THE GOD-IDEA OF THE ANCIENTS
OR SEX IN RELIGION
By Eliza Burt Gamble
Author of "The Evolution of Woman"
Much of the material for this volume was collected during the time that I was preparing for the press the Evolution of Woman, or while searching for data bearing on the subject of sex-specialization. While preparing that book for publication, it was my intention to include within it this branch of my investigation, but wishing to obtain certain facts relative to the foundations of religious belief and worship which were not accessible at that time, and knowing that considerable labor and patience would be required in securing these facts, I decided to publish the first part of the work, withholding for the time being that portion of it pertaining especially to the development of the God-idea.
As mankind construct their own gods, or as the prevailing ideas of the unknowable reflect the inner consciousness of human beings, a trustworthy history of the growth of religions must correspond to the processes involved in the mental, moral, and social development of the individual and the nation.
By means of data brought forward in these later times relative to the growth of the God-idea, it is observed that an independent chain of evidence has been produced in support of the facts recently set forth bearing upon the development of the two diverging lines of sexual demarcation. In other words, it has been found that sex is the fundamental fact not only in the operations of Nature but in the construction of a god.
In the Evolution of Woman it has been shown that the peculiar inheritance of the two sexes, female and male, is the result of the bias given to these separate lines of development during the earliest periods of sex-differentiation; and, as this division of labor was a necessary step in the evolutionary processes, the rate of progress depended largely on the subsequent adjustment of these two primary elements or forces. A comprehensive study of prehistoric records shows that in an earlier age of existence upon the earth, at a time when woman's influence was in the ascendancy over that of man, human energy was directed by the altruistic characters which originated in and have been transmitted through the female; but after the decline of woman's power, all human institutions, customs, forms, and habits of thought are seen to reflect the egoistic qualities acquired by the male.
Nowhere is the influence of sex more plainly manifested than in the formulation of religious conceptions and creeds. With the rise of male power and dominion, and the corresponding repression of the natural female instincts, the principles which originally constituted the God-idea gradually gave place to a Deity better suited to the peculiar bias which had been given to the male organism. An anthropomorphic god like that of the Jews—a god whose chief attributes are power and virile might—could have had its origin only under a system of masculine rule.
Religion is especially liable to reflect the vagaries and weaknesses of human nature; and, as the forms and habits of thought connected with worship take a firmer hold on the mental constitution than do those belonging to any other department of human experience, religious conceptions should be subjected to frequent and careful examination in order to perceive, if possible, the extent to which we are holding on to ideas which are unsuited to existing conditions.
In an age when every branch of inquiry is being subjected to reasonable criticism, it would seem that the origin and growth of religion should be investigated from beneath the surface, and that all the facts bearing upon it should be brought forward as a contribution to our fund of general information. As well might we hope to gain a complete knowledge of human history by studying only the present aspect of society, as to expect to reach reasonable conclusions respecting the prevailing God-idea by investigating the various creeds and dogmas of existing faiths.
The object of this volume is not only to furnish a brief outline of religious growth, but to show the effect which each of the two forces, female and male, has had on the development of our present God-idea, which investigation serves to accentuate the conclusions arrived at in the Evolution of Woman relative to the inheritance of each of the two lines of sexual demarcation.
I.—SEX THE FOUNDATION OF THE GOD-IDEA II.—TREE, PLANT, AND FRUIT WORSHIP III.—SUN WORSHIP—FEMALE AND MALE ENERGIES IN THE SUN IV.—THE DUAL GOD OF THE ANCIENTS A TRINITY ALSO V.—SEPARATION OF THE FEMALE AND MAKE ELEMENTS IN THE DEITY VI.—CIVILIZATION OF AN ANCIENT RACE VII.—CONCEALMENT OF THE EARLY DOCTRINES VIII.—THE ORIGINAL GOD-IDEA OF THE ISRAELITES IX.—THE PHOENICIAN AND HEBREW GOD SET OR SETH X.—ANCIENT SPECULATIONS CONCERNING CREATION XI.—FIRE AND PHALLIC WORSHIP XII.—AN ATTEMPT TO PURIFY THE SENSUALIZED FAITHS XIII.—CHRISTIANITY A CONTINUATION OF PAGANISM XIV.—CHRISTIANITY A CONTINUATION OF PAGANISM—(Continued) XV.—CHRISTIANITY IN IRELAND XVI.—STONES OR COLUMNS AS THE DEITY XVII.—SACRIFICES XVIII.—THE CROSS AND A DYING SAVIOR
THE GOD-IDEA OF THE ANCIENTS.
Through a study of the primitive god-idea as manifested in monumental records in various parts of the world; through scientific investigation into the early religious conceptions of mankind as expressed by symbols which appear in the architecture and decorations of sacred edifices and shrines; by means of a careful examination of ancient holy objects and places still extant in every quarter of the globe, and through the study of antique art, it is not unlikely that a line of investigation has been marked out whereby a tolerably correct knowledge of the processes involved in our present religious systems may be obtained. The numberless figures and sacred emblems which appear carved in imperishable stone in the earliest cave temples; the huge towers, monoliths, and rocking stones found in nearly every country of the globe, and which are known to be closely connected with primitive belief and worship, and the records found on tablets which are being unearthed in various parts of the world, are, with the unravelling of extinct tongues, proving an almost inexhaustible source for obtaining information bearing upon the early history of the human race, and, together, furnish indisputable evidence of the origin, development, and unity of religious faiths.
By comparing the languages used by the earlier races to express their religious conceptions; by observing the similarity in the mythoses and sacred appellations among all tribe and nations, an through the discovery of the fact that the legends extant in the various countries of the globe are identical, or have the same foundation, it is probable that a clue has already been obtained whereby an outline of the religious history of the human family from a period even as remote as the "first dispersion," or from a time when one race comprehended the entire population of the globe, maybe traced. Humboldt in his Researches observes: "In every part of the globe, on the ridge of the Cordilleras as well as in the Isle of Samothrace, in the Aegean Sea, fragments of primitive languages are preserved in religious rites."
Regarding the identity of the fundamental ideas contained in the various systems of religion, both past and present, Hargrave Jennings, in referring to a parallel drawn by Sir William Jones, between the deities of Meru and Olympus, observes:
"All our speculations tend to the same conclusions. One day it is a discovery of cinerary vases, the next, it is etymological research; yet again it is ethnological investigation, and the day after, it is the publication of unsuspected tales from the Norse; but all go to heap up proof of our consanguinity with the peoples of history—and of an original general belief, we might add."
That the religious systems of India and Egypt were originally the same, there can be at the present time no reasonable doubt. The fact noted by various writers, of the British Sepoys, who, on their overland route from India, upon beholding the ruins of Dendera, prostrated themselves before the remains of the ancient temples and offered adoration to them, proves the identity of Indian and Egyptian deities. These foreign devotees, being asked to explain the reason of their strange conduct declared that they "saw sculptured before them the gods of their country."
Upon the subject of the identity of Eastern religions, Wilford remarks that one and the same code both of theology and of fabulous history, has been received through a range or belt about forty degrees broad across the old continent, in a southeast and northwest direction from the eastern shores of the Malaga peninsula to the western extremity of the British Isles, that, through this immense range the same religious notions reappear in various places under various modifications, as might be expected; and that there is not a greater difference between the tenets and worship of the Hindoos and the Greeks than exists between the churches of Home and Geneva.
Concerning the universality of certain religious beliefs and opinions, Faber, commenting upon the above statement of Wilford, observes that, immense as is this territorial range, it is by far too limited to include the entire phenomenon, that the observation
"applies with equal propriety to the entire habitable globe; for the arbitrary rites and opinions of every pagan nation bear so close a resemblance to each other, that such a coincidence can only have been produced by their having had a common origin. Barbarism itself has not been able to efface the strong primeval impression. Vestiges of the ancient general system may be traced in the recently discovered islands in the Pacific Ocean; and, when the American world was first opened to the hardy adventurers of Europe, its inhabitants from north to south venerated, with kindred ceremonies and kindred notions, the gods of Egypt and Hindostan, of Greece and Italy, of Phoenicia and Britain."(1)
1) Pagan Idolatry, book i., ch. i.
"Though each religion has its own peculiar growth, the seed from which they spring is everywhere the same."(2)
2) Max Muller, Origin and Growth of Religion, p. 48.
The question as to whether the identity of conception and the similarity in detail observed in religious rites, ceremonies, and symbols in the various countries of the globe are due to the universal law of unity which governs human development, or whether, through the dispersion of one original people, the early conceptions of a Deity were spread broadcast over the entire earth, is perhaps not settled; yet, from the facts which have been brought forward during the last century, the latter theory seems altogether probable, such divergence in religious ideas as is observed among the various peoples of the earth being attributable to variations in temperament caused by changed conditions of life. In other words, the divergence in the course of religious development has doubtless been due to environment.
In an attempt to understand the history of the growth of the god-idea, the fact should be borne in mind that, from the earliest conception of a creative force in the animal and vegetable world to the latest development in theological speculation, there has never been what might consistently be termed a new religion. On the contrary, religion like everything else is subject to the law of growth; therefore the faiths of to-day are the legitimate result, or outcome, of the primary idea of a Deity developed in accordance with the laws governing the peculiar instincts which have been in the ascendancy during the life of mankind on the earth.
The erroneous impression which under a belief in the unknown has come to prevail, namely, that the moral law is the result of religion; or, in other words, that the human conscience is in some manner dependent on supernaturalism for its origin and maintenance, is, with a better and clearer understanding of the past history of the development of the human race, being gradually dispelled. On one point we may reasonably rest assured that the knowledge of right and wrong and our sense of justice and right-living have been developed quite independently of all religious beliefs. The moral law embodied in the golden rule is not an outgrowth of mysticism, or of man's notions of the unknowable; but, on the contrary, is the result of experience, and was formulated in response to a recognized law of human necessity,—a law which involves the fundamental principle of progress. The history of human development shows conclusively that mankind GREW into the recognition of the moral law, that through sympathy, or a desire for the welfare of others,—a character which had its root in maternal affection,—conscience and the moral sense were evolved.
While the moral law and the conscience may not be accounted as in any sense the result of man's ideas concerning the unknowable, neither can the errors and weaknesses developed in human nature be regarded as the result of religion. Although the sexual excesses which during three or four thousand years were practiced as sacred rites, and treated as part and parcel of religion in various parts of the world, have had the effect to stimulate and strengthen the animal nature in man, yet these rites may not be accounted as the primary cause of the supremacy of the lower nature over the higher faculties. On the contrary, the impulse which has been termed religion, with all the vagaries which its history presents, is to be regarded more as an effect than as a cause. The stage of a nation's development regulates its religion. Man creates his own gods; they are powerless to change him.
As written history records only those events in human experience which belong to a comparatively recent period of man's existence, and as the primitive conceptions of a Deity lie buried beneath ages of corruption, glimpses of the earlier faiths of mankind, as has already been stated, must be looked for in the traditions, monuments, and languages of extinct races.
In reviewing this matter we shall doubtless observe the fact that if the stage of a nation's growth is indicated by its religious conceptions, and if remnants of religious beliefs are everywhere present in the languages, traditions, and monuments of the past through a careful study of these subjects we may expect to gain a tolerably correct understanding not alone of the growth of the god-idea but of the stage of development reached by the nations which existed prior to the beginning of the historic age. We shall be enabled also to perceive whether or not the course of human development during the intervening ages has been continuous, or whether, for some cause hitherto unexplained, true progress throughout a portion of this time has been arrested, thus producing a backward movement, or degeneracy.
If we would unravel the mysteries involved in present religious faiths, we should begin not by attempting to analyze or explain any existing system or systems of belief and worship. Such a course is likely to end not only in confusion and in a subsequent denial of the existence of the religious nature in mankind, but is liable, also, to create an aversion for and a distrust of the entire subject of religious experience. In view of this fact it would appear to be not only useless but exceedingly unwise to spend one's time in attempting to gain a knowledge of this subject simply by studying the later developments in its history.
If we are really desirous of obtaining information regarding present religious phenomena, it is plain that we should adopt the scientific method and turn our attention to the remote past, where, by careful and systematic investigation, we are enabled to perceive the earliest conception of a creative force and the fundamental basis of all religious systems, from which may be traced the gradual development of the god-idea.
CHAPTER I. SEX THE FOUNDATION OF THE GOD-IDEA.
In the study of primitive religion, the analogy existing between the growth of the god-idea and the development of the human race, and especially of the two sex-principles, is everywhere clearly apparent.
"Religion is to be found alone with its justification and explanation in the relations of the sexes. There and therein only."(3)
3) Hargrave Jennings, Phallicism.
As the conception of a deity originated in sex, or in the creative agencies female and male which animate Nature, we may reasonably expect to find, in the history of the development of the two sex-principles and in the notions entertained concerning them throughout past ages, a tolerably correct account of the growth of the god-idea. We shall perceive that during an earlier age of human existence, not only were the reproductive powers throughout Nature, and especially in human beings and in animals, venerated as the Creator, but we shall find also that the prevailing ideas relative to the importance of either sex in the office of reproduction decided the sex of this universal creative force. We shall observe also that the ideas of a god have always corresponded with the current opinions regarding the importance of either sex in human society. In other words, so long as female power and influence were in the ascendency, the creative force was regarded as embodying the principles of the female nature; later, however, when woman's power waned, and the supremacy of man was gained, the god-idea began gradually to assume the male characters and attributes.
Through scientific research the fact has been observed that, for ages after life appeared on the earth, the male had no separate existence; that the two sex-principles, the sperm and the germ, were contained within one and the same individual. Through the processes of differentiation, however, these elements became detached, and with the separation of the male from the female, the reproductive functions were henceforth confided to two separate individuals.
As originally, throughout Nature, the female was the visible organic unit within whom was contained the exclusive creative power, and as throughout the earlier ages of life on the earth she comprehended the male, it is not perhaps singular that, even after the appearance of mankind on the earth, the greater importance of the mother element in human society should have been recognized; nor, as the power to bring forth coupled with perceptive wisdom originally constituted the Creator, that the god-idea should have been female instead of male.
From the facts to be observed in relation to this subject, it is altogether probable that for ages the generating principle throughout Nature was venerated as female; but with that increase of knowledge which was the result of observation and experience, juster or more correct ideas came to prevail, and subsequently the great fructifying energy throughout the universe came to be regarded as a dual indivisible force—female and male. This force, or agency, constituted one God, which, as woman's functions in those ages were accounted of more importance than those of man, was oftener worshipped under the form of a female figure.
Neith, Minerva, Athene, and Cybele, the most important deities of their respective countries, were adored as Perceptive Wisdom, or Light, while Ceres and others represented Fertility. With the incoming of male dominion and supremacy, however, we observe the desire to annul the importance of the female and to enthrone one all-powerful male god whose chief attributes were power and might.
Notwithstanding the efforts which during the historic period have been put forward to magnify the importance of the male both in human affairs and in the god-idea, still, no one, I think, can study the mythologies and traditions of the nations of antiquity without being impressed with the prominence given to the female element, and the deeper the study the stronger will this impression grow.
During a certain stage of human development, religion was but a recognition of and a reliance upon the vivifying or fructifying forces throughout Nature, and in the earlier ages of man's career, worship consisted for the most part in the celebration of festivals at stated seasons of the year, notably during seed-time and harvest, to commemorate the benefits derived from the grain field and vineyard.
Doubtless the first deified object was Gaia, the Earth. As within the bosom of the earth was supposed to reside the fructifying, life-giving power, and as from it were received all the bounties of life, it was female. It was the Universal Mother, and to her as to no other divinity worshipped by mankind, was offered a spontaneity of devotion and a willing acknowledgment of dependence. Thus far in the history of mankind no temples dedicated to an undefined and undefinable God had been raised. The children of Mother Earth met in the open air, without the precincts of any man-made shrine, and under the aerial canopy of heaven, acknowledged the bounties of the great Deity and their dependence upon her gifts. She was a beneficent and all-wise God, a tender and loving parent—a mother, who demanded no bleeding sacrifice to reconcile her to her children. The ceremonies observed at these festive seasons consisted for the most part in merry-making and in general thanksgiving, in which the gratitude of the worshippers found expression in song and dance, and in invocations to their Deity for a return or continuance of her gifts.
Subsequently, through the awe and reverence inspired by the mysteries involved in birth and life, the adoration of the creative principles in vegetable existence became supplemented by the worship of the creative functions in human beings and in animals. The earth, including the power inherent in it by which the continuity of existence is maintained, and by which new forms are continuously called into life, embodied the idea of God; and, as this inner force was regarded as inherent in matter, or as a manifestation of it, in process of time earth and the heavens, body and spirit, came to be worshipped under the form of a mother and her child, this figure being the highest expression of a Creator which the human mind was able to conceive. Not only did this emblem represent fertility, or the fecundating energies of Nature, but with the power to create were combined or correlated all the mental qualities and attributes of the two sexes. In fact the whole universe was contained in the Mother idea—the child, which was sometimes female, sometimes male, being a scion or offshoot from the eternal or universal unit.
Underlying all ancient mythologies may be observed the idea that the earth, from which all things proceed, is female. Even in the mythology of the Finns, Lapps, and Esths, Mother Earth is the divinity adored. Tylor calls attention to the same idea in the mythology of England,
"from the days when the Anglo-Saxon called upon the Earth, 'Hal wes thu folde fira modor' (Hail, thou Earth, men's mother), to the time when mediaeval Englishmen made a riddle of her asking 'Who is Adam's mother?' and poetry continued what mythology was letting fall, when Milton's Archangel promised Adam a life to last
'... till like ripe fruit thou drop Into thy Mother's lap.' "(4)
4) Primitive Culture, vol. i., p. 295.
In the old religion the sky was the husband of the earth and the earth was mother of all the gods.(5) In the traditions of past ages the fact is clearly perceived that there was a time when the mother was not only the one recognized parent on earth, but that the female principle was worshipped as the more important creative force throughout Nature.
5) Max Muller, Origin and Growth of Religion, p. 279.
Doubtless the worship of the female energy prevailed under the matriarchal system, and was practised at a time when women were the recognized heads of families and when they were regarded as the more important factors in human society. The fact has been shown in a previous work that after women began to leave their homes at marriage, and after property, especially land, had fallen under the supervision and control of men, the latter, as they manipulated all the necessaries of life and the means of supplying them, began to regard themselves as superior beings, and later, to claim that as a factor in reproduction, or creation, the male was the more important. With this change the ideas of a Deity also began to undergo a modification. The dual principle necessary to creation, and which had hitherto been worshipped as an indivisible unity, began gradually to separate into its individual elements, the male representing spirit, the moving or forming force in the generative processes, the female being matter—the instrument through which spirit works. Spirit which is eternal had produced matter which is destructible. The fact will be observed that this doctrine prevails to a greater or less extent in the theologies of the present time.
A little observation and reflection will show us that during this change in the ideas relative to a creative principle, or God, descent and the rights of succession which had hitherto been reckoned through the mother were changed from the female to the male line, the father having in the meantime become the only recognized parent. In the Eumenides of Aeschylus, the plea of Orestes in extenuation of his crime is that he is not of kin to his mother. Euripides, also, puts into the mouth of Apollo the same physiological notion, that she who bears the child is only its nurse. The Hindoo Code of Menu, which, however, since its earliest conception, has undergone numberless mutilations to suit the purposes of the priests, declares that "the mother is but the field which brings forth the plant according to whatsoever seed is sown."
Although, through the accumulation of property in masses and the capture of women for wives, men had succeeded in gaining the ascendancy, and although the doctrine had been propounded that the father is the only parent, thereby reversing the established manner of reckoning descent, still, as we shall hereafter observe, thousands of years were required to eliminate the female element from the god-idea.
We must not lose sight of the fact that human society was first organized and held together by means of the gens, at the head of which was a woman. The several members of this organization were but parts of one body cemented together by the pure principle of maternity, the chief duty of these members being to defend and protect each other if needs be with their life blood. The fact has been observed, in an earlier work, that only through the gens was the organization of society possible. Without it mankind could have accomplished nothing toward its own advancement.
Thus, throughout the earlier ages of human existence, at a time when mankind lived nearer to Nature and before individual wealth and the stimulation of evil passions had engendered superstition, selfishness, and distrust, the maternal element constituted not only the binding and preserving principle in human society, but, together with the power to bring forth, constituted also the god-idea, which idea, as has already been observed, at a certain stage in the history of the race was portrayed by a female figure with a child in her arms.
From all sources of information at hand are to be derived evidences of the fact that the earliest religion of which we have any account was pure Nature-worship, that whatever at any given time might have been the object adored, whether it were the earth, a tree, water, or the sun, it was simply as an emblem of the great energizing agency in Nature. The moving or forming force in the universe constituted the god-idea. The figure of a mother with her child signified not only the power to bring forth, but Perceptive Wisdom, or Light, as well.
As through a study of Comparative Ethnology, or through an investigation into the customs, traditions, and mythoses of extant races in the various stages of development, have been discovered the beginnings of the religious idea and the mental qualities which among primitive races prompted worship, so, also, through extinct tongues and the symbolism used in religious rites and ceremonies, many of the processes have been unearthed whereby the original and beautiful conceptions of the Deity, and the worship inspired by the operations of Nature, and especially the creative functions in human beings gradually became obscured by the grossest ideas and the vilest practices. The symbols which appear in connection with early religious rites and ceremonies, and under which are veiled the conceptions of a still earlier and purer age, when compared with subsequently developed notions relative to the same objects, indicate plainly the change which has been wrought in the original ideas relative to the creative functions, and furnish an index to the direction which human development, or growth, has taken.
As the human race constructs its own gods, and as by the conceptions involved in the deities worshipped at any given time in the history of mankind we are able to form a correct estimate of the character, temperament, and aspirations of the worshippers, so the history of the gods of the race, as revealed to us through the means of symbols, monumental records, and the investigation of extinct tongues, proves that from a stage of Nature worship and a pure and rational conception of the creative forces in the universe, mankind, in course of time, degenerated into mere devotees of sensual pleasure. With the corruption of human nature and the decline of mental power which followed the supremacy of the animal instincts, the earlier abstract idea of God was gradually lost sight of, and man himself in the form of a potentate or ruler, together with the various emblems of virility, came to be worshipped as the Creator. From adorers of an abstract creative principle, mankind had lapsed into worshippers of the symbols under which this principle had been veiled.
Although at certain stages in the history of the human race the evils, which as a result of the supremacy of the ruder elements developed in mankind had befallen the race were lamented and bewailed, they could not be suppressed. Man had become a lost and ruined creature. The golden age had passed away.
CHAPTER II. TREE, PLANT, AND FRUIT WORSHIP.
When mankind first began to perceive the fact of an all-pervading agency throughout Nature, by or through which everything is produced, and when they began to speculate on the origin of life and the final cause and destiny of things, it is not in the least remarkable that various objects and elements, such as fire, air, water, trees, etc., should in their turn have been venerated as in some special manner embodying the divine essence. Neither is it surprising although this universal agency was regarded as one, or as a dual entity, they should have recognized its manifold expressions or manifestations.
To primitive man, the visible sources whence proceeded his daily sustenance doubtless constituted the first objects of his regard and adoration. Hence, in addition to the homage paid to the earth, in due course of time would be added the worship of trees, upon which the early race was directly dependent for food. At a time when the art of agriculture had not been attained, all such trees as yielded their fruit for the support of the human race, and which afforded to mankind pleasant beverages or cooling shade, would come to be regarded as embodying the universal beneficent principle—the great creating and preserving agency of Nature, and therefore as proper objects of veneration.
According to the Phoenician theogony, "the first gods which were worshipped by oblations and sacrifices were the fruits of the earth, on which they and their descendants lived as their forefathers had done."
Although, after the art of agriculture had been developed, mankind was gradually relieved from its past dependence on the tree as a means of support, it nevertheless continued to be regarded with veneration as an emblem of creative power or of productive energy.
Among the traditions and monuments of nearly every country of the globe are to be found traces of a sacred tree—a Tree of Life. In various countries there appear two traditional trees, the one typical of the continuation of physical life, the other representing spiritual life, or the life of the soul. After the age of pure Nature-worship had passed, however, and serpent, fire, and phallic faiths had been introduced, the original signification of the tree, like that of all other religious emblems, became considerably changed. Through its energies, or life-giving properties, existence had long been maintained, and for this reason, as has already been observed, it became an object of veneration; but, after the reproductive power in man had risen to the dignity of a supreme God, the tree, to the masses of the people, became a symbol of the physical, life-giving energy in mortals and in animals. In other words, it became a phallic emblem representing the continuation of existence, or the power to reproduce or continue life on the earth. As a religious symbol it became the traditional Tree of Life.
The tree, like nearly every other object in nature, was and still is, in various parts of the world, either female or male, and all ideas connected with it are sacred and closely interwoven with sex.
The extent to which trees have been venerated in past ages seems to be little understood, and there are doubtless few persons, at the present time, who would willingly believe that all along the religious stream, from its source to its latest developed branches, are to be observed traces of this ancient worship, which, in its earliest stages, was simply a recognition of Nature's bounties.
Barlow, in his work on Symbolism, says that "the most generally received symbol of life is a tree—as also the most appropriate."
Again the same writer observes: "Besides the monumental evidence thus furnished of a sacred tree, or Tree of Life, there is an historical and traditional evidence of the same thing, found in the early literature of various nations, in the customs, and popular usages."(6) As tree- and sun-worship, or the adoration of Nature's processes, finally became interwoven with phallic faiths, its history can be understood only after these later developments in the religious stream have been examined, or after the true significance of the serpent as a religious emblem, and the various ideas connected with the traditional Tree of Life, have been exposed.
6) Essays on Symbolism, p. 84.
The palm, the pine, the oak, the banian, or bo, and many other species of trees, have, at different times, and by various nations, been invested with divine honors; but, in oriental countries, by far the most sacred among them is the Ficus Religiosa, or the holy bo tree of India. Something of the true significance of the traditional Tree of Life may be observed in the ideas connected with the worship of this emblem. The fig, when planted with the palm, as it frequently is in the East, near temples and holy shrines, is regarded as a peculiarly sacred object. When entwining the palm, which is male, it is always female; from their embrace Kalpia, or passion, is developed. This union causes the continuation of existence and the "revolutions of time." The whole constitutes the Tree of Life.
In Ceylon, there stands at the present time a tree which we are told is still worshipped by every follower of Buddha. It is a sacred bo, or Ficus Religiosa, which stands adjacent to an ancient holy shrine known as the Brazen Monastery, now in ruins. Of this tree Forlong remarks:
"Though now amidst ruins and wild forests, and although having stood thus in solitary desolation for some 1500 years, yet there it still grows, and is worshipped and deeply revered by more millions of our race than any other god, prophet, or idol, which the world has ever seen."(7)
7) Rivers of Life, vol. i., p. 35.
This tree is sacred to Sakyu Mooni, is 2200 years old, and is said to be a slip from a tree planted by Bood Gaya, one of the three former Buddhas who, like Sakyu Mooni, visited Ceylon. Under the parent of this tree the great prophet reposed after he had attained perfect rest, or after he had overcome the flesh and become Buddha. It was under a bo tree that Mai, Queen of Heaven, brought him forth, and, in fact, very many of the most important incidents of his life are closely connected with this sacred emblem.
In an allusion to the bo tree of Ceylon, a slip of which is said to have been carried from India to that island by a certain priestess in the year 307 B.C., Forlong observes:
"This wonderful idol has furnished shoots to half Asia, and every shoot is trained as much as possible like the parent, and like it, also, enclosed and tended. Men watch and listen for signs and sounds from this holy tree just as the priests of Dodona did beneath their rustling oaks, and, as many people, even of these somewhat sceptical days, still do, beneath the pulpits of their pope, priest, or other oracle."(8)
8) Rivers of Life, vol. i., p, 36.
The sacred Ficus is worshipped in India and in many of the Polynesian islands.
Regarding the palm, Inman assures us that it is emblematical of the active male energy, or the continuation of existence.(9)
9) Ancient Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names, vol. ii., p. 448.
Within the legends underlying the Jewish religion, it will be remembered that the tree appears mysteriously connected with the beginning of life and is interwoven with the first ideas of human action and experience. The literal sense, however, of the allegory in Genesis concerning the woman, the tree, and the serpent, and its meaning as generally accepted by laymen and the uneducated among the priesthood, has little in common with its true significance as understood by the initiated.
In Vedic times, the home tree was worshipped as a god, and to the exhilarating properties in its juice was ascribed that subtle quality which was regarded as the life-giving, or creative, energy supposed to reside in heat, and which was closely connected with passion or procreative energy. This quality was their Bacchus, Dionysos, or god-idea—the creator not alone of physical existence, but of good and evil as well. It was the Destroyer, yet the Regenerator, of life.
Of the Zoroastrian home, or sacred tree, which by the Persians was worshipped for thousands of years, Layard remarks: "The plant or its product was called the mystical body of God, the living water or food of eternal life, when duly consecrated and administered according to Zoroastrian rites." It has been suggested, and not without reason, that to this idea of the ancients, respecting the sacred character of the properties of the home juice, may be traced the "origin of the celebration of Jewish holy or paschal suppers and other eucharistic rites."
Although by the ancients water was sometimes regarded as the original principle, later, wine, or the intoxicating quality within it, came to constitute the god-idea. It was spirit, while water was matter; hence, in the sacraments, water and wine were commingled, wine representing the essence or blood of God; water, at the same time, standing for the people. Cyprian, the bishop martyr, while contending for the use of wine in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, makes use of the following argument:
"The Holy Spirit also is not silent in the Psalms on the sacrament of this thing, when He makes mention of the Lord's Cup, and says 'Thy intoxicating cup how excellent it is!' Now the cup which intoxicates is assuredly mingled with wine, for water cannot intoxicate anybody. And the Cup of the Lord in such wise inebriates, as Noe also was intoxicated drinking wine in Genesis. ... For because Christ bore us all, in that he also bore our sins, we see that in the water is understood the people, but in the wine is showed the blood of Christ.... Thus, therefore, in consecrating the Cup of the Lord, water alone cannot be offered, even as wine alone cannot be offered. For if anyone offer wine only, the blood of Christ is dissociated from us; but if the water be alone, the people are dissociated from Christ."(10)
10) Epistles of Cyprian, vol. i., pp. 215-217.
The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, at which wine is mysteriously converted into the essence of Deity, or into the blood of Christ, is without doubt a relic of the idea once entertained regarding the homa tree. Certain writers entertain the opinion that from the use of the sacred homa juice have arisen various religious practices and rites, such for instance as offering oblations to the gods, anointing holy stones, and pouring wine on sacred hills, also the custom of pledging oaths over glasses of wine.
The May pole, a decidedly phallic emblem, whose festivals until a very recent time were celebrated in England by the old as well as the young, was usually if not always sprinkled with wine. From the accounts which we have of this sacred emblem and its festival, it seems that no royal edict nor priestly denunciation was sufficient to expel it from the country.
According to Dr. Stevenson, the festival of Holi or the worship of Holika Devata, in the island of Ceylon, "has a close resemblance to the English festival of the May-pole, which originated in a religious ceremony or festival of the Cushites (called Phoenicians) who anciently occupied Western Europe."(11)
11) Quoted by Baldwin, Prehistoric Nations, p. 223.
The ash is the Scandinavian Tree of Life, and, like the sacred trees of all nations, is emblematical of the continuation of existence. This tree has a triple root, which peculiarity doubtless accounts for its sacred character. It is both female and male, and is said to be regarded as a "sort of Logos or Wisdom." It is the first emanation from the Deity, and yet a Trinity in Unity. To insult or injure this tree was sacrilege, to cut it down was an offense punishable with death.
In the old Egyptian and Zoroastrian story, appear the descriptions of two Trees of Life, also a Tree of Knowledge. In the accounts given of these trees, the Ficus, the female Tree of Life, represents the life of the soul, while the palm, the male Tree of Life, is that which gives physical life, which also is the true significance of the word "lord." When, however, either of these trees stood alone, or unaccompanied by its counterpart, by it both of the creative principles were understood. By these ideas is suggested the thought which among a certain school of psychologists of the present century seems to be gaining ground, namely: that man is a dual entity, or, in other words, that he has a subjective mind and an objective self, which so long as this life endures must co-operate or work together.
In the following descriptions of Egyptian emblems, will be perceived some of the changes which finally took place relative to the idea of sex in the god-idea.
In the museum of Egyptian antiquities in Berlin is a sepulchral tablet representing the Tree of Life. This emblem figures the trunk of a tree, from the top of which emerges the bust of a woman—Netpe. She is the goddess of heavenly existence, and is administering to the deceased the water and the bread of life, the latter of which is represented by a substance in the form of cakes or rolls. The time at which this tablet was found is not known, but it is supposed to belong to the period of the XIXth dynasty, or about the time of Rameses II., 1400 years B.C.
There is also in the Berlin museum another representation of the Egyptian Tree of Life, in which the trunk has given place to the entire body of a woman. This, also, is Netpe, who is still spiritual wisdom or the maternal principle. We are informed by Forlong that Diana was worshipped by the Amazons under a sacred tree.(12) From this symbol the tree, which grew first into the figure of a divine woman, and later assumed the form of a divine man, arose the emblem of the cross.
12) Rivers of Life, vol. i., p. 70.
On the Nineveh tablets is pictured a Tree of Life which is surrounded by winged spirits, bearing in their hands the pine cone, a symbol indicating life, and which is said to have the same significance as the crux-ansata, or cross, among the Egyptians.
In later ages, the Tree of Life, i. e., the divine man, or cross, or both together, furnish immortal food to those who lay hold upon them, exactly in the same manner as did Netpe, the goddess of wisdom, or spiritual life, in former times. According to the testimony of Barlow, this is the subject "most frequently symbolized on early Christian sepulchral tablets and monuments."(13) Christ's body was the "bread of life," and his blood was the "wine from the Tree of Life," of which to partake was life eternal. The cross, as in earlier religions, represented completeness of life. The jambu tree, the Buddhist god-tree, is in the shape of a cross.(14)
13) Essays on Symbolism, p. 74.
14) Wilford, Asiatic Researches.
Among the Kelti a tall oak was not only a symbol of the Deity, but it was Jupiter himself, while the earth from which it sprang was the Great Mother. Throughout Europe, in all ages, the oak has received divine honors. The fact that under its branches Jew, Pagan, and Christian alike swore their most solemn oaths, shows that its veneration was not confined to any particular nation or locality.
The sacredness of the oak among the Druids is well attested by all writers who have dealt with this interesting people. In Rome its branches formed the badge of victory worn by conquering heroes, this emblem being the highest mark of distinction which could be conferred upon them.
Forlong assures us that the oak was even more worshipped at the West than was the sacred Ficus at the East. Like it, the wood of the oak must be used
"to call down the sacred fire from Heaven and gladden in the yule (Suiel or Seul) log of Christmas-tide even Christian fires, as well as annually renew with fire direct from Ba-al, on Beltine day, the sacred flame on every public and private hearth, and this from the temples of Meroe on the Nile, to the farthest icy forests and mountains of the Sklavonian."(15)
15) Faiths of Man in All Lands, vol. i., p. 68.
Among the Druids, the mistletoe was also sacred especially when entwining the oak. Together they represented the Tree of Life, or the two generating agencies throughout Nature. Of the species of it which grows on the oak, Borlaise says that they deified the mistletoe and were not to look upon it but in the most devout and reverential manner: "When the end of the year approached, they marched with great solemnity to gather the mistletoe of the oak in order to present it to Jupiter, inviting all the world to assist in the ceremony."(16)
According to the Latin writer Pliny, the "Druids have nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the tree on which it grows, provided it be an oak." This plant, which is called All Heal, although sought after with the greatest religious ardor, is seldom found, but should the people who go forth at Christmas time in large numbers succeed in finding it they immediately set about preparing feasts under the tree upon which it grows; at the same time, in the most solemn manner, two white bulls are brought forth to be sacrificed. After the feast has been prepared and the sacrifice made ready, the priest ascends the tree and with a golden pruning-knife cuts the sacred branches of the mistletoe, dropping them into a white cloth prepared for the occasion. The bulls are then sacrificed and a prayer offered that "God would render his own gift prosperous to those on whom he has bestowed it." They believed that administered in a potion it would impart fecundity to any barren animal, and that it was a remedy against all kinds of poison. The branches of the mistletoe were then distributed among the faithful, each cherishing the token as the most sacred emblem of his faith. It is thought that the Christmas tree is a remnant of this custom.
Although the Christbaum of the Germans, the Yggdrasill of the Scandinavians, and the Christmas tree of the English speaking nations are still regarded as belonging exclusively to Christianity, their birthplace was the far East, and their origin long anterior to our present era. This subject will be referred to later in these pages. The palm, which in course of time became the most sacred tree of Egypt, is said to have put forth a shoot every month during the year. At Christmas tide, or at the winter solstice, a branch from this tree was used as a symbol of the renewal of time or of the birth of the New Year.
On the Zodiac of Dendera, preserved in the National Library at Paris, are two trees, the one representing the East, or India and China, the other, the West, or Egypt. The former of these trees is putting forth a pair of leaves and is topped by the emblems of Siva, emblems which indicate the fructifying powers of Nature, whilst the Egyptian sacred tree, which is surmounted by the ostrich plume, the emblem of truth, is indicative of Light, Intelligence, or the life of the soul. In a discourse delivered by Dr. Stukeley in 1760, attention was directed to the grove of Abraham as "that famous oak grove of Beersheba, planted by the illustrious prophet and first Druid—Abraham; and from whom our celebrated British Druids came, who were of the same patriarchal reformed religion, and brought the use of sacred groves to Britain."(17)
17) Barlow, Symbolism, p. 98.
The fact has been ascertained that in Arabia, in very ancient times, there was a goddess named Azra who was worshipped under the form of a tree called Samurch, and that in Yemen tree-worship still prevails. To the date is ascribed divine honors. This tree is said to have its regular priests, services, rites, and festivals, and is as zealously worshipped as are the gods of any other country. We are not informed as to whether the Jewish Tree of Life was borrowed from the Chaldeans or the Egyptians, but, as the significance is the same in all countries, it is of little consequence which furnished a copy for the writer in Genesis.
In Dr. Inman's Ancient Faiths, is a drawing from the original, by Colonel Coombs, of the "Temptation," or of the ancient tree-and-serpent myth in Genesis. This drawing, in which it is observed that the Jewish idea of woman as tempter is reversed, was copied from the inner walls of a cave in Southern India. The picture is said to be a faithful representation of the version of the story as accepted in the East.
Of the myrtle, Payne Knight says that it "was a symbol both of Venus and Neptune, the male and female personifications of the productive powers of the waters, which appear to have been occasionally employed in the same sense as the fig and fig leaf."
The same writer refers to the fact that instead of beads, wreaths of foliage, generally of laurel, olive, myrtle, ivy, or oak, appear upon coins; sometimes encircling the symbolical figures, and sometimes as chaplets on their heads. According to Strabo, each of these is sacred to some particular personification of the Deity, and "significant of some particular attribute, and in general, all evergreens were Dionysiac plants, that is, symbols of the generative power, signifying perpetuity of youth and vigor." The crowns of laurel, olive, etc., with which the victors in the Roman triumphs and Grecian games were honored, were emblems of immortality, and not merely transitory marks of occasional distinction.(18)
18) Payne Knight, Symbolism of Ancient Art. We are informed that this book was never sold, but only given away. Although a copy of it was formerly in the British Museum, care was taken by the trustees to keep it out of the catalogues.
The tree and serpent, according to Ferguson, are symbolized in all religious systems which the world has ever known. The two together are typical of the processes of reproduction or generation. They also symbolize good and evil and the cause which underlies the decline of virtue.
Among the numberless fruits which from time to time have been regarded as divine emblems, the principal are perhaps the fig, the pomegranate, the mandrake, the almond, and the olive. The peculiarly sacred character which we find attached to the fig ceases to be a mystery so soon as we remember that the organs of generation, male and female, had, in process of time, come to be objects of worship and that the fig was the emblem of the latter.
A basket of this fruit is said to have been the most acceptable offering to the god Bacchus, and therefore, by his devotees, was regarded as the most sacred symbol. The favorite material for phallic devices was the wood of the sacred fig, for it was by rubbing together pieces of it that holy fire was supposed to be drawn from heaven. By holy fire, however, was meant not so much the natural visible element which was kindled, as that subtle substance contained in fire or heat which was supposed to contain the life principle, and which was sent in response to the cravings of pious devotees for procreative energy, which blessing, among various peoples, notably the Jews, was indicative of special divine favor.
By pagans, Jews, and Christians, the pomegranate has long been regarded as a sacred emblem. It is a symbol of reproductive energy. Representations of it were embroidered on the Ephod, and Solomon's Temple is reported as having been literally covered with decorations, in which, among the devices noticed, this particular fruit appears the most conspicuous. Its significance, as revealed by Inman and other writers, is too gross to be set forth in these pages.
Among the most sacred plants or flowers were the lotus and the fleur de lis, both of which were venerated because of some real or fancied organic sexual peculiarity. The lotus is adored as the female principle throughout Nature, or as the "womb of all creation," and is sacred throughout oriental countries. It is said to be androgynous or hermaphrodite—hence its peculiarly sacred character.
It has long been thought that this lily is produced without the aid of the male pollen, hence it would seem to be an appropriate emblem for that ancient sect which worshipped the female as the more important creative energy.
Of the lotus, Inman remarks: "Amongst fourteen kinds of food and flowers presented to the Sanskrit God Anata, the lotus only is indispensable." This emblem, as we have seen, was the symbol of the Great Mother, and we are assured that it was "little less sacred than the Queen of Heaven herself."
Regarding the lotus and its universal significance as a religious emblem, Payne Knight says:
"The lotus is the Nelumbo of Linnaeus. This plant grows in the water, and amongst its broad leaves puts forth a flower, in the center of which is formed the seed vessel, shaped like a bell or inverted cone, and punctured on the top with little cavities or cells, in which the seeds grow. The orifices of these cells being too small to let the seeds drop out when ripe, they shoot forth into new plants, in the places where they were formed, the bulb of the vessel serving as a matrix to nourish them until they acquire such a degree of magnitude as to burst it open and release themselves, after which, like other aquatic weeds, they take root wherever the current deposits them. This plant, therefore, being thus productive of itself, and vegetating from its own matrix, without being fostered in the earth, was naturally adopted as the symbol of the productive power of the waters, upon which the creative spirit of the Creator operated in giving life and vegetation to matter. We accordingly find it employed in every part of the Northern hemisphere, where the symbolical religion improperly called idolatry does or did prevail. The sacred images of the Tartars, Japanese, and Indians are almost all placed upon it, of which numerous instances occur in the publication of Kaempfer, Sonnerat, etc: The Brama of India is represented sitting upon a lotus throne, and the figures upon the Isaic table hold the stem of this plant, surmounted by the seed vessel in one hand, and the cross representing the male organs in the other: thus signifying the universal power, both active and passive, attributed to that goddess."(19)
19) Symbolism of Ancient Art.
The lotus is the most sacred and the most significant symbol connected with the sacred mysteries of the East. Upon this subject, Maurice observes that there is no plant which has received such a degree of honor as has the lotus. It was the consecrated symbol of the Great Mother who had brought forth the fecundative energies, female and male. Not only throughout the Northern hemisphere was it everywhere held in profound veneration, but among the modern Egyptians it is still worshipped as symbolical of the Great First Cause. The lotus was the emblem venerated in the solemn celebration of the Mysteries of Eleusis in Greece and the Phiditia in Carthage.
In referring to the degree of homage paid to the lotus by the ancients, Higgins says: "And we shall find in the sequel that it still continues to receive the respect, if not the adoration, of a great part of the Christian world, unconscious, perhaps, of the original reason of their conduct." It is a significant fact that in nearly all the sacred paintings of the Christians in the galleries throughout Europe, especially those of the Annunciation, a lily is always to be observed. In later ages as the original significance of the lotus was lost, any lily came to be substituted. Godfrey Higgins is sure that although the priests of the Romish Church are at the present time ignorant of the true meaning of the lotus, or lily, "it is, like many other very odd things, probably understood at the Vatican, or the Crypt of St. Peter's."(20)
20) Anacalypsis, book vii., ch. xi.
Of the lotus of the Hindoos Nimrod says:
"The lotus is a well-known allegory, of which the expanse calyx represents the ships of the gods floating on the surface of the water, and the erect flower arising out of it, the mast thereof... but as the ship was Isis or Magna Mater, the female principle, and the mast in it the male deity, these parts of the flower came to have certain other significations, which seem to have been as well known at Samosata as at Benares."(21)
21) Quoted in Anacalypsis.
In other words it was a phallic emblem and represented the creative processes throughout Nature. Susa, the name of the capital of the Cushites, or ancient Ethiopians, meant "the City of Lilies." In India the lotus frequently appears among phallic devices in place of the sacred Yoni. From the foregoing pages the fact will be observed that the God of the ancients embodied the two creative agencies throughout the universe, but as nothing could exist without a mother, the great Om who was the indivisible God and the Creator of the sun was the mother of these two principles, while the Tree of Life was the original life-giving energy upon the earth, represented in the creation myths of the first man Adam, and the first woman Eve or Adama.
Throughout the ages, this force, or creative agency has been symbolized in various ways, many of which have been noted in the foregoing pages. We have observed that notwithstanding the fact that the supremacy of the male had been established, the sacred Yoni and the lotus were still reverenced as symbols of the most exalted God. Finally, when the masculine energy began to be worshipped as the more important agency in reproduction, the female, although still necessary to complete the god-idea, was veiled.
Among the sect known as Lingaites, those who adored the male creative power, Man, Phallus, and Creator in religious symbolism signified one and the same thing in the minds of the people. Each represented a Tree of Life, the beginning and end of all things.
Tree-worship was condemned by the councils of Tours, Nantes, and Auxerre, and in the XIth century it was forbidden in England by the laws of Canute, but these edicts seem to have had little effect. In referring to this subject, Barlow says: "In the XVIIIth century it existed in Livonia, and traces of it may still be found in the British Isles."(22) The vast area over which tree- and plant-worship once extended, and the tenacity with which it still clings to the human race, indicate the hold which, at an earlier age in the history of mankind, it had taken upon the religious feelings of mankind.
22) Essays on Symbolism, p. 118.
So closely has this worship become entwined with that of serpent and phallic faiths, that it is impossible to consider it, even in a brief manner, without anticipating these later developments; yet linked with earth- and sun-worship, it doubtless prevailed for many ages absolutely unconnected with the grosser ideas with which it subsequently became associated.
CHAPTER III. SUN-WORSHIP—FEMALE AND MALE ENERGIES IN THE SUN.
"When we inquire into the worship of nations in the earliest periods to which we have access by writing or tradition, we find that the adoration of one God, without temples or images, universally prevailed."(23)
23) Godfrey Higgins, Celtic Druids.
Underlying all the ancient religions of which we have any account, may be observed the great energizing force throughout Nature recognized and reverenced as the Deity. This force embraces not only the creative energies in human beings, in animals, and in plants, but in the earlier ages of human history it included also Wisdom, or Law—that "power by which all things are discriminated or defined and held in their proper places." The most renowned writers who have dealt with this subject agree in the conclusion that, during thousands of years among all the nations of the earth, only one God was worshipped. This God was Light and Life, both of which proceeded from the sun, or more properly speaking were symbolized by the sun.
In Egyptian hymns the Creator is invoked as the being who "dwells concealed in the sun"; and Greek writers speak of this luminary as the "generator and nourisher of all things, the ruler of the world." It is thought, however, that neither of these nations worshipped the corporeal sun. It was the "centre or body from which the pervading spirit, the original producer of order, fertility, and organization, continued to emanate to preserve the mighty structure which it had formed."
It is evident that at an early age, both in Egypt and in India, spiritualized conceptions of sun-worship had already been formed.
We have seen that Netpe, the Goddess of Light, or Heavenly Wisdom, conferred spiritual life on all who would accept it. The Great Mother of the Gods in India was not only the source whence all blessings flow, but she was the Beginning and the End of all things.
Of "Aditi, the boundless, the yonder, the beyond all and everything," Max Muller says that in later times she "may have become identified with the sky, also with the earth, but originally she was far beyond the sky and the earth."(24) The same writer quotes the following, also from a hymn of the Rig-Veda:
24) Origin and Growth of Religion, p. 221.
"O Mitra and Varuna, you mount your chariot which, at the dawning of the dawn is golden-colored and has iron poles at the setting of the sun; from thence you see Aditi and Diti—that is, what is yonder and what is here, what is infinite and what is finite, what is mortal and what is immortal."(25)
Aditi is the Great She that Is, the Everlasting. Muller refers to the fact that another Hindoo poet "speaks of the dawn as the face of Aditi; thus indicating that Aditi is here not the dawn itself, but something beyond the dawn." This Goddess, who is designated as the "Oldest," is implored "not only to drive away darkness and enemies that lurk in the dark, but likewise to deliver man from any sin which he may have committed." "May Aditi by day protect our cattle, may she, who never deceives, protect us from evil."
In the Egyptian as in the Indian and Hebrew religions, the two generating principles throughout Nature represent the Infinite, the Holy of Holies, the Elohim or Aleim—the Ieue. Within the records of the earliest religions of Ethiopia or Arabia, Chaldea, Assyria, and Babylonia, is revealed the same monad principle in the Deity. This monad conception, or dual unity, this God of Light and Life, or of Wisdom and generative force, is the same source whence all mythologies have sprung, and, as has been stated, among all peoples the fact is observed that the religious idea has followed substantially the same course of development, or growth. Within the sacred writings of the Hindoos there is but one Almighty Power, usually denominated as Brahm or Brahme—Om or Aum. This word in India was regarded with the same degree of veneration as was the sacred Ieue of the Jews. In later ages, the fact is being proved that this God, into whom all the deities worshipped at a certain period in human history resolve themselves, is the sun, or if not the actual corporeal sun, then the supreme agency within it which was acknowledged as the great creative or life-force—that dual principle which by the early races was recognized as Elohim, Om, Ormuzd, etc., and from which the productive power in human beings, in plants, and in animals was thought to emanate.
Prior to the development of either tree or phallic worship, the sun as an emblem of the Deity had doubtless become the principal object of veneration. Ages would probably elapse before primitive man would observe that all life is dependent on the warmth of the sun's rays, or before from experience he would perceive the fact that to its agency as well as to that of the earth he was indebted both for food and the power of motion. However, as soon as this knowledge had been gained, the great orb of day would assume the most prominent place among the objects of his regard and adoration. That such has been the case, that the sun, either as the actual Creator, or as an emblem of the great energizing force in Nature, has been worshipped by every nation of the globe, there is no lack of evidence to prove; neither do we lack proof to establish the fact that, since the adoption of the sun as a divine object, or perhaps I should say as the emblem of Wisdom and creative power, it has never been wholly eliminated from the god-idea of mankind.
Bryant produces numberless etymological proofs to establish the fact that all the early names of the Deity were derived or compounded from some word which originally meant the sun.
Max Muller says that Surya was the sun as shining in the sky. Savitri was the sun as bringing light and life. Vishnu was the sun as striding with three steps across the sky, etc.
Inman, whose etymological researches have given him considerable prominence as a Sanskrit and Hebrew scholar, says that Ra, Ilos, Helos, Bil, Baal, Al, Allah, and Elohim were names given to the sun as representative of the Creator.
We are assured by Godfrey Higgins that Brahme is the sun the same as Surya. Brahma sprang from the navel of Brahme. Faber in his Pagan Idolatry says that all the gods of the ancients "melt insensibly into one, they are all equally the sun." The word Apollo signifies the author or generator of Light. In the Rig Veda, Surya, the sun, is called Aditya. "Truly, Surya, thou art great; truly Aditya, thou art great."
Selden observes that whether the gods be called Osiris, or Omphis, or Nilus, or any other name, they all center in the sun.
According to Diodorus Siculus, it was the belief of the ancients that Dionysos, Osiris, Serapis, Pan, Jupiter and Pluto were all one. They were, the sun.
Max Muller says that a very low race in India named the Santhals call the sun Chandro, which means "bright." These people declared to the missionaries who settled among them, that Chandro had created the world; and when told that it would be absurd to say that the sun had created the world, they replied: "We do not mean the visible Chandro, but an invisible one."
Not only did Dionysos, and all the rest of the gods who in later ages came to be regarded as men, represent the sun, but after the separation of the male and female elements in the originally indivisible God, Maut or Minerva, Demeter, Ceres, Isis, Juno, and others less important in the pagan world were also the sun, or, in other words, they represented the female power throughout the universe which was supposed to reside in the sun.
In most groups of Babylonian and Assyrian divine emblems, there occur two distinct representations of the sun, "one being figured with four rays or divisions within the orb, and the other, with eight." According to George Rawlinson, these figures represent a distinction between the male and female powers residing within the sun, the quartered disk signifying the male energy, and the eight-rayed orb appearing as the emblem of the female!(26)
26) Essay x.
During an earlier age of human history, prior to the dissensions which arose over the relative importance of the sexes in reproduction, and at a time when a mother and her child represented the Deity, the sun was worshiped as the female Jove. Everything in the universe was a part of this great God. At that time there had been no division in the god-idea. The Creator constituted a dual but indivisible unity. Dionysos formerly represented this God, as did also Om, Jove, Mithras, and others. Jove was the "Great Virgin" whence everything proceeds.
"Jove first exists, whose thunders roll above, Jove last, Jove midmost, all proceeds from Jove; Female is Jove, Immortal Jove is male; Jove the broad Earth, the heavens irradiate pale. Jove is the boundless Spirit, Jove the Fire, That warms the world with feeling and desire."
In a former work the fact has been mentioned that the first clue obtained by Herr Bachofen, author of Das Mutterrecht, to a former condition of society under which gynaecocracy, or the social and political pre-eminence of women, prevailed, was the importance attached to the female principle in the Deity in all ancient mythologies.
According to the testimony of various writers, Om, although comprehending both elements of the Deity, was nevertheless female in signification. Sir William Jones observes that Om means oracle—matrix or womb.(27) Upon this subject Godfrey Higgins, quoting from Drummond, remarks:
27) See Anacalypsis, book iii., ch. ii.
"The word Om or Am in the Hebrew not only signifies might, strength, power, firmness, solidity, truth, but it means also Mother, as in Genesis ii., 24, and Love, whence the Latin Amo, Mamma. If the word be taken to mean strength, then Amon will mean (the first syllable being in regimine) the temple of the strength of the generative or creative power, or the temple of the mighty procreative power. If the word Am means Mother, then a still more recondite idea will be implied, viz.: the mother generative power, or the maternal generative power: perhaps the Urania of Persia or the Venus Aphrodite of Crete and Greece, or the Jupiter Genetrix of the masculine and feminine gender, or the Brahme Mai of India, or the Alma Venus of Lucretius. And the City of On or Heliopolis will be the City of the sun, or City of the procreative powers of nature of which the sun was always an emblem."
According to Prof. W. R. Smith, Om means uniting or binding, a fact which is explained by the early significance of the mother element in early society. The name of the great Deity Om or Aum scarcely passes the lips of its worshippers, and when it is pronounced is always reverently whispered. Regarding the mystic word Om, we are told that it is the name given to Delphi, and that "Delphi has the meaning of the female organs of generation called in India the Os Minxoe."
Although the great God of India was female and male, yet we are assured by Forlong that the female energy Maya, Queen of Heaven, even at the present time is more heard of than the male principle.
According to Bryant, the worship of Ham is the most ancient as well as the most universal of any in the world. This writer remarks that Ham, instead of representing an individual, is but a Greek corruption of Om or Aum, the great androgynous God of India, a God which is identical in significance with Aleim, Vesta, and all the other representatives of the early dual, universal power. "In the old language God was called Al, Ale, Alue, and Aleim, more frequently Aleim than any other name." According to the testimony of Higgins, Aleim denotes the feminine plural. The heathen divinities Ashtaroth and Beelzebub were both called Aleim, Ashtaroth being simply Astarte adorned with the horns of a ram. Ishtar not unfrequently appears with the horns of a cow. We are informed by Inman that whenever a goddess is observed with horns—emblems which by the way always indicate masculine power—it is to denote the fact that she is androgynous, or that within her is embodied the complete Deity—the dual reproductive energy throughout Nature. The "figure becomes the emblem of divinity and power."(28)
28) Ancient Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names, vol. i., p. 311.
Mithras—the Savior, the great Persian Deity which was worshipped as the "Preserver," was both female and male. Among the representations of this divinity which appear in the Townley collection in the British Museum, is one in which it is figured in its female character, in the act of killing the bull. The Divinity Baal was both female and male. The God of the Jews in an early stage of their career was called Baal. The oriental Ormuzd was also dual or androgynous.
Orpheus teaches that the divine nature is both female and male. According to Proclus, Jupiter was an immortal maid, "the Queen of Heaven, and Mother of the Gods." All things were contained within the womb of Jupiter. This Virgin within whom was embodied the male principle "gave light and life to Eve." She was the life-giving, energizing power in Nature, and was identical with Aleim, Om, Astarte, and others. The Goddess Esta, or Vesta, or Hestia, whom Plato calls the "soul of the body of the universe," is believed by Beverly and others to be the Self-Existent, the Great "She that Is" of the Hindoos, whose significance is identical with the Cushite or Phoenician Deity, Aleim.
According to Marco Polo, the Chinese had but one supreme God of whom they had no image, and to whom they prayed for only two things—"a sound mind in a sound body." They had, however, a lesser god—probably the same as the "Lord" (masculine) of the Jews, to whom they petitioned for rain, fair weather, and all the minor accessories of existence. Upon the walls of the houses of the Chinese is a tablet to which they pay their devotion. On this tablet is the name of the "high, celestial, and supreme God." The principal word which this tablet contains is "Tien." Of this Chinese Deity Barlow says: "The Chinese recognize in Tienhow, the Queen of Heaven nursing her infant son." Connected with this figure is a lotus bud, symbol of the new birth.
Originally in Chaldea and in Egypt, only one supreme God was worshipped. This Deity was figured by a mother and her child, as was the great Chinese God. It comprehended the universe and all the attributes of the Deity. It was worshipped thousands of years prior to the birth of Mary, the Mother of Christ, and representations of it are still extant, not only in oriental lands, but in many countries of Europe. Within the oldest temples of Egypt are still to be observed sacred apartments which contain the "Holy of Holies," and to which, in past ages, none might gain access but priests and priestesses of the highest order. Within these apartments are pictured the mysteries of birth, together with the symbols of generation emblems of procreation.
On the banks of the river Nile are observed the ruins of the temple of Philae, which structure, it is said, represents the most ancient style of architecture. Within these ruins is to be seen an inner chamber in which are depicted the birth scenes of the child god Horus, and, indeed, everywhere among the monuments and ruins of Egypt, is plainly visible the fact that the creative power and functions in human beings, in animals, and in vegetable life, together with Wisdom, once constituted the god-idea.
Between the ruins of the palace of Amunoph III. and the Nile are two colossal statues, each hewn from a single block of stone. These figures, although in a sitting posture, are sixty feet high. It is thought that they once formed the entrance to an avenue of similar figures leading up to the palace. It has been supposed that the most northern statue represents Ammon, and that its companion piece is his Mother. It is now believed by many writers, however, that these figures do not represent two persons at all, but that in a remote age of the world's history they were worshipped as the two great principles, female and male, which animate Nature. The fact has been observed that Am or Om was originally a female Deity, within whom was contained the male principle; when, however, through the changes wrought in the relative positions of the sexes, the male element in the Divinity adored came to be represented as a man instead of as a child, he was Ammon. He was the sun, yet notwithstanding the fact that he had drawn to himself the powers of the sun, he was still, himself, only a production of or emanation from the female Deity Om, Mother of the Gods and Queen of Heaven. She it was who had created or brought forth the sun.
There is a tradition which asserts that every morning a melodious sound is emitted from the first named of these two colossal figures as he salutes his rosy-fingered Mother whom he acknowledges as the source of all Light and Wisdom. The bodies are described as being "without motion, the faces without expression, the eyes looking straight forward, yet a certain grand simplicity occasions them to be universally admired."
The Goddess Disa or Isa of the North, as delineated on the sacred drums of the Laplanders, was accompanied by a child similar to the Horus of the Egyptians.(29) It is observed also that the ancient Muscovites worshipped a sacred group composed of a mother and her children, probably a representation of the Egyptian Isis and her offspring, or at least of the once universal idea of the Deity.
29) Jennings, Phallicism.
The following is from Payne Knight:
"A female Pantheitic figure in silver, with the borders of the drapery plated with gold, and the whole finished in a manner surpassing almost anything extant, was among the things found at Macon on the Saone, in the year 1764, and published by Caylus. It represents Cybele, the universal mother, with the mural crown on her head, and the wings of pervasion growing from her shoulders, mixing the productive elements of heat and moisture by making a libation upon the flames of an altar. On each side of her head is one of the Discouri, signifying the alternate influence of the diurnal and nocturnal Sun; and, upon a crescent supported by the tips of her wings, are the seven planets, each signified by a bust of its presiding deity resting upon a globe, and placed in the order of the days of the week named after them.
"In her left hand she holds two cornucopiae, to signify the result of her operation on the two hemispheres of the Earth; and upon them are the busts of Apollo and Diana, the presiding deities of these hemispheres, with a golden disk, intersected by two transverse lines, such as is observed on other pieces of ancient art, and such as the barbarians of the North employed to represent the solar year, divided into four parts, at the back of each."(30)
30) Symbolism of Ancient Art.
It was doubtless at a time when woman constituted the head of the gens, and when the feminine element in the sun, in human beings, and in Nature generally was regarded as the more important, that Latona and her son Apollo were worshipped together. Latona, Apollo, and Diana constituted the triune God. The last two were the female and male energies, the former being the source whence they sprang. As soon as one is divested of a belief in the popular but erroneous opinion that the gods of the early Egyptians and Greeks were deified heroes of former ages, he is prepared to perceive the fact that, although to the uninitiated these gods appear numberless, in reality they all represent the same idea, namely: the dual, moving force in Nature, together with Light or Wisdom.
We have seen that when among the nations of antiquity civilization had reached its height, the god-idea was represented by the figure of a woman with her child; subsequently, however, as these nations began to decline, the creative energy comprehended simply physical life, or the power to reproduce, and was represented by various emblems which will be noticed farther on in this work. In still later ages, after male reproductive power had become God, and when, through superstition and sensuality, the masses of the people had descended to the rank of slaves, monarchs, representing themselves to their ignorant subjects as the source of all blessings, even of life itself, appropriated the titles of the sun, and claimed for themselves the adoration which had formerly belonged to it. From this fact has doubtless arisen the opinion so tenaciously upheld in recent times, that the gods of the ancients were only deified heroes of former times.
If, during the earlier ages of human existence, all the gods resolved themselves into the sun, and if Light and Life, or Wisdom and the power to reproduce and sustain life, constituted the Deity, then of course God or the sun would be female or male, or both, according to the prevailing belief in the comparative creative and sustaining forces of the sexes.
From what appears in the foregoing pages the fact has doubtless been perceived that the worship of a Virgin and Child does not, as is usually supposed, belong exclusively to the Romish Christian Church, but, on the contrary, that it constitutes the most remote idea of a Creator extant. As has been hinted, there is little doubt that the earliest worship of the woman and child was much simpler than was that which came to prevail in later ages, at a time when every religious conception was closely veiled beneath a mixture of astrology and mythology. After the planets came to be regarded as active agencies in reproduction, and powerful in directing all mundane affairs, the Virgin of the Sphere while she represented Nature was also the constellation which appeared above the horizon at the winter solstice, or at the time when the sun had reached its lowest point and had begun to return. At this time, the 25th of December, and just as the days began to lengthen, this Virgin gave birth to the Sun-God. It is said that he issued forth from her side, hence the legend that Gotama Buddha was produced from the side of Maya, and also the story believed by the Gnostics and other Christian sects that Jesus was taken from the side of Mary.(31)
31) The fact will doubtless be remembered that a similar belief was entertained concerning the birth of Julius Caesar.
Within the churches and in the streets of many cities of Germany are to be observed figures of this traditional Virgin. She is standing, one foot upon a crescent and the other on a serpent's head, in the mouth of which is the sprig of an apple tree on which is an apple. The tail of the serpent is wound about a globe which is partially enveloped in clouds. On one arm of the Virgin is the Child, and in the hand of the other arm she carries the sacred lotus. Her head is encircled with a halo of light similar to the rays of the sun.
One is frequently disposed to query: Do the initiated in the Romish Church regard these images as legitimate representations of Mary, the wife of Joseph and Mother of Christ, or are they aware of their true significance? Certainly the various accessories attached to this figure betray its ancient origin and reveal its identity with the Egyptian, Chaldean, and Phoenician Virgin of the Sphere.
The fact has already been observed that in the original representation of the "Temptation" in the cave temple of India, it is not the woman but the man who is the tempter, and a singular peculiarity observed in connection with this ancient female Deity is that it is SHE and NOT HER SEED who is trampling on the serpent, thus proving that originally woman and not man was worshipped as the Savior. Another significant feature noticed in connection with this subject is that the oldest figures which represent this Goddess are black, thus proving that she must have belonged to a dark skinned race.
This image, although black, or dark skinned, had long hair, hence not a negress. The most ancient statue of Ceres was black, and Pausanias says that at a place called Melangea in Arcadia there was a black Venus. In the Netherlands only a few years ago, was a church dedicated to a black goddess. The Virgin of the Sphere who treads on the head of the serpent represents universal womanhood. She is the Virgin of the first book of Genesis and mother of all the Earth. She represents not only creative power but Perceptive Wisdom. Although this Goddess is usually seen with the lotus in her hand, she sometimes carries ripe corn or wheat.
The mother of Gotama Buddha was called Mai or Maya, after the month in which the Earth is arrayed in her most beautiful attire.
Maya is the parent of universal Nature. According to Davis, the mother of Mercury "is the universal genius of Nature which discriminated all things according to their various kinds of species," the same as was Muth of Egypt. Mai is said to mean "one who begins to illuminate." She was in fact the mother of the sun whence everything proceeds. She was matter, within which was concealed spirit.
In the representations of Montfaucon appears the Goddess Isis sitting on the lotus. Her head, upon which is a globe, is surrounded by a radiant circle which evidently represents the sun. On the reverse side is Ieu, the word "which is the usual way of the ecclesiastical authors reading the Hebrew word Jehovah." Referring to this from Montfaucon, Godfrey Higgins observes: "Here Isis, whose veil no mortal shall ever draw aside, the celestial Virgin of the Sphere, is seated on the self-generating sacred lotus and is called Ieu or Jove."(32) She has also the mystic number 608 which stands for the Deity. Her breasts show plainly that it is a female representation, although connected with the figure appears the male emblem to indicate that within her are contained both elements, or that the universe is embodied within the female.
32) Anacalypsis, book v., ch. iv.
Higgins thinks there is no subject on which more mistakes have been made than on that of the Goddess Isis, both by ancients and moderns. He calls attention to the inconsistency of calling her the moon when in many countries the moon is masculine. He is quite positive that if Isis is the moon, Ceres, Proserpine, Venus, and all the other female gods were the same, which in view of the facts everywhere at hand cannot be true. It is true, however, that "the planet called the moon was dedicated to her in judicial astrology, the same as a planet was dedicated to Venus or Mars. But Venus and Mars were not these planets themselves, though these planets were sacred to them."(33) Higgins then calls attention to her temple at Sais in Egypt, and to the inscription which declares that "she comprehends all that is and was and is to be," that she is "parent of the sun," and he justly concludes that Isis can not be the moon.