KNIGHT OF THE SUN, OR PRINCE ADEPT.
GOD is the author of everything that existeth; the Eternal, the Supreme, the Living, and Awful Being; from Whom nothing in the Universe is hidden. Make of Him no idols and visible images; but rather worship Him in the deep solitudes of sequestered forests; for He is invisible, and fills the Universe as its soul, and liveth not in any Temple!
Light and Darkness are the World’s Eternal ways. God is the principle of everything that exists, and the Father of all Beings. He is eternal, immovable, and Self-Existent. There are no bounds to His power. At one glance He sees the Past, the Present, and the Future; and the procession of the builders of the Pyramids, with us and our remotest Descendants, is now passing before Him. He reads our thoughts before they are known to ourselves. He rules the movements of the Universe, and all events and revolutions are the creatures of His will. For He is the Infinite Mind and Supreme Intelligence.
In the beginning Man had the WORD, and that WORD was from God: and out of the living power which, in and by that WORD, was communicated to man, came the LIGHT of his existence. Let no man speak the WORD, for by it THE FATHER made light and darkness, the world and living creatures! The Chaldean upon his plains worshipped me, and the sea-loving Phœnician. They builded me temples and towers, and burned sacrifices to me upon a thousand altars. Light was divine to them, and they thought me a God. But I am nothing–nothing; and LIGHT is the creature of the unseen GOD that taught the true religion to the Ancient Patriarchs: AWFUL, MYSTERIOUS, THE ABSOLUTE.
Man was created pure; and God gave him TRUTH, as He gave him LIGHT. He has lost the truth and found error. He has wandered far into darkness; and round him Sin and Shame hover evermore. The Soul that is impure, and sinful, and defiled with earthly stains, cannot again unite with God, until, by long trials and many purifications, it is finally delivered from the old calamity; and Light overcomes Darkness and dethrones it, in the Soul.
God is the First; indestructible, eternal, UNCREATED, INDIVISIBLE. Wisdom, Justice, Truth, and Mercy, with Harmony and Love, are of His essence, and Eternity and Infinitude of Extension. He is silent, and consents with MIND, and is known to Souls through MIND alone. In Him were all things originally contained, and from Him all things were evolved. For out of His Divine SILENCE and REST, after an infinitude of time, was unfolded the WORD, or the Divine POWER; and then in turn the Mighty, ever-acting, measureless INTELLECT; and from the WORD were evolved the myriads of suns and systems that make the Universe; and fire, and light, and the electric HARMONY, which is the harmony of spheres and numbers: and from the INTELLECT all Souls and intellects of men.
In the Beginning, the Universe was but ONE SOUL. HE was THE ALL, alone with TIME and SPACE, and Infinite as they.
—— HE HAD THIS THOUGHT: “I Create Worlds:” and lo! the Universe, and the laws of harmony and motion that rule it. the expression of a thought of God; and bird and beast, and every living thing but Man: and light and air, and the mysterious cur-rents, and the dominion of mysterious numbers!
—— HE HAD THIS THOUGHT: “I Create Man, whose Soul shall be my image, and he shall rule.” And lo! Man, with senses, instinct, and a reasoning mind!
—— And yet not MAN! but an animal that breathed, and saw, and thought: until an immaterial spark from God’s own Infinite Being penetrated the brain, and became the Soul: and lo, MAN THE IMMORTAL! Thus, threefold, fruit of God’s thought, is Man; that sees and hears and feels; that thinks and reasons; that loves and is in harmony with the Universe.
Before the world grew old, the primitive Truth faded out from men’s Souls. Then man asked himself, “What am I? and how and whence am I? and whither do I go?” And the Soul, looking inward upon itself, strove to learn whether that “I” were mere matter; its thought and reason and its passions and affections mere results of material combination; or a material Being enveloping an immaterial Spirit: . . and further it strove, by self-examination, to learn whether that Spirit were an individual essence, with a separate immortal existence, or an infinitesimal portion of a Great First Principle, inter-penetrating the Universe and the infinitude of space, and undulating like light and heat: . . and so they wandered further amid the mazes of error; and imagined vain philosophies; wallowing in the sloughs of materialism and sensualism, of beating their wings vainly in the vacuum of abstractions and idealities.
While yet the first oaks still put forth their leaves, man lost the perfect knowledge of the One True God, the Ancient Absolute Existence, the Infinite Mind and Supreme Intelligence; and floated helplessly out upon the shoreless ocean of conjecture. Then the soul vexed itself with seeking to learn whether the material Universe was a mere chance combination of atoms, or the work of Infinite, Uncreated Wisdom: . . whether the Deity was a concentrated, and the Universe an extended immateriality; or whether He was a personal existence, an Omnipotent, Eternal, Supreme Essence, regulating matter at will; or subjecting it to unchangeable laws throughout eternity; and to Whom, Himself Infinite and Eternal, Space and Time are unknown. With their finite limited vision they sought to learn the source and explain the existence of Evil, and Pain, and Sorrow; and so they wandered ever deeper into the darkness, and were lost; and there was for them no longer any God; but only a great, dumb, soulless Universe, full of mere emblems and symbols.
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 the 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 caused the Personifications of the Great Luminary of Heaven, under the names by which he was known to the most ancient nations, to proclaim the old primitive truths that were 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 blue 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 imaginary Deities that represented him among the ancient races of men.
ATHOM or ATHOM-RE, was the Chief and Oldest Supreme God of Upper Egypt, worshipped at Thebes; the same as the OM or AUM of the Hindu_s, whose name was unpronounceable, and who, like the BREHM of the latter People, 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; symbolized by Light, the Principle of Life.
AMUN was 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 organizing 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 generation of bodies is effected. He was the same with Kneph, from whose mouth issued the Orphic egg out of which came the Universe.
DIONUSOS was the Nature-God of the Greeks, as AMUN was of the Egyptians. In the popular legend, Dionusos, as well as Hercules, was a Theban Hero, born of a mortal mother. Both were sons of Zeus, both persecuted by Here. But in Hercules the God is subordinate to the Hero; while Dionusos, 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, the 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, Πυριγενης, 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 Dionusos, 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 Egean 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 Persephoné, an Ancient Subterranean Dionusos, 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 Here, 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.
Dionusos, 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 Dionusos or Poseidon had preceded Apollo in the Oracular office; and Dionusos 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 Dionusos, and there are indications that there was always something Dionysiac in the worship of Apollo.
Dionusos is the Sun, that liberator of the elements; and his spiritual meditation 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 preceptor 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 Dionusos; 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 Phœnicians, 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.
The Hindu_s called the Sun SURYA; the Persians, MITHRAS; the Egyptians, OSIRIS; the Assyrians and Chaldæans, BEL; the Scythians and Etruscans and the ancient Pelasgi, ARKALEUS or HERCULES; the Phœnicians, ADONAI or ADON; and the Scandinavians, ODIN.
From the name SURYA, given by the Hindu_s 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 Visweswara, at Benares, 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 [from ו ?A?W?R, AUR the Crepusculum?], 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 statues and images were inscribed, Deo-Soli invicto Mithræ–to the invincible Sun-God Mithras. Nomen invictum Sol Mithra. . . . Soli Omnipotenti Mithræ. To him, gold, incense, and myrrh were consecrated. “Thee,” says Martianus Capella, in his hymn to the Sun, “the dwellers on the Nile adore as Serapis, and Memphis worships as Osiris; in the sacred rites of Persia thou art Mithras, in Phrygia, Atys, and Libya bows down to thee as Ammon, and Phœnician Byblos as Adonis; and thus the whole world adores thee under different names.”
OSIRIS was the son of Helios (Phra), the “divine offspring con-generate with the dawn,” and at the same time an incarnation of Kneph or Agathodæmon, 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 became necessary to set up another power as his adversary, called Seth, Babys or Typhon, to account for the injurious influences of Nature.
With the phenomena of agriculture, supposed to be the invention of Osiris, the Egyptians connected the highest truths of their religion. The soul of man was as the seed hidden in the ground, and the mortal framework, similarly consigned to its dark resting-place, awaited its restoration to life’s unfailing source. Osiris was not only benefactor of the living; he was also Hades, Serapis, and Rhadamanthus, the monarch of the dead. Death, therefore, in Egyptian opinion, was only another name for renovation, since its God is the same power who incessantly renews vitality in Nature. Every corpse duly embalmed was called “Osiris,” and in the grave was supposed to be united, or at least brought into approximation, to the Divinity. For when God became incarnate for man’s benefit, it was implied that, in analogy with His assumed character, He should submit to all the conditions of visible existence. In death, as in life, Isis and Osiris were patterns and precursors of mankind; their sepulchres stood within the temples of the Superior Gods; yet though their remains might be entombed at Memphis or Abydus, their divinity was unimpeached, and they either shone as luminaries in the heavens, or in the unseen world presided over the futurity of the disembodied spirits whom death had brought nearer to them.
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; since 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 and Paphlagonians, Bœotians, and even Athenians, were all more or less attached to such observances; the Syrian damsels sat weeping for Thammuz or Adoni, mortally wounded by the tooth of Winter, symbolized 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 the 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 Jemsheed, 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 burthen 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 their 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 Dionusos Zagreus, and perhaps in the legends of Absyrtus and Pelias, of Æson, Thyestes, Melicertes, Itys, and Pelops. Io is the disconsolate Isis or Niobe: and Rhea mourns her dismembered Lord, Hyperion, and the death of her son Helios, drowned in the Eridanus; and if Apollo and Dionusos 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 honors with Apollo, and after he had been torn to pieces like Osiris, was restored to life by the Pæonian 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 Bœotians lamented the descent of Cora-Proserpine 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 Phaëthon or Hercules are but breaks in the same Phœnix 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 Heliades 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.
BAL, representative or personification of the sun, was one of the Great Gods of Syria, Assyria, and Chaldea, and his name is found upon the monuments of Nimroud, 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 seated 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 Bal or Baal, like the word Adon, signifies Lord and Master. He was also the Supreme Deity of the Moabites, Amonites, 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 Son 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 Phœnician 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 a representation of the Persian Mithras, rearing his emblematic lions above the gates of Mycenæ, and bringing the sword of Jemsheed 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 that Northern region of gloom, called the “place of the death and revival of Adonis,” that Caucasus whose summit was 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 Thammuz, mentioned by Ezekiel, sat looking to the North, and 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 thence to Olympia the olive. 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 (Πετρογενης), 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 arise 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 continuous struggle. He fainted before Typhon in the desert; and in the commencement of the Autumnal season (cum longæ redit hora noctis), descended under the guidance of Minerva to Hades. 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 labors 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 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.
The free fancy of the ancients, which wove the web of their myths and legends, was consecrated by faith. It had not, like the modern mind, set apart a petty sanctuary of borrowed beliefs, beyond which all the rest was common and unclean. Imagination, reason, and religion circled round the same symbol; and in all their symbols there was serious meaning, if we could but find it out. They did not devise fictions in the same vapid spirit in which we, cramped by conventionalities, read them. In endeavoring to interpret creations of fancy, fancy as well as reason must guide: and much of modern controversy arises out of heavy misapprehensions off ancient symbolism.
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, the Moon, and the 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 caused his identification with the Principle of Good; and the BRAHMA of the Hindu_s, the MITHRAS of the Persians, and ATHOM, AMUN, PHTHA, and OSIRIS, of the Egyptians, the BEL of the Chaldæans, the ADONAI of the Phœnicians, the ADONIS and APOLLO of the Greeks became but personifications of the Sun, the regenerating Principle, image of that fecundity which perpetuates and rejuvenates the world’s existence.
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 toward the Southern Hemisphere, was figuratively said to be conquered and put to death by darkness, or the genius of Evil; but, returning again toward 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, and the changes of Seasons, the approach or withdrawal of inundation. 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 the 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; carried thither, in all probability, by those Phœnician voyagers who bore thither civilization and the arts. The Scythians lamented the death of Acmon, the Persians that of Zohak conquered by Pheridoun, the Hindus that of Soura-Parama slain by Soupra-Muni, as the Scandinavians did that of Balder, torn to pieces by the blind Hother.
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 first two 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 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 toward 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 civilized 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, not instinct with a great SOUL, but a clockwork of proportions unimaginable, but still infinitely less than infinite; and part at least of which we with our orreries can imitate; 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; have measured the orbits of the flashing comets, and the distances of the fixed stars; and know the latter to be suns like our sun, each with his retinue of worlds, and all governed by the same unerring, mechanical laws and outwardly imposed forces, centripetal and centrifugal; we, who with our telescopes have separated the galaxy and the nebula 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, Jupiter, Venus, and the fiery Mars, and 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 in the moon, with glasses that could distinctly reveal to us the temple of Solomon, if it stood there in its old 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 Chaldæan 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 clockwork; 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 the stars flashing overhead spoke to their hearts almost in an audible language. Jupiter, with his kingly splendors, was the Emperor of the starry legions. 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 wander; 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 fruits and flowers,–some, faithful sentinels, advising them of coming inundation, of the season of storm and of 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 Aldebarán, and 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, the Pyramids, the tower or temple of Bel, and other like erections everywhere in the East, were builded 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, if we but reflect, it still is and ever will be?
If we adhered to the literally historic sense, antiquity would be a mere inexplicable, hideous chaos, and all the Sages deranged: and so it would be with Masonry and those who instituted it. But when these allegories are explained, they cease to be absurd fables, or facts purely local; and become lessons of wisdom for entire humanity. No one can doubt, who studies them, that they all came from a common source.
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 the Source, to the Hindu_s, of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. Above Zeus, or before him, were Kronos and Ouranos. Over the Alohayim 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 generalization not possessed by the rude uncivilized 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 afterward the stream of human life flowed forth to India, China, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Phœnicia. HE communicated to him a 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 on 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 in the sacred traditions of all the primitive Nations; 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 Nimroud, wrought incongruously into edifices many centuries younger. And, although amid the ever-growing degeneracy of mankind, this primeval word of revelation was salsified by the admixture of various errors, and overlaid and obscured by numberless and manifold fictions, inextricably confused, and disfigured 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.
The struggle, thenceforward to be eternal, between the Divine will and the natural will in the souls of men, commenced immediately after the creation. Cain slew his brother Abel, and went forth to people parts of the earth with an impious race, forgetters and defiers of the true God. The other Descendants of the Common Father of the race intermarried with the daughters of Cain’s Descendants: and all nations preserved the remembrance of that division of the human family into the righteous and impious, in their distorted legends of the wars between the Gods, and the Giants and Titans. When, afterward, another similar division occurred, the Descendants of Seth alone preserved the true primitive religion and science, and transmitted them to posterity in the ancient symbolical character, on monuments of stone: and many nations preserved in their legendary traditions the memory of the columns of Enoch and Seth.
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 through favored regions of the world fertility and life; 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 his Creator had been broken, even outward language necessarily fell into disorder and confusion. The simple and Divine Truth was overlaid with various and sensual fictions, buried under illusive symbols, and at last perverted into horrible phantoms.
For in the progress of idolatry it needs came to pass, that what was originally revered as the symbol of a higher principle, became gradually 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 favorites of the Deity, who had chosen them as the favored people to whom to commit these truths. To make these fragments, as far as possible, their private property, they reproduced 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 being the conflicting elements in the breast of man; the old inheritance or 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 sprung up and grew rank and luxuriant, when the Divine Truth was no longer guarded with jealous care, nor preserved in its pristine purity. This soon happened among most Eastern nations, and especially the Indians, the Chaldæans, 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 are the men of the present day.
With the Chinese, a patriarchal, simple, and secluded people, idolatry long made but little progress. They invented writing within three or four generations after the flood; and they long preserved the memory of much of the primitive revelation; less overlaid with fiction than those fragments which other nations have remembered. They were among those who stood nearest to the source of sacred tradition; and many passages in their old writings contain remarkable vestiges of eternal truth, and of the WORD of primitive revelation, the heritage of old thought, which attest to us their original eminence.
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, and the vital principle of production and procreation through all generations; then the celestial spirits or heavenly Host, the luminous armies of the Stars, and the great Sun, and 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 destinies); next the genii and tutelar spirits, and even the souls of the dead, 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; and fictitious personages invented to account for the introduction of science and arts, and 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 Paropismus, or Hindukusch, 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 Khorshid or Corasch. Uschas and Mitra are Medic as well as Zend Deities and the Amschaspands or “immortal Holy Ones” of the Zend-Avesta may be compared with the seven Rishis or Vedic Star-God, 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 Persian mind.
The early shepherds of the Punjaub, 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, apostrophized 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, Pashan 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 be 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 Pre-server, were his successive avataras 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 Chrishna-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 Bhagavad Ghita), “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 recognized 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 Menou. I am the Most High God, the Creator of the World, the Eternal Poorooscha (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 acknowledgeth me as even so, doth not on quitting this mortal frame enter into another, for he entereth 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 Hindi’s 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 epitomized under the following heads: 1st. The existence of one God, from Whom all things proceed, and to Whom all must return. To him they constantly apply these expressions–The Universal and Eternal Essence; that which has ever been and will ever continue; that which vivifies and pervades all things; He who is everywhere present, and causes the celestial bodies to revolve in the course He has prescribed to them. 2d. A tripartite division of the Good Principle, for the purposes of Creation, Preservation, and Renovation by change and death. 3d. The necessary existence of an Evil Principle, occupied in counteracting the benevolent purposes of the first, in their execution by the Devata or Subordinate Genii, to whom is entrusted the control over the various operations of nature.
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 comprehensions of the vulgar, than the abstruse idea of an indescribable, invisible God; and hence the invention of a Brahma, a Vishnu, and a Siva or Iswara. These were represented under various forms; but no emblem or visible sign of Brihm or 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. Every creature endowed with the faculty of thinking, they held, must be conscious of the existence of a 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 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 pervadest fire, lead us in a straight path to the riches of beatitude. Thou, O God, possessest all the treasures of knowledge! Remove each foul taint 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 adores that Great One. . . . Let us adore the supremacy of that Divine Sun, the Godhead who illuminates all, who re-creates all, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return, whom we invoke to direct our understandings aright, in our progress toward his holy seat. . . . What the Sun and Light are to this visible world, such is truth to the intellectual and visible 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, nor mind comprehend: all-pervading, all-transcending, delighted with his own boundless intelligence, nor 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; 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 exists 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 Both of 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 to 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 Jainas, 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 Scripture, “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 eternal 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 [precisely the Hebrew ו ?Y?H?W?H], the first cause, not the object of sense, existing everywhere in substance, not existing to our perception, without beginning or end” [the Α∴ and Ω∴, or the Ι∴Α∴Ω∴], “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 Λογος, 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 Antareya 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. Then 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, with the senses, was formed;–“HE, the Universal Soul, thus reflected: How can this body exist without Me? He examined through what extremity He could penetrate it. He said to Himself: If, without Me, the World 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, what then 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 Hindu_s,–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 latter people 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 that 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. Toward 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, the air, not the lower atmospheric air, but the purer and brighter air of Heaven, the breath that animates and pervades 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 a close communication with the Deity, not a likeness of 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 instill 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 endeavor 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 the 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 plan, whose eye is light, whose life is the breath of his nostrils. I placed within him life’s unextinguishable power.”
Ormuzd or Ahura-Mazda himself represented the primal light, distinct from the heavenly bodies, yet necessary to their existence, and the source of their splendor. The Amschaspands (Ameschaspenta, “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 to 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 Nero, pursuing his course triumphantly, fertilizer 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 is he struck down by the strong arm of Mithras, together with the Devs of Mazanderan. With his lance and his immortal club, the Sleepless Chief hurls down the Devs 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 Amschaspands 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–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 Godhead.
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 his own father, and self-originated. For he is both a beginning and God of Gods, a Monad from the One, 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 honor 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 the 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, the first probably ever erected, to the Great Architect of the Universe. And though they offered sacrifices to divers tutelary angels, yet they honored 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. And 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 styled 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 the good are to live forever, while the bad are to be condemned to Hell.
“The Chang-ti is represented,” said Confucius, “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 throughout the Earth.”
He 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 Mahomet; 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 fragments only 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 those chosen few were made the medium of transition for 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 God-head. 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 localized. 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 existeth; the Eternal, the Ancient, the Living and Awful Being, the Searcher into concealed things, the Being that never changeth.” Idols and visible representations of the Deity were originally forbidden, and He was directed to be worshipped in the lonely solitude of sequestered forests, where He was said to dwell, invisible, and 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+32): 30 (7×3+3×3): and 21 (7×3) were numbers observed in the erection of their temples, constantly appearing in their dimensions, and the number and distances of the huge stones.
They 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 war could not be declared nor peace made: and 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 favorite science of the Orient; in which they attained considerable proficiency. They considered day as the off-spring 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; and 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 hath he done to display his glory?
“He liveth from all ages, he governeth all realms, and swayeth all things both great and small.
“He hath formed Heaven and earth, and the air, and all things thereunto belonging.
“He hath 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 Niflhel 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.
“When we ascend,” says Müller, to the most distant heights of Greek history, the idea of God as the Supreme Being stands before us as a simple fact. Next to this adoration of One God, the Father of Heaven, the Father of men, we find in Greece a Worship of Nature.” The original Ζεὺς was the God or Gods, called by the Greeks the Son of Time, meaning that there was no God before Him, but He was Eternal. “Zeus,” says the Orphic line, “is the Beginning, Zeus the Middle; out of Zeus all things have been made.” And the Peleides of Dodona said, “Zeus was, Zeus is. Zeus will be; O great Zeus!” Ζεὺς νἦ, Ζεὺς ἐστὶν, Ζεὺς ἐσσεται· ὦ μελάλη Ζεῦ: and he was Ζεὺς, κύδιστος, μέγιστος, Zeus, Best and Greatest. The Parsees, retaining the old religion taught by Zaradisht, say in their catechism: “We believe in only one God, and do not believe in any beside Him; Who created the Heavens, the Earth, the Angels. . . . Our God has neither face nor form, color nor shape, nor fixed place. There is no other like Him, nor can our mind comprehend Him.”
The Tetragrammaton, or some other word covered by it, was 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.
Origen says: “There are names which have a natural potency. Such as those which the Sages used among the Egyptians, the Magi in Persia, the Brahmins in India. What is called Magic is not a vain and chimerical act, as the Stoics and Epicureans pretend. The names SABAOTH and ADONAI were not made for created beings; but they belong to a mysterious theology, which goes back to the Creator. From Him comes the virtue of these names, when they are arranged and pronounced according to the rules.”
The Hindu_ word AUM represented the three Powers combined in their Deity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; or the Creating, Pre-serving, 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 Ramayan, represents “The Being of Beings, One Substance in three forms; without mode, without quality, without passion: Immense, Incomprehensible, Infinite, Indivisible, Immutable, Incorporeal, Irresistible.”
An old passage in the Purana says: “All the rites ordained in the Vedas, the sacrifices 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 ΙΑΩ, answered in these remarkable words: “The Initiated are bound to conceal the mysterious secrets. Learn, then, that ΙΑΩis the Great God Supreme, that ruleth 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 Gemara 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 character, 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 Mahomet 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∴
Among all the nations of primitive antiquity, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was not a mere probable hypothesis, needing laborious researches and diffuse argumentation to produce conviction of its truth. Nor can we hardly give it the name of Faith; for it was a lively certainty, like the feeling of one’s own existence and identity, and of what is actually present; exerting its influence on all sublunary affairs, and the motive of mightier deeds and enterprises than any mere earthly interest could inspire.
Even the doctrine of transmigration of souls, universal among the Ancient Hindu_s and Egyptians, rested on a basis of the old primitive religion, and was connected with a sentiment purely religious. It involved this noble element of truth: That since man had gone astray, and wandered far from God, he must needs make many efforts, and undergo a long and painful pilgrimage, before he could rejoin the Source of all Perfection: and the firm conviction and positive certainty, that nothing defective, impure, or defiled with earthy stains, could enter the pure region of perfect spirits, or be eternally united to 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 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 Lysias. 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 resemblance of its inclinations to theirs.
And Timæus 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 Phædo. And Lysias days, 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 a part of, the universal soul which animates everything.
The Hindu_s 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. And 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 (or 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.”
In the Mysteries, wherever they were practised, was taught that truth of the primitive revelation, the existence of One Great Being, Infinite and pervading the Universe, Who was there worshipped without superstition; and His marvellous nature, essence, and attributes taught to the Initiates; while the vulgar attributed His works to Secondary Gods, personified, and isolated from Him in fabulous independence.
These truths were covered from the common people as with a veil; and the Mysteries were carried into every country, 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 the true doctrine incorrupt; 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, any more now than heretofore. 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; the ruins only of their grandeur, and 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 reputation, and Freemasonry 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 recognized: 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 Kabalistic doctrine was long the religion of the Sage and the Savant; because, like Freemasonry, it incessantly tends toward spiritual perfection, and the fusion of the creeds and Nationalities of Mankind. In the eyes of the Kabalist, all men are his brothers; and their relative ignorance is, to him, but a reason for instructing them. There were illustrious Kabalists 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 Mediæval Church.
The Sages proudly wore the name of Kabalists. The Kabalah embodied a noble philosophy, pure, 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 Kabalah is the key of the occult sciences; and the Gnostics were born of the Kabalists.
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 round 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 toward 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 Kabalistical principles.
The Ancients, and Pythagoras himself, whose real principles have not been always understood, never meant to ascribe to numbers, that is to say, to abstract signs, any special virtue. But the Sages of Antiquity concurred in recognizing a 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 Pythagorean ideas as to particular numbers are partially expressed in the following
LECTURE OT THE KABALISTS.
Qu∴ Why did you seek to be received a Knight of the Kabalah?
Ans∴ To know, by means of numbers, the admirable harmony which there is between nature and religion.
Qu∴ How were you announced?
Ans∴ By twelve raps.
Qu∴ What do they signify?
Ans∴ The twelve bases of our temporal and spiritual happiness.
Qu∴ What is a Kabalist?
Ans∴ A man who has learned, by tradition, the Sacerdotal Art and the Royal Art.
Qu∴ What means the device, Omnia in numeris sita sunt?
Ans∴ That everything lies veiled in numbers.
Qu∴ Explain me that.
Ans∴ I will do so, as far as the number 12. Your sagacity will discern the rest.
Qu∴ What signifies the unit in the number 10?
Ans∴ Gob, creating and animating matter, expressed by O, which, alone, is of no value.
Qu∴ What does the unit mean?
Ans∴ 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.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number two?
Ans∴ In the moral order, man and woman. . . . In the physical, the active and the passive.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 3?
Ans∴ In the moral order, the three theological virtues. . . . In the physical, the three principles of bodies.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 4?
Ans∴ The four cardinal virtues. . . . The four elementary qualities.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 5?
Ans∴ The quintessence of religion. . . . The quintessence of matter.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 6?
Ans∴ The theological cube . . . The physical cube.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 7?
Ans∴ The seven sacraments . . . The seven planets.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 8?
Ans∴ The small number of Elus . . . The small number of wise men.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 9?
Ans∴ The exaltation of religion . . . The exaltation of matter.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 10?
Ans∴ The ten commandments . . . The ten precepts of nature.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 11?
Ans∴ The multiplication of religion . . . The multiplication of nature.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the number 12?
Ans∴ The twelve Articles of Faith; 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: 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.]
Qu∴ What is the generative number?
Ans∴ 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.
Qu∴ What is the most majestic number?
Ans∴ 3, because it denotes the triple divine essence.
Qu∴ What is the most mysterious number?
Ans∴ 4, because it contains all the mysteries of nature.
Qu∴ What is the most occult number?
Ans∴ 5, because it is inclosed in the centre of the series.
Qu∴ What is the most salutary number?
Ans∴ 6, because it contains the source of our spiritual and corporeal happiness.
Qu∴ What is the most fortunate number?
Ans∴ 7, because it leads us to the decade, the perfect number.
Qu∴ Which is the number most to be desired?
Ans∴ 8, because he who possesses it, is of the number of the plus and Sages.
Qu∴ Which is the most sublime number?
Ans∴ 9, because by it religion and nature are exalted.
Qu∴ Which is the most perfect number?
Ans∴ 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.
Qu∴ Which is the most multiplying number?
Ans∴ 11, because with the possession of two units, we arrive at the multiplication of things.
Qu∴ Which is the most solid number?
Ans∴ 12, because it is the foundation of our spiritual and temporal happiness.
Qu∴ Which is the favorite number of religion and nature?
Ans∴ 4 times 10, because it enables us, rejecting everything impure, eternally to enjoy the number 6 times 12, term and summit of our felicity.
Qu∴ What is the meaning of the square?
Ans∴ It is the symbol of the four elements contained in the triangle, or the emblem of the three chemical principles: these things united form absolute unity in the primal matter.
Qu∴ What is the meaning of the centre of the circumference?
Ans∴ It signifies the universal spirit, vivifying centre of nature.
Qu∴ What do you mean by the quadrature of the circle?
Ans∴ 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.
Qu∴ What is the profoundest meaning of the figure 3?
Ans∴ The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the action of these three results the triangle within the square; and from the seven angles, the decade or perfect number.
Qu∴ Which is the most confused figure?
Ans∴ Zero,–the emblem of chaos, formless mixture of the elements.
Qu∴ What do the four devices of the Degree signify?
Ans∴ That we are to hear, see, be silent, and enjoy our happiness.
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 figure 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, Iens, Iturus.
The Duad is the origin of contrasts. It is the imperfect condition into which, according to the 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 manès of the dead.
The number One, with the Chinese, signified unity, harmony, order, the Good Principle, or God; Two, disorder, duplicity, false-hood. That people, in the earliest ages, based their whole philosophical system on the two primary figures or lines, one straight and unbroken, and the other broken or divided into 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 YN 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 by the creative principle out of matter. Pythagoras represented the world by the right-angled triangle, in which the squares of the two shortest sides are equal, added together, 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 favorite 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 demonstratively perfect. But three lines form, by their junction, the TRIANGLE, or the first figure regularly perfect; and this is why it has served and still serves to characterize The Eternal; Who, infinitely perfect in His nature, is, as 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 ו ?Y?H?W?H), the Animating Spirit of 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, symbolized by Tub∴
The second side, the subject of the meditations of the Fellow Craft, is the vegetable kingdom, symbolized 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 symbolized by Mach∴ (Son of putrefaction).
The figure 3 symbolizes the Earth. It is a figure of the terrestrial bodies. The 2, upper half of 3, symbolizes the vegetable world, the lower half being hidden from our sight.
Three 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 Hindu_s.
The name of Deity, in many Nations, consisted of three letters: among the Greeks, Ι∴Α∴ Ω∴; among the Persians, H∴O∴M∴; among the Hindu_s, AUM; among the Scandinavians, I∴O∴W∴. On the upright Tablet of the King, discovered at Nimroud, 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. Four 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 pyramid. The Gnostics claimed that the whole edifice of their science rested on a square whose angles were . . . Σιγή, Silence: Βυθος Profundity: Νοος, Intelligence: and Αληθεια, 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.
Lysias and Timæus 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 deceitful 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 figure 4 (4). It was said that it expressed 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 ו ?Y?H?W?H, the Egyptians AMUN, the Persians SURA, the Greeks ΘΕΟΣ, 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, ΖΕΥΣ among the Greeks, PHTA among the Egyptians, THOTH among the Phœnicians, and AS-UR 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, so 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,–in a word, the Binary acting in the Ternary.
Under another aspect it was the emblem of marriage; because it is composed of 2, the first equal number, and of 3, the first unequal number. Wherefore Juno, the Goddess of Marriage, had for her hieroglyphic the number 5.
Moreover, it has one of the properties of the number 9, 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 a 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 πεντε (5) and Παν the Universe, as the whole.
The number 5 designated the universal quintessence, and symbolized, by its form ς, the vital essence, the animating spirit, which flows [serpentat] through all nature. In fact, this ingenious figure 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, the 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 an emblem of Health.
It is the Pentalpha of Pythagoras, or Pentangle of Solomon; has five lines and five angles; and is, among Masons, the outline or origin of the five-pointed Star, and an emblem of Fellowship.
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, toward 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 hieroglyphical senary (the double equilateral triangle) is the symbol of Deity.
Six is also an emblem of health, and the symbol of justice; because it is the first perfect number; that is, the first whose aliquot parts (1/2, 1/3, 1/6, or 3, 2, and 1), added together, 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. It presented them, from that point of view, 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 untreated, 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 number 7, among the Egyptians, symbolized life; and this is why the letter Ζ of the Greeks was the initial of the verb Ζάω, I live; and Ζεὺς (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 8, 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 Phœnician principles, the eight gods of Xenocrates, the eight angles of the cubic stone.
The number eight symbolizes perfection: and its figure, 8 or ∞ indicates 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.
The novary, or triple ternary. 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 containing earth and fire; the earth containing igneous and aqueous particles; and the fire being 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 ninth envelope, given to matter. Every material extension, every circular line, has for representative sign the number nine, among the Pythagoreans; who 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 having 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 of 360 degrees is equal to 9, that is to say, 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 symbolized the earth, under the influence of the Evil Principle; and thence the terror it inspired. Nevertheless, according to the Kabalists, the figure 9 symbolizes the generative egg, or the image of a little globular being, from whose lower side seems to flow its spirit of life.
The Ennead, signifying an aggregate of 9 things or persons, is the first square of unequal 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.
Nine, multiplied by each of the ordinary numbers, produces an arithmetical progression, each member whereof, composed of two figures, presents a remarkable fact; for example:
The first line of figures gives 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 the curious fact, that the half of the numbers which compose this progression represents, in inverse order, the figures of the second half:
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 thus θ, that is to say, Unity in the middle of Zero, as the centre of a circle, or symbol of Deity. They saw in this figure everything that should lead to reflection: the centre, the ray, and the circumference, represented to them 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.
Before we enter upon the final lesson of Masonic Philosophy, we will delay a few moments to repeat to you the Christian interpretations of the Blue Degrees.
In the First Degree, they said, there are three symbols to be applied.
1st. Man, after the fall, was left naked and defenceless against the just anger of the Deity. Prone to evil, the human race staggered blindly onward into the thick darkness of unbelief, bound fast by the strong cable-tow of the natural and sinful will. Moral corruption was followed by physical misery. Want and destitution invaded the earth. War and Famine and Pestilence filled up the measure of evil, and over the sharp flints of misfortune and wretchedness man toiled with naked and bleeding feet. This condition of blindness, destitution, misery, and bondage, from which to save the world the Redeemer came, is symbolized by the condition of the candidate, when he is brought up for the first time to the door of the Lodge.
2d. Notwithstanding the death of the Redeemer, man can be saved only by faith, repentance, and reformation. To repent, he must feel the sharp sting of conscience and remorse, like a sword piercing his bosom. His confidence in his guide, whom he is told to follow and fear no danger; his trust in God, which he is caused to profess; and the point of the sword that is pressed against his naked left breast over the heart, are symbolical of the faith, repentance and reformation necessary to bring him to the light of a life in Christ the Crucified.
3d. Having repented and reformed, and bound himself to the service of God by a firm promise and obligation, the light of Christian hope shines down into the darkness of the heart of the humble penitent, and blazes upon his pathway to Heaven. And this is symbolized by the candidate’s being brought to light, after he is obligated, by the Worshipful Master, who in that is a symbol of the Redeemer, and so brings him to light, with the help of the brethren, as He taught the Word with the aid of the Apostles.
In the Second Degree there are two symbols:
4th. The Christian assumes new duties toward God and his fellows. Toward God, of love, gratitude, and veneration, and an anxious desire to serve and glorify Him; toward his fellows, of kindness, sympathy, and justice. And this assumption of duty, this entering upon good works, is symbolized by the Fellow-Craft’s obligation; by which, bound as an apprentice to secrecy merely, and set in the Northeast corner of the Lodge, he descends as a Fellow-Craft into the body of the brethren, and assumes the active duties of a good Mason.
5th. The Christian, reconciled to God, sees the world in a new light. This great Universe is no longer a mere machine, wound up and set going six thousand or sixty millions years ago, and left to run on afterward forever, by virtue of a law of mechanics created at the beginning, without further care or consideration on the part of the Deity; but it has now become to him a great emanation from God, the product of His thought, not a mere dead machine, but a thing of life, over which God watches continually, and every movement of which is immediately produced by His present action, the law of harmony being the essence of the Deity, re-enacted every instant. And this is symbolized by the imperfect instruction given in the Fellow-Craft’s Degree, in the sciences, and particularly geometry, connected as the latter is with God Himself in the mind of a Mason, because the same letter, suspended in the East, represents both; and astronomy, or the knowledge of the laws of motion and harmony that govern the spheres, is but a portion of the wider science of geometry. It is so symbolized, because it is here, in the Second Degree, that the candidate first receives an other than moral instruction.
There are also two symbols in the Third Degree, which, with the 3 in the first, and 2 in the second, make the 7.
6th. The candidate, after passing through the first part of the ceremony, imagines himself a Master; and is surprised to be informed that as yet he is not, and that it is uncertain whether he ever will be. He is told of a difficult and dangerous path yet to be travelled, and is advised that upon that journey it depends whether he will become a Master. This is symbolical of that which our Saviour said to Nicodemus, that, notwithstanding his morals might be beyond reproach, he could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he were born again; symbolically dying, and again entering the world regenerate, like a spotless infant.
7th. The murder of Hiram, his burial, and his being raised again by the Master, are symbols, both of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Redeemer; and of the death and burial in sins of the natural man, and his being raised again to a new life, or born again, by the direct action of the Redeemer; after Morality (symbolized by the Entered Apprentice’s grip), and Philosophy (symbolized by the grip of the Fellow-Craft), had failed to raise him. That of the Lion of the House of Judah is the strong grip, never to be broken, with which Christ, of the royal line of that House, has clasped to Himself the whole human race, and embraces them in His wide arms as closely and affectionately as brethren embrace each other on the five points of fellowship.
As Entered Apprentices and Fellow-Crafts, Masons are taught to imitate the laudable example of those Masons who labored at the building of King Solomon’s Temple; and to plant firmly and deep in their hearts those foundation-stones of principle, truth, justice, temperance, fortitude, prudence, and charity, on which to erect that Christian character which all the storms of misfortune and all the powers and temptations of Hell shall not prevail against; those feelings and noble affections which are the most proper homage that can be paid to the Grand Architect and Great Father of the Universe, and which make the heart a living temple builded to Him: when the unruly passions are made to submit to rule and measurement, and their excesses are struck off with the gavel of self-restraint; and when every action and every principle is accurately corrected and adjusted by the square of wisdom, the level of humility, and the plumb of justice.
The two columns, Jachin and Boaz, are the symbols of that profound faith and implicit trust in God and the Redeemer that are the Christian’s strength; and of those good works by which alone that faith can be established and made operative and effectual to salvation.
The three pillars that support the Lodge are symbols of a Christian’s HOPE; in a future state of happiness; FAITH in the promises and the divine character and mission of the Redeemer; and CHARITABLE JUDGMENT of other men.
The three murderers of Khir-Om symbolize Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas the High-Priest, and Judas Iscariot: and the three blows given him are the betrayal by the last, the refusal of Roman protection by Pilate, and the condemnation by the High-Priest. They also symbolize the blow on the ear, the scourging, and the crown of thorns. The twelve fellow-crafts sent in search of the body are the twelve disciples, in doubt whether to believe that the Redeemer would rise from the dead.
The Master’s word, supposed to be lost, symbolizes the Christian faith and religion, supposed to have been crushed and destroyed when the Saviour was crucified, after Iscariot had betrayed Him, and Peter deserted Him, and when the other disciples doubted whether He would arise from the dead; but which rose from His tomb and flowed rapidly over the civilized world; and so that which was supposed to be lost was found. It symbolizes also the Saviour Himself; the WORD that was in the beginning–that was with God, and that was God; the Word of life, that was made flesh and dwelt among us, and was supposed to be lost, while He lay in the tomb, for three days, and His disciples “as yet knew not the scripture that He must rise again from the dead,” and doubted when they heard of it, and were amazed and frightened and still doubted when He appeared among them.
The bush of acacia placed at the head of the grave of Khir-Om is an emblem of resurrection and immortality.
Such are the explanations of our Christian brethren; entitled, like those of all other Masons, to a respectful ‘consideration.
There is no pretence to infallibility in Masonry. It is not for us to dictate to any man what he shall believe. We have hitherto, in the instruction of the several Degrees, confined ourselves to laying before you the great thoughts that have found expression in the different ages of the world, leaving you to decide for yourself as to the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of each, and what proportion of truth, if any, each contained. We shall pursue no other course in this closing Philosophical instruction; in which we propose to deal with the highest questions that have ever exercised the human mind, with the existence and the nature of a God, with the existence and the nature of the human soul, and with the relations of the divine and human spirit with the merely material Universe. There can be no questions more important to an intelligent being, none that have for him a more direct and personal interest; and to this last word of Scottish Masonry we invite your serious and attentive consideration. And, as what we shall now say will be but the completion and rounding-off of what we have already said in several of the preceding Degrees, in regard to the Old Thought and the Ancient Philosophies, we hope that you have noted and not forgotten our previous lessons, without which this would seem imperfect and fragmentary.
In its idea of rewarding a faithful and intelligent workman by conferring upon him a knowledge of the True Word, Masonry has perpetuated a very great truth, because it involves the proposition that the idea which a man forms of God is always the most important element in his speculative theory of the Universe, and in his particular practical plan of action for the Church, the State, the Community, the Family, and his own individual life. It will ever make a vast difference in the conduct of a people in war or peace, whether they believe the Supreme God to be a cruel Deity, delighting in sacrifice and blood, or a God of Love; and an individual’s speculative theory as to the mode and extent of God’s government, and as to the nature and reality of his own free-will and consequent responsibility, will needs have great influence in shaping the course of his life and conversation.
We see every day the vast influence of the popular idea of God. All the great historical civilizations of the race have grown out of the national ideas which were formed of God; or have been intimately connected with those ideas. The popular Theology, which at first is only an abstract idea in the heads of philosophers, by and by shows itself in the laws, and in the punishments for crime, in the churches, the ceremonies and the sacraments, the festivals and the fasts, the weddings, the baptisms and the funerals, in the hospitals, the colleges, the schools, and all the social charities, in the relations of husband and wife, parent and child, in the daily work and the daily prayer of every man.
As the world grows in its development, it necessarily outgrows its ancient ideas of God, which were only temporary and pro-visional. A man who has a higher conception of God than those about him, and who denies that their conception is God, is very likely to be called an Atheist by men who are really far less believers in a God than he. Thus the Christians, who said the Heathen idols were no Gods, were accounted Atheists by the People, and accordingly put to death; and Jesus of Nazareth was crucified as an unbelieving blasphemer, by the Jews.
There is a mere formal Atheism, which is a denial of God in terms, but not in reality. A man says, There is no God; that is, no God that is self-originated, or that never originated, but always WAS and HAD BEEN, who is the cause of existence, who is the Mind and the Providence of the Universe; and so the order, beauty, and harmony of the world of matter and mind do not indicate any plan or purpose of Deity. But, he says, NATURE,–meaning by that the whole sum-total of existence,–that is powerful, active, wise, and good; Nature is self-originated, or always was and had been, the cause of its own existence, the mind of the Universe and the Providence of itself. There is obviously a plan and purpose whereby order, beauty, and harmony are brought about; but all that is the plan and purpose of nature.
In such cases, the absolute denial of God is only formal and not real. The qualities of God are admitted, and affirmed to be real; and it is a mere change of name to call the possessor of those qualities, Nature, and not God. The real question is, whether such Qualities exist, as we call God; and not, by what particular name we shall designate the Qualities. One man may call the sum total of these Qualities, Nature; another, Heaven; a third, Universe, a fourth, Matter; a fifth, Spirit; a sixth, God, Theos, Zeus, Alfadir, Allah, or what he pleases. All admit the existence of the Being, Power, or ENS, thus diversely named. The name is of the smallest consequence.
Real Atheism is the denial of the existence of any God, of the actuality of all possible ideas of God. It denies that there is any Mind, Intelligence, or ENS, that is the Cause and Providence of the Universe, and of any Thing or any Existence, Soul, Spirit, or Being, that intentionally or intelligently produces the Order, Beauty, and Harmony thereof, and the constant and regular modes of operation therein. It must necessarily deny that there is any law, order, or harmony in existence, or any constant mode of operation in the world; for it is utterly impossible for any human creature to conceive, however much he may pretend to do so, of either of these, except as a consequence of the action of Intelligence; which is, indeed, that otherwise unknown thing, the existence of which these alone prove; otherwise than as the cause of these, not a thing at all; a mere name for the wholly uncognizable cause of these.
The real atheist must deny the existence of the Qualities of God, deny that there is any mind of or in the Universe, any self-conscious Providence, any Providence at all. He must deny that there is any Being or Cause of Finite things, that is self-consciously powerful, wise, just, loving, and faithful to itself and its own nature. He must deny that there is any plan in the Universe or any part of it. He must hold, either that matter is eternal, or that it originated itself, which is absurd, or that it was originated by an Intelligence, or at least by a Cause; and then he admits a. God, No doubt it is beyond the reach of our faculties to imagine how matter originated,–how it began to be, in space where before was nothing, or God only. But it is equally beyond the reach of our faculties to imagine it eternal and unoriginated. To hold it to be eternal, without thought or will; that the specific forms of it, the seed, the rock, the tree, the man, the solar system, all came with no forethought planning or producing them, by “chance” or “the fortuitous concourse of atoms” of matter that has no thought or will; and that they indicate no mind, no plan, no purpose, no providence, is absurd. It is not to deny the existence of what we understand by mind, plan, purpose, Providence; but to insist that these words shall have some other meaning than that which the human race has ever attached to them: shall mean some unknown thing, for which the human race has no name, because it has of such a thing no possible idea. Either there never was any such thing as a “plan,” and the word is nonsense, or the Universe exists in conformity to a plan. The word never meant, and never can mean, any other thing than that which the Universe exhibits. So with the word “purpose;” so with the word “Providence.” They mean nothing, or else only what the Universe proves.
It was soon found that the denial of a Conscious Power, the cause of man and of his life, of a Providence, or a Mind and Intelligence arranging man in reference to the world, and the world in reference to man, would not satisfy the instinctive desires of human nature, or account for the facts of material nature. It did not long answer to say, if it ever was said, that the Universe was drifting in the void inane, and neither it, nor any mind within or without it, knew of its whence, its whither, or its whereabouts; that man was drifting in the Universe, knowing little of his whereabouts, nothing of his whence or whither; that there was no Mind, no Providence, no Power, that knew any better; nothing hat guided and directed man in his drifting, or the Universe in the weltering waste of Time. To say to man and woman, “your heroism, your bravery, your self-denial all comes to nothing: your nobleness will do you no good: you will die, and your nobleness will do mankind no service; for there is no plan or order in all these things; everything comes and goes by the fortuitous con-course of atoms;” did not, nor ever will, long satisfy the human mind. True, the theory of Atheism has been uttered. It has been said, “Death is the end: this is a world without a God: you are a body without a soul: there is a Here, but no Hereafter for you; an Earth, but no Heaven. Die, and return to your dust. Man is bones, blood, bowels, and brain; mind is matter: there is no soul in the brain, nothing but nerves. We can see all the way to a little star in the nebula of Orion’s belt; so distant that it will take light a thousand millions of years to come from it to the earth, journeying at the rate of twelve millions of miles a minute. There is no Heaven this side of that: you see all the way through: there is not a speck of Heaven; and do you think there is any beyond it; and if so, when would you reach it? There is no Providence. Nature is a fortuitous concourse of atoms; thought is a fortuitous function of matter, a fortuitous result of a fortuitous result, a chance-shot from the great wind-gun of the Universe, accidentally loaded, pointed at random, and fired off by chance. Things happen; they are not arranged. There is luck, and there is ill-luck; but there is no Providence. Die you into dust!” Does all this satisfy the human instinct of immortality, that makes us ever long, with unutterable longing, to join ourselves again to our dear ones who have gone away before us, and to mankind, for eternal life? Does it satisfy our mighty hungering and thirst for immortality, our anxious longing to come nearer to, and to know more of, the Eternal Cause of all things?
Men never could be content to believe that there was no mind that thought for man, no conscience to enact eternal laws, no heart to love those whom nothing of earth loves or cares for, no will of the Universe to marshal the nations in the way of wisdom, justice, and love. History is not–thank God! we know it is not,–the fortuitous concourse of events, or Nature that of atoms. We cannot believe that there is no plan nor purpose in Nature, to guide our going out and coming in: that there is a mighty going, but it goes nowhere; that all beauty, wisdom, affection, justice, morality in the world, is an accident, and may end to-morrow.
All over the world there is heroism unrequited, or paid with misery; vice on thrones, corruption in high places, nobleness in poverty or even in chains, the gentle devotion of woman rewarded by brutal neglect or more brutal abuse and violence; everywhere want, misery, over-work, and under-wages. Add to these the Atheist’s creed,–a body without a soul, an earth without a Heaven, a world without a God; and what a Pandemonium would we make of this world!
The intellect of the Atheist would find matter everywhere; but no Causing and Providing Mind: his moral sense would find no Equitable Will, no Beauty of Moral Excellence, no Conscience enacting justice into the unchanging law of right, no spiritual Order or spiritual Providence, but only material Fate and Chance. His affections would find only finite things to love; and to them the dead who were loved and who died yesterday, are like the rainbow that yesterday evening lived a moment and then passed away. His soul, flying through the vast Inane, and feeling the darkness with its wings, seeking the Soul of all, which at once is Reason, Conscience, and the Heart of all that is, would find no God, but a Universe all disorder; no Infinite, no Reason, no Conscience, no Heart, no Soul of things; nothing to reverence, to esteem, to love, to worship, to trust in; but only an Ugly Force, alien and foreign to us, that strikes down those we love, and makes us mere worms on the hot sand of the world. No voice would speak from the Earth to comfort him. It is a cruel mother, that great Earth, that devours her young,–a Force and nothing more. Out of the sky would smile no kind Providence, in all its thousand starry eyes; and in storms a malignant violence, with its lightning-sword, would stab into the darkness, seeking for men to murder.
No man ever was or ever can be content with that. The evidence of .God has been ploughed into Nature so deeply, and so deeply woven into the texture of the human soul, that Atheism has never become a faith, though it has sometimes assumed the shape of theory. Religion is natural to man. Instinctively he turns to God and reverences and relies on Him. In the Mathematics of the Heavens, written in gorgeous diagrams of fire, he sees law, order, beauty, harmony without end: in the ethics of the little nations that inhabit the ant-hills he sees the same; in all Nature, animate and inanimate, he sees the evidences of a Design, a Will, an Intelligence, and a God,–of a God beneficent and loving as well as wise, and merciful and indulgent as well as powerful.
To man, surrounded by the material Universe, and conscious of the influence that his material environments exercised upon his fortunes and his present destiny;–to man, ever confronted with the splendors of the starry heavens, the regular march of the seasons, the phenomena of sunrise and moonrise, and all the evidences of intelligence and design that everywhere pressed upon and overwhelmed him, all imaginable questions as to the nature and cause of these phenomena constantly recurred, demanding to be solved, and refusing to be sent away unanswered. And still, after the lapse of ages, press upon the human mind and demand solution, the same great questions–perhaps still demanding it in vain.
Advancing to the period when man had ceased to look upon the separate parts and individual forces of the Universe as gods,–when he had come to look upon it as a whole, this question, among the earliest, occurred to him, and insisted on being answered: “Is this material Universe self-existent, or was it created? Is it eternal, or did it originate?”
And then in succession came crowding on the human mind these other questions:
“Is this material Universe a mere aggregate of fortuitous combinations of matter, or is it the result and work of intelligence, acting upon a plan?
“If there be such an Intelligence, what and where is it? Is the material Universe itself an Intelligent being? Is it like man, a body and a soul? Does Nature act upon itself, or is there a Cause beyond it that acts upon it?
“If there is a personal God, separate from the material Universe, that created all things, Himself uncreated, is He corporeal or incorporeal, material or spiritual, the soul of the Universe or wholly apart from it? and if He be Spirit, what then is spirit?
“Was that Supreme Deity active or quiescent before the creation; and if quiescent during a previous eternity, what necessity of His nature moved Him at last to create a world; or was it a mere whim that had no motive?
“Was matter co-existent with Him, or absolutely created by him out of nothing? Did He create it, or only mould and shape and fashion a chaos already existing, co-existent with Himself?
“Did the Deity directly create matter, or was creation the work of inferior deities, emanations from Himself?
“If He be good and just, whence comes it that, foreknowing everything, He has allowed sorrow and evil to exist; and how to reconcile with His benevolence and wisdom the prosperity of vice and the misfortunes of virtue in this world?” And then, as to man himself, recurred these other questions, as they continue to recur to all of us:
“What is it in us that thinks? Is Thought the mere result of material organization; or is there in us a soul that thinks, separate from and resident in the body? If the latter, is it eternal and uncreated; and if not, how created? Is it distinct from God, or an emanation from Him? Is it inherently immortal, or only so by destination, because God has willed it? Is it to return to and be merged in Him, or ever to exist, separately from Him, with its present identity?
“If God has fore-seen and fore-arranged all that occurs, how has man any real free-will, or the least control over circumstances? How can anything be done against the will of Infinite Omnipotence; and if all is done according to that will, how is there any wrong or evil, in what Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Power does not choose to prevent?
“What is the foundation of the moral law? Did God enact it of His own mere pleasure; and if so, can He not, when He pleases, repeal it? Who shalt assure us He will not repeal it, and make right wrong, and virtue vice? Or is the moral law a necessity of His nature; and if so, who enacted it; and does not that assert a power, like the old Necessity, superior to Deity?”
And, close-following after these, came the great question of HEREAFTER, of another Life, of the soul’s Destiny; and the thousand other collateral and subordinate questions, as to matter, spirit, futurity, and God, that have produced all the systems of philosophy, all metaphysics, and all theology, since the world began.
What the old philosophic mind thought upon these great questions, we have already, to some extent, developed. With the Emanation-doctrine of the Gnostics and the Orient, we have endeavored to make you familiar. We have brought you face to face with the Kabalists, the Essenes, and Philo the Jew. We have shown that, and how, much of the old mythology was derived from the daily and yearly recurring phenomena of the heavens. We have exhibited to you the ancient notions by which they endeavored to explain to themselves the existence and prevalence of evil; and we have in some degree made known to you their metaphysical ideas as to the nature of the Deity. Much more remains to be done than it is within our power to do. We stand upon the sounding shore of the great ocean of Time. In front of us stretches out the heaving waste of the illimitable Past; and its waves, as they roll up to our feet along the sparkling slope of the yellow sands, bring to us, now and then, from the depths of that boundless ocean, a shell, a few specimens of algæ torn rudely from their stems, a rounded pebble; and that is all; of all the vast treasures of ancient thought that lie buried there, with the mighty anthem of the boundless ocean thundering over them forever and forever.
Let us once more, and for the last time, along the shore of that great ocean, gather a few more relics of the Past, and listen to its mighty voices, as they come, in fragmentary music, in broken and interrupted rhythm, whispering to us from the great bosom of the Past.
Rites, creeds, and legends express, directly or symbolically, some leading idea, according to which the Mysteries of Being are supposed to be explained in Deity. The intricacies of mythical genealogies are a practical acknowledgment of the mysterious nature of the Omnipotent Deity; displaying in their beautiful but ineffectual imagery the first efforts of the mind to communicate with nature: the flowers which fancy strewed before the youthful steps of Psyche, when she first set out in pursuit of the immortal object of her love. Theories and notions, in all their varieties of truth and falsehood, are a machinery more or less efficacious, directed to the same end. Every religion was, in its origin, an embryo philosophy, or an attempt to interpret the unknown by mind; and it was only when philosophy, which is essentially progress, outgrew its first acquisitions, that religion became a thing apart, cherishing as unalterable dogmas the notions which philosophy had abandoned. Separated from philosophy, it became arrogant and fantastical, professing to have already attained what its more authentic representative was ever pursuing in vain; and discovering, through its initiations and Mysteries, all that to its contracted view seemed wanting to restore the well-being of mankind, the means of purification and expiation, remedies for disease, expedients to cure the disorders of the soul, and to propitiate the gods.
Why should we attempt to confine the idea of the Supreme Mind within an arbitrary barrier, or exclude from the limits of veracity any conception of the Deity, which, if imperfect and inadequate, may be only a little more so than our own? “The name of God,” says Hobbes, “is used not to make us conceive Him, for He is inconceivable, but that we may honor Him.” “Believe in God, and adore Him,” said the Greek Poet, “but investigate Him not; the inquiry is fruitless, seek not to discover who God is; for, by the desire to know, you offend Him who chooses to remain unknown.” “When we attempt,” says Philo, “to investigate the essence of the Absolute Being, we fall into an abyss of perplexity; and the only benefit to be derived from such researches is the conviction of their absurdity.”
Yet man, though ignorant of the constitution of the dust on which he treads, has ventured, and still ventures, to speculate on the nature of God, and to define dogmatically in creeds the subject least within the compass of his faculties; and even to hate and persecute those who will not accept his views as true.
But though a knowledge of the Divine Essence is impossible, the conceptions formed respecting it are interesting, as indications of intellectual development. The history of religion is the history of the human mind; and the conception formed by it of Deity is always in exact relation to its moral and intellectual attainments. The one is the index and the measure of the other.
The negative notion of God, which consists in abstracting the inferior and finite, is, according to Philo, the only way in which it is possible for man worthily to apprehend the nature of God. After exhausting the varieties of symbolism, we contrast the Divine Greatness with human littleness, and employ expressions apparently affirmative, such as “Infinite,” “Almighty,” “All-wise,” “Omnipotent,” “Eternal,” and the like; which in reality amount only to denying, in regard to God, those limits which con-fine the faculties of man; and thus we remain content with a name which is a mere conventional sign and confession of our ignorance.
The Hebrew ו ?Y?H?W?H and the Greek To ON expressed abstract existence, without outward manifestation or development. Of the same nature are the definitions, “God is a sphere whose centre is everywhere, and whose circumference nowhere;” “God is He who sees all, Himself unseen:” and finally, that of Proclus and Hegel–“the Το μη ον–that which has no outward and positive existence.” Most of the so-called ideas or definitions of the “Absolute” are only a collection of negations; from which, as they affirm nothing, nothing is learned. God was first recognized in the heavenly bodies and in the elements. When man’s consciousness of his own intellectuality was matured, and he became convinced that the internal faculty of thought was something more subtle than even the most subtle elements, he transferred that new conception to the object of his worship, and deified a mental principle instead of a physical one. He in every case makes God after his own image; for do what we will, the highest efforts of human thought can conceive nothing higher than the supremacy of intellect; and so he ever conies back to some familiar type of exalted humanity. He at first deifies nature, and afterward himself.
The eternal aspiration of the religious sentiment in man is to become united with God. In his earliest development, the wish and its fulfillment were simultaneous, through unquestioning belief. In proportion as the conception of Deity was exalted, the notion of His terrestrial presence or proximity was abandoned; and the difficulty of comprehending the Divine Government, together with the glaring superstitious evils arising out of its misinterpretation, endangered the belief in it altogether.
Even the lights of Heaven, which, as “bright potentates of the sky,” were formerly the vigilant directors of the economy of earth, now shine dim and distant, and Uriel no more descends upon a sunbeam. But the real change has been in the progressive ascent of man’s own faculties, and not in the Divine Nature; as the Stars are no more distant now than when they were supposed to rest on the shoulders of Atlas. And yet a little sense of disappointment and humiliation attended the first awakening of the soul, when reason, looking upward toward the Deity, was impressed with a dizzy sense of having fallen.
But hope revives in despondency; and every nation that ever advanced beyond the most elementary conceptions, felt the necessity of an attempt to fill the chasm, real or imaginary, separating man from God. To do this was the great task of poetry, philosophy, and religion. Hence the personifications of God’s attributes, developments, and manifestations, as “Powers,” “Intelligences,” “Angels,” “Emanations;” through which and the oracular faculty in himself, man could place himself in communion with God.
The various ranks and orders of mythical beings imagined by Persians, Indians, Egyptians, or Etrurians, to preside over the various departments of nature, had each his share in a scheme to bring man into closer approximation to the Deity; they eventually gave way only before an analogous though less picturesque symbolism; and the Deities and Dæmons of Greece and Rome were perpetuated with only a change of names, when their offices were transferred to Saints and Martyrs. The attempts by which reason had sometimes endeavored to span the unknown by a bridge of metaphysics, such as the idealistic systems of Zoroaster, Pythagoras, or Plato, were only a more refined form of the poetical illusions which satisfied the vulgar; and man still looked back with longing to the lost golden age, when his ancestors communed face to face with the Gods; and hoped that, by propitiating Heaven, he might accelerate the renewal of it in the islands of the Far West, under the sceptre of Kronos, or in a centralization of political power at Jerusalem. His eager hope overcame even the terrors of the grave; for the Divine power was as infinite as human expectation, and the Egyptian, duly ensepulchred in the Lybian Catacombs, was supposed to be already on his way to the Fortunate Abodes under the guidance of Hermes, there to obtain a perfect association and reunion with his God.
Remembering what we have already said elsewhere in regard to the old ideas concerning the Deity, and repeating it as little as possible, let us once more put ourselves in communion with the Ancient poetic and philosophic mind, and endeavor to learn of it what it thought, and how it solved the great problems that have ever tortured the human intellect.
The division of the First and Supreme Cause into two parts, one Active and the other Passive, the Universe Agent and Patient, or the hermaphroditic God-World, is one of the most ancient and widespread dogmas of philosophy or natural theology. Almost every ancient people gave it a place in their worship, their mysteries, and their ceremonies.
Ocellus Lucanus, who seems to have lived shortly after Pythagoras opened his School in Italy, five or six hundred years before our era, and in the time of Solon, Thales, and the other Sages who had studied in the Schools of Egypt, not only recognizes the eternity of the Universe, and its divine character as an unproduced and indestructible being, but also the distinction of Active and Passive causes in what he terms the Grand Whole, or the single hermaphroditic Being that comprehends all existences, as well causes as effects; and which is a system regularly ordered, perfect and complete, of all Natures. He well apprehended the dividing-line that separates existence eternally the same, from that which eternally changes; the nature of celestial from that of terrestrial bodies, that of causes from that of effects, that which is from that which only BECOMES,–a distinction that naturally struck every thinking man.
We shall not quote his language at full length. The heavenly bodies, he thought, are first and most noble; they move of themselves, and ever revolve, without change of form or essence. Fire, water, earth, and air change incessantly and continually, not place, but form. Then, as in the Universe there are generation and cause of generation,–as generation is where there are change and displacement of parts, and cause where there is stability of nature, evidently it belongs to what is the cause of generation, to move and to act, and to the recipient, to be made and moved. In his view, everything above the Moon was the habitation of the gods; all below, that of Nature and discord; this operates dissolution of things made; that, production of those that are being made. As the world is unproduced and indestructible, as it had no beginning, and will have no end, necessarily the principle that operates generation in another than itself, and that which operates it in itself, have co-existed.
The former is all above the moon, and especially the sun: the latter is the sublunary world. Of these two parts, one active, the other passive–one divine and always the same, the other mortal and ever changing, all that we call the “world” or “universe” is composed.
These accorded with the principles of the Egyptian philosophy, which held that man and the animals had always existed together with the world; that they were its effects, eternal like itself. The chief divisions of nature into active and passive causes, its system of generation and destruction, and the concurrence of the two great principles, Heaven and earth, uniting to form all things, will, according to Ocellus, always continue to exist. “Enough,” he concludes, “as to the Universe, the generations and destructions effected in it, the mode in which it now exists, the mode in which it will ever exist, by the eternal qualities of the two principles, one always moving, the other always moved; one always governing, the other always governed.”
Such is a brief summary of the doctrine of this philosopher, whose work is one of the most ancient that has survived to us. The subject on which he treated occupied in his time all men’s minds: the poets sang of cosmogonies and theogonies, and the philosophers wrote treatises on the birth of the world and the elements of its composition. The cosmogony of the Hebrews; attributed to Moses; that of the Phœnicians, ascribed to Sanchoniathon; that of the Greeks, composed by Hesiod; that of the Egyptians, the Atlantes, and the Cretans, preserved by Diodorus Siculus; the fragments of the theology of Orpheus, divided among different writers; the books of the Persians, or their Boundehesh; those of the Hindu_s; the traditions of the Chinese and the people of Macassar; the cosmogonic chants which Virgil puts in the mouth of Iopas at Carthage; and those of the old Silenus, the first book of the Metamorphoses of Ovid; all testify to the antiquity and universality of these fictions as to the origin of the world and its causes.
At the head of the causes of nature, Heaven and earth were placed; and the most apparent parts of each, the sun, the moon, the fixed stars and planets, and, above all, the zodiac, among the active causes of generation; and among the passive, the several elements. These causes were not only classed in the progressive order of their energy, Heaven and earth heading the respective lists, but distinct sexes were in some sort assigned to them, and characteristics analogous to the mode in which they concur in universal generation.
The doctrine of Ocellus was the general doctrine everywhere, it naturally occurring to all to make the same distinction. The Egyptians did so, in selecting those animals in which they recognized these emblematic qualities, in order to symbolize the double sex of the Universe. Their God KNEPH, out of whose mouth issued the Orphic egg, whence the author of the Clementine Recognitions makes a hermaphroditic figure to emerge, uniting in itself the two principles whereof Heaven and the earth are forms, and which enter into the organization of all beings which the heavens and the earth engender by their concourse, furnishes another emblem of the double power, active and passive, which the ancients saw in the Universe, and which they symbolized by the egg. Orpheus, who studied in Egypt, borrowed from the theologians of that country the mysterious forms under which the science of nature was veiled, and carried into Greece the symbolic egg, with its division into two parts or causes figured by the hermaphroditic being that issued from it, and whereof Heaven and earth are composed.
The Brahmins of India expressed the same cosmogonic idea by a statue, representative of the Universe, uniting in itself both sexes. The male sex offered an image of the sun, centre of the active principle, and the female sex that of the moon, at the sphere whereof, proceeding downward, the passive portion of nature begins. The Lingam, unto the present day revered in the Indian temples, being but the conjunction of the organs of generation of the two sexes, was an emblem of the same. The Hindu_s have ever had the greatest veneration for this symbol of ever-reproductive nature. The Greeks consecrated the same symbols of universal fruitfulness in their Mysteries; and they were exhibited in the sanctuaries of Eleusis. They appear among the sculptured ornaments of all the Indian temples. Tertullian accuses the Valentinians of having adopted the custom of venerating them; a custom, he says, introduced by Melampus from Egypt into Greece. The Egyptians consecrated the Phallus in the Mysteries of Osiris and Isis, as we learn from Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus; and the latter assures us that these emblems were not consecrated by the Egyptians alone, but by every people. They certainly were so among the Persians and Assyrians; and they were regarded everywhere as symbolic of the generative and productive powers of all animated beings. In those early ages, the works of Nature and all her agents were sacred like herself.
For the union of Nature with herself is a chaste marriage, of which the union of man and woman was a natural image, and their organs were an expressive emblem of the double energy which manifests itself in Heaven and Earth uniting together to produce all beings. “The Heavens,” says Plutarch, “seemed to men to fulfill the functions of father, and the Earth of mother. The former impregnated the earth with its fertilizing rains, and the earth, receiving them, became fruitful and brought forth.” Heaven, which covers and embraces the earth everywhere, is her potent spouse, uniting himself to her to make her fruitful, without which she would languish in everlasting sterility, buried in the shades of chaos and of night. Their union is their marriage; their productions or parts are their children. The skies are our Father, and Nature the great Mother of us all. This idea was not the dogma of a single sect, but the general opinion of all the Sages. “Nature was divided,” says Cicero, ‘”into two parts, one active, and the other that submitted itself to this action, which it received, and which modified it. The former was deemed to be a Force, and the latter the material on which that Force exerted itself.” Macrobius repeated almost literally the doctrine of Ocellus. Aristotle termed the earth the fruitful mother, environed on all sides by the air. Above it was Heaven, the dwelling-place of the gods and the divine stars, its substance ether, or a fire incessantly moving in circles, divine and incorruptible, and subject to no change. Below it, nature, and the elements, imitable and acted on, corruptible and mortal.
Synesius said that generations were effected in the portions of the Universe which we inhabit; while the cause of generations resided in the portions above us, whence descend to us the germs of the effects produced here below. Proclus and Simplicius deemed Heaven the Active Cause and Father, relatively to the earth. The former says that the World or the Whole is a single Animal; what is done in it, is done by it; the same World acts, and acts upon itself. He divides it into “Heaven” and “Generation.” In the former, he says, are placed and arranged the conservative causes of generation, superintended by the Genii and Gods. The Earth, or Rhea, associated ever with Saturn in production, is mother of the effects of which Heaven is Father; the womb or bosom that receives the fertilizing energy of the God that engenders ages. The great work of generation is operated, he says, primarily by the action of the Sun, and secondarily by that of the Moon, so that the Sun is the primitive source of this energy, as father and chief of the male gods that form his court. He follows the action of the male and female principles through all the portions and divisions of nature, attributing to the former the origin of stability and identity, to the latter, that of diversity and mobility. Heaven is to the earth, he says, as the male to the female. It is the movement of the heavens that, by their revolutions, furnished the seminal incitements and forces, whose emanations received by the earth, make it fruitful, and cause it to produce animals and plants of every kind.
Philo says that Moses recognized this doctrine of two causes, active and passive; but made the former to reside in the Mind or Intelligence external to matter. The ancient astrologers divided the twelve signs of the Zodiac into six male and six female, and assigned them to six male and six female Great Gods. Heaven and Earth, or Ouranos and Ghê, were among most ancient nations, the first and most ancient Divinities. We find them in the Phœnician history of Sanchoniathon, and in the Grecian Genealogy of the Gods given by Hesiod. Everywhere they marry, and by their union produce the later Gods. “In the beginning,” says Apollodorus, “Ouranos or the Heavens was Lord of all the Universe: he took to wife Ghê or the earth, and had by her many children.” They were the first Gods of the Cretans, and under other names, of the Armenians, as we learn from Berosus, and of Panchaîa, an island South of Arabia, as we learn from Euhemerus. Orpheus made the Divinity, or the “Great Whole,” male and female, because, he said, it could produce nothing, unless it united in itself the productive force of both sexes. He called Heaven PANGENETOR, the Father of all things, most ancient of Beings, beginning and end of all, containing in Himself the incorruptible and unwearying force of Necessity.
The same idea obtained in the rude North of Europe. The Scythians made the earth to be the wife of Jupiter; and the Germans adored her under the name of HERTA. The Celts worshipped the Heavens and the Earth, and said that without the former the latter would be sterile, and that their marriage produced all things. The Scandinavians acknowledged BÖR or the Heavens, and gave FURTUR, his son, the Earth as his wife. Olaus Rudbeck adds, that their ancestors were persuaded that Heaven intermarried with the Earth, and thus uniting his forces with hers, produced animals and plants. This marriage of Heaven and Earth produced the AZES, Genii famous in the theology of the North. In the theology of the Phrygians and Lydians, the ASII were born of the marriage of the Supreme God with the Earth, and Firmicus informs us that the Phrygians attributed to the Earth supremacy over the other elements, and considered her the Great Mother of all things.
Virgil sings the impregnation of the joyous earth, by the Ether, its spouse, that descends upon its bosom, fertilizing it with rains. Columella sings the loves of Nature and her marriage with Heaven annually consummated at the sweet Spring-time. He describes the Spirit of Life, the soul that animates the world, fired with the passion of Love, uniting with Nature and itself, itself a part of Nature, and filling its own bosom with new productions. This union of the Universe with itself, this mutual action of two sexes, he terms “the great Secrets of Nature,” the Mysteries of the Union of Heaven with Earth, imaged in the Sacred Mysteries of Atys and Bacchus.”
Varro tells us that the great Divinities adored at Samothrace were the Heavens and the Earth, considered as First Causes or Primal Gods, and as male and female agents, one bearing to the other the relations that the Soul and Principle of Movement bear to the body or the matter that receives them. These were the gods revered in the Mysteries of that Island, as they were in the orgies of Phœnicia.
Everywhere the sacred body of Nature was covered with the veil of allegory, which concealed it from the profane, and allowed it to be seen only by the sage who thought it worthy to be the object of his study and investigation. She showed herself to those only who loved her in spirit and in truth, and she abandoned the indifferent and careless to error and to ignorance. “The Sages of Greece,” says Pausanias, “never wrote otherwise than in an enigmatical manner, never naturally and directly.” “Nature,” says Sallust the Philosopher, “should be sung only in a language that imitates the secrecy of her processes and operations. She is herself an enigma. We see only bodies in movement; the forces and springs that move them are hidden from us.” The poets inspired by the Divinity, the wisest philosophers, all the theologians, the chiefs of the initiations and Mysteries, even the gods uttering their oracles, have borrowed the figurative language of allegory. “The Egyptians,” says Proclus, “preferred that mode of teaching, and spoke of the great secrets of Nature, only in mythological enigmas.” The Gymnosophists of India and the Druids of Gaul lent to science the same enigmatic language, and in the same style wrote the Hierophants of Phœnicia.
The division of things into the active and the passive cause leads to that of the two Principles of Light and Darkness, connected with and corresponding with it. For Light comes from the ethereal substance that composes the active cause, and darkness from earth or the gross matter which composes the passive cause. In Hesiod, the Earth, by its union with Tartarus, engenders Typhon. Chief of the Powers or Genii of Darkness. But it unites itself with the Ether or Ouranos, when it engenders the Gods of Olympus, or the Stars, children of Starry Ouranos.
Light was the first Divinity worshipped by men. To it they owed the brilliant spectacle of Nature. It seems an emanation from the Creator of all things, making known to our senses the Universe which darkness hides from our eyes, and, as it were, giving it existence. Darkness, as it were, reduces all nature again to nothingness, and almost entirely annihilates man.
Naturally, therefore, two substances of opposite natures were imagined, to each of which the world was in turn subjected, one contributing to its felicity and the other to its misfortune. Light multiplied its enjoyments; Darkness despoiled it of them: the former was its friend, the latter its enemy. To one all good was attributed; to the other all evil; and thus the words “Light” and “Good” became synonymous, and the words “Darkness” and “Evil.” It seeming that Good and Evil could not flow from one and the same source, any more than could Light and Darkness, men naturally imagined two Causes or Principles, of different natures and opposite in their effects, one of which shed Light and Good, and the other Darkness and Evil, on the Universe.
This distinction of the two Principles was admitted in all the Theologies, and formed one of the principal bases of all religions. It entered as a primary element into the sacred fables, the cosmogonies and the Mysteries of antiquity. “We are not to suppose,” says Plutarch, “that the Principles of the Universe are inanimate bodies, as Democritus and Epicurus thought; nor that a matter devoid of qualities is organized and arranged by a single Reason or Providence, Sovereign over all things, as the Stoics held; for it is not possible that a single Being, good or evil, is the cause of all, inasmuch as God can in nowise be the cause of any evil. The harmony of the Universe is a combination of contraries, like the strings of a lyre, or that of a bow, which alternately is stretched and relaxed.” “The good,” says Euripides, “is never separated from the Evil. The two must mingle, that all may go well.” And this opinion as to the two principles, continues Plutarch, “is that of all antiquity. From the Theologians and Legislators it passed to the Poets and Philosophers. Its author is unknown; but the opinion itself is established by the traditions of the whole human race, and consecrated in the mysteries and sacrifices both of the Greeks and Barbarians, wherein was recognized the dogma of opposing principles in nature, which, by their contrariety, produce the mixture of good and evil. We must admit two contrary causes, two opposing powers, which lead, one to the right and the other to the left, and thus control our life, as they do the sublunary world, which is therefore subject to so many changes and irregularities of every kind. For if there can be no effect without a cause, and if the Good cannot be the cause of the Evil, it is absolutely necessary that there should be a cause for the Evil, as there is one for the Good.” This doctrine, he adds, has been generally received among most nations, and especially by those who have had the greatest reputation for wisdom. All have admitted two gods, with different occupations, one making the good and the other the evil found in nature. The former has been styled “God,” the latter “Demon.” The Persians, or Zoroaster, named the former Ormuzd and the latter Ahriman; of whom they said one was of the nature of Light, the other of that of Darkness. The Egyptians called the former Osiris, and the latter Typhon, his eternal enemy.
The Hebrews, at least after their return from the Persian captivity, had their good Deity, and the Devil, a bad and malicious Spirit, ever opposing God, and Chief of the Angels of Darkness, as God was of those of Light. The word “Satan” means, in Hebrew, simply, “The Adversary.”
The Chaldæans, Plutarch says, had their good and evil stars. The Greeks had their Jupiter and Pluto, and their Giants and Titans, to whom were assigned the attributes of the Serpent with which Pluto or Serapis was encircled, and the shape whereof was assumed by Typhon, Ahriman, and the Satan of the Hebrews. Every people had something equivalent to this.
The People of Pegu believe in two Principles, one author of Good and the other of Evil, and strive to propitiate the latter, while they think it needless to worship the former, as he is incapable of doing evil. The people of Java, of the Moluccas, of the Gold Coast, the Hottentots, the people of Teneriffe and Madagascar, and the Savage Tribes of America, all worship and strive to avert the anger and propitiate the good-will of the Evil Spirit.
But among the Greeks, Egyptians, Chaldæans, Persians, and Assyrians, the doctrine of the two Principles formed a complete and regularly arranged theological system. It was the basis of the religion of the Magi and of Egypt. The author of an ancient work, attributed to Origen, says that Pythagoras learned from Zarastha, a Magus at Babylon (the same, perhaps, as Zerdusht or Zoroaster), that there are two principles of all things, whereof one is the father and the other the mother; the former, Light, and the latter, Darkness. Pythagoras thought that the Dependencies on Light were warmth, dryness, lightness, swiftness; and those on Darkness, cold, wet, weight, and slowness; and that the world derived its existence from these two principles, as from the male and the female. According to Porphyry, he conceived two opposing powers, one good, which he termed Unity, the Light, Right, the Equal, the Stable, the Straight; the other evil, which he termed Binary, Darkness, the Left, the Unequal, the Unstable, the Crooked. These ideas he received from the Orientals, for he dwelt twelve years at Babylon, studying with the Magi. Varro says he recognized two Principles of all things,–the Finite and the Infinite, Good and Evil, Life and Death, Day and Night. White he thought was of the nature of the Good Principle, and Black of that of the Evil; that Light and Darkness, Heat and Cold, the Dry and the Wet, mingled in equal proportions; that Summer was the triumph of heat, and Winter of cold; that their equal combination produced Spring and Autumn, the former producing verdure and favorable to health, and the latter, deteriorating everything, giving birth to maladies. He applied the same idea to the rising and setting of the sun; and, like the Magi, held that God or Ormuzd in the body resembled light, and in the soul, truth.
Aristotle, like Plato, admitted a principle of Evil, resident in matter and in its eternal imperfection.
The Persians said that Ormuzd, born of the pure Light, and Ahriman, born of darkness, were ever at war. Ormuzd produced six Gods, Beneficence, Truth, Good Order, Wisdom, Riches, and Virtuous Joy. These were so many emanations from the Good Principle, so many blessings bestowed by it on men. Ahriman, in his turn, produced six Devs, opponents of the six emanations from Ormuzd. Then Ormuzd made himself three times as great as before, ascended as far above the sun as the sun is above the earth, and adorned the heavens with stars, of which he made Sirius the sentinel or advance-guard: that he then created twenty-four other Deities, and placed them in an egg, where Ahriman also placed twenty-four others, created by him, who broke the egg, and so intermingled Good and Evil. Theopompus adds that, according to the Magi, for two terms of three thousand years, each of the two Principles is to be by turns victor and the other vanquished; then for three thousand more for each they are to contend with each other, each destroying reciprocally the works of the other; after which Ahriman is to perish, and men, wearing transparent bodies, to enjoy unutterable happiness.
The twelve great Deities of the Persians, the six Amshaspands and six Devs, marshalled, the former under the banner of Light, and the latter under that of Darkness, are the twelve Zodiacal Signs or Months; the six supreme signs, or those of Light, or of Spring and Summer, commencing with Aries, and the six inferior, of Darkness, or of Autumn and Winter, commencing with Libra. Limited Time, as contradistinguished from Time without limits, or Eternity, is Time created and measured by the celestial revolutions. It is comprehended in a period divided into twelve parts, each subdivided into a thousand parts, which the Persians termed years. Thus the circle annually traversed by the Sun was divided into 12,000 parts, or each sign into 3,000: and thus, each year, the Principle of Light and Good triumphed for 3,000 years, that of Evil and Darkness for 3,000, and they mutually destroyed each other’s labors for 6,000, or 3,000 for each: so that the Zodiac was equally divided between them. And accordingly Ocellus Lucanus, the Disciple of Pythagoras, held that the principal cause of all sublunary effects resided in the Zodiac, and that from it flowed the good or bad influences of the planets that revolved therein.
The twenty-four good and twenty-four evil Deities, enclosed in the Egg, are the forty-eight constellations of the ancient sphere, equally divided between the realms of Light and Darkness, on the concavity of the celestial sphere which was apportioned among them; and which, enclosing the world and planets, was the mystic and sacred egg of the Magi, the Indians, and the Egyptians,–the egg that issued from the mouth of the God Kneph, that figured as the Orphic Egg in the Mysteries of Greece, that issued from the God Chumong of the Coresians, and from the Egyptian Osiris and the God Phanes of the Modern Orphics, Principle of Light,–the egg crushed by the Sacred Bull of the Japanese, and from which the world emerged; that placed by the Greeks at the feet of Bacchus the bull-horned God, and from which Aristophanes makes Love emerge, who with Night organizes Chaos. Thus the Balance, the Scorpion, the Serpent of Ophiucus, and the Dragon of the Hesperides became malevolent Signs and Evil Genii; and entire nature was divided between the two principles, and between the agents or partial causes subordinate to them. Hence Michael and his Archangels, and Satan and his fallen compeers. Hence the wars of Jupiter and the Giants, in which the Gods of Olympus fought on the side of the Light-God, against the dark progeny of earth and Chaos; a war which Proclus regarded as symbolizing the resistance opposed by dark and chaotic matter to the active and beneficent force which gives it organization; an idea which in part appears in the old theory of two Principles, one innate in the active and luminous substance of Heaven, and the other in the inert and dark substance of matter that resists the order and the good that Heaven communicates to it.
Osiris conquers Typhon, and Ormuzd, Ahriman, when, at the Vernal Equinox, the creative action of Heaven and its demiourgic energy is most strongly manifested. Then the principle of Light and Good overcomes that of Darkness and Evil, and the world rejoices, redeemed from cold and wintry darkness by the beneficent Sign into which the Sun then enters triumphant and rejoicing, after his resurrection.
From the doctrine of the two Principles, Active and Passive, grew that of the Universe, animated by a Principle of Eternal Life, and by a Universal Soul, from which every isolated and temporary being received at its birth an emanation, which, at the death of such being, returned to its source. The life of matter as much belonged to nature as did matter itself; and as life is manifested by movement, the sources of life must needs seem to be placed in those luminous and eternal bodies, and above all in the Heaven in which they revolve, and which whirls them along with itself in that rapid course that is swifter than all other movement. And fire and heat have so great an analogy with life, that cold, like absence of movement, seemed the distinctive characteristic of death. Accordingly, the vital fire that blazes in the Sun and produces the heat that vivifies everything, was regarded as the principle of organization and life of all sublunary beings.
According to this doctrine, the Universe is not to be regarded, in its creative and eternal action, merely as an immense machine, moved by powerful springs and forced into a continual movement, which, emanating from the circumference, extends to the centre, acts and re-acts in every possible direction, and re-produces in succession all the varied forms which matter receives. So to regard it would be to recognize a cold and purely mechanical action, the energy of which could never produce life.
On the contrary, it was thought, the Universe should be deemed an immense Being, always living, always moved and always moving in an eternal activity inherent in itself, and which, subordinate to no foreign cause, is communicated to all its parts, connects them together, and makes of the world of things a complete and perfect whole. The order and harmony which reign therein seem to belong to and be a part of it, and the design of the various plans of construction of organized beings would seem to be graven in its Supreme Intelligence, source of all the other Intelligences which it communicates together with life to man. Nothing existing out of it, it must be regarded as the principle and term of all things.
Chæremon had no reason for saying that the Ancient Egyptians, inventors of the sacred fables, and adorers of the Sun and the other luminaries, saw in the Universe only a machine, without life and without intelligence, either in its whole or in its parts; and that their cosmogony was a pure Epicureanism, which required only matter and movement to organize its world and govern it. Such an opinion would necessarily exclude all religious worship. Wherever we suppose a worship, there we must suppose intelligent Deities who receive it, and are sensible to the homage of their adorers; and no other people were so religious as the Egyptians.
On the contrary, with them the immense, immutable, and Eternal Being, termed “God” or “the Universe,” had eminently, and in all their plenitude, that life and intelligence which sublunary beings, each an infinitely small and temporary portion of itself, possess in a far inferior degree and infinitely less quantity. It was to them, in some sort, like the Ocean, whence the springs, brooks, and rivers have risen by evaporation, and to the bosom whereof they return by a longer or shorter course, and after a longer or shorter separation from the immense mass of its waters. The machine of the Universe was, in their view, like that of man, moved by a Principle of Life which kept it in eternal activity, and circulated in all its parts. The Universe was a living and animated being, like man and the other animals; or rather they were so only because the Universe was essentially so, and for a few moments communicated to each an infinitely minute portion of its eternal life, breathed by it into the inert and gross matter of sublunary bodies. That withdrawn, man or the animal died; and the Universe alone, living and circulating around the wrecks of their bodies, by its eternal movement, organized and animated new bodies, returning to them the eternal fire and subtle substance which vivifies itself, and which, incorporated in its immense mass, was its universal soul.
These were the ancient ideas as to this Great GOD, Father of all the gods, or of the World; of this BEING, Principle of all things, and of which nothing other than itself is Principle,–the Universal cause that was termed God. Soul of the Universe, eternal like it, immense like it, supremely active and potent in its varied operations, penetrating all parts of this vast body, impressing a regular and symmetrical movement on the spheres, making the elements instinct with activity and order, mingling with everything, organizing everything, vivifying and preserving everything,–this was the UNIVERSE-GOD which the ancients adored as Supreme Cause and God of Gods.
Anchises, in the Æneid, taught Æneas this doctrine of Pythagoras, learned by him from his Masters, the Egyptians, in regard to the Soul and Intelligence of the Universe, from which our souls and intelligences, as well as our life and that of the animals, emanate, Heaven, Earth, the Sea, the Moon and the Stars, he said, are moved by a principle of internal life which perpetuates their existence; a great intelligent soul, that penetrates every part of the vast body of the Universe, and, mingling with everything, agitates it by an eternal movement. It is the source of life in all living things. The force which animates all, emanates from the eternal fire that burns in Heaven. In the Georgics, Virgil repeats the same doctrine; and that, at the death of every animal, the life that animated it, part of the universal life, returns to its Principle and to the source of life that circulates in the sphere of the Stars.
Servius makes God the active Cause that organizes the elements into bodies, the vivifying breath or spirit, that, spreading through matter or the elements, produces and engenders all things. The elements compose the substance of our bodies: God composes the souls that vivify these bodies. From it come the instincts of animals, from it their life, he says: and when they die, that life returns to and re-enters into the Universal Soul, and their bodies into Universal Matter. Timæus of Locria and Plato his Commentator wrote of the Soul of the World, developing the doctrine of Pythagoras, who thought, says Cicero, that God is the Universal Soul, resident everywhere in nature, and of which our Souls are but emanations. “God is one,” says Pythagoras, as cited by Justin Martyr: “He is not, as some think, without the world, but within it, and entire in its entirety. He sees all that becomes, forms all immortal beings, is the author of their powers and performances, the origin of all things, the Light of Heaven, the Father, the Intelligence, the Soul of all beings, the Mover of all spheres.”
God, in the view of Pythagoras, was ONE, a single substance, whose continuous parts extended through all the Universe, without separation, difference, or inequality, like the soul in the human body. He denied the doctrine of the spiritualists, who had severed the Divinity from the Universe, making Him exist apart from the Universe, which thus became no more than a material work, on which acted the Abstract Cause, a God, isolated from it. The Ancient Theology did not so separate God from the Universe. This Eusebius attests, in saying that but a small number of wise men, like Moses, had sought for God or the Cause of all, outside of that ALL; while the Philosophers of Egypt and Phœnicia, real authors of all the old Cosmogonies, had placed the Supreme Cause in the Universe itself, and in its parts, so that, in their view, the world and all its parts are in God.
The World or Universe was thus compared to man: the Principle of Life that moves it, to that which moves man; the Soul of the World to that of man. Therefore Pythagoras called man a microcosm, or little world, as possessing in miniature all the qualities found on a great scale in the Universe; by his reason and intelligence partaking of the Divine Nature: and by his faculty of changing aliments into other substances, of growing, and re-producing himself, partaking of elementary Nature. Thus he made the Universe a great intelligent Being, like man–an immense Deity, having in itself, what man has in himself, movement, life, and intelligence, and besides, a perpetuity of existence, which man has not; and, as having in itself perpetuity of movement and life, therefore the Supreme Cause of all.
Everywhere extended, this Universal Soul does not, in the view of Pythagoras, act everywhere equally nor in the same manner. The highest portion of the Universe, being as it were its head, seemed to him its principal seat, and there was the guiding power of the rest of the world. In the seven concentric spheres is resident an eternal order, fruit of the intelligence, the Universal Soul that moves, by a constant and regular progression, the immortal bodies that form the harmonious system of the heavens.
Manilius says: “I sing the invisible and potent Soul of Nature; that Divine Substance which, everywhere inherent in Heaven, Earth, and the Waters of the Ocean, forms the bond that holds together and makes one all the parts of the vast body of the Universe. It, balancing all Forces, and harmoniously arranging the varied relations of the many members of the world, maintains in it the life and regular movement that agitate it, as a result of the action of the living breath or single spirit that dwells in all its parts, circulates in all the channels of universal nature, flashes with rapidity to all its points, and gives to animated bodies the configurations appropriate to the organization of each . . . . This eternal Law, this Divine Force, that maintains the harmony of the world, makes use of the Celestial Signs to organize and guide the animated creatures that breathe upon the earth; and gives to each of them the character and habits most appropriate. By the action of this Force Heaven rules the condition of the Earth and of its fields cultivated by the husbandman: it gives us or takes from us vegetation and harvests: it makes the great ocean overpass its limits at the flow, and retire within them again at the ebbing, of the tide.”
Thus it is no longer by means of a poetic fiction only that the heavens and the earth become animated and personified, and are deemed living existences, from which other existences proceed. For now they live, with their own life, a life eternal like their bodies, each gifted with a life and perhaps a soul, like those of man, a portion of the universal life and universal soul; and the other bodies that they form, and which they contain in their bosoms, live only through them and with their life, as the embryo lives in the bosom of its mother, in consequence and by means of the life communicated to it, and which the mother ever maintains by the active power of her own life. Such is the universal life of the world, reproduced in all the beings which its superior portion creates in its inferior portion, that is as it were the matrix of the world, or of the beings that the heavens engender in its bosom,
“The soul of the world,” says Macrobius, “is nature itself” [as the soul of man is man himself], “always acting through the celestial spheres which .it moves, and which but follow the irresistible impulse it impresses on them. The heavens, the sun, great seat of generative power, the signs, the stars, and the planets act only with the activity of the soul of the Universe. From that soul, through them, come all the variations and changes of sublunary nature, of which the heavens and celestial bodies are but the secondary causes. The zodiac, with its signs, is an existence, immortal and divine, organized by the universal soul, and producing, or gathering in itself, all the varied emanations of the different powers that make up the nature of the Divinity.”
This doctrine, that gave to the heavens and the spheres living souls, each a portion of the universal soul, was of extreme antiquity. It was held by the old Sabæans. It was taught by Timæus, Plato, Speusippus, Iamblichus, Macrobius, Marcus Aurelius, and Pythagoras. When once men had assigned a soul to the Universe, containing in itself the plenitude of the animal life of particular beings, and even of the stars, they soon supposed that soul to be essentially intelligent, and the source of intelligence of all intelligent beings. Then the Universe became to them not only animated but intelligent, and of that intelligence the different parts of nature partook. Each soul was the vehicle, and, as it were, the envelope of the intelligence that attached itself to it, and could repose nowhere else. Without a soul there could be no intelligence; and as there was a universal soul, source of all souls, the universal soul was gifted with a universal intelligence, source of all particular intelligences. So the soul of the world contained in itself the intelligence of the world. All the agents of nature into which the universal soul entered, received also a portion of its intelligence, and the Universe, in its totality and in its parts, was filled with intelligences, that might be regarded as so many emanations from the sovereign and universal intelligence. Wherever the divine soul acted as a cause, there also was intelligence; and thus Heaven, the stars, the elements, and all parts of the Universe, became the seats of so many divine intelligences. Every minutest portion of the great soul became a partial intelligence, and the more it was disengaged from gross matter, the more active and intelligent it was. And all the old adorers of nature, the theologians, astrologers, and poets, and the most distinguished philosophers, supposed that the stars were so many animated and intelligent beings, or eternal bodies, active causes of effects here below, whom a principle of life animated, and whom an intelligence directed, which was but an emanation from, and a portion of, the universal life and intelligence of the world.
The Universe itself was regarded as a supremely intelligent being. Such was the doctrine of Timæus of Locria. The soul of man was part of the intelligent soul of the Universe, and therefore itself intelligent. His opinion was that of many other philosophers. Cleanthes, a disciple of ZENO, regarded the Universe as God, Or as the unproduced and universal cause of all effects produced. He ascribed a soul and intelligence to universal nature, and to this intelligent soul, in his view, divinity belonged. From it the intelligence of man was an emanation, and shared its divinity. Chrysippus, the most subtle of the Stoics, placed in the universal reason that forms the soul and intelligence of nature, that divine force or essence of the Divinity which he assigned to the world moved by the universal soul that pervades its every part.
An interlocutor in Cicero’s work, De Natura Deorum, formally argues that the Universe is necessarily intelligent and wise, because man, an infinitely small portion of it, is so. Cicero makes the same argument in his oration for Milo. The physicists came to the same conclusion as the philosophers. They supposed that movement essentially belonged to the soul, and the direction of regular and ordered movements to the intelligence. And, as both movement and order exist in the Universe, therefore, they held, there must be in it a soul and an intelligence that role it, and are not to be distinguished from itself; because the idea of the Universe is but the aggregate of all the particular ideas of all things that exist.
The argument was, that the Heavens, and the Stars which make part of them, are animated, because they possess a portion of the Universal Soul: they are intelligent beings, because that Universal Soul, part whereof they possess, is supremely intelligent; and they share Divinity with Universal Nature, because Divinity resides in the Universal Soul and Intelligence which move and rule the world, and of each of which they hold a share. By this process of logic, the interlocutor in Cicero assigned Divinity to the Stars, as animated beings gifted with sensibility and intelligence, and composed of the noblest and purest portions of the ethereal substance, unmixed with matter of an alien nature, and essentially containing light and heat. Hence he concluded them to be so many gods, of an intelligence superior to that of other existences, corresponding to the lofty height in which they moved with such perfect regularity and admirable harmony, with a movement spontaneous and free. Hence he made them “Gods,” active, eternal, and intelligent “Causes”; and peopled the realm of Heaven with a host of Eternal Intelligences, celestial Genii or Angels, sharing the universal Divinity, and associated with it in the administration of the Universe, and the dominion exercised over sublunary nature and man.
We make the motive-force of the planets to be a mechanical law, which we explain by the combination of two forces, the centripetal and centrifugal, whose origin we cannot demonstrate, but whose force we can calculate. The ancients regarded them as moved by an intelligent force that had its origin in the first and universal Intelligence. Is it so certain, after all, that we are any nearer the truth than they were; or that we know what our “centripetal and centrifugal forces” mean; for what is a force? With us, the entire Deity acts upon and moves each planet, as He does the sap that circulates in the little blade of grass, and in the particles of blood in the tiny veins of the invisible rotifer. With the Ancients, the Deity of each Star was but a portion of the Universal God, the Soul of Nature. Each Star and Planet, with them, was moved of itself, and directed by its own special intelligence. And this opinion of Achilles Tatius, Diodorus, Chrysippus, Aristotle, Plato, Heraclides of Pontus, Theophrastus, Simplicius, Macrobius, and Proclus, that in each Star there is an immortal Soul and Intelligence, part of the Universal Soul and Intelligence of the Whole,–this opinion of Orpheus, Plotinus, and the Stoics, was in reality, that of many Christian philosophers. For Origen held the same opinion; and Augustin held that every visible thing in the world was superintended by an Angelic Power: and Cosma, the Monk, believed that every Star was under the guidance of an Angel; and the author of the Octateuch, written in the time of the Emperor Justin, says that they are moved by the impulse communicated to them by Angels stationed above the firmament. Whether the stars were animated beings, was a question that Christian antiquity did not decide. Many of the Christian doctors believed they were. Saint Augustin hesitates, Saint Jerome doubts, if Solomon did not assign souls to the Stars. Saint Ambrose does not doubt they have souls; and Pamphilus says that many of the Church believe they are reasonable beings, while many think otherwise, but that neither one nor the other opinion is heretical.
Thus the Ancient Thought, earnest and sincere, wrought out the idea of a Soul inherent in the Universe and in its several parts. The next step was to separate that Soul from the Universe, and give to it an external and independent existence and personality; still omnipresent, in every inch of space and in every particle of matter, and yet not a part of Nature, but its Cause and its Creator. This is the middle ground between the two doctrines, of Pantheism (or that all is God, and God is in all and is all), on the one side, and Atheism (or that all is nature, and there is no other God), on the other; which doctrines, after all, when reduced to their simplest terms, seem to be the same.
We complacently congratulate ourselves on our recognition of a personal God, as being the conception most suited to human sympathies, and exempt from the mystifications of Pantheism. But the Divinity remains still a mystery, notwithstanding all the devices which symbolism, either from the organic or inorganic creation, can supply; and personification is itself a symbol, liable to misapprehension as much as, if not more so than, any other, since it is apt to degenerate into a mere reflection of our own infirmities; and hence any affirmative idea or conception that we can, in our own minds, picture of the Deity, must needs be infinitely inadequate.
The spirit of the Vedas (or sacred Indian Books, of great antiquity), as understood by their earliest as well as most recent expositors, is decidedly a pantheistic monotheism–one God, and He all in all; the many divinities, numerous as the prayers ad-dressed to them, being resolvable into the titles and attributes of a few, and ultimately into THE ONE. The machinery of personification was understood to have been unconsciously assumed as a mere expedient to supply the deficiencies of language; and the Mimansa justly considered itself as only interpreting the true meaning of the Mantras, when it proclaimed that, in the beginning, “Nothing was but Mind, the Creative Thought of Him which existed alone from the beginning, and breathed without afflation.” The idea suggested in the Mantras is dogmatically asserted and developed in the Upanischadas. The Vedanta philosophy, assuming the mystery of the “ONE IN MANY” as the fundamental article of faith, maintained not only the Divine Unity, but the identity of matter and spirit. The unity which it advocates is that of mind. Mind is the Universal Element, the One God, the Great Soul, Mahaatma. He is the material as well as efficient cause, and the world is a texture of which he is both the web and the weaver. He is the Macrocosmos, the universal organism called Pooroosha, of which Fire, Air, and Sun are only the chief members. His head is light, his eyes the sun and moon, his breath the wind, his voice the opened Vedas. All proceeds from Brahm, like the web from the spider and the grass from the earth.
Yet it is only the impossibility of expressing in language the origination of matter from spirit, which gives to Hindu philosophy the appearance of materialism. Formless Himself, the Deity is present in all forms. His glory is displayed in the Universe as the image of the sun in water, which is, yet is not, the luminary itself. All maternal agency and appearance, the subjective world, are to a great extent phantasms, the notional representations of ignorance. They occupy, however, a middle ground between reality and non-reality; they are unreal, because nothing exists but Brahm; yet in some degree real, inasmuch as they constitute an outward manifestation of him. They are a self-induced hypostasis of the Deity, under which He presents to Himself the whole of animate and inanimate Nature, the actuality of the moment, the diversified appearances which successively invest the one Pantheistic Spirit.
The great aim of reason is to generalize; to discover unity in multiplicity, order in apparent confusion; to separate from the accidental and the transitory, the stable and universal. In the contemplation of Nature, and the vague, but almost intuitive perception of a general uniformity of plan among endless varieties of operation and form, arise those solemn and reverential feelings, which, if accompanied by intellectual activity, may eventually ripen into philosophy.
Consciousness of self and of personal identity is co-existent with our existence. We cannot conceive of mental existence without it. It is not the work of reflection nor of logic, nor the result of observation, experiment, and experience. It is a gift from God, like instinct; and that consciousness of a thinking soul which is really the person that we are, and other than our body, is the best and most solid proof of the soul’s existence. We have the same consciousness of a Power on which we are dependent; which we can define and form an idea or picture of, as little as we can of the soul, and yet which we feel, and therefore know, exists. True and correct ideas of that Power, of the Absolute Existence from which all proceeds, we cannot trace; if by true and correct we mean adequate ideas; for of such we are not, with our limited faculties, capable. And ideas of His nature, so far correct as we are capable of entertaining, can only be attained either by direct inspiration or by the investigations of philosophy.
The idea of the universal preceded the recognition of any system for its explanation. It was felt rather than understood; and it was long before the grand conception on which all philosophy rests received through deliberate investigation that analytical development which might properly entitle it to the name. The sentiment, when first observed by the self-conscious mind, was, says Plato, “a Divine gift, communicated to mankind by some Prometheus, or by those ancients who lived nearer to the gods than our degenerate selves.” The mind deduced from its first experiences the notion of a general Cause or Antecedent, to which it shortly gave a name and personified it. This was the statement of a theorem, obscure in proportion to its generality. It explained all things but itself. It was a true cause, but an incomprehensible one. Ages had to pass before the nature of the theorem could be rightly appreciated, and before men, acknowledging the First Cause to be an object of faith rather than science, were contented to confine their researches to those nearer relations of existence and succession, which are really within the reach of their faculties. At first, and for a long time, the intellect deserted the real for a hastily-formed ideal world, and the imagination usurped the place of reason, in attempting to put a construction on the most general and inadequate of conceptions, by transmuting its symbols into realities, and by substantializing it under a thousand arbitrary forms.
In poetry, the idea of Divine unity became, as in Nature, obscured by a multifarious symbolism; and the notionalities of transcendental philosophy reposed on views of nature scarcely more profound than those of the earliest symbolists. Yet the idea of unity was rather obscured than extinguished; and Xenophanes appeared as an enemy of Homer, only because he more emphatically insisted on the monotheistic element, which, in poetry, has been comparatively overlooked. The first philosophy reasserted the unity which poetry had lost; but being unequal to investigate its nature, it again resigned it to the world of approximate sensations, and became bewildered in materialism, considering the conceptional whole or First Element as some refinement of matter, unchangeable in its essence, though subject to mutations of quality and form in an eternal succession of seeming decay and regeneration; comparing it to water, air, or fire, as each endeavored to refine on the doctrine of his predecessor, or was influenced by a different class of theological traditions.
In the philosophical systems, the Divine Activity, divided by the poets and by popular belief among a race of personifications, in whom the idea of descent replaced that of cause, or of pantheistic evolution, was restored, without subdivision or reservation, to nature as a whole; at first as a mechanical force or life; afterward as an all-pervading soul or inherent thought; and lastly as an external directing Intelligence.
The Ionian revival of pantheism was materialistic. The Moving Force was inseparable from a material element, a subtle yet visible ingredient. Under the form of air or fire, the principle of life was associated with the most obvious material machinery of nature. Everything, it was said, is alive and full of gods. The wonders of the volcano, the magnet, the ebb and flow of the tide, were vital indications, the breathing or moving of the Great World-Animal. The imperceptible. ether of Anaximenes had no positive quality beyond the atmospheric air with which it was easily confused: and even the “Infinite” of Anaximander, though free of the conditions of quality or quantity, was only an ideal chaos, relieved of its coarseness by negations. It was the illimitable storehouse or Pleroma, out of which is evolved the endless circle of phenomenal change. A moving Force was recognized in, but not clearly distinguished from, the material. Space, Time, Figure, and Number, and other common forms or properties, which exist only as attributes, were treated as substances, or at least as making a substantial connection between the objects to which they belong: and all the conditions of material existence were supposed to have been evolved out of the Pythagorean Monad.
The Eleatic philosophers treated conceptions not only as entities, but as the only entities, alone possessing the stability and certainty and reality vainly sought among phenomena. The only reality was Thought. “All real existence,” they said, “is mental existence; non-existence, being inconceivable, is therefore impossible; existence fills up the whole range of thought, and is inseparable from its exercise; thought and its object are one.”
Xenophanes used ambiguous language, applicable to the material as well as to the mental, and exclusively appropriate to neither. In other words, he availed himself of material imagery to illustrate an indefinite meaning. In announcing the universal being, he appealed to the heavens as the visible manifestation, calling it spherical, a term borrowed from the material world. He said that God was neither moved nor unmoved, limited nor unlimited. He did not even attempt to express clearly what cannot be conceived clearly; admitting, says Simplicius, that such speculations were above physics. Parmenides employed similar expedients, comparing his metaphysical Deity to a sphere, or to heat, an aggregate or a continuity, and so involuntarily withdrawing its nominal attributes.
The Atomic school, dividing the All into Matter and Force, deemed matter unchangeable in its ultimate constitution, though infinitely variable in its resultant forms. They made all variety proceed from the varied combinations of atoms; but they required no mover nor director of the atoms external to themselves; no universal Reason; but a Mechanical Eternal Necessity, like that of the Poets. Still it is doubtful whether there ever was a time when reason could be said to be entirely asleep, a stranger to its own existence, notwithstanding this apparent materialism. The earliest contemplation of the external world, which brings it into an imagined association with ourselves, assigns, either to its whole or its parts, the sensation and volition which belong to our own souls.
Anaxagoras admitted the existence of ultimate elementary particles, as Empedocles did, from the combinations whereof all material phenomena resulted. But he asserted the Moving Force to be Mind; and yet, though he clearly saw the impossibility of advancing by illustration or definition beyond a reasonable faith, or a simple negation of materiality, yet he could not wholly desist from the endeavor to illustrate the nature of this non-matter or mind, by symbols drawn from those physical considerations which decided him in placing it in a separate category. Whether as human reason, or as the regulating Principle in nature, he held it different from all other things in character and effect, and that therefore it must necessarily differ in its essential constitution. It was neither Matter, nor a Force conjoined with matter, or homogeneous with it, but independent and generically distinct, especially in this, that, being the source of all motion, separation, and cognition, it is something entirely unique, pure, and unmixed; and so, being unhindered by any interfering influence limiting its independence of individual action, it has Supreme Empire over all things, over the vortex of worlds as well as over all that live in them. It is most penetrating and powerful, mixing with other things, though no other thing mixes with it; exercises universal control and cognition, and includes the Necessity of the Poets, as well as the independent power of thought which we exercise within ourselves. In short, it is the self-conscious power of thought extended to the Universe, and exalted into the Supreme External Mind which sees, knows, and directs all things.
Thus Pantheism and Materialism were both avoided; and matter, though as infinitely varied as the senses represent it, was held in a bond of unity transferred to a ruling power apart from it. That Power could not be Prime Mover, if it were itself moved; nor All-Governing, if not apart from the things it governs. If the arranging Principle were inherent in matter, it would have been impossible to account for the existence of a chaos: if something external, then the old Ionian doctrine of a “beginning” became more easily conceivable, as being the epoch at which the Arranging Intelligence commenced its operations.
But this grand idea of an all-governing independent mind involved difficulties which proved insuperable; because it gave to matter, in the form of chaos, an independent and eternal self-existence, and so introduced a dualism of mind and matter. In the Mind or Intelligence, Anaxagoras included not only life and motion, but the moral principles of the noble and good; and probably used the term on account of the popular misapplication of the word “God,” and as being less liable to misconstruction, and more specifically marking his idea. His “Intelligence” principle remained practically liable to many of the same defects as the “Necessity” of the poets. It was the presentiment of a great idea, which it was for the time impossible to explain or follow out. It was not yet intelligible, nor was even the road opened through which it might be approached.
Mind cannot advance in metaphysics beyond self-deification. In attempting to go further, it only enacts the apotheosis of its own subtle conceptions, and so sinks below the simpler ground already taken. The realities which Plato could not recognize in phenomena, he discovered within his own mind, and as unhesitatingly as the old Theosophists installed its creations among the gods. He, like most philosophers after Anaxagoras, made the Supreme Being to be Intelligence; but in other respects left His nature undefined, or rather indefinite through the variety of definitions, a conception vaguely floating between Theism and Pan-theism. Though deprecating the demoralizing tendencies of poetry, he was too wise to attempt to replace them by other representations of a positive kind. He justly says, that spiritual things can be made intelligible only through figures; and the forms of allegorical expression which, in a rude age, had been adopted unconsciously, were designedly chosen by the philosopher as the most appropriate vehicles for theological ideas.
As the devices of symbolism were gradually stripped away, in order, if possible, to reach the fundamental conception, the religious feeling habitually connected with it seemed to evaporate under the process. And yet the advocates of Monotheism, Xenophanes and Heraclitus, declaimed only against the making of gods in human form. They did not attempt to strip nature of its divinity, but rather to recall religious contemplation from an exploded symbolism to a purer one. They continued the veneration which, in the background of poetry, has been maintained for Sun and Stars, the Fire or Ether. Socrates prostrated himself before the rising luminary; and the eternal spheres, which seem to have shared the religious homage of Xenophanes, retained a secondary and qualified Divinity in the Schools of the Peripatetics and Stoics.
The unseen being or beings revealed only to the Intellect became the theme of philosophy; and their more ancient symbols, if not openly discredited, were passed over with evasive generality, as beings respecting whose problematical existence we must be “content with what has been reported by those ancients, who, assuming to be their descendants, must therefore be supposed to have been well acquainted with their own ancestors and family connections.” And the Theism of Anaxagoras was still more decidedly subversive, not only of Mythology, but of the whole religion of outward nature; it being an appeal from the world without, to the consciousness of spiritual dignity within man.
In the doctrines of Aristotle, the world moves on uninterruptedly, always changing, yet ever the same, like Time, the Eternal Now, knowing neither repose nor death. There is a principle which makes good the failure of identity, by multiplying resemblances; the destruction of the individual by an eternal renewal of the form in which matter is manifested. This regular eternal movement implies an Eternal Mover; not an inert Eternity, such as the Platonic Eidos, but one always acting, His essence being to act, for otherwise he might never have acted, and the existence of the world would be an accident; for what should have, in that case, decided Him to act, after long inactivity? Nor can He be partly in act and partly potential, that is, quiescent and undetermined to act or not to act, for even in that case motion would not be eternal, but contingent and precarious. He is therefore wholly in act, a pure, untiring activity, and for the sane reasons wholly immaterial. Thus Aristotle avoided the idea that God was inactive and self-contemplative for an eternity, and then for some unknown reason, or by some unknown motive, commenced to act outwardly and produce; but he incurred the opposite hazard, of making the result of His action, matter and the Universe, be co-existent with Himself; or, in other words, of denying that there was any time when His outward action commenced.
The First Cause, he said, unmoved, moves all. Act was first, and the Universe has existed forever; one persistent cause directing its continuity. The unity of the First Mover follows from His immateriality. If He were not Himself unmoved, the series of motions and causes of motion would be infinite. Unmoved, therefore, and unchangeable Himself, all movement, even that in space, is caused by Him: He is necessary: He cannot be otherwise than as He is; and it is only through the necessity of His being that we can account for those necessary eternal relations which make a science of Being possible. Thus Aristotle leaned to a seemingly personal God; not a Being of parts and passions, like the God of the Hebrews, or that of the mass even of educated men in our own day, but a Substantial Head of all the categories of being, an Individuality of Intelligence, the dogma of Anaxagoras revived out of a more elaborate and profound analysis of Nature; something like that living unambiguous Principle which the old poets, in advance of the materialistic cosmogonists from Night and Chaos, had discovered in Ouranos or Zeus. Soon, however, the vision of personality is withdrawn, and we reach that culminating point of thought where the real blends with the ideal; where moral action and objective thought (that is, thought exercised as to anything outside of itself), as well as the material body, are excluded; and where the divine action in the world retains its veil of impenetrable mystery, and to the utmost ingenuity of research presents but a contradiction. At this extreme, the series of efficient causes resolves itself into the Final Cause. That which moves, itself unmoved, can only be the immobility of Thought or Form. God is both formal, efficient, and final cause; the One Form comprising all forms, the one good including all good, the goal of the longing of the University, moving the world as the object of love or rational desire moves the individual. He is the internal or self-realized Final Cause, having no end beyond Himself. He is no moral agent; for if He were, He would be but an instrument for producing something still higher and greater. One sort of act only, activity of mind or thought, can be assigned to Him who is at once all act yet all repose. What we call our highest pleasure, which distinguishes wakefulness and sensation, and which gives a reflected charm to hope and memory, is with Him perpetual. His existence is unbroken enjoyment of that which is most excellent but only temporary with us. The divine quality of active and yet tranquil self-contemplation characterizing intelligence, is pre-eminently possessed by the divine mind; His thought, which is His existence, being, unlike ours, unconditional and wholly act. If He can receive any gratification or enjoyment from that which exists beyond Himself, He can also be displeased and pained with it, and then He would be an imperfect being. To suppose pleasure experienced by Him from anything outward, supposes an insufficient prior enjoyment and happiness, and a sort of dependency. Man’s Good is beyond himself; not so God’s. The eternal act which produces the world’s life is the eternal desire of good. The object of the Absolute Thought is the Absolute Good. Nature is all movement, and Thought all repose. In contemplating that absolute good, the Finality can contemplate only itself; and thus, all material interference being excluded, the distinction of subject and object vanishes in complete identification, and the Divine Thought is “the thinking of thought.” The energy of mind is life, and God is that energy in its purity and perfection. He is therefore life itself, eternal and perfect; and this sums up all that is meant by the term “God.” And yet, after all this transcendentalism, the very essence of thought consists in its mobility and power of transference from object to object; and we can conceive of no thought, without an object beyond itself, about which to think, or of any activity in mere self-contemplation, without out-ward act, movement, or manifestation.
Plato endeavors to show how the Divine Principle of Good becomes realized in Nature: Aristotle’s system is a vast analogical induction to prove how all Nature tends toward a final good. Plato considered Soul as a principle of movement, and made his Deity realize, that is, turn into realities, his ideas as a free, intelligent Force. Aristotle, for whom Soul is the motionless centre from which motion radiates, and to which it converges, conceives a correspondingly unmoved God. The Deity of Plato creates, superintends, and rejoices in the universal joy of, His creatures. That of Aristotle is the perfection of man’s intellectual activity extended to the Universe. When he makes the Deity to be an eternal act of self-contemplation, the world is not excluded from His cognizance, for He contemplates it within Himself. Apart from and beyond the world, He yet mysteriously intermingles with it. He is universal as well as individual; His agency is necessary and general, yet also makes the real and the good of the particular.
When Plato had given to the unformed world the animal life of the Ionians, and added to that the Anaxagorean Intelligence, overruling the wild principle of Necessity; and when to Intelligence was added Beneficence; and the dread Wardours, Force and Strength, were made subordinate to Mildness and Goodness, it seemed as if a further advance were impossible, and that the Deny could not be more than The Wise and The Good.
But the contemplation of the Good implies that of its opposite, Evil. When God is held to be “The Good,” it is not because Evil is unknown, but because it is designedly excluded from His attributes. But if Evil be a separate and independent existence, how would it fare with His prerogative of Unity and Supremacy? To meet this dilemma, it remained only to fall back on something more or less akin to the vagueness of antiquity; to make a virtual confession of ignorance, to deny the ultimate reality of evil, like Plato and Aristotle, or, with Speusippus, the eternity of its antithetical existence, to surmise that it is only one of those notions which are indeed provisionally indispensable in a condition of finite knowledge, but of which so many have been already discredited by the advance of philosophy; to revert, in short, to the original conception of “The Absolute,” or of a single Being, in whom all mysteries are explained, and before whom the disturbing principle is reduced to a mere turbid spot on the ocean of Eternity, which to the eye of faith may be said no longer to exist.
But the absolute is nearly allied to the non-existent. Matter and evil obtruded themselves too constantly and convincingly to he confuted or cancelled by subtleties of Logic. It is in vain to attempt to merge the world in God, while the world of experience exhibits contrariety, imperfection, and mutability, instead of the immutability of its source. Philosophy was but another name for uncertainty; and after the mind had successively deified Nature and its own conceptions, without any practical result but toilsome occupation; when the reality it sought, without or within, seemed ever to elude its grasp, the intellect, baffled in its higher flights, sought advantage and repose in aiming at truth of a lower but more applicable kind.
The Deity of Plato is a Being proportioned to human sympathies; the Father of the World, as well as its Creator; the author of good only, not of evil. “Envy,” he says, “is far removed from celestial beings, and man, if willing, and braced for the effort, is permitted to aspire to a communion with the solemn troops and sweet societies of Heaven. God is the Idea or Essence of Goodness, the Good itself [τὸ ἀγαθόν]; in goodness, He created the World, and gave to it the greatest perfection of which it was susceptible; making it, as far as possible, an image of Himself. The sublime type of all excellence is an object not only of veneration but love.” The Sages of old had already intimated in enigmas that God is the Author of Good; that like the Sun in Heaven, or Æsculapius on earth, He is “Healer,” “Saviour,” and “Redeemer,” the destroyer and averter of Evil, ever healing the mischiefs inflicted by Herè, the wanton or irrational power of nature.
Plato only asserts with more distinctness the dogma of antiquity when he recognizes LOVE as the highest and most beneficent of gods, who gives to nature the invigorating energy restored by the art of medicine to the body; since Love is emphatically the physician of the Universe, the Æsculapius to whom Socrates wished to sacrifice in the hour of his death.
A figurative idea, adopted from familiar imagery, gave that endearing aspect to the divine connection with the Universe which had commanded the earliest assent of the sentiments, until, rising in refinement with the progress of mental cultivation, it ultimately established itself as firmly in the deliberate approbation of the understanding, as it had ever responded to the sympathies. Even the rude Scythians, Bithynians, and Scandinavians, called God their “Father”; all nations traced their ancestry more or less directly to Heaven. The Hyperborean Olen, one of the oldest symbols of the religious antiquity of Greece, made Love the First-born of Nature. Who will venture to pronounce at what time God was first worthily and truly honored, or when man first began to feel aright the mute eloquence of nature? In the obscure physics of the mystical Theologers who preceded Greek philosophy, Love was the Great First Cause and Parent of the Universe. “Zeus,” says Proclus, “when entering upon the work of creation, changed Himself into the form of Love: and He brought forward Aphroditè, the principle of Unity and Universal Harmony, to display her light to all. In the depths of His mysterious being, He contains the principle of love within Himself; in Him creative wisdom and blessed love are united.”
Of Days on these his love divine be fixed,
His admiration; till in time complete
What he admired and loved, his vital smile
Unfolded into being.”
The speculators of the venerable East, who had conceived the idea of an Eternal Being superior to all affection and change, in his own sufficiency enjoying a plenitude of serene and independent bliss, were led to inquire into the apparently inconsistent fact of the creation of the world. Why, they asked, did He, who required nothing external to Himself to complete His already-existing Perfection, come forth out of His unrevealed and perfect existence, and become incorporated in the vicissitudes of nature? The solution of the difficulty was Love. The Great Being beheld the beauty of His own conception, which dwelt with Him alone from the beginning, Maia, or Nature’s loveliness, at once the germ