THEOSOPHY, Vol. 48, No. 9, July, 1960
(Pages 417-422; Size: 17K)
THE EMBLEM OF LIFE(1)The great truth is One, while it can be seen in a thousand ways.NO symbol was ever adopted anciently which did not bear an androgynous significance as well as a sevenfold use. Hence the one-time adoration universally of the cow and bull. The former was the symbol of the productive, the latter of the generative power in Nature: symbols connected with both the solar and cosmic deities. The worship of the bull and the ram was addressed to one and the same power, that of generative creation, under two aspects -- the celestial or cosmic, and the terrestrial or human. Yet the popular idea of any such "worship" is as erroneous as it is unjust.
No ancient people, including the Egyptian, worshipped the cow, nor does any Hindu worship the animal now, though it is true that the cow and bull were sacred then as they are today -- but only the natural physical symbol of a metaphysical ideal, even as a church of bricks and mortar is sacred to the civilized Christian because of its association, and not by reason of its walls. But though the "worship" of the bull, Apis -- or the living Osiris -- ceased in Egypt over three thousand years ago, the worship of the ram and lamb continues to this day. Mariette Bey discovered the Serapeum, the Necropolis of the Apis-bulls, near Memphis, an imposing subterranean crypt two thousand feet long and twenty feet wide, containing the mummies of thirty sacred bulls. If one thousand years hence a Roman Catholic cathedral with an Easter lamb in it were discovered under the ashes of Vesuvius or Etna, would future generations be justified in inferring therefrom that Christians were lamb and dove worshippers? Yet the two symbols would give them as much right in the one case as in the other.
The cow was sacred to Isis, the Universal Mother-Nature. It was, in every country the symbol of the passive generative power of nature (Vach, Venus, Isis), the mother of the prolific god of love, Cupid, but at the same time of the Logos whose symbol became with the Egyptians and Indians the bull. Thus the bull Nandi of the Hindus is the vahan (vehicle) of the god Siva and his most sacred emblem. This emblem of Life represented by the bull is to be found in every religious system.
In esoteric philosophy the cow is the symbol of creative nature, and the bull (her calf) the spirit which vivifies her, or "the Holy Spirit." In the Vedas, the Dawn of Creation is represented by a cow. This is the Egyptian Issa (Isis) also, the goddess Virgin-Mother who is personified Nature. Isis is the female reflection, therefore, of Uasar, or Osiris. She is the "woman clothed with the sun" of the land of Chemi. All the gods and goddesses, of whatever antiquity, were androgyne. The universal energy, however, is considered philosophically as female. Shakti is the active female energy of the Gods. In popular Hinduism the shaktis are the wives and goddesses. In Occultism they are Force and the six forces of nature synthesized. Astarte, the Syrian goddess, and Venus, Isis, Ishter, Mylitta, Vach, etc., are identical with the Aditi of the Hindus. They are all the "Mothers of all living" and "of the gods."
Ideal Nature, the abstract Space in which everything in the Universe is mysteriously and invisibly generated, is the same female side of procreative power in nature in the Vedic as it is in every other Cosmogony. Aditi is Sephira, it is the Sophia of the Gnostics, and Isis the virgin Mother of Horus. In Egyptian symbolism the outa was the eye of Horus -- the right eye being the sun, and the left the moon. The right eye of Horus was called "the cow of Hathor," and served as a powerful amulet, just as the dove in a nest of rays or glory -- with or without the cross -- is a talisman with Christians, Latins, and Greeks. Hathor in the symbolism is again the Dawn of Creation with the Egyptians -- the day which follows, or nature already formed, being Isis.
In the Scandinavian Cosmogony, Audumla is the Cow of Creation, the "nourisher," from which flowed four streams of milk which fed the giant Ymir -- matter in ebullition -- and his sons, the "Frost Giants," before the appearance of gods and men. Having nothing to graze upon, she licked the salt from the ice-rocks and thus produced Buri, "the Producer," in his turn, who had a son Bor (the born) who married a daughter of the Frost Giants, and had three sons -- Odin (Spirit), Wili (Will), and We (Holy). The meaning of the allegory is evident. It is the pre-cosmic union of the elements, of Spirit, or the creative Force, with Matter, cooled and still seething, which it forms in accordance with universal Will. Then the Ases, "the pillars and supports of the World" (Cosmocratores, Builders) step in and "create" as All-Father wills them.
Those who regard the solar gods and the bulls as of a phallic character, or connect the Sun with the latter, are mistaken. It is the lunar gods and the rams, and lambs, which are priapic. Osiris (the self-existent, the Logos) to whom the bull was sacred, was never regarded as a phallic deity; neither was Siva with his bull Nandi. As Nandi is of a pure milk-white color, so was Apis. Both were the emblems of the generative, or of evolutionary power in the Universal Kosmos.
The Taurus also (which, by the way, is no lamb but a bull) was sacred in every Cosmogony, with the Hindus as with the Zoroastrians, with the Chaldees as with the Egyptians. It was in the religion of the Persians when they conquered the Assyrians. It is stated that the college of the Chaldean Magians had accepted it with the change of dynasty. Daniel is described as a Rabbi, the chief of the Babylonian astrologers and Magi. Therefore we see the Assyrian little bulls and the attributes of Siva reappearing under a hardly-modified form in the cherubs of the Talmudic Jews, and they can be traced as the bull Apis in the sphinxes or cherubs of the Mosaic Ark -- and as we find it several thousand years later in the company of one of the Christian evangelists, Luke.
The Bull and the Lion which we often find in company with Luke and Mark in the frontispiece of their respective Gospels in the Greek and Latin texts, are explained as symbols -- which is indeed the fact. Why not admit the same in the case of the Egyptian and other sacred bulls, cows, rams, and birds? It little becomes a religion which, however unconsciously, has still adopted for its worship a god -- pre-eminently lunar, and accentuated its choice by the selection of the lamb, whose sire is the ram, a glyph as pre-eminently phallic, for its most sacred symbol -- to vilify the older religions for using the same symbolisms. The Christians have to this day their sacred birds; for instance the dove, the symbol of the Holy Ghost. Nor have they neglected the sacred animals. The Evangelical zoolatry -- the bull, the eagle, the lion, and the angel, is as much pagan as that of the Egyptians or the Chaldeans. These four animals are in reality the symbols of the four elements, and of the four lower principles in man. They correspond physically and materially to the four constellations that form, so to speak, the suite or cortege of the Solar God (Osiris, Brahma), and occupy during the winter solstice the four cardinal points of the zodiacal circle.
The sarcophagus was in Egypt also the symbol of the female principle. Its form and shape changed with every country, provided it remained a vessel, a symbolic navis or boat-shaped vehicle, and a container, symbolically, for the germs of life. The navis -- the Sidereal vessel -- is fructified by the Spirit of Life -- the male God. The Ark, in which are preserved the germs of all living things necessary to re-people the earth, represents the survival of life and the supremacy of spirit over matter, through the conflict of the opposing powers of nature. The Ark is the sacred Argha of the Hindus, and thus, the relation in which it stands to Noah's ark may be easily inferred, when we learn that the Argha was an oblong vessel, used by the high priests as a sacrificial chalice in the worship of Isis, Astarte, and Venus-Aphrodite, all of whom were goddesses of the generative powers of nature, or of matter -- hence representing symbolically the Ark containing the germs of all living things. The crescent form Argha of the Greeks was the type of the Queen of Heaven, Diana, or the Moon. She was the great Mother of all Existences, as the Sun was the Father. Astarte was in one sense an impersonal symbol of Nature, the ship of Life carrying throughout the boundless Sidereal Ocean the germs of all being.
Isis, mystic nature and earth also, is identified by her cow's horns (the crescent or navis form) with Vach. Vach with the Hindus is mystic, though physical, nature, with all her magic ways and properties. Vach is the daughter and female portion of Brahma, one "generated by the gods," as Isis is also the daughter, wife, and sister of Osiris. These, in company with other goddesses, are, so to say, the female Logos -- the goddesses of the active forces in nature, the Word, Voice or Sound, and Speech. If Kwan-Yin is the "melodious Voice," so is Vach; "the melodious cow who milked forth sustenance and water" (female principle), "who yields us nourishment and sustenance" as Mother-Nature. She is male and female ad libitum, as Eve is with Adam. And she is a form of Aditi -- the principle higher than Ether -- in Akasha, the synthesis of all the forces in nature. Vach and Kwan-Yin, hence Isis also, are the magic potency of occult Sound in Nature and Ether -- whose "Voice" calls forth Sien-Tchan, the illusive form of the Universe, out of Chaos and the Seven Elements. Symbolically they are all the "Mother of the Gods," and it is from Brahma (the Logos) and Vach, as from Adam Kadmon and Sephira, that the real manifested theogony has to start. Beyond all is darkness and abstraction.
Taurus (the Bull) is a most mysterious constellation of the Zodiac, one connected with all the "First-born" solar gods (Brahma, Tammuz, Belus, Osiris, etc.). Taurus is under the asterisk A, which is its figure in the Hebrew alphabet, that of Aleph; and therefore that constellation is called the One, the First, after that letter. It is claimed that it was no hazard that could lead the archaic architects of the Zodiac thousands of years ago to so mark the figure of Taurus. And, if no better or more valid proof of it being prophetic of the Verbum or Christ than that the aleph of Taurus means "the One" and the First, and that Christ was also the alpha or the One, can be found, then this "proof" may be shown strangely invalidated in more than one way.
To begin with, the Zodiac existed before the Christian era, at all events; further, all the Sun-gods had been mystically connected with the constellation of Taurus and were all called by their respective votaries "the First." The ancient Druids understood the meaning of the Sun in Taurus when, while all the fires were extinguished on the 1st of November, their sacred and inextinguishable fires alone remained to illumine the horizon, like those of the Magi and the modern Zoroastrians. It is recorded that at the commencement of Kali Yuga the constellation of Taurus was in the first sign of the Zodiac, and consequently the equinoctial points fell therein. At this time also, Leo was in the summer solstice, Scorpio in the autumnal equinox, and Aquarius in the winter solstice; and these facts form the astronomical key to half the religious mysteries of the world -- the Christian scheme included.
The Secret Doctrine is not sparing of its esotericism in regard to the "First-born." The Pleiades, as all know, are the seven stars beyond the Bull, which appear at the beginning of spring. The Pleiades are the central group of the system of sidereal symbology. They are situated in the neck of the constellation of Taurus, and are regarded in astronomy as the central group of the system of the Milky Way, and in the Kabala and Eastern esotericism as the sidereal septenate born from the first manifested side of the upper, concealed Triangle. This manifested side is Taurus, the symbol of the ONE (Aleph, bull or ox), whose synthesis is ten (10), the perfect letter or number.
"The radiant essence curdled and spread throughout the depths" of Space. The curds are the first differentiation, and probably refer also to that cosmic matter which is supposed to be the origin of the "Milky Way" -- the matter we know. This "matter," which, according to the revelation received from the primeval Dhyani-Buddhas, is, during the periodical sleep of the Universe, of the ultimate tenuity conceivable to the eye of the perfect Bodhisattva, radical and cool, becomes at the first reawakening of cosmic motion scattered through Space, appearing, when seen from this earth as in clusters and lumps, like curds in the milk. These are the seeds of the future worlds, the "Star-stuff."
It is more difficult, however, to explain the symbolic statement in a few words, or even lines, from the standpoint of Occult science and Symbolism. The whole pantheon of mysterious objects, every one of them having some definite occult meaning, extracted from the allegorical "churning of the ocean" by the Hindu gods, is herein found. Besides Amrita, "the water of life or immortality," Surabhi, the "cow of plenty," called the "fountain of milk and curds," was extracted from this "Sea of Milk." From this sprang the universal symbolism of the cow and bull and of the solar and lunar deities thus symbolized -- "the one, the generative; the other, the productive Power in Nature."
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
A "MIDDLE" PRINCIPLE
Now, the view of the world that was held by the older natural philosophers, and which was essential to alchemy, proposed as the principal agent of nature a middle substance, mediating between mind and matter, and so being capable of resolving many of these difficulties. The medieval scheme of the world could no longer satisfy the men of the seventeenth century, because the bottom had been knocked out of it by such innovators as Galileo, Boyle, and Newton, who showed that much that was essential to it was not true. But nothing had been said to upset the belief in our pneuma, the middle substance, and, under the guise of the animal spirits, the magnetic effluvia, the ether of space, etc., something very like it still played an important part in the scientific theory. Accordingly, writings which tried to resolve in terms of pneuma the difficulties that a materialistic science was raising were sure of a hearing. Behind alchemy there was always a theory of the operations of nature, and this theory, in somewhat revised forms, was presented anew to the seventeenth-century public under the name of the Hermetic philosophy.
F. SHERWOOD TAYLOR: The Alchemists
THE ETERNAL MOTION
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