Saturday, September 24, 2011
Ancient Phallic and Fire Worship
Although earth, air, water, and the sun were long venerated as objects of worship, as containing the life principle, in process of time it is observed that fire attracted the highest regard of human beings, and on their altars the sacred flame, said to have been kindled from heaven, was kept burning uninterruptedly from year to year, and from age to age, by bends of priests “whose special duty it was to see that the sacred flame was never extinguished.” The office of the vestal virgins in Rome was to preserve the holy fire. The Egyptians, and in fact all the earlier civilized nations, knew that force proceeds from the sun, hence the frequent appearance of this orb among their symbols of life. Indeed there is not a country on the globe in which, at some time, divine honors have not been paid to fire and to light.
The Hindoos, “believing fire to be the essence of all active power in Nature, kept perpetual lamps burning in the innermost recesses of their pagodas and temples, and in the sacred edifices of the Greeks and Barbarians fires were preserved for the same reason.”
The festival of lamps, which was once universal throughout Egypt, still prevails in China. On the evening of the fifteenth day of the first month in the year, every person is compelled to place before his door a lantern or light, such lights differing in size and expense according to the degree of wealth or poverty of those to whom they belong. Light was the symbol of Muth (Perceptive Wisdom). Among the Persians, the Egyptians, the Mexicans, the Jews, the Etruscans, the Greeks, and the Romans, fire was venerated as the essence of the Deity; and, at the present time, in Thibet, in China, in Japan, and in portions of Africa, it still forms an important part of worship. The Hebrew writings show conclusively that not only the Jews but all the surrounding nations were fire-worshippers, and that their sacrifices were not infrequently to the God of Fire. Of this Forlong says:
“When Rome was rearing temples to the fame and worship of Fire, we find the prophets of Israel occasionally denouncing the wickedness of its worship by their own and the nations around them; nevertheless, even to Christ’s time Molok always had his offerings of children."
It is believed that Abraham introduced fire-worship among the Jews from Ur in Mesopotamia, a land in which lights are still venerated, and fire altars are worshipped as containing the Deity.
The real essence of fire which was identical with the life-principle was holy. The “Lord” of the Israelites was in the fire which descended on Mt. Sinai, Exodus xix., 18. “The bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed,” Exodus iii., 2. Whether the signification of “bush” is the same as “grove,” I know not, but Josephus assures us that the bush was holy before the flame appeared in it. Because of its sacred character, it became the receptacle for the burning “Lord” of the Jews. The ark, the religious emblem which Moses bore aloft, was simply a fire altar on which the fire must continually burn. The fact will doubtless be observed that although the ark and the bush (female emblems) were invested with a certain degree of sanctity, they were nevertheless only receptacles for the substance within them.
At the same time that the Jews kept sacred or holy fires continually burning on their altars, they carried about a serpent on a pole representing it to be the “healer of nations.” They also kept a phallic emblem in a box, chest, or ark which they worshipped as the “God of Hosts,” the “Life Giver,” etc. It has been observed that although the Jews frequently lost their ark, they were never without their serpent-pole. At a certain stage in the religious development of mankind all the temples in Africa and Western Asia were dedicated to Vulcan the fire god or the “Lord of Fire,” to whom all furnaces were sacred. The principal festivals in honor of this Deity took place in the spring, at the Easter season, and on the 23d of August, when it is said that the licentiousness practiced in the temples compared with those of the “Harvest Homes” of Europe when the sun was in Libra and the harvest had been garnered in. Vulcan was the “God of fornication” or of passion.
These excesses, which remained unchecked down to the fourth century before Christ, are said to have somewhat abated after the rise of the Stoic philosophy.
Various philosophers of early historic times as well as many of the early fathers in the Christian church believed that God was a corporeal substance which in some way is manifested through fire.
In Egypt, during the early ages of Christianity, “a great dispute took place among the monks on the question, whether God is corporeal.” Tertullian declared that “God is fire"; Origen, that “he is a subtle fire"; and various others that “he is body.”
There is little doubt that in early historic ages the Persians, who had undertaken to purify their religion, were the strongest and purest sect of this cult; they were in fact the genuine worshippers of the pure creative principles which they believed resided in fire.
We have observed that force or spirit was originally regarded as a part of Nature, or in other words that it was a manifestation of, or an outflowing from matter, but so soon as it began to be considered as something apart from Nature, there at once arose a desire for some corporeal object to represent this unseen and occult principle.
During many of the ages of fire-worship, holy fire, although a material substance, seems to have been too subtle to clearly represent the god-idea, hence everywhere the worship of the serpent is found to be interwoven with it. In fact, so closely are serpent, fire, pillar, and other phallic faiths intermingled that it is impossible to separate them.
The Persians are by some writers said to have been the earliest fire-worshippers: by others the truth of this statement is denied, while many claim, and indeed the Maji themselves declared, that they never worshipped fire at all in any other manner than as an emblem of the divine principle which they believed resided within it. It is probable, however, from the evidence at hand, that they, like all the other nations of the globe, prior to the reformation led by Zarathustra and his daughter, had lost or nearly forgotten the profound ideas connected with the worship of Nature.
Passion, symbolized by fire, is declared by various writers to have been the first idol, but later research has proved the falsity of this assumption. It is true that at an early age of human experience the creative processes were worshipped, but such worship involved scientific and, I might say, spiritualized conceptions of the operations of Nature which in time were altogether lost sight of. Gross phallicism is clearly the result of degeneration, and of a lapse into sensuality and superstition.
I think no one can study the facts connected with fire and light as the Deity in the various countries in which this worship prevailed, without perceiving the change it gradually underwent during later ages, and the grossness of the ideas which became connected with it as compared with an earlier age when mankind “had no temples, but worshipped in the open air, on the tops of mountains.”
In another portion of this work we have observed that in the rites connected with the worship of Cybele (Light or Wisdom), although phallic symbols were in use, the ceremonies were absolutely pure, and that throughout all the earlier ages her worship remained free from the abominations which characterized the worship of later times.
At what time in the history of the human race the organs of generation first began to appear as emblems of the Deity is not known. Within the earliest cave temples, those hewn from the solid rock, sculptured representations of these objects are still to be observed. Although until a comparatively recent period their true significance has been unknown, there is little doubt at the present time that they were originally used as symbols of fertility, or as emblems typifying the processes of Nature, and that at some remote period of the world’s history they were worshipped as the Creator, or, at least, as representations of the creative agencies in the universe.
Concerning the origin and character of the people who executed them there is scarcely a trace in written history. Through the unravelling of extinct tongues, however, the monumental records of the ancient nations of the globe have been deciphered, and the system of religious symbolism in use among them is now understood.
A small volume by various writers, printed in London some years ago, entitled A Comparative View of the Ancient Monuments of India, says:
“Those who have penetrated into the abstruseness of Indian mythology, find that in these temples was practiced a worship similar to that practiced by all the several nations of the world, in their earliest as well as their most enlightened periods. It was paid to the Phallus by the Asiatics, to Priapus by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, to Baal-Peor by the Canaanites and idolatrous Jews. The figure is seen on the fascia which runs round the circus of Nismes, and over the portal of the Cathedral of Toulouse, and several churches of Bordeaux.”
Of the Lingham and Yoni and their universal acceptance as religious emblems, Barlow remarks that it was a “worship which would appear to have made the tour of the globe and to have left traces of its existence where we might least expect to find it.” In referring to the “sculptured indecencies” connected with religious rites, which, being wrought in imperishable stone, have been preserved in India and other parts of the East, Forlong says that when occurring in the temples or other sacred places they are at the present time evidently very puzzling to the pious Indians, and in their attempts to explain them they say they are placed there “in fulfilment of vows,” or that they have been wrought there “as punishments for sins of a sexual nature, committed by those who executed or paid for them.” It is, however, the opinion of Forlong that they are simply connected with an older and purer worship–a worship which involved the union of the sex principles as the foundation of their god-idea.
Regarding the cause for the “indecent” sculptures of the Orissa temples, the same writer quotes the following from Baboo Ragendralala Mitra, in his work on the Antiquities of Orissa.
“A vitiated taste aided by general prevalence of immorality might at first sight appear to be the most likely one; but I can not believe that libidiousness, however depraved, would ever think of selecting fanes dedicated to the worship of God, as the most appropriate for its manifestations; for it is worthy of remark that they occur almost exclusively on temples and their attached porches, and never on enclosing walls, gateways, and other non-religious structures. Our ideas of propriety, according to Voltaire, lead us to suppose that a ceremony (like the worship of Priapus) which appears to us infamous, could only be invented by licentiousness; but it is impossible to believe that depravity of manners would ever have led among any people to the establishment of religious ceremonies. It is probable, on the contrary, that this custom was first introduced in times of simplicity–that the first thought was to honor the Deity in the symbol of life which it has given us; such a ceremony may have excited licentiousness among youths, and have appeared ridiculous to men of education in more refined, more corrupt, and more enlightened times, but it never had its origin in such feelings. . . . It is out of the question therefore to suppose that a general prevalence of vice would of itself, without the authority of priests and scriptures, suffice to lead to the defilement of holy temples."
Originally the Ionians, as their name indicates, were Yoni worshippers, i. e., they belonged to the sect which was driven out of India because of their stubborn refusal to worship the male energy as the Creator. During the later ages of their history, at a time when their religion had degenerated into a licensed system of vice and corruption, and after their temples had become brothels in which, in the name of religion, were practiced the most debasing ceremonies, the Greeks became ashamed of their ancient worship, and, like the Jews, ashamed also of their name.
It is believed that the Greeks received from Egypt, or the East, their first theological conceptions of God and religion. These ideas
“were veiled in symbols, significant of a primitive monotheism; these, at a later period, being translated into symbolical or allegorical language, were by the poets transformed into epic or narrative myths, in which the original subject symbolized was almost effaced, whilst the allegorical expressions were received generally in a literal sense. Hence, to the many, the meaning of the ancient doctrine was lost, and was communicated only to the few, under the strictest secrecy in the mysteries of Eleusis and Samothrace. Thus there was a popular theology to suit the people, and a rational theology reserved for the educated, the symbolical language in both being the same, but the meaning of it being taken differently. In course of time, as knowledge makes its way among the people, and religious enlightenment with it, much of what had been received literally will relapse into its original figurative or symbolical meaning. Reason will resume her supremacy, and stereotyped dogmas will fall like pagan idols before advancing truth."
Although, during the later ages of the human career, the higher truths taught by an earlier race were lost, still a slight hint of the beauty and purity of the more ancient worship may be traced through most of the ages of the history of religion. Even among the profligate Greeks, the mysteries of Eleusis, celebrated in the temple of Ceres, were always respected. Care should be taken, however, not to confound these remnants of pure Nature- worship with that of the courtesan Venus, whose adoration, during the degenerate days of Greece, represented only the lowest and most corrupt conception of the female energy.
Down to a late date in the annals of Athens there was celebrated a religious festival called Thesmophoria. The name of this festival is derived from one of the cognomens of Ceres–the goddess “who first gave laws and made life orderly.” Ceres was the divinity adored by the Amazons, and is essentially the same as the Egyptian Isis. She represents universal female Nature. The Thesmophorian rites, which are believed by most writers to have been introduced into Greece directly from Thrace, were performed by “virgins distinguished for probity in life, who carried about in procession sacred books upon their heads.”
Inman, in his Ancient Faiths, quotes an oracle of Apollo, from Spencer, to the effect that “Rhea the Mother of the Blessed, and the Queen of the Gods, loved assemblages of women.” As this festival is in honor of Female Nature, the various female attributes are adored as deities, Demeter being the first named by the worshippers. After a long season of fasting, and “after solemn reflection on the mysteries of life, women splendidly attired in white garments assemble and scatter flowers in honor of the Great Mother.”
The food partaken of by the devotees at these festivals was cakes, very similar in shape to those which were offered to the Queen of Heaven by the women of Judah in the days of Jeremiah, an offering which it will be remembered so displeased that prophet that a curse was pronounced upon the entire people.
As the strictest secrecy prevailed among the initiated respecting these rites, the exact nature of the symbols employed at the Thesmophorian festivals is not known; it is believed, however, that it was the female emblem of generation, and that this festival was held in honor of that event which from the earliest times had been prophesied by those who believed in the superior importance of the female, namely, that unaided by the male power, a woman would bring forth, and that this manifestation of female sufficiency would forever settle the question of the ascendancy of the female principle. Through a return of the ancient ideas of purity and peace, mankind would be redeemed from the wretchedness and misery which had been the result of the decline of female power. The dual idea entertained in the Thesmophorian worship is observed in the fact that although Ceres, the Great Mother, was the principal Deity honored, Proserpine, the child, was also comprehended, and with its Mother worshipped as part of the Creator. Thus we observe that down to a late date in the history of Grecian mythology the idea of a Holy Mother with her child had not altogether disappeared as a representation of the god-idea.
To prove the worthiness of the ideas connected with the Eleusinian mysteries it is stated that “there is not an instance on record that the honor of initiation was ever obtained by a very bad man.”
In Rome these mysteries took another name and were called “the rites of Bona Dea,” which was but another name for Ceres. As evidence of their purity we have the following:
“All the distinguished Roman authors speak of these rites and in terms of profound respect. Horace denounces the wretch who should attempt to reveal the secrets of these rites; Virgil mentions these mysteries with great respect; and Cicero alludes to them with a greater reverence than either of the poets we have named. Both the Greeks and the Romans punished any insult offered to these mysteries with the most persevering vindictiveness. Alcibiades was charged with insulting these religious rites, and although the proof of his offense was quite doubtful, yet he suffered for it for years in exile and misery, and it must be allowed that he was the most popular man of his age."
In Greece, the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries was in the hands of the Emolpidae, one of the oldest and most respected families of antiquity. At Carthage, there were celebrated the Phiditia, religious solemnities similar to those already described in Greece. During the two or three days upon which these festivals were celebrated, public feasts were prepared at which the youth were instructed by their elders in the state concerning the principles which were to govern their conduct in after life; truth, inward purity, and virtue being set forth as essentials to true manhood. In later times, after these festivals had found their way to Rome, they gradually succumbed to the immorality which prevailed, and at last, when their former exalted significance had been forgotten, they were finally sunk into “the licentiousness of enjoyment, and the innocence of mirth was superseded by the uproar of riot and vice! Such were the Saturnalia.”
From the facts connected with the mysteries of Eleusis and the Thesmophorian rites, it is evident that in its earlier stages Nature-worship was absolutely free from the impurities which came to be associated with it in later times. As the organs of generation had not originally been wholly disgraced and outraged, it is not unlikely that when the so-called “sculptured indecencies” appeared on the walls of the temples they were regarded as no more an offense against propriety and decency than was the reappearance of the cross, the emblem of life, in later times, among orthodox Christians.
Neither is it probable, in an age in which nothing that is natural was considered indecent, and before the reproductive energies had become degraded, that these symbols were any more suggestive of impurity than are the Easter offerings upon our church altars at the present time. Whatever may now be the significance of these offerings to those who present them, sure it is that they once, together with other devices connected with Nature-worship, were simply emblems of fertility–symbols of a risen and fructifying sun which by its gladdening rays re-creates and makes all things new again.
If we carefully study the religion of past ages we will discover something more than a hint of an age when the generative functions were regarded as a sacred expression of creative power, and when the reproductive organs had not through over-stimulation and abuse been tabooed as objects altogether impure and unholy, and as things too disgraceful to be mentioned above a whisper. Indeed there is much evidence going to show that in an earlier age of the world’s history the degradation of mankind, through the abuse of the creative functions, had not been accomplished, and the ills of life resulting from such abuse were unknown.
We may reasonably believe that those instincts in the female which are correlated with maternal affection and which were acquired by her as a protection to the germ, or, in other words, those characters which Nature has developed in the female to insure the safety and well-being of offspring, and which in a purer and more natural stage of human existence acted as cheeks upon the energies of the male, were not easily or quickly subdued; but when through subjection to the animal nature of man these instincts or characters had been denied their natural expression, and woman had become simply the instrument of man’s pleasure, the comparatively pure worship of the organs of generation as symbols of creative power began to give place to the deification of these members simply as emblems of desire, or as instruments for the stimulation of passion.
We are assured that on the banks of the Ganges, the very cradle of religion, are still to be found various remnants of the most ancient form of Nature-worship–that there are still to be observed “certain high places sacred to more primitive ideas than those represented by Vedic gods.”
Here devout worshippers believe that the androgynous God of fertility, or Nature, still manifests itself to the faithful. Close beside these more ancient shrines are others representing a somewhat later development of religious faith–shrines, by means of which are indicated some of the processes involved in the earlier growth of the god-idea. Not far removed from these are to be found, also, numerous temples or places of worship belonging to a still later faith–a faith in which are revealed the “awakening and stimulation of every sensuous feeling, and which has drowned in infamy every noble impulse developed in human nature.”
Of the depravity of the Jews and the immorality practiced in their religious rites, Forlong says:
“No one can study their history, liberated from the blindness which our Christian up-bringing and associations cast over us, without seeing that the Jews were probably the grossest worshippers among all those Ophi–Phallo–Solar devotees who then covered every land and sea, from the sources of the Nile and Euphrates to all over the Mediterranean coasts and isles. These impure faiths seem to have been very strictly maintained by Jews up to Hezekiah’s days, and by none more so than by dissolute Solomon and his cruel, lascivious bandit-father, the brazen-faced adulterer and murderer, who broke his freely volunteered oath, and sacrificed six innocent sons of his king to his Javah.”
Of Solomon he says that he devoted his energies and some little wealth “to rearing phallic and Solophallic shrines over all the high places around him, and especially in front of Jerusalem, and on and around the Mount of Olives.” On each side of the entrance to his celebrated temple, under the great phallic spire which formed the portico, were two handsome columns over fifty feet high, by the side of which were the sun God Belus and his chariots.
In a description of this temple it is represented as being one hundred and twenty feet long and forty feet broad, while the porch, a phallic emblem, “was a huge tower, forty feet long, twenty feet broad, and two hundred and forty feet high.” We are assured by Forlong that Solomon’s temple was like hundreds observed in the East, except that its walls were a little higher than those usually seen, and the phallic spire out of proportion to the size of the structure. “The Jewish porch is but the obelisk which the Egyptian placed beside his temple; the Boodhist pillars which stood all around their Dagobas; the pillars of Hercules, which stood near the Phoenician temple; and the spire which stands beside the Christian Church."
The rites and ceremonies observed in the worship of Baal-Peor are not of a character to be described in these pages: it is perhaps sufficient to state that by them the fact is clearly established that profligacy, regulated and controlled by the priestly order as part and parcel of religion, was not confined to the Gentiles; but, on the contrary, that the religious observances of the Jews prior to the Babylonian captivity were even more gross than were those of the Assyrians or the Hindoos.
These impure faiths arose at a time when man as the sole creator of offspring became god, when the natural instincts of woman were subdued, and when passion as the highest expression of the divine force came to be worshipped as the most important attribute of humanity.
The extent to which these faiths have influenced later religious belief and observances is scarcely realized by those who have not given special attention to this subject.
It has been stated that in the time of Solon, law-giver of Athens, there were twenty temples in the various cities of Greece dedicated to Venus the courtesan, within which were practiced, in the name of religion, the most infamous rites and the most shameless self-abandonment; and that throughout Europe, down to a late period in the history of the race, religious festivals were celebrated at certain seasons of the year, at which the ceremonies performed in honor of the god of fornication were of the grossest nature, and at which the Bacchanalian orgies were only equalled by those practiced in the religious temples of Babylon.
It is impossible longer to conceal the fact that passion, symbolized by a serpent, an upright stone, and by the male and female organs of generation, the male appearing as the “giver of life,” the female as a necessary appendage to it, constituted the god-idea of mankind for at least four thousand years; and, instead of being confined to the earlier ages of that period, we shall presently see that phallic worship had not disappeared, under Christianity, as late and even later than the sixteenth century.
Such has been the result of the ascendancy gained by the grosser elements in human nature: the highest idea of the Infinite passion symbolized by the organs of generation, while the principal rites connected with its worship are scenes of debauchery and self-abasement.
At the present time it is by no means difficult to trace the growth of the god-idea. First, as we have seen, a system of pure Nature-worship appeared under the symbol of a Mother and child. In process of time this particular form of worship was supplanted by a religion under which the male principle is seen to be in the ascendancy over the female. Later a more complicated system of Nature-worship is observed in which the underlying principles are concealed, or are understood only by the initiated. Lastly, these philosophical and recondite principles are forgotten and the symbols themselves receive the adoration which once belonged to the Creator. The change which the ideas concerning womanhood underwent from the time when the natural feminine characters and qualities were worshipped as God, to the days of Solon the Grecian law-giver, when women had become merely tools or slaves for the use and pleasure of men, is forcibly shown by a comparison of the character ascribed to the female deities at the two epochs mentioned. Athene who in an earlier age had represented Wisdom had in the age of Solon degenerated into a patroness of heroes; but even as a Goddess of war her patronage was as nought compared with that of the courtesan Venus, at whose shrine “every man in Greece worshipped.”
The extent to which women, in the name of religion, have been degraded, and the part which in the past they have been compelled to assume in the worship of passion may not at the present time be disguised, as facts concerning this subject are well authenticated. In a former work, attention has been directed to the religious rites of Babylon, the city in which it will be remembered the Tower of Belus was situated. Here women of all conditions and ranks were obliged, once in their life, to prostitute themselves in the temple for hire to any stranger who might demand such service, which revenue was appropriated by the priests to be applied to sacred uses. This act it will be remembered was a religious obligation imposed by religious teachers and enforced by priestly rule. It was a sacrifice to the god of passion. A similar custom prevailed in Cyprus.
Most of the temples of the later Hindoos had bands of consecrated women called the “Women of the Idol.” These victims of the priests were selected in their infancy by Brahmins for the beauty of their persons, and were trained to every elegant accomplishment that could render them attractive and which would insure success in the profession which they exercised at once for the pleasure and profit of the priesthood. They were never allowed to desert the temple; and the offspring of their promiscuous embraces were, if males, consecrated to the service of the Deity in the ceremonies of this worship, and, if females, educated in the profession of their mothers.
That prostitution was a religious observance, which was practiced in Eastern temples, cannot in the face of accessible facts be doubted. Regarding this subject, Inman says:
“To us it is inconceivable, that the indulgence of passion could be associated with religion, but so it was. The words expressive of ’sanctuary,’ ’consecrated,’ and ’sodomites’ are in the Hebrew essentially the same. It is amongst the Hindoos of to-day as it was in the Greece and Italy of classic times; and we find that ’holy woman’ is a title given to those who devote their bodies to be used for hire, which goes to the service of the temple.”
The extent to which ages of corruption have vitiated the purer instincts of human nature, and the degree to which centuries of sensuality and superstition have degraded the nature of man, may be noticed at the present time in the admissions which are frequently made by male writers regarding the change which during the history of the race has taken place in the god-idea. None of the attributes of women, not even that holy instinct–maternal love, can by many of them be contemplated apart from the ideas of grossness which have attended the sex-functions during the ages since women first became enslaved. As an illustration of this we have the following from an eminent philologist of recent times, a writer whose able efforts in unravelling religious myths bear testimony to his mental strength and literary ability.
“The Chaldees believed in a celestial virgin who had purity of body, loveliness of person, and tenderness of affection, and she was one to whom the erring sinner could appeal with more chance of success than to a stern father. She was portrayed as a mother with a child in her arms, and every attribute ascribed to her showing that she was supposed to be as fond as any earthly female ever was."
After thus describing the early Chaldean Deity, who, although a pure and spotless virgin, was nevertheless worshipped as a mother, or as the embodiment of the altruistic principles developed in mankind, this writer goes on to say: “The worship of the woman by man naturally led to developments which our COMPARATIVELY SENSITIVE NATURES [the italics are mine] shun as being opposed to all religious feeling,” which sentiment clearly reveals the inability of this writer to estimate womanhood, or even motherhood, apart from the sensualized ideas which during the ages in which passion has been the recognized god have gathered about it.
The purity of life and the high stage of civilization reached by an ancient people, and the fact that these conditions were reached under pure Nature-worship, or when the natural attributes of the female were regarded as the highest expression of the divine in the human, prove that it was neither the appreciation nor the deification of womanhood which “led to developments which sensitive natures shun as being opposed to all religious feeling,” but, on the contrary, that it was the lack of such appreciation which stimulated the lower nature of man and encouraged every form of sensuality and superstition. In other words, it was the subjection of the natural female instincts and the deification of brute passion during the later ages of human history which have degraded religion and corrupted human nature.
Although at the present time it is quite impossible for scholars to veil the fact that the god-idea was originally worshipped as female, still, most modern writers who deal with this subject seem unable to understand the state of human society which must have existed when the instincts, qualities, and characters peculiar to the female constitution were worshipped as divine. So corrupt has human nature become through over-stimulation and indulgence of the lower propensities, that it seems impossible for those who have thus far dealt with this subject to perceive in the earlier conceptions of a Deity any higher idea than that conveyed to their minds at the present time by the sexual attributes and physical functions of females–namely, their capacity to bring forth, coupled with the power to gratify the animal instincts of males, functions which women share with the lower orders of life.
The fact that by an ancient race woman was regarded as the head or crown of creation, that she was the first emanation from the Deity, or, more properly speaking, that she represented Perceptive Wisdom, seems at the present time not to be comprehended, or at least not acknowledged. The more recently developed idea, that she was designed as an appendage to man, and created specially for his use and pleasure,–a conception which is the direct result of the supremacy of the lower instincts over the higher faculties,–has for ages been taught as a religious doctrine which to doubt involves the rankest heresy.
The androgynous Venus of the earlier ages, a deity which although female was figured with a beard to denote that within her were embraced the masculine powers, embodied a conception of universal womanhood and the Deity widely different from that entertained in the later ages of Greece, at a time when Venus the courtesan represented all the powers and capacities of woman considered worthy of deification.
To such an extent, in later ages, have all our ideas of the Infinite become masculinized that in extant history little except occasional hints is to be found of the fact that during numberless ages of human existence the Supreme Creator was worshipped as female.
One has only to study the Greek character to anticipate the manner in which any subject pertaining to women would be treated by that arrogant and conceited race; and, as until recently most of our information concerning the past has come through Greek sources, the distorted and one-sided view taken of human events, and the contempt with which the feminine half of society has been regarded, are in no wise surprising. We must bear in mind the fact, however, that the Greeks were but the degenerate descendants of the highly civilized peoples whom they were pleased to term “barbarians,” and that they knew less of the origin and character of the gods which they worshipped, and which they had borrowed from other countries, than is known of them at the present time.
About 600 years B.C., we may believe that mankind had sunk to the lowest depth of human degradation, since which time humanity has been slowly retracting its course; not, however, with any degree of continuity or regularity, nor without lapses, during which for hundreds of years the current seemed to roll backward. Indeed when we review the history of the intervening ages, and note the extent to which passion, prejudice, and superstition have been in the ascendancy over reason and judgment, we may truly say: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth have been set on edge.”
When Parvati (Devi) was united in marriage to Mahadeva (Siva), the divine pair had once a dispute on the comparative influence of the sexes in producing animated beings, and each resolved by mutual agreement to create a new race of men. The race produced by Mahadeva were very numerous, and devoted themselves exclusively to the worship of the male Deity, but their intellects were dull, their bodies feeble, their limbs distorted, and their complexions of many different hues. Parvati had at the same time created a multitude of human beings, who adored the female power only, and were well shaped, with sweet aspects and fine complexions. A furious contest ensued between the two nations, and the Lingajas, or adorers of the male principle, were defeated in battle, but Mahadeva, enraged against the Yonigas (the worshippers of the female element), would have destroyed them with the fire of his eye if Parvati had not interposed and appeased him, but he would spare them only on condition that they should instantly leave the country with a promise to see it no more, and from the Yoni, which they adored as the sole cause of their existence, they were named Yavanas.
The fact has been noticed in a previous work that, according to Wilford, the Greeks were the descendants of the Yavanas of India, and that when the Ionians emigrated they adopted the name to distinguish themselves as adorers of the female, in opposition to a strong sect of male worshippers which had been driven from the mother country. We are taught by the Puranas that they settled partly on the borders of Varaha-Dwip, or Europe, where they became the progenitors of the Greeks; and partly in the two Dwipas of Cusha, Asiatic and African. In the Asiatic Cusha-Dwip they supported themselves by violence and rapine. Parvati, however, or their tutelary goddess, Yoni, always protected them; and at length, in the fine country which they occupied, they became a flourishing nation. Wilford relates that there is a sect of Hindoos who, attempting to reconcile the two systems, declare in their allegorical style that “Parvati and Mahadeva found their concurrence essential to the perfection of their offspring, and that Vishnu, at the request of the goddess, effected a reconciliation between them."
By this attempt to construct a masculine Deity, absurdities were presented to the human judgment and understanding which for ages could not be overcome, and by it contradictions were necessitated which could not be reconciled with human reason and with the ideas of Nature which had hitherto been held by mankind. It was not, therefore, until reason had been suspended in all matters pertaining to religion, and blind faith in the machinations of priestcraft had been established, that a male God was set up as the sole Creator of the universe.
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.
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 the Phoenician Virgin of the Sphere.
Druids: Tree Worship and the Tree of Life
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." 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.
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."
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."
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.
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."
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."
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. 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.
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." 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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
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."
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."
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."
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." 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.
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.