There are no ancient symbols without a deep and philosophical meaning attached to them, their importance and significance increasing with their antiquity. Such is the Lotus. It is the flower sacred to Nature and her Gods, and represents the Abstract and the Concrete Universes, standing as the emblem of the productive powers of both Spiritual and Physical Nature. It was held as sacred from the remotest antiquity by the ryan Hindûs, the Egyptians, and by the Buddhists after them. It was revered in China and Japan, and adopted as a Christian emblem by the Greek and Latin Churches, who made of it a messenger, as do now the Christians, who have replaced it with the water-lily.
In the Christian religion, in every picture of the Annunciation, Gabriel, the Archangel, appears to the Virgin Mary, holding in his hand a spray of water-lilies. This spray, typifying Fire and Water, or the idea of creation and generation, symbolizes precisely the same idea as the Lotus, in the hand of the Bodhisattva who announces to Mahâ-Mâyâ, Gautama's mother, the birth of Buddha, the world's Saviour. Thus also, were Osiris and Horus constantly represented by the Egyptians in association with the Lotus-flower, both being Sun-Gods or Gods of Fire; just as the Holy Ghost is still typified by “tongues of fire,” in the Acts.
It had, and still has, its mystic meaning, which is identical in every nation on earth. We refer the reader to Sir William Jones.612 With the Hindûs, the Lotus is the emblem of the productive power of Nature, through the agency of Fire and Water, or Spirit and Matter. “O Thou Eternal! I see Brahm, the Creator, enthroned in thee above the Lotus!” says a verse in the Bhagavad Gîtâ. And Sir W. Jones shows, as already noted in the Stanzas, that the seeds of the Lotus, even before they germinate, contain perfectly-formed leaves, the miniature shapes of what they will become one day, as perfected plants. The Lotus, in India, is the symbol of prolific Earth and, what is more, of Mount Meru. The four Angels or Genii of the four quarters of Heaven, the Mahârâjahs of the Stanzas, stand each on a Lotus. The Lotus is the two-fold type of the Divine and Human Hermaphrodite, being so to say, of dual sex.
With the Hindûs, the Spirit of Fire or Heat—which stirs up, fructifies, and develops into concrete form, from its ideal prototype, everything which is born of Water, or Primordial Earth—evolved Brahmâ. The Lotus-flower, represented as growing out of Vishnu's navel, the God who rests in the Waters of Space on the Serpent of Infinity, is the most graphic symbol ever yet made. It is the Universe evolving from the Central Sun, the Point, the ever-concealed Germ. Lakshmî, who is the female aspect of Vishnu, and who is also called Padma, the Lotus, in the Râmâyana, is likewise shown floating on a Lotus-flower, at the “Creation,” and during the “Churning of the Ocean” of Space, as also springing from the “Sea of Milk,” like Venus-Aphrodite from the Foam of the Ocean.
... Then, seated on a lotus,
Beauty's bright Goddess, peerless Shrî, arose
Out of the waves ...
sings an English Orientalist and poet, Sir Monier Williams.
The underlying idea, in this symbol, is very beautiful, and, furthermore, shows an identical parentage in all the religious systems. Whether as the Lotus or water-lily, it signifies one and the same philosophical idea; namely, the Emanation of the Objective from the Subjective, Divine Ideation passing from the abstract into the concrete, or visible form. For, as soon as Darkness, or rather that which is “Darkness” for ignorance, has disappeared in its own realm of Eternal Light, leaving behind itself only its Divine Manifested Ideation, the Creative Logoi have their understanding opened, and they see in the Ideal World, hitherto concealed in the Divine Thought, the archetypal forms of all, and proceed to copy and build, or fashion, upon these models, forms evanescent and transcendent.
At this stage of Action, the Demiurge is not yet the Architect.
Born in the Twilight of Action, he has yet to first perceive the Plan, to realize the Ideal Forms, which lie buried in the Bosom of Eternal Ideation, just as the future lotus-leaves, the immaculate petals, are concealed within the seed of that plant.
In Esoteric Philosophy the Demiurge, or Logos, regarded as the Creator, is simply an abstract term, an idea, like the word “army.” As the latter is the all-embracing term for a body of active forces, or working units—soldiers, so is the Demiurge the qualitative compound of a multitude of Creators or Builders. Burnouf, the great Orientalist, seized the idea perfectly, when he said that Brahmâ does not create the Earth, any more than the rest of the Universe.
Having evolved himself from the Soul of the World, once separated from the First Cause, he evaporates with, and emanates, all Nature out of himself. He does not stand above it, but is mixed up with it; Brahmâ and the Universe form one Being, each particle of which is in its essence Brahmâ himself, who proceeded out of himself.
In a chapter of the Book of the Dead, called “Transformation into the Lotus,” the God, figured as a head emerging from this flower, exclaims:
I am the pure Lotus, emerging from the Luminous Ones.... I carry the messages of Horus. I am the pure Lotus which comes from the Solar Fields.613
The lotus-idea may be traced even in the Elohistic first chapter of Genesis, as stated in Isis Unveiled. It is to this idea that we must look for the origin and explanation of the verse in the Jewish Cosmogony which reads: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth ... the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself.”614 In all the primitive religions, the Creative God is the “Son of the Father,” that is to say, his Thought made visible; and before the Christian era, from the Trimûrti of the Hindûs down to the three Kabalistic Heads of the scriptures, as explained by the Jews, the Triune Godhead of each nation was fully defined and substantiated, in its allegories.
Such is the cosmic and ideal significance of this great symbol with the Eastern peoples. But when applied to practical and exoteric worship, which had also its esoteric symbology, the Lotus, in time, became the carrier and container of a more terrestrial idea. No dogmatic religion has ever escaped having the sexual element in it; and to this day it soils the moral beauty of the root idea of symbology. The following is quoted from the same Kabalistic MS. which we have already cited on several occasions:
Pointing to like signification was the Lotus growing in the waters of the Nile. Its mode of growth peculiarly fitted it as a symbol of the generative activities. The flower of the Lotus, which is the bearer of the seed for reproduction, as the result of its maturing, is connected by its placenta-like attachment to mother-earth, or the womb of Isis, through the water of the womb, that is, the river Nile, by the long cord-like stalk, the umbilicus. Nothing can be plainer than the symbol, and to make it perfect in its intended signification, a child is sometimes represented as seated in or issuing from the flower.615 Thus Osiris and Isis, the children of Cronus, or time without end, in the development of their nature-forces, in this picture become the parents of man under the name Horus.
We cannot lay too great stress upon the use of this generative function as a basis for a symbolical language, and a scientific art-speech. Thought upon the idea leads at once to reflection upon the subject of creative cause. In its workings Nature is observed to have fashioned a wonderful piece of living mechanism, governed by an added living soul; the life development and history of which soul, as to its whence, its present, and its whither, surpass all efforts of the human intellect.616 The new-born is an ever-recurring miracle, an evidence that within the workshop of the womb an intelligent creative power has intervened to fasten a living soul to a physical machine. The amazing wonderfulness of the fact attaches a holy sacredness to all connected with the organs of reproduction, as the dwelling and place of evident constructive intervention of deity.
This is a correct rendering of the underlying ideas of old, of the purely pantheistic conceptions, impersonal and reverential, of the archaic philosophers of the prehistoric ages. It is not so, however, when applied to sinful humanity, to the gross ideas attached to personality. Therefore, no pantheistic philosopher would fail to find the remarks that follow the above, and which represent the anthropomorphism of Judean symbology, other than dangerous for the sacredness of true religion, and fitting only for our materialistic age, which is the direct outcome and result of that anthropomorphic character. For this is the key-note to the entire spirit and essence of the Old Testament, as the MS. states, treating of the symbolism of the art-speech of the Bible:
Therefore the locality of the womb is to be taken as the Most Holy Place, the Sanctum Sanctorum, and the veritable Temple of the Living God.617 With man, the possession of the woman has always been considered as an essential part of himself, to make one out of two, and jealously guarded as sacred. Even the part of the ordinary house or home consecrated to the dwelling of the wife was called the penetralia, the secret or sacred, and hence the metaphor of the Holy of Holies, of sacred constructions taken from the idea of the sacredness of the organs of generation. Carried to the extreme of description618 by metaphor, this part of the house is described in the Sacred Books as the “between the thighs of the house,”and sometimes the idea is carried out constructively in the great door-opening of Churches placed inward between flanking buttresses.
No such thought, “carried to the extreme,” ever existed among the old primitive ryans. This is proven by the fact that, in the Vedic period, their women were not placed apart from men in penetralia, or Zenanas. This seclusion began when the Mahommedans—the next heirs to Hebrew symbolism, after Christian ecclesiasticism—had conquered the land and gradually enforced their ways and customs upon the Hindûs. The pre- and post-Vedic woman was as free as man; and no impure terrestrial thought was ever mixed with the religious symbology of the early ryans. The idea and application are purely Semitic. This is corroborated by the writer of the said intensely learned and Kabalistic revelation, when he closes the above-quoted passages by adding:
If to these organs as symbols of creative cosmic agencies the idea of the origin of measures as well as of time-periods can be attached, then indeed, in the constructions of the Temples as Dwellings of Deity, or of Jehovah, that part designated as the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place, should borrow its title from the recognized sacredness of the generative organs, considered as symbols of measures as well as of creative cause. With the ancient wise, there was no name, and no idea, and no symbol of a First Cause.
Most decidedly not. Rather never give a thought to it and leave it for ever nameless, as the early Pantheists did, than degrade the sacredness of that Ideal of Ideals, by dragging down its symbols into such anthropomorphic forms! Here again one perceives the immense chasm between ryan and Semitic religious thought, the two opposite poles, Sincerity and Concealment. With the Brâhmans, who have never invested the natural procreative functions of mankind with an “original sin” element, it is a religious duty to have a son. A Brâhman, in days of old, having accomplished his mission of human creator, retired to the jungle, and passed the rest of his days in religious meditation. He had accomplished his duty to nature, as mortal man and its co-worker, and henceforth gave all his thoughts to the spiritual and immortal portion of himself, regarding the terrestrial as a mere illusion, an evanescent dream—which, indeed it is. With the Semite, it was different. He invented a temptation of flesh in a garden of Eden, and showed his God—esoterically, the Tempter and the Ruler of Nature—cursing for ever an act, which was in the logical programme of that Nature.619 All this exoterically, as in the cloak and dead-letter of Genesis and the rest. At the same time, esoterically, he regarded the supposed sin and fall as an act so sacred, as to choose the organ, the perpetrator of the original sin, as the fittest and most sacred symbol to represent that God, who is shown as branding its entering into function as disobedience and everlasting sin!
Who can ever fathom the paradoxical depths of the Semitic mind! And this paradoxical element, minus its innermost significance, has now passed entirely into Christian theology and dogma!
Whether the early Fathers of the Church knew the esoteric meaning of the Hebrew Testament, or whether only a few of them were aware of it, while the others remained ignorant of the secret, is for posterity to decide. One thing, at any rate, is certain. As the Esotericism of the New Testament agrees perfectly with that of the Hebrew Mosaic Books; and since, at the same time, a number of purely Egyptian symbols and Pagan dogmas in general—the Trinity, for example—have been copied by, and incorporated into, the Synoptics and St. John, it becomes evident that the identity of those symbols was known to the writers of the New Testament, whoever they may have been. They must have been also aware of the priority of the Egyptian Esotericism, since they have adopted several symbols which typify purely Egyptian conceptions and beliefs, in their outward and inward meaning, and which are not to be found in the Jewish Canon. One of these is the water-lily in the hands of the Archangel, in the early representations of his appearance to the Virgin Mary; and these symbolical images are preserved to this day in the iconography of the Greek and Roman Churches. Thus Water, Fire and the Cross, as well as the Dove, the Lamb and other Sacred Animals, with all their combinations, esoterically yield an identical meaning, and must have been accepted as an improvement upon Judaism pure and simple.
For the Lotus and Water are among the oldest symbols, and in their origin are purely ryan, though they became common property during the branching off of the Fifth Race. To give an example; letters, as well as numbers, were all mystic, whether in combination, or taken separately. The most sacred of all is the letter M. It is both feminine and masculine, or androgyne, and is made to symbolize Water in its origin, the Great Deep. It is a mystic letter in all languages, Eastern and Western, and stands as a glyph for the waves, thus [three triangles]. In the ryan Esotericism, as in the Semitic, this letter has always stood for the Waters. In Sanskrit, for instance, Makara, the tenth sign of the Zodiac, means a Crocodile, or rather an aquatic monster associated always with Water. The letter Ma is equivalent to, and corresponds with, the number 5, which is composed of a Binary, the symbol of the two sexes separated, and of the Ternary, the symbol of the Third Life, the progeny of the Binary. This, again, is often symbolized by a Pentagon, the latter being a sacred sign, a divine Monogram. Maitreya is the secret name of the Fifth Buddha, and the Kalkî Avatâra of the Brâhmans, the last Messiah who will come at the culmination of the Great Cycle. It is also the initial letter of the Greek Metis, or Divine Wisdom; of Mimra, the Word, or Logos; and of Mithras, the Mihr, the Monad Mystery. All these are born in, and from, the Great Deep, and are the Sons of Mâyâ, the “Mother”; in Egypt, Moot; in Greece, Minerva, Divine Wisdom; of Mary, or Miriam, Myrrha, etc., the Mother of the Christian Logos; and of Mâyâ, the Mother of Buddha. Mâdhava and Mâdhavî are the titles of the most important Gods and Goddesses of the Hindû Pantheon. Finally, Mandala is, in Sanskrit, a “Circle,” or an Orb, also the ten divisions of the Rig Veda. The most sacred names in India generally begin with this letter, from Mahat, the first manifested Intellect, and Mandara, the great mountain used by the Gods to churn the Ocean, down to Mandâkinî, the heavenly Gangâ, or Ganges, Manu, etc., etc.
Will this be called a coincidence? A strange one is it then, indeed, when we see even Moses, found in the Water of the Nile, with the symbolical consonant in his name. And Pharaoh's daughter “called his name Moses; and she said, Because I drew him out of the Water.”620 Besides which, the Hebrew sacred name of God, applied to this letter M, is Meborach, the “Holy” or the “Blessed,” and the name for the Water of the Flood is Mbul. A reminder of the “Three Maries” at the Crucifixion, and their connection with Mare, the Sea, or Water, may close these examples. This is why, in Judaism and Christianity, the Messiah is always connected with Water, Baptism; and also with the Fishes, the sign of the Zodiac called Mînam in Sanskrit, and even with the Matsya (Fish) Avatâra, and the Lotus, the symbol of the womb, or with the water-lily, which has the same signification.
In the relics of ancient Egypt, the greater the antiquity of the votive symbols and emblems of the objects exhumed, the oftener are Lotus-flowers and Water found in connection with the Solar Gods. The God Khnoom, the Moist Power, or Water, as Thales taught, being the principle of all things, sits on a throne enshrined in a Lotus. The God Bes stands on a Lotus, ready to devour his progeny. Thot, the God of Mystery and Wisdom, the sacred Scribe of Amenti, wearing the solar disk as head gear, sits with a bull's head—the sacred bull of Mendes being a form of Thot—and a human body, on a full blown Lotus. Finally, it is the Goddess Hiqit, under her shape of a frog, who rests on the Lotus, thus showing her connection with water. And it is from the unpoetical shape of this frog-symbol, undeniably the glyph of the most ancient of the Egyptian Deities, that the Egyptologists have been vainly trying to unravel the mystery and functions of the Goddess. Its adoption in the Church, by the early Christians, shows that they knew it better than our modern Orientalists. The “frog or toad Goddess” was one of the chief Cosmic Deities connected with Creation, on account of this animal's amphibious nature, and chiefly because of its apparent resurrection, after long ages of solitary life, enshrined in old walls, in rocks, etc. She not only participated in the organization of the World, together with Khnoom, but was also connected with the dogma of resurrection.621 There must have been some very profound and sacred meaning attached to this symbol, since, notwithstanding the risk of being charged with a disgusting form of zoölatry, the early Egyptian Christians adopted it in their Churches. A frog or toad, enshrined in a Lotus-flower, or simply without the latter emblem, was the form chosen for the Church-lamps, on which were engraved the words, “?γ? ε?μι ?ναστ?σις”—I am the resurrection.622 These frog-Goddesses are also found on all the mummies.
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