The Secret Doctrine Vol I

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The Secret Doctrine Vol I

By H.P. Blavatsky

The Evolution Of Symbolism Part II Symbolism And Ideographs

Is not a symbol ever, to him who has eyes for it, some dimmer or clearer revelation of the God-like?... Through all ... there glimmers something of a Divine Idea. Nay, the highest ensign that men ever met and embraced under, the cross itself, had no meaning, save an accidental extrinsic one.
The study of the hidden meaning in every religious and profane legend, of whatsoever nation, large or small, and preëminently in the traditions of the East, has occupied the greater portion of the present writer's life. She is one of those who feel convinced that no mythological story, no traditional event in the folk-lore of a people, has ever, at any time, been pure fiction, but that every one of such narratives has an actual historical lining to it. In this the writer disagrees with those symbologists, however great their reputation, who find in every myth nothing more than additional proof of the superstitious bent of mind of the Ancients, and who believe that all mythologies sprang from, and are built upon, solar myths. Such superficial thinkers have been admirably disposed of by Mr. Gerald Massey, the poet and Egyptologist, in a lecture on “Luniolatry, Ancient and Modern.” His pointed criticism is worthy of reproduction in this part of our work, as it echoes so well our own feelings, expressed openly so far back as 1875, when Isis Unveiled was written.
For thirty years past Professor Max Müller has been teaching in his books and lectures, in the Times, Saturday Review, and various magazines, from the platform of the Royal Institution, the pulpit of Westminster Abbey, and his chair at Oxford, that mythology is a disease of language, and that the ancient symbolism was a result of something like a primitive mental aberration.
“We know,” says Renouf, echoing Max Müller, in his Hibbert lectures, “We know that mythology is the disease which springs up at a peculiar stage of human culture.” Such is the shallow explanation of the non-evolutionists, and such explanations are still accepted by the British public, that gets its thinking done for it by proxy. Professor Max Müller, Cox, Gubernatis, and other propounders of the Solar Mythos, have portrayed the primitive myth-maker for us as a sort of Germanised-Hindû metaphysician, projecting his own shadow on a mental mist, and talking ingeniously concerning smoke, or, at least, cloud; the sky overhead becoming like the dome of dreamland, scribbled over with the imagery of aboriginal nightmares! They conceive the early man in their own likeness, and look upon him as perversely prone to self-mystification, or, as Fontenelle has it, “subject to beholding things that are not there”! They have misrepresented primitive or archaic man as having been idiotically misled from the first by an active but untutored imagination into believing all sorts of fallacies, which were directly and constantly contradicted by his own daily experience; a fool of fancy in the midst of those grim realities that were grinding his experiences into him, like the griding icebergs making their imprints upon the rocks submerged beneath the sea. It remains to be said, and will one day be acknowledged, that these accepted teachers have been no nearer to the beginnings of mythology and language than Burns's poet Willie had been near to Pegasus. My reply is, 'Tis but a dream of the metaphysical theorist that mythology was a disease of language, or of anything else except his own brain. The origin and meaning of mythology have been missed altogether by these solarites and weather-mongers! Mythology was a primitive mode of thinking the early thought. It was founded on natural facts, and is still verifiable in phenomena. There is nothing insane, nothing irrational in it, when considered in the light of evolution, and when its mode of expression by sign-language is thoroughly understood. The insanity lies in mistaking it for human history or Divine Revelation.453 Mythology is the repository of man's most ancient science, and what concerns us chiefly is this—when truly interpreted once more, it is destined to be the death of those false theologies to which it has unwittingly given birth!454
In modern phraseology a statement is sometimes said to be mythical in proportion to its being untrue; but the ancient mythology was not a system or mode of falsifying in that sense. Its fables were the means of conveying facts; they were neither forgeries nor fictions.... For example, when the Egyptians portrayed the moon as a cat, they were not ignorant enough to suppose that the moon was a cat; nor did their wandering fancies see any likeness in the moon to a cat; nor was a cat-myth any mere expansion of verbal metaphor; nor had they any intention of making puzzles or riddles.... They had observed the simple fact that the cat saw in the dark, and that her eyes became full-orbed, and grew most luminous by night. The moon was the seer by night in heaven, and the cat was its equivalent on the earth; and so the familiar cat was adopted as a representative, a natural sign, a living pictograph of the lunar orb.... And so it followed that the sun which saw down in the under-world at night could also be called the cat, as it was, because it also saw in the dark. The name of the cat in Egyptian is mau, which denotes the seer, from mau, to see. One writer on mythology asserts that the Egyptians “imagined a great cat behind the sun, which is the pupil of the cat's eye.” But this imagining is all modern. It is the Müllerite stock in trade. The moon, as cat, was the eye of the sun, because it reflected the solar light, and because the eye gives back the image in its mirror. In the form of the goddess Pasht, the cat keeps watch for the sun, with her paw holding down and bruising the head of the serpent of darkness, called his eternal enemy!
This is a very correct exposition of the lunar mythos from its astronomical aspect. Selenography, however, is the least esoteric of the divisions of lunar Symbology. To master thoroughly—if one is permitted to coin a new word—Selenognosis, one must become proficient in more than its astronomical meaning. The Moon is intimately related to the Earth, as shown in the Stanzas, and is more directly concerned with all the mysteries of our Globe than is even Venus-Lucifer, the occult sister and alter ego of the Earth.455
The untiring researches of Western, especially German, symbologists, during the last and the present centuries, have induced the most unprejudiced students, and of course every Occultist, to see that without the help of symbology—with its seven departments, of which the moderns know nothing—no ancient Scripture can ever be correctly understood. Symbology must be studied from every one of its aspects, for each nation had its own peculiar methods of expression. In short, no Egyptian papyrus, no Indian olla, no Assyrian tile, no Hebrew scroll, should be read and interpreted literally.
This every scholar now knows. The able lectures of Mr. Gerald Massey alone are sufficient to convince any fair-minded Christian that to accept the dead-letter of the Bible is equivalent to falling into a grosser error and superstition than any hitherto evolved by the brain of the savage South Sea Islander. But the fact to which even the most truth-loving and truth-searching Orientalists—whether  ryanists or Egyptologists—seem to remain blind, is that every symbol on papyrus or olla is a many-faced diamond, each of whose facets not only includes several interpretations, but also relates to several sciences. 
This is instanced in the just quoted interpretation of the cat symbolizing the moon—an example of sidereo-terrestrial imagery; for the moon has with other nations many other meanings besides.
As a learned Mason and Theosophist, the late Kenneth Mackenzie, has shown in his Royal Masonic Cyclopædia, there is a great difference between emblem and symbol. The former “comprises a larger series of thoughts than a symbol, which may be said rather to illustrate some single special idea.” Hence, the symbols—lunar, or solar, for example—of several countries, each illustrating such a special idea, or series of ideas, form collectively an esoteric emblem. The latter is “a concrete visible picture or sign representing principles, or a series of principles, recognizable by those who have received certain instructions [Initiates].” To put it still plainer, an emblem is usually a series of graphic pictures viewed and explained allegorically, and unfolding an idea in panoramic views, one after the other. Thus the Purânas are written emblems. So are the Mosaic and Christian Testaments, or the Bible, and all other exoteric Scriptures. As the same authority shows:
All esoteric societies have made use of emblems and symbols, such as the Pythagorean Society, the Eleusinia, the Hermetic Brethren of Egypt, the Rosicrucians, and the Freemasons. Many of these emblems it is not proper to divulge to the general eye, and a very minute difference may make the emblem or symbol differ widely in its meaning. The magical sigilla, being founded on certain principles of number, partake of this character, and although monstrous or ridiculous in the eyes of the uninstructed, convey a whole body of doctrine to those who have been trained to recognize them.
The above enumerated societies are all comparatively modern, none dating back earlier than the Middle Ages. How much more proper, then, that the students of the oldest archaic school should be careful not to divulge secrets of far more importance to humanity (as being dangerous in ignorant hands) than any of the so-called “Masonic Secrets,” which have now become those of Polichinelle, as the French say! But this restriction can apply only to the psychological or rather psycho-physiological and cosmical significance of symbol and emblem, and even to that only partially. For though an Adept is compelled to refuse to impart the conditions and means that lead to any correlation of Elements—whether psychic or physical—which may produce harmful as well as beneficent results; yet he is ever ready to impart to the earnest student the secret of the ancient thought, in anything that has respect to history concealed under mythological symbolism, and thus to furnish a few more land-marks for a retrospective view of the past, in so far as it furnishes useful information with regard to the origin of man, the evolution of the Races and geognosy. And yet it is the crying complaint to-day, not only among Theosophists, but also among the few profane interested in the subject: Why do not the Adepts reveal that which they know? To this, one might answer: Why should they, since one knows beforehand that no man of Science will accept it, even as a hypothesis, much less as a theory or axiom. Have you so much as accepted or believed in the A B C of the Occult Philosophy contained in the Theosophist, Esoteric Buddhism, and other works and periodicals? Has not even the little which has been given, been ridiculed and derided, and made to face the “animal-” and “ape-theory” of Huxley and Hæckel, on the one hand, and the rib of Adam and the apple on the other? Notwithstanding such an unenviable prospect, however, a mass of facts is given in the present work, and the origin of man, the evolution of the Globe and the Races, human and animal, are as fully treated as the writer is able to treat them.
The proofs brought forward in corroboration of the old teachings are scattered widely throughout the old scriptures of ancient civilizations. The Purânas, the Zend Avesta, and the old classics, are full of such facts; but no one has ever taken the trouble of collecting and collating them together. The reason for this is that all such events were recorded symbolically; and that the best scholars, the most acute minds, among our  ryanists and Egyptologists, have been too often darkened by one or another preconception, and still oftener, by one-sided views of the secret meaning. Yet even a parable is a spoken symbol: a fiction or a fable, as some think; an allegorical representation, we say, of life-realities, events, and facts. And just as a moral was ever drawn from a parable, such moral being an actual truth and fact in human life, so a historical, real event was deduced, by those versed in the hieratic sciences, from emblems and symbols recorded in the ancient archives of the temples. The religious and esoteric history of every nation was embedded in symbols; it was never expressed literally in so many words. All the thoughts and emotions, all the learning and knowledge, revealed and acquired, of the early Races, found their pictorial expression in allegory and parable. Why? Because the spoken word has a potency not only unknown to, but even unsuspected and naturally disbelieved in, by the modern “sages.” Because sound and rhythm are closely related to the four Elements of the Ancients; and because such or another vibration in the air is sure to awaken the corresponding 
Powers, union with which produces good or bad results, as the case may be. No student was ever allowed to recite historical, religious, or real events of any kind, in so many unmistakable words, lest the Powers connected with the event should be once more attracted. Such events were narrated only during Initiation, and every student had to record them in corresponding symbols, drawn out of his own mind and examined later by his Master, before they were finally accepted. Thus by degrees was the Chinese Alphabet created, as just before it the hieratic symbols were fixed upon in old Egypt. In the Chinese language, the characters of which may be read in any language, and which, as just said, is only a little less ancient than the Egyptian alphabet of Thoth, every word has its corresponding symbol in a pictorial form. This language possesses many thousands of such symbol-letters, or logograms, each conveying the meaning of a whole word; for letters proper, or an alphabet as we understand it, do not exist in the Chinese language, any more than they did in the Egyptian, till a far later period.
Thus a Japanese who does not understand one word of Chinese, meeting with a Chinaman who has never heard the language of the former, will communicate in writing with him, and they will understand each other perfectly—because their writing is symbolical.
The explanation of the chief symbols and emblems is now attempted, as Book II, which treats of Anthropogenesis, would be most difficult to understand without a preparatory acquaintance with at least the metaphysical symbols.
Nor would it be just to enter upon an esoteric reading of symbolism, without giving due honour to one who has rendered it the greatest service in this century, by discovering the chief key to ancient Hebrew symbology, strongly interwoven with metrology, one of the keys to the once universal Mystery Language. Mr. Ralston Skinner, of Cincinnati, the author of The Key to the Hebrew-Egyptian Mystery in the Source of Measures, has our thanks. A Mystic and a Kabalist by nature, he has laboured for many years in this direction, and his efforts have certainly been crowned with great success. In his own words:
The writer is quite certain that there was an ancient language which modernly and up to this time appears to have been lost, the vestiges of which, however, abundantly exist.... The author discovered that this geometrical ratio [the integral ratio of the diameter to the circumference of a circle] was the very ancient, and probably the divine origin of ... linear measures.... It appears almost proven that the same system of geometry, numbers, ratio, and measures was known and made use of on the continent of North America, even prior to the knowledge of the same by the descending Semites....
The peculiarity of this language was that it could be contained in another, concealed and not to be perceived, save through the help of special instruction; letters and syllabic signs possessing at the same time the powers or meanings of numbers, of geometrical shapes, pictures, or ideographs and symbols, the designed scope of which would be determinatively helped out by parables in the shape of narratives or parts of narratives; while also it could be set forth separately, independently, and variously, by pictures, in stone work, or in earth constructions.
To clear up an ambiguity as to the term language: Primarily the word means the expression of ideas by human speech; but, secondarily, it may mean the expression of ideas by any other instrumentality. This old language is so composed in the Hebrew text, that by the use of the written characters, which uttered shall be the language first defined, a distinctly separated series of ideas may be intentionally communicated, other than those ideas expressed by the reading of the sound-signs. This secondary language sets forth, under a veil, series of ideas, copies in imagination of things sensible, which may be pictured, and of things which may be classed as real without being sensible: as, for instance, the number 9 may be taken as a reality, though it has no sensible existence, so also a revolution of the moon, as separated from the moon itself by which that revolution has been made, may be taken as giving rise to, or causing a real idea, though such a revolution has no substance. This idea-language may consist of symbols restricted to arbitrary terms and signs, having a very limited range of conceptions, and quite valueless, or it may be a reading of nature in some of her manifestations of a value almost immeasurable, as regards human civilization. A picture of something natural may give rise to ideas of coördinating subjects, radiating out in various and even opposing directions, like the spokes of a wheel, and producing natural realities in departments very foreign to the apparent tendency of the reading of the first or starting picture. Notion may give rise to connected notion, but if it does, then, however apparently incongruous, all resulting ideas must spring from the original picture and be harmonically connected, or related the one with the other. Thus with a pictured idea radical enough, the imagination of the cosmos itself, even in its details of construction, might result. Such a use of ordinary language is now obsolete, but it has become a question with the writer whether at one time, far back in the past, it, or such, was not the language of the world and of universal use, possessed, however, as it became more and more moulded into its arcane forms, by a select class or caste. By this I mean that the popular tongue or vernacular commenced even in its origin to be made use of as the vehicle of this peculiar mode of conveying ideas. Of this the evidences are very strong; and, indeed, it would seem that in the history of the human race there happened, from causes which at present, at any rate, we cannot trace, a lapse or loss from an original perfect language and a perfect system of science—shall we say perfect because they were of divine origin and importation?456

“Divine origin” does not here mean a revelation from an anthropomorphic God on a mount amidst thunder and lightning; but, as we understand it, a language and a system of science imparted to early mankind by a more advanced mankind, so much higher as to be divine in the sight of that infant humanity: by a “mankind,” in short, from other spheres; an idea which contains nothing supernatural in it, but the acceptance or rejection of which depends upon the degree of conceit and arrogance in the mind of him to whom it is stated. For, if the professors of modern knowledge would only confess that, though they know nothing of the future of the disembodied man—or rather will accept nothing—yet this future may be pregnant with surprises and unexpected revelations to them, once their Egos are rid of their gross bodies—then materialistic unbelief would have fewer chances than it has. Who of them knows, or can tell, what may happen when once the Life-Cycle of this Globe is run down, and our mother Earth herself falls into her last sleep? Who is bold enough to say that the divine Egos of our mankind—at least the elect out of the multitudes passing on to other spheres—will not become in their turn the “divine” instructors of a new mankind generated by them on a new Globe, called to life and activity by the disembodied “principles” of our Earth? All this may have been the experience of the Past, and these strange records lie embedded in the “Mystery Language” of the pre-historic ages, the language now called Symbolism.



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