Chapter III


Mythology of the Ancients—Characteristics of the Pagan Deities—Doctrine of the Reciprocal Principles of Nature—Creation of the Egg—Creation and the Phallus—The Lotus—Osiris as the active, dispensing, and originating energy—Hesiod and the generative powers—Growth of Phallic Worship.

“By comparing all the varied legends of the East and West in conjunction,” says a learned author, “we obtain the following outline of the mythology of the Ancients: It recognises, as the primary elements of things, two independent principles of the nature of Male and Female; and these, in mystic union, as the soul and body, constitute the Great Hermaphrodite Deity, THE ONE, the universe itself, consisting still of the two separate elements of its composition, modified though combined in one individual, of which all things are regarded but as parts…. If we investigate the Pantheons of the ancient nations, we shall find that each, notwithstanding the variety of names, acknowledged the same deities and the same system of theology; and, however humble any of the deities may appear, each who has any claim to antiquity will be found ultimately, if not immediately, resolvable into one or other of the Primeval Principles, the Great God and Goddess of the Gentiles.”1)

“We must not be surprised,” says Sir William Jones, “at finding, on a close examination, that the characters of all the Pagan deities, male and female, melt into each other, and at last into one or two, for it seems a well-founded opinion that the whole crowd of gods and goddesses in ancient Rome and modern Váránes mean only the Powers of Nature, and principally those of the Sun, expressed in a variety of ways and by a multitude of fanciful names.”

The doctrine of the Reciprocal Principles of Nature, designated as active and passive, male and female, and often symbolized as the Sun and Moon, or the Sun and the Earth, was distinctly recognised in the mythological systems of America. It will be well to notice the rationale of this doctrine, and some of the more striking forms which, in the developement of human ideas, it has {18} assumed; for it may safely be claimed that under some of its aspects or modifications it has entered into every religious system, if, indeed, it has not been the nucleus of every mythology.

The idea of a creation, suggested by the existence of things, was, no doubt, the first result of human reasoning. The mode of the event, the manner in which it was brought about, was, it is equally unquestionable, the inquiry which next occupied the mind, and man deduced from the operations of nature around him his first theory of creation. From the egg, after incubation, he saw emerging the living bird, a phenomenon which, to his simple apprehension, was nothing less than an actual creation. How naturally then, how almost of necessity, did that phenomenon, one of the most obvious in nature, associate itself with his ideas of creation—a creation which he could not help recognising, but which he could not explain. The extent to which the egg, received as a symbol, entered into the early cosmogonies will appear in another and more appropriate connection.

By a similar process did the creative power come to be symbolized under the form of the Phallus, in it was recognised the cause of reproduction, or, as it appeared to the primitive man, of creation. So the Egyptians, in their refinement upon this idea, adopted the scarabæus as a symbol of the First Cause, the great hermaphrodite Unity, for the reason that they believed that insect to be both male and female, capable of self-inception and singular production, and possessed of the power of vitalizing its own work.

It is well known that the Nymphœ, Lotus, or Water-Lily is held sacred throughout the East, and the various sects of that quarter of the globe represent their deities, either decorated with its flowers, holding it as a sceptre, or seated on a lotus throne or pedestal. “It is,” says Maurice, “the sublime and hallowed symbol that perpetually occurs in oriental mythology, and not without substantial reason; for it is itself a lovely prodigy, and contains a treasure of physical instruction.” The reason of its adoption as a symbol is explained by Mr. Payne Knight, and affords a beautiful illustration of the rationale of symbolism, and of the profound significance often hidden beneath apparently insignificant emblems. “This plant,” observes Mr. Knight, “grows in the water, and amongst its broad leaves puts forth a flower, in the centre of which is formed its seed vessel, shaped like a bell or inverted cone, and punctured on the top with little cavities or cells, in which the seeds grow. The orifice of these cells being too small to let the seeds drop out when ripe, they shoot forth into {19} new plants in the places where they are formed; the bulb of the vessel serving as a matrix to nourish them until large enough to burst it open and release themselves, after which, like other aquatic plants, they take root wherever the current deposits them. The plant, therefore, being thus productive of itself, and vegetating from its own matrix, without being fostered in the earth, was naturally adopted as a symbol of the productive power of waters upon which the active Spirit of the Creator acted in giving life and vegetation to matter. We accordingly find it employed in every part of the northern hemisphere where the symbolical religion, improperly called idolatry, existed.”

Examples quoted illustrate the inductive powers by which unaided reason arrives at its results, as well as the means by which it indicates them in the absence of a written language or of one capable of conveying abstract ideas. The mythological symbols of all early nations furnish ample evidence that it was thus they embodied or shadowed forth their conceptions,—the germ of a symbolic system, which was afterwards extended to every manifestation of nature and every attribute of Divinity.

We may in this manner rationally and satisfactorily account for the origin of the doctrine of the reciprocal principles. Its universal acceptance establishes that it was deduced from the operations of that law so obviously governing all animated nature—that of reproduction or procreation.

In the Egyptian mythology, the Divine Osiris was venerated as the active, dispensing, or originating energy, and was symbolized as the Sun; Isis as terrene nature, the passive recipient, the producer; their annual offspring was Horus, the vernal season or infant year. The poet Hesiod, in the beginning of his Theogony, distinguishes the male and female, or generative and productive powers of Nature, as Ouranus and Gaia, Heaven and Earth. The celestial emblems of these powers were usually, as we have said, the Sun and Moon; the terrestrial, Fire and Earth. They were designed as Father and Mother; and their more obvious symbols, as has already been intimated, were the Phallus and Kteis, or the Lingham and Yoni of Hindustan.

That the worship of the phallus passed from India or from Ethiopia into Egypt, from Egypt into Asia Minor, and into Greece, is not so much a matter of astonishment,—these nations communicated with each other; but that this worship existed in countries a long time unknown to the rest of the world—in many parts of America, with which the people of the Eastern Continent {20} had formerly no communication—is an astonishing but well attested fact. When Mexico was discovered, there was found in the city of Panuco, the particular worship of the Phallus well established, its image was adorned in the temples; there were in the public places bas reliefs, which like those of India, represented in various manners the union of the two sexes. At Tlascalla, another city of Mexico, they revered the act of generation under the united symbols of the characteristic organs of the two sexes. Garcilasso de la Vega says—“that according to Blas Valera, the God of Luxury was called Tiazolteuli,” but some writers say, “this is a mistake.” One of the goddesses of the Mexican Pantheon was named Tiazolteotl, which Boturini describes as Venus unchaste, low, and abominable, the hieroglyphic of these men and women who are wholly abandoned, mingling promiscuously one with another, gratifying their bestial appetites like animals. Boturini is said to be not entirely correct in his apprehensions of the character of this goddess. She is Cinteotl, the goddess of Maize, under another aspect. Certain of the temples of India abound with sculptured representations of the symbols of Phallic Worship, and if we turn to the temples of Central America, which in many respects exhibit a strict correspondence with those of India, we find precisely the same symbols, separate and in combination.

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Cory’s Ancient Fragments, Intro. 34.