The Pythagorean ideas as to particular numbers are partially
expressed in the following
LECTURE OF THE KABALISTS.
Qu.'. Why did you seek to be received a Knight of the Kabalah
Ans.. To know, by means of numbers, the admirable harmony which
there is between nature and religion.
Qu.'. How were you announced?
Ans.'. By twelve raps.
Qu.'. What do they signify?
Ans.'. The twelve bases of our temporal and spiritual
Qu.'. What is a Kabalist?
Ans.'. A man who has learned, by tradition, the Sacerdotal Art
and the Royal Art.
Qu.'. What means the device, Omnia in numeris sita sunt?
Ans.'. That everything lies veiled in numbers.
Qu.'. Explain me that.
Ans.'. I will do so, as far as the number 12. Your sagacity will
discern the rest.
Qu.'. What signifies the unit in the number 10?
Ans.'. GOD, creating and animating matter, expressed by 0, which,
alone, is of no value.
Qu.'. What does the unit mean?
Ans.'. In the moral order, a Word incarnate in the bosom of a
virgin--or religion.... In the physical, a spirit embodied in the
virgin earth--or nature.
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number two?
Ans.'. In the moral order, man and woman.... In the phyiscal, the
active and the passive.
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number 3?
Ans.'. In the moral order, the three theological virtues.... In
the physical, the three principles of bodies.
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number 4?
Ans.'. The four cardinal virtues.... The four elementary
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number 5?
Ans.'. The quintessence of religion.... The quintessence of
Qu.'. What do you mean by the nwnber 6?
Ans.'. The theological cube . . . The physical cube.
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number 7?
Ans.'. The seven sacraments . . . The seven planets.
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number 8?
Ans.'. The small number of Elus . . . The small number of wise
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number 9?
Ans.'. The exaltation of religion . . . The exaltation of
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number 10?
Ans.'. The ten commandments . . . The ten precepts of nature.
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number 11?
Ans.'. The multiplication of religion . . . The multiplication of
Qu.'. What do you mean by the number 12?
Ans.'. The twelve Articles of Faith; the twelve Apostles,
foundation of the Holy City, who preachcd throughout the whole
world, for our happiness and spiritual joy . . . The twelve
operations of nature: The twelve signs of the Zodiac, foundation of
the Primum Mobile, extending it throughout the Universe for our
[The Rabbi (President of the Sanhedrim) adds: From all that you
have said, it results that the unit develops itself in 2, is
completed in three internally, and so produces 4 externally; whence,
through 6, 7, 8, 9, it arrives at 5, half of the spherical number
10, to ascend, passing through 11, to 12, and to raise itself, by
the number 4 times 10, to the number 6 times 12, the final term and
summit of our eternal happiness.]
Qu.'. What is the generative number?
Ans.'. In the Divinity, it is the unit; in created things, the
number 2: Because the Divinity, 1, engenders 2, and in created
things 2 engenders 1.
Qu.'. What is the most majestic number?
Ans.'. 3, because it denotes the triple divine essence.
Qu.'. What is the most mysterious number?
Ans.'. 4, because it contains all the mysteries of nature.
Qu.'. What is the most occult number?
Ans.'. 5, because it is inclosed in the centre of the series.
Qu.'. What is the most salutary number?
Ans.'. 6, because it contains the source of our spiritual and
Qu.'. What is the most fortunate number?
Ans.'. 7, because it leads us to the decade, the perfect
Qu.'. Which is the number most to be desired?
Ans.'. 8, because he who possesses it, is of the number of the
Elus and Sages.
Qu.'. Which is the most sublime number?
Ans.'. 9, because by it religion and nature are exalted.
Qu.'. Which is the most perfect number?
Ans.'. 10, because it includes unity, which created everything,
and zero, symbol of matter and chaos, whence everything emerged.
In its figures it comprehends the created and uncreated, the
commencement and the end, power and force, life and annihilation. By
the study of this number, we find the relations of all things; the
power of the Creator, the faculties of the creature, the Alpha and
Omega of divine knowledge.
Qu.'. Which is the most multiplying number?
Ans.'. 11, because with the possession of two units, we arrive at
the multiplication of things.
Qu.'. Which is the most solid number?
Ans.'. 12, because it is the foundation of our spiritual and
Qu.'. Which is the favorite number of religion and nature?
Ans.'. 4 times 10, because it enables us, rejecting everything
impure, eternally to enjoy the number 6 times 12, term and summit of
Qu.'. What is the meaning of the square?
Ans.'. It is the symbol of the four elements contained in the
triangle, or the emblem of the three chemical principles: these
things united form absolute unity in the primal matter.
Qu.'. What is the meaning of the centre of the circumference?
Ans.'. It signifies the universal spirit, vivifying centre of
Qu.'. What do you mean by the quadrature of the circle?
Ans.'. The investigation of the quadrature of the circle
indicates the knowledge of the four vulgar elements, which are
themselves composed of elementary spirits or chief principles; as
the circle, though round, is composed of lines, which escape the
sight, and are seen only by the mind.
Qu.'. What is the profoundest meaning of the figure 3?
Ans.'. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the action
of these three results the triangle within the square; and from the
seven angles, the decade or perfect number.
Qu.'. Which is the most confused figure?
Ans.'. Zero,--the emblem of chaos, formless mixture of the
Qu.'. What do the four devices of the Degree signify?
Ans.'. That we are to hear, see, be silent, and enjoy our
The unit is the symbol of identity, equality, existence,
conservation and general harmony; the Central Fire, the Point within
Two, or the duad, is the symbol of diversity, inequality,
division, separation, and vicissitudes.
The figure 1 signifies the living man [a body standing upright]
man being the only living being possessed of this faculty. Adding to
it a head, we have the letter P, the sign of Paternity, Creative
Power; and with a further addition, R, signifying man in motion,
going, Iens, Iturus.
The Duad is the origin of contrasts. It is the imperfect
condition into which, according to the Pythagoreans, a being falls,
when he detaches himself from the Monad, or God. Spiritual beings,
emanating from God, are enveloped in the duad, and therefore receive
only illusory impressions.
As formerly the number ONE designated harmony, order, or the Good
Principle (the ONE and ONLY GOD, expressed in Latin Solus, whence
the words Sol, Soleil, symbol of this God), the number Two expressed
the contrary idea. There commenced the fatal knowledge of good and
evil. Everything double, false opposed to the single and sole
reality, was expressed by the Binary number. It expressed also that
state of contrariety in which nature exists, where everything is
double; night and day, light and darkness, cold and heat, wet and
dry, health and sickness, error and truth, one and the other sex,
etc. Hence the Romans dedicated the second month in the year to
Pluto, the God of Hell, and the second day of that month to the
manes of the dead.
The number One, with the Chinese, signified unity, harmony order,
the Good Principle, or God; Two, disorder, duplicity, falsehood.
That people, in the earliest ages, based their whole philosophical
system on the two primary figures or lines, one straight and
unbroken, and the other broken or divided into two; doubling which,
by placing one under the other, and trebling by placing three under
each other, they made the four symbols and eight Koua; which
referred to the natural elements, and the primary principles of all
things, and served symbolically or scientifically to express them.
Plato terms unity and duality the original elements of nature, and
first principles of all existence: and the oldest sacred book of the
Chinese says: "The Great First Principle has produced two equations
and differences, or primary rules of existence; but the two primary
rules or two oppositions, namely YN and YANG, or repose and motion,
have produced four signs symbols, and the four symbols have produced
the eight KOUA or further combinations."
The interpretation of the Hermetic fables shows, among every
ancient people, in their principal gods, first, 1, the Creating
Monad, then 3, then 3 times 3, 3 times 9, and 3 times 27. This
triple progression has for its foundation the three ages of Nature,
the Past, the Present, and the Future; or the three degrees of
universal generation. . . Birth, Life, Death. . . Beginning, middle,
The Monad was male, because its action produces no change in
itself, but only out of itself. It represented the creative
The Duad, for a contrary reason, was female, ever changing by
addition, subtraction, or multiplication. It represents matter
capable of form.
The union of the Monad and Duad produces the Triad, signifying
the world formed by the creative principle out of matter. Pythagoras
represented the world by the right-angled triangle, in which the
squares of the two shortest sides are equal, added together, to the
square of the longest one; as the world, as formed, is equal to the
cleative cause, and matter clothed with form.
The ternary is the first of the unequal numbers. The Triad,
mysterious number, which plays so great a part in the traditions of
Asia and the philosophy of Plato, image of the Supreme Being,
includes in itself the properties of the first two numbers. It was,
to the Philosophers, the most excellent and favorite number: a
mysterious type, revered by all antiquity, and consecrated in the
Mysteries; wherefore there are but three essential Degrees among
Masons; who venerate, in the triangle, the most august mystery, that
of the Sacred Triad, object of their homage and study.
In geometry, a line cannot represent a body absolutely perfect.
As little do two lines constitute a figure demonstratively perfect.
But three lines form, by their junction, the TRIANGLE, or the first
figure regularly perfect; and this is why it has served and still
serves to characterize The Eternal; Who, infinitely perfect in His
nature, is, as Universal Creator, the first Being, and consequently
the first Perfection.
The Quadrangle or Square, perfect as it appears, being but the
second perfection, can in no wise represent God; Who is the first.
It is to be noted that the name of God in Latin and French (Deus,
Dieu), has for its initial the Delta or Greek Triangle. Such is the
reason, among ancients and moderns, for the consecration of tne
Triangle, whose three sides are emblems of the three Kingdoms, or
Nature, or God. In the centre is the Hebrew JOD, the Animating
Spirit of Fire, the generative principle, represented by the letter
G., initial of the name of Deity in the languages of the North, and
the meaning whereof is Generation.
The first side of the Triangle, offered to the study of the
Apprentice, is the mineral kingdom, symbolized by Tub.'.
The second side, the subject of the meditations of the Fellow
Craft, is the vegetable kingdom, symbolized by Schib.'. (an ear of
corn). In this reign begins the Generation of bodies; and this is
why the letter G., in its radiance, is presented to the eyes of the
The third side, the study whereof is devoted to the animal
kingdom, and completes the instruction of the Master, is symbolized
by Mach.'. (Son of putrefaction).
The figure 3 symbolizes the Earth. It is a figure of the
terrestrial bodies. The 2, upper half of 3, symbolizes the vegetable
world, the lower half being hidden from our sight.
Three also referred to harmony, friendship, peace, concord, and
temperance; and was so highly esteemed among the Pythagoreans that
they called it perfect harmony.
Three, four, ten, and twelve were sacred numbers among the
Etrurians, as they were among the Jews, Egyptians, and Hindus.
The name of Deity, in many Nations, consisted of three letters
among the Greeks,I.'.A.'. Q.'.; among the Persians, H.'.O.'.M.'.
among the Hindus, AUM; among the Scandinavians, I.'.O.'.W.'. On the
upright Tablet of the King, discovered at Nimroud, no less than five
of the thirteen names of the Great Gods consist of three letters
each,--ANU, SAN, YAV, BAR, and BEI,.
The quaternary is the most perfect number, and the root of other
numbers, and of all things. The tetrad expresses the first
mathematical power. Four represents also the generative power, from
which all combinations are derived. The Initiates considered it the
emblem of Movement and the Infinite, representing everything that is
neither corporeal nor sensible. Pythagoras communicated it to his
disciples as a symbol of the Eternal and Creative Principle, under
the name of Quaternary, the Ineffable Name of God, which signifies
Source of everything that has received existence; and which, in
Hebrew, is composed of four letters.
In the Quaternary we find the first solid figure, the universal
symbol of immortality, the pyramid. The Gnostics claimed that the
whole edifice of their science rested on a square whose angles were
. . . Silence: Profundity: Intelligence; and Truth. For if the
Triangle, figured by the number 3, forms the triangular base of the
pyramid, it is unity which forms its point or summit.
Lysias and Timaeus of Locria said that not a single thing could
be named, which did not depend on the quaternary as its root.
There is, according to the Pythagoreans, a connection between the
gods and numbers, which constitutes the kind of Divination called
Arithmomancy. The soul is a number: it is moved of itself: it
contains in itself the quaternary number.
Matter being represented by the number 9, or 3 times 3, and the
Immortal Spirit having for its essential hieroglyphic the quaternary
or the number 4, the Sages said that Man, having gone astray and
become entangled in an inextricable labyrinth, in going from four to
nine, the only way which he could take to emerge from these
deceitful paths, these disastrous detours, and the abyss of evil
into which he had plunged, was to retrace his steps, and go from
nine to four.
The ingenious and mystical idea which caused the Triangle to be
venerated, was applied to the figure 4 (4). It was said that it
expressed a living being, I, bearer of the Triangle, the emblem of
God; i. e., man bearing with himself a Divine principle.
Four was a divine number; it referred to the Deity, and many
Ancient Nations gave God a name of four letters; as the Hebrews, the
Egyptians AMUN, the Persians SURA, the Greeks, and the Latins DEUS.
This was the Tetragrammaton of the Hebrews, and the Pythagoreans
called it Tetractys, and swore their most solemn oath by it. So too
ODIN among the Scandinavians, ZEYS among the Greeks, PHTA among the
Egyptians, THOTH among the Phoenicians, and AS-UR and NEBO among the
Assyrians. The list might be indefinitely extended.
The number 5 was considered as mysterious, because it was
compounded of the Binary, Symbol of the False and Double, and the
Ternary, so interesting in its results. It thus energetically
expresses the state of imperfection, of order and disorder, of
happiness and misfortune, of life and death, which we see upon the
earth. To the Mysterious Societies it offered the fearful image of
the Bad Principle, bringing trouble into the inferior order,--in a
word, the Binary acting in the Ternary.
Under another aspect it was the emblem of marriage; because it is
composed of 2, the first equal number, and of 3, the first unequal
number. Wherefore Juno, the Goddess of Marriage, had for her
hieroglyphic the nwnber 5.
Moreover, it has one of the properties of the number 9, that of
reproducing itself, when multiplied by itself: there being always a
5 on the right hand of the product; a result which led to its use as
a symbol of material changes.
The ancients represented the world by the number 5. A reason for
it, given by Diodorus, is, that it represents earth, water, a fire,
and ether or spirit. Thence the origin of (5) and the Universe, as
The number 5 designated the universal quintessence, and
Symbolized, by its form the vital essence, the animating spirit
which flows [serpentat] through all nature. In fact, this ingenious
figure is the union of the two Greek accents '', placed over those
vowels which ought to be or ought not to be aspirated. The first
sign ' bears the name of potent spirit; and signifies the Superior
Spirit, the Spirit of God aspirated (spiratus), respired by man. The
second sign ' is styled mild spirit, and represents the secondary
spirit, the spirit purely human.
The triple triangle, a figure of five lines uniting in five
points, was among the Pythagoreans an emblem of Health.
It is the Pentalpha of Pythagoras, or Pentangle of Solomon; has
five lines and five angles; and is, among Masons, the outline or
origin of the five-pointed Star, and an emblem of Fellowship.
The number 6 was, in the Ancient Mysteries, a striking emblem of
nature; as presenting the six dimensions of all bodies: the six
lines which make up their form, viz., the four lines of direction,
toward the North, South, East, and West; with the two lines of
height and depth, responding to the zenith and nadir. The sages
applied the senary to the physical man; while the septenary was, for
them, the symbol of his immortal spirit.
The hieroglyphical senary (the double equilateral triangle) the
symbol of Deity.
Six is also an emblem of health, and the symbol of justic;
because it is the first perfect number; that is, the first whose
aliquot parts (1/2, 1/3, 1/6, or 3, 2, and 1), added together, make
Ormuzd created six good spirits, and Ahriman six evil ones. These
typify the six Summer and the six Winter months.
No number has ever been so universally in repute as the
septenary. Its celebrity is due, no doubt, to the planets being
seven in number. It belongs also to sacred things. The Pythagoreans
regarded it as formed of the numbers 3 and 4; the first whereof was,
in their eyes, the image of the three material elements, and the
second the principle of everything that is neither corporeal nor
sensible. It presented them, from that point of view, the emblem of
everything that is perfect.
Considered as composed of 6 and unity, it serves to designate the
invisible centre or soul of everything; because no body exists, of
which six lines do not constitute the form, nor without a seventh
interior point, as the centre and reality of the body, whereof the
external dimensions give only the appearance.
The numerous applications of the septenary confirmed the ancient
sages in the use of this symbol. Moreover, they exalted the
properties of the number 7, as having, in a subordinate manner, the
perfection of the unit: for if the unit is uncreated, if no number
produces it, the seven is also not engendered by any number
contained in the interval between 1 and 10. The number 4 occupies an
arithmetical middle-ground between the unit and 7, inasmuch as it is
as much over 1, as it is under 7, the difference each way being
The number 7, among the Egyptians, symbolized life; and this is
why the letter Z of the Greeks was the initial of the verb I live;
and Jupiter, Father of Life.
The number 8, or the octary, is composed of the sacred numbers 3
and 5. Of the heavens, of the seven planets, and of the sphere of
the fixed stars, or of the eternal unity and the mysterious number
7, is composed the ogdoade, the number 8, the first cube of equal
numbers, regarded as sacred in the arithmetical philosophy.
The Gnostic ogdoade had eight stars, which represented the eight
Cabiri of Samothrace, the eight Egyptian and Phoenician principles,
the eight gods of Xenocrates, the eight angles of the cubic
The number eight symbolizes perfection: and its figure, 8 or
(infinity) indicates the perpetual and regular course of the
It is the first cube (2 X 2 X 2), and signifies friendship
prudence, counsel, and justice. It was a symbol of the primeval law
which regarded all men as equal.
The novary, or triple ternary. If the number three was celebrated
among the ancient sages, that of three times three had no less
celebrity; because, according to them, each of the three elements
which constitute our bodies is ternary: the water containing earth
and fire; the earth containing igneous and aqueous particles; and
the fire being tempered by globules of water terrestrial corpuscles
which serve to feed it. No one of the three elements being entirely
separated from the others, all material beings composed of these
three elements, whereof each is triple, may be designated by the
figurative number of three times three, which has become the symbol
of all formations of bodies. Hence the name of ninth envelope, given
to matter. Every material extension, every circular line, has for
representative sign the number nine, among the Pythagoreans; who had
observed the property which this number possesses, of reproducing
itself incessantly and entire, in every multiplication; thus
offering to the mind a very striking emblem of matter which is
incessantly composed before our eyes, after having undergone a
The number nine was consecrated to the Spheres and the Muses. It
is the sign of every circumference; because a circle of 360 degrees
is equal to 9, that is to say, 3 + 6 + 0 = 9. Nevertheless, the
ancients regarded this number with a sort of terror: they considered
it a bad presage; as the symbol of versatility, of change and the
emblem of the frailty of human affairs. Wherefore they avoided all
numbers where nine appears, and chiefly 81, the product of 9
multiplied by itself, and the addition whereof, 8 + 1, again
presents the number 9.
As the figure of the number 6 was the symbol of the terrestrial
globe, animated by a divine spirit, the figure of the number 9
symbolized the earth, under the influence of the Evil Principle
thence the terror it inspired. Nevertheless, according to Kabalists,
the figure 9 symbolizes the generative egg, or the image of a little
globular being, from whose lower side seems to flow its spirit of
The Ennead, signifying an aggregate of 9 things or persons, is
the first square of unequal numbers.
Every one is aware of the singular properties of the number 9,
which, multiplied by itself or any other number whatever, gives a
result whose final sum is always 9, or always divisible by 9.
Nine, multiplied by each of the ordinary numbers, produces an
arithmetical progression, each member whereof, composed of two
figures, presents a remarkable fact; for example:
The first line of figures gives the regular series, from 1 to
The second reproduces this line doubly; first ascending, from the
first figure of 18, and then returning from the second figure of
It follows, from the curious fact, that the half of the numbers
which compose this progression represents, in inverse order, the
figures of the second half:
9...18..27..36..45 = 135 = 9..and 1 + 3 + 5 = 45 =9
90..81..72..63..54 = 360 = 9
-- -- -- -- -- --- --
99 99 99 99 99 495 = 18 = 9.
So 9^2 = 81. . .81^2 = 6561 = 18 = 9. . .9 X 2 = 18. . .18^2 =
324 = 9.
9 X 3 = 27... 27^2 = 729 = 18 = .9 9 X 4 = 36...36^2=1296 = 18 =
And so with every multiple of 9--say 45, 54, 63, 72, etc.
Thus 9 X 8 = 72. . .72^2 = 5184 = 18 = 9.
18 27 36 72
18 27 36 72
-- -- -- --
144 = 9 189 = 18 = 9 216 = 9 144 = 9
18 = 9 54 = 9 108 = 9 504 = 9
---- -- --- --- --- --- -- --- ---
324 = 9...18=9 729= 18= 9 1296= 18=9 5184 = 18 =9
864 = 18
108 = 9
11664 = 18 = 9
And so the cubes:
27^2 = 729 X 729 = 18 = 9 18^2 = 324 = 9 9^2 = 81
81^2 = 6561 = 18 = 9
729 324 6561
6561 = 18 = 9 1296 = 18 = 9 6561 = 18 = 9
1458 = 18 = 9 648 = 18 = 9 39366 = 27 = 9
5103 = 9 972 = 18 = 9 32805 = 18 = 9
39366 = 27 = 9
531441 = 18 = 9 104976 = 27 = 9 43,046,721 = 27 = 9
The number 10, or the Denary, is the measure of eveything and
reduces multiplied numbers to unity. Containing all the numerical
and harmonic relations, and all the properties of numbers which
precede it, it concludes the Abacus or Table Pythagoras. To the
Mysterious Societies, this number typified the assemblage of all the
wonders of the Universe. They wrote it thus (theta), that is to say,
Unity in the middle of Zero, as the centre of a circle, or symbol of
Deity. They saw in this figure everything that should lead to
reflection: the centre, the ray, and the circumference, represented
to them God, Man, and the Universe.
This number was, among the Sages, a sign of concord, love, and
peace. To Masons it is a sign of union and good faith; because it is
expressed by joining two hands, or the Master's grip, when the
number of fingers gives 10: and it was represented by the Tetractys
The number 12, like the number 7, is celebrated in the worship of
nature. The two most famous divisions of the heavens, that by 7,
which is that of the planets, and that by 12, which is that of the
Signs of the Zodiac, are found upon the religious monuments of all
the peoples of the Ancient World, even to the remote extremes of the
East. Although Pythagoras does not speak the number 12, it is none
the less a sacred number. It is image of the Zodiac; and
consequently that of the Sun, which rules over it.
Such are the ancient ideas in regard to those numbers which so
often appear in Masonry; and rightly understood, as the old Sages
understood them, they contain many a pregnant lesson.
Before we enter upon the final lesson of Masonic Philosophy, we
will delay a few moments to repeat to you the Christian
interpretations of the Blue Degrees.
In the First Degree, they said, there are three symbols to be
1st. Man, after the fall, was left naked and defenceless against
the just anger of the Deity. Prone to evil, the human race staggered
blindly onward into the thick darkness of unbelief, bound fast by
the strong cable-tow of the natural and sinful will. Moral
corruption was followed by physical misery. Want and destitution
invaded the earth. War and Famine and Pestilence filled up the
measure of evil, and over the sharp flints of misfortune and
wretchedness man toiled with naked and bleeding feet. This condition
of blindness, destitution, misery, and bondage, from which to save
the world the Redeemer came, is symbolized by the condition of the
candidate, when he is brought up for the first time to the door of
2d. Notwithstanding the death of the Redeemer, man can be saved
only by faith, repentance, and reformation. To repent, he must feel
the sharp sting of conscience and remorse, like a sword piercing his
bosom. His confidence in his guide, whom he is told to follow and
fear no danger; his trust in God, which he is caused to profess; and
the point of the sword that is pressed against his naked left breast
over the heart, are symbolical of the faith, repentance and
reformation necessary to bring him to the light of a life in Christ
3d. Having repented and reformed, and bound himself to the
service of God by a firm promise and obligation, the light of
Christian hope shines down into the darkness of the heart of the
humble penitent, and blazes upon his pathway to Heaven. And this is
symbolized by the candidate's being brought to light, after he is
obligated, by the Worshipful Master, who in that is a symbol of the
Redeemer, and so brings him to light, with the help of the brethren,
as He taught the Word with the aid of the Apostles.
In the Second Degree there are two symbols:
4th. The Christian assumes new duties toward God and his fellows.
Toward God, of love, gratitude, and veneration, and an anxious
desire to serve and glorify Him; toward his fellows, of kindness,
sympathy, and justice. And this assumption of duty this entering
upon good works, is symbolized by the Fellow-Craft's obligation; by
which, bound as an apprentice to secrecy merely, and set in the
Northeast corner of the Lodge, he descends as a Fellow-Craft into
the body of the brethren, and assumes the active duties of a good
5th. The Christian, reconciled to God, sees the world in a new
light. This great Universe is no longer a mere machine, wound up and
set going six thousand or sixty millions years ago, and left to run
on afterward forever, by virtue of a law of mechanics created at the
beginning, without further care or consideration on the part of the
Deity; but it has now become to him a great emanation from God, the
product of His thought, not a mere dead machine, but a thing of
life, over which God watches continually, and every movement of
which is immediately produced by His present action, the law of
harmony being the essence of the Deity, re-enacted every instant.
And this is symbolized by the imperfect instruction given in the
Fellow-Craft's Degree, in the sciences, and particularly geometry,
connected as the latter is with God Himself in the mind of a Mason,
because the same letter, suspended in the East, represents both; and
astronomy, or the knowledge of the laws of motion and harmony that
govern the spheres, is but a portion of the wider science of
geometry. It is so symbolized, because it is here, in the Second
Degree, that the candidate first receives an other than moral
There are also two symbols in the Third Degree, which, with the 3
in the first, and 2 in the second, make the 7.
6th. The candidate, after passing through the first part of the
ceremony, imagines himself a Master; and is surprised to be informed
that as yet he is not, and that it is uncertain whether he ever will
be. He is told of a difficult and dangerous path yet to be
travelled, and is advised that upon that journey it depends whether
he will become a Master. This is symbolical of that which our
Saviour said to Nicodemus, that, notwithstanding his morals might be
beyond reproach, he could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he
were born again; symbolically dying, and again entering the world
regenerate, like a spotless infant.
7th. The murder of Hiram, his burial, and his being raised again
by the Master, are symbols, both of the death, burial, and
resurrection of the Redeemer; and of the death and burial in sins of
the natural man, and his being raised again to a new life, or born
again, by the direct action of the Redeemer; after Morality
(symbolized by the Entered Apprentice's grip), and Philosophy
(symbolized by the grip of the Fellow-Craft), had failed to raise
him. That of the Lion of the House of Judah is the strong grip,
never to be broken, with which Christ, of the royal line of that
House, has clasped to Himself the whole human race, and embraces
them in His wide arms as closely and affectionately as brethren
embrace each other on the five points of fellowship.
As Entered Apprentices and Fellow-Crafts, Masons are taught to
imitate the laudable example of those Masons who labored at the
building of King Solomon's Temple; and to plant firmly and deep in
their hearts those foundation-stones of principle, truth, justice,
temperance, fortitude, prudence, and charity, on which to erect that
Christian character which all the storms of misfortune and all the
powers and temptations of Hell shall not prevail against; those
feelings and noble affections which are the most proper homage that
can be paid to the Grand Architect and Great Father of the Universe,
and which make the heart a living temple builded to Him: when the
unruly passions are made to submit to rule and measurement, and
their excesses are struck off with the gavel of self-restraint; and
when every action and every principle is accurately corrected and
adjusted by the square of wisdom, the level of humility, and the
plumb of justice.
The two columns, Jachin and Boaz, are the symbols of that
profound faith and implicit trust in God and the Redeemer that are
the Christian's strength; and of those good works by which alone
that faith can be established and made operative and effectual to
The three pillars that support the Lodge are symbols of a
Christian's HOPE in a future state of happiness; FAITH in the
promises and the divine character and mission of the Redeemer; and
CHARITABLE JUDGMENT of other men.
The three murderers of Khir-Om symbolize Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas
the High-Priest, and Judas Iscariot: and the three blows given him
are the betrayal by the last, the refusal of Roman protection by
Pilate, and the condemnation by the High-Priest. They also symbolize
the blow on the ear, the scourging, and the crown of thorns. The
twelve fellow-crafts sent in search of the body are the twelve
disciples, in doubt whether to believe that the Redeemer would rise
from the dead.
The Master's word, supposed to be lost, symbolizes the Christian
faith and religion, supposed to have been crushed and destroyed when
the Saviour was crucified, after Iscariot had betrayed Him, and
Peter deserted Him, and when the other disciples doubted whether He
would arise from the dead; but which rose from His tomb and flowed
rapidly over the civilized world; and so that which was supposed to
be lost was found. It symbolizes also the Saviour Himself; the WORD
that was in the beginning--that was with God, and that was God; the
Word of life, that was made flesh and dwelt among us, and was
supposed to be lost, while He lay in the tomb, for three days, and
His disciples "as yet knew not the scripture that He must rise again
from the dead," and doubted when they heard of it, and were amazed
and frightened and still doubted when He appeared among them.
The bush of acacia placed at the head of the grave of Khir-Om is
an emblem of resurrection and immortality.
Such are the explanations of our Christian brethren;
like those of all other Masons, to a respectful
There is no pretence to infallibility in Masonry. It is not for
us to dictate to any man what he shall believe. We have hitherto, in
the instruction of the several Degrees, confined ourselves to aying
before you the great thoughts that have found expression in the
different ages of the world, leaving you to decide for yourself as
to the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of each, and what proportion of
truth, if any, each contained. We shall pursue no other course in
this closing Philosophical instruction; in which we propose to deal
with the highest questions that have ever exercised the human
mind,--with the existence and the nature of a God, with the
existence and the natnre of the human soul, and with the relations
of the divine and human spirit with the merely material Universe.
There can be no questions more important to an intelligent being,
none that have for him a more direct and personal interest; and to
this last word of Scottish Masonry we invite your serious and
attentive consideration. And, as what we shall now say will be but
the completion and rounding-off of what we have already said in
several of the preceding Degrees, in regard to the Old Thought and
the Ancient Philosophies, we hope that you have noted and not
forgotten our previous lessons, without which this would seem
imperfect and fragmentary.
In its idea of rewarding a faithful and intelligent workman by
conferring upon him a knowledge of the True Word, Masonry has
perpetuated a very great truth, because it involves the proposition
that the idea which a man forms of God is always the most important
element in his speculative theory of the Universe, and in his
particular practical plan of action for the Church, the State, the
community, the Family, and his own individual life. It will ever
make a vast difference in the conduct of a people in war or peace,
whether they believe the Supreme God to be a cruel Deity, delighting
in sacrifice and blood, or a God of Love; and an individual's
speculative theory as to the mode and extent of God's govermnent,
and as to the nature and reality of his own free-will and consequent
responsibility, will needs; have great influence in shaping the
course of his life and conversation.
We see every day the vast influence of the popular idea of God.
All the great historical civilizations of the race have grown out of
the national ideas which were formed of God; or have been intimately
connected with those ideas. The popular Theology, which at first is
only an abstract idea in the heads of philosophers, by and by shows
itself in the laws, and in the punishments for crime, in the
churches, the ceremonies and the sacraments, the festivals and the
fasts, the weddings, the baptisms and the funerals, in the
hospitals, the colleges, the schools, and all the social charities,
in the relations of husband and wife, parent and child, in the daily
work and the daily prayer of every man.
As the world grows in its development, it necessarily outgrows
its ancient ideas of God, which were only temporary and provisional.
A man who has a higher conception of God than those about him, and
who denies that their conception is God, is very likely to be called
an Atheist by men who are really far less believers in a God than
he. Thus the Christians, who said the Heathen idols were no Gods,
were accounted Atheists by the People, and accordingly put to death;
and Jesus of Nazareth was crucified as an unbelieving blasphemer, by
There is a mere formal Atheism, which is a denial of God in
terms, but not in reality. A man says, There is no God; that is, no
God that is self-originated, or that never originated, but always
WAS and HAD BEEN, who is the cause of existence, who is the Mind and
the Providence of the Universe; and so the order, beauty, and
harmony of the world of matter and mind do not indicate any plan or
purpose of Deity. But, he says, NATURE,-- meaning by that the whole
sum-total of existence,-- that is powerful, active, wise, and good;
Nature is self-originated, or always was and had been, the cause of
its own existence, the mind of the Universe and the Providence of
itself. There is obviously a plan and purpose whereby order, beauty,
and harmony are brought about; but all that is the plan and purpose
In such cases, the absolute denial of God is only formal and not
real. The qualities of God are admitted, and amrmed to be real; and
it is a mere change of name to call the possessor of those
qualities, Nature, and not God. The real question is, whether such
Qualities exist, as we call God; and not, by what particular name we
shall designate the Qualities. One man may call the sum total of
these Qualities, Nature; another, Heaven; a third, Universe, a
fourth, Matter; a fifth, Spirit; a sixth, God, Theos, Zeus, Alfadir,
Allah, or what he pleases. All admit the existence of the Being,
Power, or ENS, thus diversely named. The name is of the smallest
Real Atheism is the denial of the existence of any God, of the
actuality of all possible ideas of God. It denies that there any
Mind, Intelligence, or ENS, that is the Cause and Providence of the
Universe, and of any Thing or any Existence, Soul, Spirit, or Being,
that intentionally or intelligently produces the Order, Beauty, and
Harmony thereof, and the constant and regular modes of operation
therein. It must necessarily deny that there is any law, order, or
harmony in existence, or any constant mode of operation in the
world; for it is utterly impossible for any human creature to
conceive, however much he may pretend to do so, of either of these,
except as a consequence of the action of Intelligence; which is,
indeed, that otherwise unknown thing, the existence of which these
alone prove; otherwise than as the cause of these, not a thing at
all; a mere name for the wholly uncognizable cause of these.
The real atheist must deny the existence of the Qualities of God,
deny that there is any mind of or in the Universe, any
self-conscious Providence, any Providence at all. He must deny that
there is any Being or Cause of Finite things, that is
self-consciously powerful, wise, just, loving, and faithful to
itself and its own nature. He must deny that there is any plan in
the Universe or any part of it. He must hold, either that matter is
eternal, or that it originated itself, which is absurd, or that it
was originated by an Intelligence, or at least by a Cause; and then
he admits a God. No doubt it is beyond the reach of our faculties to
imagine how matter originated,--how it began to be, in space where
before was nothing, or God only. But it is equally beyond the reach
of our faculties to imagine it eternal and unoriginated. To hold it
to be eternal, without thought or will; that the specific forms of
it, the seed, the rock, the tree, the man, the solar system, all
came with no forethought planning or producing them, by "chance" or
"the fortuitous concourse of atoms" of matter that has no thought or
will; and that they indicate no mind, no plan, no purpose, no
providence, is absurd. It is not to deny the existence of what we
understand by mind, plan, purpose, Providence; but to insist that
these words shall have some other meaning than that which the human
race has ever attached to them: shall mean some unknown thing, for
which the human race has no name, because it has of such a thing no
possible idea. Either there never was any such thing as a "plan,"
and the word is nonsense, or the Universe exists in conformity to a
plan. The word never meant, and never can mean, any other thing than
that which the Universe exhibits. So with the word "purpose;" so
with the word "Providence." They mean nothing, or else only what the
It was soon found that the denial of a Conscious Power, the cause
of man and of his life, of a Providence, or a Mind and Intelligence
arranging man in reference to the world, and the world in reference
to man, would not satisfy the instinctive desires of human nature,
or account for the facts of material nature. It did not long answer
to say, if it ever was said, that the Universe was drifting in the
void inane, and neither it, nor any mind within or without it, knew
of its whence, its whither, or its whereabouts; that man was
drifting in the Universe, knowing little of his whereabouts, nothing
of his whence or whither; that there was no Mind, no Providence, no
Power, that knew any better; nothing that guided and directed man in
his drifting, or the Universe in the weltering waste of Time. To say
to man and woman, "your heroism, your bravery, your self-denial all
comes to nothing: your nobleness will do you no good you will die,
and your nobleness will do mankind no service; for there is no plan
or order in all these things; everything comes and goes by the
fortuitous concourse of atoms ;" did not, nor ever will, long
satisfy the human mind.
True, the theory of Atheism has been uttered. It has been said,
"Death is the end: this is a world without a God: you are a body
without a soul: there is a Here, but no Hereafter for you; a Earth,
but no Heaven. Die, and return to your dust. Man is bones, blood,
bowels, and brain; mind is matter: there is no soul in the brain,
nothing but nerves. We can see all the way to a little star in the
nebula of Orion's belt; so distant that it will take light a
thousand millions of years to come from it to thc earth, journeying
at the rate of twelve millions of miles a minute. There is no Heaven
this side of that: you see all the way through: there is not a speck
of Heaven; and do you think there is any beyond it; and if so, when
would you reach it? There is no Providence. Nature is a forfuitous
concourse of atoms; though is a fortuitous function of matter, a
fortuitous result of a for tuitous result, a chance-shot from the
great wind-gun of the Universe, accidentally loaded, pointed at
random, and fired off by chance. Things happen; they are not
arranged. There is luck, and there is ill-luck; but there is no
Providence. Die you into dust!" Does all this satisfy the human
instinct of immortality, that makes us ever long, with unutterable
longing, to join our selves again to our dear ones who have gone
away before us, an to mankind, for eternal life? Does it satisfy our
mighty hungering and thirst for immortality, our anxious longing to
come nearer to, and to know more of, the Eternal Cause of all
Men never could be content to believe that there was no mind that
thought for man, no conscience to enact eternal laws, no hear to
love those whom nothing of earth loves or cares for, no will of the
Universe to marshal the nations in the way of wisdom, justic and
love. History is not--thank God! we know it is not,--the fortuitous
concourse of events, or Nature that of atoms. We can not believe
that there is no plan nor purpose in Nature, to guid our going out
and coming in: that there is a mighty going, but goes nowhere; that
all beauty, wisdom, affection, justice, morality in the world, is an
accident, and may end to-morrow.
All over the world there is heroism unrequited, or paid with
misery; vice on thrones, corruption in high places, nobleness in
poverty or even in chains, the gentle devotion of woman rewarded by
brutal neglect or more brutal abuse and violence; everywhere want,
misery, over-work, and under-wages. Add to these the Atheist's
creed,--a body without a soul, an earth without Heaven, a world
without a God; and what a Pandemonium would we make of this world
The intellect of the Atheist would find matter everywhere; but no
Causing and Providing Mind: his moral sense would find no Equitable
Will, no Beauty of Moral Excellence, no Conscience enacting justice
into the unchanging law of right, no spiritual Order or spiritual
Providence, but only material Fate and Chance. His affections would
find only finite things to love; and to them the dead who were loved
and who died yesterday, are like the rainbow that yesterday evening
lived a moment and then passed away. His soul, flying through the
vast Inane, and feeling the darkness with its wings, seeking the
Soul of all, which at once is Reason, Conscience, and the Heart of
all that is, would find no God, but a universe all disorder; no
Infinite, no Reason, no Conscience, no Heart, no Soul of things;
nothing to reverence, to esteem, to love, to worship, to trust in;
but only an Ugly Force, alien and foreign to us, that strikes down
those we love, and makes us mere worms on the hot sand of the world.
No voice would speak from the Earth to comfort him. It is a cruel
mother, that great Earth, that devours her young,--a Force and
nothing more. Out of the sky would smile no kind Providence, in all
its thousand starry eyes; and in storms a malignant violence, with
its lightning-sword, would stab into the darkness, seeking for men
No man ever was or ever can be content with that. The evidence of
God has been ploughed into Nature so deeply, and so deeply woven
into the texture of the human soul, that Atheism has never become a
faith, though it has sometimes assumed the shape of theory. Religion
is natural to man. Instinctively he turns to God and reverences and
relies on Him. In the Mathematics of the Heavens, written in
gorgeous diagrams of fire, he sees law, order, beauty, harmony
without end: in the ethics of the little nations that inhabit the
ant-hills he sees the same; in all Nature, animate and inanimate, he
sees the evidences of a Design, a Will, an Intelligence, and a
God,--of a God beneficent and loving as well as wise, and merciful
and indulgent as well as powerful.
To man, surrounded by the material Universe, and conscious of the
influence that his material environments exercised upon his fortunes
and his present destiny;--to man, ever confronted with the splendors
of the starry heavens, the regular march of the seasons, the
phenomena of sunrise and moonrise, and all evidences of intelligence
and design that everywhere presse upon and overwhelmed him, all
imaginable questions as to the nature and cause of these phenomena
constantly recurred, demanding to be solved, and refusing to be sent
away unanswered. And still, after the lapse of ages, press upon the
human min and demand solution, the same great questions--perhaps
still demanding it in vain.
Advancing to the period when man had ceased to look upon the
separate parts and individual forces of the Universe as gods; when
he had come to look upon it as a whole, this question, among the
earliest, occurred to him, and insisted on being answered: "Is this
material Universe self-existent, or was it created? Is eternal, or
did it originate?"
And then in succession came crowding on the human mind these
"Is this material Universe a mere aggregate of fortuitous
combinations of matter, or is it the result and work of intelligen
acting upon a plan?
"If there be such an Intelligence, what and where is it? Is
material Universe itself an Intelligent being? Is it like man, body
and a soul ? Does Nature act upon itself, or is there a Cause beyond
it that acts upon it?
"If there is a personal God, separate from the material Universe,
that created all things, Himself uncreated, is He corporeal or
incorporeal, material or spiritual, the soul of the Universe or
wholly apart from it? and if He be Spirit, what then is spirit?
"Was that Supreme Deity active or quiescent before the creation;
and if quiescent during a previous eternity, what necess of His
nature moved Him at last to create a world; or was it a mere whim
that had no motive?
"Was matter co-existent with Him, or absolutely created him out
of nothing? Did He create it, or only mould and shape and fashion a
chaos already existing, co-existent with Himself?
"Did the Deity directly create matter, or was creation the work
of inferior deities, emanations from Himself?
"If He be good and just, whence comes it that, foreknowing
everything, He has allowed sorrow and evil to exist; and how to
reconcile with His benevolence and wisdom the prosperity of vice and
the misfortunes of virtue in this world?"
And then, as to man himself, recurred these other questions, as
they continue to recur to all of us:
"What is it in us that thinks ? Is Thought the mere result of
material organization; or is there in us a soul that thinks,
separate from and resident in the body? If the latter, is it eternal
and uncreated; and if not, how created? Is it distinct from God, or
an emanation from Him? Is it inherently immortal, or only so by
destination, because God has willed it? Is it to return to and be
merged in Him, or ever to exist, separately from Him, with its
"If God has fore-seen and fore-arranged all that occurs, how has
man any real free-will, or the least control over circumstances? How
can anything be done against the will of Infinite Omnipotence; and
if all is done according to that will, how is there any wrong or
evil, in what Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Power does not choose to
"What is the foundation of the moral law? Did God enact it of His
own mere pleasure; and if so, can He not, when He pleases, repeal
it? Who shall assure us He will not repeal it, and make right wrong,
and virtue vice? Or is the moral law a necessity of His nature; and
if so, who enacted it; and does not that assert a power, like the
old Necessity, superior to Deity?"
And, close-following after these, came the great question of
HEREAFTER, of another Life, of the soul's Destiny; and the thousand
other collateral and subordinate questions, as to matter, spirit,
futurity, and God, that have produced all the systems of philosophy,
all metaphysics, and all theology, since the world began.
What the old philosophic mind thought upon these great questions,
we have already, to some extent, developed. With the
Emanation-doctrine of the Gnostics and the Orient, we have
endeavored to make you familiar. We have brought you face to face
with the Kabalists, the Essenes, and Philo the Jew. We have shown
that, and how, much of the old mythology was derived from the daily
and yearly recurring phenomena of the heavens. We have exhibited to
you the ancient notions by which they endeavored to explain to
themselves the existence and prevalence of evil; and we have in some
degree made known to you their metaphysical ideas as to the nature
of the Deity. Much more remains to be done than it is within our
power to do. We stand upon the sounding shore of the great ocean of
Time. In front of us stretches out the heaving waste of the
illimitable Past; and its waves, as they roll up to our feet along
the sparking slope of the yellow sands, bring to us, nw and then,
from the depths of that boundless ocean, a shell, a few specimens of
algae torn rudely from their stems, a rounded pebble; and that is
all; of all the vast treasures of ancient thought that lie buried
there, with the mighty anthem of the boundless ocean thundering over
them forever and forever.
Let us once more, and for the last time, along the shore of that
great ocean, gather a few more relics of the Past, and listen to its
mighty voices, as they come, in fragmentary music, in broken and
interrupted rhythm, whispering to us from the great bosom of the
Rites, creeds, and legends express, directly or symbolically,
some leading idea, according to which the Mysteries of Being are
supposed to be explained in Deity. The intricacies of mythical
genealogies are a practical acknowledgment of the mysterious nature
of the Omnipotent Deity; displaying in their beautiful but
ineffectual imagery the first efforts of the mind to communicate
with nature: the flowers which fancy strewed before the youthful
steps of Psyche, when she first set out in pursuit of the immortal
object of her love. Theories and notions, in all their varieties of
truth and falsehood, are a machinery more or less efficacious,
directed to the same end. Every religion was, in its origin, an
embryo philosophy, or an attempt to interpret the unknown by mind;
and it was only when philosophy, which is essentially progress,
outgrew its first acquisitions, that religion became a thing apart,
cherishing as unalterable dogmas the notions which philosophy had
abandoned. Separated from philosophy, it became arrogant and
fantastical, professing to have already attained what its more
authentic representative was ever pursuing in vain; and discovering,
through its initiations and Mysteries, all that to its contracted
view seemed wanting to restore the well-being of mankind, the means
of purification and expiation, remedies for disease, expedients to
cure the disorders of the soul, and to propitiate the gods.
Why should we attempt to confine the idea of the Supreme Mind
within an arbitrary barrier, or exclude from the limits of veracity
any conception of the Deity, which, if imperfect and inadequate, may
be only a little more so than our own? "The name of God," says
Hobbes, "is used not to make us conceive Him, or He is
inconceivable, but that we may honor Him." "Believe in God, and
adore Him," said the Greek Poet, "but investigate Him not; the
inquiry is fruitless, seek not to discover who God is; for, by the
desire to know, you offend Him who chooses to remain unknown." "When
we attempt," says Philo, "to investigate the essence of the Absolute
Being, we fall into an abyss of perplexity; and the only benefit to
be derived from such researches is the conviction of their
Yet man, though ignorant of the constitution of the dust on which
he treads, has ventured, and still ventures, to speculate on the
nature of God, and to define dogmatically in creeds the subject
least within the compass of his faculties; and even to hate and
persecute those who will not accept his views as true.
But though a knowledge of the Divine Essence is impossible, the
conceptions formed respecting it are interesting, as indications of
intellectual development. The history of religion is the history of
the human mind; and the conception formed by it of Deity is always
in exact relation to its moral and intellectual attainments. The one
is the index and the measure of the other.
The negative notion of God, which consists in abstracting the
inferior and finite, is, according to Philo, the only way in which
it is possible for man worthily to apprehend the nature of God.
After exhausting the varieties of symbolism, we contrast the Divine
Greatness with human littleness, and employ expressions apparently
affirmative, such as "Infinite," "Almighty," "Allwise,"
"Omnipotent," "Eternal," and the like; which in reality amount only
to denying, in regard to God, those limits which confine the
faculties of man; and thus we remain content with a name which is a
mere conventional sign and confession of our ignorance.
The Hebrew and the Greek To ON expressed abstract existence,
without outward manifestation or development. Of the same nature are
the definitions, "God is a sphere whose centre is everywhere, and
whose circumference nowhere;" "God is He who sees all, Himself
unseen:" and finally, that of Proclus and Hegel --"the To --that
which has no outward and positive existence." Most of the so-called
ideas or definitions of the "Absoute" are only a collection of
negations; from which, as they affirm nothing, nothing is
God was first recognized in the heavenly bodies and in the
elements. When man's consciousness of his own intellectuality was
matured, and he became convinced that the internal faculty of
thought was something more subtle than even the most subtle
elements, he transferred that new conception to the object of his
worship, and deified a mental principle instead of a physical one.
He in every case makes God after his own image; for do what we will,
the highest efforts of human thought can conceive nothing higher
than the supremacy of intellect; and so he ever comes back to some
familiar type of exalted humanity. He at first deifies nature, and
The eternal aspiration of the religious sentiment in man is to
become united with God. In his earliest development, the wish and
its fulfillment were simultaneous, through unquestioning belief. In
proportion as the conception of Deity was exalted, the notion of His
terrestrial presence or proximity was abandoned and the difficulty
of comprehending the Divine Government, together with the glaring
superstitious evils arising out of its misinterpretation, endangered
the belief in it altogether.
Even the lights of Heaven, which, as "bright potentates of the
sky," were formerly the vigilant directors of the economy of earth
now shine dim and distant, and Uriel no more descends upon a
sunbeam. But the real change has been in the progressive ascent of
man's own faculties, and not in the Divine Nature; as the Stars are
no more distant now than when they were supposed to rest on the
shoulders of Atlas. And yet a little sense of disappointment and
humiliation attended the first awakening of the soul, when reason,
looking upward toward the Deity, was impressed with a dizzy sense of
But hope revives in despondency; and every nation that ever
advanced beyond the most elementary conceptions, felt the necessity
of an attempt to fill the chasm, real or imaginary, separating man
from God. To do this was the great task of poetry, philosophy, and
religion. Hence the personifications of God's attributes,
developments, and manifestations, as "Powers," "Intelligences,"
"Angels," "Emanations;" through which and the oracular faculty in
himself, man could place himself in communion with God.
The various ranks and orders of mythical beings imagined by
Persians, Indians, Egyptians, or Etrurians, to preside over the
various departments of nature, had each his share in a scheme to
bring man into closer approximation to the Deity; they eventually
gave way only before an analogous though less picturesque symbolism;
and the Deities and Daemons of Greece and Rome were perpetuated with
only a change of names, when their offices were transferred to
Saints and Martyrs. The attempts by which reason had sometimes
endeavored to span the unknown by a bridge of metaphysics, such as
the idealistic systems of Zoroaster, Pythagoras, or Plato, were only
a more refined form of the poetical illusions which satisfied the
vulgar; and man still looked back with longing to the lost golden
age, when his ancestors communed face to face with the Gods; and
hoped that, by propitiating Heaven, he might accelerate the renewal
of it in the islands of the Far West, under the sceptre of Kronos,
or in a centralization of political power at Jerusalem. His eager
hope overcame even the terrors of the grave; for the Divine power
was as infinite as human expectation, and the Egyptian, duly
ensepulchred in the Lybian Catacombs, was supposed to be already on
his way to the Fortunate Abodes under the guidance of Hermes, there
to obtain a perfect association and reunion with his God.
Remembering what we have already said elsewhere in regard to the
old ideas concerning the Deity, and repeating it as little as
possible, let us once more put ourselves in communion with the
Ancient poetic and philosophic mind, and endeavor to learn of it
what it thought, and how it solved the great problems that have ever
tortured the human intellect.
The division of the First and Supreme Cause into two parts, one
Active and the other Passive, the Universe Agent and Patient, or the
hermaphroditic God-World, is one of the most ancient and widespread
dogmas of philosophy or natural theology. Almost every ancient
people gave it a place in their worship, their mysteries, and their
Ocellus Lucanus, who seems to have lived shortly after Pythagoras
opened his School in Italy, five or six hundred years before our
era, and in the time of Solon, Thales, and the other Sages who had
studied in the Schools of Egypt, not only recognizes the eternity of
the Universe, and its divine character as an unproduced and
indestructible being, but also the distinction of Active and Passive
causes in what he terms the Grand Whole, or the single
hermaphroditic Being that comprehends all existences, as well causes
as effects; and which is a system regularly ordered, perfect and
complete, of all Natures. He well apprehended the dividing line that
separates existence eternally the same, from that which eternally
changes; the nature of celestial from that of terrestrial bodies,
that of causes from that of effects, that which is from that which
only BECOMES,--a distinction that naturally struck every thinking
We shall not quote his language at full length. The heavenly
bodies, he thought, are first and most noble; they move of
themselves, and ever revolve, without change of form or essence.
Fire, water, earth, and air change incessantly and continually, not
place, but form. Then, as in the Universe there are generation and
cause of generation,--as generation is where there are change and
displacement of parts, and cause where there is stability of nature,
evidently it belongs to what is the cause of generation, to move and
to act, and to the recipient, to be made and moved. In his view,
everything above the Moon was the habitation of the gods; all below,
that of Nature and discord; this operates dissolution of things
made; that, production of those that are being made. As the world is
unproduced and indestnlctible, as it had no beginning, and will have
no end, necessarily the principle that operates generation in
another than itself, and that which operates it in itself, have
The former is all above the moon, and especially the sun: the
latter is the sublunary world. Of these two parts, one active, the
other passive--one divine and always the same, the other mortal and
ever changing, all that we call the "world" or "universe" is
These accorded with the principles of the Egyptian philosophy,
which held that man and the animals had always existed together with
the world; that they were its effects, eternal like itself. The
chief divisions of nature into active and passive causes, its system
of generation and destruction, and the concurrence of the two great
principles, Heaven and earth, uniting to form all things, will,
according to Ocellus, always continue to exist. "Enough." he
concludes, "as to the Universe, the generations and destructions
effected in it, the mode in which it now exists, the mode in which
it will ever exist, by the eternal qualities of the two principles,
one always moving, the other always moved; one always governing, the
other always governed."
Such is a brief summary of the doctrine of this philosopher,
whose work is one of the most ancient that has survived to us. The
subject on which he treated occupied in his time all men's minds:
the poets sang of cosmogonies and theogonies, and the philosophers
wrote treatises on the birth of the world and the elements of its
composition. The cosmogony of the Hebrews, attributed to Moses; that
of the Phoenicians, ascribed to Sanchoniathon; that of the Greeks,
composed by Hesiod; that of the Egyptians, the Atlantes, and the
Cretans, preserved by Diodorus Siculus; the fragments of the
theology of Orpheus, divided among different writers; the books of
the Persians, or their Boundehesh; those of the Hindus; the
traditions of the Chinese and the people of Macassar; the cosmogonic
chants which Virgil puts in the mouth of Iopas at Carthage; and
those of the old Silenus, the first book of the Metamorphoses of
Ovid; all testify to the aniquity and universality of these fictions
as to the origin of the world and its causes.
At the head of the causes of nature, Heaven and earth were laced;
and the most apparent parts of each, the sun, the moon, the fixed
stars and planets, and, above all, the zodiac, among the active
causes of generation; and among the passive, the several elements.
These causes were not only classed in the progressive order of their
energy, Heaven and earth heading the respective lists, but distinct
sexes were in some sort assigned to them, and characteristics
analogous to the mode in which they concur in universal
The doctrine of Ocellus was the general doctrine everywhere, it
naturally occurring to all to make the same distinction. The
Egyptians did so, in selecting those animals in which they recogized
these emblematic qualities, in order to symbolize the double sex of
the Universe. Their God KNEPH, out of whose mouth issued the Orphic
egg, whence the author of the Clementine Recognitions makes a
hermaphroditic figure to emerge, uniting in itself the two
principles whereof Heaven and the earth are forms, and which enter
into the organization of all beings which the heavens and the earth
engender by their concourse, furnishes another emblem of the double
power, active and passive, which the ancients saw in the Universe,
and which they symbolized by the egg. Orpheus, who studied in Egypt,
borrowed from the theologians of that country the mysterious forms
under which the science of nature was veiled, and carried into
Greece the symbolic egg, with its division into two parts or causes
figured by the hermaphroditic being that issued from it, and whereof
Heaven and earth are composed.
The Brahmins of India expressed the same cosmogonic idea by a
statue, representative of the Universe, uniting in itself both
sexes. The male sex offered an image of the sun, centre of the
active principle, and the female sex that of the moon, at the sphere
whereof, proceeding downward, the passive portion of nature begins.
The Lingam, unto the present day revered in the Indian temples,
being but the conjunction of the organs of generation of the two
sexes, was an emblem of the same. The Hindus have ever had the
greatest veneration for this symbol of ever-reproductive nature. The
Greeks consecrated the same symbols of universal fruitfulness in
their Mysteries; and they were exhibited in the sanctuaries of
Eleusis. They appear among the sculptured ornaments of all the
Indian temples. Tertullian accuses the Valentinians of having
adopted the custom of venerating them; a custom, he says, introduced
by Melampus from Egypt into Greece. The Egyptians consecrated the
Phallus in the Mysteries of Osiris and Isis, as we learn from
Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus; and the latter assures us that these
emblems were not consecrated by the Egyptians alone, but by every
people. They certainly were so among the Persians and Assyrians; and
they were regarded everywhere as symbolic of the generative and
productive powers of all animated beings. In those early ages, the
works of Nature and all her agents were sacred like herself.
For the union of Nature with herself is a chaste marriage, of
which the union of man and woman was a natural image, all their
organs were an expressive emblem of the double energy which
manifests itself in Heaven and Earth uniting together to produce all
beings. "The Heavens," says Plutarch, "seemed to men to fulfill the
functions of father, and the Earth of mother. The former impregnated
the earth with its fertilizing rains, and the earth, receiving them,
became fruitful and brought forth." Heaven, which covers and
embraces the earth everywhere, is her potent spouse, uniting himself
to her to make her fruitful, without which she would languish in
everlasting sterility, buried in the shades of chaos and of night.
Their union is their marriage their productions or parts are their
children. The skies are our Father, and Nature the great Mother of
This idea was not the dogma of a single sect, but the general
opinion of all the Sages. "Nature was divided," says Cicero, "into
two parts, one active, and the other that submitted itself to this
action, which it received, and which modified it. The former was
deemed to be a Force, and the latter the material on which that
Force exerted itself." Macrobius repeated almost literally the
doctrine of Ocellus. Aristotle termed the earth the fruitful mother,
environed on all sides by the air. Above it was Heaven, the
dwelling-place of the gods and the divine stars, its substance
ether, or a fire incessantly moving in circles, divine and
incorruptible, and subject to no change. Below it, nature, and the
elements, nutable and acted on, corruptible and mortal.
Synesius said that generations were effected in the portions of
the Universe which we inhabit; while the cause of generations
resided in the portions above us, whence descend to us the germs of
the effects produced here below. Proclus and Simplicius deemed
Heaven the Active Cause and Father, relatively to the earth. The
former says that the World or the Whole is a single Animal; what is
done in it, is done by it; the same World acts, and acts upon
itself. He divides it into "Heaven" and "Generation." In the former,
he says, are placed and arranged the conservative causes of
generation, superintended by the Genii and Gods. The Earth, or Rhea,
associated ever with saturn in production, is mother of the effects
of which Heaven is Father; the womb or bosom that receives the
fertilizing energy of the God that engenders ages. The great work of
generation is operated, he says, primarily by the action of the Sun,
and secondarily by that of the Moon, so that the Sun is the
primitive source of this energy, as father and chief of the male
gods that form his court. He follows the action of the male and
female principles through all the portions and divisions of nature,
attributing to the former the origin of stability and identity, to
the latter, that of diversity and mobility. Heaven is to the earth,
he says, as the male to the female. It is the movement of the
heavens that, by their revolutions, furnished the seminal
incitements and forces, whose emanations received by the earth, make
it fruitful, and cause it to produce animals and plants of every
Philo says that Moses recognized this doctrine of two causes,
active and passive; but made the former to reside in the Mind or
Intelligence external to matter.
The ancient astrologers divided the twelve signs of the Zodiac
into six male and six female, and assigned them to six male a six
female Gods. Heaven and Earth, or Ouranos and Ghe, were among the
most ancient nations, the first and most ancient Divinities. We find
them in the Phoenician history of Sanchoniathon, and in the Grecian
Genealogy of the Gods given by Hesiod. Everywhere they marry, and by
their union produce the later Gods. "In the beginning." says
Apollodorus, "Ouranos or the Heavens was Lord of all the Universe:
he took to wife Ghe or the earth, and had by her many children."
They were the first Gods of the Cretans, and under other names, of
the Armenians, as we learn from Berosus, and of Panchaia, an island
South of Arabia, as we learn from Euhemerus. Orpheus made the
Divinity or the "Great Whole," male and female, because, he said, it
could produce nothing, unless it united in itself the productive
force of both sexes. He called Heaven PANGENETOR, the Father of all
things, most ancient of Beings, beginning and end of all, containing
in Himself the incorruptible and unwearying force of Necessity.
The same idea obtained in the rude North of Europe. The Scythians
made the earth to be the wife of Jupiter; and the Germans adored her
under the name of HERTA. The Celts worshipped the Heavens and the
Earth, and said that without the former the latter would be sterile,
and that their marriage produced all things. The Scandinavians
acknowledged BOR or the Heavens, and gave FURTUR, his son, the Earth
as his wife. Olaus Rudbeck adds, that their ancestors were persuaded
that Heaven intermarried with the Earth, and thus uniting his forces
with hers, produced animals and plants. This marriage of Heaven and
Earth produced the Azes, Genii famous in the theology of the North.
In the theology of the Phrygians and Lydians, the ASII were born of
the marriage of the Supreme God with the Earth, and Firmicus informs
us that the Phrygians attrihuted to the Earth supremacy over the
other elements, and considered her the Great Mother of all
Virgil sings the impregnation of the joyous earth, by the Ether,
its spouse, that descends upon its bosom, fertilizing it with rains.
Columella sings the loves of Nature and her marriage with Heaven
annually consummated at the sweet Spring-time. He describes the
Spirit of Life, the soul that animates the world, fired with passion
of Love, uniting with Nature and itself, itself a part of Nature,
and filling its own bosom with new productions. This union of the
universe with itself, this mutual action of two sexes, he terms "the
great Secrets of Nature," "the Mysteries of the Union of Heaven with
Earth, imaged in the Sacred Mysteries of Atys and Bacchus."
Varro tells us that the great Divinities adored at Samothrace
were the Heavens and the Earth, considered as First Causes or Primal
Gods, and as male and female agents, one bearing to the other the
relations that the Soul and Principle of Movement bear to the body
or the matter that receives them. These were the gods revered in the
Mysteries of that Island, as they were in the orgies of
Everywhere the sacred body of Nature was covered with the veil of
allegory, which concealed it from the profane, and allowed it to be
seen only by the sage who thought it worthy to be the object of his
study and investigation. She showed herself to those only who loved
her in spirit and in truth, and she abandoned the indifferent and
careless to error and to ignorance. "The Sages of Greece," says
Pausanias, "never wrote otherwise than in an enigmatical manner,
never naturally and directly." "Nature," says Sallust the
Philosopher, "should be sung only in a language that imitates the
secrecy of her processes and operations. She is herself an enigma.
We see only bodies in movement; the forces and springs that move
them are hidden from us." The poets inspired by the Divinity, the
wisest philosophers, all the theologians, the chiefs of the
initiations and Mysteries, even the gods uttering their oracles,
have borrowed the figurative language of allegory. "The Egyptians,"
says Proclus, "preferred that mode of teaching, and spoke of the
great secrets of Nature, only in mythological enigmas." The
Gymnosophists of India and the Druids of Gaul lent to science the
same enigmatic language, and in the same style wrote the Hierophants
The division of things into the active and the passive cause
leads to that of the two Principles of Light and Darkness, connected
with and corresponding with it. For Light comes from the ethereal
substance that composes the active cause, and darkness from earth or
the gross matter which composes the passive cause. In Hesiod, the
Earth, by its union with Tartarus, engenders Typhon. Chief of the
Powers or Genii of Darkness. Put it unites itself with the Ether or
Ouranos, when it engenders the Gods of Olympus, or the Stars,
children of Starry Ouranos.
Light was the first Divinity worshipped by men. To it they owed
the brilliant spectacle of Nature. It seems an emanation from the
Creator of all things, making known to our senses the Universe which
darkness hides from our eyes, and, as it were giving it existence.
Darkness, as it were, reduces all nature again to nothingness, and
almost entirely annihilates man.
Naturally, therefore, two substances of opposite natures were
imagined, to each of which the world was in turn subjected, one
contributing to its felicity and the other to its misfortune. Light
multiplied its enjoyments; Darkness despoiled it of them: the former
was its friend, the latter its enemy. To one all good was
attributed; to the other all evil; and thus the words "Light" and
"Good" became synonymous, and the words "Darkness" and "Evil." It
seeming that Good and Evil could not flow from one and the same
source, any more than could Light and Darkness, men naturally
imagined two Causes or Principles, of different natures and opposite
in their effects, one of which shed Light and Good, and the other
Darkness and Evil, on the Universe.
This distinction of the two Principles was admitted in all the
Theologies, and formed one of the principal bases of all religions.
It entered as a primary element into the sacred fables, the
cosmogonies and the Mysteries of antiquity. "We are not to suppose,"
says Plutarch, "that the Principles of the Universe are inanimate
bodies, as Democritus and Epicurus thought; nor that a matter devoid
of qualities is organized and arranged by a single Reason or
Providence, Sovereign over all things, as the Stoics held; for it is
not possible that a single Being, good or evil, is the cause of all
inasmuch as God can in nowise be the cause of any evil. The harmony
of the Universe is a combination of contraries, like the strings of
a lyre, or that of a bow, which alternately is stretched and
relaxed." "The good," says Euripides, "is never separated from the
Evil. The two must mingle, that all may go well." And this opinion
as to the two principles, continues Plutarch, "is that of all
antiquity. From the Theologians and Legislators it passed to the
Poets and Philosophers. Its author is unknown; but the opinion
itself is established by the traditions of the whole human race, and
consecrated in the mysteries and sacrifices both of the Greeks and
Barbarians, wherein was recognized the dogma of opposing principles
in nature, which, by their contrariety, produce the mixture of good
and evil. We must admit two contrary causes, two opposing powers,
which lead, one to the right and the other to the left, and thus
control our life, as they do the sublunary world, which is therefore
subject to so many changes and irregularities of every kind. For if
there can be no effect without a cause, and if the Good cannot be
the cause of the Evil, it is absolutely necessary that there should
be a cause for the Evil, as there is one for the Good." This
doctrine, he adds, has been generally received among most nations,
and especially by those who have had the greatest reputation for
wisdom. All have admitted two gods, with different occupations, one
making the good and the other the evil found in nature. The former
has been styled "God," the latter "Demon." The Persians, or
Zoroaster, named the former Ormuzd and the latter Ahriman; of whom
they said one was of the nature of Light, the other of that of
Darkness. The Egyptians called the former Osiris, and the latter
Typhon, his eternal enemy.
The Hebrews, at least after their return from the Persian
captivity, had their good Deity, and the Devil, a bad and malicious
Spirit, ever opposing God, and Chief of the Angels of Darkness, as
God was of those of Light. The word "Satan" means, in Hebrew,
simply, "The Adversary."
The Chaldeans, Plutarch says, had their good and evil stars. The
Greeks had their Jupiter and Pluto, and their Giants and Titans, to
whom were assigned the attributes of the Serpent with which Pluto or
Serapis was encircled, and the shape whereof was assumed by Typhon,
Ahriman, and the Satan of the Hebrews. Every people had something
equivalent to this.
The People of Pegu believe in two Principles, one author of Good
and the other of Evil, and strive to propitiate the latter, while
they think it needless to worship the former, as he is incapable of
doing evil. The people of Java, of the Moluccas, of the Gold Coast,
the Hottentots, the people of Teneriffe and Madagascar, and the
Savage Tribes of America, all worship and strive to avert the anger
and propitiate the good-will of the Evil Spirit.
But among the Greeks, Egyptians, Chaldeans, Persians, and
Assyrians, the doctrine of the two Principles formed a complete and
regularly arranged theological system. It was the basis of the
religion of the Magi and of Egypt. The author of an ancient work,
attributed to Origen, says that Pythagoras learned from Zarastha, a
Magus at Babylon (the same, perhaps, as Zerdusht or Zoroaster), that
there are two principles of all things, whereof one is the father
and the other the mother; the former, Light, and the latter,
Darkness. Pythagoras thought that the Dependencies on Light were
warmth, dryness, lightness, swiftness; and those on Darkness, cold,
wet, weight, and slowness; and that the world derived its existence
from these two principles, as from the male and the female.
According to Porphyry, he conceived two opposing powers, one good,
which he termed Unity, the Light, Right, the Equal, the Stable, the
Straight; the other evil, which he termed Binary, Darkness, the
Left, the Unequal, the Crooked. These ideas he received from the
Orientals, for he dwelt twelve years at Babylon, studying with the
Magi. Varro says he recognized two Principles of all things, - the
Finite and the Infinite, Good and Evil, Life and Death, Day a Night.
White he thought was of the nature of the Good Principle, and Black
of that of the Evil; that Light and Darkness, Heat and Cold, the Dry
and the Wet, mingled in equal proportions; that Summer was the
triumph of heat, and Winter of cold; that their equal combination
produced Spring and Autumn, the former producing verdure and
favorable to health, and the latter, deteriorating everything,
giving birth to maladies. He applied the same idea to the rising and
setting of the sun; and, like the Magi, held that God or Ormuzd in
the body resembled light, and in the soul, truth .
Aristotle, like Plato, admitted a principle of Evil, resident in
matter and in its eternal imperfection.
The Persians said that Ormuzd, born of the pure Light, and
Ahriman, born of darkness, were ever at war. Ormuzd produced six
Gods, Beneficence, Truth, Good Order, Wisdom, Riches, and Virtuous
Joy. These were so many emanations from the Good Principle, so many
blessings bestowed by it on men. Ahriman, in his turn, produced six
Devs, opponents of the six emanations from Ormuzd. Then Ormuzd made
himself three times as great as before, ascended as far above the
sun as the sun is above the earth, and adorned the heavens with
stars, of which he made Sirius the sentinel or advance-guard: that
he then created twenty-four other Deities, and placed them in an
egg, where Ahriman also placed twenty-four others, created by him,
who broke the egg, and so intermingled Good and Evil. Theopompus
adds that, according to the Magi, for two terms of three thousand
years, each of the two Principles is to be by turns victor and the
other vanquished; then for three thousand more for each they are to
contend with each other, each destroying reciprocally the works of
the other; after which Ahriman is to perish, and men, wearing
transparent bodies, to enjoy unutterable happiness.
The twelve great Deities of the Persians, the six Amshaspands and
six Devs, marshalled, the former under the banner of Light, and the
latter under that of Darkness, are the twelve Zodiacal Signs or
Months; the six supreme signs, or those of Light, or of Spring and
Summer, commencing with Aries, and the six inferior, of Darkness, or
of Autumn and Winter, commencing with Libra. Limited Time, as
contradistinguished from Time without limits, or Eternity, is Time
created and measured by the celestial revolutions. It is
comprehended in a period divided into twelve parts, each subdivided
into a thousand parts, which the Persians termed years. Thus the
circle annually traversed by the Sun was divided into 12,000 parts,
or each sign into 3,000: and thus, each year, the Principle of Light
and Good triumphed for 3,000 years, that of Evil and Darkness for
3,000, and they mutually destroyed each other's labors for 6,000, or
3,000 for each: so that the Zodiac was equally divided between them.
And accordingly Ocellus Lucanus, the Disciple of Pythagoras, held
that the principal cause of all sublunary effects resided in the
Zodiac, and that from it flowed the good or bad influences of the
planets that revolved therein.
The twenty-four good and twenty-four evil Deities, enclosed in
the Egg, are the forty-eight constellations of the ancient sphere,
equally divided between the realms of Light and Darkness, on the
concavity of the celestial sphere which was apportioned among them;
and which, enclosing the world and planets, was the mystic and
sacred egg of the Magi, the Indians, and the Egyptians,-- the egg
that issued from the mouth of the God Kneph, that figured as the
Orphic Egg in the Mysteries of Greece, that issued from the God
Chumong of the Coresians, and from the Egyptian Osiris and the God
Phanes of the Modern Orphics, Principle of Light,--the egg crushed
by the Sacred Bull of the Japanese, and from which the world
emerged; that placed by the Greeks at the feet of Bacchus the
bull-horned God, and from which Aristophanes makes Love emerge, who
with Night organizes Chaos.
Thus the Balance, the Scorpion, the Serpent of Ophiucus, ar the
Dragon of the Hesperides became malevolent Signs and Evil Genii; and
entire nature was divided between the two principles, and between
the agents or partial causes subordinate to them. Hence Michael and
his Archangels, and Satan and his fallen compeers. Hence the wars of
Jupiter and the Giants, in which th Gods of Olympus fought on the
side of the Light-God, agains the dark progeny of earth and Chaos; a
war which Proclus regarded as symbolizing the resistance opposed by
dark and chaotic matter to the active and beneficent force which
gives it organization; an idea which in part appears in the old
theory of two Principles, one innate in the active and luminous
substance of Heaven, and the other in the inert and dark substance
of matter that resists the order and the good that Heaven
communicates to it.
Osiris conquers Typhon, and Ormuzd, Ahriman, when, at the Vernal
Equinox, the creative action of Heaven and its demiourgic energy is
most strongly manifested. Then the principle of Light and Good
overcomes that of Darkness and Evil, and the world rejoices,
redeemed from cold and wintry darkness by the beneficent Sign into
which the Sun then enters triumphant and rejoicing, after his
From the doctrine of the two Principles, Active and Passive grew
that of the Universe, animated by a Principle of Eternal Life, and
by a Universal Soul, from which every isolated and temporary being
received at its birth an emanation, which, at the death of such
being, returned to its source. The life of matter as much belonged
to nature as did matter itself; and as life is manifested by
movement, the sources of life must needs seem to be placed in those
luminous and eternal bodies, and above all in the Heaven in which
they revolve, and which whirls them along with itself in that rapid
course that is swifter than all other movement. And fire and heat
have so great an analogy with life, that cold like absence of
movement, seemed the distinctive characteristic of death.
Accordingly, the vital fire that blazes in the Sun and produces the
heat that vivifies everything, was regarded as the principle of
organization and life of all sublunary beings.
According to this doctrine, the Universe is not to be regarded in
its creative and eternal action, merely as an immense machine moved
by powerful springs and forced into a continual movement which,
emanating from the circumference, extends to the centre acts and
re-acts in every possible direction, and re-produces in succession
all the varied forms which matter receives. So to regard it would be
to recognize a cold and purely mechanical action, the energy of
which could never produce life.
On the contrary, it was thought, the Universe should be deemed an
immense Being, always living, always moved and always moving in an
eternal activity inherent in itself, and which, subordinate to no
foreign cause, is communicated to all its parts, connects them
together, and makes of the world of things a complete and perfect
whole. The order and harmony which reign therein seem to belong to
and be a part of it, and the design of the various plans of
construction of organized beings would seem to be graven in its
Supreme Intelligence, source of all the other Intelligences which it
communicates together with life to man. Nothing existing out of it,
it must be regarded as the principle and term of all things.
Chaeremon had no reason for saying that the Ancient Egyptians,
inventors of the sacred fables, and adorers of the Sun and the other
luminaries, saw in the Universe only a machine, without life and
without intelligence, either in its whole or in its parts; and that
their cosmogony was a pure Epicureanism, which required only matter
and movement to organize its world and govern it. Such an opinion
would necessarily exclude all religious worship. Wherever we suppose
a worship, there we must suppose intelligent Deities who receive it,
and are sensible to the homage of their adorers; and no other people
were so religious as the Egyptians.
On the contrary, with them the immense, immutable, and Eternal
Being, termed "God" or "the Universe," had eminently, and in all
their plenitude, that life and intelligence which sublunary beings,
each an infinitely small and temporary portion of itself, possess in
a far inferior degree and infinitely less quantity. It was to them,
in some sort, like the Ocean, whence the springs, brooks, and rivers
have risen by evaporation, and to the bosom whereof they return by a
longer or shorter course, and after a longer or shorter separation
from the immense mass of its waters. The machine of the Universe
was, in their view, like that of man, moved by a Principle of Life
which kept it in eternal activity, and circulated in all its parts.
The Universe was a living and animated being, like man and the other
animals; or rather they were so only because the Universe was
essentially so, and for a few moments communicated to each an
infinitely minute portion of its eternal life, breathed by it into
the inert and gross matter of sublunary bodies. That withdrawn, man
or the animal died; and the Universe alone, living and circulating
around the wrecks of their bodies, by its eternal movement,
organized and animated new bodies, returning to them the eternal
fire and subtle substance which vivifies itself, and which,
incorporated in its immense mass, was its universal soul.
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