THEOSOPHY, Vol. 55, No. 10, August, 1967
(Pages 297-305; Size: 28K)



[Part 10 of a 12-part series]

UP to the fourth century the churches knew of no altars. Up to that date the altar was a table raised in the middle of the temple, for purposes of Communion, or fraternal repasts (the Coena, as mass was originally said in the evening). In the same way now the table is raised in the "Lodge" for Masonic Banquets, which usually close the proceedings of a Lodge and at which the resurrected Hiram Abifs, the "Widow's Sons," honour their toasts by firing, a Masonic mode of transubstantiation. Shall we call their banquet tables altars also? Why not? The altars were copies from the ara maxima of pagan Rome. The Latins placed square and oblong stones near the tombs, and called them ara, altar; they were consecrated to the gods Lares and Manes. Our altars are a derivation from these square stones, another form of the boundary stones known as the gods Termini -- the Hermeses, and the Mercuries, whence Mercurius quadratus, quadriceps, quadrifrons, etc., etc., the four-faced gods, whose symbols these square stones were, from the highest antiquity. The stone on which the ancient kings of Ireland were crowned was such an "altar." Such a stone is in Westminster Abbey, endowed, moreover, with a voice. Thus our altars and thrones descend directly from the priapic boundary stones of the pagans -- the gods termini.

Shall the church-going reader feel very indignant if he is told that the Christians adopted the pagan way of worshipping in a temple, only during the reign of Diocletianus? Up to that period they had an insurmountable horror for altars and temples, and held them in abomination for the first 250 years of our era. These primitive Christians were Christians indeed; the moderns are more pagan than any ancient idolators. The former were the Theosophists of those days; from fourth century they became Helleno-Judaic Gentiles minus the philosophy of the Neo-Platonists. Read what Minutius Felix says in the third century to the Romans:

You fancy that we (Christians) conceal that which we worship because we will have neither temples nor altars? But what image of God shall we raise, since Man is himself God's image? What temple can we build to the Deity, when the Universe, which is Its work, can hardly contain It? How shall we enthrone the power of such Omnipotence in a single building? Is it not far better to consecrate to the Deity a temple in our heart and spirit?
But then the Chrestians of the type of Minutius Felix had in their mind the commandment of the MASTER-INITIATE, not to pray in the synagogues and temples as the hypocrites do, "that they may be seen of men." (Matthew 6:5.) They remembered the declaration of Paul, the Apostle-Initiate, the "Master Builder" (I Corinthians 3:10), that MAN was the one temple of God, in which the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God, dwelleth. (Ibid). They obeyed the truly Christian precepts, whereas the modern Christians obey but the arbitrary canons of their respective churches, and the rules of their Elders. "Theosophists are notorious Atheists," exclaims a writer in the "Church Chronicle." "Not one of them is ever known to attend divine service ... the Church is obnoxious to them"; and forthwith uncorking the vials of his wrath, he pours out their contents on the infidel, heathen F.T.S. The modern Churchman stones the Theosophist as his ancient forefather, the Pharisee of the "Synagogue of the Libertines" (Acts 6:9) stoned Stephen, for saying that which even many Christian Theosophists say, namely that "the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Ibid. 48); and they "suborn men" just as these iniquitous judges did (Ibid. II) to testify against us.

Forsooth, friends, you are indeed the righteous descendants of your predecessors, whether of the colleagues of Saul, or of those of Pope Leo X, the cynical author of the ever famous sentence: "How useful to us this fable of Christ!"

The "Solar Myth" theory has become in our day stale -- ad nauseam -- repeated as we hear it from the four cardinal points of Orientalism and Symbolism, and applied indiscriminately to all things and all religions, except Church Christianity and state-religion. No doubt the Sun was throughout the whole antiquity and since days immemorial the symbol of the Creative Deity -- with every nation, not with the Parsis alone; but so he is with the Ritualists. As in days of old, so it is now. Our central star is the "Father" for the pro-fanes, the Son of the ever unknowable Deity for the Epoptai. Says the ... Mason, Ragon, "the Sun was the most sublime and natural image of the GREAT ARCHITECT, as the most ingenious of all the allegories under which the moral and good man (the true sage) had ever endowed infinite and limitless Intelligence." Apart from the latter assumption, Ragon is right; for he shows this symbol gradually receding from the ideal so represented and conceived, and becoming finally from a symbol the original, in the minds of his ignorant worshippers. Then the great Masonic author proves that it is the physical Sun which was regarded as both the Father and the Son by the early Christians.

Oh, initiated Brethren [he exclaims], can you forget that in the temples of the existing religion a large lamp burns night and day? It is suspended in front of the chief altar, the depository of the ark of the Sun. Another lamp burning before the altar of the virgin-mother is the emblem of the light of the moon. Clemens Alexandrinus tells us that the Egyptians were the first to establish the religious use of the lamps. ... Who does not know that the most sacred and terrible duty was entrusted to the Vestals? If the Masonic temples are lighted with three astral lights, the sun, the moon, and the geometrical star, and with three vital lights, this Hierophant and his two Episcopes (Wardens, in French Surveillants), it is because one of the Fathers of Masonry, the learned Pythagoras, ingenuously suggests that we should not speak of divine things without a light. Pagans celebrated a festival of lamps called Lampadophorics in honour of Minerva, Prometheus, and Vulcan. But Lactantius and some of the earliest fathers of the new faith complained bitterly of this pagan introduction of lamps in the Churches; "If they deigned," writes Lactantius, "to contemplate that light which we call the SUN, they would soon recognize that God has no need of their lamps." And Vigilantius adds: "Under the pretext of religion the Church established a Gentile custom of lighting vile candles, while the SUN is there illuminating us with a thousand lights. Is it not a great honour for the LAMB OF GOD (the sun thus represented), which placed in the middle of the throne (the Universe) fills it with the radiance of his Majesty?" Such passages prove to us that in those days the primitive Church worshipped THE GREAT ARCHITECT OF THE WORLD in its image the SUN, sole of its kind. (The Mass and its Mysteries, pp. 19 and 20.)
Indeed, while Christian candidates have to pronounce the Masonic oath turned to the East and that their "Venerable" keeps in the Eastern corner, because the Neophytes were made to do the same during the Pagan Mysteries, the Church has, in her turn, preserved the identical rite. During the High Mass, the High-Altar (ara-maxima) is ornamented with the Tabernacle, or the pyx (the box in which the HOST is kept), and with six lighted tapers. The esoteric meaning of the pyx and contents -- the symbol of the Christ-Sun -- is that it represents the resplendent luminary, and the six tapers the six planets (the early Christians knowing of no more), three on his right and three on his left. This is a copy of the seven-branched candlestick of the synagogue, which has an identical meaning, "Sol est Dominus Meus" "the Sun is my Lord!" exclaims David in Psalm 95, translated very ingeniously in the authorized version by "The Lord is a great God," "a great King above all Gods" (v.3), or planets truly! Augustin Chalis is more sincere in his Philosophie des Religions Compareés (Vol. II, p. 18), when he writes:
All are devs (demons), on this Earth, save the God of the Seers (Initiates) the sublime IAO; and if in Christ you see aught than the SUN, then you adore a dev, a phantom such as are all the children of night.
The East being the cardinal point whence arises the luminary of the Day, the great giver and sustainer of life, the creator of all that lives and breathes on this globe, what wonder if all the nations of the Earth worshipped in him the visible agent of the invisible Principle and Cause; and that mass should be said in the honour of him who is the giver of messis or "harvest." But between worshipping the ideal as a whole, and the physical symbol, a part chosen to represent that whole and the ALL, there is an abyss. For the learned Egyptian, the Sun was the "eye" of Osiris, not Osiris himself; the same for the learned Zoroastrians. For the early Christians the Sun became the Deity, in toto; and by dint of casuistics, sophistry, and dogmas not to be questioned, the modern Christian churches have contrived to force even the educated world to accept the same, while hypnotising it into a belief that their god is the one living true Deity, the maker of, not the Sun -- a demon worshipped by the "heathen." But what may be the difference between a wicked demon, and the anthropomorphic God, e.g., as represented in Solomon's Proverbs? That "God," unless poor, helpless, ignorant men call upon him, when their "fear cometh as desolation" and their "destruction as a whirlwind," threatens them in such words as these: "I will laugh at your calamities, I will mock when your fear cometh!" (Prov. 1:26-27.) Identify this God with the great Avatar on whom the Christian legend is hung; make him one with that true Initiate who said, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted": and what is the result? Such identification alone is quite sufficient to justify the fiendish joy of Tertullian, who laughed and rejoiced at the idea of his infidel next of kin roasting in hell-fire; the advice of Hieronymus to the Christian convert to trample over the body of his pagan mother, if she seeks to prevent him leaving her for ever to follow Christ; and it makes of all the Church tyrants, murderers, and omnes gentes of the Inquisition, the grandest and noblest exemplars of practical Christianity that have ever lived!

Vanitas vanitatum! nothing is new under the sun. The "Litanies of the Virgin Mary" prove it in the sincerest way. Pope Gregory I introduces the worship of the Virgin Mary and the Chalcedonian Council proclaim her the mother of God. But the author of the Litanies had not even the decency (or is it the brains?) to furnish her with any other than pagan adjectives and titles, as I shall presently show. Not a symbol, not a metaphor of this famous Litany but belonged to a crowd of goddesses; all Queens, Virgins, or Mothers; these three titles applying to Isis, Rhea, Cybele, Diana, Lucifera, Lucina, Luna, Tellus, Latona triformis, Proserpina, Hecate, Juno, Vesta, Ceres, Leucothea, Astarte, celestial Venus and Urania, Alma Venus, etc., etc., etc.

Besides the primitive signification of trinity (the esoteric, or that of Father, Mother, Son) does not this Western trimurti (three faces) mean in the masonic pantheon "Sun, Moon, and the Venerable"? a slight alteration, forsooth, from the Germanic and Northern Fire, Sun and Moon.

It is the intimate knowledge of this, perchance, that made the Mason, J. M. Ragon, describe his profession of faith thus:

For me the Son is the same as Horus, son of Osiris and Isis; he is the SUN who, every year redeems the world from sterility and the universal death of the races.
And he goes on to speak of the Virgin Mary's particular litanies, temples, festivals, masses and Church services, pilgrimages, oratories, Jacobins, Franciscans, vestals, prodigies, ex voto, niches, statues, etc., etc., etc.

De Maleville, a great Hebrew scholar and translator of Rabbinical literature, observes that the Jews give to the moon all those names which, in the Litanies, are used to glorify the Virgin. He finds in the Litanies of Jesus all the attributes of Osiris -- the Eternal Sun, and of Horus, the Annual Sun.

And he proves it.

Mater Christi is the mother of the Redeemer of the old Masons, who is the Sun. The hoi polloi among the Egyptians, claimed that the child, symbol of the great central star, Horus, was the Son of Osireth and Oseth, whose souls had ensouled, after their death, the Sun and the Moon. Isis became, with the Phoenicians, Astarte, the names under which they adored the Moon, personified as a woman adorned with horns, which symbolised the crescent. Astarte was represented at the autumnal equinox after her husband's (the Sun's) defeat by the Prince of Darkness, and descent into Hades, as weeping over the loss of her consort, who is also her son, as Isis does that of her consort, brother and son (Osiris-Horus). Astarte holds in her hand a cruciform stick, a regular cross, and stands weeping on the crescent moon. The Christian Virgin Mary is often represented in the same way, standing on the new moon, surrounded by stars and weeping for her son juxta crucem lacrymosa dum pendebat filius (Vide Stabat Mater Dolorosa). Is not she the heiress of Isis and Astarte? asks the author.

Truly, and you have but to repeat the Litany to the Virgin of the R. Catholic Church, to find yourself repeating ancient incantations to Adonaïa (Venus), the mother of Adonis, the Solar god of so many nations; to Mylitta (the Assyrian Venus), goddess of nature; to Alilat, whom the Arabs symbolized by the two lunar horns; to Selene, wife and sister of Helion, the Sun god of the Greeks; or, to the Magna Mater, ... honestissima, purissima, castissima, the Universal Mother of all Beings -- because SHE IS MOTHER NATURE.

Verily is Maria (Mary) the Isis Myrionymos, the Goddess Mother of the ten thousand names! As the Sun was Phoebus, in heaven, so he became Apollo, on earth, and Pluto in the still lower regions (after sunset); so the moon was Phoebe in heaven, and Diana, on earth (Gæa, Latona, Ceres); becoming Hecate and Proserpine in Hades. Where is the wonder then, if Mary is called regina virginum, "Queen of Virgins," and castissima (most chaste), when even the prayers offered to her at the sixth hour of the morning and the evening are copied from those sung by the "heathen" Gentiles at the same hours in honour of Phoebe and Hecate? The verse of the "Litany to the Virgin," stella matutina,(1) we are informed, is a faithful copy of a verse from the litany of the triformis of the pagans. It is at the Council which condemned Nestorius that Mary was first titled as the "Mother of God," mater dei.

We may add a few more statements and give the etymology of the most sacred terms in ecclesiastical ritualism.

Let us give a few moments of attention to the assemblies of the "Builders of the upper Temple" in early Christianity. Ragon has shown plainly to us the origin of the following terms:

(a) The word "mass," comes from the Latin Messis -- "harvest," whence the noun Messias, "he who ripens the harvest," Christ, the Sun.

(b) The word "Lodge" used by the Masons, the feeble successors of the Initiates, has its root in loga, (loka, in Sanskrit) a locality and a world; and in the Greek logos, the Word, a discourse; signifying in its full meaning "a place where certain things are discussed."

(c) These assemblies of the logos of the primitive initiated masons came to be called synaxis, "gatherings" of the Brethren for the purpose of praying and celebrating the coena (supper) wherein only bloodless offerings, fruit and cereals, were used. Soon after these offerings began to be called hostiæ or sacred and pure hosties, in contrast to the impure sacrifices (as of prisoners of war, hostes, whence the word hostage). As the offerings consisted of the harvest fruits, the first fruits of messis, thence the word "mass." Since no father of the Church mentions, as some scholars would have it, that the word mass comes from the Hebrew missah (oblatum, offering) one explanation is as good as the other. For an exhaustive enquiry on the word missa and mizda, see King's Gnostics, pp. 124, et seq.

Now the word synaxis was also called by the Greeks agyrmos (a collection of men, assembly). It referred to initiation into the Mysteries. Both words -- synaxis and agyrmos(2) -- became obsolete with the Christians, and the word missa, or mass, prevailed and remained. Theologians will have it, desirous as they are to veil its etymology, that the term messias (Messiah) is derived from the Latin word missus (messenger, the sent). But if so, then again it may be applied as well to the Sun, the annual messenger, sent to bring light and new life to the earth and its products. The Hebrew word for Messiah mâshiah (anointed , from mashah, to anoint) will hardly apply to, or bear out the identity in the ecclesiastical sense; nor will the Latin missa (mass) derive well from that other Latin word mittere, missum, "to send," or "dismiss." Because the communion service -- its heart and soul -- is based on the consecration and oblation of the host or hostia (sacrifice), a wafer (a thin, leaf-like bread) representing the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and that such wafer of flour is a direct development of the harvest or cereal offerings. Again, the primitive masses were coenas (late dinners or suppers), which, from the simple meals of Romans, who "washed, were anointed, and wore a cenatory garment" at dinner, became consecrated meals in memory of the last Supper of Christ.

The converted Jews in the days of the Apostles met at their synaxes, to read the Evangels and their correspondence (Epistles). St. Justin (150 A.D.) tells us that these solemn assemblies were held on the day called Sun (Sunday, dies magnus), on which days there were psalms chanted, "collation of baptism with pure water and the agapæ of the holy coena with bread and wine." What has this hybrid combination of pagan Roman dinners, raised by the inventors of church dogmas to a sacred mystery, to do with the Hebrew Messiah "he who causes to go down into the pit" (or Hades), or its Greek transliteration Messias? As shown by Nork, Jesus "was never anointed either as high priest or king," therefore his name of Messias cannot be derived from its present Hebrew equivalent. The less so, since the word anointed, or "rubbed with oil" a Homeric term, is chris, and chrio, both to anoint the body with oil. (See Lucifer for 1887, "The Esoteric Meaning of the Gospels.")

Another high Mason, the author of "The Source of Measures," summarizes this imbroglio of the ages in a few lines by saying:

The fact is there were two Messiahs: One, as causing himself to go down into the pit, for the salvation of the world;(3) this was the sun shorn of his golden rays and crowned with blackened ones (symbolizing this loss) as the thorns. The other, was the triumphant Messiah, mounted up to this summit of the arch of Heaven, personated as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In both instances he had the cross....
At the Ambarvales, the festivals in honour of Ceres, the Arval (the assistant of the High Priest) clad in pure white, placing on the hostia (sacrificial heap) a cake of corn, water and wine, tasted the wine of libation and gave to all others to taste. The oblation (or offering) was then taken up by the High Priest. It symbolized the three kingdoms of Nature -- the cake of corn (vegetable kingdom), the sacrificial vase or chalice (mineral), and the pall (the scarf-like garment) of the Hierophant, an end of which he threw over the oblation wine cup. This pall was made of pure white lamb-skins.

The modern priest repeats, gesture for gesture, the acts of the pagan priest. He lifts up and offers the bread to be consecrated; blesses the water that is to be put in the chalice, and then pours the wine into it, incenses the altar, etc., etc., and going to the altar washes his fingers saying, "I will wash my hands among the INNOCENT and encompass thy altar, O Lord." He does so, because the ancient and pagan priest did the same, saying, "I wash (with lustral water) my hands among the INNOCENT (the fully initiated Brethren) and encompass thy altar, O great Goddess" (Ceres). Thrice went the high priest round the altar loaded with offerings, carrying high above his head the chalice covered with the end of his snow-white lamb-skin.

The consecrated vestment worn by the Pope, the pall, "has the form of a scarf made of white wool, embroidered with purple crosses." In the Greek Church, the priest covers, with the end of the pall thrown over his shoulder, the chalice.

The High Priest of antiquity repeated thrice during the divine services his "O redemptor mundi" to Apollo "the Sun," his mater Salvatoris, to Ceres, the earth, his Virgo paritura to the Virgin Goddess, etc., and pronounced seven ternary commemorations. (Hearken, O Masons!)

The ternary number, so reverenced in antiquity, is as reverenced now, and is prounounced five times during the mass. We have three introibo, three Kyrie eleison, three mea culpa, three agnus dei, three Dominus Vobiscum. A true masonic series! Let us add to this the three et cum spiritu tuo, and the Christian mass yields to us the same seven triple commemorations.

PAGANISM, MASONRY, and THEOLOGY -- such is the historical trinity now ruling the world sub rosa. Shall we close with a Masonic greeting and say:--

Illustrious officers of Hiram Abif, Initiates, and "Widow's sons." The Kingdom of Darkness and ignorance is fast dispelling, but there are regions still untouched by the hand of the scholar, and as black as the night of Egypt. Fratres, sobrii estote et vigilate!

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(4) NOTE.--This series began in the November, 1966, issue. Material in this article is taken from "The Roots of Ritualism in Church and Masonry," by H. P. Blavatsky.
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(1) The "Morning Star," or Lucifer, the name which Jesus calls himself by in Rev. xxii, 16, and which becomes, nevertheless, the name of the Devil, as soon as a theosophical journal assumes it!
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(2) Hesychius gives the name (agyrmos) to the first day of the initiation into the mysteries of Ceres, goddess of harvest, and refers to it also under that of Synaxis. The early Christians called their mass, before this term was adopted, and the celebration of their mysteries -- Synaxis, a word compounded from sun "with," and ago "I lead," whence, the Greek synaxis or an assembly.
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(3) From times immemorial every initiate before entering on his supreme trial of initiation, in antiquity as at the present time, pronounces these sacramental words. ... "And I swear to give up my life for the salvation of my brothers, which constitute the whole mankind, if called upon, and to die in the defence of truth."
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