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The Gnostics and Their Remains

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Author Topic: The Gnostics and Their Remains  (Read 2976 times)
Demiurge
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δημιουργός (dēmiourgós, latinized demiurgus δήμιος


« Reply #105 on: March 12, 2009, 01:13:34 pm »

emasculated, and yet they act as though they were. For they most strictly forbid all intercourse with women, and in every other respect, as we have fully described, they do the same things as the eunuchs, the regular priests of Rhea."

After giving an account of their worship and glorification of the Serpent (which I shall extract when treating of the Agathodæmon religion) Hippolytus thus continues:--"The foregoing is a sample of the insane, absurd, and interminable theories of the sect. But to show up, as far as lies in our power, their unknowing 'knowledge,' the following hymn * is here inserted, as containing a summary of the whole creed:--


"'The generative law of the All was the First Mind;
But the Second was the effused chaos of the First:
In the third place the Soul received a law, and began to operate. †
Whereupon She (the Soul) enveloped in the figure of a fawn,
Struggles with Death, suffering a probationary penance.
At one time, invested with royalty, she beholds the Light;
At another, cast down into misery, she weeps.
Now she weeps and rejoices;
Now she weeps and is judged;
Now she is judged and dies.
When shall her deliverance be?
The wretched one
Hath entered, as she strayed, into an evil labyrinth.
But Jesus said: Father, suffer me;
She in quest of evil (or, the chased of evil ones) upon earth
Wandereth about, destitute of Thy Spirit:
She seeketh to escape from the bitter chaos,
But knoweth not how to pass through.
For this cause send me, O Father!
I will go down holding the Seals,
I will pass through all the Æons;
I will reveal all the mysteries;
I will manifest the forms of the gods; ‡
And the hidden secrets of the holy way
I will teach, giving unto them the name of GNOSIS.'

"This, therefore, is the system (or pretension) of the Naaseni, who designate themselves 'the Gnostics.' But this




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« Reply #106 on: March 12, 2009, 01:13:47 pm »

deception of theirs being multiform, and having many heads like the Hydra of fable, if I smite all the heads at a single blow with the wand of Truth, I shall destroy the whole serpent, for all the other sects differ but little from this in essentials."

Hippolytus has not given a connected analysis of the Ophite system; he probably deemed it superfluous labour, as having been already done with much exactness by Irenæus in his great work, to which the former occasionally refers as being then in everybody's hands. To the Bishop of Lugdunum, therefore, we must apply for this information, which will be found given at much length in Chapters xxxi.–xxxiii. of the First Book of his History. He states that the Ophites, like other Gnostics, rejected the Old Testament altogether as the work of a subordinate divinity, and containing nothing of the revelations of their Sophia, or Divine Wisdom; whilst they held that the New, although originally of higher authority, had been so corrupted by the interpolations of the Apostles as to have lost all value as a revelation of Divine truth. They drew the chief supports of their tenets out of the various "Testaments" and similar books then current, and ascribed to the Patriarchs and the most ancient Prophets, for example, the book of Enoch.

The primary article of this doctrine was the Emanation of all things from the One Supreme, long utterly unknown to mankind, and at last only revealed to a very small number capable of receiving such enlightenment. Hence he is named Bythos, "Profundity," to express his unfathomable, inscrutable nature. Following the Zoroastrian and the Kabbalistic nomenclature they also designated Him as the "Fountain of Light," and "The Primal Man," giving for reason of the latter title that "Man was created after the image of God," which proved the nature of the prototype.

The Beginning of Creation, that is, the Primal Idea, or Emanation, was the "thought," Ennoia, of Bythos, who bears also the significant name of Sige, "Silence." This Idea being the first act of creation of the Primal Man, is therefore properly denominated the "Second Man." Ennoia is the consort (compare the Hindoo Darga) of Bythos, and she produced Pneuma, "the

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[paragraph continues] Spirit," who, being the source of all created things, is entitled "the Mother of all living," and likewise Sophia, the wisdom from on high. As the mother of all living, Sophia is the medium between the intellectual and material worlds. In consequence of this, when Bythos and Ennoia, charmed with her beauty, furnished her with the divine Light, Sophia produced two new Emanations--the one perfect, Christos, the other imperfect, Sophia-Achamoth. (This scheme resembles the Buddhistic; Bythos answering to the First Buddha; Sige, Sophia, Christos, Achamoth, Ildabaoth, to the successive other Five.)

Of these emanations Christos was designed for the guide of all who proceed from God; Achamoth, for the guide of all proceeding out of matter; nevertheless, the Perfect One was intended to assist and lead upwards his imperfect sister.

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« Reply #107 on: March 12, 2009, 01:14:02 pm »

Furthermore, the Spirit rests upon Chaos, or the waters of Creation, which are Matter, Water, Darkness, the Abyss. This Chaos was devoid of all life, for life proceeds ultimately from the Supreme, who has no connection whatever with Matter. Neither could his purely intellectual daughter, Sophia, act directly upon it; she therefore employed for agent her own emanation, Achamoth, whose mixed imperfect nature fitted her for that office.

This First Tetrad, Bythos, Ennoia, Sige, Sophia, were in the meantime creating Ecclesia, the Idea of the Holy Church. But the imperfect Achamoth upon descending into Chaos, lost her way there, and became ambitious of creating a world entirely for herself. She floated about in the Abyss, delighted at imparting life and motion to the inert elements, until she became so hopelessly entangled in Matter as to be unable to extricate herself from its trammels. In this condition she produced the creator of the material world, the Demiurgus, Ildabaoth.

But after this event, Achamoth feeling the intolerable burden of her material part, after long and repeated efforts, at length struggled forth out of Chaos. She had never belonged to the Pleroma, but she attained to the "Middle Space"; where she entirely shook off her material part, and determined to erect a barrier between the World of Intelligence and the World of

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[paragraph continues] Matter. Ildabaoth, "Son of Darkness," creator and tyrant of the Lower World, followed the example of Bythos in producing subordinate Emanations. First of all he generated an Angel in his own likeness; this Angel a second; and so on up to the number of six. These are all reflexions one of the other; but they inhabit, with their father, Ildabaoth, seven different regions; to which the Middle Space, dominion of their origin Achamoth, forms the eighth. Their names are Iao, Sabaoth, Adonai, Eloi, Ouraios, Astaphaios. They became the Genii of the seven worlds, or planetary spheres. The first four names are the mystic titles of the God of the Jews--degraded thus by the Ophites into appellations of the subordinates of the Creator; the two last signify the forces of Fire and Water.

In this degradation of the names most sacred in the Jewish theology, is clearly to be recognised, the very teaching of those "dreamers" reprobated by Jude, v. 8 for despising "Dominion," and speaking evil of "Dignities." For "Dominion" is the "Empire" in the Sephiroth (see page 35) to which the Kabbala assigned the title Adonai. Now we find here the Ophites making Adonai the third son of Ildabaoth, a malevolent Genius, and like his father and brethren, the eternal adversary of the Christ. The "Dignities" mean the other personages of the Sephiroth, similarly dishonoured by the new doctrine. Jude shows plainly whom he had in view by contrasting in the next verse the audacity of these "blasphemers" with the respect shown by the Archanged Michael towards his opponent on account of his angelic nature, however fallen from his high estate. By a most singular coincidence (much too close to have been merely accidental), Jude's censure, nay, his very expressions are repeated by Peter in his second Epistle (ii. 10). If either of these Epistles were really written by the Apostles whose names they bear, these passages bring to light the very early existence of this school of Gnosticism, which indeed may have been founded before the promulgation of Christianity. But to return to the operations of Ildabaoth. Besides the Spirits above mentioned, he generated Archangels, Angels, Virtues, and Powers presiding over all the details of the creation. Ildabaoth was far from being a pure spirit; ambition

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« Reply #108 on: March 12, 2009, 01:14:19 pm »

and pride dominated in his composition. He therefore resolved to break off all connection with his mother, Achamoth, and to create a world entirely for himself. Aided by his own Six Spirits, he created Man, intending him for the image of his power; but he failed utterly in his work, his Man proving a vast, soulless monster, crawling upon the earth. The Six Spirits were obliged to bring their work again before their father, to be animated: he did so by communicating the ray of Divine Light which he himself had inherited from Achamoth, who by this loss punished him for his pride and self-sufficiency.

Man, thus favoured by Achamoth at the expense of her own son, followed the impulse of the Divine Light that she had transferred to him, collected a further supply out of the creation with which it was intermingled, and began to present not the image of his creator Ildabaoth, but rather that of the Supreme Being, the "Primal Man." At this spectacle the Demiurgus was filled with rage and envy at having produced a being so superior to himself. His looks, inspired by his passions, were reflected in the Abyss, as in a mirror, the image became instinct with life, and forth arose "Satan Serpent-formed," Ophiomorphos, the embodiment of envy and cunning. He is the combination of all that is most base in matter with the hate, envy and craft of Spiritual Intelligence. Out of their normal hatred for Judaism, the Ophites gave this being the name of Michael, the guardian angel of the Jewish nation according to Daniel (v. 21). But they also called him Samiel, the Hebrew name of the Prince of the Devils.

In consequence of his spite at the creation of Man, Ildabaoth set to work to create the three kingdoms of Nature, the Animal, the Vegetable, and the Mineral; with all the defects and evils they now exhibit. Next, in order to regain possession of the best of things, he resolved to confine Man within his own exclusive domain. In order to detach him from his protectress Achamoth, and from the celestial region, he forbade him to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, which could reveal the mysteries and confer on him the graces from above. But Achamoth, in order to defeat his scheme, sent her own Genius, Ophis, in the form

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« Reply #109 on: March 12, 2009, 01:14:33 pm »

of a serpent to induce him to transgress the commandment, and so to break the Law of Jealousy. Though not so stated, it would appear that the serpent-form was put on by Achamoth's minister in order to escape the vigilance of Ildabaoth, under the disguise of his offspring Satan, Ophiomorphos.

Enlightened by eating the forbidden fruit, Man became capable of comprehending heavenly things. Nevertheless Ildabaoth was sufficiently powerful to revenge himself, which he did by shutting up the First Pair in the prison-house of Matter, that is, in the body, so unworthy of his nature, wherein Man is still enthralled. Achamoth, however, continued to protect him: she had extracted from his composition and absorbed into herself the divine Spark of Light; and ceased not to supply him therewith, and defend him in all his trials.

And of this there was full need. A new enemy had come into the field against Man, the Genius Ophis whom Ildabaoth had seized, and punished for his share in the affair of the Tree of Knowledge, by casting him down into the Abyss; and who, contaminated by his immersion in Matter, became converted into the exact image of his fellow-prisoner, Ophiomorphos. The former was the type, the latter the antitype, and the two are often confounded together. Thus we get a third dualism into the scheme. Sophia and Sophia-Achamoth, Adam-Kadmon and Adam, Ophis and Ophiomorphos. Ophis, at first Man's friend, now began to hate him as the cause (though innocent) of his own degradation. With Ildabaoth, and his Sons, he continually seeks to chain him to the body, by inspiring him with all manner of corrupt desires, more especially earthly love and the appetites. But Achamoth supplies Man with the divine Light, through which he became sensible of his Nakedness, that is, of the misery of his condition of imprisonment in this body of death, where his only consolation is the hope of ultimate release.

But the seductions of Ildabaoth and his crew gained over all the offspring of Adam, except Seth, the true type of the Spiritual Man: and his posterity kept alive the seed of Light and the knowledge of divine Truth throughout all the generations following. When they in the Wilderness received

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« Reply #110 on: March 12, 2009, 01:14:46 pm »

the commandments and institutions of Ildabaoth and his Sons, the Planetary Genii, and afterwards the teaching of the Prophets, inspired from the same source, Achamoth infused into their predictions something higher, comprehended not even by their Lord, and made them preach the advent of the Primal Man, the eternal Æon, the heavenly Christ. [The same notion was a favourite one with the Mediæval Cathari.]

Achamoth was so afflicted at the condition of Man that she never rested until she had prevailed on her mother, the celestial Sophia, to move Bythos into sending down the Christ to the aid of the Spiritual Sons of Seth. Ildabaoth himself had been caused to make ready the way for his coming through his own minister, John the Baptist; in the belief that the kingdom Christ came to establish was merely a temporal one: a supposition fostered in him by the contrivance of Achamoth. Besides inducing him to send the Precursor, she made him cause the birth of the Man Jesus by the Virgin Mary; because the creation of a material person could only be the work of the Demiurgus; not falling within the province of a higher power. As soon as the Man Jesus was born, the Christ, uniting himself with Sophia, descended through the seven planetary regions, assuming in each an analogous form, thus concealing his true nature from their presiding Genii, whilst he attracted into himself the sparks of the divine Light they still retained in their essence. [These "analogous forms" are explained by the fact that the Ophite Diagramma figured Michael as a lion, Suriel as a bull, Raphael as a serpent, Gabriel as an eagle, Sabaoth as a bear, Erataoth as a dog, Ouriel as an ass.] In this manner the Christ entered into the man Jesus at the moment of his baptism in the Jordan. From this time forth Jesus began to work miracles; before that He had been entirely ignorant of his own mission. But Ildabaoth at last discovering that he was subverting his own kingdom upon earth, stirred up the Jews against him, and caused him to be put to death. When he was on the cross, the Christ and Sophia left his body, and returned to their own place. Upon his death the Two took the Man Jesus, abandoned his Material body to the earth, and gave him a new one made out of the Æther. Thenceforth he consisted

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« Reply #111 on: March 12, 2009, 01:15:01 pm »

merely of soul and spirit, which was the cause why the Disciples did not recognise him after his resurrection. During his sojourn upon earth of eighteen months after he had risen, he received from Sophia that perfect knowledge, the true Gnosis, which he communicated to the small portion of the Apostles who were capable of receiving the same. Thence, ascending up into the Middle Space, he sat down upon the right hand of Ildabaoth although unperceived by him, and there he is collecting all souls that have been purified through the knowledge of Christ. When he shall have collected all the Spiritual, all the Light, out of Ildabaoth's empire, Redemption is accomplished and the end of the world arrived: which means nothing else than the reabsorption of all Light into the Pleroma from which it had originally descended.

The sect were divided in their opinions as to the nature of Ophis. Although agreed that this genius was in the beginning the minister of Achamoth, the Ophites of Theodoret's time held that he had been converted into the enemy of Man; although by inducing him to break the commandment of Ildabaoth he had proved the final cause of Man's deliverance from his power. But all these nice distinctions, and complicated machinery of Redemption were the invention of the later schools: unknown to the sect described by Hippolytus. For the primitive Ophites, retaining the Egyptian veneration for the Agathodæmon, regarded their serpent, The Naas, as identical with either Sophia, or the Christ. That writer says positively "the Naas (Hebrew, Nachash) is the only thing they worship, whence they are denominated Naaseni. Even two centuries later when Epiphanius wrote, they employed a living tame serpent to encircle and consecrate the loaves that were to be eaten at the Eucharistic supper. Again Tertullian has (In Præscript.) "Serpentem magnificant in tantum ut etiam Christo præferant"--a passage that suggests that their ophis was connected with the antique Solar Genius of the Pharaonic religion. It was a peculiarity of the Egyptians that, like the present Hindoos, they were divided, as it were, into sects, each of which adopted some one deity out of the Pantheon for the exclusive object of worship, paying no regard to all the

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rest. As in modern Hindooism Vishnu and Siva have engrossed the religion of the country, so in the Egypt of the first Christian century Anubis and Cnuph had become the sole objects of Egyptian veneration, as the monuments hereafter to be reviewed will abundantly evince.

To establish the identity of their Ophis with the Saviour, his followers adduced the words of St. John, "For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." All this proves that the section of the Ophites which regarded the serpent as evil by its nature, had been led astray from the primitive doctrine of their sect by the prevailing Zoroastrian and Jewish notions upon that subject. The creed of the original Gnostics, the Naaseni, gave a very different view of the nature of the serpent considered merely as a type; a fact which shall be established in the section on the Agathodæmon worship.

Epiphanius gives the following abstract of their doctrine to explain their reverence for the serpent as the true author of divine knowledge. "The Supreme Æon having produced other Æons, one of these, a female, named Prunicos (i.e. Concupiscence), descended into the waters of the abyss: whence, not being able to extricate herself, she remained suspended in the Middle Space, being too much clogged by matter to return above, and yet not sinking lower where there was nothing cognate to her nature. In this condition she produced Ildabaoth, the God of the Jews; and he in his turn seven Æons or Angels, who created the seven heavens. From these seven Æons Ildabaoth shut up all that was above, lest they should know of anything superior to himself. The seven Æons then created Man in the image of their Father, but prone, and crawling upon earth like a worm. But the Heavenly Mother, Prunicos, wishing to deprive Ildabaoth of the power wherewith she had unadvisedly invested him, infused into Man a celestial spark--the soul. Straightway man rose up on his feet, soared in mind beyond the limits of the eight spheres, and glorified the Supreme Father, Him who is above Ildabaoth. Hence Ildabaoth, full of jealousy, cast down his eyes upon the lower layer of Matter, and begat a Virtue, whom they call his Son. Eve,

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« Reply #112 on: March 12, 2009, 01:15:14 pm »

listening to him as the Son of God, was easily persuaded to eat of the Tree of Knowledge." Such is the brief summary of Ophite tenets, as given by Epiphanius. The details of the elaborate system given in the preceding pages are extracted from Theodoret who flourished half a century later.

 

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« Reply #113 on: March 12, 2009, 01:15:28 pm »

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« Reply #114 on: March 12, 2009, 01:15:47 pm »

Footnotes
82:* "But the Libyans held that Iarbas was the first-born of men; he who, rising up out of their droughty plains, first gathered the sweet dates of Jove. And even in our day, the Nile fattening the mud of Egypt, p. 83 and giving life to things clothed with flesh, through his moist heat breeds living creatures. The Assyrians pretend that the First Man arose in their country, Oannes, the eater of fish; but the Chaldeans say he was Adam."

84:* Μέλας has both these meanings.

85:* The "Seed of the World" in the Basilidan system, as already explained (p. 73).

86:* Meaning the Body, in which the Inner Man imprisoned has lost all recollection of leis primal source.

87:* The Basilidan "Boundary Spirit," or Holy Ghost (p. 76).

88:* Ildabaoth, the God of Fire.

89:* A valuable notice of the type under which the Cabiri were represented in this the most venerated of all the Grecian sanctuaries. It is curiously illustrated by Ficoroni's bronze group, figured in his "Memorie di Labico," and given to the Kircherian Museum. A female, half-draped in a star-spangled robe, rests her hands on the shoulders of twin youths, similarly arrecti, with the ears and standing-up hair of fauns, one holds a horn, the other the handle of a vase. The base is inscribed in very archaic letters--

DINDIA MAGOLNIA FIEA DEDIT NOVIOS PLAVTIOS MED ROMAI FECID

where it will be seen that Dindia uses the metronymic after the Etruscan fashion. This group, six inches high, served for handle to the lid of a cylindrical pyxis, two palms deep, resting on three lion's claws. With it was found a mirror, the back engraved with the combat of Pollux and Amycus, LOSNA with her crescent standing in the middle, the names in regular Etruscan.

90:* A subsequent thousand years' experience of the blessings of ecclesiastical rule has furnished Walter de Mapes with a more humorous etymology for this title--


"Papa, si rem tangimus nomen habet a re,
Quidquid habent alii solus vult pappare:
Aut si nomen Gallicum vis apocopare,
Payez, payez dit le mot, si vis impetrare."


91:* A play upon τελώναι and τέλη.

92:* Some lurking tradition of this mystery may have suggested the machine of the almond (machina della mandola) containing the Archangel Gabriel, in the spectacle of the Annunciation constructed by Brunelleschi for the church of Sta. Croce. See Vasari's detailed account of this remarkable example of a miracle-play.

94:* This hymn is written in anapæstic verses; its text is in many places hopelessly corrupted by the transcriber. I have therefore often been obliged to conjecture the original sense.

94:† An enunciation of the fundamental doctrine "All is Three," already stated by Hippolytus.

94:‡ That is, will disclose to the faithful the different figures of the Archons of the lower spheres, a promise fulfilled at much length by the author of the Pistis-Sophia.



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« Reply #115 on: March 12, 2009, 01:16:09 pm »

p. 104

MACHINERY OF THE GNOSIS.
The doctrines of the chief schools of Gnosticism having been fully described in the preceding sections, the next step in the natural order of things will be to consider the MACHINERY employed by its teachers to set forth these new doctrines.

The deities of the ancient mythology continued to hold their place in the productions of the great sect whose birth-place was Alexandria, and consequently some insight into the sense in which the novel theosophy adopted them may be obtained by learning what were the powers and attributes of these same gods, when their worship held undisputed possession of the country. On this account, the chief deities of Egypt, and the figures under which they are recognised, must now be briefly described--together with their Coptic titles, so often found on these monuments in strange companionship with the holy names of the Jewish creed, with the Magian Genii, even with the appellatives of Hindoo gods--the very terminology of the religion plainly indicating its remote and multifarious sources.

1. The great god of Lower Egypt, Phthas (phonetic, Ptah), is represented in a close-fitting robe, with his feet joined together, and standing upon a base of four steps, called the "Four Foundations," and which typified the Four Elements, of which he was the grand artificer--an emblem long afterwards taken in the same acceptation by the Rosicrucians, sometimes he appears as a dwarf and Priapean; sometimes as Phtha-Tore with a beetle forehead. His proper attribute is the Cynocephalus baboon. His four sons, the Cabiri, are painted as little ugly dwarfs, bearing for badges of office, a sword, a crocodile, a serpent, a human head stuck on a hook. They become in the hierarchy of the Pistis-Sophia the "Collectors unto Wrath" (ἐριναῖοι), whose office is to accuse souls in the Judgment. The many-armed Genius brandishing similar weapons, often found on Gnostic talismans, probably expresses the same idea in a condensed form.

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« Reply #116 on: March 12, 2009, 01:16:22 pm »

2. Ammon (phonetically, Amen) has a human, and occasionally a ram's, head, from which rises a parti-coloured plume. He is modified into "Pan-Mendes," Priapean, and brandishing a whip. In the character of "Ammon-Chnubis" he has his feet bound together, and wears the horns of a goat. He is often figured as the serpent, called by the Greeks the "Agathodæmon." His symbol is the vase "Canopus," for so the Greeks pronounce the name of Chnubis. United with the sun, he becomes "Ammon-Ra."

3. The Sun-god, Phre, or Ra, depicted with the head of a hawk, supporting the solar disc entwined with the serpent Uraeus.

4. Thoth or Thoyt, ibis-headed, is the "Scribe of the gods." Sometimes he takes the head of a hawk, and becomes the famous "Hermes Trismegistus." His symbol is the winged orb, Tat, answering to the Mir of the Persians. (He is the prophet Enoch's fourth rebellious angel, Penumuc, "who discovered unto the children of men bitterness and sweetness, and pointed out to them every unit of their wisdom. He taught men to understand writing, and the use of ink and paper. Therefore numerous have been those who have gone astray, from every period of the world even to this day. For men were not born for this, thus with pen and with ink to confirm their faith." [lxviii. 10. 13.])

5. Sochos is depicted with the head of a crocodile, and is also symbolised by a crocodile with the tail bent.

6. The Moon-god, Pa-Ioh, (Pa, being the Coptic definite article) is represented having his feet close together; upon his head is a single lock of hair and the crescent. At other times, this deity is figured bi-sexual, and casting gold dust over the heavens, that is, bespangling them with the stars.

7. Osiris is a human figure distinguished by his lofty conical helmet, and holding a crook and a whip. The eye is his symbol.

8. Aroeres (Aroi), the Horus of the Greeks, has a single lock of hair upon his head. He is figured as being suckled by Isis and again, as seated upon the lotus; he also occasionally wears the head of a hawk, as being one character of the Solar god.

p. 106

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« Reply #117 on: March 12, 2009, 01:16:37 pm »

His symbol, the hawk, appears upon the breast of Isis in a torso in the Borgia Collection.

9. Anubis (Anbo) is always jackal-headed, and sometimes has also a human one head, springing from a separate neck. His Coptic name, ΑΝΒΩ, may often be observed in Gnostic legends.

10. Bebon, or Bebys, has the head of a hippopotamus, or a crocodile, and carries a sword: a figure which used to be taken for Typhon. He stands for the constellation Ursa Major in the Zodiac of Denderah.

Of goddesses the principal are--

1. Neith: expressed by the Vulture, or else by a female with head of a vulture, or lion. In the last case she takes the name of Taf-net. She symbolizes the vault of Heaven.

2. Athor: with the head of a cow, or else of a woman covered with the skin of the Royal Vulture. She is denoted hieroglyphically by a hawk placed within a square.

3. Isis: a female with horns of a cow, between which rests a disk, the lunar circle.

4. Sate: the Grecian Hera, wearing tall plumes on her head, and sometimes personified with a feather in place of head, stands for "Truth," in which latter quality she appears regularly at the Judgment of the Soul.

The Four Genii of the Amenthes, or Hades, are represented with the heads of a man, jackal, baboon, and hawk, respectively; and are often placed together like mummy-shaped figures, forming the Canopic Vases.

The symbols of the same worship have been to some extent explained by persons writing at a time when they were still a living, though fast expiring, language. Of such writers the most valuable is Plutarch, who in his curious treatise 'De Iside et Osiride,' has given the meaning of several of these symbols, and, as it would appear, upon very good authority. According to him, Isis sometimes signifies the Moon, in which sense she is denoted by a Crescent; sometimes the Earth as fecundated by the waters of the Nile. For this reason water, as the seed of Osiris, was carried in a vase in the processions in honour of this goddess.

Osiris is denoted by the picture of an Eye and Sceptre; his

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« Reply #118 on: March 12, 2009, 01:16:50 pm »

p. 107

name being compounded of Os "many," and iris "eye." Upon this point Macrobius states (Sat. I. 21), "The Egyptians, in order to denote that Osiris means the Sun, whenever they want to express his name in hieroglyphic writing, engrave a Sceptre and on top thereof the figure of an Eye; and by this symbol they express 'Osiris,' signifying this god to be the Sun, riding on high in regal power, and looking down. upon all things, because antiquity hath surnamed the Sun the 'Eye of Jupiter.'"

The Fig-leaf stands for "King"; and also for the "South."

The Lizard, which was believed to conceive through the ear, and to bring forth through the mouth, is the type of the generation of the Word, that is, the Logos, or Divine Wisdom. (This belief explains the appearance of a lizard upon the breast of certain figures of Minerva.) *

The Scarabeus, in its making spherical receptacles for its eggs, and by its retrograde motion, imitates the action and movement of the Sun. This insect had no female, according to the popular belief of the Egyptians.

The Asp expresses a planet, for like that luminary, it moves rapidly, though without any visible organ of locomotion.

The Ibis stands for the Moon: the legs of the bird, when extended, making an equilateral triangle. (It is hard to discern any analogy between the Moon and this figure of geometry, but yet the Pythagoreans denoted Athene by the same sign. But that Plutarch is here correct is proved by many gems which show a triangle set upon an altar and adored by the baboon, Luna's favourite beast.) How the later Egyptians symbolised the Sun and Moon is well expressed upon a jasper (Waterton) where Horus, seated on the lotus, is adored by the baboon; in the field are the sun-star and the crescent attached to their respective figures, and also the Triangle very conspicuously placed.

Horus--Plutarch remarks--wears a crown of the branches of the Persea, because its fruit resembles in shape the heart; its leaves, the tongue. The legend goes that the tree (Cordia myxa, or Sebestene plum) was first planted at Memphis by the hero Perseus, whence its name. In memory of his mythic ancestor,


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« Reply #119 on: March 12, 2009, 01:17:03 pm »

 Alexander ordered that a garland of Persea leaves should form the prize at the games he instituted at his new Capital. The tree never wants a succession of flowers and fruit; the latter Pliny compares to a red plum, adding that it will not grow in Europe.

We next come to a professed treatise upon this recondite subject, Horapollo's 'Interpretation of the Sacred Animals.' Unfortunately, this work bears upon its face clear evidence of having been excogitated by some pragmatical Alexandrian Greek, totally ignorant of what he was writing about, but impudently passing off his own stupid conjectures as to the meaning of the figures on the ancient works surrounding him, as though they were interpretations handed down to him by antique authority. He must have written under the Lower Empire, when the art of reading hieroglyphics was entirely lost, for we know that it still existed in the first century; Tacitus particularly notes that an aged priest read to Germanicus upon his visit to Thebes the contents of the historical tablets on the edifices of that city. "Mox visit veterum Thebarum magna vestigia; et manebant structis molibus literæ Ægyptiæ priscam opulentiam complexæ, jussusque e senioribus sacerdotum patrium sermonem interpretari" (Ann. II. 60). This happened A.D. 19. It would appear that the knowledge of hieroglyphics was fast dying out, and only preserved by members of the previous generation. *

It is only in a few instances that Horapollo has preserved some genuine tradition of the meaning of those symbols which were the most generally used, and therefore the last to be forgotten. Of these explanations the most important are what follow.

"The Cynocephalus baboon denotes the Moon, because that beast has a certain sympathy with the luminary, and during her dark quarter sits without eating, his eyes fixed upon the


p. 109

ground as though mourning for her loss. He moreover denotes the priestly order, because he is naturally circumcised, and abhors fish and fishermen. Erect and with uplifted paws and a basilisk (asp) upon his head, he symbolises the New Moon, whose first appearance he hails after this fashion. By his voiding his urine at fixed and regular intervals, he first suggested to observers the regular division off the day into hours, and furnished the first idea of the invention of the Clepsydra, or water-clock.

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