden represents Dionysus, the Nature-God of the Greeks, as Amun was of the Egyptians. In the popular legend, Dionysus, as well as Hercules, was a Theban Hero, born of a mortal mother. Both were sons of Zeus, both persecuted by Hera. But in Hercules, the God is subordinate to the Hero; while Dionysus, even in poetry, retains his divine character and is identical with Iacchus, the presiding genius of the Mysteries. Personification of the Sun in Taurus, as his ox-hoofs showed, he delivered Earth from the harsh dominion of Winter, conducted the mighty chorus of the Stars and the celestial revolution of the year, changed with the seasons, and underwent their periodical decay. He was the Sun as invoked by the Eleans, ushered into the world amidst lightning and thunder, the Mighty Hunter of the Zodiac, Zagreus the Golden or ruddy-faced. The Mysteries taught the doctrine of Divine Unity; and that Power whose Oneness is a seeming mystery but really a truism, was Dionysus, the God of Nature, or of that moisture which is the life of Nature, who prepares in darkness, in Hades or Iasion, the return of life and vegetation, or is himself the light and change evolving their varieties. In the Aegean Islands, he was Butes, Dardanus, Himeros, or Imbros; in Crete he appears as Iasius or even Zeus, whose orgiastic worship, remaining unveiled by the usual forms of mystery, betrayed to profane curiosity the symbols which, if irreverently contemplated, were sure to be misunderstood.
He was the same with the dismembered Zagreus, the son of Persephone, and Ancient Subterranean Dionysus, the horned progeny of Zeus in the Constellation of the Serpent, entrusted by his father with the thunderbolt and encircled with the protecting dance of Curetes. Through the envious artifices of Hera, the Titans eluded the vigilance of his guardians and tore him to pieces; but Pallas restored the still palpitating heart to his father, who commanded Apollo to bury the dismembered remains upon Parnassus.
Dionysus as well as Apollo was leader of the Muses; the tomb of one accompanied the worship of the other; they were the same, yet different; contrasted, yet only as filling separate parts in the same drama; and the mystic and heroic personifications, the God of Nature and of art, seem at some remote period to have proceeded from a common source. Their separation was one of form rather than of substance; and from the time when Hercules obtained initiation from Triptolemus or Pythagoras received Orphic tenets, the two conceptions were tending to re-combine. It was said that Dionysus or Poseidon had preceded Apollo in the Oracular office; and Dionysus continued to be esteemed in Greek Theology as Healer and Saviour, Author of Life and Immortality. The dispersed Pythagoreans, "Sons of Apollo", immediately betook themselves to the Orphic Service of Dionysus, and there are indications that there was always something Dionysiac in the worship of Apollo.
Dionysus 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. His second birth, as offspring of the highest, is a type of the spiritual regeneration of man. He, as well as Apollo, was precentor of the Muses, and source of inspiration. His rule prescribed no unnatural mortification: its yoke was easy, and its mirthful choruses, combining the gay with the severe, did but commemorate that golden age when earth enjoyed eternal Spring, and when fountains of honey, milk, and wine burst forth out of its bosom at the touch of the thyrsus. He is the "Liberator". Like Osiris he frees the soul, and guides it in its migrations beyond the grave, preserving it from the risk of again falling under the slavery of matter or of some inferior animal form. All soul is part of the Universal Soul, whose totality is Dionysus; and he leads back the vagrant spirit to its home, and accompanies it through the purifying processes, both real and symbolical, of its earthly transit. He died and descended to the Shades; and his suffering was the great secret of the Mysteries as death is the grand mystery of existence. He is the immortal suitor of Psyche (the Soul), 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.
Of Hermes, the Mercury of the Greeks, the Thoth of the Egyptians, and the Taaut of the Phoenicians, we have heretofore spoken sufficiently at length. He was the inventor of letters and of Oratory, the winged messenger of the Gods bearing the caduceus wreathed with serpents; and in our Council he is represented by the Orator.
Seven other officers of the Council, whose lessons you have heard uttered in the impressive language of the Great Past, bear seven names of the Sun by which that luminary was called among the most ancient nations: the Hindus called him Surya; the Persians, Mithras; the Egyptians, Osiris; The Assyrians and Chaldeans, Bel; the Scythians and Etruscans and the ancient Pelasgi, Arkaleus or Hercules; The Phoenicians, Adoni or Adon; and the Scandinavians, Odin.
From the name Surya, given by the Hindus to the Sun, the Sect who paid him particular adoration were called Souras. Their painters describe his car as drawn by seven green horses. In the Temple of Vishvanath at Benares [now Varanasi Ed.]. there is an ancient piece of sculpture, well executed in stone, representing him sitting in a car drawn by a horse with twelve heads. His charioteer, by whom he is preceded, is Arun or the Dawn; and among his many titles are twelve that denote his distinct powers in each of the twelve months. Those powers are called Adityas, each of whom has a particular name. Surya is supposed frequently to have descended upon Earth in a human shape, and to have left a race on Earth equally renowned in Indian story with the Heliades of Greece. He is often styled King of the Stars and Planets, and thus reminds us of the Adon-Tsbauth (Lord of the Starry Hosts) of the Hebrew writings.
Mithras was the Sun-God of the Persians, and was fabled to have been born in a grotto or cave at the Winter Solstice. His feasts were celebrated at that period, at the moment when the Sun commenced to return Northward and to increase the length of the days. This was the great Feast of the Magian religion. The Roman calendar, published in the time of Constantine, at which period his worship began to gain ground in the Occident, fixed his feast-day on the 25th of December. His status and images were inscribed to the invincible Sun-God, Mithras. To him, gold, incense, and myrrh were consecrated. Martianus Capella, in his hymn to the Sun, says: "The dwellers on the Nile adore you as Serapis; Memphis worships you as Osiris; in the sacred rites of Persia, you are Mithras; in Phrygia, Atys; Libya bows down to you as Ammon, and Phoenician Byblos as Adonis; and thus the whole world adores you under different names".
Osiris was the son of Helios, the "divine offspring congenerate with the dawn", and at the same time an incarnation of Kneph or Agathodaemon, the Good Spirit, including all his possible manifestations, either physical or moral. He represented in a familiar form the beneficent aspect of all higher emanations; and in him was developed the conception of a Being purely good, so that it becomes necessary to set up another power as his adversary, called Seth, Babys, or Typhon, to account for the injurious influences of Nature.
The notion of a dying God, so frequent in Oriental legend and of which we have already said much in former degrees, was the natural inference from a literal interpretation of Nature-worship. Nature, which in the vicissitudes of the seasons seems to undergo a dissolution, was to the earliest religionists the express image of the Deity, and at a remote period one and the same with the "varied God" whose attributes were seen not only in its vitality but in its changes. The unseen Mover of the Universe was rashly identified with its obvious fluctuations. The speculative Deity suggested by the drama of Nature was worshipped with imitative and sympathetic rites. A period of mourning about the Autumnal Equinox and of joy at the return of Spring was almost universal. Phrygians, Paphlagonians, Boeotians, and even Athenians were all more or less attached to such observances. The Syrian damsels sat weeping for Tammuz or Adoni, mortally wounded by the tooth of Winter symbolised by the boar, its very general emblem: and these rites, and those of Atys and Osiris were evidently suggested by the arrest of vegetation when the Sun, descending from his altitude, seems deprived of his generating power.
Osiris is a being analogous to the Syrian Adoni; and the fable of his history, which we need not here repeat, is a narrative form of the popular religion of Egypt of which the Sun is the Hero and the agricultural calendar the moral. The moist valley of the Nile, owing its fertility to the annual inundation, appeared, in contrast with the surrounding desert, like life in the midst of death. The inundation was in evident dependence on the Sun, and Egypt, environed with arid deserts like a heart within a burning censer, was the female power dependent on the influences personified in its God. Typhon his brother, the type of darkness, drought, and sterility, threw his body into the Nile; and thus Osiris, the "good", the "Saviour", perished in the 28th year of his life or reign and on the 17th day of the month Athor, or the 13th of November. He is also made to die during the heats of early summer when, from March to July the earth was parched with intolerable heat, vegetation was scorched, and the languid Nile exhausted. From that death he rises when the Solstitial Sun brings the inundation, and Egypt is filled with mirth and acclamation anticipatory of the second harvest. From his wintry death he rises with the early flowers of Spring, and then the joyful festival of Osiris found was celebrated.
So the pride of Jemshid, one of the Persian Sun-heroes, or the solar year personified, was abruptly cut off by Zohak, the tyrant of the West. He was sawn asunder by a fish-bone, and immediately the brightness of Iran changed to gloom. Ganymede and Adonis, like Osiris, were hurried off in all their strength and beauty; the premature death of Linus, the burden of the ancient lament of Greece, was like that of the Persian Siamek, the Bithynian Hylas, and the Egyptian Maneros, Son of Menes or the Eternal. The elegy called Maneros was sung at Egyptian banquets, and an effigy enclosed within a diminutive sarcophagus was handed round to remind the guests of the brief tenure of existence. The beautiful Memnon, also, perished in his prime; and Enoch, whose early death was lamented at Iconium, lived 365 years, the number of days of the solar year: a brief space when compared with the longevity of his patriarchal kindred.
The story of Osiris is reflected in those of Orpheus and Dionysus Zagreus, and perhaps in the legends of Absyrtus and Pelias, of Aeson, Thyestes, Melicartes, Itys, and Pelops. Io is the disconsolate Isis or Niobe: and if Apollo and Dionysus are immortal, they had died under other names as Orpheus, Linus, or Hyacinthus. The sepulchre of Zeus was shown in Crete. Hippolytus was associated in divine honours with Apollo, and after he had been torn in pieces like Osiris, was restored to life by the Paeonian herbs of Diana, and kept darkling in the secret grove of Egeria. Zeus deserted Olympus to visit the Ethiopians; Apollo underwent servitude to Admetus; Theseus, Peirithous, Hercules, and other heroes descended for a time to Hades; a dying Nature-God was exhibited in the Mysteries; the Attic women fasted, sitting on the ground, during the Thesmophoria; and the Boeotians lamented the descent of Cora-Prosperine to the Shades.
But the death of the Deity, as understood by the Orientals, was not inconsistent with his immortality. The temporary decline of the Sons of Light is but an episode in their endless continuity; and as the day and year are more convenient subdivisions of the Infinite, so the fiery deaths of Phaλthon or Hercules are but breaks in the same Phoenix process of perpetual regeneration by which the spirit of Osiris lives forever in the succession of the Memphian Apis. Every year witnesses the revival of Adonis; and the amber tears shed by the Helliades for the premature death of their brother are the golden shower full of prolific hope in which Zeus descends from the brazen vault of Heaven into the bosom of the parched ground.
Bel, representative or personification of the Sun, was one of the Great Gods of Syria, Assyria, and Chaldea, and his name is found on the monuments of Nimrud, and frequently occurs in the Hebrew writings. He was the Great Nature-God of Babylonia, the Power of heat, life, and generation. His symbol was the Sun, and he was figured sitting on a bull. All the accessories of his great temple at Babylon, described by Herodotus, are repeated with singular fidelity, but on a smaller scale, in the Hebrew tabernacle and temple. The golden statue alone is wanted to complete the resemblance. The word Bel or Baal, like the word Adon, signifies Lord and Master. He was also the Supreme Deity of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Carthaginians, and of the Sabeans in general. The Gauls worshipped the Sun under the name of Belin or Belinus: and Bela is found among the Celtic Deities upon the ancient monuments.
The Northern ancestors of the Greeks maintained with hardier habits a more manly style of religious symbolism than the effeminate enthusiasts of the South, and had embodied in their Perseus, Hercules, and Mithras the consummation of the qualities they esteemed and exercised.
Almost every nation will be found to have had a mythical being whose strength or weakness, virtues or defects, more or less nearly describe the Sun's career through the seasons. There was a Celtic, a Teutonic, a Scythian, an Etruscan, a Lydian Hercules, all whose legends became tributary to those of the Greek hero. The name of Hercules was found by Herodotus to have been long familiar in Egypt and the East, and to have originally belonged to a much higher personage than the comparatively modern hero known in Greece as the Sun of Alcmena. The temple of the Hercules of Tyre was reported to have been built 2300 years before the time of Herodotus; and Hercules, whose Greek name has been sometimes supposed to be of Phoenician origin, in the sense of Circuitor, i.e. "rover" and "perambulator" of earth, as well as "Hyperion" of the sky, was the patron and model of those famous navigators who spread his altars from coast to coast through the Mediterranean to the extremities of the West, where "Arkaleus" built the City of Gades, and where a perpetual fire burned in his service. He was the lineal descendant of Perseus, the luminous child of darkness, conceived within a subterranean vault of brass; and he is a representation of the Persian Mithras, roaring his emblematic lions above the gates of Mycenae, and bringing the sword of Jemshid to battle against the Gorgons of the West. Mithras is similarly described in the Zend-Avesta as the "mighty hero, the rapid runner, whose piercing eye embraces all, whose arm bears the club for the destruction of the Darood".
Hercules Ingeniculus who, bending on one knee uplifts his club and tramples on the Serpent's head, was, like Prometheus and Tantalus, one of the varying aspects of the struggling and declining Sun. The victories of Hercules are but exhibitions of Solar power which have ever to be repeated. It was in the far North, among the Hyperboreans, that, divested of his Lion's skin, he lay down to sleep, and for a time lost the horses of his chariot. Henceforth, the Northern region of gloom, called the "place of death and revival of Adonis", that Caucasus whose summit is so lofty that, like the Indian Meru, it seemed to be both the goal and commencement of the Sun's career, became to Greek imaginations the final bourne of all things, the abode of Winter and desolation, the pinnacle of the arch connecting the upper and lower world, and consequently the appropriate place for the banishment of Prometheus. The daughters of Israel, weeping for Tammuz, mentioned by Ezekiel, sat looking to the North, waiting for his return from that region. It was while Cybele with the Sun-God was absent among the Hyperboreans that Phrygia, abandoned by her, suffered the horrors of famine. Delos and Delphi awaited the return of Apollo from the Hyperboreans, and Hercules brought the olive thence to Olympia. To all Masons, the North has immemorially been the place of darkness: and of the great lights of the Lodge, none is in the North.
Mithras, the rock-born hero, heralded the Sun's return in Spring, as Prometheus, chained in his cavern, betokened the continuance of Winter. The Persian beacon on the mountain-top represented the rock-born Divinity enshrined in his worthiest temple; and the funeral conflagration of Hercules was the Sun dying in glory behind the Western hills. But though the transitory manifestation suffers or dies, the abiding and eternal power liberates and saves. It was an essential attribute of a Titan that he should rise again after his fall; for the revival of Nature is as certain as its decline, and its alternations are subject to the appointment of a power which controls them both.
"God", says Maximus Tyrius, "did not spare his own Son [Hercules], or exempt him from the calamities incidental to humanity". The Theban progeny of Jove had his share of pain and trial. By vanquishing earthly difficulties he proved his affinity with Heaven. His life was a continued struggle. He fainted before Typhon in the desert; and in the announcement of the Autumnal season, descended to Hades under the guidance of Minerva. He died; but first applied for initiation to Eumolpus, in order to foreshadow that state of religious preparation which should precede the momentous change. Even in Hades he rescued Theseus and removed the stone of Ascalaphus, reanimated the bloodless spirits, and dragged into the light of day the monster Cerberus, justly reputed invincible because an emblem of Time itself; he burst the chains of the grave (for Busiris is the grave personified), and triumphant at the close as in the dawn of his career, was received after his labours into the repose of the heavenly mansions, living forever with Zeus in the arms of Eternal Youth.
Odin is said to have borne twelve names among the old Germans, and to have had 114 names besides. He was the Apollo of the Scandinavians, and is represented in the Voluspa [Wikipedia says: "Vφluspα (Prophecy of the Vφlva) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a vφlva addressing Odin. It is one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology." Ed.] as destined to slay the monstrous snake. Then the Sun will be extinguished, the earth be dissolved in the ocean, the stars lose their brightness, and all Nature be destroyed in order that it may be renewed again. From the bosom of the waters a new world will emerge clad in verdure; harvests will be seen to ripen where no seed was sown, and evil will disappear.
To those ancient peoples, this Earth was the centre of the Universe. To them there were no other worlds, peopled with living beings, to divide the care and attention of the Deity. To them the world was a great plain of unknown, perhaps inconceivable, limits, and the Sun, Moon and Stars journeyed above it to give them light. The worship of the Sun became the basis of all the religions of antiquity. To them light and heat were mysteries as, indeed, they still are to us. As the Sun caused the day and his absence the night; as, when he journeyed Northward, Spring and Summer followed him; and when he again turned to the South, Autumn and inclement Winter and cold and long dark nights ruled the Earth. As his influence produced the leaves and flowers, and ripened the harvests, and brought regular inundation, he necessarily became to them the most interesting object of the material universe. To them he was the innate fire of bodies, the fire of Nature. Author of Life, heat, and ignition, he was to them the efficient cause of all generation, for without him there was no movement, no existence, no form. He was to them immense, indivisible, imperishable, and everywhere present. It was their need of light, and of his creative energy, that was felt by all men; and nothing was more fearful to them than his absence. His beneficent influences cause his identification with the Principle of Good; and the Brahma of the Hindus, the Mithras of the Persians, the Athom, Amun, Phtha, and Osiris of the Egyptians, the Bel of the Chaldeans, the Adonai of the Phoenicians, the Adonis and Apollo of the Greeks became but personifications of the Sun, the regenerating Principle, image of that fecundity which perpetuates and rejuvenates the world's existence.
So too the struggle between the Good and Evil Principles was personified, as was that between life and death, destruction and re-creation, in allegories and fables which poetically represented the apparent course of the Sun who, descending towards the Southern Hemisphere was figuratively said to be conquered and put to death by darkness or the genius of Evil; but returning again towards the Northern Hemisphere, he seemed to be victorious and to arise from the tomb. This death and resurrection were also figurative of the succession of day and night; of death, which is a necessity of life, and of life which is born of death; and everywhere the ancients still saw the combat between the two Principles that ruled the world. Everywhere this contest was embodied in allegories and fictitious histories into which were ingeniously woven all the astronomical phenomena that accompanied, preceded, or followed the different movements of the Sun, the changes of seasons, and the approach or withdrawal of inundations. And thus grew into stature and strange proportions the histories of the contests between Typhon and Osiris, Hercules and Juno, the Titans and Jupiter, Ormuzd and Ahriman, the rebellious Angels and the Deity, the Evil Genii and the Good; and other like fables found not only in Asia but in the North of Europe and even among the Mexicans and Peruvians of the New World.
The primitive idea of infinite space existed in the first men as it exists in us. It and the idea of infinite time are the two first innate ideas. Man cannot conceive how thing can be added to thing, or event follow event, forever. The idea will ever return that no matter how long bulk is added to bulk, there must be, still beyond, an empty void, without limit, in which is nothing. In the same way the idea of time without beginning or end forces itself on him. Time, without events, is also a void, and nothing.
In that empty void space the primitive men knew there was no light, nor warmth. They felt what we know scientifically, that there must be a thick darkness there, and an intensity of cold of which we have no conception. Into that void they thought that the Sun, the Planets, and the Stars went down when they set under the Western horizon. Darkness was to them an enemy, a harm, a vague dread and terror. It was the very embodiment of the evil principle; and out of it they said that he was formed. As the Sun bent Southward towards that void, they shuddered with dread; and when at the Winter Solstice he again commenced his Northward march, they rejoiced and feasted as they did at the Summer Solstice when most he appeared to smile upon them in his pride of place. These days have been celebrated by all civilised nations ever since. The Christian has made them feast days of the Church, and appropriated them to the two saints John: and Masonry has done the same.
We, to whom the vast Universe has become but a great machine, instinct not with a great Soul but with a clock-work of unimaginable proportions, though still infinitely less than infinite, and at least part of which we can imitate with our orreries; we, who have measured the distances and dimensions, and learned the specific gravity and determined the orbits of the moon and the planets; we, who know the distance to the Sun, and his size; we, who have measured the orbits of the flashing comets, and the distances of the fixed stars, and know them to be suns like "our" sun, each with his retinue of worlds, and all governed by the same unerringly mechanical laws and outwardly imposed forces, centripetal and centrifugal; we, that with our telescopes have separated galaxies and nebulae into other stars and groups of stars, discovered new planets by first discovering their disturbing forces upon those already known, and learned that they all, Mercury, Venus, the fiery Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the others, as well as the bright, mild, and ever-changing Moon, are mere dark, dull, opaque clods like "our" earth, and not living orbs of brilliant fire and heavenly light; we, who have counted the mountains and chasms on the Moon with glasses that could distinctly reveal to us the Temple of Solomon, if it stood there in its original glory; we, who no longer imagine that the stars control our destinies, and who can calculate the eclipses of the Sun and Moon, backward and forward, for ten thousand years; we, with our vastly increased conceptions of the powers of the Grand Architect of the Universe, but our wholly material and mechanical view of that Universe itself; we cannot even in the remotest degree feel, though we may partially and imperfectly imagine, how those great, primitive, simple-hearted children of Nature felt in regard to the Starry Hosts, there upon the slopes of the Himalayas, on the Chaldean plains, in the Persian and Median deserts, and upon the banks of that great, strange river, the Nile. To them the Universe was alive instinct with forces and powers, mysterious and beyond their comprehension. To them it was no machine, no great system of clock-work; but a great live creature, an army of creatures, in sympathy with or inimical to man. To them, all was a mystery and a miracle, and its stars flashing overhead spoke to their hearts almost in an audible language. Jupiter with his kingly splendours was the Emperor of the starry regions. Venus looked lovingly on the earth and blessed it; Mars, with his crimson fires, threatened war and misfortune; and Saturn, cold and grave, chilled and repelled them. The ever-changing Moon, faithful companion of the Sun, was a constant miracle and wonder; the Sun himself the visible emblem of the creative and generative power. To them the earth was a great plain, over which the Sun, the Moon and the planets revolved, its servants, framed to give it light. Of the stars, some were beneficent existences that brought with them spring-time and the fruits and flowers; some, faithful sentinels, advising them of coming inundation, of the season of storms and deadly winds; some heralds of evil which, steadily foretelling, they seemed to cause. To them the eclipses were portents of evil, and their causes hidden in mystery and supernatural. The regular returns of the stars, the comings of Arcturus, Orion, Sirius, the Pleiades, and Aldebaran, the journeyings of the Sun, were voluntary and not mechanical, to them. What wonder that astronomy became to them the most important of sciences; that those who learned it became rulers; and that vast edifices like the Pyramids, the tower or temple of Bel, and other like erections everywhere in the East were built for astronomical purposes? And what wonder that, in their great child-like simplicity they worshipped Light, the Sun, the Planets, and the Stars, and personified them, and eagerly believed in the histories invented for them, in that age when the capacity for belief was infinite as, indeed, it still is, and ever will be?
And he greatly errs who imagines that, because the mythological legends and fables of antiquity are referable to, and have their foundation in, the phenomena of the Heavens, and all the Heathen Gods are but mere names given to the Sun, the Stars, the Planets, the Zodiacal Signs, the Elements, the Powers of Nature, and Universal Nature herself, therefore the first men worshipped the Stars and whatever things, animate and inanimate, seemed to them to possess and exercise a power or influence, evident or imagined, over human fortunes and human destiny.
For ever, in all the nations, ascending to the remotest antiquity to which the light of History or the glimmerings of tradition reach, we find, seated above all the Gods which represent the luminaries and the elements and those which personify the innate Powers of Universal Nature, a still higher Deity, silent, undefined, incomprehensible; the Supreme, One God, from Whom all the rest flow or emanate or by Him are created. Above the Time-God Horus, the Moon-Goddess or Earth-Goddess Isis, and the Sun-God Osiris of the Egyptians, was Amun, the Nature-God; and above him, again, the Infinite, Incomprehensible Deity, Athom. Brehm, the silent, self-contemplative, one original God was, to the Hindus, the Source of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Above Zeus, or before him, was Kronos and Ouranos. Over the Elohim was the great Nature-God Al, and still beyond him, Abstract Existence, Ihuh He that IS, WAS, and SHALL BE. Above all the Persian Deities was the Unlimited Time, Zeruane-Akherene; and over Odin and Thor was the Great Scandinavian Deity, Alfadir.
The worship of Universal Nature as a God was too near akin to the worship of a Universal Soul to have been the instinctive creed of any savage people or rude race of men. To imagine all nature, with all its apparently independent parts, as forming one consistent whole, and as itself a unit, required an amount of experience and a faculty of generalisation not possessed by the rude uncivilised mind, and is but a step below the idea of a Universal Soul.
In the beginning, man had the Word; and that Word was from God: and out of the living Power communicated to man in and by that Word came the Light of His Existence.
God made man in his own likeness. When, by a long succession of geological changes, He had prepared the Earth to be his habitation, He created him and placed him in that part of Asia which all the old nations agreed in calling the cradle of the human race, and whence afterwards the stream of human life flowed forth to India, China, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Phoenicia. He communicated to him a complete knowledge of the nature of his Creator, and of the pure, primitive, undefiled religion. The peculiar and distinctive excellence and real essence of the primitive man, and his true nature and destiny, consisted in his likeness to God. He stamped His own image upon man's soul. That image has been, in the breast of every individual man and of mankind in general, greatly altered, impaired, and defaced; but its old, half-obliterated characters are still to be found in all the pages of primitive history; and the impress, not entirely effaced, every reflecting mind may discover in its own interior.
Of the original revelation to mankind of the primitive Word of Divine Truth, we find clear indications and scattered traces which, when separately examined, appear like the broken remnants, the mysterious and hieroglyphic characters, of a mighty edifice that has been destroyed; and its fragments, like those of the old Temples and Palaces of Nimrud, wrought incongruously into edifices many centuries younger. And, although amid the ever-growing degeneracy of mankind, this primeval word of revelation was falsified by the admixture of various errors and overlaid and obscured by numberless and manifold fictions, inextricably confused and almost beyond the power of recognition, still a profound inquiry will discover in Heathenism many luminous vestiges of primitive Truth.
For the old Heathenism had everywhere a foundation in Truth; and if we could separate that pure intuition into Nature, and into the simple symbols of Nature that constituted the basis of all Heathenism, from the alloy of error and the additions of fiction, those first hieroglyphic traits of the instinctive science of the first men would be found to agree with truth and a true knowledge of Nature, and to afford an image of a free, pure, comprehensive, and finished philosophy of life.
Then the world declined from its original happy condition and fortunate estate into idolatry and barbarism: but all nations retained the memory of that old estate; and the poets, in those early days the only historians, commemorated the succession of the ages of gold, silver, brass, and iron.
In the lapse of those ages, the sacred tradition followed various courses among each of the most ancient nations; and from its original source, as from a common centre, its various streams flowed downward, some diffusing fertility and life through favoured regions of the world, but others soon losing themselves and being dried up in the sterile sands of human error.
After the internal and Divine Word originally communicated by God to man had become obscured; after man's connection with the Creator had been broken; even outward language necessarily fell into disorder and confusion. The simple and Divine Truth was overlaid with various sensual fictions, buried under illusive symbols, and at last perverted into horrible phantoms.
For in the progress of idolatry, it necessarily came to pass that what was originally revered as the symbol of a higher principle became confounded or identified with the object itself, and was worshipped until this error led to a more degraded form of idolatry. The early nations received much from the primeval Source of sacred tradition; but that haughty pride which seems an inherent part of human nature led each to represent these fragmentary relics of original truth as a possession peculiar to themselves, thus exaggerating their value and their own importance as peculiar favourites of the Deity who had chosen them as the favoured people to whom to commit these truths. To make these fragments as far as possible their private property, they re-produced them under peculiar forms, wrapped them up in symbols, concealed them in allegories, and invented fables to account for their own special possession of them. So that, instead of preserving in their primitive simplicity and purity these blessings of original revelation, they overlaid them with poetical ornament; and the whole wears a fabulous aspect until, by close and severe examination, we discover the truth which the apparent fable contains.
These are the conflicting elements in the breast of man: the old original dowry of truth imparted to him by God in the primitive revelation; and error, or the foundation for error, in his degraded sense and spirit now turned from God to Nature. False faiths easily sprang up and grew rank and luxuriant when the Divine Truth was no longer guarded with zealous care nor preserved in its pristine purity. This soon happened among most Eastern nations, and especially the Indians, the Chaldeans, the Arabians, the Persians, and the Egyptians, with whom imagination and a very deep, but still sensual, feeling for Nature were very predominant. The Northern firmament, visible to their eyes, possesses by far the largest and most brilliant constellations; and they were more alive to the impressions made by such objects than the men of the present day.
But among the other early nations, a wild enthusiasm and a sensual idolatry of Nature soon superseded the simple worship of the Almighty God, and set aside or disfigured the pure belief in the Eternal Uncreated Spirit. The great powers and elements of nature; the vital principle of production and procreation through all generations; the celestial spirits or Heavenly Host, the luminous armies of the Stars and the great Sun, and the mysterious ever-changing Moon (all of which the whole ancient world regarded not as mere globes of light or bodies of fire, but as animated living substances, potent over man's fate and destiny); the Genii and tutelary spirits, and even the souls of the dead; all received divine worship. The animals, representing the starry constellations, first reverenced as symbols merely, came to be worshipped as Gods; the Heavens, Earth, and the operations of Nature were personified; fictitious personages were invented to account for the introduction of science and arts, and for the fragments of the old religious truths; and the good and bad principles personified became also objects of worship; while, through all, still shone the silver threads of the old primitive revelation.
Increasing familiarity with early oriental records seems more and more to confirm the probability that they all originally emanated from one source. The Eastern and Southern slopes of the Hindu Kush appear to have been inhabited by kindred Iranian races, similar in habits, language, and religion. The earliest Indian and Persian Deities are for the most part symbols of celestial light, their agency being regarded as an eternal warfare with the powers of Winter, storm, and darkness. The religion of both was originally a worship of outward nature, especially the manifestations of fire and light, the coincidences being too marked to be merely accidental. Deva, God, is derived from the root div, to shine. Indra, like Ormuzd or Ahura-Mazda, is the bright firmament; Sura or Surya, the Heavenly, a name of the Sun, recurs in the Zend word Huare, the Sun, whence Khur and Khorsid or Corash. Uschas and Mitra are Medic as well as Zend Deities; and the Amshaspands or "immortal Holy Ones" of the Zend-Avesta may be compared with the seven Rishis or Vedic Star-Gods of the constellation of the Bear. Zoroastrianism, like Buddhism, was an innovation in regard to an older religion; and between the Parsee and Brahmin may be found traces of disruption as well as of coincidence. The original Nature-worship, in which were combined the conceptions both of a Universal presence and perpetuity of action, took different directions of development according to the difference between the Indian and the Persian mind.
The early shepherds of the Punjab, then called the country of the Seven Rivers, to whose intuitional or inspired wisdom (Veda) we owe what are perhaps the most ancient religious effusions extant in any language, apostrophised as living beings the physical objects of their worship. First in this order of Deities stands Indra, the God of the "blue" or "glittering" firmament called Devaspiti, Father of the Devas or Elemental Powers, who measured out the circle of the sky, and made fast the foundations of the Earth. The ideal domain of Varouna, "the All-encompasser", is almost equally extensive, including air, water, night, the expanse between Heaven and Earth. Agni, who lives on the fire of the sacrifice on the domestic hearth and in the lightnings of the sky, is the great Mediator between God and Man. Uschas, or the Dawn, leads forth the Gods in the morning to make their daily repast in the intoxicating Soma of Nature's offertory, of which the Priest could only compound from simples a symbolical imitation. Then came the various Sun-Gods, Adityas or Solar Attributes, Surya the Heavenly, Savitri the Progenitor, Pasham the Nourisher, Bagha the Felicitous, and Mitra the Friend.
The coming forth of the Eternal Being to the work of creation was represented as a marriage, his first emanation being a universal mother supposed to have potentially existed with him from Eternity or, in metaphorical language, to have been "his sister and his spouse". She became eventually promoted to the Mother of the Indian Trinity of the Deity under His three attributes of Creation, Preservation, and Change or Regeneration.
The most popular forms or manifestations of Vishnu the Preserver were his successive avatars or historic impersonations, which represented the Deity coming forth out of the incomprehensible mystery of His nature and revealing himself at those critical epochs which either in the physical or moral world seemed to mark a new commencement of prosperity and order. Combating the power of Evil in the various departments of Nature and in successive periods of time, the Divinity, though varying in form, is ever in reality the same, whether seen in useful agricultural or social inventions, in traditional victories over rival creeds, or in physical changes faintly discovered through tradition or suggested by cosmogonical theory. As Rama, the Epic hero armed with sword, club and arrows, the prototype of Hercules and Mithras, he wrestles like the Hebrew Patriarch with the Powers of Darkness; as Krishna-Govinda, the Divine Shepherd, he is the Messenger of Peace, overmastering the world by music and love. Under the human form he never ceases to be the Supreme Being. "The foolish", (he says, in the Bhagavad Gita) "unacquainted with my Supreme Nature, despise me in this human form, while men of great minds, enlightened by the Divine principle within them, acknowledge me as incorruptible and before all things, and serve me with undivided hearts". "I am not recognised by all", he says again, "because concealed by the supernatural power which is in me; yet to me are known all things past, present and to come; I existed before Vaivaswata and Menon. I am the Most High God, the Creator of the World, the Eternal Purusha (Man-World or Genius of the World). And although in my own nature I am exempt from liability to birth or death, and am Lord of all created things, yet as often as in the world virtue is enfeebled and vice and injustice prevail, so often do I become manifest and am revealed from age to age to save the just, to destroy the guilty, and to reassure the faltering steps of virtue. He who acknowledges me as even so does not on quitting this mortal frame enter into another, for he enters into Me; and many who have trusted in Me have already entered into me, being purified by the power of wisdom. I help those who walk in My path, even as they serve Me."
Brahma, the creating agent, sacrificed himself when, by descending into material forms he became incorporated with his work: and his mythological history was interwoven with that of the Universe. Thus, although spiritually allied to the Supreme, and Lord of all creatures (Prajapati), he shared the imperfection and corruption of an inferior nature, and steeped in manifold and perishable forms might be said, like the Greek Uranus, to be mutilated and fallen. He thus combined two characters, formless form, immortal and mortal, being and non-being, motion and rest. As incarnate Intelligence or The Word, he communicated to man what had been revealed to himself by the Eternal, since he is creation's Soul as well as Body, within which the Divine Word is written in those living letters which it is the prerogative of the self-conscious spirit to interpret.
The fundamental principles of the religion of the Hindus consisted in the belief in the existence of One Being only, of the immortality of the soul, and of a future state of rewards and punishments. Their precepts of morality inculcate the practice of virtue as necessary for procuring happiness even in this transient life; and their religious doctrines make their felicity in a future state to depend upon it.
Besides their doctrine of the transmigration of souls, their dogmas may be epitomised under the following heads:
And this was part of their doctrine:
"One great and incomprehensible Being has alone existed from all Eternity. Everything we behold, and we ourselves, are portions of Him. The soul, mind or intellect of gods and men, and of all sentient creatures, are detached portions of the Universal Soul, to which at stated periods they are destined to return. But the mind of finite beings is impressed by one uninterrupted series of illusions which they consider as real until again united to the great fountain of truth. Of these illusions, the first and most essential is individuality. By its influence, when detached from its source, the soul becomes ignorant of its own nature, origin, and destiny. It considers itself as a separate existence, and no longer a spark of the Divinity, a link of one immeasurable chain, an infinitely small but indispensable portion of one great whole."
Their love of imagery caused them to personify what they conceived to be some of the attributes of God, perhaps in order to present things in a way better adapted to the comprehension of the vulgar than the abstruse idea of an indescribable invisible God; and hence the invention of a Brahma, a Vishnu, and a Shiva or Iswara. These were represented under various forms: but no emblem or visible sign of Brehm, the Omnipotent, is to be found. They considered the great mystery of the existence of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe as beyond human comprehension. They held that every creature, endowed with the faculty of thinking, must be conscious of the existence of God, a first cause; but the attempt to explain the nature of that Being, or in any way to assimilate it with our own, they considered not only a proof of folly, but of extreme impiety.
The following extracts from their books will serve to show what were the real tenets of their creed:
"By one Supreme Ruler is this Universe pervaded; even every world in the whole circle of nature... There is one Supreme Spirit which nothing can shake, more swift than the thought of man. That Supreme Spirit moves at pleasure, but in itself is immovable; it is distant from us, yet near us; it pervades this whole system of worlds, yet it is infinitely beyond it. That man who considers all beings as existing even in the Supreme Spirit and the Supreme Spirit as pervading all beings henceforth views no creature with contempt... All spiritual beings are the same in kind with the Supreme Spirit... The pure enlightened soul assumes a luminous form, with no gross body, with no perforation, with no veins or tendons, unblemished, untainted by sin; itself being a ray from the Infinite Spirit which knows the Past and the Future, which pervades all, which existed with no cause but Itself, which created all things as they are, in ages most remote. That all-pervading Spirit, that Spirit which gives light to the visible Sun, even the same in kind am I, though infinitely distant in degree. Let my soul return to the immortal Spirit of God, and then let my body which ends in ashes return to dust! O Spirit, Who pervades fire, lead us in a straight path to the riches of beatitude! You, O God, possess all the treasures of knowledge! Remove each foul taste from our souls!
"From what root springs mortal man when felled by the hand of death? Who can make him spring again to birth? God, who is perfect wisdom, perfect happiness. He is the final refuge of the man who has liberally bestowed his wealth, who has been firm in virtue, who knows and adored the Great One... Let us adore the supremacy of that Divine Sun, the Godhead Who illuminates all, from Whom all proceed, to Whom all must return, Whom we invoke to direct our understandings aright in our progress towards His holy seat... What the Sun and Light are to this visible world, such is truth to the intellectual and invisible universe... Our souls acquire certain knowledge by meditating on the light of Truth, which emanates from the Being of Beings... That being, without eyes sees, without ears hears all; He knows whatever can be known, but there is none who knows Him; Him the wise call the Great, Supreme, Pervading Spirit... Perfect Truth, Perfect Happiness, without equal, immortal; absolute unity, Whom neither speech can describe, not limited by space or time; without feet, running swiftly; without hands, grasping all worlds; without eyes, all-surveying; without ears, all-hearing; without an intelligent guide, understanding all; without cause, the first of all causes; all-ruling, all-powerful, the Creator, Preserver, Transformer of all things: such is the Great One, and this the Vedas declare.
"May that soul of mine, which mounts aloft in my waking hours as an ethereal spark and which, even in my slumber, has a like ascent, soaring to a great distance as an emanation from the Light of lights, be united by devout meditation with the Spirit supremely blest and supremely intelligent! ... May that soul of mine, which was itself the primeval oblation placed within all creatures ... which is a ray of perfect wisdom, which is the inextinguishable light fixed within created bodies, without which no good act is performed ... in which as an immortal essence may be comprised whatever has passed, is present, or will be hereafter ... be united by devout meditation with the Spirit supremely blest and supremely intelligent!
"The Being of Beings is the Only God, eternal, and everywhere present, who comprises everything. There is no God but He... The Supreme Being is invisible, incomprehensible, immovable, without figure or shape. No one has ever seen Him; time never comprised Him; His essence pervades everything; all was derived from Him.
"The duty of a good man, even in the moment of his destruction, consists not only in forgiving, but even in a desire of benefiting his destroyer; as the sandal-tree, in the instant of its overthrow, sheds perfume on the axe which fells it."
The Vedanta and Nyaya philosophers acknowledge a Supreme Eternal Being and the immortality of the soul; though, like the Greeks, they differ in their ideas of those subjects. They speak of the Supreme Being as an eternal essence that pervades space and gives life or existence. Of that universal and eternal pervading spirit, the Vedanti suppose four modifications; but as these do not change its nature, and as it would be erroneous to ascribe to each of them a distinct essence, so it is equally erroneous, they say, to imagine that the various modifications by which the All-pervading Being exists or displays His power are individual existences. Creation is not considered as the instant production of things, but only as the manifestation of that which subsists eternally in the one Universal Being. The Nyaya philosophers believe that spirit and matter are eternal; but they do not suppose that the world in its present form has existed from eternity, but only the primary matter from which it sprang when operated on by the almighty Word of God, the Intelligent Cause and Supreme Being Who produced the combinations or aggregations which compose the material universe. Though they believe that soul is an emanation from the Supreme Being, they distinguish it from that Being in its individual existence. Truth and Intelligence are the eternal attributes of God not, they say, of the individual soul, which is susceptible of both knowledge and ignorance, of pleasure and pain; and therefore God and it are distinct. Even when it returns to the Eternal and attains supreme bliss, it undoubtedly does not cease. Though united with the Supreme Being, it is not absorbed in it, but still retains the abstract nature of definite or visible existence.
"The dissolution of the world", they say, "consists in the destruction of the visible forms and qualities of things; but their material essence remains, and from it new worlds are formed by the creative energy of God; and thus the Universe is dissolved and renewed in endless succession."
The Jains, a sect at Mysore and elsewhere, say that the ancient religion of India and of the whole world consisted in the belief in one God, a pure Spirit, indivisible, omniscient, and all-powerful: that God, having given to all things their appointed order and course of action, and to man a sufficient portion of reason or understanding to guide him in his conduct, leaves him to the operation of free will, without the entire exercise of which he could not be held answerable for his conduct.
Menou, the Hindu lawgiver, adored not the visible material Sun, but "that divine and incomparably greater light", to use the words of the most venerable text in the Indian Scriptures, "which illumines all, delights all, from which all proceed, to which all must return, and which alone can irradiate our intellects". He thus commences his Institutes:
"Be it heard!
"This universe existed only in the first divine idea yet unexpanded, as if involved in darkness, imperceptible, undefinable, undiscoverable by reason, and undiscovered by revelation, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep.
"Then the Sole Self-existing Power, Himself undiscovered, but making this world discernible, with five elements and other principles of nature, appeared with undiminished glory, expanding His idea, or dispelling the gloom.
"He Whom the mind alone can perceive, Whose essence eludes the external organs, Who has no visible parts, Who exists from Eternity, even He, the soul of all beings, Whom no being can comprehend, shone forth.
"He, having willed to produce various beings from His own divine Substance, first with a thought created the waters... From that which is, the first cause, not the object of sense, existing everywhere in substance, not existing to our perception, without beginning or end, was produced the divine male famed in all worlds under the appellation of Brahma."
Then recapitulating the different things created by Brahma, he adds, "He", meaning Brahma [the Word], "whose powers are incomprehensible, having thus created this Universe, was again absorbed in the Supreme Spirit, changing the time of energy for the time of repose."
The L'Antareye A'ran'ya, one of the Vedas, gives this primitive idea of the creation: "In the beginning, the Universe was but a Soul: nothing else, active or inactive, existed. The He had this thought, I will create worlds; and thus He created these different worlds: air, the light, mortal beings, and the waters.
"He had this thought: Behold the worlds; I will create guardians for the worlds. So He took of the water and fashioned a being clothed with the human form. He looked upon him, and of that being so contemplated, the mouth opened like an egg, and speech came forth, and from the speech fire. The nostrils opened, and through them went the breath of respiration, and by it the air was propagated. The eyes opened; from them came a luminous ray, and from it was produced the sun. The ears dilated: from them came hearing, and from hearing space."
And after the body of man, complete with senses, was formed:
"He, the Universal Soul, thus reflected: How could this body exist without Me? He examined through what extremity He could penetrate it. He said to Himself, If, without Me, the Word is articulated, breath exhales and sight sees; if hearing hears, the skin feels, and the mind reflects, deglutition swallows, and the generative organ fulfils its functions, then what am I? And separating the suture of the cranium, He penetrated into man."
Behold the great fundamental primitive truths! God an infinite Eternal Soul or Spirit. Matter not eternal nor self-existent, but created created by a thought of God. After matter and worlds, then man, by a like thought; and finally, after endowing him with the senses and a thinking mind, a portion, a spark, of God Himself penetrates the man, and becomes a living spirit within him.
The Vedas thus detail the creation of the world:
"In the beginning there was a single God, existing of Himself; Who, after having passed an eternity absorbed in the contemplation of His own Being, desired to manifest his perfections outwardly of Himself, and created the matter of the world. The four elements being thus produced, but still mingled in confusion, He breathed upon the waters which swelled up into an immense ball in the shape of an egg and, developing themselves, became the vault and orb of Heaven which encircles the earth. Having made the earth and the bodies of animal beings, this God, the essence of movement, gave to them to animate them a portion of His own being. Thus, the soul of everything that breathes being a fraction of the Universal Soul, none perishes; but each soul merely changes its mould and form by passing successively into different bodies. Of all forms, that which most pleases the Divine Being is Man, as nearest approaching His own perfections. When a man, absolutely disengaging himself from his senses, absorbs himself in self-contemplation, he comes to discern the Divinity, and becomes part of Him."
The Ancient Persians in many respects resembled the Hindus in their language, their poetry, and their poetic legends. Their conquests brought them in contact with China; and they subdued Egypt and Judea. Their views of God and religion more resembled those of the Hebrews than those of any other nation; and indeed the Hebrews borrowed from them some prominent doctrines that we are in the habit of regarding as an essential part of the original Hebrew creed.
Of the King of Heaven and Father of Eternal Light, of the pure World of Light, of the Eternal Word by which all things were created, of the Seven Mighty Spirits that stand next to the Throne of Light and Omnipotence, and of the glory of those Heavenly Hosts that encompass the Throne, of the Origin of Evil and the Prince of Darkness, Monarch of the rebellious spirits, enemies of all good; they entertained tenets very similar to those of the Hebrews. Towards Egyptian idolatry they felt the strongest abhorrence, and under Cambyses pursued a regular plan for its utter extirpation. Xerxes, when he invaded Greece, destroyed the Temples and erected fire-chapels along the whole course of his march. Their religion was eminently spiritual, and the earthly fire and earthly sacrifice were but the signs and emblems of another devotion and a higher power.
Thus the fundamental doctrine of the ancient religion of India and Persia was at first nothing more than a simple veneration of nature, its pure elements and its primary energies, the sacred fire, and above all, Light and the Air not the lower atmosphere air, but the purer and brighter air of Heaven, the breath that pervades and animates the breath of mortal life. This pure and simple veneration of nature is perhaps the most ancient, and was by far the most generally prevalent in the primitive and patriarchal world. It was not originally a deification of nature or a denial of the sovereignty of God. Those pure elements and primitive essences of created nature offered to the first men, still in close communication with the Deity, not a likeness or resemblance, nor a mere fanciful image or a poetical figure, but a natural and true symbol of Divine power. Everywhere in the Hebrew writings, the pure light or sacred fire is employed as an image of the all-pervading and all-consuming power and omnipresence of the Divinity. His breath was the first source of life; and the faint whisper of the breeze announced to the Prophet His immediate presence.
"All things are the progeny of one fire. The Father perfected all things, and delivered them over to the Second Mind, whom all nations of men call the First. Natural works co-exist with the intellectual light of the Father; for it is the Soul which adorns the great Heaven, and which adorns it after the Father. The Soul, being a bright fire, by the power of the Father, remains immortal, and is mistress of life, and fills up the recesses of the world. For the fire which is first beyond, did not shut up his power in matter by works, but by mind, for the framer of the fiery world is the mind of mind, who first sprang from mind, clothing fire with fire. Father-begotten Light! For he alone, having from the Father's power received the essence of intellect, is enabled to understand the mind of the Father, and to instil into all sources and principles the capacity of understanding, and of ever continuing in ceaseless revolving motion." Such was the language of Zoroaster, embodying the old Persian ideas.
And the same ancient sage thus spoke of the Sun and Stars: "The Father made the whole Universe of fire and water and earth, and all-nourishing ether. He fixed a great multitude of moveless stars that stand still forever, not by compulsion and unwillingly, but without desire to wander, fire acting upon fire. He congregated the seven firmaments of the world, and so surrounded the earth with the convexity of the Heavens; and therein set seven living existences, arranging their apparent disorder in regular orbits, six of them planets, and the Sun, placed in the centre, the seventh; in that centre from which all lines, diverging which way soever, are equal; and the swift Sun himself, revolving around a principal centre, and ever striving to reach the central and all-pervading light, bearing with him the bright Moon."
And yet Zoroaster added: "Measure not the journeyings of the Sun, nor attempt to reduce them to rule; for he is carried by the eternal will of the Father, not for your sake. Do not endeavour to understand the impetuous course of the Moon: for she runs evermore under the impulse of necessity; and the progression of the Stars was not generated to serve any purpose of yours."
Ormuzd says to Zoroaster, in his Boundehesch: "I am He Who holds the Star-spangled Heaven in ethereal space; Who makes this sphere, which once was buried in darkness, a flood of light. Through Me, the Earth became a world firm and lasting the Earth on which walks the Lord of the world. I am He Who makes the light of Sun, Moon and Stars pierce the clouds. I make the corn-seed which, perishing in the ground, sprouts anew... I created man, whose eye is light, whose life is the breath of his nostrils. I have placed within him life's inextinguishable power."
Ormuzd or Ahura-Mazda himself represented the primal light, distinct from the heavenly bodies, yet necessary to their existence, and the sources of their splendour. The Amshaspands [immortal Holy Ones] each presided over a special department of nature, Earth and Heaven, fire and water, the Sun and Moon, the rivers, trees, and mountains, even the artificial divisions of the day and year, were addressed in prayer as tenanted by Divine beings, each separately ruling within his several sphere. Fire, in particular, that "most energetic of immortal powers", the visible representative of the primal light, was invoked as "Son of Ormuzd". The Sun, the Archimagus, that noblest and most powerful agent of divine power, who "steps forth as a Conqueror from the top of the terrible Alborj to rule over the world which he enlightens from the throne of Ormuzd", was worshipped among other symbols by the name of Mithras, a beneficent and friendly genius who, in the hymn addressed ro him in the Zend-Avesta, bears the names given him by the Greeks, as the "Invincible" and the "Mediator"; the former, because in his daily strife with darkness he is the most active confederate of Ormuzd; the latter, as being the medium through which Heaven's choicest blessings are communicated to men. He is called "the eye of Ormuzd, the effulgent Hero, pursuing his course triumphantly, fertiliser of deserts, most exalted of the Izeds or Yezatas, the never-sleeping, the protector of the land". "When the dragon foe devastates my provinces", says Ormuzd, "and afflicts them with famine, then he is struck down by the strong arm of Mithras, together with the Deves of Mazanderan. With his lance and his immortal club, the Sleepless Chief hurls down the Deves into the dust when as Mediator he interposes to guard the City from evil."
Ahriman was by some Parsee sects considered older than Ormuzd as darkness is older than light; he is imagined to have been unknown as a Malevolent Being in the early ages of the world, and the fall of man is attributed in the Boundehesch to an apostate worship of him, from which men were converted by a succession of prophets terminating with Zoroaster.
Mithras is not only light, but intelligence that luminary which, though born in obscurity, will not only dispel darkness, but conquer death. The warfare through which this consummation is to be reached is mainly carried on through the instrumentality of the "Word", that "ever-living emanation of the Deity, by virtue of which the world exists", and of which the revealed formulas incessantly repeated in the liturgies of the Magi are but the expression. "What shall I do", cried Zoroaster, "O Ormuzd steeped in brightness, in order to battle with Daroodj-Ahriman, father of the Evil Law; how shall I make men pure and holy?" Ormuzd answered and said: "Invoke, O Zoroaster, the pure law of the Servants of Ormuzd; invoke the Amshaspands who shed abundance throughout the seven Keshwars; invoke the Heaven, Zeruana-Akarana, the birds travailing on high, the swift wind, the Earth; invoke my Spirit, me who am Ahura-Mazda, the purest, strongest, wisest, best of beings; me who have the most majestic body, who through purity am supreme, whose soul is the Excellent Word; and ye, all people, invoke me as I have commanded Zoroaster."
Ahura-Mazda himself is the living Word; he is called "First-born of all things, express image of the Eternal, very light of very light, the Creator, who by power of the Word which he never ceases to pronounce, made in 365 days the Heaven and the earth". The Word is said in the Yashna to have existed before all, and to be itself a Yazata, a personified object of prayer. It was revealed in Serosch, in Homa, and again, under Gushtasp, was manifested in Zoroaster.
Between life and death, between sunshine and shade, Mithras is the present exemplification of the Primal Unity from which all things arose and into which through his mediation all contrarieties will ultimately be absorbed. His annual sacrifice is the passover of the Magi, a symbolical atonement or pledge of moral and physical regeneration. He created the world in the beginning; and as at the close of each successive year he sets free the current of life to invigorate a fresh circle of being, so in the end of all things he will bring the weary sum of ages as a hecatomb before God, releasing by a final sacrifice the Soul of Nature from her perishable frame to commence a brighter and purer existence.
Iamblichus (De Mys. viii, 4) says: "The Egyptians are far from ascribing all things to physical causes; life and intellect they distinguish from physical being, both in man and in the universe. They place intellect and reason first, as self-existent, and from these they derive the created world. As parent of generated things, they constitute a Demiurge, and acknowledge a vital force both in the Heavens and before the Heavens. They place Pure Intellect above and beyond the Universe, and another (that is, Mind revealed in the Material World) consisting of one continuous mind pervading the Universe, and apportioned to all its parts and spheres." The Egyptian idea, then, was that of all transcendental philosophy, that of a Deity both immanent and transcendent, i.e., spirit passing into its manifestations, but not exhausted by so doing.
The wisdom recorded in the canonical rolls of Hermes quickly attained in this transcendental lore all that human curiosity can ever discover. Thebes especially is said to have acknowledged a being without beginning or end, called Amun or Amun-Kneph, the all-pervading Spirit or Breath of Nature, or perhaps even some still more lofty object of reverential reflection, whom it was forbidden even to name. Such a Being would in theory stand at the head of the three orders of Gods mentioned by Herodotus, these being regarded as arbitrary classifications of similar or equal beings arranged in successive emanations, according to an estimate of their comparative dignity. The Eight Great Gods, or primary class, were probably manifestations of the emanated God in the several parts and powers of the Universe, each potentially comprising the whole God-head.
In the ancient Hermetic books, as quoted by Iamblichus, occurred the following passage in regard to the Supreme Being:
"Before all the things that actually exist, and before all beginnings, there is one God, prior even to the first God and King, remaining unmoved in the singleness of His own Unity: for neither is anything conceived by intellect inwoven with Him, nor anything else; but He is established as the exemplar of the God Who is good, Who is His own Father, self-begotten, and has only one Parent. For He is something greater and prior to, and the fountain of, all things, and the foundation of things conceived by the intellect, which are the first species. And from this ONE, the self-originated God caused Himself to shine forth; for which reason he is prior to substance and the beginning of substance; for from Him is substantiality and substance, whence also He is called the beginning of things conceived by the intellect. These then are the most ancient beginnings of all things, which Hermes places before the ethereal and empyrean and celestial Gods."
"Chang-Ti, or the Supreme Lord or Being", said the old Chinese creed, "is the principle of everything that exists, and Father of all living. He is eternal, immovable, and independent; His power knows no bounds; His sight equally comprehends the Past, the Present, and the Future, and penetrates even to the inmost recesses of the heart. Heaven and Earth are under His government: all events, all revolutions, are the consequences of His dispensation and will. He is pure, holy, and impartial: wickedness offends His sight, but He beholds with an eye of complacency the virtuous actions of men. Severe, yet just, He punishes vice in an exemplary manner, even in Princes and Rulers, and often casts down the guilty to crown with honour the man who walks after His own heart, and whom He raises from obscurity. Good, merciful, and full of pity, He forgives the wicked upon their repentance; and public calamities and the irregularity of the seasons are but salutary warnings which His fatherly goodness gives to men to induce them to reform and amend."
Controlled by reason infinitely more than by imagination, that people occupying the extreme East of Asia did not fall into idolatry until after the time of Confucius, and within two centuries of the birth of Christ, when the religion of Buddha or Fo was carried thither from India. Their system was long regulated by the pure worship of God, and the foundation of their moral and political existence laid in a sound, upright reason, conformable to true ideas of the Deity. They had no false gods or images, and their third Emperor Hoam-ti erected a Temple, probably the first ever erected, to the Great Architect of the Universe. And though they offered sacrifices to divers tutelary angels, yet they honoured them infinitely less than Xam-Ti or Chang-Ti, the Sovereign Lord of the World.
Confucius forbade making images or representations of the Deity. He attached no idea of personality to Him, but considered Him as a Power or Principle pervading all Nature. The Chinese designated the Divinity by the Name of The Divine Reason.
The Japanese believe in a Supreme Invisible Being, not to be represented by images or worshipped in Temples. They style Him Amida or Omith, and say that He is without beginning or end; that He came on Earth where He remained a thousand years and became the Redeemer of our fallen race; that He is to judge all men; and that the good are to live forever, while the bad are condemned to Hell.
Confucius said: "The Chang-Ti is represented under the general emblem of the visible firmament, as well as under the particular symbols of the Sun, the Moon, and the earth, because by their means we enjoy the gifts of the Chang-Ti. The Sun is the source of life and light; the Moon illuminates the world by night. By observing the course of these luminaries, mankind are enabled to distinguish times and seasons. The Ancients, with the view of connecting the act with its object, when they established the practice of sacrificing to the Chang-Ti, fixed the day of the Winter Solstice, because the Sun, after having passed through the twelve places assigned apparently by the Chang-Ti as its annual residence, began its career anew, to distribute blessings through the Earth."
He also said: "The Teen is the universal principle and prolific source of all things... The Chang-Ti is the universal principle of existence."
The Arabians never possessed a poetical, high-wrought, and scientifically arranged system of Polytheism. Their historical traditions had much analogy with those of the Hebrews, and coincided with them in a variety of points. The tradition of a purer faith and the simple Patriarchal worship of the Deity appear never to have been totally extinguished among them; nor did idolatry gain much foothold until near the time of Mohammed, who, adopting the old primeval faith, taught again the doctrine of one God, adding to it that he was His Prophet.
To the mass of Hebrews, as well as to other nations, seem to have come only fragments of the primitive revelation; nor do they seem, until after their captivity among the Persians, to have concerned themselves about metaphysical speculations in regard to the Divine Nature and essence; although it is evident from the Psalms of David that a select body among them preserved a knowledge in regard to the Deity which was wholly unknown to the mass of the people; and that chosen few were made the medium of transmission of certain truths to later ages.
Among the Greeks, the scholars of the Egyptians, all the higher ideas and severer doctrines on the Divinity, His Sovereign Nature and Infinite Might, the Eternal Wisdom and Providence that conducts and directs all things to their proper end, the Infinite Mind and Supreme Intelligence that created all things and is raised far above external nature: all these loftier ideas and nobler doctrines were expounded more or less perfectly by Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, and Socrates, and developed in the most beautiful and luminous manner by Plato and the philosophers that succeeded him. And even in the popular religion of the Greeks are many things capable of a deeper import and more spiritual signification, though they seem only rare vestiges of ancient truth, vague presentiments, fugitive tones, and momentary flashes revealing a belief in a Supreme Being, Almighty Creator of the Universe, and Common Father of Mankind.
Much of the primitive Truth was taught to Pythagoras by Zoroaster, who himself received it from the Indians. His disciples rejected the use of Temples, of Altars, and of Statues, and smiled at the folly of those nations who imagined that the Deity sprang from, or had any affinity with, human nature. The tops of the highest mountains were the places chosen for sacrifices. Hymns and prayers were their principal worship. The Supreme God, who fills the wide circle of Heaven, was the object to Whom they were addressed. Such is the testimony of Herodotus. Light they considered not so much as an object of worship as rather the most pure and lively emblem of, and first emanation from, the Eternal God; and thought that man required something visible or tangible to exalt his mind to that degree of adoration which is due to the Divine Being.
There was a surprising similarity between the Temples, Priests, doctrines, and worship of the Persian Magi and the British Druids. The latter did not worship idols in the human shape because they held that the Divinity, being invisible, ought to be adored without being seen. They asserted the Unity of the Godhead. Their invocations were made to the One All-preserving Power; and they argued that, as this Power was not matter, it must necessarily be the Deity; and the secret symbol used to express His Name was O.I.W. They believed that the earth had sustained one general destruction by water, and would again be destroyed by fire. They admitted the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, a future state, and a day of judgment which would be conducted on the principle of man's responsibility. They even retained some idea of the redemption of mankind through the death of a Mediator. They retained a tradition of the Deluge, perverted and localised. But, around these fragments of primitive truth, they wove a web of idolatry, worshipped two Subordinate Deities under the names of Hu and Ceridwen, male and female (doubtless the same as Osiris and Isis), and held the doctrine of transmigration.
The early inhabitants of Scandinavia believed in a God Who was "the Author of everything that exists; the Eternal, the Ancient, the Living and Awful Being, the Searcher into concealed things, the Being that never changes". Idols and visible representations of the Deity were originally forbidden, and it was directed that He was to be worshipped in the lonely solitude of sequestered forests where He was said to dwell, invisible an in perfect silence.
The Druids, like their Eastern ancestors, paid the most sacred regard to the odd numbers which, traced backward, ended in Unity or Deity, while the even numbers ended in nothing. 3 was particularly reverenced. 19 (7+3+3*3); 30 (3+3*3*3); and 21 (7*3) were numbers observed in the erection of their temples, constantly appearing in their dimensions, and in the number and separation distances of the huge stones.
The Druids were the sole interpreters of religion. They superintended all sacrifices, for no private person could offer one without their permission. They exercised the power of excommunication; and without their concurrence, no war could be declared or peace made. They even had the power of inflicting the punishment of death. They professed to possess a knowledge of magic, and practised augury for the public service.
They cultivated many of the liberal sciences, and particularly astronomy, the favourite science of the Orient, in which they attained considerable proficiency. They considered day as the offspring of night, and therefore made their computations by nights instead of days; and we, from them, still use the words fortnight and sen'night. They knew the division of the Heavens into constellations, Finally, they practised the strictest morality, having particularly the most sacred regard for that peculiarly Masonic virtue, Truth.
In the Icelandic Prose Edda is the following Dialogue:
"Who is the first or eldest of the Gods?"
"In our language, He is called Alfadir (All-Father, or the Father of All); but in the old Asgard He had twelve names."
"Where is this God? What is His power? And what has He done to display His glory?"
"He lives from all ages; He governs all realms; He sways all things both great and small. He has formed Heaven and Earth, and the air, and all things belonging thereto.
"He has made man and given him a soul which shall live and never perish, though the body shall have mouldered away or have been burnt to ashes. And all that are righteous shall dwell with Him in the place called Gimli or Vingolf; but the wicked shall go to Hel, and thence to Nijlhel, which is below, in the ninth world."
Almost every heathen nation, so far as we have any knowledge of their mythology, believed in one Supreme Overruling God Whose Name it was not lawful to utter.
The Egyptians and Hindus revered Athom, On, or Om, [Aun or Aum] as the name of their chief Deity, who was also considered by the Canaanites as the Creator or the prolific power, probably the Solar Orb. The same name is compounded in the Philistine Deity, Dag-On, or the receptacle of On. The Chaldean Oannes was O-aun-Nes. Among the Jews, the worship of the Teraphim was connected with Aum. Thus the original of 1 Sam. xv.23, is, "As the sin of divination is rebellion, so is Aun and Teraphim stubbornness and iniquity".
Faber says: "By a plausible, though wretched, abuse, the Cherubim, or Seraphim, or Teraphim, became the symbolic Gods of paganism: and as the principal Hero-God of that system was thought to have migrated into the Sun, and was thence astronomically worshipped as the Solar Deity, the Teraphim are by the inspired writers justly associated with the Egyptian On, who is the same as the Indo-Scythic Om of the Brahmins."
The early Christians used the same word to express the Divine Being whom they worshipped: Ho On, The Being that is, and was, and is to come. The Tetragrammaton, or Ineffable Name, was, among the Jews, forbidden to be pronounced. But that its pronunciation might not be lost among the Levites, the High Priest uttered it in the Temple once a year on the 10th day of the Month Tisri, the day of the great feast of expiation. During this ceremony, the people were directed to make a great noise, that the Sacred Word might not be heard by any who had not a right to it; for every other, said the Jews, would be incontinently stricken dead.
The Great Egyptian Initiates, before the time of the Jews, did the same thing in regard to the word Isis, which they regarded as sacred and incommunicable.
The Hindu word AUM represented the three Powers combined in their Deity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, or the Creating, Preserving, and Destroying Powers: A, the first; U or O-O, the second; and M, the third. This word could not be pronounced except by the letters; for its pronunciation as one word was said to make earth tremble, and even the Angels of Heaven to quake for fear.
The word AUM, says the Ramayana, represents "The Being of Beings, One Substance in three forms; without mode, without quality, without passion; Immense, Incomprehensible, Infinite, Indivisible, Immutable, Incorporeal, Irresistible." [See also: The Sacred Name Ed.]
An old passage in the Purana says: "All the rites ordained in the Vedas, the sacrifice to the fire, and all other solemn purifications shall pass away: but that which shall never pass away is the word A.O-O.M, for it is the symbol of the Lord of all things."
Herodotus says that the Ancient Pelasgi built no temples and worshipped no idols, and had a sacred name of Deity which it was not permissible to pronounce.
The Clarian Oracle, which was of unknown antiquity, being asked which of the Deities was named IAO answered in these remarkable words: "The Initiated are bound to conceal the mysterious secrets. Learn, then, that IAO is the Great God Supreme, that rules over all."
The Jews consider the True Name of God to be irrecoverably lost by disuse, and regard its pronunciation as one of the Mysteries that will be revealed at the coming of their Messiah. And they attribute its loss to the illegality of applying the Masoretic points to so sacred a Name, by which a knowledge of the proper vowels is forgotten. It is even said, in the Genara of Abodah Zara, that God permitted a celebrated Hebrew scholar to be burned by a Roman Emperor because he had been heard to pronounce the Sacred Name with points.
The Jews feared that the Heathen would get possession of the Name: and therefore, in their copies of the Scriptures, they wrote it in the Samaritan characters instead of the Hebrew or Chaldaic, that the adversary might not make an improper use of it, for they believed it capable of working miracles, and held that the wonders in Egypt were performed by Moses in virtue of this Name being engraved on his rod, and that any person who knew the true pronunciation would be able to do as much as he did.
Josephus says it was unknown until God communicated it to Moses in the wilderness, and that it was lost through the wickedness of man.
The followers of Mohammed have a tradition that there is a secret Name of the Deity which possesses wonderful properties, and that the only method of becoming acquainted with it is by being initiated into the Mysteries of the Ism Abla.
H.O.M. was the first framer of the new religion among the Persians, and His Name was Ineffable.
Amun, among the Egyptians, was a name pronounceable by none save the Priests.
The old Germans adored God with profound reverence without daring to name Him, or to worship Him in Temples.
The Druids expressed the name of Deity by the letters O.I.W.
Even the doctrine of transmigration of souls, universal among the Ancient Hindus and Egyptians, rested on a basis of the old primitive religion, and was connected with a purely religious sentiment. It involved this noble element of truth: that since man had gone astray and wandered far from God, he must needs exert many efforts and undergo a long and painful pilgrimage before he could rejoin the Source of all Perfection. They had the firm conviction and positive certainty that nothing defective, impure, or defiled with earthly stains could enter the pure region of perfect spirits or be eternally united with God; wherefore the soul had to pass through long trials and many purifications before it could attain that blissful end. And the end and aim of all these systems of philosophy was the final deliverance of the soul from the old calamity, the dreaded fate and frightful lot of being compelled to wander through the dark regions of nature and the various forms of the brute creation, ever changing its terrestrial shape; and its ultimate union with God which they held to be the lofty destiny of the wise and virtuous soul.
Pythagoras gave to the doctrine of the transmigration of souls that meaning which the wise Egyptians gave to it in their Mysteries. He never taught the doctrine in that literal sense in which it was understood by the people. Of that literal doctrine, not the least vestige is to be found in such of his symbols as remain, nor in his precepts collected by his disciple Lysis. He held that men always remain, in their essence, such as they were created, and can degrade themselves only by vice and ennoble themselves only by virtue.
Hierocles, one of his most zealous and celebrated disciples, expressly says that he who believes that the soul of man, after his death, will enter the body of a beast for his vices or become a plant for his stupidity, is deceived; and is absolutely ignorant of the eternal form of the soul, which can never change; for, always remaining man, it is said to become God or beast through virtue or vice though it can become neither one nor the other by nature, but solely by the resemblance of its inclinations to theirs.
And Timaeus of Locria, another disciple, says that to alarm men and prevent them from committing crimes, they menaced them with strange humiliations and punishments, even declaring that their souls would pass into new bodies: that of a coward into the body of a deer; that of a ravisher into the body of a wolf; that of a murderer into the body of some still more ferocious animal; and that of an impure sensualist into the body of a hog.
So, too, the doctrine is explained in the Phaedo. And Lysis says that after the soul, purified of its crimes, has left the body and returned to Heaven, it is no longer subject to change or death, but enjoys an eternal felicity. According to the Indians, it returned to, and became part of, the Universal Soul which animates everything.
The Hindus held that Buddha descended on Earth to raise all human beings up to the perfect state. He will ultimately succeed; and all, himself included, be merged in Unity.
Vishnu is to judge the world at the last day. It is to be consumed by fire: the Sun and Moon are to lose their light, the Stars to fall, and a New Heaven and Earth to be created.
The legend of the fall of the Spirits, obscured and distorted, is preserved in the Hindu Mythology. Their traditions acknowledged, and they revered, the succession of the first ancestors of mankind, or the Holy Patriarchs of the primitive world, under the name of the Seven Great Rishis, or Sages, of hoary antiquity, though they invested their history with a cloud of fictions.
The Egyptians held that the soul was immortal, and that Osiris was to judge the world.
And thus reads the Persian legend:
"After Ahriman shall have ruled the world until the end of time, Sosiosch, the promised Redeemer, will come and annihilate the power of the Devs (Evil Spirits), awaken the dead, and sit in final judgment upon spirits and men. After that the comet Gurzsher will be thrown down, and a general conflagration take place which will consume the whole world. The remains of the Earth will then sink down into Duzakh and become for three periods a place of punishment for the wicked. Then by degrees all will be pardoned, even Ahriman and the Devs, and admitted to the regions of bliss, and thus there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth."
In the doctrines of Lamaism also, we find, obscured and partly concealed in fiction, fragments of the primitive truth. For, according to that faith, "There is to be a final judgment before Eslik Khan: the good are to be admitted to Paradise, the bad to be banished to hell, where there are eight regions burning hot and eight freezing cold."
These truths were covered from the common people as with a veil; and the Mysteries were carried into every country, so that without disturbing the popular beliefs, truth, the arts, and the sciences might be known to those who were capable of understanding them and maintaining incorrupt the true doctrine which the people, prone to superstition and idolatry, have in no age been able to do. Nor, as many strange aberrations and superstitions of the present day prove, has there been any improvement in this respect. For we need but point to the doctrines of so many sects that degrade the Creator to the rank, and assign to Him the passions, of humanity, to prove that now, as always, the old truths must be committed to a few, or they will be overlaid with fiction and error, and irretrievably lost.
Though Masonry is identical with the Ancient Mysteries, it is so in this qualified sense: that it presents but an imperfect image of their brilliancy, and only the ruins of their grandeur a system that has experienced progressive alterations, the fruits of social events and political circumstances. Upon leaving Egypt, the Mysteries were modified by the habits of the different nations among whom they were introduced. Though originally more moral and political than religious, they soon became the heritage, as it were, of the priests, and essentially religious, though in reality limiting the sacerdotal power by teaching the intelligent laity the folly and absurdity of the creeds of the populace. They were therefore necessarily changed by the religious systems of the countries into which they were transplanted. In Greece, they were the Mysteries of Ceres; in Rome, of Bona Dea, the Good Goddess; in Gaul, the School of Mars; in Sicily, the Academy of the Sciences. Among the Hebrews, they partook of the rites and ceremonies of a religion which placed all the powers of government and all the knowledge in the hands of the Priests and Levites. The pagodas of India, the retreats of the Magi of Persia and Chaldea, and the pyramids of Egypt, were no longer the sources at which men drank in knowledge. Each people, at all informed, had its Mysteries. After a time the Temples of Greece and the School of Pythagoras lost their reputations, and Free Masonry took their place.
Masonry, when properly expounded, is at once the interpretation of the great book of Nature, the recital of physical and astronomical phenomena, the purest philosophy, and the place of deposit where, as in a Treasury, are kept in safety all the great truths of the primitive revelation that form the basis of all religions. In the modern degrees three things are to be recognised: the image of primeval times; the tableau of the efficient causes of the Universe; and the book in which are written the morality of all peoples, and the code by which they must govern themselves if they would be prosperous.
The First Degree represents man when he had sunken from his original lofty estate into what is most improperly styled a state of nature. He represents in that degree the rough ashlar, unfit to form a part of the spiritual temple; the pagan, who has lost all the great primitive truths of the original revelation. He maintained the same character in the Ancient Mysteries. He is emphatically a Profane, enveloped in darkness, poor and destitute of spiritual knowledge, and emblematically naked. The material darkness which is produced by the bandage over his eyes is an emblem of the darkness of his soul. He is deprived of everything that has a value, and wherewith he could purchase food, to indicate his utter destitution of the mental wealth of primitive truth. In this degree he undergoes only physical tests, and receives elementary moral instruction. As yet, he takes upon himself no duty but secrecy. He still remains in the dark quarter of the Lodge, though not in the North, but halfway towards the East, the place of light.
He is not exposed to the fearful trials which awaited the candidate for initiation into the Mysteries. He passes through no gloomy forests or long, labyrinthine caves; he meets no hideous spectres; he is stunned and alarmed by no fearful noises; he incurs no danger. A few solitary moments in reflection and prayer, a short time passed in darkness, a few uncertain steps, a few obstacles to overcome, are all; and he enters the Temple of Truth and Virtue.
The journeys and trials of the candidate are an emblem of human life. Man enters feeble and naked upon a road full of dangers and pitfalls. The ignorance of the fancy, the fiery passions of youth, the troubles and agitations of mature age, the infirmities of old age, are so many evils which assail him, and which philosophy alone can aid him against. Defenceless in a world of trouble, what would become of him without the assistance of his brethren?
His obligation is no vulgar oath, such as is administered in the profane world. It is antique and sacred. He repeats it without compulsion. The expressions are energetic because, being yet in darkness, he is on the point of passing from barbarism into civilisation. It is like those of the Ancient Mysteries, for violating which Alcibiades was exiled and devoted to the Furies.
When he is brought to light, the allegory is complete. He sees around him a band of brothers, bound to protect and defend him. The obligation he has assumed, they and every Mason in the world have assumed towards him. He is one of The Brotherhood, bound by its laws, and enlisted as a soldier against ignorance and vice. The Master, for the time entitled to respect and veneration, is still but the first among his brethren, who are all his equals. Such is Masonic law and usage; and such it has been from the earliest ages.
In his journey, imitating that of life, the candidate goes but three times around the Lodge, although life has four seasons. This is because his journey also represents the annual revolution of the Sun. Had the Mysteries originated in the North or West, in Rome or Greece, the seasons of the year and life would have agreed, and four have been the number instead of three. But in the East, in ancient times, there were but three seasons.
The three pillars that support the Lodge are Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty. The Egyptians and the Hebrews based their civil policy upon the Wisdom of the Priests, and the Power, Strength or Valour of their civil chiefs, who were also Military Commanders; and the Harmony between these (synonymous with Beauty, among the Egyptians), completed the prosperity of the State.
The age of an apprentice is said to be three years because in the Ancient Mysteries three years' preparation was required before Initiation could commence. The number three belongs in a peculiar manner to this Degree: the alarm is three raps; there are three movable and three immovable jewels; three principal officers; three lights, greater and lesser; three journeys are made round the Lodge; three questions are put to the candidate before his entrance; and after his admission, the numbers from unity to three inclusive should be, but not often are, explained to him. Listen to that explanation!
The Kabbalistic doctrine was long the religion of the Sage and the Savant because, like Free Masonry, it incessantly tends towards spiritual perfection and the fusion of the creeds and nationalities of Mankind. In the eyes of the Kabbalist, all men are his brothers; and their relative ignorance is, to him, but a reason for instructing them. There were illustrious Kabbalists among the Egyptians and Greeks, whose doctrines the Orthodox Church has accepted; and among the Arabs were many whose wisdom was not slighted by the Medieval Church.
The Sages proudly bore the name of Kabbalists. The Kabbala embodied a noble philosophy, pure, and not mysterious but symbolic. It taught the doctrine of the Unity of God, the art of knowing and explaining the essence and operations of the Supreme Being, of spiritual powers and natural forces, and of determining their action by symbolic figures; by the arrangement of the alphabet, the combinations of numbers, the inversion of letters in writing, and the concealed meanings which they claimed to discover therein. The Kabbala is the key of the occult sciences; and the Gnostics were born of the Kabbalists.
The science of numbers represented not only arithmetical qualities, but also all grandeur, all proportion. By it we necessarily arrive at the discovery of the Principle or First Cause of things, called at the present day The Absolute or Unity, that loftiest term to which all philosophy directs itself: that imperious necessity of the human mind, that pivot around which it is compelled to group the aggregate of its ideas; Unity, this source, this centre of all systematic order, this principle of existence, this central point, unknown in its essence but manifest in its effects; Unity, that sublime centre to which the chain of causes necessarily ascends, was the august Idea towards which all the ideas of Pythagoras converged. He refused the title of Sage, which means one who knows: he invented, and applied to himself, that of Philosopher, signifying one who is fond of or studies things secret and occult. The astronomy which he mysteriously taught was astrology; his science of numbers was based on Kabbalistic principles.
The Ancients, and Pythagoras himself, whose real principles have not always been understood, never meant to ascribe to numbers, that is to say, to abstract signs, any special virtue. But the Sages of Antiquity concurred in recognising One First Cause (material or spiritual) of the existence of the Universe. Thence, Unity became the symbol of the Supreme Deity. It was made to express, to represent, God; but without attributing to the mere number One any divine or supernatural virtue.
The philosophical principles of the Ancients, which formed the basis of the secret teaching in the Great Mysteries, have been transmitted from age to age by the Initiates.
In our Fellow Craft's Degree, the number five succeeds to three. Pythagoras required his pupils to spend five years in study.
The Eleusinian Initiation originally had but two degrees. Our two first were comprised in one. To the Greeks we owe the ternary division. Among the early Christians, there were three degrees. The Catechumens, or Aspirants, under instruction for the purpose of baptism or initiation, could not be present either at the mysteries or at sacrifice. The part of the Mass at which they assisted ended with the canon, or rather after the instruction given to them that is, the instruction in the ancient law or the apostolic lessons given them by a sub-deacon or aspirant to the Priesthood; and that in the New Testament read by the deacon or priest of the second order. It is from these primitive Christian Lodges that we preserve the titles of our subordinate officers, the Senior and Junior Deacons.
Afterwards the Catechumens became Neophytes, and could then be present at the mysteries and love-feasts or religious banquets, but only after a certain time and additional instruction. And still afterwards, they were confirmed, and received instruction in the hidden mysteries of the Faith. So that there, as in the ancient mysteries, the second degree was an indispensable preparation for the third.
In the Second Degree, a long time was spent in study. Here the Neophyte was taught the human sciences, and particularly that of numbers, which was deemed sacred because, though styled Geometry, it included also that imperial study Astronomy, by which the student learned the operations of the laws of Nature to prepare himself for receiving in the third degree a knowledge of that Supreme Intelligence which has organised and governs the Universe with so admirable and inflexible an order.
In this Degree, the letter G represents Geometry alone. Its deeper meaning is properly reserved for the Third. Here the young Fellow Craft is the representative of the Student of the sciences in the school of Pythagoras; and it was there known that among the Brahmins Gannes was the God of numbers, and the patron of schools and learned societies. With us, too, the letter is the substitute for the Hebraic Jod, the initial letter of The Divine Name, and a monogram that expressed the Uncreated Being, principle of all things; and, enclosed in a triangle, The Unity of God. We recognise the same letter G in the Syriac Gad, the Swedish Gud, the German Gott, and the English God all names of the Deity, and all derived from the Persian Goda, itself derived from the absolute pronoun signifying Himself. So too, G was the initial of the Greek word gnosis, knowledge.
The word Lodge comes from Loga, which in the sacred language of the Ganges signifies World: of which every Lodge is indeed a representation. To what we call Lodge, the Persians gave the name Jehan; whence, perhaps, by corruption and pleonasm comes our expression, a Lodge of St John.
In the Ancient Mysteries, the Presiding Officer or Hierophant wore the emblems of the Supreme Deity, as the Master of the Lodge still represents the High Priest of Ihuh. The Sun and the Moon were, and are still, the emblems of the two Wardens, who answer to the two next officers in the Mysteries by whom the same emblems were worn: the Torch-bearer and the Sacrificer.
The Blazing Star was the image of Horus, the son of Osiris or the Sun, author of the seasons, and the God of Time, son of Isis, the primitive matter, inexhaustible source of life, spark of uncreated fire, universal seed of all beings. It represented also Anubis, or the Dog Star, the faithful guide of Isis, and the Herald of approaching inundation to the Egyptians. The Christian Masons made it an emblem of that Star in the East that led the three Magi to Bethlehem.
The Seat of the Master is called the East, because the Mysteries come from the Orient, and because he represents Osiris or the Sun.
The word of the Fellow Craft has an astronomical meaning that again connects Masonry with the primitive times. Setting the Celestial Globe for the place where the temple was built, and the season of the year when it was commenced, the Master's station corresponds with the heliacal or solar rising. The Sun near the chest of the constellation Aries has just shown himself above the Horizon. The aspirant, entering by the West door, faces the day-star, and is consequently near that star of the Zodiac which sets as the Sun rises. It is the star which blesses the husbandman, that brilliant star which the Hebrews call Schibboleth, the Romans, Spica, and the French, Epi; all meaning an ear of wheat a star in the constellation Virgo.
In this Degree, one point of the compass is raised above the square. The square is an emblem of the mechanical world, and of obedience; the compass describes those curves and circles which are figures of the celestial movements, and is an emblem of authority. Thus the meaning is that the aspirant has taken one step towards celestial knowledge, and from obedience to command.
In this Degree also, the aspirant is taught how the worship of Bel, Ormuzd, Osiris, Apollo, and like gods of other nations grew out of the veneration of the primitive world for light, the first necessity for man, and the vivid and most striking emblem of the Good Principle, ever at war with the Evil Principle, Typhon, Ahriman, of Shaitan.
The name of the aspirant in this Degree, Fellow Craft or Companion, is substituted for those of the Initiate of the second order, or Neophyte, of Egypt and the Mysteries of Eleusis.
In the Orient, the aspirant in this Degree, after undergoing the severest or, rather, the most cruel, trials, was proclaimed the soldier of Mithras and could, like the modern apprentices, call all initiates his companions in arms, that is, his Brothers. Next he became a lion, a name which, beside its astronomical meaning (the Sun of Summer, in that Sign), had a moral meaning because it involved and embodied the idea of strength, the peculiar expression of the modern Fellow Craft, engraved on the South column (B.) These grades were only preparatory to a higher, in which the Mysteries were revealed, and Mithras manifested himself to the Elect.
The Fellow Craft passes from the perpendicular to the square; from the column J. to the column B. The perpendicular is a single straight line; the square, two, forming a right angle, The third line comes in the Master's Degree, to complete the right-angled triangle and exhibit the 47th Problem of Euclid and Pythagoras. [See also, e.g., Symbolising the Divine Presence Ed.]
[During the Initiation into this Degree, the orator and another brother repeat the following in question and answer form. Ed.]
Q. Why did you seek to be received a Knight of the Kabbala?
A. To know, by means of numbers, the admirable harmony which there is between nature and religion.
Q. How were you announced?
A. By twelve raps. Q. What do they signify?
A. The twelve bases of our temporal and spiritual happiness.
Q. What is a Kabbalist?
A. A man who has learned, by tradition, the Sacerdotal Art and the Royal Art.
Q. What means the device, Omnia in numeris sita sunt?
A. That everything lies veiled in numbers.
Q. Explain me that.
A. I will do so, as far as the number 12. Your sagacity will discern the rest.
Q. What signifies the unit in the number 10?
A. God, creating and animating matter, expressed by 0, which, alone, is of no value.
Q. What does the unit mean?
A. In the moral order, a Word incarnate in the bosom of a virgin, or religion...; in the physical, a spirit embodied in the virgin earth, or Nature.
Q. What do you mean by the number two?
A. In the moral order, man and woman: in the physical, the active and the passive.
Q. What do you mean by the number 3?
A. In the moral order, the three theological virtues: in the physical, the three principles of bodies.
Q. What do you mean by the number 4?
A. The four cardinal virtues; the four elementary qualities.
Q. What do you mean by the number 5?
A. The quintessence of religion; the quintessence of matter.
[The Lecture is resumed. Ed.]
The unit is the symbol of identity, equality, existence, conservation, and general harmony: the Central Fire, the Point within the Circle.
Two, or the duad, is the symbol of diversity, inequality, division, separation, and vicissitudes.
The cipher 1 signifies the living man [a body standing upright]; man being the only living being possessed of this faculty. Adding to it a head, we have the letter P, the sign of Paternity, Creative Power; and, with a further addition, R, signifying man in motion, going.
The Duad is the origin of contrasts. It is the imperfect condition into which, according to Pythagoreans, a being falls when he detaches himself from the Monad, or God. Spiritual beings, emanating from God, are enveloped in the duad, and therefore receive only illusory impressions.
As formerly the number ONE designated harmony, order, or the Good Principle (the ONE and ONLY God, expressed in Latin by Solus, whence the words Sol, Soleil, symbol of this God), the number TWO expressed the contrary idea. There commenced the fatal knowledge of good and evil. Everything double, false, opposed to the single and sole reality, was expressed by the Binary number. It expressed also that state of contrariety in which Nature exists, where everything is double: night and day, light and darkness, cold and heat, wet and dry, health and sickness, error and truth, one and the other sex, etc. Hence the Romans dedicated the second month in the year to Pluto, the God of Hell, and the second day of that month to the manθs of the dead.
The number one, with the Chinese, signified unity, harmony, order, the Good Principle, or God; two, disorder, duplicity, falsehood. That people, in the earliest ages, based their whole philosophical system on the two primary figures or lines, one straight and unbroken, the other broken or divided in two; doubling which, by placing one under the other, and trebling by placing three under each other, they made the four symbols and eight Koua, which referred to the natural elements and the primary principles of all things, and served symbolically or scientifically to express them. Plato terms unity and duality the original elements of nature and first principles of all existence: and the oldest sacred book of the Chinese says: "The Great First Principle has produced two equations and differences, or primary rules of existence: but the two primary rules or two oppositions, namely Yin and Yang, or repose and motion, have produced four signs or symbols, and the four symbols have produced the eight Koua or further combinations."
The interpretation of the Hermetic fables shows, among every ancient people, in their principal Gods, first, 1, the Creating Monad, then 3, then 3 times 3, 3 times 9, and 3 times 27. This triple progression has for its foundation the three ages of Nature the Past, the Present, and the Future; or the three degrees of universal generation Birth, Life, Death; Beginning, Middle, End.
The Monad was male, because its action produces no change in itself, but only out of itself. It represented the creative principle.
The Duad, for a contrary reason, was female, ever changing by addition, subtraction, or multiplication. It represents matter capable of form.
The union of the Monad and Duad produces the Triad, signifying the world formed out of matter by the creative principle. Pythagoras represented the world by the right-angled triangle, in which the squares of the two shortest sides added together are equal to the square of the longest one; as the world, as formed, is equal to the creative cause, and matter clothed with form.
The ternary is the first of the unequal numbers. The Triad, mysterious number, which plays so great a part in the traditions of Asia and the philosophy of Plato, image of the Supreme Being, includes in itself the properties of the first two numbers. It was, to the Philosophers, the most excellent and favourite number: a mysterious type, revered by all antiquity, and consecrated in the Mysteries; wherefore there are but three essential degrees among Masons who venerate, in the triangle, the most august mystery, that of the Sacred Triad, object of their homage and study.
In geometry, a line cannot represent a body absolutely perfect. As little do two lines constitute a figure demonstrably perfect. But three lines form, by their junction, the Triangle, or the first figure regularly perfect; and this is why it served and still serves to characterise The Eternal, Who, infinitely perfect in His nature, is, as the Universal Creator, the first Being, and consequently the first Perfection.
The Quadrangle, or Square, perfect as it appears, being but the second perfection, can in no wise represent God, Who is the first. It is to be noted that the name of God in Latin and French (Deus, Dieu), has for its initial the Delta or Greek Triangle. Such is the reason, among ancients and moderns, for the consecration of the Triangle, whose three sides are emblems of the three Kingdoms, or Nature, or God. In the centre is the Hebrew Jod (initial of IHUH), the Animating Spirit or Fire, the generative principle, represented by the letter G, initial of the name of Deity in the languages of the North, and the meaning whereof is Generation.
The first side of the Triangle, offered to the study of the Apprentice, is the mineral kingdom, symbolised by Tub.
The second side, the subject of the meditations of the Fellow Craft, is the vegetable kingdom, symbolised by Schib. (an ear of corn). In this reign begins the Generation of bodies; and this is why the letter G, in its radiance, is presented to the eyes of the adept.
The third side, the study whereof is devoted to the animal kingdom, and completes the instruction of the Master, is symbolised by Mach. (Son of putrefaction).
The cypher 3 symbolises the Earth. It is a figure of the terrestrial bodies. The 2, upper half of 3, symbolises the vegetable world, the lower half being hidden from our sight.
3 also referred to harmony, friendship, peace, concord, and temperance; and was so highly esteemed among the Pythagoreans that they called it perfect harmony.
Three, four, ten, and twelve were sacred numbers among the Etrurians, as they were among the Jews, Egyptians, and Hindus.
The name of Deity in many nations consisted of three letters: among the Greeks, Iao; among the Persians, Hom; among the Hindus, Aum; among the Scandinavians, Iow. On the upright tablet of the King, discovered at Numrud, no less than five of the thirteen names of the Great Gods, consist of three letters each Anu, San, Yav, Bar, and Bel.
The quaternary is the most perfect number, and the root of other numbers, and of all things. The tetrad expresses the first mathematical power. 4 represents also the generative power from which all combinations are derived. The Initiates considered it the emblem of Movement and the Infinite, representing everything that is neither corporeal nor sensible. Pythagoras communicated it to his disciples as a symbol of the Eternal and Creative Principle under the name of Quaternary, the Ineffable Name of God, which signifies Source of everything that has received existence and which, in Hebrew, is composed of four letters.
In the Quaternary we find the first solid figure, the universal symbol of immortality, the tetrahedron or pyramid. The Gnostics claimed that the whole edifice of their science rested on a square whose angles were Silence, Profundity, Intelligence, and Truth. For if the Triangle, figured by the number 3, forms the triangular base of the pyramid, it is unity which forms its point or summit.
Lysis and Timaeus of Locria said that not a single thing could be named which did not depend on the quaternary as its root.
There is, according to the Pythagoreans, a connection between the Gods and numbers which constitutes the kind of Divination called Arithmomancy. The soul is a number; it is moved of itself; it contains in itself the quaternary number.
Matter being represented by the number 9, or 3 times 3, and the Immortal Spirit having for its essential hieroglyphic the quaternary, or the number 4, the Sages said that Man having gone astray and become entangled in an inextricable labyrinth in going from four to nine, the only way which he could take to emerge from these dreadful paths, these disastrous detours, and the abyss of evil into which he had plunged, was to retrace his steps and go from nine to four.
The ingenious and mystical idea which caused the Triangle to be venerated was applied to the cipher 4. It was said that it represented a living being, I, bearer of the Triangle, the emblem of God; i.e. man bearing with himself a Divine principle.
Four was a divine number; it referred to the Deity, and many Ancient nations gave God a name of four letters: as the Hebrews IHUH, the Egyptians Amun, the Greeks Eros, and the Latins Deus. This was the Tetragrammaton of the Hebrews, and the Pythagoreans called it Tetractys, and swore their most solemn oath by it. So too Odin among the Scandinavians, Phta among the Egyptians, Thoth among the Phoenicians, and Asur and Nebo among the Assyrians. The list might be indefinitely extended.
The number 5 was considered as mysterious because it was compounded of the Binary, symbol of the False and Double, and the Ternary, and therefore interesting in its results. It thus energetically expresses the state of imperfection, of order and disorder, of happiness and misfortune, of life and death, which we see upon the earth. To the Mysterious Societies it offered the fearful image of the Bad Principle, bringing trouble into the inferior order, i.e. it was the Binary acting in the Ternary.
Under another aspect, it was the emblem of marriage: because it is composed of 2, the first equal (or even) number and 3, the first unequal (or odd) number. Wherefore Juno, the Goddess of Marriage, had for her hieroglyphic the number 5.
Moreover it has one of the properties of the number nine, that of reproducing itself when multiplied by itself, there being always a 5 on the right hand of the product a result which led to its use as the symbol of material changes.
The ancients represented the world by the number 5. A reason for it, given by Diodorus, is that it represents earth, water, air, fire, and ether or spirit. Thence the origin of the Universe, as the whole.
The number 5 designated the universal quintessence and symbolised, by its form, the vital essence, the animating spirit, which flows (serpentat) through all Nature. In fact, this ingenious cipher is the union of the two Greek accents placed over those vowels which ought to be or ought not to be aspirated. The first sign bears the name of potent spirit, and signifies the Superior Spirit of God aspirated (spiratus), respired by man. The second sign is styled mild spirit and represents the secondary spirit, the spirit purely human.
The triple triangle, a figure of five lines uniting in five points, was among the Pythagoreans a symbol of health.
It is the Pentalpha of Pythagoras, or Pentacle of Solomon; it has five lines and five angles; and is among Masons the outline or origin of the five-pointed Star, and an emblem of Fellowship.
How can these ordinary events have been worthy to engage the attention of so many enlightened men among all nations and for so many ages? What interest do they contain for us? Why, after the 3000 years which have elapsed since the days of Solomon, do all Europe and America and much of other parts of the world still celebrate, with every mark of grief, the death of a mere architect, while so many sages and philosophers have died to be barely mentioned in history? Was Hiram another Socrates, one of those benefactors of the human race, whose name reminds us of the most eminent virtues and signal services? We open the annals of nations and nowhere find his name. No historian mentions it. He was not even a Hebrew or an architect, but a Phoenician and a founder in brass or other metals; his whole occupation about the Temple confined to casting and moulding the metallic work that adorned it. Masonic tradition may add to, but cannot contradict, the Scriptural account, and here the Scripture is positive.
Nor do the Scriptures mention his death; nor deem him worthy of any mention whatever except as a skilful workman in metals. In them it nowhere appears that he was not a heathen, holding to his old Phoenician faith, like Hiram his monarch.
What then was the tie between these three personages? If anything, beyond the ordinary alliance of neighbouring monarchs, it was that they were initiates in the Mysteries practised in Phoenicia, to which country as to Palestine they came from Egypt. The Masonic legend stands by itself, unsupported by other history or tradition. Nor are the circumstances, if literally accepted, of the slightest present importance to any one.
It is impossible to believe that a knowledge of occurrences so unimportant and so imperfectly told, could have been the sole object of the Master's Degree. The drama is obviously but an allegory which we must here examine and explain, inasmuch as the degree itself utterly fails to explain it, and seems, indeed, more like a succession of hints at deeper truths than like the truth itself.
For many ages, and everywhere, Masons have celebrated the death of Hiram. That event, therefore, interests the whole world, and no particular nation, sect, order, or coterie; it belongs to no particular time, religion, or people. It is not an allegory referring to the death of Christ, for it has with that so few points of resemblance that the truth would never be discovered in the allegory; nor to the murder of Jacques de Molay, nor that of Charles I, nor the persecutions of the early Christians, nor those of the Jews.
Everywhere among the ancient nations there existed a similar allegory; and all must refer to some great primitive fact. All these allegories are like so many hieroglyphical writings, to learn the hidden meaning whereof we need only the key: and that key the Ancient Mysteries will give us.
In the Apprentice we find reproduced the Aspirant of Thebes and Eleusis, the Soldier of Mithras, the Christian Catechumen. In the Fellow Craft, we see the Initiate of the Second Order, the Lion of the Eastern Mysteries, the Christian Neophyte.
In all the Mysteries, there was a double doctrine. It was so everywhere among the Brahmins of India as well as among the Druids of Germany and Gaul; at Memphis, Samothrace, and Eleusis; in the Mysteries of the Jews and early Christians, as well as in those of Ceres and the Good Goddess. Everywhere we see emblems presenting a physical meaning, and receiving a double interpretation: one natural, and as it were material, within the reach of ordinary intellects; the other sublime and philosophical, which was communicated only to those men of genius who, in the preparatory degree, had understood the concealed meaning of the allegories.
Everywhere in the East, the cradle of religions and allegories, we see in ancient times under different names the same idea reproduced: everywhere a God, a Supreme Being or an extraordinary man is slain, to recommence afterwards a glorious life; everywhere we meet the memory of a great and tragical event, a crime or transgression that plunges the people into sorrow and mourning, to which soon succeeds enthusiastic rejoicing.
The Master's Degree is but a pale reflection of the ancient initiation, the allegorical drama whereof has been disfigured and become trivial; so that, at the present day, it needs the skill of a well-informed Master to give interest to the interpretations of the mutilated hieroglyphs of this beautiful degree.
We readily recognise in Hiram, Grand Master of Free Masons, the Osiris of the Egyptians, the Mithras of the Persians, the Bacchus of the Greeks, and the Atys of the Phrygians; whose passion, death, and resurrection were celebrated by those peoples respectively. And, astronomically, he is the emblem of the Sun, the symbol of his apparent march; of the Sun who, declining towards the Southern Hemisphere, is conquered and put to death by the darkness, represented in the same allegory as genii of evil; and who, returning towards the Northern Hemisphere, rises victorious from the dead.
The constant struggle in every man between the Divine and the Natural will was but an integral part of the great contest between good and evil everywhere in the world. With this the Ancients assimilated the like struggle between health and sickness, pleasure and pain, peace and war, good fortune and poverty. It seemed to them also like the perpetually alternating conflict between light and darkness, winter and summer. They resorted to the theory of two principles as an explanation of the whole: two principles, ever at war; and by a temporary victory of one over the other, sin and evil, pain and sorrow came into the world. Reviving again, they imagined the Good Principle still warring against the Evil one, and reconciled all difficulties by holding that he was ultimately to conquer, when the world would be redeemed and regenerated.
The Sun became the emblem of this beneficent principle; and then the Heavens were searched for analogies, and fabulous histories were invented, adding to the main incident a cloud of circumstances, many invented at random, with a poetic licence, and varied in every nation according to the tastes or habits of its people; but many also adaptations of astronomical coincidences.
And as the Sun became the symbol of the beneficent and good Principle, his companion the Moon became also an emblem. The Sun readily became the vivifying and generating Principle, or mind and intelligence; and the Moon, his wife, the passive principle, or the emblem of universal matter. And thus the means were afforded for a thousand intricate complications, many of which it is now impossible to unravel or trace to their source.
Science, offered to all well-born Egyptians, was forced on no one. The doctrines of morality, political laws, the restraint of public opinion, the controlling effect of their civil institutions, were the same for all; but religious instruction varied according to the capacity, virtue, and wishes of each. The Mysteries were not made common, as Masonry is at this day, for they were of some value. Instruction as to the nature of the Divinity was not given promiscuously, because the knowledge of it was real, and to preserve the truth of it for many, it was indispensable not to give it uselessly to all.
It would have been well if that wise caution had been imitated by modern Masons. Then Masonry would not have lost its most valuable prerogatives, as it did when its temple was indiscriminately thrown open to all who could pay the price.
Formerly the Master's Degree preserved some vestiges of its ancient grandeur, and a Mason could, under different emblems that covered the truth, recognise the real character, object, and origin of this antique monument of human wisdom.
Still the true meaning of its symbolic emblems may be discovered. They show that the drama of the Third Degree represents, as all the old mysteries did, the annual revolution of the Sun, and his symbolic death and resurrection at the time of the Winter Solstice. In various shapes and under various disguises, we find this allegory everywhere; and everywhere it teaches, in the death of Osiris, Atys, Hiram, or whosoever represents the Sun, the Eternal contest between the Good and Evil Principles, the fall of man, his immortality, and his redemption. It is the history of the struggle that began when Sin entered the world between light and darkness; light typifying good, and darkness evil; and the ultimate triumph of light and the Good Principle proving the mercy and justice of the Grand Architect of the Universe.
For the allegory of the death and revival of the God of Light was also explained as symbolising the great principle of generation from putrefaction, the apparent death of animated being, but inexhaustible source of life. Hence the feast at the Vernal equinox, among all nations; the ancient sacrifices, that the blood of the victim might fertilise the earth and feed new life; and the universal joy when, reaching the Sign first of the Bull, and two-and-a-half thousand years later, of the Ram, the Sun began to waken to life the germs hidden in the earth, and gave promise of future plenty. And hence the remembrance of the egg, out of which in the Hindu faith the world was born, perpetuated even to our day in the eggs stained and given as presents of that Equinox.
The name which we read Hiram is, in Kings, Khiram (Raised to life), and in Chronicles, Khouram (white), a term applied to the ancient Initiates, and peculiarly applicable to the Sun.
Hiram is killed. So was Osiris. Hiram was merely raised from the grave; and so was Osiris; but in other legends there is a resurrection. To kill is in Latin occidere, whence the word occident, the West, which figuratively kills the celestial bodies that sink there below the horizon. So resurrection, figuratively meaning the coming again to life, is from the Latin verb resurgere, to rise again; as the Sun and stars rise again, or come to life, when they appear above the Eastern horizon.
The point within a circle, and that circle bounded by two parallel lines, refer to the same astronomical legend. The circle is the Sun, and the lines the two Tropics, beyond which he cannot pass. But, as every thing in Masonry has a double sense, so here too the circle with a central point is, as it was throughout the Eastern world, the symbol of the male and female principles, or the creative power and universal matter God and the Universe. The intersection of two equilateral triangles meant the same; and both came from the Indian Mysteries.
In the legend of Osiris, the coffin containing his body was flung ashore under a tamarisk tree. Another version is that Isis found the body near a tall plant of heath or broom. She sat down by a spring that broke from a rock, and rested there overcome with grief.
A branch of some tree or shrub was indispensable in all the initiations: in the Egyptian Mysteries, the lotus; in those of Atys, the almond-branch; the myrtle of Venus; the Druidical mistletoe; among the early Christians, the box-tree of Palm Sunday; in Virgil's description of the Mysteries, the golden branch; among Masons, the thorny acacia that marked Horam's grave, a mere variation of the tamarisk or heath of Osiris. The Ancients considered the acacia incorruptible. It was reverenced by the ancient Arabs, and particularly by the Tribe Ghalfan. They made of its wood their idol Al-Uzza, which Mohammed destroyed. The Sabeans paid it honour, and their initiates bore a branch of it. It was called by them houzza or rather Hoscheah, which every Knight Rose Croix will recognise.
In personifying the astronomical allegory of the descension and ascension of the Sun, itself a symbol of the struggle between the Good and Evil Principles, the Divine and Natural law, the Spirit and the Flesh; the Indians, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Phrygians, the Greeks, the Samothracians, the Celts, and the Goths all represented the Sun by a God, a lofty Nature, above mankind and remote from the sympathies of men.
But the Masonic Myth represents its Hero neither by a God nor a warrior. He is one of the mass of the People, the son of a man not even of the Jewish race, but of the Phoenician, and of a woman of the Tribe of Naphtali, in no wise connected with the Priests or Levites. He is no King nor the son of a King, no Conqueror, no Priest; but a plain man of the people, a worker in the metals, in gold, silver, iron, and brass, and in crimson and scarlet stuffs a second Tubalcain; and of him, this Plebeian, Masonry makes a companion of Kings.
When Osiris and Bacchus were slain, they were sought for by Gods. But when Hiram disappeared, an association of workers, who had lost their Chief, their guide, and their light, took measures to find him, and sent forth men from among themselves to search for him.
Thus Masonry teaches, under the same old Myth, the far nobler doctrine of the dignity of labour, of equality and fraternity; and this, and its republican form of government and administration, have caused it to spread throughout the Globe.
Hiram not only represents the Sun and the Good Principle, but the Eternal, never-dying, primitive TRUTH, ever struggling for the victory. The three assassins are Ambition, Falsehood, and Ignorance: the ambition of a corrupt Priesthood, who concealed the truth from the Masses that by means of debasing superstitions they might subjugate them more completely to their will; the falsehood of their myriad fictions and fables that soon became absolutely inexplicable, a mere jargon and chaos of confusion; and the ignorance of the Masses, that caused them to believe in error, and forget the truth. Such is the Masonic Myth.
[The Orator and another Brother repeat, by question and answer, as follows. Ed].
Q. What do you mean by the number 6?
A. The theological cube; the physical cube.
Q. What do you mean by the number 7?
A. The seven sacraments; the seven planets.
Q. What do you mean by the number 8?
A. The small number of Elus ["Elect" Ed.]; The small number of wise men.
Q. What do you mean by the number 9?
A. The exaltation of religion; the exaltation of matter.
Q. What do you mean by the number 10?
A. The ten commandments; the ten precepts of Nature.
Q. What do you mean by the number 11?
A. The multiplication of religion; the multiplication of Nature.
Q. What do you mean by the number 12?
A. The twelve articles of faith and the twelve Apostles, foundation of the Holy City, who preached throughout the whole world, for our happiness and spiritual joy; the twelve operations of Nature and the twelve Signs of the Zodiac, foundation of the Primum Mobile, extending it throughout the Universe for our temporal felicity.
[The Rabbi (President of the Sanhedrin) adds: From all that you have said, it results that the unit develops itself in 2, is completed in three internally, and so produces 4 externally; whence, through 6, 7, 8, 9, it arrives at 5, half of the spherical number 10, to ascend, passing through 11 to 12, and to raise itself, by the number 4 times 10 to the number 6 times 12, the final term and summit of our eternal happiness.]
Q. What is the generative number?
A. In the Divinity, it is the unit; in created things, the number 2 because the Divinity, 1, engenders 2, and in created things 2 engenders 1.
Q. What is the most majestic number?
A. 3, because it denotes the triple Divine essence.
Q. What is the most mysterious number?
A. 4, because it contains all the mysteries of Nature.
Q. What is the most occult number?
A. 5, because it is inclosed in the centre of the series.
Q. What is the most salutary number?
A. 6, because it contains the source of our spiritual and corporeal happiness.
Q. What is the most fortunate number?
A. 7, because it leads us to the decade, the perfect number.
Q. Which is the number most to be desired?
A. 8, because he who possesses it is of the number of the Elus and Sages.
Q. Which is the most sublime number?
A. 9, because by it religion and Nature are exalted.
Q. Which is the most perfect number?
A. 10, because it includes unity, which created everything, and zero, symbol of matter and chaos, whence everything emerged. In its figures it comprehends the created and uncreated, the commencement and the end, power and force, life and annihilation. By the study of this number, we find the relations of all things: the power of the Creator, the faculties of the creature, the Alpha and Omega of Divine knowledge.
Q. Which is the most multiplying number?
A. 11, because with the possession of two units, we arrive at the multiplication of things.
Q. Which is the most solid number?
A. 12, because it is the foundation of our spiritual and temporal happiness.
Q. Which is the favourite number of religion and Nature?
A. 4 times 10, because it enables us, rejecting everything impure, eternally to enjoy the number 6 times 12, term and summit of our felicity.
Q. What is the meaning of the square?
A. It is the symbol of the four elements contained in the triangle, and the emblem of the three chemical principles; these things united form absolute unity in the primal matter.
Q. What is the meaning of the centre of the circumference?
A. It signifies the Universal Spirit, vivifying centre of Nature.
Q. What do you mean by the quadrature of the circle?
A. The investigation of the quadrature of the circle indicates the knowledge of the four vulgar elements which are themselves composed of elementary spirits or chief principles, as the circle, though round, is composed of lines which escape the sight and are seen only by the mind.
Q. What is the profoundest meaning of the figure 3?
A. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the action of three results the triangle within the square; and from the seven angles, the decade or perfect number.
Q. Which is the most confused figure?.
A. Zero the emblem of chaos, formless mixture of the elements.
Q. What do the four devices of the Degree signify?
A. That we are to hear, see, be silent, and enjoy our happiness.
[The lecture is now resumed. Ed.]
The number 6 was, in the Ancient Mysteries, a striking emblem of Nature as presenting the six dimensions of all bodies the six lines which make up their form, viz. the four lines of direction towards the North, South, East, and West with the two lines of height and depth responding to the zenith and nadir. The sages applied the senary to the physical man, while the septenary was, for them, the symbol of his immortal spirit.
The hieroglyphic senary (the double equilateral triangle) is the symbol of Deity.
6 is also an emblem of health, and the symbol of justice: because it is the first perfect number, i.e. the first whose parts [1/2, 1/3, and 1/6] added together make unity and [1 + 2 + 3] make itself.
Ormuzd created six good spirits, and Ahriman six evil ones. These typify the six summer and the six winter months.
No number has ever been so universally in repute as the septenary. Its celebrity is due, no doubt, to the planets being seven in number. It belongs also to sacred things. The Pythagoreans regarded it as formed of the numbers 3 and 4, the first whereof was in their eyes the image of the three material elements and the second the principle of everything that is neither corporeal nor sensible. From that point of view, it presented to them the emblem of everything that is perfect.
Considered as composed of 6 and unity, it serves to designate the invisible centre or soul of everything, because no body exists of which six lines do not constitute the form nor without a seventh interior point as the centre and reality of the body, whereof the external dimensions give only the appearance.
The numerous applications of the septenary confirmed the ancient sages in the use of this symbol. Moreover, they exalted the properties of the number 7 as having, in a subordinate manner, the perfection of the unit: for if the unit is uncreated, if no number produces it, the seven is also not engendered by any number contained in the interval between 1 and 10. The number 4 occupies an arithmetical middle ground between the unit and 7 inasmuch as it is as much over 1 as it is under 7, the difference each way being 3.
The cipher 7, among the Egyptians, symbolised life; and this is why the letter z of the Greeks was the initial of the verb Zoe, I live; and Zeus (Jupiter), Father of Life.
The number 8, or the octary, is composed of the sacred numbers 3 and 5. Of the Heavens, of the seven planets, and of the sphere of the fixed stars, or of the eternal unity and the mysterious number 7, is composed the ogdoade, the number eight, the first cube of equal numbers, regarded as sacred in the arithmetical philosophy.
The Gnostic ogdoade had eight stars which represented the eight Cabiri of Samothrace, the eight Egyptian and Phoenician principles, the eight Gods of Xenocrates, the eight angles of the cubic stone.
The number eight symbolises perfection: and its figure 8 indicated the perpetual and regular course of the Universe.
It is the first cube (2 * 2 * 2), and signifies friendship, prudence, counsel, and justice. It was a symbol of the primeval law which regarded all men as equal.
If the number three was celebrated among the ancient sages, that of three times three had no less celebrity because, according to them, each of the three elements which constitute our bodies is ternary: the water contains earth and fire; the earth contains igneous and aqueous particles; and the fire is tempered by globules of water and terrestrial corpuscles which serve to feed it. No one of the three elements being entirely separated from the others, all material beings composed of these three elements, whereof each is triple, may be designated by the figurative number of three times three, which has become the symbol of all formations of bodies. Hence the name of the ninth envelope given to matter. Among the Pythagoreans, every material extension, every circular line, has for representative sign the number nine, because they had observed the property which this number possesses of reproducing itself incessantly and entire in every multiplication, thus offering to the mind a very striking emblem of matter which is incessantly composed before our eyes after have undergone a thousand decompositions.
The number nine was consecrated to the Spheres and the Muses. It is the sign of every circumference: because a circle or 360 degrees is equal to 9, i.e. 3+ 6 + 0 = 9. Nevertheless, the ancients regarded this number with a sort of terror: they considered it a bad presage as the symbol of versatility, of change, and the emblem of the frailty of human affairs. Wherefore they avoided all numbers where nine appears, and chiefly 81, the product of 9 multiplied by itself, and the addition whereof, 8 + 1, again presents the number 9.
As the figure of the number 6 was the symbol of the terrestrial globe animated by a Divine Spirit, the figure of the number 9 symbolised the earth under the influence of the Evil principle; and thence the terror it inspired. Nevertheless, according to the Kabbalists, the cipher 9 symbolises the generative egg, or the image of a little globular being from whose lower side seems to flow the spirit of life.
The Ennead, signifying an aggregate of 9 things or persons, is the first square of unequal (odd) numbers.
Every one is aware of the singular properties of the number 9 which, multiplied by itself or any other number whatever, gives a result whose final sum is always 9 or always divisible by 9.
9 multiplied by each of the ordinary numbers produces an arithmetical progression, each member whereof, composed of two figures, presents a remarkable fact; e.g.:
The first line of figures give the regular series from 1 to 10. The second reproduces this line doubly: first ascending from the first figure of 18, and then returning from the second figure of 81.
It follows from this curious fact that the half of the numbers which compose this progression represents, in inverse order, the figure of the second half:
|09||18||27||36||45||=135||and 1+3+5=45 and 4+5=9|
|99||99||99||99||99||=495||and 4+9+5=18 and 1+8=9|
Taking the squares:
9*9=81=9 and 81*81=8561=18=9; 9*2=18 and 18*18=324=9; 9*3=27=9 and 27*27=729=9; and so on with every multiple of 9.
And so also the cubes:
9*9*9=729=18=9; 18*18*18=5832=18=9; 27*27*27=19683=27=9.
The number 10, or the Denary, is the measure of everything, and reduces multiplied numbers to unity. Containing all the numerical and harmonic relations, and all the properties of the numbers which precede it, it concludes the Abacus or Table of Pythagoras. To the Mysterious Societies, this number typified the assemblage of all the wonders of the Universe. They wrote it as a circle with a dot in the centre, i.e. unity in the middle of Zero, the centre of a circle, the symbol of Divinity. They saw in this figure everything that should lead to reflection: the centre, the ray, the circumference, to them represented God, Man, and the Universe. This number was, among the Sages, a sign of concord, love, and peace. To Masons it is a sign of union and good faith, because it is expressed by joining two hands, or the Master's grip, when the number of fingers gives 10: and it was represented by the Tetractys of Pythagoras.
The number 12, like the number 7, is celebrated in the worship of Nature. The two most famous divisions of the Heavens, that by 7 which is that of the planets, and that by 12, which is that of the Signs of the Zodiac, are found upon the religious monuments of all the peoples of the Ancient World, even to the remote extremes of the East. Although Pythagoras does not speak of the number 12, it is none the less a sacred number. It is the image of the Zodiac, and consequently that of the Sun which rules over it.
Such are the ancient ideas in regard to those numbers which so often appear in Masonry; and rightly understood, as the old Sages understood them, they contain many a pregnant lesson.
Thus, opening its Temple to all men to the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, and the Christian without identifying itself with any of these rites, it [Freemasonry Ed.] can follow the standard of none of their prophets; but it adopts and practises whatever of the doctrines and precepts of each is conformable to universal morality, and to that primitive religion first taught to the ancient Patriarchs.