Dear Member of Blavatsky Net,
(Due to pressing personal tasks there was no November BN newsletter.)
With the plethora of unfamiliar terms in the Secret Doctrine we may not realize that one of
them has a special peculiarity and mystery of its own - the term Baphomet. This newsletter
reports on how this centuries-long mystery finally has been resolved by the respected Dead
Sea scholar Hugh Schonfield just under 50 years ago.
The mystery starts with the Knights Templar.
The Knights Templar were officially first founded after the First Crusade in 1118 by the
nobleman Hugues de Payens for the purpose of protecting European pilgrims on their way to
and from the Holy Land. They were originally known as "The poor knights of Christ and the
Temple of Solomon". Their connection to maintaining the esoteric tradition is a fulsome
story with this newsletter only a facinating detail.
Unfortunately they were tax exempt. This allowed them to become quite wealthy over a
period of two centuries. They instituted Europe's first banking system. By the beginning
of the 14th century King Phillip became desirous of their wealth and he also, by the way -
was one of their debtors. So he did what Kings are wont to do.
King Philip arranged for Pope Clement V, the King's puppet at that time, to dissolve the
order based on charges of heresy. The king had arranged in-hand reports from agents who
claimed to have infiltrated secret meetings of the Knights Templar and the king as well had
a signed affidavit from an alleged disgruntled ex-Templar. He then distributed orders to
his henchmen that they were not to open until midnight before October 13, 1307. The orders
required that on the 13th, as many Templars as possible were arrested. The king also, of
course, decreed that his debt was canceled. (Unfortunate moral: Never loan money to a
The Templars were interrogated and tortured by the church. Most of the charges were viewed
as silly by the populace but one of them was strange and notable. Twelve of the 231
Templars interrogated by the church admitted to worshipping "Baphomet" - pronounced "Baff -
oh - may."
The term Baphomet was a new term and its origin was not known. Some scholars today suggest
that the term was only the product of torture. Other scholars offer a variety of
unconvincing derivations of the term. Hugh Schonfield refers to "Baphomet" as an
"obviously artificial" name.
In contrast to the unknowing, Blavatsky seems to know its truly esoteric meaning. She
"How little the philosophy of the old secret doctrine was understood, is illustrated
in the atrocious persecutions of the Templars by the Church, and in the accusation
of their worshipping the Devil under the shape of the goat — Baphomet! Without
going into the old Masonic mysteries, there is not a Mason — of those we mean
who do *know something* — but has an idea of the true relation that Baphomet bore
to Azâzêl, the scapegoat of the wilderness, whose character and meaning are
entirely perverted in the Christian translations. (IUi302-3)
But before reviewing the hints from Blavatsky we should explore the solution of Schonfield
which is facinating and the best of the exoteric lot.
You may not have heard of it before but there is a Kabalistic cypher known as the Atbash
cypher. It will be easiest to explain if the Atbash cypher is first illustrated with
English. Imagine the letters of the English alphabet arranged on a line of the page from
left to right. Then imagine under that is another line of the alphabet written under the
first but from right to left. Place the letter "Z" of the second line under the "A" of the
first line. Place the "A" of the second line under the "Z" of the first line. This gives
the correspondences for a simple letter substituion.
We can translate the word "ABSOLUTE" using the Atbash technique in English. The letter "A"
gets replaced with "Z" in the coded result. The letter "B" gets replaced with the letter
"Y" in the coded form. S gets replaced with H. Finally the entire word "ABSOLUTE" coded
with Atbash becomes "ZYHLOFGV". Admittedly the result is not so pronounceable toward the
end. But it sure hides the original word - and you may want to do that if you might be
tortured by the church.
When Atbash is used with the Hebrew alphabet then "aleph", the first letter of the Hebrew
alphabet, is replaced with "tav", the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Beth, the second
letter, is replaced with "shin", the next to the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet etc.
(The name "Atbash" comes from these letters of aleph, tav, beth and shin. This is not so
strange if you consider where the word "AlphaBet" comes from.)
Just for the record, in the Book of Jeremiah, the words "Leb Kamai" is Atbash code for
"kasdim/Kasdin", that is, "Chaldeans", and Sheshakh are Atbash for Babel.
To Hugh Schonfield's credit, he decided to apply the Atbash code to various other
mysterious words. In his "The Essene Odyssey" published 1984 he succinctly summarized:
The mysteries here referred to have never been explained. But the evidences
of links with Essene lore suggested to me that these reports might have a
foundation in fact. I decided to treat the obviously artificial name Baphomet
as another case of the use of the Hebrew Atbash cipher for purposes of
concealment. Setting down Baphomet in Hebrew characters produced
"taf, mem, vav, pe, bet" right to left] which by Atbash converted immediately
into ["alef, yud, pe, vav, shin" right to left] (Sophia), the Greek work for Wisdom.
So this centuries old secret was for the
first time revealed!. (The Essene Odyssey p 164)
So Schonfield found that Baphomet translated into Sophia! The Templars had been
"worshipping" wisdom and not some strange devil. And at that, not a single Templar, even
under torture, had revealed the name Sophia. Of course etymologically this is the same
"soph" as in "Theosophy." The wisdom religion twists, turns and lives on!
Today, Schonfield's explanation for the derivation of Baphomet is the more generally
accepted one. Also the Baphomet/Sophia connection is the most often cited example of an
Atbash translation. (Since the "devil" card in some Tarot decks is related to Baphomet we
may need to do some re-evaluation of Tarot in light of Atbash.)
Now the last question - what did Blavatsky think? Her answer is much more extensive. I
assume she would concur with Schonfield's explanation, but she goes much further.
The best known image of Baphomet is an image presented by Eliphas Levi. You can see it at
http://altreligion.about.com/library/glossary/bldefbaphomet.htm . It has a Goat's head, and
a body with female breasts that is viewed as hermaphroditic as a whole. A caduceus in the
middrift is also quite suggestive.
Perhaps Blavatsky's simplest and most approachable explanation is this:
What was in reality that much maligned and still more dreaded goat [the
Hermaphrodite goat of Mendes], that Baphomet regarded even now by the
Roman Catholics as Satan, the Grand Master of the “Witches Sabbath,”
the central figure of their nocturnal orgies? Why, simply Pan or Nature.
cw4 footnootes to Gleanings from Elivas Levi.)
Her next quote suggests there is more upon which she will not venture as she reviews goat
Let us close by reminding the reader that goats were sacrificed to Amphitrite
and the Nereids on the sea-shore, as goats are sacrificed to this day to Durga Kali,
who is only the black side of Lakshmi (Venus), the white side of Sakti; and by
suggesting what connection these animals may have with Capricornus, in which
appear twenty-eight stars in the form of a goat, which goat was transformed by
the Greeks into Amalthæa—Jupiter’s foster-mother. Pan, the god of Nature,
had goat’s feet, and changed himself into a goat at the approach of Typhon.
But this is a mystery which the writer dares not dwell upon at length, not being
sure of being understood. Thus the mystical side of the interpretation must be
left to the intuition of the student (SDii579)
Here may be a hint of the reason why there is no more to say on the occult meaning of
Baphomet. "The Hermaphrodite goat of Mendes" is used as a synomym of Baphomet and it is
footnoted with this comment:
Eliphas Lévi shows it very truly “a force in Nature,” by means of which
“a single man who can master it . . . might throw the world into confusion
and transform its face”; for it is the “great Arcanum of transcendent
Magic.” Quoting the words of the great Western Kabalist in their translated
form (see The Mysteries of Magic, by A. E. Waite), we may explain them
perhaps the better by the occasional addition of a word or two to show the
difference between Western and Eastern explanations of the same subject.
The Author says of the great Magic Agent—“This ambient and
all-penetrating fluid, this ray detached from the (Central or ‘Spiritual’) Sun’s
splendour . . . fixed by the weight of the atmosphere (?!) and the power of
central attraction. . . the Astral Light, this electro-magnetic ether, this vital
and luminous caloric, is represented on ancient monuments by the girdle
of Isis which twines round two poles . . . and in ancient theogonies by the
serpent devouring its own tail, emblem of prudence and of Saturn”
— emblem of infinity, immortality, and Kronos—“Time”—not the god Saturn
or the planet. “It is the winged dragon of Medea, the double serpent of the
caduceus, and the tempter of Genesis; but it is also the brazen snake of
Moses encircling the Tau . . . lastly, it is the devil of exoteric dogmatism,
and is really the blind force (it is not blind, and Lévi knew it), which souls
must conquer in order to detach themselves from the chains of Earth;
‘for if they should not,’ they will be absorbed by the same power which
first produced them and will return to the central and eternal fire.” This
great archæus is now discovered by, and only *for one man* — Mr. J. W.
As usual, Blavatsky sees more in the symbolism of the mysteries.
"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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