The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, , at sacred-texts.com
We have already seen how important a part the notion of an "Ineffable Name," denoting the inconceivable Supreme, plays in the machinery of the Gnosis, and here again the original idea is to be found fully developed in the practice of the Brahmins. This awful name emblazoned in three Sanscrit letters within a cartouche formed by a coiled serpent (that normal inclosure for a Holy Name in Gnostic art) * is fittingly borne up by the elephant headed Ganesa, god of Wisdom. The word being triliteral is rather AUM than OM, as usually written in English. It is never to be uttered aloud, but only mentally by the devout. Of the characters, A signifies the Creator, U the Preserver, M the Destroyer; that is, the Triad Brahma-Vishnu-Siva. "If pronounced aloud, the sound much resembles Amen as drawled out by a country parish clerk. In fact it is used for "Angiekar," So be it! in token of approbation" (Moor, Hindoo Pantheon). † And here a very curious analogy is to be pointed out in the assertion of the Talmudists that the word Amen if shouted aloud is of power to open the gates of Heaven. In the Pistis-Sophia the "Three Amen," and again the "Four Amen," are repeatedly mentioned amongst the other Mysteries revealed by the Saviour in his esoteric teaching. On this account the word may be
suspected to have some connexion with the Hindoo Sacred Name, unless indeed Valentinus had got it nearer home, from the four "Amenti," guardians of the dead, and sons of Osiris. The common explanation that "Amen" signifies Truth in some Eastern dialect, does not seem to rest on good foundation. The Kabbalist Marcus discovered a great mystery in Αμην, taken numerically, the number Ninety-nine became formed by the union of the Eleven and the Nine and therefore set forth by the parables of the piece of silver, and the ninety and nine sheep, "which is the reason why we use 'amen' in prayers."
Other Hindoo titles of the Deity are "Tat" and "Sat" = Virtue. These are recognisable in the Egyptian gods Tat or Hermes, and Sate, Truths. It is likewise more than probable that the mighty AUM itself often lies enshrouded amidst the lines of vowels filling our talismans. Certainly the Praun calcedony (No. 517) bearing on one side the Delphic Apollo in a good style of art, or the other (by a later hand) a man dancing with his apron filled with fruits, presents in its legend πυρσπαιοω αουμ ολει, the Sanscrit triliteral in the only form in which Greek characters could express the sound.
The origin of this Ineffable Name is thus related ('Inst. Menu.' ii. 370) Brahma milked out as it were from the three Vedas the letter A, the letter U, and the letter M; together with the three mysterious words "Bhur," "Bhavah," "Swar," or Earth, Sky and Heaven. From the three Vedas also the Lord of Creation, incomprehensibly exalted successively milked out the three Treasures of the ineffable text, beginning with the word "Tat," and entitled the "Savatri," or Gáyatrí. A priest who shall know the Veda, and pronounce to himself both morning and evening that syllable and that holy text preceded by the Three words shall attain that sanctity which the Veda confers: and a "twice born" man who shall a thousand times repeat those Three apart from the multitude, shall be released in a month even from a great offence, as a snake from its slough. The Three great immutable words preceded by the Triliteral syllable and followed by the Gáyatri which consists of three measures, must be considered as the mouth, or principal part of the Veda." In
this doctrine lies the very origin of all talismanic inscriptions, for their essence is the stringing together of sacred names. Nay more, the actual Three words, disguised by Coptic pronunciation, or purposely sealed from profane eyes by a duplication of vowels, very probably exist in the midst of certain Gnostic formulæ. In the spell of Battus, hereafter to be quoted, words of the same sense as the Hindoo Three do in reality occur.
The Gáyatrí or holiest verse of the Vedas is: "Let us adore the supremacy of the Divine Sun, the Godhead, who illuminates all, who recreates all, from whom all proceed, unto whom all must return, whom we invoke to direct our progress aright in our progress towards the Holy Seat." Another is; "Earth, Sky, Heaven; Let us meditate upon that most excellent Light and Power, of that most generous, sportive, and resplendent Sun, that it may guide our intellects." In all this there is something that irresistibly reveals the Gnostic invocations whenever they can be interpreted, and the "Divine Sun" finds its counterpart in the "Shemesh Eilam" so perpetually repeated.
This Gáyatrí is contained in the confession of faith of the Brahmin. "This new and excellent praise of thee O, splendid playful Sun (Pushan) is offered by us to thee. Be gratified by this my speech: approach this craving mind as a fond man seeks a woman. May that Sun who contemplates and looks into all worlds be our Protector! Let us meditate on the adorable light of the Divine Ruler (Savitri); may it guide our intellects. Desirous of food we solicit the gift of the splendid Sun, who should be studiously worshipped. Venerable men, guided by the understanding, salute thee, Divine Sun, with oblations and praise."
Moor hereupon makes the very pertinent remark: "It is difficult to conjecture why this text should be so studiously kept secret, for its exposition, unconnected with any idea of mystery, and affectation of profundity, does not appear likely to have the effect so dreaded by all priests of guiding the intellect of mankind to the discovery of Truth."
As already remarked our Gnostic formulae when expressed in Greek have a spirit and a rhythm that strikes the ear as the echo of these primitive invocations; witness the legend upon the
plasma described by Creuzer (Archeol. iii. last plate). Within the serpent-formed cartouche is an inscription of many lines, the first half an undecypherable medley of letters, which like Marcus’ thirty syllabic appellation of the Supreme Tetrad, must express the name of the Unknown God, who in the following portion is invoked as: "The Primal Father, incorporeal, pervading all things, self-existing, the seal of Solomon:" then come more mystic epithets ending with "lion-headed," evidently the Mithraic figure of that kind. The declaration that the unknown legend is the "Seal of Solomon" is extremely interesting, as showing the early date of the celebrity attained by that most famous of talismans; which, be it remembered, was reported to derive its virtue from the mighty throne of God engraven on the gem.
Many further analogies between the two theosophies may be detected in the Hindoo forms of worship published by Moor. Of the Persons in the Supreme Triad, Brahma represents the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Siva the Destroyer. But the last is more truly the Changer, all death being only change. Siva therefore in one of his characters becomes identified with Yama, god of the Shades. Now, seeing that the first two Persons are symbolised by the elements Fire and Water, the analogy of the Hellenic Triad, Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, becomes at once apparent. Here also we find the originals of the "Great Τριδυνάμεις," who hold so high a place in the hierarchy of the Pistis-Sophia.
The famous Inscription of Buddha-Gaya, Bengal, dated the year 1005 of the era of Vikramaditya (B.C. 57) contains this remarkable passage: "Amaradiva [son of Sandracottus] having heard this voice caused an image of the Supreme Spirit, Buddha, to be made; and he worshipped it, according to the law, with perfumes, incense, and the like, and he thus admired [magnified] the Name of that Supreme Being, an Incarnation of a portion of Vishnu. Reverence be unto thee in the form of Buddha; reverence be unto thee, Lord of the Earth! Reverence be unto thee an Incarnation of the Deity, and the Eternal One; Reverence be unto thee O God, in the form of the God of Mercy, the Dispeller of pain and trouble, the Lord of all things, the
[paragraph continues] Deity who overcomes the sins of the Kali yug (Iron Age), the Guardian of the universe, the emblem of Mercy towards all them that sue thee--OM, the Possessor of all things in vital form, Thou art Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesa (Siva); Thou art the Lord of the universe; Thou art the proper form of all things, * moveable and immoveable, the Possessor of the whole. And thus I adore thee. Reverence be unto thee the Bestower of Salvation; Reverence be unto thee the Destroyer of the Evil Spirit, Kesi; † O Damadara shew me favour! Thou art he who resteth upon the face of the Milky Ocean, and who lieth upon the serpent Sesha. Thou art Trivikrama, who at three strides encompasseth the earth; I adore thee, who art celebrated by a thousand names, and under various forms, in the shape of Buddha, the God of Mercy; be propitious, O thou Most High! Having thus worshipped the Guardian of mankind, he became like one of the just. He joyfully caused a holy temple to be built of a wonderful construction, and therein were set up the Divine Feet of Vishnu, for ever Purifier of the sins of mankind; the images of the Pandus, and the Descents of Vishnu (Avatars); and in like manner of Brahma and the rest of the divinities." (Hind. Panth. p. 223.)
It may here be observed how extensively this symbol of the Divine Foot has pervaded the religions of the West. Feet either in relief or in cavo, cut in stone, are common about Hindoo temples; according to tradition they are memorials of suttees, the self-sacrificing widow having mounted from that stone upon the pyre. This usage supplies the connection of the symbol. with Serapis, the translated Yama, god of Hades. Compare the colossal Foot dedicated to the Serapis of Alexandria, as his special attribute, and recently exhumed from the ruins of his temple. ‡ It is richly sandalled, and on the top sits enthroned the god himself, with his attendants Cerberus and the Serpent, Tricasa
and Sesha in Grecian disguise. The same Foot, winged and girt with the Serpent placed between two seated lions, is cut on the altar inscribed "Deo Sarapi M. Vibius Onesimus ex visu" (Montfaucon, pl. 122). The same idea produced in Ceylon the print of Adam's foot upon the summit of the Peak, bearing his name, whence he had ascended to his Creator, and equally, in the very metropolis of Christianity, that of Christ himself stamped in the basalt paving-stone of the Via Appia, still worshipped in the church and entitled, "Domine quo vadis?"
An ancient silver plate, found in a pit at Islamabad, at the northern end of the Bay of Bengal, records the hallowing of the site of a projected temple there in the deposit in that pit of 120 small bronze images called "Tahmudas," twenty of larger size, "Languda," one large in stone, "Langudagari," and a brass vessel containing two of the bones of "Thacur." This last title, "Noble," * is the regular style of a god, or a deified mortal. In mediæval ecclesiastical usage (which probably still continues) it was indispensable for the consecration of any altar in a church that a relic (bone) of some Saint should have been deposited under its base. The same silver plate contains this account of the birth and infancy of Buddha. This coincidence, if accidental is very curious. "When Buddha Avatar descended from the region of souls, and entered the body of Mahamaya, the wife of Soontala Danna, Raja of Kailas, her womb suddenly assumed the appearance of clear transparent crystal in which Buddha appeared, beautiful as a flower, kneeling, and reclining on his hands. When born he had on his head two feet, and on his hands the marks of wheels. Brahma attending at the birth received the infant in a golden vessel, and delivered him unto Indra."
This intimate connection of the theosophies of India and Greece was originally (before the period of direct commerce) kept up through the medium of the Persian Magi, as the classical writers themselves show by casual but trustworthy allusions. Their notices were till lately reckoned, amongst the other fictions of "Graecia Mendax," hut better acquaintance with Sanscrit and Pehlevi records have revealed their truth.
[paragraph continues] For it is now accepted as certainly proved by the oldest portions of the Zendavesta (the "Gathas," or hymns) that the primitive religion of the whole Aryan race, previous to the great division, was a simple worship of the Powers of Nature. This religion was reformed by Zoroaster, who retained the old names for his Angels, but superadded the idea of the One Supreme.
Ammian in his account of Julian's Persian expedition, gives the following curious, though oddly blundered, details upon this subject (xxiii. 6). "In these tracts are situated the fertile lands of the Magi [in Media], concerning whose profession and pursuits, since we have come upon them, it will be fitting to give here some brief information. Plato, that greatest authority upon celebrated doctrines, states that the Magian religion, known by this mystic name of 'Machagestia,' is the most uncorrupted form of worship in things divine. To the philosophy of this religion, Zoroastres, a Bactrian, in primitive times, made many additions drawn from the Mysteries of the Chaldæans, as did still later Hystaspes, a very learned prince, father of Darius. This King Hystaspes, when he was boldly penetrating into the unknown regions of Upper India, had come upon a certain wooded solitude, the tranquil silence of which is occupied by those incomparable sages, the Brachmans. Instructed by their teaching in the science of the motions of the world and heavenly bodies, and also in pure religious rites as far as he was able to gather them--of the notions thus acquired he transfused a certain proportion into the creed of the Magi. The latter coupling these doctrines with their own peculiar science of foretelling the future, have handed down the whole through their descendants to succeeding ages. Thenceforth, in the course of many generations to the present time, a multitude, sprung from one and the same stock, dedicates itself to sacred offices. It is said they preserve unextinguished the Sacred Fire which first of all fell down from heaven, a portion whereof used always to be carried before the kings of Asia as a good omen. The number of persons so descended was at the first but small, and they were exclusively employed by the Persian kings for the performance of religious services. It was considered
a great offence to approach the altar, or to touch the sacrifice, before a Magus, after reciting the appointed prayers, had poured upon it the preliminary libation. But through gradual increase they are grown into the name and dimensions of a distinct people, and inhabit villages unprotected by walls, being allowed to follow their own laws, being respected on account of their religious character. It was from this race of men that the seven, as ancient history records, usurped the Persian throne upon the death of Cambyses, and were crushed by the conspiracy of that Darius who gained the kingdom through the neighing of his horse." The worthy, but pedantic old soldier, in his anxiety to show off his historical reading, has committed certain very ludicrous blunders in this account. The father of Darius was no "ancient king of Persia," hut merely governor of that province (ἐπαρχος) under Cambyses (Her. iii. 70). His name, derived from "Gushtasp," the planet Venus, was doubtless common enough wherever Magism was the established religion. And yet more ludicrously does Ammian convert the one Magian usurper, Smerdis, into seven, the actual number of the Persian nobles who put him down. Nevertheless, the tradition has great value, as proving the previous existence of the Magi in a community of diviners and seers (like the ancient Jewish fraternities, "Sons of the Prophets,") and the subsequent modification of their doctrines by the importation of Brahminical ideas, following upon the conquest of Indian provinces. Such being the case, one need not be surprised at finding Sassanian kings named after Hindoo deities, like the numerous Varanes (from "Varani," Vishnu's title) just as others of their line assume that of the proper Persian god, Ormuzd, in the form of that favourite royal appellation, Hormisdas (Ahoromasdi).
266:* As the Pistis-Sophia informs us, "the disk of the sun was a great dragon having his tail in his mouth," the meaning of this figure whereon the sacred word is emblazoned becomes sufficiently obvious.
266:† OM MANI PADHVM "Glorification of the Deity," is the Thibetian Confession of Faith, engraved on stone tablets set up everywhere over the country; and everlastingly chanted by the Lamas as they tell their beads. (Cooper's 'Travels of a Pioneer,' p. 208). Huc mentions that the Lamas assert that the doctrine contained in these words is immense, and that the whole life of man is not sufficient to measure its depth and extent. Knox ('Overland through Asia') describes the ruined "Monastery of Eternal Repose," built at the junction of the Augoon with the Amoor by an emperor of the Yuen dynasty to commemorate his visit to that region. On the summit of the cliff are three columns, 5 to 8 feet high of marble granite, and porphyry and granite, bearing inscriptions commemorating this foundation, and also this formula in Chinese, Mongolian and Thibetan.
270:* Meaning the pre-existing Type, the Platonic Idea, the Persian Ferouher, the Rabbinical Adam-Kadmon--all springing from this source.
270:† This explains the title of the deity so often put on our talismans, Γιγαντορήκτης.
270:‡ The religious importance of the symbol is attested by an Alexandrian coin of Commodus, having for reverse this same Foot, with the bust of Serapis placed on the section of the leg. (Feuardent, 'Egypte Ancienne,' pl. xxvii.).
271:* Exactly answering to the ancient Divus, the Catholic Saint.