THEOSOPHY, Vol. 56, No. 6, April, 1968
(Pages 164-169; Size: 18K)
(Number 6 of a 36-part series)


PAGAN ROOTS: Rites and Ceremonial Dress

WE will endeavor to briefly indicate the extraordinary similarity -- or rather identity, we should say -- of rites and ceremonial dress of the Christian clergy with that of the old Babylonians, Assyrians, Phośnicians, Egyptians, and other Pagans of the hoary antiquity.

If we would find the model of the Papal tiara, we must search the annals of the ancient Assyrian tablets. We invite the reader to give his attention to Dr. Inman's illustrated work, Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism. On page sixty-four, he will readily recognize the head-gear of the successor of St. Peter in the coiffure worn by gods or angels in ancient Assyria, "where it appears crowned by an emblem of the male trinity" (the Christian Cross). "We may mention, in passing," adds Dr. Inman, "that, as the Romanists adopted the mitre and the tiara from 'the cursed brood of Ham,' so they adopted the Episcopalian crook from the augurs of Etruria, and the artistic form with which they clothe their angels from the painters and urn-makers of Magna Grecia and Central Italy."

Would we push our inquiries farther, and seek to ascertain as much in relation to the nimbus and the tonsure of the Catholic priest and monk? We shall find undeniable proofs that they are solar emblems. Knight, in his Old England Pictorially Illustrated, gives a drawing by St. Augustine, representing an ancient Christian bishop, in a dress probably identical with that worn by the great "saint" himself. The pallium, or the ancient stole of the bishop, is the feminine sign when worn by a priest in worship. On St. Augustine's picture it is bedecked with Buddhistic crosses, and in its whole appearance it is a representation of the Egyptian T(tau), assuming slightly the figure of the letter Y. "Its lower end is the mark of the masculine triad," says Inman; "the right hand (of the figure) has the forefinger extended, like the Assyrian priests while doing homage to the grove.... When a male dons the pallium in worship, he becomes the representative of the trinity in the unity, the arba, or mystic four."

"Immaculate is our Lady Isis," is the legend around an engraving of Serapis and Isis, described by King, in The Gnostics and their Remains, "... the very terms applied afterwards to that personage (the Virgin Mary) who succeeded to her form, titles, symbols, rites, and ceremonies.... Thus, her devotees carried into the new priesthood the former badges of their profession, the obligation to celibacy, the tonsure, and the surplice, omitting, unfortunately, the frequent ablutions prescribed by the ancient creed." "The 'Black Virgins,' so highly reverenced in certain French cathedrals ... proved, when at last critically examined, basalt figures of Isis!"

Before the shrine of Jupiter Ammon were suspended tinkling bells, from the sound of whose chiming the priests gathered the auguries; "A golden bell and a pomegranate ... round about the hem of the robe," was the result with the Mosaic Jews. But in the Buddhistic system, during the religious services, the gods of the Deva Loka are always invoked, and invited to descend upon the altars by the ringing of bells suspended in the pagodas. The bell of the sacred table of Siva at Kuhama is described in Kailasa, and every Buddhist vihara and lamasery has its bells.

We thus see that the bells used by Christians come to them directly from the Buddhist Thibetans and Chinese. The beads and rosaries have the same origin, and have been used by Buddhist monks for over 2,300 years. The Linghams in the Hindu temples are ornamented upon certain days with large berries, from a tree sacred to Mahadeva, which are strung into rosaries. The title of "nun" is an Egyptian word, and had with them the actual meaning; the Christians did not even take the trouble of translating the word Nonna. The aureole of the saints was used by the antediluvian artists of Babylonia, whenever they desired to honor or deify a mortal's head. In a celebrated picture in Moore's Hindoo Pantheon, entitled, "Christna nursed by Devaki, from a highly-finished picture," the Hindu Virgin is represented as seated on a lounge and nursing Christna. The hair brushed back, the long veil, and the golden aureole around the Virgin's head, as well as around that of the Hindu Saviour, are striking. No Catholic, well versed as he might be in the mysterious symbolism of iconology, would hesitate for a moment to worship at that shrine the Virgin Mary, the "mother of his God!" In Indur Subba, the south entrance of the Caves of Ellora, may be seen to this day the figure of Indra's wife, Indranee, sitting with her infant son-god, pointing the finger to heaven with the same gesture as the Italian Madonna and child. In Pagan and Christian Symbolism, the author gives a figure from a mediæval woodcut -- the like of which we have seen by dozens in old psalters -- in which the Virgin Mary, with her infant, is represented as the Queen of Heaven, on the crescent moon, emblem of virginity. "Being before the sun, she almost eclipses its light. Than this, nothing could more completely identify the Christian mother and child with Isis and Horus, Ishtar, Venus, Juno, and a host of other Pagan goddesses, who have been called 'Queen of Heaven,' 'Queen of the Universe,' 'Mother of God,' 'Spouse of God,' 'the Celestial Virgin,' the Heavenly Peace-Maker,' etc."

Such pictures are not purely astronomical. They represent the male god and the female goddess, as the sun and moon in conjunction, "the union of the triad with the unit." The horns of the cow on the head of Isis have the same significance.

And so above, below, outside, and inside, the Christian Church, in the priestly garments, and the religious rites, we recognize the stamp of exoteric heathenism. On no subject within the wide range of human knowledge, has the world been more blinded or deceived with such persistent misrepresentation as on that of antiquity. Its hoary past and its religious faiths have been misrepresented and trampled under the feet of its successors. Its hierophants and prophets, mystæ and epoptæ, of the once sacred adyta of the temple shown as demoniacs and devil-worshippers. Donned in the despoiled garments of the victim, the Christian priest now anathematizes the latter with rites and ceremonies which he has learned from the theurgists themselves. The Mosaic Bible is used as a weapon against the people who furnished it. The heathen philosopher is cursed under the very roof which has witnessed his initiation; and the "monkey of God" (i.e., the devil of Tertullian), "the originator and founder of magical theurgy, the science of illusions and lies, whose father and author is the demon," is exorcised with holy water by the hand which holds the identical lituus with which the ancient augur, after a solemn prayer, used to determine the regions of heaven, and evoke, in the name of the HIGHEST, the minor god (now termed the Devil), who unveiled to his eyes futurity, and enabled him to prophesy! On the part of the Christians and the clergy it is nothing but shameful ignorance, prejudice, and that contemptible pride so boldly denounced by one of their own reverend ministers,  T. Gross, which rails against all investigation "as a useless or a criminal labor, when it must be feared that they will result in the overthrow of preëstablished systems of faith." On the part of the scholars it is the same apprehension of the possible necessity of having to modify some of their erroneously-established theories of science. "Nothing but such pitiable prejudice," says Gross, "can have thus misrepresented the theology of heathenism, and distorted -- nay, caricatured -- its forms of religious worship. It is time that posterity should raise its voice in vindication of violated truth, and that the present age should learn a little of that common sense of which it boasts with as much self-complacency as if the prerogative of reason was the birthright only of modern times."

All this gives a sure clew to the real cause of the hatred felt by the early and mediæval Christian toward his Pagan brother and dangerous rival. We hate but what we fear. The Christian thaumaturgist once having broken all association with the Mysteries of the temples and with "these schools so renowned for magic," described by St. Hilarion, could certainly expect but little to rival the Pagan wonder-workers. No apostle, with the exception perhaps of healing by mesmeric power, has ever equalled Apollonius of Tyana; and the scandal created among the apostles by the miracle-doing Simon Magus, is too notorious to be repeated here again. "How is it," asks Justin Martyr, in evident dismay, "how is it that the talismans of Apollonius have power in certain members of creation, for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves, and the violence of the winds, and the attacks of wild beasts; and whilst our Lord's miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous, and actually manifested in present facts, so as to lead astray all beholders?" This perplexed martyr solves the problem by attributing very correctly the efficacy and potency of the charms used by Apollonius to his profound knowledge of the sympathies and antipathies (or repugnances) of nature.

Clement describes Basilides, the Gnostic, as "a philosopher devoted to the contemplation of divine things." This very appropriate expression may be applied to many of the founders of the more important sects which later were all engulfed in one -- that stupendous compound of unintelligible dogmas enforced by Irenæus, Tertullian, and others, which is now termed Christianity. If these must be called heresies, then early Christianity itself must be included in the number. Basilides and Valentinus preceded Irenæus and Tertullian; and the two latter Fathers had less facts than the two former Gnostics to show that their heresy was plausible. Neither divine right nor truth brought about the triumph of their Christianity; fate alone was propitious. We can assert, with entire plausibility, that there is not one of all these sects -- Kabalism, Judaism, and our present Christianity included -- but sprung from the two main branches of that one mother-trunk, the once universal religion, which antedated the Vedic ages -- we speak of that Prehistoric Buddhism which merged later into Brahmanism.

The religion which the primitive teaching of the early few apostles most resembled -- a religion preached by Jesus himself -- is the elder of these two, Buddhism. The latter as taught in its primitive purity, and carried to perfection by the last of the Buddhas, Gautama, based its moral ethics on three fundamental principles. It alleged that 1, every thing existing, exists from natural causes; 2, that virtue brings its own reward, and vice and sin their own punishment; and, 3, that the state of man in this world is probationary. We might add that on these three principles rested the universal foundation of every religious creed; God, and individual immortality for every man -- if he could but win it. However puzzling the subsequent theological tenets; however seemingly incomprehensible the metaphysical abstractions which have convulsed the theology of every one of the great religions of mankind as soon as it was placed on a sure footing, the above is found to be the essence of every religious philosophy, with the exception of later Christianity. It was that of Zoroaster, of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Jesus, and even of Moses, albeit the teachings of the Jewish law-giver have been so piously tampered with.

The question is likely to be asked: "In the view of so much evidence to show that Christian theology is only a pot-pourri of Pagan mythologies, how can it be connected with the religion of Moses?" The early Christians, Paul and his disciples, the Gnostics and their successors generally, regarded Christianity and Judaism as essentially distinct. The latter, in their view, was an antagonistic system, and from a lower origin. "Ye received the law," said Stephen, "from the ministration of angels," or æons, and not from the Most High Himself. The Gnostics taught that Jehovah, the Deity of the Jews, was Ilda-Baoth, the son of the ancient Bohu, or Chaos, the adversary of Divine Wisdom.

The question may be more than easily answered. The law of Moses, and the so-called monotheism of the Jews, can hardly be said to have been more than two or three centuries older than Christianity. The Pentateuch itself, we are able to show, was written and revised upon this "new departure," at a period subsequent to the colonization of Judea under the authority of the kings of Persia. The Christian Fathers, in their eagerness to make their new system dovetail with Judaism, and so avoid Paganism, unconsciously shunned Scylla only to be caught in the whirlpool of Charybdis. Under the monotheistic stucco of Judaism was unearthed the same familiar mythology of Paganism. But we should not regard the Israelites with less favor for having had a Moloch and being like the natives. Nor should we compel the Jews to do penance for their fathers. They had their prophets and their law, and were satisfied with them. How faithfully and nobly they have stood by their ancestral faith under the most diabolical persecutions, the present remains of a once-glorious people bear witness. The Christian world has been in a state of convulsion from the first to the present century; it has been cleft into thousands of sects; but the Jews remain substantially united. Even their differences of opinion do not destroy their unity.

The Christian virtues inculcated by Jesus in the sermon on the mount are nowhere exemplified in the Christian world. The Buddhist ascetics and Indian fakirs seem almost the only ones that inculcate and practice them. Meanwhile the vices which coarse-mouthed slanderers have attributed to Paganism, are current everywhere among Christian Fathers and Christian Churches.

The boasted wide gap between Christianity and Judaism, that is claimed on the authority of Paul, exists but in the imagination of the pious. We are nought but the inheritors of the intolerant Israelites of ancient days; not the Hebrews of the time of Herod and the Roman dominion, who, with all their faults, kept strictly orthodox and monotheistic, but the Jews who, under the name of Jehovah-Nissi, worshipped Bacchus-Osiris, Dio-Nysos, the multiform Jove of Nyssa, the Sinai of Moses. The kabalistic demons -- allegories of the profoundest meaning -- were adopted as objective entities, and a Satanic hierarchy carefully drawn by the orthodox demonologists.

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PAGAN ROOTS: Destruction of Sources
(Part 7 of a 36-part series)

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(1) NOTE.--"The Christian Scheme," begun in November, 1967, is collated from the works of H. P. Blavatsky. It recounts the historical background and early development of Christianity.
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