The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, , at sacred-texts.com
But to return to the marks themselves, of which many collections have been published gathered from regions the most widely separated. Their history is indeed full of interest but likewise of obscurity; "res alta nocte et caligine mersae." Many of them are traditional, and go back to the highest antiquity, being found on Phœnician * and Greek buildings (as well as on vases and coins of the earliest times), and in still larger abundance and variety in all mediæval architecture. These marks were in the beginning religious symbols, many of them being identical with the caste-marks, whereby to this day the followers of the respective Hindoo gods are distinguished from one another. This religious significance explains also their occurrence on Celtic monuments, as on the Stonehenge lintel, and the Newton Stone, Aberdeen, and so numerously on the Gallic coins; but they have for centuries, further back than can be traced, degenerated into the mere signatures of illiterate mechanics. † To illustrate this curious point, I shall adduce a
few of the most remarkable examples of lapidary symbolism, * giving, as in duty bound, precedence to the late discovery at Stonehenge. The mark is cut upon the fallen impost lying across the supposed altar. It is nine inches long and clearly defined, and may be described as a semicircle of which the diameter being produced, its own length terminates in a second semicircle reversed and open, combined with the Roman letters, L, V; having in fact much the appearance of a sigla or nota scriptoria. The mark has therefore something in its look that suggests the signature LVCIUS. Had the sagacious Stukeley discovered this inscription he would unquestionably upon the strength thereof have ascribed the whole fabric to the British Lucius so renowned in fable. It must not however be concealed that our fashionable scepticism has impugned the reality of even this most venerable "handwriting on the wall." Dr. Thurman has hunted up three credible witnesses ready to make affidavit that they saw with their own eyes a certain stranger cut the sigil. † But inasmuch as it would be equally facile, by means of leading questions dexterously put, to obtain the testimony of the same number of "bucolical juveniles" that they were present at the erection of Stonehenge itself, the genuineness of the mark (so unmodern in configuration) seems to me in no measure disproved. Symbolic figures, spirals and interesting circles are found on the stones in Newton Grange, Drogheda Cave, Routh Linn, Old Berwick, Doddington Moor, Northumberland; Long Meg, Cumberland. The latter have been published in the Archaeological Journal.
But to proceed to actual Caste-marks. We find a casual allusion to their use in ancient writers, who state that the badges distinguishing the three orders of the Egyptian priest--xix. p. 78. ‡
hood were the Θ signifying the sun; the Τ eternal life; and the Δ pleasure. With the Hindoos, the equilateral Triangle symbolises Mahadeva, or Siva, that is, the element Fire personified.
The same figure inverted stands for Vishnu, Water.
The two, intersecting each other, form the Sherkun or six-points; that is, the two elements in conjunction.
The five-pointed figure, made by bisecting the sides of an equilateral triangle by a line as long as one side, and drawing lines from each extremity of the said line to each foot of the triangle, symbol of Siva and Brahma (the latter god having five heads) became, later, the famous "Solomon's Seal." This appellation it must have got in early times, as in virtue thereof it is sculptured along with the seven-branched candlestick upon Sivish tombs dating from the Lower Empire. * The Hindoos still venerate the figure as replete with virtue. Similarly the Sherkun is engraved on a large scale upon each side of the gate of the Fort at Agra, although the building is of Mohammedan work.
A point, Puru, is the Deity; self existing. A circle, Brahm, eternity. Hence a triangle within a circle is the emblem of Trinity in Unity; and the circle inscribed within a triangle the converse.
Worshippers of Sacti, the Female Principle, mark their sacred vase with a right angle bisected by a line; and similarly the worshippers of Isis used so to mark the vessel necessary at her rites. But the Vishnaivas have for the same object a symbol of wondrous vitality and diffusion: for it is seen equally on Greek coins and vases, on the Newton Stone, Aberdeen, in ecclesiastical sculpture, where it takes the name "Tetragrammaton,"
being ignorantly supposed the compounds of the letter Γ four times repeated, and its sound and power confounded with those of the sacred "Tetragrammaton," or the Hebrew quadriliteral name Jehovah. This mark is properly the symbol of Sitala, the seventh incarnation, entitled "Trithalesor," a title exactly translated by the alchemical Trismegistus: its name is the Swastika, an emblem of Resignation; so that the figure nay have passed into Byzantine art with some recommendation from a knowledge of its real meaning. In Gothic nomenclature this mark becomes the equally renowned "Fylfot," as to whose etymology the following conjecture may be hazarded. The Swastika signified at first the arms crossed over the breast, the regular Indian gesture of submission, and also the legs similarly folded as the statues of Buddha are usually represented. The symbol is evidently nothing more than the rough outline of the arms and legs thus disposed. May not therefore the Gothic name Fylfot, applied to the same hieroglyph, bear through some remote tradition a reference to its real meaning, and imply the sense of Fold-foot? In the same way the old Greeks appear to have recognised its true sense, when they changed its simple form into the three conjoined legs that so aptly allude to the name Trinacria. In all probability the great popularity of the symbol, wheresoever the Indo-Germanic race penetrated, was due to the same feeling that renders it still so respected in the land of its origin, its power as a talisman to protect all places where the figure is painted up. The exclamation "Swastika" the Hindoos still employ as a mode of assent, synonymous with "Amen," "So be it." * As the symbol of Resignation the Mark forms the distinctive badge of an ascetic. When a man desires to become a Bandya (Buddhist monk) the rites required for his initiation occupy three days, foremost amongst which the Swastika is solemnly set up, upon an altar of unbaked bricks; the neophyte being seated on the ground with his legs disposed after the same fashion. In China the Mark is the badge of the Pon, the strictest sect of Buddhists, who attribute its invention to Buddha himself, about six centuries before our era. This
fact may explain how "denying oneself and taking up the cross" came to signify the embracing an ascetic life; for so evident are the traces of Buddhist influence over the institutions of the Essenes, that it is probable enough the symbol retained its pristine acceptation amongst the sect.
The Swastika occurs amongst the signet-devices of the old Jaina kings of Guzerat (belonging to the far-removed epoch of Buddhist supremacy in Hindostan), in company with that intricate square figure which when appearing on Greek works is denominated a Labyrinth. Other sectarian Marks are three paralled lines placed horizontally, or vertically, to denote their respective deities: others of truly Masonic aspect, are the wheel, crescent, heart, vesica piscis, all variously modified to express ritualistic differences. That the Gnostics borrowed many of these symbols directly from Buddhism, * adding them to their old stock of Egyptian devices, is apparent upon the inspection of any large collection of Abraxas gems. The lingering influence of this importation continually peep out where least to be expected. In the finest known MS. of the Apocalypse, the work of a French illuminator about the middle of the thirteenth century (in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge), the most elaborate of all its decorations is the heading to chapter xiv., filling half a page. It represents "The Lamb standing upon Mount Zion," surrounded by the saints; above, is the Godhead, typified by an immense golden Quatrefoil, encompassed by the Four Beasts which bear the names of the Evangelists; at each side and below are the Four-and-twenty Elders, arranged in groups of six, eight, and ten. Within the Quatrefoil is seen an empty throne covered with a cloth crossed by diagonal blue lines; in each diagonal so formed is painted in red a circle containing a point. This geometrical expression of the idea of the Deity, so opposed to the characteristic anthropomorphism of regular Gothic art, may perhaps have been inspired by the Manicheist spirit that still actuated the Southern French. But to go back to the source--in the
[paragraph continues] Chinese system, Yang, the Male, Active, Principle has for his own possession, the Sun, Fire, and all the higher phenomena of Nature: to him belong the uneven numbers. Yn, the Female, Passive, Principle, possesses the Earth, Moon, and the even numbers. The same notion as to the sexes of Numbers was taught by Pythagoras, and by the Gnostic Marcus, after him. Yang is represented by the circle, Yn by the square, the two Forces combined, by two interlaced circles, , the actual badge of the Mediaeval Vehm-Gerichte.
386:* A most interesting example is the stone in the second course of the Temple Wall, S.E. Jerusalem, discovered Jan. 1869 It bears two marks, deeply cut, and . Other marks in red paint resemble Phœnician letters. Deutsch observed many such on the walls of the old Castle of Sidon, built from ancient materials. He considers them numeral, unity to 9 being represented by vertical lines, 10 by a horizontal, 20 by two parallels, &c. It is, however, ridiculous to attribute the foundation of the Temple Wall to Solomon's architects, the fact of its being cut through ten feet of rubbish thrown from above proves it to have been done long after the city was inhabited, and therefore the work of Agrippa.
386:† Who have introduced a refinement upon the old system, viz., the necessity of every mark terminating in an odd number of ends.
387:* Regular Masons’ marks are visible upon the great hewn stones of the Buddhist buildings at Sarnath, which are known to have been erected before the sixth century; and more of the same kind are found on the ruined buildings of the same religion still to be traced incorporated into the Brahminical edifices within the neighbouring Benares. Sherring, 'Sacred City of the Hindus.'
387:† It must be remembered the stone is so hardened by weathering as to turn the best chisel!
387:‡ Lists of Masons’ marks have been published in the following works: Archæologia (1845), for Scotland, by Prof. Chalmers; Marks p. 388 at Brechin, and signatures to St. Ninian's Roll, coming down to the date 1814. Ditto, for 1844, contains a memoir by G. Godwin, with five plates of marks from England (Gloucester, Tewkesbury), France, Germany (Köln). 'Annales Archéologiques' (1844-5), 'Signes Lapidaires,' from Coney, Avignon, Palais de Justice, Paris, Vincennes. Rheims, Strasburgh. Most curious of all are those given by Ouseley ('Travels,' pl. 82), as "characters of some unknown alphabet," found by him on the stones of the Old Palace (a Mohammedan building) of Saaditalat, near Ispahan; which nevertheless have a striking resemblance to the European class.
388:* Numerous examples may be seen in their catacomb at Rome, lately discovered.
389:* Or, to speak masonically, So mote it be!"
390:* Scythicus, the preceptor of Manes, is actually declared by Epiphanius to have picked up his novel ideas during his visits to India as a trader from Alexandria.