The Serpent Symbol (1874)

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A report published in...

HUMAN NATURE

Vol. 8 July 1874

GERALD MASSEY IN AMERICA.


ABOUT the time last number of Human Nature was received by our readers, Gerald Massey arrived in this country from his brilliant lecturing tour in America.  The Banner of Light of May 9th, says:—"Gerald Massey's second advent before a public audience in Boston, last Sunday, will be remembered with great pleasure by our people.  Many spiritualists came in from the surrounding country on Saturday's trains to listen to 'the people's poet,' whose soul goes out with wonderful power to the hearts of the oppressed."  The same number of the Banner contains a long report of a lecture which, though evidently not perfect, our readers will peruse with much interest:—



THE SERPENT SYMBOL: ITS SPIRITUAL AND PHYSICAL SIGNIFICANCE.


A Lecture delivered at Music Hail, Boston, Sunday afternoon, May 3rd,
by
Gerald Massey.


In one sense this will be the least directly spiritualistic of my lectures in Boston.  But it is a most essential part of my work to try and destroy the false-bottomed Spiritualism that only deals in the figments of faith and is founded in fables perverted to suit its purposes, whereby we have so long been led astray.  Theology has reared its Babel of dogmas upon a ground of mythology, and I can best serve the cause of true Spiritualism by identifying and recovering the primitive meanings of the ancient myths.

2.    After I had had some twenty years' acquaintance with the facts of Modern Spiritualism, and thought the matter over more or less, I began to write a work on the subject of the abnormal phenomena in all times.  I was, in common with all others, haunted with the notion of a revelation to mankind given ready-made instead of its being evolved bit by bit through the mind of man; and I fancied that in Spiritualism I might find the proof and explanation.  From what I had seen I was amazed at the light which Spiritualism did throw on the dark things and into the secrecies of the past, and I thought by this light the old inexplicable customs or misinterpreted myths, and almost featureless symbols of effaced facts, and ancient mystic images of things passed out of thought, might be made to live anew; the marks that puzzled us so much as Friday's foot-print in the sand did Robinson Crusoe, would reveal the earliest footprints of the spiritual world fossilised in the natural world for us to recognise and read.  That which looked dull and meaningless before began to bud with new life, and blush with their hidden beauty; just as if you found some old pipkin, made in the far past, and the clay of the potter had contained the seed of flowers, and these should spring up into life and exquisite relief even while you held it in your hand.  It seemed to give me, as it were, the Masonic sign whereby we can interpret so many mysteries.  It gave me the grip, the symbol, the language known in all lands, which underlies and underlines all the languages unknown to us.

3.    It seemed to create a new seeing sense, or added such a new illumination to the old seeing sense, as would make the whole vast field of the past a great gold-diggings awaiting future discovery.  And in this new light, I saw the past had to be re-read and re-written; so I went on to try and read the myths by this light, and for years have been engaged on a series of deep-sea soundings, sometimes grasping a handful of mud in my dredgings and now and then a precious pearl. The best way of communicating to you something of may results, will be to carry you partly through my process in an endeavour to get at the significance of the Serpent-Symbol!

4.    So universal has been the so-called Worship of the Serpent, as to look like the one religion of a world.  Its reign has been widespread as that of night from the best-known to the remotest parts of the earth.  We are but just discovering its prevalence and its power.  It is only a dozen years or so since the temples dedicated and devoted to its rites were found in Cambodia, surpassing in size and magnificence the great cathedrals of York, Amiens, and Cologne.

5.    The Serpent-Symbol has literally realised that image of itself, in the mythologies, which depicts it as circling about the world and clasping the whole wide round in its embrace.  It was the representative of renewed life or immortality on the doors of the chambers of the dead in the Egyptian and Chaldean tombs; and it is yet a Symbol of Eternity in the bracelet on an Englishwoman's arm.  It is the Great Dragon of the Celestial Empire; the Long Serpent of the old Norse Sea Kings; the Lambton Worm; the Dragon of St. George, on our public house sign-boards and old English penny pieces.  It lives and hisses in our letter S, and twists itself into the shape of our ampersand!  This makes one curious to know the meaning of it all, if one could only be sure of touching the bottom.

6.    Through all times and in many ways have men tried to obtain some visible representative of the Unseen Power, and reared their altars to the unknown God as they wandered in the wilderness and deified the darkness with its creeping things on their upward way to a Father of Love and a God of Light, and all the misapprehendings were revelations in their degree.

7.    We first really begin to know what God is as we gradually learn to know what he is not!  And we only find him in proportion as we know that we have not found him!  I think the greatest myth in the world is the notion that man was created with a primitive consciousness of God, the Spiritual Father.  There is evidence scattered all over the world that the first conception of a Creator that man ever had was as the Procreator.  And that is the root idea of all religions possibly up to the time of Jesus.  The Serpent itself is but one of the symbols and proofs of that.

8.    Have you ever thought of what the primitive man must have been, as the conditions of his existence are day by day revealed to us by Science?  Why, his first conception of any unseen Power above him could not have been much beyond that of a Caliban.  Life was so bitterly hard at times, the winters were so cruel cold, and he had no fire to warm his desolate cave, what would have been his ideas of a Maker if he had been cursed with light enough only to see his darkness?—what sense of eternal justice if he had possessed the power to arraign it?  It could have been only the perception and conclusion of a thinking horse brutally ridden, that might estimate its rider by the incessant pain of the spur in its side!   Fortunately he did not think; if he had, God would hardly have got him along at all.  Such a God as he would have made out in the gloom could not have drawn him.  He only felt the thrust, the spur of want and desire, and to these he responded more or less.  And all this cruel spurring, as it seems, was necessary to set him thinking and have his wits about him, as we say.  Hard necessity made him contrive to cover up the thorns a little and make a softer bed to lie down upon—made him watch the ongoings of external nature to see how things were done—made him try to strike a light in his darkness—forced him to plot and plan to outwit his enemies of the animal world, and after a while seek friends in the spiritual world.  A being who could take up his babe, dash out its brains and make a meal when hard pressed by hunger, was not likely to have a taste for the evanescent delicacies of landscape loveliness.

9.    Man's primal idea of the Deity would be very dark.   Darkness, says Plutarch, is older than light.  His first God may have been that horrible thing darkness, that came crawling on and winding round the world, the shadow of whose coming put out the light of day, making all life shiver and shrink in a cold sweat till the night was gone; and every now and then its hand was laid on the mouth of the living, and it was still; on the eyes, and they grew lustreless, and that which looked and made signs through them was drawn away into this darkness which men came to know as death.  The New Zealand mythology represents the first children of earth, their Adam and Eve, as "ever thinking what might be the difference between light and darkness."  And this would naturally be a most primitive study, or rather cause of dread.  The first feeling then would be a child-like shrinking from the dark.    The first gleam of religion would be a feeling of fear; a good deal of what is called religion is so yet, hence the recognition of a power that must be propitiated.  "We believe in a good spirit and a bad spirit," said a North American savage, "but we offer our sacrifices to the evil one.  He do us harm.  Good spirit no hurt us; he no need to be worshipped; he good."  The primitive man also dreaded the powers of darkness, which possibly might, if offended, put out that source of light and warmth, the sun, which evidently only rose on sufferance every morning, and whose life might at any time be extinguished.

10.   Then he began to wonder what shape this power possessed.  He saw it went round and round in a serpentine sort of manner.  The great lights went round, and the little lights went round, and the darkness came winding round about like the coils of a Serpent that finally, in death, held you fast for ever!

11.   Surely the Serpent must be a representative, on earth, of that terrible hidden force that dwelt in the darkness—that was the Darkness: This vast and appalling thing that, when angry, would look at you and speak outside its sky-cavern with eyes of lightning and voice of thunder, and perhaps dart down death in those live Serpents of the forked flashes that licked up a forest at a time with their tongues of fire!  The heavens would mirror back for him that which he knew and dreaded most on earth.  They would wear the awful aspect of a cruel mind; and as he was a dweller in trees and caves, his most subtle, most mortal foe, would be the Serpent.  Not that man began by worshipping the Serpent for itself!  That never has been done on this earth except by a monstrous taste intelligently perverted.

12.   It was the recognition of the power beyond the Serpent that bowed him to the knee.  He divined and dreaded the invisible destroyer lurking behind the visible veil, who sometimes lightened, and stung you suddenly, and darted death out of his darkness.  So, it may be the first form of Serpent-worship was the deity of utter darkness, as it were, a black live ring round the being of the primitive man, that closed on him, tightened its folds and strangled him when angry or when it pleased.

13.   In one of the Brahmanic traditions, Chrishna, who is one form of the Sun-God, defeats Kalli-Naga, the great Serpent-God, who is the black or evil spirit with a thousand heads; an earlier rendering of the Lernean Hydra of the Greeks, slain by Hercules.  The Serpent twisted himself about the body of Chrishna, but the God tore off his heads one after the other and trampled them under his feet.  But Chrishna was vulnerable in the foot, and his heel was bruised or bitten by the serpent.  This is reproduced in the Hebrew Genesis.

14.   One form of the Serpent running or rather zig-zagging through the maze of mythological symbolism, is the zig-zag of the lightning.  The Algonquins were asked by Father Buteaux, who was among them in 1837 as a missionary, what they thought of the nature of lightning?  They replied it was an immense Serpent, which the Manitou, the Great Spirit, was vomiting forth.  "You can see the twists and folds that he leaves on the trees where he strikes; and underneath such trees we have often found snakes."

15.   The Chinese believe in a Dragon of enormous strength and sovereign power, which is in heaven, in the air, in the waters, and on the mountains.  We frequently meet with the myth of a Serpent of vast bulk, which engirdles the world, as in the Norse Mid-Gard Serpent.

16.   The Caribs speak of the God of the thunder-storm as a Great Serpent dwelling in the fruit forests.   Shawnees called the thunder the hissing of the Great Snake; and Totlec, the Aztec God of Thunder, was represented with a gold serpent in his hand.  The savages of Australia believe in the existence of a gigantic Serpent who created the world, and who is the coiled-up cause of earthquakes.  In the Persian mythology the Polar Dragon is denominated Azacha, the Serpent who drowns men and beasts.  The word serpent literally means the Destroyer; and with the Persians the original Destroyer was the Winter.  In the Zend-Avesta, Ahuza-Mazda creates s Summer Garden which is a perfect Paradise.  Then the Evil One, AuraMaynus, the Death-Dealing, creates an opposition to the same, in the shape of a Mighty Serpent.  That Serpent is Winter; it inflicts death on men and cattle with its bitter bite. The primal and the worst form of evil is thus distinctly identified as, or be means of, Winter.  This is the primordial curse, and the bite of its sharp frost was the Serpent's sting.  I found in a very ancient Hindu map of the world, the North is called the Land of Darkness, the Abyss of Waters, the Abode of the Great Spirit.  This Great Spirit was the Destroyer.  Then, as men began to watch the motions of the heavenly bodies they would sooner or later make out one particular group or string of stars which every autumn led on the winter.  This would be the starry apparition of the Destroyer in the shape of a serpent.  It does not matter which was the earliest constellation of the Serpent.  That there was one, we know.    There are three or four in the heavens to-night.  Lucian, in his work on astrology, says a virgin delivered the oracles at Delphi; hence the symbol of the constellation Virgo.  And a dragon spoke from under the Tripod, because of the constellation Draco, the Dragon, appearing among the stars. The allusion made by Job is alone sufficient to establish the fact that a Serpent constellation had been recognised: "By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens.  His hand hath formed the crooked Serpent."  A very remarkable illustration of a process that the Hebrew writings have undergone is afforded by the paraphrase of this passage by the Septuagint, where we read: "By his hand he hath slain the Apostate Serpent."  I beg you will bear this fact in mind.  Isaiah also alludes to this crooked Serpent, whom he identifies as the Leviathan of Job, which the commentators have always been looking for on the earth or in the sea.  There is something bungled in the translating of the crooked or piercing serpent.  You will see, in the margin, that it is stiff or crossing like a bar.  It really means that this Serpent is the Opposing Power.

17.   In fact, it is the original Satan who becomes the spiritual opposer, the adversary of souls.  Satan means the adversary.   Of course it was made out that this Serpent Constellation, this deity of darkness, this opposer of the sun and conqueror, who led up the destroying Winter every year, was the natural enemy of man, and of such evil and malign an influence that the sun itself sickened in its presence and lost its power.  This Serpent was identified in the Northern Hemisphere, the abode of Winter.  The Hebrews called it the North Zaphon; the Northern heavens were the land of Zaphon.  That is, Ziphon, the Serpent.  Thus, the Primeval adversary of man would be recognised in a physical shape both the earth and in the heavens, and imaged by that reptile which was always looked at with an eye of wonder and awe.  They saw that as soon as this Serpent deity ascended its throne, it let loose the storms and winds of the Autumn Equinox, as if it would blow every leaf off the Tree of Life, especially in the night-time, when it walked the world darkly and raged furiously.  In the Hesiodic Theogony Typhon is the father of dreadful tempests, and destroying winds and fearful hurricanes, the equinoctial enemy of man.  This will no doubt account for the association throughout the East of Serpents with storms of wind and rain, and the power over these which they exercised at their will, for the good or ill of man.

18.   The lecturer here cited the fact that several tribes of ancient Mexico had for their chief divinity "The Cloud Serpent," (as the word signified in their dialect:) the same idea was to be found among the natives of Panama; and our word hurricane, as applied to the terrible tornado of the Carribean Sea, was derived from "Hurakan," "the heart of the sky," which signified some mysterious creative power called "the strong serpent."  Typhoon, as applied to the fearful tempests of the Eastern seas, also acquired its name from Typhon, the name of the Phœnician devil.  In the motions of the circular whirlwinds called cyclones were to be traced—to the mind of the Eastern nations—the serpentine nature of this deity of darkness.

19.   Sooner or later the constellation Ophiuchus was identified as the bearer of the Serpent.  He appeared in the Heavens as grasping the form of a Serpent in his hand.  This was obviously a symbol of that power which the Destroyer might at any time let loose on the world.

20.   The Serpent worship is chiefly known as a superstition of ignorance—a religion of utter darkness, practiced with bloody rites and full of foul abominations.  As we get glimpses of it in the night of the past, luridly revealed as if by light of Tophet, it is most horrible and ghastly.  We peer through rent and rift into the ruined house of its mysteries like shuddering children at the slaughter-house door, from under which the warm life crawls ruddily.

21.   The hair stirs snakily with horror: the blood creeps with a reptile-like coldness; we shudder and shrink from what we cannot see, because what we do see is so strange! so appalling!  But no religion has ever been wholly evil in its nature, or merely a foul disease of human nature.  We see the running sores that resulted in death; but these never were the cause of its living.  And Serpent-Worship —which looks so absolutely a thing of night —was the darkness out of which comes the first streak of dawn.  It brought the earliest light of Revelation into the world.  It was one of the primal forms of all Spiritualism.  Every one has more or less remarked the character of wisdom universally ascribed to the Serpent, but no one has yet explained the nature of that wisdom.  Sir Henry Rawlinson observes that the most important titles of the Serpent-God, who was the third person in the Chaldean triad, or Trinity of Gods, refer to his functions as the source of knowledge and science.  He is a deified source of intelligence.   He is the personification of wisdom: "Be ye wise as serpents."  But how came such a beast as the Serpent to be the symbol of wiseness, worshipped as the communicator of knowledge?  It cannot be literally the wisdom that is the consummate flower of human knowledge and perfected fruit of experience which is signified.  No Serpent ever possessed that.  As an animal the Serpent is not remarkably intelligent.  It certainly is reticent in expression, and has an admirable faculty of silence;  but the profoundest silence is not necessarily wisdom: its hiss, from a critical point of view, is at times imposing, but, like that of some other critics, it may be only an imposition; the hiss may not mean that it knows more than we do, and could utter it if it would.  The Serpent is not the embodiment of wisdom in the animal world, but I think the early Spiritualism that was practiced under the Serpent sign contains one hidden clue to the wisdom meant.  The wise Man, a Wizard; the wise Woman, a Witch, we still call those who attain knowledge in the abnormal way.  The wise men of the East were Persian Magi, or men who attained knowledge by magic arts; a wise man was one who divined, saw, or interpreted by spiritual means, and mainly by the abnormal method, whether he wrought for a good power or for an evil purpose.  "Thou shalt take no gift, for the gift blindeth the wise," says Moses; that is, the seer in trance must not divine for money; such a motive will destroy his vision.  Divinity signified this divination long before it meant Deity in our sense; it was revelation by means of Deus—that is, spirits—our word Devil simply meaning Spirit-Lord, which came to be looked upon as devilish.  In the early time the gift was held to be divine, and consecrated as such, because it afforded the first glimpse into a spiritual world whereby man discovered that he also was a spiritual being.  Be ye wise as serpents, then, may be interpreted as an allusion to the wiseness of the magical knowledge, abnormally derived by vision or divination which was primally attained by the Serpent-Worshippers.  Be ye intuitive, knowing as the cunningest of the sorcerers who had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge, but do not use your divine gift harmfully.  In one sense, then, the wisdom of the Serpent was the occult knowledge obtained through spiritual communication through mediumistic means by the ancient worshippers of the Serpent-Symbol.  It is a well known fact that in every country the Serpent has been looked upon as a medium of communicating knowledge or wisdom more than mortal.

22.   The Serpent-Symbol, then, was not worshipped as the embodiment of knowledge and wisdom in the animal world—not deified for anything in the Serpent itself.  It was made the spiritual symbol of knowledge darkly derived in man's mortal night-time by the early Star-Worshippers, whether by study of the starry book opened to them in the heavens, or by interpretation of natural phenomena on earth, their method including the trance condition of seership and communication with spirits.

23.   I used the term darkly derived, because they were groping after knowledge in the dark, by magic means and dark arts, and their religion of fear was a worship of the dark powers, or, at least, of powers that were but darkly apprehended.  It was under the reign of the Serpent—which was one sign of the Star-Worshippers that became an universal Symbol—that letters were discovered, and the earliest art of healing was revealed.

24.   When the Israelites were stung by the fiery-fanged Serpents in the wilderness, they had to be cured by a return to the old worship of the Serpent in its milder shape; and the image was sacredly kept in the temple at Jerusalem for five hundred years.  Surely this goes to prove the Serpent-Worship to have been a familiar form of faith with them, and that in their time of need they had a greater belief in the Agatho-Demon than in the God of Israel?  Also, their faith seems to have been justification.  At first sight it appears somewhat strange and incongruous that the Serpent should have been held up as the cause of the fall and degradation and death and damnation of man in the Book of Genesis, the first Book of the Book of Books, and then that the Serpent- Symbol should have been raised aloft as the healer, the restorer, the saviour, to look on which, in the shape of a brazen image, was to live.

25.   The conclusion follows, of natural necessity, that if it were a man, Moses, who lifted up the Serpent as a god of healing, it could hardly be the same man who represented the Serpent as our mortal and immortal enemy, and made him who struck the Semitic pair down in spiritual death the magic restorer of the stricken Israelites to physical health and life.  The Hebrews had got their Serpents mixed.  The Serpent Divinity, then, is the Deity of Divination.  The Serpent is the symbol of abnormal seership, the vision and the faculty divine of the trance-seers and ghost-seers.

26.   After referring to the crowning with snakes of the priestesses and initiates into the ancient serpent mysteries, in token of wisdom and abnormal vision—second sight—the speaker proceeded to illustrate his point by citations from the Chinese, Hindoostani, and Grecian records.  To his mind the face end look of the Gorgon, with its power to turn the beholder into stone, did but symbolise the magnetic influence that could catalepse the patient into the white stillness of apparent death—stiff and stony in the state of trance.

27.   It is interesting to note that augury—divination—is derived from an old Aryan word that means sight, and that the Scottish "spae-wife," from. whence we derive our "spy," means a seeress, a prophetess, a wise woman, one who sees covertly to gain occult knowledge.

28.   The gift of seership or mediumship was at times called by the name of the hidden treasure, or the hidden treasure of life; and at the same time, represented as being under the guardianship of the Serpent.  The Jewish patriarch, Joseph, was the possessor of this hidden treasure.  He was a very great diviner, superior to all the famous magicians of Egypt, unequalled as a prophet and interpreter.  It was on this account that Pharaoh, the king, exalted him over all the people of Egypt: "And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-Paaneah," or Zaphnath-Pionk, which in the Coptic signifies a revealer of secrets, or one through whom secrets are revealed, literally a spiritual medium.  But in Egyptian the name means "the hidden treasure is life."  And to show how inseparably it is associated with the Serpent, we find the name given to Joseph represents the Serpent as Zephon or Typhon; so that the fact of Joseph's being a man in whom the spirit of revelation was so remarkably manifested that he is an oracle of Deity is indicated to the Egyptians by a sacred name which accredits his inspiration, his wiseness, wizardry, to the Serpent.  This hidden treasure, which is life, and which is kept under the charge of the Serpent or Dragon, lies at the root of many of the myths.  The knowledge derived through this mediumship was so highly prized of old that it became the secret treasure of the mysteries; a secret to be kept in the dark.

29.   The Serpent was likewise the representative of a hidden treasure which continually gleamed out on us from the darkness where it had long lain concealed.  This treasure was the spiritual, therefore the underlying real shape of that which was accursed in the Norse mythology by the dwarf Andvari as it was in the Hebraic legend of "the fall."

30.   When Sigurd in the Norse story had killed the Dragon and was roasting its heart, he burned his finger, and putting it hastily into his mouth, accidentally tasted the life-blood of the monster, and instantly his eyes (spiritual) were opened like those of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and he heard (and understood) the voice of the birds, who told him to eat the heart—which he did—and he would become the wisest of men.  This was the same advice as that given by the Serpent of Genesis—the same temptation as that proffered to Eve, and the same assurance that it would lead to the hidden treasure, with the same fulfilment.

31.   The belief anciently cherished of the existence of Draconites, or precious stones, which could be taken from the brains of Dragons—if secured before the death of the animal had supervened, which had the power to render the wearer at times invisible, (an exhibition of the natural obverse of the seeing power possessed by the Serpent while in life)—was alluded to, and the speaker said:

    One of the latest forms taken by this myth, is the supposed jewel in the head of the toad; the shining preciousness hidden in the dark and loathly evil—a true, even if unconscious recognition of the soul of good in things evil, of the divineness of vision whereby the seeing eye is lighted, and that the light which so often led astray was light from heaven.  When we kill our Dragon, let us mind and preserve the hidden jewel, by tackling him while there is life left in him.

32.   The speaker proceeded to state and to give proof by citations that in several languages, including the Hebrew, Arabic, Algonquin, and Dakota, the word for Serpent had various derivations, which signified the practice of magic, divination, the consulting of spirits, and said: We frequently find the Serpent so inextricably entwined with the human form as to seem synonymous with it, and constitute one of the profoundest riddles of the unknown, propounded by a sort of Serpent Sphinx.  This has raised the suspicion that, in its primal shape, the legend of the Hebrews and that of the Mexicans gave the Serpent form to both the Father and the Mother of the human race; one reason for this being that, in the annals of the Mexicans the first woman whose name was translated by the old Spanish writers —"The woman of our flesh," is always represented as accompanied by an enormous male Serpent: and in the Mexican mythology the Goddess-Parent of primitive man, the Serpent-Woman, was also called Tonantzin, our Mother.  According to Tanner's narrative the grandmother of mankind—"Me suk kum me go kwa "—was represented indifferently by an old woman or a Serpent.

33.   The Serpent-Woman is continually to be met with under many names; but the mystery is not to be solved on the physical theory of a serpent geniture.  The Serpent-Woman is not a Woman-Serpent.  She is a Serpent-Woman because in the service of the Serpent.  Eve was a Serpent-Woman or Woman of the Serpent, but not a Woman-Serpent.  Alexandrinas says, according to the strict interpretation of the Hebrew term, the name Hevia aspirated signifies a female serpent..... But we shall understand the Serpent-Woman better if we look upon her as the Pythoness.  The damsel spoken of in the Book of Acts was possessed by a spirit of divination, or, as it ought to be rendered, Python.  She was a Pythoness, as was the Priestess of the Delphi, and many other shrines and oracles of old—a medium whose utterances were inspired by spirits or gods of the Serpent Religion.

34.   For we must bear in mind that Serpent-Worship, Water-Worship, Star-Worship, Sun-Worship, as they are named, were all connected with the same facts as are alleged to underlie our Modern Spiritualism.  And the devotees all made use of spiritual mediumship for their oracles, and believed themselves to be in communication with the unseen world.  It was not the sun, or the tree, or the water, that replied through the month of the prophet or priestess.    Each of these religious was founded on the theory that they were divinely—that was, spiritually—inspired; and that a God possessed the Pythoness, and unfolded the past or foretold the future by means of her mediumship.  This fact of Serpent-Worship, as connected with the oracles in that form of Spiritualism called Pythonism, will help us to explain many transformations of the myths, although attempting to follow and arrest all the changes in the process is somewhat like trying to photograph the figure of a man ascending a ladder, and arresting a bit of him on several rounds.  But this is certain: the Python woman, the Python oracle, the whole Pythonic mediumship, is continually and everywhere represented by the various Serpent-Symbols.

35.    In the light of his idea many of the myths—the Hebrew included—could be resolved to their original elements.  The story of Hercules uniting himself with a monster who was half a woman and half a serpent, by this illumination, meant that Hercules, the man, wedded a woman who was a priestess of the Serpent-worship—a Pythoness; and that told of Alexander, who was represented as acknowledged by his father Philip, of Macedon, to be the son of a Serpent or rather of a God, was to be fathomed in that Olympia; his mother, was a Serpent-Woman of wonderful enthusiasm—a Pythoness of extraordinary power, and was represented as being "remarkably ambitious of these inspirations."  What more natural to such a fervent ophite than that the Serpent God, the Controlling of the oracles, should appear in vision [as she is reported to have dreamed the night before her marriage] to his devotee, and embrace her as a trance, or that she should look on her hero son as divinely, i.e., spiritually begotten?

36.    The speaker referred at this point to the fact that looking into the strange, unfathomable eyes of the Serpent was probably the earliest method of attaining to the condition of the magnetic trance—the ZendAvesta (among other authorities) distinctly attributing the characteristic to the Serpent.  This method widened into the looking upon or into water , or crystal or anything bright.  It is possible that the jewelly brightness of the Urim and Thummim produced the magnetic trance, and that this method of magnetising was alluded to by St. Paul when he said, "We see as in a glass darkly," or mystically.

37.   Wherever I have gone deepest in trying to fathom my subject, I seem never to have touched bottom without finding that Serpent-worship is Phallic-worship on the one hand, whilst on the other the bottom falls through altogether, and I find myself in spirit-world.  Many persons may not think of spirits as connected with such a subject.

38.   But we have the great authority of Jesus Christ in asserting the Spiritualism of the old Serpent-worship, and in recognising the fact that their oracles were truly based on a false Spiritualism; that is, they were often uttered by spirits which were opposed to the immortal welfare of man.

39.   When the seventy return to the Master, with great joy, saying, exultingly, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name," Jesus replies, in his musing, remote manner, as if half absent in dream-land: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."  That is what John calls "the old Serpent."  And then, turning on them the full presence of his spiritual self, he says: "Behold I give unto you power to tread on Serpents and Scorpions"—symbols of the old Serpent-worship—"and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Notwithstanding, in this rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

40.   Going on further to illustrate the signification of the Serpent-Symbol, as a type of wisdom, the speaker said the time was when the only healing known was performed by the priests and priestesses' of the ancient mysteries, and by them many marvellous things were done, many wonderful things foreknown and foretold.  It is of course possible, he said, that in the lower intellectual range the spiritual signification of Serpent-Worship—the cryptothesis of the symbol—may have been partially lost, and the Serpent literally accepted instead of the symbol, or rather instead of the Spiritualism that was symbolled.  One of the most widely known of Greek myths is the destruction of the Dragon or Python by the Sun-God Apollo, and taking possession of the Oracle which the Serpent hath hitherto guarded.  This myth illustrates the fact that Serpent-worship was an earlier form of worship than the Sun-worship, and marks the change when higher influences took possession of the shrine and gave the Parnassian Oracles to men instead of the lower spirits, that had kept possession and given the responses under the Pythonic inspiration.  The Serpent-worship originated in fear of evil influences, and in dread of winter and darkness; consequently the Sun-worship was an immense advance to humanity; it was a recognition of the God of beneficence and joy—a religion of love, compared with the earlier religion of terror on earth and malignancy in Heaven; it was the incarnation of a spirit of brightness.

41.   You see the world turning to it out of the shadows of a miserable night of the past, and its face brightens sunward, and the reptile influence begins to fail in power and unwind its coils and slink apart into out-of-the-way lurking-places. The human mind rejoices and expands in this new morning of the world, and in many shapes and under divers names deifies the Destroyer of Serpents, primally the sun.

42.   The Zoroastrians were among the first to represent God as a spiritual essence whose symbol was in the fire and in the sun, and to endeavour, by worship on housetop and mountain summit, to typify a climbing a little nearer to the "Heart of Light."  The Gods Horus, Osiris, Apollo, Bacchus, Balder, Adonis, were personifications to the nations worshipping them of this Sun-God warring with the Power of Darkness which they ultimately destroy.  St. John had taken the old astrological allegory and made the conflict which took place yearly a final fight betwixt the Lord of Light and the Demon of Darkness; and turned the sun's victory of the vernal equinox into an eternal triumph of the new Spiritual Sun which he held to have arisen on the world in Jesus Christ.

43.   The physical imagery furnished by the ancient myth, as astronomically interpreted, has been adopted altogether as typical of certain spiritual facts identified in the person, the birth, and other circumstances connected with the life and religion of Christ.  And everything necessary was there ready for adoption, and fitting so perfectly to the new needs that it would have seemed a sin against the law of coincidence, or Providence, not to have taken advantage of the old facts and given them a new interpretation.  "And the Lord said, I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between her seed and thy seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."  In the first form, the seed of the woman was the Sun-God, the God of Light, which was at enmity with the Serpent as leader of the hosts of darkness. The Sun was, in the elder cosmogony, the power that repaired all the wrong and healed all the evil done during the reign of darkness—the evil introduced into the happy Garden of Summer by the symbolical Serpent; hence the prophecy identified with Christ as the Sun of Righteousness, who was as to rise with healing on his wings and repair the consequences of the fall, and the loss of the Summer Garden of humanity, by restoring it to the primal condition and rescuing it from the empire of Darkness and the malign influences of the Serpent.

44.   The Ormuzd of Zoroaster was the Sun-God, or Lord of Light.  Also the epithet of Adonis, or Lord, was given to the sun.  This Adonis was the Tammuz of Ezekiel.  It was one of the abominations mourned over by this prophet that he saw in the inner court of the Lord's house about five-and-twenty men with their backs turned toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they worshipped the sun toward the east.  And at the door of the gate of the Lord's house there sat women weeping for Tammtuz, lamenting in a loud and idolatrous manner the death of Tammuz, that was Adonis, Lord of Light; or the Sun, who was either setting or dwindling down for his wintry death, and losing his strength daily.  This is represented in the Mithra-worship—that is, the so-called Sun-worship—as a man stabbing the Bull, a Serpent biting him, and the Scorpion tearing him.

45.   At the ancient mysteries the people were instructed by means of representations, dramatic and pictorial—thus, thoughts and obscure facts, however occultly obtained, had to be humanised by parables, plays, &c., before they could be grasped by the common understanding.  And in this way the Constellation of the Virgin, ascending the East by night, just at the turn of the year and the birth of the Light- God—the Summer Sun—would be represented to the people present at the mysteries as a woman (the Virgin) with her new-born child in her arms or at her breast, together with such other personifications and scenery as would complete the picture and convey the meaning.  Such representations must have been at times so familiar to the popular mind that they easily took the place of the original facts; humanity being much more interesting to itself as a subject of study than either scientific truths or abstract speculation.  The speaker proceeded by several extracts from authorities on Arabian, Egyptian, and Persian traditions to prove that this shadowing forth by the Virgin and child, of the constellation of the same name, was wide-spread among the nations of antiquity.

46.   The Sun-God derives from the Father of Lights, and is deified as the light of the world.  He is born a tender child at the winter solstice, under the sign of the constellation of the celestial Virgin.  The Romans celebrated this birth of the Sun-God with festivities and games on the 25th of December — our Christmas-day. "We celebrate," says the Emperor Julian, "some days before the first of the year, magnificent games in honour of the Sun, to whom we give the title of the Invincible."

47.   "Oh, Sun-King," he continues, "Kin, of the Universe; thou whom, from all eternity, the first God produced out of his pure substance."  In the Mysteries the God-Sun descends to the under-world in his death.  If we take it as Balder, he descends to Hel, or the shadowy realm of Hela; if as Bacchus, he descends to Hades.  Then he is raised again, and ascends the heavens in greater power as the first-born of the Father; and from thence we have the descent of fire to vivify the world and renew its life.

48.   It is somewhat startling to find what an amount of the old Sun-worship reappears in the worship of the Son.  At first sight there seems to be no room for any other foundations for Christianity than the ancient religion, on account of the facts being forestalled.

49.   This fact the speaker proceeded to prove by evidence showing that the Egyptians celebrated in the winter solstice the birth of the God of Light, holding in honour of their virgin goddess a famous celebration of lights, which was represented in the Christian ceremonies of Candlemas.

50.   The Christian Sunday, or Lord's Day, was the day of the Lord, Sun-Adonis, Tammuz, Domine, Sol, and Mithra, Lord of Light.  The hold of the Sun-worship was so strong upon the early Christians, that, as late as the fifth century, Leo the Great made complaint that many Christians, on entering the Basilica of St. Peter for early worship, would turn round and make their obeisance to the rising sun.  The same thing exists in the English Church today, in the custom of turning and bowing toward the East when the name of Jesus occurs in the creed, thus actually making the identification geographical.

51.   The speaker then entered into a further exposition of the connection existing between the leading characteristics of Christianity and the Sun-worship.  The constellation Virgo arising in the heavens would naturally appear to be pursued by the Serpent constellation—and from thence came the story in the 12th chapter of Revelations, wherein the great dragon stood ready to devour the child whom the woman in labour was about to bring forth; and the war which Michael waged with said dragon was typical of the fight annually occurring between light and darkness, contending for supremacy.  "We know," said Albert the Great, "that the celestial Virgin ascended over the horizon at the moment at which we fix the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  All the mysteries of this Divine incarnation, and all the secrets of His wonderful life, from His conception to His ascension, are to be found in the constellations, and figured in the stars that announced them."  And think what you may of it, he said, the fact is that in many nations and under divers names, the Sun, born of the Virgin constellation, was worshipped, and his birth celebrated as the light of the world ages on ages before Jesus Christ was born.

52.   This was proved by reference to the Chronicle of Alexandria concerning the Egyptian mysteries of ancient times.  Thus did the Dragon of Darkness, the old Serpent of the Persian Mythology, the Typhon of Egypt, the Crooked Serpent of Job, the Prince and Power of the Air who ascended his throne of the winter world adopted by St. John, become the Man-erpent Satan, our spiritual adversary on earth, whose name is one with that of the ancient Saturn and Egyptian Set, who was looked up to and feared of old as man's adversary in the heavens.  The Serpent has taken spiritual form, and been made to cast its loathsome shadow on the shuddering souls of men.

53.   Calvinism was the later and uglier and most gruesome form of Serpent-worship; it deified and adored the same almighty Moloch, whose anger could only be quenched by a great glut of gore, only propitiated through the offering of innocent blood.

54.   Such was, such is the mystery of the Beast, which the speaker of the Revelation left for us to interpret as best we may.  That was the Beast ,which was, and is not, and yet is; for the Serpent of Spiritual darkness still winds about the souls of men and chokes the life out of them and steals their treasures, and has yet to be wrestled with and conquered in struggles as stern as any that are told of in the stories of the Dragon-slayers of old.  Its name is Theology!

55.   The lecturer here introduced what he considered the unwinding of the last coil of the Serpent, whose turnings he had followed through its primal convolutions of darkness and horror, its astro-theological aspect, and its spiritualistic signification of wisdom, and in so unwinding be proposed to show that in his opinion the basis of the myth was physical.  The early men who set forth their meanings in the myths saw with Darwinian instinct that what really and truly divided and differentiated them from the animals as a visible fact was the catamenial period which marked the creation of humanity.  It was their creation—they did not trouble themselves about world-making, as had been assured—and so they formulated it in carious ways; among others under the symbol of the Serpent, the Renewer, the Renovator of Life, the Continuer of Being.  This catamenial period was the preparer for creation—the first form of prophecy to man—its duration was the first direct measure of time, and its methodical close marked the seventh day, the sacred season of rest.  Arguments and facts in proof of his theory—in which Egyptian, Sanscrit, and Hebrew writings alike were called in as evidence—were advanced by him with cogency and power, and in the light of this hypothesis he declared himself able to intelligently interpret any story related of the Serpent, "whether it originated in the theology that made it typical of good or emblematic of evil."   Orthodox theology, he said, has created its Satan out of the evil Serpent, and its Saviour out of the Procreator called the Sun-God, under carious names, the natural opponent of the old Red Dragon and Deity of the Dark.  These constitute the two halves of its scheme of damnation and salvation.  Nothing else in this world have they to go upon.

56.   He concluded his lecture with a prophecy that the theological ring would ere long be broken up, and that all sects would see the necessity of abandoning their creeds and embracing the higher revealments of Spiritualism.

 



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