The Project Gutenberg EBook of Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism, by Thomas Inman and John Newton This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism With an Essay on Baal Worship, On The Assyrian Sacred "Grove," And Other Author: Thomas Inman John Newton Release Date: January 3, 2012 [EBook #38485] Last Updated: November 17, 2012 Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK PAGAN AND MODERN SYMBOLISM *** Produced by David Widger
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ANCIENT PAGAN AND MODERN CHRISTIAN SYMBOLISM.
By Thomas Inman, M.D.
Consulting Physician To The Royal Infirmary, Liverpool; Late Lecturer Successively On Botany, Medical Jurisprudence, Materia Medica And Therapeutics, And The Principles And Practice Of Medicine, Etc.; In The Liverpool School Of Medicine; Author Of "Foundation For A New Theory And Practice Of Medicine;" A "Treatise On Myalgia;" "On The Real Nature Of Inflammation," "Atheroma In Arteries," "The Preservation Of Health," "The Restoration Of Health," "Ancient Faiths Embodied In Ancient Names,"
Revised And Enlarged,
WITH AN ESSAY ON BAAL WORSHIP, ON THE ASSYRIAN SACRED "GROVE," AND OTHER ALLIED SYMBOLS.
By John Newton, M.R.C.S.E., Etc.
* "even so will I do likewise."
Many a Brahmin has uttered prayers in a language to him unintelligible; and many a Christian uses words in his devotions of which he never seeks to know the meaning. "Om manee pani" "Om manee padme houm," "Amen" and "Ave Maria purissima" may fairly be placed in the same category.
In like manner, the signification of an emblem may be unknown. The antiquary finds in Lycian coins, and in Aztec ruins, figures for which he can frame no meaning; whilst the ordinary church-goer also sees, in his place of worship, designs of which none can give him a rational explanation. Again, we find that a language may find professed interpreters, whose system of exposition is wholly wrong; and the same may be said of symbols. I have seen, for example, three distinctly different interpretations given to one Assyrian inscription, and have heard as many opposite explanations of a particular figure, all of which have been incorrect.
On hearing this, I went into the garden, and, finding the bed had been unmoved, came back and reproached my informant for falsehood. Another then took up the word, and said it was the carrot bed which the baby came from. As a roar of laughter followed this remark, I felt that I was being cheated, and asked no more questions. Then I could not, now I can, understand the esoteric sense of the sayings. They had to the servants two distinct significations. The only one which I could then comprehend was exoteric; that which was known to my elders was the esoteric meaning. In what is called "religion" there has been a similar distinction. We see this, not only in the "mysteries" of Greece and Rome, but amongst the Jews; Esdras stating the following as a command from God, "Some things shalt thou publish, and some things shalt thou show secretly to the wise" (2 Esdras xv. 26).
* It is supposed by some that Jahveh is the proper pronunciation of this word, but as the first letter may represent, ja, ya, or e, and the third u, v, or o, whilst the second and fourth are the soft h, one may read the word Jhuh, analogous to the Ju in Jupiter; Jehu, the name of a king of Israel; Tahu as it is read on Assyrian inscriptions; Jeho, as in Jehoshaphat; Ehoh, analogous to the Evoe or Ewe associated with Bacchus; and Jaho, analogous to the J. A. O. of the Gnostics. The Greek "Fathers" give the word as if equivalent to yave, yaoh, yeho, and too.
Speaking metaphorically, we have many such ghosts amongst ourselves; phantoms, which pass for powerful giants, but are in reality perfect shams. Such we may describe by comparing them to the apocryphal vampires. It is to me a melancholy thing to contemplate the manner in which mankind have, in every age and nation, made for themselves bugbears, and then have felt fear at them. We deride the African, who manufactures a Fetish, and then trembles at its power, but the learned know perfectly well that men made the devil, whom the pious fear, just as a negro dreads Mumbo Jumbo.
* Whilst these sheets were passing through the press, there appeared a work, published anonymously, but reported to be by one of the most esteemed theologians who ever sat upon an episcopal bench. It is entitled Supernatural Religion. London: Longmans, 1874. From it we quote the following, vol. ii., p. 489:— "We gain infinitely more than we lose in abandoning belief in the reality of Divine Revelation. Whilst we retain pure and unimpaired the treasure of Christian Morality, we relinquish nothing but the debasing elements added to it by human superstition. We are no longer bound to believe a theology which outrages reason and moral sense. We are freed from base anthropomorphic views of God and His government of the universe; and from Jewish Mythology we rise to higher conceptions of an infinitely wise and beneficent Being, hidden from our finite minds, it is true, in the impenetrable glory of Divinity, but whose Laws of wondrous comprehensiveness and perfection we ever perceive in operation around us. We are no longer disturbed by visions of fitful interference with the order of Nature, but we recognise that the Being who regulates the universe is without variableness or shadow of turning. It is singular how little there is in the supposed Revelation of alleged information, however incredible, regarding that which is beyond the limits of human thought, but that little is of a character which reason declares to be the wildest delusion. Let no man whose belief in the reality of a Divine Revelation may be destroyed by such an inquiry complain that he has lost a precious possession, and that nothing is left but a blank. The Revelation not being a reality, that which he has lost was but an illusion, and that which is left is the Truth. If he be content with illusions, he will speedily be consoled; if he be a lover only of truth, instead of a blank, he will recognise that the reality before him is full of great peace.
"If we know less than we have supposed of man's destiny, we may at least rejoice that we are no longer compelled to believe that which is unworthy. The limits of thought once attained, we may well be unmoved in the assurance that all that we do know of the regulation of the universe being so perfect and wise, all that we do not know must be equally so. Here enters the true and noble Faith—which is the child of reason. If we have believed a system, the details of which must at one time or another have shocked the mind of every intelligent man, and believed it simply because it was supposed to be revealed, we may equally believe in the wisdom and goodness of what is not revealed. The mere act of communication to us is nothing: Faith in the perfect ordering of all things is independent of Revelation. "The argument so often employed by Theologians that Divine Revelation is necessary for man, and that certain views contained in that Revelation are required by our moral consciousness, is purely imaginary, and derived from the Revelation which it seeks to maintain. The only thing absolutely necessary for man is Truth and to that, and that alone, must our moral consciousness adapt itself."
As the celebrated physiologist, Haller, remarked, "Omne vivum ex ovo" every living thing comes from an egg; so more ancient biologists recognised that the dual part of the tripliform organ was as essential to the creation of a new being as the central pillar. Hence an egg and a serpent became a characteristic of "the Father," El, Ab, Ach, Baal, Asher, Melech, Adonai, Jahu, etc. When to this was added a half moon, as in certain Tyrian coins, the trinity and unity were symbolised, and a faith expressed like the one held in modern Rome, that the mother of creation is co-equal with the father; the one seduces by her charms, and the other makes them fructify.
* See Ezekiel xxii. 1-30, and compare Jerem. v. 7, 8.
We must next notice the fact, that what we call impurity in religious tenets does not necessarily involve indecency in practice. The ancient Romans, in the time of the early kings, seem to have been as proper as early Christian maidens. It is true that, in the declining days of the empire, exhibitions that called forth the fierce denunciations of the fathers of the Church took place; but we find very similar occurrences in modern Christian capitals. In Spartan days, chastity and honesty were not virtues, but drunkenness was a vice. In Christian England, drunkenness is general, and we cannot pride ourselves upon universal honesty and chastity. It is not the national belief, but the national practice, which evidences a people's worth. Spain and Ireland, called respectively "Catholic" and "the land of saints," cannot boast of equality with "infidel" France and "free-thinking" Prussia. England will be as earnest, as upright, and as civilised, when she has abandoned the heathen elements in her religion, as when she hugs them as if necessary to her spiritual welfare. Attachment to the good parts of religion is wholly distinct from a close embrace of the bad ones; and we believe he deserves best of his country who endeavours to remove every possible source of discord. None can doubt the value of the order, "Do to others as you would wish others to do to you." If all unite to carry this out, small differences of opinion may at once be sunk. How worthless are many of the dogmas that people now fight about, the following pages will show.
Another equally vulgar way of describing men is to be found in 1 Kings xiv. 10. But these observations would not serve us much in symbolism did we not know that they were associated with certain euphemisms by which when one thing is said another is intended; for an illustration let us take Isaiah vii. 20, and ask what is meant by the phrase, "the hair of the feet"? It is certain that the feet are never hairy, and consequently can never be shaved. Again, when we find in Gen. xlix. 10, "the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet," and compare this with Deut. xxviii. 57, and 2 Kings xviii. 27, where the words are, in the original, "the water of their feet," it is clear that symbolic language is used to express something which, if put into the vernacular, would be objectionable to ears polite.
Again, in Genesis xxiv. 2 and xlvii. 29, and in Heb. xi. 21, it is well known to scholars that the word "thigh" and "staff" are euphemisms to express that part which represents the male. In Deut. xxiii. 1, we have evidence, as in the last three verses quoted, of the sanctity of the part referred to, but the language is less refined. Now-a-days our ears are not attuned to the rough music which pleased our ancestors, and we have to use veiled language to express certain matters. In the following pages, the words which I select are drawn from the Latin, Greek, Sanscrit, Shemitic, or Egyptian. Hea, Ann, and Asher replace the parts referred to in Deut. xxiii. 1; Osiris, Asher, Linga, Mahadeva, Siva, Priapus, Phallus, etc., represent the Hebrew zachar ; whilst Isis, Parvati, Yoni, Sacti, Astarte, Ishtar, etc., replace the Jewish nekebah. The junction of these parts is spoken of as Ashtoreth, Baalim, Elohim, the trinity and unity, the androgyne deity, the arba, or mystic four, and the like.
PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN SYMBOLISM.
* A friend has informed me, for example, that he happened, whilst at Pesth, to look at a gorgeously dressed and handsome young woman. To his astonishment she pointed her thumb precisely in the manner adopted by the Assyrian priests; this surprised the young man still farther, and being, as it were, fascinated, he continued to gaze. The damsel then grasped the thumb by the other hand; thus indicating her profession. My friend, who was wholly inexperienced in the ways of the world, only understood what was meant when he saw my explanation of Fig. 1.
* For those who have not an opportunity of consulting the work referred to, I may observe that the Assyrian godhead consisted of four persons, three being male and one female. The principal god was Asher, the upright one, the equivalent of the Hindoo Mahadeva, the great holy one, and of the more modern Priapus. He was associated with Anu, lord of solids and of the lower world, equivalent to the "testis," or egg on the right side. Hea was lord of waters, and represented the left "stone." The three formed the trinity or triad. The female was named Ishtar or Astarte, and was equivalent to the female organ, the yoni or vulva—the [Greek] of the Greeks. The male god in Egypt was Osiris, the female Isis, and these names are frequently used as being euphemistic, and preferable to the names which are in vulgar use to describe the male and female parts.
* There is an able essay on this subject in No. 267 of the Edinburgh Review—which almost exhausts the subject—but is too long for quotation here.
Astra igitur mea mens arcum dum tendit in ilia. Ex imo ad summum viva sagitta volat.
"But love is indestructible, Its holy flame for ever burneth; From heaven it came, To heaven returneth."
"It is not phantasy's hot fire Whose wishes, soon as granted, fly," &c.
* The above quotations from Wilson's work are selections from his and his Editor's account. In the original the observations extend over eighteen pages, and are too long to be given in their entirety: the parts omitted are of no consequence.
APPENDIX: THE ASSYRIAN "GROVE" AND OTHER EMBLEMS
By John Newton, M.R.C.S.
'Tis Life, whereof our nerves are scant, O life, not death, for which we pant; More life, and fuller, that I want.
* St. Paul points oat (Eph. vi. 2) that to only one of the ten commandments is a promise added. And what is the promise? "That thy days may be long." (Exod. xx. 12.) See also Psalm cxxxiii. 3, "the blessing, even life for evermore." ** Apuleius, who had been initiated into the mysteries of Isis, informs us that long life was the reward promised to her votaries. (Metam. cap. xi.)
* We may point out that, according to all the Gospels, Christ expired towards sunset, and the sun became eclipsed as he was dying. He rose again exactly at daybreak.
* The consort, or life-giving energy of Vishnu. ** As in French, the name for the male organ and for life is the same in sound, though not in spelling or gender.
In the remarkable Babylonian seal, Plate iv., Fig. 8, the deity is represented as uniting in himself the male and the female. On each side is a serpent, as the emblem of the life flowing from the Creator; that on the male side, having round his head the solar glory, is compared to the sun-god, as the active principle in creation; that on the female side, over whose head is the lunar crescent, to the moon- and earth- goddess, the passive principle in creation. Both are attacked by a winged dragon, the kakodoemon, or the evil principle. This is according to the ancient Chaldean doctrine of two creations of living beings, the one good and the other malign. The Chinese still think that an eclipse is caused by the efforts of a furious dragon to destroy the sun and moon; and Apollo, the sun-god, destroying the serpent Python, has reappeared on our coin as St. George killing the dragon. Even Apollyon appears in old paintings with huge wings, like those of a bat.
"Hear us, Baal! whether thou be a god or a goddess."
* The lupanars at Pompeii were distinguished by a sign over the street door, representing the erect phallus, painted or carved, and having the words underneath, "Hie habitat félicitas."
* The first letter, Aleph, = an ox, is, even on the Moabite stone, written thus, and has become the modern A. In the earlier hieroglyph it must have been thus V. The Egyptian hieroglyph for ten is Compare the Greek [—] and Latin Decem. ** The first of the Orphic Hymns is addressed to the goddess Artemisias (Prothnraia) or the Door-keeper, who presided over childbirths, like the Roman Diana Lucina.
"Here is the Rose, Wherein the Word Divine was made incarnate."
* In Astrology, the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus was considered the most fortunate of all; such as kings and princes should be born under.
By one complex symbol, very common on ancient Hindoo monuments in China and Thibet, the universe was thus represented. Notice the upward gradation. Earth + water = this globe. The creator-god, whose emblem, flame, mounts upwards, is the author and representative of all life upon it; he is the connecting link, united by the crescent moon with heaven. The arrow- or spear- head inserted within the crescent is an earth emblem of Siva; like the lingam it typified the divine source of life, and also the doctrine that perfect wisdom was to be found only in the combination of the male and female principles in nature. It decorates the roofs of the Buddhist monasteries in Thibet, and like the sacred lotus flower and the linga, both of which became emblems of Buddha, was derived from older faiths. Other interpretations may suggest themselves. This will enable us to understand the remarkable sculptures of the second or third century, from the Amravati Tope, Plate xix., which present so many points in common with the religious symbols of the Chaldeans. In Fig. 2 we see a congregation of males and females, the sexes being separated, worshipping a linga, or stone conical pillar, on the front of which is sculptured the sacred tree, with branches like flames; three symbols of life in one. It rises from a throne, on the seat of which are placed the two emblems of earth and water. In the other figure, the sacred tree takes the place of the linga, rising above the throne, as if from the trisul or trident, male emblems of Siva. Winged figures, Garudas, attend it above, floating over the heads of the worshippers. An intrusion of the newer faith is also to be recognised, as the feet of Buddha are sculptured before the throne.