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The Gnostics and Their Remains

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Author Topic: The Gnostics and Their Remains  (Read 3183 times)
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δημιουργός (dēmiourgós, latinized demiurgus δήμιος

« Reply #135 on: March 12, 2009, 01:23:38 pm »

spiritual oriental representative, in the times when religious ideas of Indian origin began to get the upper hand throughout the Roman world--a religion essentially speculative, and dealing with matters pertaining to another life and the Invisible, utterly different in nature from the old Grecian creed, so materialistic, so active, so entirely busying itself with the Present and the Visible.

In accordance with the rule that prescribed the proper material for talismans, the Jasper (Pliny's Molochites), green, mottled, or yellow, is almost exclusively employed for intagli embodying Mithraic ideas, and which take the place of Phœbus and his attributes amongst the glyptic remains of the second and third centuries. To judge from their fine execution, certain examples of the class may even date from the age of the first Cæsars, and thus form as it were the advanced guard of that countless host of regular Gnostic works, amidst whose terrific barbarism ancient art ultimately expires. In their beginning these Mithraic works were the fruit of the modified Zoroastrian doctrines so widely disseminated over the Empire after the conquest of Pontus--doctrines whose grand feature was the exclusive worship of the Solar god, as the fountain of all life--a notion philosophically true, if indeed the vital principle be, as some scientists assert, nothing more than electricity. As will be shown hereafter ("Serapis"), the later Platonists, like Macrobius, laboured hard to demonstrate that the multitudinous divinities of the old faiths, wheresoever established, were no other than various epithets and expressions for the same god iii his different phases. The aim of all the school was to accommodate the old faith to the influence of the Buddhistic theosophy, the very essence of which was that the innumerable gods of the Hindoo mythology were but names for the Energies of the First Triad in its successive Avatars, or manifestations unto man.

To come now to the actual types setting forth these ideas; prominent amongst them is the figure of the Lion (he being in astrological parlance the "House of the Sun"), usually surrounded with stars, and carrying in his jaws a bull's head, emblem of earth subjected to his power. Sometimes he tramples on the serpent, which in this connection no longer typifies wisdom,

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but the Principle of Evil. For in all religions emanating from the East, where deadly poisonousness is the most conspicuous character of the snake-tribe, the reptile has been adopted as the most speaking type of the Destroyer. In the West, on the other hand, where the same species is for the most part innocuous, and a mere object of wonder, it has always symbolized wisdom, and likewise eternity, from the popular belief in the yearly removal of its youth through casting the slough; on this account the serpent was made the companion of Apollo and Aesculapius; and furthermore plays so important a part in Scandinavian mythology, holding the whole universe together in its perpetual embrace.

Mithras himself often makes his appearance, figured as a youthful Persian, plunging the national weapon, "Medus acinaces," into the throat of a prostrate bull (which expresses the same doctrine as the type last mentioned), whilst overhead are the sun and moon, the group standing in the centre of the Zodiac. But the completest assembly of Mithraic figures and symbols that has come under my notice, is the intaglio published by Caylus ('Recueil d’Antiquités,' vi. pl. 84). It is engraved upon a very fine agate, 2 × 1½ inches in measurement. In the centre is the usual type of Mithras slaughtering the Bull, the tail of which terminates in three wheat-ears, and between the hind legs hangs a huge scorpion; below is the Lion strangling the Serpent--emblem of darkness and of death. On each side stands a fir-tree, admitted into this system because its spiry form imitates a flame, for which same reason its cone was taken for the symbol of the element fire, and therefore borne in the hands of deities in the most ancient Syrian sculptures. Against these fir-trees are affixed torches, one pointing upwards, the other downwards, which clearly stand for the rising and setting of the Sun. At the side of one is a scorpion, of the other, a bull's head. Above each tree again is a torch, each pointing in an opposite direction. The principal group is flanked by Phœbus in his four-horse, Luna in her two-horse car. Above the whole stand two winged figures entwined with serpents and leaning upon long sceptres, between whom rise up three flames, besides four more at the side of the right-hand

p. 134

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"And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, 'I am God and there is no other God beside me,' for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come."- Yaltabaoth
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