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