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PRIMEVAL WISDOM; OR, TRIADS, MYTHS, AND
“ The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
COLERIDGE's Translation of Schiller's “Wallenstein." The Triads, Myths, and Symbols of the old world, present very remarkable points both of diversity and of resemblance, amounting almost to identity. Interwoven with the religious traditions of races and nations occupying an area whose boundaries may, with tolerable accuracy, be represented on one hand by the stormy shores of the Baltic and the lotus-crowned banks of the Nile, and on the other by the “ fabulous Hydaspes" and the “ triad-rivers of Alga,”* their diversity serves to give them the stamp of individuality and the seal of national genius, while the resemblance and unity of ideas always pervading them, clearly indicate a common origin. In order to ascertain this origin, we must ascend to the infancy of the world, described with equal truth and beauty by the great Poet of the sister Isle
“When in the light of Nature's dawn,
Rejoicing men and angels met
'Twixt man and Heaven her curtain yet;-
Than in these days of crime and woe,
Gazing upon this world below.” Then men could read in the universe, as in an open book, the language of a higher world, whose mystic characters were all surrounding objects. The sun on the mountains of the morning—the moon in the valleys of night—the stars shedding their first sweet influence on the twilight shadows, or studding with silver the dark nocturnal dome—the hills and plains smiling in the verdure of spring—the woods spreading their emerald foliage to the sunbeam of summer—the gentle showers-the refreshing dews—the sparkling fountains the voiceful streams—the "free, illimitable air"—the joyous, universal, all-embracing light, with its unnumbered forms and tints of beauty-all shaped the words of that wondrous volume, and syllabled forth to the primeval sages the bright and “winged" thoughts of Heaven's perennial wisdom.
* The Triad-rivers" will be alluded to further on.
Each object in nature being thus expressive of some idea of thought in a higher sphere of existence to the early generations of mankind, termed the most ancient church, representations of them in various combinations adorned the fanes of the succeeding generations, styled the ancient church, and constituted the beautiful symbolism of primeval worship so widely scattered over the East, and by no means altogether forgotten in the North and West. And as, in the lapse of ages, men receded more and more from their “first dignity,” these symbols lost their original significance, and became objects of worship, while the “intelligible forms,” separated from the outward symbols, were first personified and finally impersonated, and elevated into imaginary deities, “the fair humanities of old religion.” Thus originated Idolatry and Polytheism. But in their transition to divinities, the “intelligible forms," as we have observed, underwent a previous change, namely, Personification, and their various progressions in the human mind, expressed in a historical series, were called Myths, which occupied a mid-point between the primeval culture and the idolatry and polytheism of succeeding times. So long as the Myth was not altogether unintelligible, the statue, the sacrifice, or the talisman, did not entirely lose its symbolical value, and somewhat of the great truths which constituted their original significance, was preserved through after-ages in those singular mystic initiations,* to which a chosen few were admitted in the Adyta or Penetralia of the temples, from which was carefully excluded the profanum vulgus (literally, the crowd before the fane). There are many allusions to these mysteries in the original language of the New Testament, into which we may enter at some future period ; meanwhile, let us return to the subject more immediately under consideration.
In the last century, when the sensuous Philosophy and the old Theology were more in the ascendant than at present, the subject of this paper was rather ignored; the first regarding it as priestcraft and superstition, the latter assigning it a more spiritual origin, namely, a Satanic. Some, however, noting the striking resemblance between Mythology and Scripture, in too many instances to be accidental, could not accept these conclusions, anů, according as they were sceptically or religiously inclined, derived the Old Testament from Mythology,
* For a succinct account of Mystic Initiation in the East, see “A Manual of Universal History, on the Basis of Ethnography,” by J. B. Wright; and in the West, a Paper in Hogg's Instructor for October, 1854, entitled “ The Mythology and Ancient Poetry of the British Isles.”
or Mythology from the Old Testament. Both, however, are wide of the real fact; the truths of Mythology and the Old Testament derive, independently of each other, from a common source, the Wisdom of the Ancients,” the Theosophy of the primeval people, the remnant of the most ancient church. We must, at the same time, note a remarkable difference; the truths of Mythology are obscured by error, and their order more or less broken, according to their application to the purposes of idolatry and magic; while the truths of the Bible are unmixed truths, unclouded by error, and arranged in the order of Heaven. To extend the beautiful illustration of Bacon, “ the breath of better times which descended to the flutes and trumpets of the Greeks,” found them impaired, so that their responsive music was “ like sweet bells jangling, out of tune," but as it swept the harp of Israel, it found all the chords attuned to the harmony of the spheres.
Let us now proceed to “ the height of this great argument,” and, placing some of these Theosophic "fragments of an earlier world” in the light of the Divine Word, as expounded by a higher and "universal Theology," see what portion they contain of heavenly lore; premising, first, that as triplicity was a favourite form of conveying truth among the ancients (the Triad, according to the Chaldean oracle, "shining through the universe"), we have termed these reliques of a higher condition of humanity triads, myths, and symbols; and secondly, that in the ages of antiquity this knowledge was most perfectly preserved, in the East, among the Assyrians and Medo-Persians, by the Chaldeans (Chasdim) and Magi-among the Egyptians, by the Sacred Scribes among the Indians, by the Brachmans and Samaneans-among the Chinese, by their Sages, particularly Laon Tsee-and in the West, among the Greeks, by the Hierophants of the Orphic mysteries—among the Teutonic nations (chiefly the Scandinavian branch), by the Velas and Al-runas—and lastly, among the Celts of Gaul, Britain, and Ireland, by the Druids.
Our plan of procedure will be to place, in a synoptical form, a comparative view of Primeval Wisdom, as we shall term the knowledge derived from the triads, myths, and symbols, and the teaching of the Word of God.
PRIMEVAL WISDOM. (1.) A favourite Magian symbol among the ancient Persians was a human figure, winged, and moving on sunbeams; it seems to be identical with the mythic personage “ Cahaurman,” i.e., “ The resemblance in the light." A corresponding symbol among the Egyptians was the “Wing-bearer” (Pteraphoros), so called from the wings on his head, identical with Toth, or Hermes,
Trismegistus, “Thrice greatest,” being his human representative, as the ibis was his emblem among animals. In one hand he holds the triangle, emblematic of the Egyptian Triad, which he is said to have revealed (hence his name). It consists of three elements or principles, viz. :-Eicton, the occult principle; Emeph, the intelligible principle; and Ptha, the fabricative principle, answering to the Orphic Triad of the Greek Hierophants, viz., Ericthenes or ether, occult or hidden light; Phanes, or manifested light; and Metis, counsel or will; also, to the Chinese triad-Hi, the universal origin ; Yi, the universal light (identical with Tao, or Wisdom); and Ouec, the universal animation.
(2.) Hermes is also called the Hierophant, or revealer of sacred things, answering to the Phanes of the Orphic triad, and the second principle of the Egyptian and Chinese triads (see above); hence he is styled by Proclus "the inspirer of universal notions,” to which the cup in his hand refers, as the Hierophant used a cup when initiating into the mysteries. The Druids of Gaul had Hermes, whom they called Ogmius, represented as a man with a golden chain extending from his tongue to the ears of several people whom be drew after him, signifying the universal reason (Logos), drawing the souls of men by wise thoughts and speech (“winged words ") to wisdom and happiness. The Irish Druids had another representation of the Celtic Hermes, at once mythic and symbolical, viz., Eladhan, of the aspect, form, or resemblance of light (compare with the Magian symbol described above). He bears a wand with a trefoil on its top, and a chain. The trefoil symbolises the Druidic triad of which he is said to be the representative and revealer, like the Egyptian Hermes (see above). He is styled Eladhan, the son of Aonar, i.e., knowledge or wisdom emanating from solitary unity; and from him again are three sons or principles, Ogma, Dealbh, and Breas, i.e., the secret form or manifestation, and voice, power, or influence, to which agrees the triad of the Caledonian and Cambrian Druids, viz., one good, one truth or wisdom, and one point wherein all differences equiponderate and all things coalesce. A remarkable coincidence with this last principle will appear further on.
(3.) The first term of the Irish triad corresponds to the name of the Gaulish Hermes (Ogmius), and both the Hermaic personages have a chain ; that of Eladhan is termed “the chain of silence, peace, and harmony."*
TEACHING OF THE WORD. (1.) In that great storehouse of sacred symbolism, the first chapter of Ezekiel, the cherubim are described (ver. 5) as having“the likeness of a man," surrounded by symbols, conspicuous among wbich are wings and brightness (ver, 6–14), symbolising the Divine of the Lord in heaven; while “ above the firmament,' over the heads of the cherubim, was “the likeness of a throne, and the likeness of the appearance of a man above upon it,” representing the Lord in His Divine Humanity, above the heavens, and thus above and within the finite sphere of the Word. In this Divine Humanity or Word in ultimates (John i. 14) as well as in first principles (ver. 1) is manifested the Trinity or Sacred Trine of essence, form or manifestation, and operation or sphere of activity, identical with good or
* A chain denotes conjunction; the word “harmony" (in the original,“ Reidhteach") is used to express atonement in the Irish version of the Scriptures.
love, truth or wisdom, and power or influence, which are again synonymous with Father, Word or Son, and Holy Spirit. (Matt. xxviii. 19.) In it is, in short, “ all the fulness of the Godhead.” (Col. ii. 9; John xiv, 7-11.)
(2.) Joseph, who in a supreme sense represented our Lord, is called Zaphnath Paapeah, the revealer of secret things. (Gen. xli. 45.) (Compare the meaning of the Ericthenes and Phanes of the Orphic triad.) Joseph's silver cup signified "interior truth;" and the more interior truth is, the more universal are its ideas.
(3.) In the glorification of the Lord's Humanity by its complete union with the Divinity, there is conjunction, and peace, and harmony between heaven and earth, signified by the word atonement, or “at-one-ment.”
Primeval Wisdom. (1.) Among the Egyptians the seal of Hermes (see above, No. 1) was a favourite symbol; it was a sapphire stone, with the device of an ibis; a similar emblem exists among the Chinese, signifying "truth." A very celebrated Magian and Chaldean talisman was that consisting of a golden sphere or globe with a sapphire in the centre, in the form of a triangle, on which was a flower, the whole surrounded by bees, representing, according to the Chaldean oracles, the divine forms, ideas, or sums of thought in the inmost recesses of the universe and of the human soul, where they are like swarms, as the bidden charm of the one and spring of wise counsels and good principles in the other; they are unfolded in triplicity, and are nourished by the flower of light.
(2.) Another form of this symbol is the radiated circle or wheel, often found combined with the human figure, similar to that (described in No. 1) in the Persian and Assyrian scupltures,* and also among the Egyptian hieroglyphics, where it signified wisdom, or the union of many thoughts in one idea. We find it also among the Anglo-Saxons, in the wheel carried by Seatur. The Irish also speak of a Druid called Mogh-roth, or the Magus of the Wheel, “ because he divined by wheels and circles.” A corresponding Druidic emblem was the crystal sphere, "shewing all things in one presence," and the many-coloured vase of glass in a sphere with radiated circles, styled the omniform. Of similar import was the cup of Zemsheid, a Magian symbol that was said to “shew the universe," and the three cups of the Druidic triads of Erin, i.e., form or idea, many in one, and resemblance or tranquillity.
Teaching of the Word. (1.) The breast-plate of the Hebrew high priest was also likened to a seal. (Ex. xxviii. 21.) It denoted all goods and truths in the complex, arranged in a celestial form. And so all divine thoughts, forms, and principles of the Eternal Word pervaded the Lord's Humanity, and rendered it Divine. The Word having in His assumed Humanity brought all things into connection and harmony with interior truth, and thus with good, recapitulated, or summed in one, all things in heaven and earth in Himself (Eph. i. 10, Greek), and sealed the Humanity (John vi. 27), and thus in ultimates as in first principles, He is the idea or manifested form (Eidos) of God. (John v. 37, 38; Phil. ii. 6; Heb. i. 3.)
* The admirable and most instructive Lectures on the Nineveh Sculptures, by the Rev. T. Chalklen, must be fresh in the reader's mind.