THE SIX-POINTED AND FIVE-POINTED STARS
[Vol. III. No. 2, November, 1881.]
OUR authorities for representing the pentagram or
the five-pointed star as the microcosm, and the six-pointed double
triangle as the macrocosm, are all the best known Western Kabalistsmediæval
and modern. Éliphas Lévi (Abbé Constant) and, we believe,
Kunrath, one of the greatest occultists of the past ages, give their reasons
for it. In Hargrave Jennings Rosicrucians the correct cut of
the microcosm with man in the centre of the pentagram is given. There
is no objection whatever to publish their speculations save onethe
lack of space in our journal, as it would necessitate an enormous amount
of explanations to make their esoteric meaning clear. But room will always
be found to correct a few natural misconceptions which may arise in the
minds of some of our readers, owing to the necessary brevity of our editorial
notes. So long as the question raised provokes no discussion to show the
interest taken in the subject, these notes touch but superficially upon
every question. The excellence of the above-published paper ["The Six-pointed
and Five-pointed Stars," by Krishna Shankar Lalshankar], and the many
valuable remarks contained in it, afford us now an opportunity for correcting
such errors in the authors mind.
As understood in the West by the real Kabalists, Spirit and Matter
have their chief symbolical meaning in the respective colours of
the two interlaced triangles, and relate in no way to any of the lines which
bind the figures themselves. To the Kabalist and Hermetic philosopher, everything
in nature appears under a triune aspect; everything is a multiplicity and
trinity in unity, and is so represented by him symbolically in various geometrical
figures. "God geometrizes," says Plato. The "Three Kabalistic
Faces" are the "Three Lights" and the "Three Lives"
of Ain-Suph (the Parabrahman of the Westerns), which is also called the
"Central Invisible Sun." "The Universe is his Spirit, Soul
and Body," his "Three Emanations." This triune naturethe
purely Spiritual, the purely Material, and the Middle nature (or imponderable
matter, of which mans astral soul is composed)is represented
by the equilateral triangle, whose three sides are equal because these three
principles are diffused throughout the universe in equal proportions, andthe
one law in nature being perfect equilibriumare eternal and coëxistent.
The Western symbology then, with a trifling variation, is identically the
same as that of the Âryans. Names may vary, and trifling details may
be added, but the fundamental ideas are the same. The double triangle, representing
symbolically the macrocosm, or great universe, contains in itself the ideas
of Unity, of Duality (as shown in the two colours, and two trianglesthe
universe of Spirit and that of Matter), of Trinity, of the Pythagoræan
Tetraktys, the perfect Square, up to the Dodekagon
and the Dodekahedron. The ancient Chaldæan Kabaliststhe masters
and inspirers of the Jewish Kabalahwere neither the Anthropomorphizers
of the Old Testament, nor those of the present day. Their Ain-Suphthe
Endless and the Boundless"has a form and then has no form,"
says the Zohar,* and forthwith explains
the riddle by adding: "The Invisible assumed a Form when he called
the Universe into existence." That is to say, the Deity can only be
seen and conceived of in objective naturepure pantheism. The three
sides of the triangles represent to the Occultists as they do to the ÂryansSpirit,
Matter, and the Middle nature (the latter identical in its meaning with
"Space"); hence also the creative, preservative and
destructive energies, typified in the "Three Lights." The
first Light infuses intelligent, conscious life throughout the universe,
thus answering to the creative energy. The second Light incessantly
produces forms out of preexistent cosmic matter within the cosmic circle,
and hence is the preservative energy. The third Light produces the
whole universe of gross physical matter. As the latter keeps gradually receding
from the central spiritual Light, its brightness wanes, and it becomes Darkness
or Evil, leading to Death. Hence it becomes the destructive energy,
which we find ever at work on forms and shapesthe temporary and the
changing. The "Three Kabalistic Faces" of the "Ancient of
the Ancient"who "has no face"are the Âryan
deities called respectively Brahmâ, Vishnu and Rudra or Shiva. The
double triangle of the Kabalists is enclosed within a circle represented
by a serpent swallowing its own tail (the Egyptian emblem of the eternity),
and sometimes by a simple circle (see the theosophical seal). The only difference
we can see between the Aryan and the Western symbology of the double triangleaccording
to the authors explanationlies in his omission to notice the
profound and special meaning in that which, if we
understand him rightly, he terms "the zenith and the zero." With
the Western Kabalists, the apex of the white triangle loses itself in the
zenith, the world of pure immateriality or unalloyed
Spirit, while the lower angle of the black triangle pointing downward towards
the nadir showsto use a very prosaic phrase of the mediaeval Hermetistspure,
or rather "impure matter," as the "gross purgations of the
celestial fire" (Spirit) drawn into the vortex of annihilation, that
lower world, where forms and shapes and conscious life disappear to be dispersed
and return to the mother fount (Cosmic Matter). So with the central point
and the central cavity, which, according to the Paurânik teaching,
"is considered to be the seat of the Avyakta Brahma, or Unmanifested
The Occultists, who generally draw the figure thus, instead of a simple
central geometrical point (which, having neither length, breadth nor thickness,
represents the invisible Central Sun," the Light of the "Unmanifested
Deity"), often place the Crux Ansata (the "handled cross,"
or the Egyptian Tau), at the zenith of which, instead of a mere upright
line, they substitute a circle, the symbol of limitless, uncreated Space.
Thus modified, this cross has nearly the same significance as the "Mundane
Cross" of the ancient Egyptian Hermetists, a cross within a circle
Therefore, it is erroneous to say that the editorial note stated
that the double triangle represented "Spirit and Matter only,"
for it represents so many emblems that a volume would not suffice to explain
them. Says our critic:
If, as you say, the double triangle is made to represent universal spirit
and matter only, the objection that two sidesor any two thingscannot
form a triangle, or that a triangle cannot be made to represent
onespirit alone, or matter aloneas you appear to have done
by the distinction of white and blackremains unexplained.
Believing that we have now sufficiently explained some of the difficulties,
and shown that the Western Kabalists always had regard to the "trinity
in unity" and vice versâ, we may add that the Pythagoræans
explained away the "objection" especially insisted upon by the
writer of the above words about 2,500 years ago. The sacred numbers of that
schoolwhose cardinal idea was that there existed a permanent principle
of Unity beneath all the forces and phenomenal changes of the universedid
not include the number two or the Duad among the others. The Pythagoræans
refused to recognize that number, even as an abstract idea, precisely on
the ground that in geometry it was impossible to construct a figure with
only two straight lines. It is obvious that for symbolical purposes the
number cannot be identified with any circumscribed figure, whether a plane
or a solid, geometric figure; and thus, as it could not be made to represent
a unity in a multiplicity as any other polygonal figure can, it could not
be regarded as a sacred number. The number two, represented in geometry
by a double horizontal line ==, and in the Roman numerals
by a double perpendicular line ||, and, a line having
length, but not breadth or thickness, another numeral had to be added to
it before it could be accepted. It is only in conjunction with number one,
thus becoming the equilateral triangle, that it can be called a figure.
It thus becomes evident why, in symbolizing Spirit and Matter (the Alpha
and Omega in the Kosmos), the Hermetists had to use two triangles interlaced
(both a "trinity in unity"), making the one typifying Spirit white
with chalk, and the other typifying Matter black with charcoal.
To the question, what do the two other angles of the white triangle signify,
if the one "white point ascending heavenward symbolizes Spirit"we
answer that, according to the Kabalists. the two lower points signify "Spirit
falling into generation," i.e., the pure divine Spark
already mixed with the Matter of the phenomenal world. The same explanation
holds good for the two base angles of the black triangle; the third points
showing respectively the progressive purification of Spirit, and the progressive
grossness of Matter. Again, to say that "any thought of upward or downward"
in "the sublime idea of the Kosmos" seems "not only revolting
but unreal," is to object to anything abstract being symbolized in
a concrete image. Then why not make away with all the signs altogether,
including that of Vishnu and with all the learned Paurânik explanations
thereof given by the writer? And why should the Kabalistic idea be more
revolting than that of "Death, Devourer, Time," the latter word
being a synonym of Endless Eternityrepresented by a circle surrounding
the double triangle? Strange inconsistency, and one, moreover, which clashes
entirely with the rest of the article! If the writer has not met "anywhere
with the idea of one triangle being white and the other black," it
is simply because he has never studied, nor probably even seen the writings
and illustrations of Western Kabalists.
The above explanations contain the key to the Pythagoræan general
formula of unity in multiplicity, the One evolving the many, and pervading
the many and the whole. Their mystic Dekad (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10), expresses
the entire idea; it is not only far from being "revolting"
but it is positively sublime. The One is the Deity; the Two Matterthe
figure so despised by them as Matter per se can never be a conscious
unity. The Three (or Triangle), combining Monad
and Duad, partaking of the nature of both, becomes the Triad or the phenomenal
world. The Tetrad or sacred Tetraktys, the form of perfection with the Pythagoræans,
expresses at the same time the emptiness of allMâyâ. While
the Dekad, or sum of all, involves the entire Kosmos. "The universe
is the combination of a thousand elements, and yet the expression of a single
elementabsolute harmony or spirita chaos to the sense, a perfect
kosmos to reason," we say in Isis Unveiled.
Pythagoras learned his philosophy in India. Hence, the similarity in
the fundamental ideas of the ancient Brâhmanical Initiates and the
Pythagorists. And when in defining the Shatkon, the writer says it "represents
the great universe (Brahmânda)the whole endless Mahâkâshawith
all the planetary and stellar worlds contained in it," he only repeats
in other words the explanation given by Pythagoras and the Hermetic philosophers
of the hexagonal star or the "double triangle," as shown above.
Nor do we find it very difficult to fill up the gap left in our brief
note in the August number as to the "remaining three points of the
two triangles," and the three sides of each element of the "double
triangle" or of the circle surrounding the figure. As the Hermetists
symbolized everything visible and invisible they could not fail to symbolize
the macrocosm in its completeness.
The Pythagoreans who included in their Dekad the entire Kosmos,
held the number twelve in still higher reverence as it represented the sacred
Tetraktys multiplied by three, which gave a trinity of perfect squares called
tetrads. The Hermetic philosophers or Occultists following in their steps
represented this number twelve in the "double triangle"the
great universe or the macrocosm as shown in this figureand included
in it the pentagram, or the microcosm, called by them the little universe.
Dividing the twelve letters of the outer angles
into four groups of triads, or three groups of tetrads, they obtained the
Dodekagon, a regular geometric polygon, bounded by twelve equal sides
and containing twelve equal angles, which symbolized with the ancient
Chaldæans the twelve "great gods,"§
and with the Hebrew Kabalists the ten Sephiroth, or creative powers of nature,
emanated from Sephira (Divine Light), herself the chief Sephiroth and emanation
from Hakoma, the Supreme (or Unmanifested) Wisdom, and Ain-Suph the Endless;
viz., three groups of triads of the Sephiroth and
a fourth triad, composed of Sephira, Ain-Suph and Hakoma, the Supreme Wisdom
which "cannot be understood by reflection," and which "lies
concealed within and without the cranium of Long Face,"¶ the uppermost head of the upper triangle forming
the "Three Kabalistic Faces," making up the twelve.
Moreover, the twelve figures give two squares or the double Tetraktys,
representing in the Pythagoræan symbology the two worldsthe
spiritual and the physical. The eighteen inner and six central angles yield,
besides twenty-four, twice the sacred macrocosmic number, also the twenty-four
"divine unmanifested powers." These it would be impossible to
enumerate in so short a space. Besides, it is far more reasonable in our
days of scepticism to follow the hint of Iamblichus, who says, that "the
divine powers always felt indignant with those who rendered manifest the
composition of the Icosahedron," viz., those who delivered the method
of inscribing in a sphere the Dodekahedron, one of the five solid
figures in geometry, contained by twelve equal and regular pentagonsthe
secret Kabalistic meaning of which our opponents would do well to study.
In addition to all this, as shown in the "double triangle"
above, the pentagram in the centre gives the key to the meaning of the Hermetic
philosophers and Kabalists. So well known and widespread is this double
sign that it may be found over the entrance door of the Lhakhang (temples
containing Buddhist images and statues), in every Gong-pa (lamasery), and
often over the relic-cupboard, called in Tibet Doong-ting.
The mediæval Kabalists give us in their writings the key to its
meaning. "Man is a little world inside the great universe"Paracelsus
teaches. And again: "A microcosm, within the macrocosm, like a ftus,
he is suspended by his three principal spirits in the matrix of the universe."
These three spirits are described as double: (I) the spirit of the elements
(terrestrial body and vital principle); (2) the spirit of the stars (sidereal
or astral body and the will governing it); (3) the spirits of the spiritual
world (the animal and the spiritual souls); the seventh principle
being an almost immaterial spirit or the divine Augoeides, Âtmâ,
represented by the central point, which corresponds to the human navel.
This seventh principle is the personal God of every man, say the
old Western and Eastern Occultists.
Therefore it is that the explanations given by our critic of the Shatkon
and Panchkon rather corroborate than destroy our theory. Speaking of the
five triangles composed of "five times five" or twenty-five points,
he remarks of the pentagram that it is a "number otherwise corresponding
with the twenty-five elements making a living human creature."
Now we suppose that by "elements" the writer means just what the
Kabalists say when they teach that the emanations of the twenty-four divine
"unmanifested powers"the "unexisting" or "central
point" being the twenty-fifthmake a perfect human being. But
without disputing upon the relative value of the words element
and "emanation," and strengthened moreover as we find the above
sentence by the authors additional remark that "the entire figure"
of the microcosm, "the inner world of individual living being,"
is "a figure which is the sign of Brahma, the deified creative energy"in
what respect, we ask, does the above sentence so much clash with our statement
that some proficients in Hermetic philosophy and Kabalists regard the five
points of the pentagram as representing the five cardinal limbs of the human
body? We are no ardent disciple or follower of the Western Kabalists,
yet we maintain that in this they are right. If the twenty-five elements
represented by the five-pointed star make up a "living human creature"
then these elements are all vital, whether mental or physical, and the figure
symbolizing "creative energy" gives the more force to the
Kabalistic idea. Every one of the five gross elementsearth, water,
fire, air (or "wind") and etherenters into the composition
of man, and whether we say "five organs of action" or the "five
limbs" or even the "five senses," it means all one and the
same thing, if we would refrain from hair-splitting.
Most undoubtedly the "proficients" could explain their claim
at least as satisfactorily as the writer who controverts and denies it,
in explaining his own. In the Codex Nazaræeus, the most Kabalistic
of booksthe Supreme King of Light and the chief Æon, Mano, emanates
the five Æonshe himself with the Lord Ferho (the "Unknown
Formless Life" of which he is an emanation) making up the seven,
which typify again the seven principles in man; the five being purely
material and semi-material, and the higher two almost immaterial and spiritual.
Five refulgent rays of light proceed from each of the seven Æons,
five of these shooting through the head, the two extended hands, and the
two feet of man represented in the five-pointed star, one enveloping him
as with a mist and the seventh settling like a bright star over his head.
The illustration may be seen in several old books upon the Codex Nazaræus
and the Kabalah. What wonder, then, that since electricity or animal
magnetism streams most powerfully from the five cardinal limbs of man, and
since the phenomena of what is now called "mesmeric" force had
been studied in the temples of ancient Egypt and Greece, and mastered as
it may never hope to be mastered in our age of idiotic and à priori
denial, the old Kabalists and philosophers who symbolized every power
in nature, should, for reasons perfectly evident for those who know anything
of the arcane sciences and the mysterious relations which exist between
numbers, figures and ideas, have chosen to represent "the five cardinal
limbs of man"the head, the two arms and the two legsin
the five points of the pentagram? Éliphas Lévi, the modern
Kabalist, goes as far, if not farther, than his ancient and mediæval
brethren, for, he says in his Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (p.175):
The Kabalistic use of the pentagram can determine the countenance of
unborn infants, and an initiated woman might give to her son the features
of Nereus or Achilles, or those of Louis XIV or Napoleon.
The Astral Light of the Western Occultists is the Âkâsha
of the Hindus. Many of the latter will not study its mysterious correlations,
either under the guidance of initiated Kabalists or that of their own initiated
Brâhmans, preferring to Prajnâ Pâramitâtheir
own conceit. And yet both exist and are identical.
H. P. Blavatsky
* The Book of Splendour, written by Simeon Ben
Iochai, in the first century B.C.; according to others in the year
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The meaning is the same in the Egyptian pyramid.
A French archæologist of some renown, Dr. Rebold, shows the great
culture of the Egyptians, 5,000 B.C., by stating upon various authorities
that there were at that time no less than " thirty or forty colleges
of the initiated priests who studied occult sciences and practical magic."
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Compare Kapilas SânkhyaPurusha
and Prakriti; only the two combined when forming a unity can manifest themselves
in this world of the senses.
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§ According to Haugs Aitareya Bráhmana,
the Hindu Manas (Mind) or Bhagavân creates no more than the Pythagoræan
Monas. He enters the Egg of the World and emanates from it as Brahmâ,
as itself (Bhagavân) has no first cause (Apûrva). Brahma, as
Prajâpatî, manifests himself (as the androgyne Sephira and the
ten Sephiroth) as twelve bodies or attributes which are represented by the
twelve Gods symbolizing (1) Fire, (2) the Sun, (3) Soma, (4) all living
Beings, (5) Vâyu, (6) DeathShiva, (7) Earth, (8) Heaven,
(9) Agni, (10) Âditya, (11) Mind, (12) the great Infinite Cycle which
is not to be stopped. This, with a few variations, is purely the Kabalistic
idea of the Sephiroth.
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¶ Idra Rabba, vi. 58.
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