Whence this universal symbol? The Egg was incorporated as a sacred sign in the Cosmogony of every people on the earth, and was revered both on account of its form and of its inner mystery. From the earliest mental conceptions of man, it has been known as that which represented most successfully the origin and secret of Being. The gradual development of the imperceptible germ within the closed shell; the inward working, without any apparent outward interference of force, which from a latent nothing produced an active something, needing naught save heat; and which, having gradually evolved into a concrete, living creature, broke its shell, appearing to the outward senses of all as a self-generated and self-created being; all this must have been a standing miracle from the beginning.
The Secret Teaching explains the reason for this reverence by the symbolism of the prehistoric races. In the beginnings, the “First Cause” had no name. Later it was pictured in the fancy of the thinkers as an ever invisible, mysterious Bird that dropped an Egg into Chaos, which Egg became the Universe. Hence Brahmâ was called Kâlahansa, the “Swan in [Space and] Time.” Becoming the Swan of Eternity, Brahmâ, at the beginning of each Mahâmanvantara, lays a Golden Egg, which typifies the great Circle, or [circle] itself a symbol for the Universe and its spherical bodies.
A second reason for the Egg having been chosen as the symbolical representation of the Universe, and of our Earth, was its form. It was a Circle and a Sphere; and the ovi-form shape of our Globe must have been known from the beginning of symbology, since it was so universally adopted. The first manifestation of the Kosmos in the form of an Egg was the most widely diffused belief of Antiquity. As Bryant shows,552 it was a symbol adopted among the Greeks, the Syrians, Persians, and Egyptians. In the Egyptian Ritual, Seb, the God of Time and of the Earth, is spoken of as having laid an Egg, or the Universe, an “Egg conceived at the hour of the Great One of the Dual Force.”553
Ra is shown like Brahmâ gestating in the Egg of the Universe. The Deceased is “resplendent in the Egg of the Land of Mysteries.”554 For, this is “the Egg to which is given Life among the Gods.”555 “It is the Egg of the great clucking Hen, the Egg of Seb, who issues from it like a hawk.”556
Among the Greeks the Orphic Egg is described by Aristophanes, and was part of the Dionysiac and other Mysteries, during which the Mundane Egg was consecrated and its significance explained; Porphyry also shows it to be a representation of the world: “?ρμηνε?ει δ? τ? ??ν τ?ν κ?σμον.” Faber and Bryant have tried to show that the Egg typified the Ark of Noah—a wild belief, unless the latter is accepted as purely allegorical and symbolical. It can only have typified the Ark as a synonym of the Moon, the Argha which carries the universal seed of life; but had surely nothing to do with the Ark of the Bible. Anyhow, the belief that the Universe existed in the beginning in the shape of an Egg was general. And as Wilson says:
A similar account of the first aggregation of the elements in the form of an Egg is given in all the Purânas, with the usual epithet Haima or Hiranya, “golden,” as it occurs in Manu, I. 9.557
Hiranya, however, means “resplendent,” “shining,” rather than “golden,” as is proven by the great Indian scholar, the late Svâmi Dayanand Sarasvatî, in his unpublished polemics with Professor Max Müller. As said in the Vishnu Purâna:
Intellect [Mahat] ... the [unmanifested] gross elements inclusive, formed an Egg ... and the Lord of the Universe himself abided in it, in the character of Brahmâ. In that Egg, O Brâhmana, were the continents, and seas and mountains, the planets and divisions of the planets, the gods, the demons and mankind.558
Both in Greece and in India the first visible male Being, who united in himself the nature of either sex, abode in the Egg and issued from it. This “First-born of the World” was Dionysus, with some Greeks; the God who sprang from the Mundane Egg, and from whom the Mortals and Immortals were derived. The God Ra is shown, in the Book of the Dead, beaming in his Egg [the Sun], and the stars off as soon as the God Shoo [the Solar Energy] awakens and gives him the impulse.559 “He is in the Solar Egg, the Egg to which is given Life among the Gods.”560 The Solar God exclaims: “I am the Creative Soul of the Celestial Abyss. None sees my Nest, none can break my Egg, I am the Lord!”561
In view of this circular form, the “[vertical bar]” issuing from the “[circle],” or the Egg, or the male from the female in the androgyne, it is strange to find a scholar saying, on the ground that the most ancient Indian MSS. show no trace of it, that the ancient ryans were ignorant of the decimal notation. The 10, being the sacred number of the Universe, was secret and esoteric, both as regards the unit and cipher, or zero, the circle. Moreover, Professor Max Müller tells that “the two words cipher and zero, which are but one, are sufficient to prove that our figures are borrowed from the Arabs.”562 Cipher is the Arabic cifron, and means “empty,” a translation of the Sanskrit sunyan, or “nought,” says the Professor.563 The Arabs had their figures from Hindûstan, and never claimed the discovery for themselves. As to the Pythagoreans, we need but turn to the ancient manuscripts of Boethius' treatise, De Arithmetica, composed in the sixth century, to find among the Pythagorean numerals the “1” and the “0,” as the first and final figures.564 And Porphyry, who quotes from the Pythagorean Moderatus,565 says that the numerals of Pythagoras were “hieroglyphical symbols, by means whereof he explained ideas concerning the nature of things,” or the origin of the Universe.
Now, if, on the one hand, the most ancient Indian MSS. show as yet no trace of decimal notation in them, and Max Müller states very clearly that until now he has found but nine letters, the initials of the Sanskrit numerals; on the other hand, we have records as ancient, to supply the wanted proof. We speak of the sculptures and the sacred imagery in the most ancient temples of the far East. Pythagoras derived his knowledge from India; and we find Professor Max Müller corroborating this statement, at least so far as to allow that the Neo-Pythagoreans were the first teachers of “ciphering,” among the Greeks and Romans; that they “at Alexandria, or in Syria, became acquainted with the Indian figures, and adapted them to the Pythagorean Abacus.” This cautious admission implies that Pythagoras himself was acquainted with only nine figures. Thus we might reasonably answer that, although we possess no certain proof, exoterically, that the decimal notation was known to Pythagoras, who lived at the very close of the archaic ages,566 yet we have sufficient evidence to show that the full numbers, as given by Boethius, were known to the Pythagoreans, even before Alexandria was built.567 This evidence we find in Aristotle, who says that “some philosophers hold that ideas and numbers are of the same nature, and amount to ten in all.”568 This, we believe, will be sufficient to show that the decimal notation was known among them at least as early as four centuries b.c., for Aristotle does not seem to treat the question as an innovation of the Neo-Pythagoreans.
But we know more than this; we know that the decimal system must have been used by the mankind of the earliest archaic ages, since the whole astronomical and geometrical portion of the secret sacerdotal language was built upon the number 10, or the combination of the male and female principles, and since the “Pyramid of Cheops,” so-called, is built upon measures of this decimal notation, or rather upon the digits and their combinations with the nought. Of this, however, sufficient has been said in Isis Unveiled, and it is useless to repeat it.
The symbolism of the Lunar and Solar Deities is so inextricably mixed up, that it is next to impossible to separate from each other such glyphs as the Egg, the Lotus, and the “Sacred” Animals. The Ibis, for instance, was held in the greatest veneration in Egypt. It was sacred to Isis, who is often represented with the head of that bird, and also sacred to Mercury or Thoth, who is said to have assumed its form while escaping from Typhon. There were two kinds of Ibises in Egypt, Herodotus569 tells us; one quite black, the other black and white. The former is credited with fighting and exterminating the winged serpents which came every spring from Arabia, and infested the country.
The other was sacred to the Moon, because the latter planet is white and brilliant on her external side, dark and black on that side which she never turns to the Earth. Moreover, the Ibis kills land serpents, and makes the most terrible havoc amongst the eggs of the crocodile, and thus saves Egypt from having the Nile over-infested by those horrible saurians. The bird is credited with doing this in the moonlight, and thus being helped by Isis, whose sidereal symbol is the Moon. But the more correct esoteric truth underlying these popular myths is, that Hermes, as shown by Abenephius,570 watched over the Egyptians under the form of that bird, and taught them the Occult arts and sciences. This simply means that the ibis religiosa had, and has, “magical” properties in common with many other birds, the albatross preëminently, and the mythical white swan, the Swan of Eternity or Time, the Kâlahansa.
Were it otherwise, indeed, why should all the ancient peoples, who were no more fools than we are, have had such a superstitious dread of killing certain birds? In Egypt, he who killed an Ibis, or the Golden Hawk, the symbol of the Sun and Osiris, risked death, and could hardly escape it. The veneration of some nations for birds was such that Zoroaster, in his precepts, forbids their slaughter as a heinous crime. In our age, we laugh at every kind of divination. Yet why should so many generations have believed in divination by birds, and even in Oömancy, which is said by Suidas to have been imparted by Orpheus, who taught how, under certain conditions, to perceive in the yolk and white of an egg, that which the bird born from it would have seen around it during its short life. This Occult art, which, 3,000 years ago, demanded the greatest learning and the most abstruse mathematical calculations, has now fallen into the depths of degradation; and to-day it is the old cooks and fortune-tellers who read the future for servant-girls in search of husbands, from the white of an egg in a glass.
Nevertheless, even Christians have to this day their sacred birds; for instance, the Dove, the symbol of the Holy Ghost. Nor have they neglected the sacred animals; and the evangelical zoölatry, with its Bull, Eagle, Dion, and Angel—in reality the Cherub, or Seraph, the fiery-winged Serpent—is as much Pagan as that of the Egyptians or the Chaldeans. These four animals are, in reality, the symbols of the four Elements, and of the four lower Principles in man. Nevertheless, they correspond physically and materially to the four constellations that form, so to speak, the suite or cortège of the Solar God, and which, during the winter solstice, occupy the four cardinal points of the zodiacal circle. These four “animals” may be seen in many of the Roman Catholic New Testaments in which the “portraits” of the Evangelists are given. They are the animals of Ezekiel's Mercabah.
As truly stated by Ragon:
The ancient Hierophants have combined so cleverly the dogmas and symbols of their religious philosophies, that these symbols can be fully explained only by the combination and knowledge of all the keys.
They can be only approximately interpreted, even if one discovers three out of these seven systems, viz., the anthropological, the psychic and the astronomical. The two chief interpretations, the highest and the lowest, the spiritual and the physiological, were preserved in the greatest secrecy, until the latter fell into the dominion of the profane. Thus far, with regard only to the pre-historic Hierophants, with whom that which has now become purely—or impurely—phallic, was a science as profound and as mysterious as Biology and Physiology are now. This was their exclusive property, the fruit of their studies and discoveries. The other two were those which dealt with the Creative Gods, or Theogony, and with creative man; that is to say, with the ideal and the practical Mysteries. These interpretations were so cleverly veiled and combined, that many were those who, while arriving at the discovery of one meaning, were baffled in understanding the significance of the others, and could never unriddle them sufficiently to commit dangerous indiscretions. The highest, the first and the fourth—Theogony in relation to Anthropogony—were almost impossible to fathom. We find the proofs of this in the Jewish “Holy Writ.”
It is owing to the serpent being oviparous, that it became a symbol of Wisdom and an emblem of the Logoi, or the Self-Born. In the temple of Philæ, in Upper Egypt, an egg was artificially prepared of clay mixed with various incenses. This was hatched by a peculiar process, and a cerastes or horned viper was produced. The same was done in the Indian temples, in antiquity, in the case of the cobra. The Creative God emerges from the Egg that issues from the mouth of Kneph, as a winged Serpent, for the Serpent is the symbol of the All-Wisdom. With the Hebrews the same Deity is glyphed by the Flying or “Fiery Serpents” of Moses in the Wilderness; and with the Alexandrian Mystic she becomes the Orphio-Christos, the Logos of the Gnostics.
The Protestants try to show that the allegory of the Brazen Serpent and of the Fiery Serpents has a direct reference to the mystery of the Christ and the Crucifixion, whereas, in truth, it has a far nearer relation to the mystery of generation, when dissociated from the Egg with the Central Germ, or the Circle with its Central Point. Protestant Theologians would have us believe their interpretation only because the Brazen Serpent was lifted on a pole! Whereas it had rather a reference to the Egyptian Egg standing upright supported by the sacred Tau; since the Egg and the Serpent are in-separable in the old worship and symbology of Egypt, and since both the Brazen and Fiery Serpents were Seraphs, the burning “Fiery” Messengers, or the Serpent Gods, the Nâgas of India. Without the Egg it was a purely phallic symbol, but when associated therewith, it related to cosmic creation. The Brazen Serpent had no such holy meaning as the Protestants would ascribe to it; nor was it, in fact, glorified above the Fiery Serpents, for the bite of which it was only a natural remedy; the symbological meaning of the word “Brazen” being the feminine principle, and that of “Fiery,” or “Gold,” the masculine principle.
Brass was a metal symbolizing the nether world ... that of the womb where life should be given.... The word for serpent in Hebrew was Nachash, but this is also the term for brass.
It is said in Numbers that the Jews complained of the Wilderness where there was no water,571 after which “the Lord sent fiery serpents” to bite them, and then, to oblige Moses, he gave him as a remedy the Brazen Serpent on a pole for them to look at; after which “any man when he beheld the serpent of brass ... lived” (?). After that the “Lord,” gathering the people together at the well of Beer, gave them water, and grateful Israel sang this song, “Spring up, O well.” When, after studying symbology, the Christian reader comes to understand the innermost meaning of these three symbols, Water, Brazen, and Serpent, and a few more, in the sense given to them in the Holy Bible, he will hardly like to connect the sacred name of his Saviour with the Brazen Serpent incident. The Seraphim (?????) or Fiery Winged Serpents, are no doubt connected with, and inseparable from, the idea of the “Serpent of Eternity—God,” as explained in Kenealy's Apocalypse; but the word Cherub also meant Serpent, in one sense, though its direct meaning is different, for the Cherubim and the Persian Winged Griffins (Γρ?πες), the guardians of the Golden Mountain, are the same, and the compound name of the former shows their character, as it is formed of kr (??), a circle, and aub or ob (???), a serpent, and therefore means a “serpent in a circle.” And this settles the phallic character of the Brazen Serpent, and justifies Hezekiah for breaking it.572 Verbum satis sapienti!
In the Book of the Dead, as just shown,573 reference is often made to the Egg. Ra, the Mighty One, remains in his Egg, during the struggle between the “Children of the Rebellion” and Shoo, the Solar Energy and the Dragon of Darkness. The Deceased is resplendent in his Egg when he crosses to the Land of Mystery. He is the Egg of Seb. The Egg was the symbol of Life in Immortality and Eternity; and also the glyph of the generative matrix; whereas the Tau, which was associated with it, was only the symbol of life and birth in generation. The Mundane Egg was placed in Khoom, the Water of Space, or the feminine abstract Principle; Khoom becoming, with the “fall” of mankind into generation and phallicism, Ammon the Creative God. When Ptah, the “Fiery God,” carries the Mundane Egg in his hand, then the symbolism becomes quite terrestrial and concrete in its significance. In conjunction with the Hawk, the symbol of Osiris-Sun, the symbol is dual, and relates to both Lives—the mortal and the immortal. The engraving of a papyrus in Kircher's Œdipus Egyptiacus,574 shows an egg floating above the mummy. This is the symbol of hope and the promise of a Second Birth for the Osirified Dead; his Soul, after due purification in the Amenti, will gestate in this Egg of Immortality, to be reborn therefrom into a new life on earth. For this Egg, in the Esoteric Doctrine, is Devachan, the Abode of Bliss; the Winged Scarabæus also being another symbol of it. The Winged Globe is but another form of the Egg, and has the same significance as the Scarabæus, the Khopiroo—from the Root khoproo, to become, to be reborn—which relates to the rebirth of man, as well as to his spiritual regeneration.
In the Theogony of Mochus, we find Æther first, and then Air, the two principles from which Ulom, the Intelligible (Νοητ?ς) Deity, the visible Universe of Matter, is born, out of the Mundane Egg.575
In the Orphic Hymns, Eros-Phanes evolves from the Divine Egg, which the Æthereal Winds impregnate, Wind being the “Spirit of God,” or rather the “Spirit of the Unknown Darkness”—the Divine Idea of Plato—which is said to move in Æther.576 In the Hindû Kathopanishad, Purusha, the Divine Spirit, already stands before the Original Matter, “from whose union springs the Great Soul of the World,” Mahâ- tmâ, Brahmâ, the Spirit of Life,577 etc.; the latter appellations being all identical with Anima Mundi, or the “Universal Soul,” the Astral Light of the Kabalist and the Occultist, or the “Egg of Darkness.” Besides this there are many charming allegories on this subject, scattered through the Sacred Books of the Brâhmans. In one place, it is the female creator who is first a germ, then a drop of heavenly dew, a pearl, and then an Egg. In such cases, of which there are too many to enumerate separately, the Egg gives birth to the four Elements within the fifth, Æther, and is covered with seven coverings, which become later on the seven upper and the seven lower worlds. Breaking in two, the shell becomes the Heaven, and the contents the Earth, the white forming the Terrestrial Waters. Then, again, it is Vishnu who emerges from within the Egg, with a Lotus in his hand. Vinatâ, a daughter of Daksha and wife of Kashyapa, “the Self-born, sprung from Time,” one of the seven “Creators” of our World, brought forth an Egg from which was born Garuda, the Vehicle of Vishnu; the latter allegory having a relation to our Earth, as Garuda is the Great Cycle.
The Egg was sacred to Isis; and therefore the priests of Egypt never ate eggs.
Isis is almost always represented holding a Lotus in one hand, and in the other a Circle and a Cross (crux ansata).
Diodorus Siculus states that Osiris was born from an Egg, like Brahmâ. From Leda's Egg, Apollo and Latona were born, and also Castor and Pollux, the bright Gemini. And though the Buddhists do not attribute the same origin to their Founder, yet, no more than the ancient Egyptians or the modern Brâhmans, do they eat eggs, lest they should destroy the germ of life latent in them, and thereby commit sin. The Chinese believe that their First Man was born from an Egg, which Tien dropped down from Heaven to Earth into the Waters.578 This egg-symbol is still regarded by some as representing the idea of the origin of life, which is a scientific truth, though the human ovum is invisible to the naked eye. Therefore we see respect shown to it from the remotest antiquity, by the Greeks, Phœnicians, Romans, the Japanese, and the Siamese, the North and South American tribes, and even the savages of the remotest islands.
With the Egyptians, the Concealed God was Ammon or Mon, the “Hidden”, the Supreme Spirit. All their Gods were dual—the scientific Reality for the sanctuary; its double, the fabulous and mythical Entity, for the masses. For instance, as observed in the Section “Chaos, Theos, Kosmos,” the Elder Horus was the Idea of the World remaining in the Demiurgic Mind, “born in Darkness before the Creation of the World”; the Second Horus was the same Idea going forth from the Logos, becoming clothed with matter and assuming an actual existence.579 Horus, the “Elder,” or Haroiri, is an ancient aspect of the Solar God, contemporary with Ra and Shoo; Haroiri is often mistaken for Hor (Horsusi), Son of Osiris and Isis. The Egyptians very often represented the rising Sun under the form of Hor, the Elder, rising from a full-blown Lotus, the Universe, when the solar disk is always found on the hawk-head of that God. Haroiri is Khnoom. The same with Khnoom and Ammon, both are represented as ram-headed, and both are often confused, though their functions are different. Khnoom is the “modeller of men,” fashioning men and things out of the Mundane Egg, on a potter's wheel; Ammon-Ra, the Generator, is the secondary aspect of the Concealed Deity. Khnoom was adored at Elephanta and Philæ,580 Ammon at Thebes. But it is Emepht, the One, Supreme Planetary Principle, who blows the Egg out of his mouth, and who is, therefore, Brahmâ. The Shadow of the Deity, Kosmic and Universal, of that which broods over and permeates the Egg with its vivifying Spirit, until the Germ contained in it is ripe, was the Mystery God whose name was unpronounceable. It is Ptah, however, “he who opens,” the opener of Life and Death,581 who proceeds from the Egg of the World to begin his dual work.582
According to the Greeks, the phantom form of the Chemis (Chemi, ancient Egypt) which floats on the Ethereal Waves of the Empyrean Sphere, was called into being by Horus-Apollo, the Sun-God, who caused it to evolve out of the Mundane Egg.
The Brahmânda Purâna contains fully the mystery about Brahmâ's Golden Egg; and this is why, perhaps, it is inaccessible to the Orientalists, who say that this Purâna, like the Skanda, is “no longer procurable in a collective body,” but “is represented by a variety of Khandas and Mâhâtmyas professing to be derived from it.” The Brahmânda Purâna is described as “that which has declared in 12,200 verses, the magnificence of the Egg of Brahmâ, and in which an account of the future Kalpas is contained, as revealed by Brahmâ.”583 Quite so, and much more, perchance.
In the Scandinavian Cosmogony, placed by Professor Max Müller, in point of time, as “far anterior to the Vedas,” in the poem of Wöluspa, the Song of the Prophetess, the Mundane Egg is again discovered in the Phantom-Germ of the Universe, which is represented as lying in the Ginnungagap, the Cup of Illusion, Mâyâ, the Boundless and Void Abyss. In this World's Matrix, formerly a region of night and desolation, Nefelheim, the Mist-Place, the nebular, as it is called now, in the Astral Light, dropped a Ray of Cold Light which overflowed this cup and froze in it. Then the Invisible blew a scorching Wind which dissolved the frozen Waters and cleared the Mist. These Waters (Chaos), called the Streams of Eliwagar, distilling in vivifying drops, fell down and created the Earth and the Giant Ymir, who had only the “semblance of man” (the Heavenly Man), and the Cow, Audumla (the “Mother,” Astral Light or Cosmic Soul), from whose udder flowed four streams of milk—the four cardinal points; the four heads of the four rivers of Eden, etc.—which “four” are symbolized by the Cube in all its various and mystical meanings.
The Christians—especially the Greek and Latin Churches—have fully adopted the symbol, and see in it a commemoration of life eternal, of salvation and of resurrection. This is found in, and corroborated by, the time-honoured custom of exchanging “Easter Eggs.” From the Anguinum, the “Egg” of the Pagan Druid, whose name alone made Rome tremble with fear, to the red Easter Egg of the Slavonian peasant, a cycle has passed. And yet, whether in civilized Europe, or among the abject savages of Central America, we find the same archaic, primitive thought, if we will only search for it, and do not—in the haughtiness of our fancied mental and physical superiority—disfigure the original idea of the symbol.
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