Mary Magdalene & Her Seven Devils
Alvin Boyd Kuhn
The publication of this brochure is inspired by the earnest desire to exorcise from one of the most popular characters of world literature the stigma of moral obliquity which she has borne for eighteen centuries through the total miscarriage of ancient literary symbolism. Unquestionably there will be those who will regard it a doubtful victory to remove the stain of gross immorality from the name of an individual by the drastic and summary procedure of removing the individual from the realm of historic existence altogether. It will be likened to the physician’s consolation in the death of his patient, in that at any rate he had removed the disease. But the modern scholastic mind is shortly to achieve the realization that Mary Magdalene as a mythical figure will live more vitally in world thought than she ever did as an alleged historical woman. It may fall with a certain severity of shock upon orthodox ears to be told bluntly that the woman whom the Christ was believed to have loved was never a living personage of flesh and blood, and challenging beauty. Yet to state that the Gospels of the New Testament are but spiritual allegories, the enacted drama of the human soul in its incarnate experience, is only to assert that which is the common and assured knowledge of every erudite student of ancient Comparative Religion and Mythology. The truth of this statement is now safely past the point of ridicule or controversy. Many scholars and more mystics have loudly proclaimed the mythical nature of the Gospels; but by some strange quirk of psychology or some unaccountable want of courage, few if any have ever dared to take their stand by the obvious implications of this declaration and announce the positive non-historicity of the dramatic characters involved.
It is insinuated generally that by some miracle of coincidence or parallelism veritable persons did live whose lives ran off an exact copy of the incidents recorded in the Gospels. Without considering that the chance of such a total matching of a mass of personal occurrences in the careers of living people with the events of an actually existing drama would run to one in millions, the assumption fails utterly to take into account that decisive fact that the material entering into this Gospel narrative, featuring those same incidents and figures, had been extant prior to the year one A.D. for at least some thousands of years! Are we asked to believe that suddenly around the time of the first Christian century there appeared a fairly large group of individuals whose life history fell into the pattern and relived the history of a set of dramatic personae that had already been recorded for centuries? The claimants for the historicity of the Gospel characters have never fairly met this predicament. It would seem that the prior existence of the Gospels as spiritual dramas should write a decisive finis to a debate that should never have been begun. But religion is the most conservative of influences, traditional inculcations die hard, and it can be predicted that even the plain proof of the purely allegorical and dramatic character of the Gospels will be met with the same disdain by religious parties as has been the case heretofore.
Yet the hesitancy to go the full length with the data, and the scepticism regarding the entirely mythical status of the great Bibles of antiquity is to be understood, if not condoned, in the light of the other significant fact that even those who have openly declared all such writings to be myths have never made the interpretation of their material in any but the most fragmentary and unconvincing fashion. They have never torn off the actors’ masks and revealed the identity of the characters or the deep purport of what was being dramatized. They have made it mean little more as spiritual mystery play than it means as “history.” In short, the Bible is yet a sealed book. The cloak of esoteric concealment thrown over the writing by ancient sagacity has proven too hard a nut for both medieval and modern acumen to crack in eighteen centuries of mulling over the sage literary relics.
The present elucidation of the allegorism connected with Mary Magdalene, with “Veronica,” and other women figures in the scriptures should add almost conclusive evidence to that presented in earlier lectures in this series, that the Bible of Christianity has never yet received its most rudimentary interpretation. The spectacle of an age of vaunted enlightenment being guided morally and spiritually by a Book the most elementary import of which has never been grasped, will be once more glaringly depicted by this additional revelation of hidden meaning in the scriptures. Blindness is only vividly comprehended when it is relieved by the coming of the light. Not until the incidents alleged to have occurred in connection with persons in the remote past are seen as the graphs and glyphs of resplendent cosmic truth can the measure of the depth of modern benightedness be gauged. Not otherwise can the gross stultification of the mass mind of today by the literalization of spiritual portrayals be seen in all its repellant crudity. None but a mind emancipated from the almost hypnotic spell of such warped teaching can gain the requisite ground of vantage from which to catch a clear view of the unbelievable distortion of our general philosophical Anschauung through the wrecking of the myths of old. And nothing short of the final dissipation of the cloud of literal obfuscation that darkens the modern mass mind by a return to the wisdom of the myths can give the world the first true birth of sanity which it is still awaiting. The dawn of this bright era awaits only a more thorough study of Comparative Religion and Mythology. For the solvent of our dark superstitions will be the overwhelming proof at last that for sixteen centuries we have taken spiritual myth, drama and allegory for history! The international laugh at our age-long asininity may go far to bring us to international goodwill.
The character of Mary Magdalene, the incidents touching it and particularly the casting out of seven devils from her spiritual life by the Christ, are but one phase of a manifold group of allegorical depictions of an element of cosmic meaning which is the key, so to say, to practically one half of the interpretation of all sacred scriptures. The pivotal importance of this portrayal of arcane meaning can hardly be too vigorously asserted. Mistaken for history, it failed to be read as cosmic graphology because of the crassness of scholarship in linking in meaning a variety of symbols referring to the Motherhood of all life. Why impurity and sin should be associated with a woman and the number seven was a mystery that found no solution after the early Church crushed out the esoteric academies. Bible exegetists have not seen the connection or discerned the significance of this family of symbols. Yet we shall see that these are keys that unlock the hidden truth in a quite simple and elementary way. It will then appear next to inconceivable that centuries of supposedly astute study of the Bible could have failed to yield to a single scholar the fact of such ridiculous obviousness as that woman characters in the Bible represent matter! The certification of this basic bit of ancient typology is the motive and task of this lecture. There is the greater need for the vindication of this item of Biblical symbolism because its presentment has been rather generally met with dismay and resentment on the part of women. The only religious controversy in ancient times was over the point of the sex of divinity. The feminists did at times personalize the soul as female. But except in this usage, the women figures typify matter. And in this characterization they were truer to natural type, as we shall see. It has, on the whole, availed but little to remind feminine remonstrators against the immediate invidiousness of the typism that the very word “mother” is in Latin our word “matter,” with but one “t” left out: Mater. (Greek “meter,” French “mere,” Spanish “madre,” German “mutter.”) Nor was rebellion in the least placated by the further assurance that all these words for mother come from the same root which gives us our word “mud.” It did not at all comport with the general feminine view of things that sacred lore should allot to the kings and the male characters the role of spirit and to the women the part of lowly matter. The implications were frankly unacceptable. Was ancient symbolism tramping woman in the mire or besmirching her fair name with “mud?” Had archaic wisdom miscarried in making the divine part of man male and the earthly and bodily part female? Is it not a common belief that women are more spiritual than men?
It is enough to state for the moment that the issue involved here is by no means one of inconsequence, but that it reaches to deeper momentousness than at first appears. Since it has subtly involved serious consequences for women in history, it is in part the motive of this lecture to resolve it in clear light. Our concern, however, is not with controversy, but only with the symbolism, and we must hold true to the principles of that hoary science. There is therefore no recourse but to make the positive declaration that the goddesses of mythology and the women in the Bible stand as the types of matter, as “opposed” to spirit. It should be at once remarked, however, that the statement carries no implications beyond what it succinctly says, namely, that the female characters typify matter.
When looked at in the bright glare of ancient light there is no escape – and no need of escape – from the full relevance of the feminine typograph. It will be immediately seen as both futile and foolish to rebel against the imputations of the woman symbol, as the emblem of matter, if for a single moment we accept the fitness of assigning to woman the function of motherhood. It only needs that we accept the other principle of the profound philosophy of the past, that matter performs the same motherhood function with regard to spirit, to reconcile our opposition to the symbolism. Matter is the Universal Mother. It is the womb of all organic life. Not as the inert lifeless substance of eighteenth century science, but as embodied living energy, it is the matrix in which are formed all the created worlds. The “kings” of holy writ are the literary types of the god, the divine unit of consciousness in man; but they are all born of the same mother, Meri (Egypt), Maya (India), Mary, Maria. Ever memorable should be the inscription at the base of the statue of the Egyptian Isis at Sais: “I am the goddess Isis, the Mother of all the living. No man hath lifted my veil, and the fruit I bore was Helios.” Helios is the sun, the mighty symbol of the divine spirit in humanity. The sun of righteousness, that rises on mankind with healing in its wings, is born of Mother Matter. Matter is the great World Mother, since it is the one vehicle of all manifested life. To be sure, matter exits in a variety of forms, as solid, liquid, gaseous and ethereal. Searching through the world of phenomena for types of universal truth, the ancient sages saw the motherhood function borne more particularly by the two lower elements, earth and water. Earth was obviously the mother and sustainer of all the organic life habitant upon it. Water was equally a party, and an essential one, to this generation. Modern biology asserts that all first life originated in the water, in the sea. Even earth remains unproductive without it. The letter “M” is the archaic hieroglyph for water, and it reads “water” in the Hebrew alphabet; and its numerical value is 40, the duration of the great deluge of rain. It is shaped to represent the line of a wave, and it begins all words for “mother.” In outline it is itself a “u” between two “n’s,” if the lines are taken in overlap; and N U N spells the ancient Egyptian name for the aboriginal abyss of the firmamental waters, whence was born the whole creation. So that Biblical Joshua (Jesus) son of Nun, is in simple statement the spiritual mind born of matter.
Most aptly, then, the maternal function of earth has been recognized in the common poetic designation “Mother Earth.” We have no similar phrase ascribing motherhood to water, but the ancients did give to the primal mother of life the very name for “sea” in several countries. In Berosus’ account of the Chaldean Creation, Tiamat, the first Mother, is named Thallath, which is the Greek thallasa, the sea. The feminine Sephiroth, Binah, is termed by the Kabalists “the Great Sea.” And Mary is allied in derivation with maria, the plural of the Latin mare, the sea.
As the material portion of man’s constitution had its origin on and from the moon, the mothers were almost always likewise linked with the moon, and called lunar goddesses. So we find The Secret Doctrine (Vol. 1, p. 400) saying: “All the lunar goddesses had a dual aspect, – the one divine, the other infernal. All were the virgin mothers of an immaculately born Son – the Sun.”
Now the moon, in the Hebrew Kabala, is the Argha, or ark, or womb, in which is hatched the egg or seed of all material life. And when we find the ancient wisdom expressly telling us that the “-hovah” portion of Jehovah is identical with Binah, Eve and the other lunar goddesses, we are assured that the creative powers are spirit and matter linked together in wedlock. The Secret Doctrine states that Jehovah and the Assyrian Anu are “both viewed from a dual aspect; male or spiritual, female or material, or spirit and matter, the two antagonistic principles.” And if there is any question as to water sharing the symbolism of matter, The Secret Doctrine settles it categorically: “The Flames or ‘Fires’ represent spirit or the male element, and ‘Water,’ matter, or the opposing element.” And again: “Water is the symbol of the female element everywhere; matter, from which the letter M is derived . . . a water hieroglyph. It is the universal matrix or ‘the Great Deep.’ Venus, the great Mother-Virgin, issues forth from the sea-wave, and Cupid or Eros is her Son.” All life is born in and from water. In the Orphic cosmogony of Greece the maiden Kore gave birth to an aeon.
Hardly a step away from matter and water as symbols of creative source stands another term, which will carry us even more intimately into the heart of a true theological understanding. No phrase in common parlance carries more of the burden of ancient meaning than does the homely “Mother Nature.” This lecture will demonstrate the place of great importance that the word “nature” occupies in ancient religion. When the Christian Bible states that the whole natural creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, waiting to bring forth the Sons of God, it is setting forth the basic construction of all sacred script. For all Holy Writ deals essentially and primarily with the one great cosmic story of the motherhood of matter and nature in giving birth to mind and spirit. The Sons of God are often called the Sons of Mind. Life starts from its birth in nature and passes over from nature to the realm of spirit.
This phase can best be introduced by quoting St. Paul’s sententious statement, a mighty pronouncement never accorded its full significance, in I Corinthians, 15:46: “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.” And he immediately follows this verse by the corollary fact that “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from the heaven.” Here is the basic text of all religion and philosophy. Everywhere in the cosmos the natural comes first, to become the mother of the spiritual. The order of nature was to evolve a creature – man – in whom godlike intellect would come to function. Father God could produce his Son, the new generation of himself, only through the body of Mother Nature. At last can be seen the status and meaning of the goddesses of ancient mythology: Isis, Hathor, Neith, Apt, Typhon, Cybele, Ishtar (Esther), Mylitta, Parvati, Venus, Diana, Freya, and many another.
The antithesis of Mind over against Nature makes necessary a strict definition of this word “Nature.” The term has been given a broad universality of meaning that is not sanctioned in the old scriptures. It will sharply delineate the boundary between Nature and Mind to say that Nature connotes and embraces those cosmic energies that operate below the level of self-conscious Mind. St. Paul expressly sets the natural man and his carnality over against the law of the mind in its spiritual expression. These energies manifest in the physical (Greek physis means Nature) world outside of man and in man’s body, below mind. The material world is in the realm of Nature; and man is natural through his body, but divine through his intellect, as Plato says. The word Nature comes from the Latin root “na,” meaning “to be born”; and, surprisingly, also, “to swim.” Such words as “native” and “naval” show at once the double meaning of the root. All life is born swimming in water! The natural world is, then, just that creation that is born, but which must be “born again,” or re-born, to become spiritual.
The major theme of ancient religious lore, as we have seen, is Man, but Man in process of transition from his natural state over into the kingdom of spirit. He is passing across the border line from Nature to God, and so stands poised midway between the two worlds of matter, or body, and spirit, or mind. He is passing over from the care of his physical Mother to live forever in the house of his divine Father. And as the entire journey is completed in the opening up to full function of twelve latent divine capacities or faculties, represented by the twelve signs of the zodiac and the twelve fruits on the Tree of Life, or at any rate accomplished in twelve stages of growth, the Bible allegory represents the Christos (Jesus) as leaving his mother at the age of twelve and seeking “the things of my Father.” “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” – can now be seen in the clear light of its grand cosmic reference, instead of being taken in the mean sense of almost rude incivility of the boy Jesus to his anxious human mother. Man has to graduate at length from the school of his natural mother training into the university of higher consciousness. And St. Paul assigns the reason, which is definite enough: “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The Lord Christ in the Gnostic Gospel, the great Pistis Sophia, tells Salome that he “came to end the works of the female.” This would indeed prove a “hard saying” to womankind if we could not interpret “female” here as reading “the material, natural order,” the lower stages of evolution. Equally absurd would be the following sentence from an ancient book, if we did not know that the soul, or man, in incarnation is “married” to the natural world through residence in his body: “The man who is obedient to his passion is under the subjection of his wife.” The poet Pope long ago stated the terms of the evolutionary situation in his memorable couplet:
“All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.”
The Talmud has a passage which says that in the early days “the rule of all Israel was in the hand of a woman, who was called Helene.” And it is a notable fact that in most countries where religious organization was framed over the model of the spiritual “pattern in the heavens,” the nation was first divided into a heptanomis or heptarchy, of seven nomes or tribes, before it was divided into the kingdom of twelve sections. And seven, as shall be seen, denotes the feminine or natural, and twelve the spiritual, characterization. And likewise in the earliest sociological systems, there was the Matriarchate, or rule of the mother, long before the fatherhood was exalted to headship.
Is it not, then, a thing of great wonder to find our eminent modern psychologist, C. G. Jung, dividing human life into two halves, with the age of thirty-five the dividing line, and stating that in the “morning” period people live a “natural” life, before they pass across the line into the more philosophical interests of the afternoon? The aims striven for in the first half – money, social status, family and posterity – he says “are plain nature, – not culture.” “Culture lies beyond the purpose of nature. Culture is the work of the intellect,” not of natural impulse or instinct. So the single span of one human life abridges the whole cycle of evolution, putting first that which is natural, then that which is spiritual. And the whole moral import of scripture is paralleled by Jung in his statement that ‘whoever carries over into the afternoon the law of the morning – that is, the aims of nature – must pay for so doing with damage to his soul.” We must be weaned from Mother Nature and seek the Father’s house.
In the typism which the human physiology so faithfully manifests – and as showing how closely the world of physis parallels the spiritual history of man – the puberty development at the age of twelve is an astonishing natural image of the transformation from lower to higher worlds in the larger cosmograph and in man’s higher life. Boy and girl then become consciously creative and mind arrives to govern sense and emotion. It would take a volume to set forth the full sweep of this analogue and its incorporation in ancient tribal ceremonials the world over. (The works of Gerald Massey depict it most competently.)
All ancient lore, the Mystery dramas, the annual round of religious festivals, the massed legends of mythology, the innumerable host of folk-tales, the arcane works of the philosophers, the epics of the nations, the ethical and cultural systems of the world have for central theme this transmutation of the natural man over into the spiritual man. If not read in the light of this evolutionary episode, they will not release their interior meaning – and they have not yet been so interpreted. The comparative evolutionary importance of the spiritually advanced status over the natural is clearly indicated in the Drama of Initiation when Jesus tells us that, though John the Baptist is greatest among “those born of woman,” yet the least in the kingdom of the spirit is greater than he. Surely a Freshman in college is a stage above the Senior in the High School. John must be taken as the type of the natural man, the forerunner of the spiritual and the preparer of the way! And so, typologically, he should be given a female rating, the same as Abel, the material, maternal lower self, slain finally by the developing higher self; and Abel is charactered as feminine in old scriptures! As in involution spirit decreases as matter increases in dominance, so in evolution the process is reversed. Hence John says: “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.”
Man is therefore first born of the Mother, then begotten of the Father. He is first generated, then regenerated. He is born of the water, then of the spirit, as Jesus expressly affirms. Verily he must be born again. For he is sown a natural body, and he must be raised a spiritual body. He is sown a mortal, he must be raised an immortal. In the first stage he is “the first man Adam,” purely “a living soul,” an animate creature merely; in the second birth he becomes that “second Adam,” whom Paul describes as “a quickening spirit.” The “first man,” of the earth, earthy, yields place to the second man who is “the Lord from heaven,” the Luciferian spirit of fiery divinity. The human being is now moving up from beast to god through the Midgard (Norse mythology) or mid-ground of man’s estate. His awareness is in the conscious mind, which is a blend formed midway between the subconscious mind of his animal self and the superconscious mind of the god, his divine part.
Strangely this duality and its interrelation is figured in the Bible under a typism so abstruse that it has escaped detection until now. One now sees that our common phrase, when affairs are at odds: “Everything is at sixes and sevens” – has a remote but arresting origin in numerical typology. For the two numbers, six and seven, are employed in the Bible to stand for the two elements in our composition. Six types the unregenerated child of the Mother; seven the finished product of nature and spirit in conjunction, or man the Christ.
Is this arbitrary and without true basis? By no means. Six emblems the natural man for the excellent reason that he is the product of the first six energies of life working through the first six “days” or aeons of creation. (See the Genesis lecture, No. 7 in this series.) Arcane science of old informs us that the first three creative waves of energy proceeding forth from the First God brought matter from its inchoate formless condition into a sub-atomic state available for crystallization into actual substance. The fourth wave then precipitated it into visible “matter” as we know it, physical substance, embracing the ninety-three elements of our mineral kingdom. The fifth wave raised it to the vegetable kingdom, and the sixth lifted it to the complex development of animal forms. Man, as animal, on the side of body, is thus the highest product of six evolutionary impulses or outgoings of force. Six is therefore the numerical index of man the first, the natural man, child of Mother Nature.
But the ancient books say: “With the sixth creation closed the order of song.” This odd statement seems more than mystifying. Its meaning must be sought in connection with another recondite text: “The Framer made the Creations six in number, and for the seventh he threw into the midst the fire of the Sun.” The natural order, the creation of the first six elementary powers, is under forces that move in stately rhythm, the poetic “music of the spheres” and “the morning stars singing together.” This is the harmony of Nature, so eulogized. There is no element of mind to step in and inject independent, self-willed movement into the melodious chant of Nature. But with the seventh comes Man, the independent thinker (Sanskrit man means “to think”) and venturesome actor, and he can throw the movement into discord, or inject discordant notes into it, if he acts “out of tune with the Infinite.” Hence his coming with the seventh principle, mind, the germ of self-acting divinity, to mingle with Nature’s harmonious procession, breaks the order of song – until man learns through aeons to fall once more into rhythm with Nature at a higher level and restore the harmony he jangled into dissonance for a time. And the “fire of the Sun” thrown into the work of the first six creations to subject them to a higher lordship is none other than the ray of conscious spiritual intelligence, the divine Ego in man. The Promethean fire myth and the theological Fall of Lucifer (the name meaning Light-Bringer) amplifies this section of the allegory and needs no further elucidation. Astrology, however, has preserved the record of the transition from natural man to spiritual, from the era of “song” to the era of mind, in the fall out of place of the sixth pole star, one in the constellation of Lyra, the harp, and the passage of the pole into the constellation of Hercules, the Man. The axis of life shifted from cosmic harmony to the mind of Man.
The animal man, summit of Mother matter’s creative edifice, was to be completed and redeemed (from mere animality) by the coming of the seventh principle. He was given dominion over all beneath him, the beasts of the field, the fish of the sea and the fowls of the air. He was to put all things under his feet “by that power whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.” He was to conquer the serpent, the scorpion and the tiger in his own animal subconscious, not out in the jungle, be it noted – else the whole matter is worth only a buffoon’s jest.
This seventh element that was to crown the order of natural evolution with spiritual potency was the salt of the earth, the little leaven in the lump, the grain of mustard seed, the treasure in the napkin or invested to gain increment, the gold in the fish’s mouth (saviors born in the sign of Pisces). This was the child begotten of the Father.
A prodigious glow of mental light at once floods upon many Bible allegories as soon as this numerological typism is applied to the interpretation. Six would stand for the feminine or the Mother, Nature, water, animal man; seven for the god in man. And many scriptural constructions carry out this allotment of meaning. It is seen for instance in such an enigmatical passage as is found in Job 5:19: “He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea in seven there shall no evil touch thee.” Here we find six associated with “trouble,” which can mean evolutionary darkness, undevelopment, animal sensuality, bondage to the flesh; and seven standing as symbol of release from such troubles. A hundred other texts tell us that the spirit giveth life, light, comfort, safety, deliverance from trouble and the joy of the Lord.
And what could be more in line with the rendering here postulated than that other text of similar purport, Exodus 21:2: “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free without paying any ransom.” Or again: “For six years you may sow your land and gather in your crops, but every seventh year you must let the land alone so the poor people may pick up something; anything they leave the wild beasts can eat, for if you worship their gods it will endanger you.” (We withhold exegesis on the last portion of this remarkable passage, which has most amazing significance in other connections.) Here is, however, a restatement of the sabbatical rest on a seventh round of a cycle, matching God’s rest on the seventh “day” of Genesis. It need only be reminded the reader that all cycles of life have seven periods and “rest” on their seventh “day.” And, true to the analogue and the Biblical myth, it is in the seventh round of each cycle that the energies of any kingdom in process of creation link their potencies with the lowest range of the powers of life on the plane above. The sixth development reached up just high enough to effect a connection with spiritual vibration and draw it down into conjunction with its physical organism, there to mother it through its own period of new birth and further evolution. The number forty-two, which has other allegorical significance, evidently is in one respect a kindred glyph with the number six. It is six times seven, and as such was obviously used by the shrewd mythographers to disguise the number six. Forty-nine is a frequent number typing sevenfold perfection, of which forty-two represented six of the completed stages. So, typically, it reduces back to six. This would seem to be the involved meaning in the verse of Numbers 35:6: “And among the cities for refuge, which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither; and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.” The esoteric meaning of the Biblical cities of refuge has not been delineated. Briefly it may be stated here that in the strange duality of the ancient symbols, under what was called the Law of the Two Truths of Life, body was as equally a refuge for spirits fleeing, or expelled, from heaven to earth, as heaven is lauded as the refuge for weary souls fleeing earth life. The incarnating soul, in one very real philosophical sense, does flee to the body, with its sixfold material constitution, as his city of refuge. (This absolutely untrodden section of theological symbology will be the theme of a later lecture in the series.)
In Egyptian religion there were the forty-two assessors or jurymen in the Judgment Trial of the soul before Osiris in the great Hall of Seb, the god of earth. In Judges forty-two thousand of the Ephraimites were slain because they were unable to pronounce the three-fold sacred name, Shibboleth. And in New Testament allegory the three and a half “years” or “days” given (in Revelation, 11 and 12) as the period of the soul’s imprisonment in the flesh, being the lower half of the cycle of seven stages, are found to equate just forty-two months. The soul is thus represented as being in the body of Mother Nature for six out of seven cycles, or in the lower half of a seven-period cycle energized by Nature’s powers. And the purely typal nature of alleged Old Testament “history” is clearly enough seen in the following citation from Josephus (p. 206): “About this time David was become the father of six sons, born of as many mothers.”
But now, by a strange shifting of the elements of the situation, from the moment the seventh or spiritual injection began its regenerating cycle in the body prepared by the first six energies of elementary Nature, it is altogether vital to the sense of a host of other Bible allegories that we understand what otherwise becomes totally inexplicable in the use of the number seven in sacred literature. Seven, it has just been seen, denotes the Christ or higher consciousness coming as the Messianic Prince of Peace as number seven in a seven series. For thousands of years the Egyptian name of the Messiah was Iu-em-hetep (condensed by the Greeks into Imhotep), which name reads: “The divinity that comes as number seven, bringing peace.” (hetep reading both “peace” and “seven”). But once the seventh principle had incarnated and began intermingling its forces with the six lower energies, it could not be kept, even in typology, utterly clear and exempt from the imputations of evil that attached to the lower six; and so we find the seventh ray becoming colored with the characterization of the earlier six, or tainted, as it were, through too close and “friendly” association with them. Finally, then, the number seven gathered up into itself the significance of Mother, Nature, water, earth, the god Seb, or Sebekh (equals seven), or all that the six had solely connoted at first. And in this usage and with these darker colorations, it is embodied in many Bible figurations.
Again and again we find seven signalizing the Woman, the elemental Nature, the Beast (with seven heads) and the physical creation. In short, seven must be given in these structures the signification assigned first to the number six. The god, number seven, did confuse his high nature inextricably with the nature of the beast, number six, and so the symbolism of the two blended until seven came to carry what six originally and solely stood for. Though the Beast of Revelation has seven heads, his number is there given as 666, which is probably just six taken three times for emphasis, though the Greek word Teitan, which was one of his names, yields the total of 666 in Hebrew numerology.
It is possible now to make application of the numerology of seven to certain of the Bible myths with hardly less than astonishing results. In these allegories it is seen that the “magic” number seven does by no means represent perfection. It has gained the name of “the perfect number”; but it is only so in the sense that every cycle is perfected in a series of seven smaller cycles. Imperfection prevails until it is overcome at the very end of the seventh impulse. In these instances it will be found employed as the direct sign and token of “evil.” It has seemingly taken over the symbolic impress formerly borne by six. It now stands for the powers in our constitution that are to be crushed down and thrust out, subdued and “killed.” It denotes the seven great primordial energies of crude Nature, the seven dwarfs, ogres, giants, dragons, beasts, serpents; the ungainly brood of the Mother. The old First Mother, Typhon or Apt, in Egypt, with her progeny of seven sons, was variously represented. She was Hathor of the seven cows, or the cow with seven heads; she was the old woman with seven dogs; she was the goddess Rerit (whom Massey equates with Lilith, Adam’s “first wife”) typed as the sow with seven pigs. Astrologically she was configurated in the constellation of the Great Bear (or Bearer!) with its seven stars; or again as the Great Bear trailed by the Little Bear with its seven stars.
The ability to derive splendid meaning from this aspect of the symbolism depends upon our understanding that the connotation of evil ascribed to any part or feature of life’s mechanism must be taken in a decidedly relative sense only. The taking it in a positively real sense has confused the racial mind and entailed grave consequences in history. Why, it has always been asked, were powers engendered in man which needed to be crushed and ruthlessly eradicated? The answer is, in part, that these powers, like a scaffold, serve an early purpose, but later have to be torn away. The stricter truth is that they are, in all ancient systems, converted into useful servants of their spiritual Lord, as his vibrations gradually transmute their cruder forces into higher type. They are to be “killed out” only in the sense of being lifted up, transformed and transfigured to serve as fit vehicles for the currents of a higher life. The importance of this clarification can not be overstated, since failure to apprehend it aright has hardened the hearts of otherwise kindly people and led to untold foul malpractice in religion. Moses (man) lifting up the serpent on the cross in the wilderness is one of the Biblical allegories depicting this transformation of the seven lower powers by the higher self in man, the thinker. For the number of the serpent symbol is always seven, and the serpent in half its symbolism stands for the lower or “evil” nature. The serpent is just the seven mindless energies that built the form, but that became theologically stigmatized as the “children of hell,” the “minions of Satan,” and in Egypt the Sami and the Sebau; or, as Horus calls them, “the enemies,” “the adversaries of my father Osiris.” Horus again and again declares that he comes “to slay the adversaries” who had “killed” his father. They have to be killed by a change into something more exalted.
There are first the seven bad years and the seven lean kine in Pharaoh’s dreams interpreted by Joseph, and the seven years of famine. They swallow up the seven good aspects. Is it possible to understand how eighteen centuries of brooding over these glyphs have failed to clarify the simple implications which they fairly shout at our dullness? Failure could only have been due to the fact that theology had long ago lost the knowledge that religious documents of the ancient world dealt with the prime fact of the incarnation. With this in mind, it would have been seen that to all outward intents and purposes the seven “years” or stages of any incarnate cycle swallow up the products of the soul’s former exertions, which it treasured up and assimilated in its last period of rest. Its divine intellectual capacities were submerged under the sway of the seven mindless energies when buried in body.
This exposition leads directly to comprehension of the next forms of the same typology. How otherwise explain those various periods of bondage and servitude of seven “years” duration? Divine law commanded that the Hebrew slave was to be released in the seventh year. Other instances speak simply of seven years of servitude. There is first the case of Jacob, made to serve seven years to marry a woman! One must presume that the necessity of repeated incarnation is indicated by his having to serve another seven years for Rachel. Then there is the broad symbolism of the Lord’s promise to his children of Israel that he would clear the land of Canaan, the territory to be occupied by the twelve perfected faculties of the spiritual soul, of the seven nations that already occupied it. This representation, taken as history, makes of the Lord a frightful monster of lower than human cruelty and wanton vindictiveness, despicable beyond redemption in human eyes. For the text states that the arm of the Lord prevailed mightily with the armies of Joshua, Gideon, Jephtha and other kings in Israel, that it slew multitudes countless as the sands on the seashore in a single day! But that which is repellant and horrible as “history” is redeemed to magnificent sense when taken as spiritual and cosmic allegorism. To be sure, the incoming Lord of Life, the seventh divine principle, must dispossess, by a conversion of nature, the six (or seven) mindless potencies of the physical man, or he will never be the ruler in that “land.” This “land” is none other than the human body itself, built up by the seven natural sons of the Mother.
The children of Israel had to march seven times around the city of Jericho on the seventh day, blowing seven blasts on the ram’s (Aries) horn, after marching around it once a day for six days, before the walls fell under the bombardment of sevens!
There are numberless sevens in the sacrificial ordinances, seven lambs, bullocks, heifers, ewes, bulls and goats to be slain, in a tangle of symbolic usage.
The very institution of our week of seven days, six devoted to the interests of the body, the mother of life, and a seventh set aside for the cultivation of the spirit, is replete with cogent meaning, when once the analogical groundwork is prepared.
And now it is presumed that the material presented has sufficiently illuminated the mental horizon that the mystery of Christ’s casting out seven devils from our heroine, Mary Magdalene, needs no further explication. She is one with the other women and the goddesses mentioned above, and one also with the Mary mother of the Christ. For this Mary, too, had to undergo “the days of her purification,” as the result of her giving birth to the seventh principle. (Massey in fact enumerates seven distinct Maries in the Gospel narrative, matching the seven Hathors of Egypt; and it is more than coincidence that the early Egyptian name for Hathor was Meri! Its plural was Merti or Mertae, which worked over into the Hebrew Martha!) She was Mother Nature Mary out of whose body the seven original demoniac forces had to be displaced. And the character of harlotry ascribed to her is due to another phase of the typal depiction, which assayed to present vividly to ancient minds the prolific productivity of Mother Nature out of wedlock, which is to say, before she had been impregnated with the higher Luciferian germ of divine Intelligence. Her brood of natural instincts were born – but not begotten of the Father, Mind. She was yet a Virgin, not married to Spirit. And in this light another great figure of Bible dramatism, made to stand in repulsive obloquy by literal rendering, is redeemed to acceptable understanding: The Great Harlot of Revelation. The Great Whore and the Scarlet Woman seated on seven hills (later grossly taken to be a reference to Rome on its seven hills!) are just typal figures for our great common physical Mother Nature, resting on her seven powers. And her whoredom with the princes of the earth, the higher mind, can be seen as in fact her divine impregnation and conception.
But it was necessary that she, with her “evil” progeny, should be cast out; and the Bible abounds with the heartless expulsion of “bad” women, from Eve to the Scarlet Lady of Revelation, whose “place should know them no more.” Hagar, cast into the wilderness with her spurious son of the bondage, Ishmael; Tamar, who seduced Judah; Uriah’s wife, seduced by David; Rahab the harlot; Jezebel; Mary Magdalene; and Aholah and her sister Aholibah of Ezekiel (23), the second being described as more wanton in her whoring with the princes of Babylon and Egypt than the first, are examples of this typing. They either were cast out or had “evil” elements cast out of them.
The wide diversity of typology can be beautifully seen if the story of another “woman” in the New Testament is analyzed. Here is another pictograph of lucid cosmic meaning that has been traduced into a mere incident of miraculous healing and bereft of its power to enlighten, by the literalizing process. It is the story of “Veronica” (meaning “True Image”), the woman healed of an issue of blood of twelve years continuance, by touching the mere hem of Christ’s garment in the press of the multitude. The grand meaning here has been lost because tender Christian sensibilities shrank from facing a bit of sexual or creative symbolism. The incident of course refers to the menstrual stoppage which is the index of impregnation and announces the prospective birth of a child. Here again the woman is Mother Nature, who for twelve ages (years) has run to waste with her very life-blood and had not yet produced the Christ child! The touch or impregnation of the Christ mind stopped her wasteful and unproductive flow and turned her from the Virgin to the sanctified mother of spirit.
Then there is that set of stories about “barren women” bringing forth in their old age the Child who becomes the man of God, the king or ruler. And these myths have perplexed the priests and the people without end. Happily light is at hand.
The old age feature of this divine motherhood was baffling until a hint was picked up from two lines of one of the verses of the stirring Christmas hymn: Hark, The Herald Angels Sing. They ran:
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
There was the clue: “Late in time!” Not till near the end of six long aeons of slow evolution in the womb of Mother Nature does the Christ consciousness come to birth! Nature had first to bring matter up through the mineral, vegetable and animal stages before the body of man was of requisite complexity and capacity to accommodate the Christ vibration. Nature is old by this time. Not only is there the story of Abraham’s Sarah who is made to conceive when long past her age of motherhood, but an even more beautiful narrative of the same sort is that of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Elkinah had two wives, Penninah and Hannah. Penninah had borne him many children, but Hannah was childless. She prayed in Eli’s temple that god would bless her. “And at the turn of the year she bore a son” – Samuel, the prophet of God. (Prophet in the Greek, by the way, means simply “utterer of truth,” not necessarily or primarily a foreteller.) And as Hannah is equivalent to Anna, the New Testament maternal grandmother of the Christ, the identity of the two stories is evidenced. Only in the ripe old age of the natural order is man, the crown of evolution, brought to birth.
Jesus’ cursing the barren fig tree, which is one of the chief symbols of the motherhood, is just another glyph of the Christ consciousness rebuking the natural order for not having, late in time, consummated his divine birth.
But a construction of the deepest significance in the New Testament awaits our scrutiny. It stands ready to yield us a vision of truth fairly blazing with light. It is none other than the very first “miracle” assigned to the Christ in the Gospel drama. There are two numbers inserted in the narrative of Jesus’ turning water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana of Galilee which carry the entire significance of the construct, and which it is questionable if any minister of the Gospel has ever taken seriously into consideration at all.
This wonder is involved in the symbolism of water, wine and the spiritual marriage, all of which must be translated into pertinent sense before the whole transaction can be seen in all its grand sweep of meaning. We have seen that water symbolizes the natural life, as its birth-place or source. Wine is water into which a spiritual (spiritous!) element has been injected in the form of a fruit juice, capable of engendering a fermenting activity within the water that will render it “inspiriting” to man’s mind. The yeast symbol is familiar, but that of wine, as water with spiritual “fire” injected into it, making it divinely “intoxicating” to man, is not so well understood. The sun, the fiery element, and symbol of man’s divine part, actually does take the water of the earth around the roots of the vine and transform it into wine in the grape under our eyes. Could ancient symbolic science overlook the parallelism of this process with spiritual exhilaration in man? By no means. It is the aptest symbol in nature of the transformation of the lower elements in the human make-up into the higher. IT types the spiritual alchemy so much harped upon. An Egyptian text reads: “Thou didst put grapes in the water that cometh forth from Edfu.”
But why at a marriage feast? Because it could be done nowhere else. The process itself climaxes in the union of the two natures in the spiritual marriage so frequently found in the New Testament. The two natures, long at odds in their aeonial battle of Armageddon, finally become reconciled to each other and make the atonement, merging into one higher being, the “one new man” of St. Paul. The alchemicalization of water into wine of spirit or “fire-water” ends in the divine marriage of the “woman” and the “man” in our constitution. And out of their union comes the Christ child.
What, then, are the two numbers in the allegory? The first is three. “Now after three days Jesus went up into Cana of Galilee” and performed the sacramental rite on the lower element. In evolution it is always in the fourth cycle of any larger aeon that matter and spirit meet and marry to birth the Christ, Mind. The “days” are the three periods spent by life in the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms before in the fourth or human, the middle point through the seven, the two mingle and produce. So Jesus came out on the sea to help his distressed and sinking disciples “at the fourth watch of the night,” the time just before sunrise.
And the other number is that of the pots of water set out by the servants to be turned into wine. And how may were there? The symbolism here reverts to the original number of the natural elements to be raised by the seventh power; and so it is six! The soul in us must spiritualize six lower forces. The Christ in us, the hope of our glory, must interfuse his fiery intelligence into the six primary elements of our being. The first “miracle” of Jesus builds on the transfiguration, and not the extinction, of the primal seven.
In perfect accord with the same hidden signification of the seventh element crowning and consummating the preparatory work of the preceding six, falls the number found in the Gospels as timing the occurrence of the great deification of man – the Transfiguration on the Mount. In its fitness with the other features of the cosmograph here outlined, in its perfect setting in the picture of evolution and anthropology, it can be cited as practically final and incontrovertible corroboration of our thesis and interpretation. The climactic irradiation of the lower personality with the full glory of divinity could not come before the six rounds of elementary life had finished their course. So it is impossible to underrate the significance of the Gospel’s statement that Jesus with His three disciples went up to be transfigured “after six days!”
And His triumphal entry into the holy spiritual city, another allegory of similar import, occurred on the Sabbath, or seventh day.
If there is any doubt as to the correctness of this translation of myth and symbol, it can quickly be dispelled by allusion to a brief but pointed line from that treasury of ancient knowledge, the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Says the Manes, or human soul in the body: “The seven Uraeus divinities are my body.” The Uraeus was the short asp-like snake depicted everywhere on the inscriptions. It symboled “the fiery serpent” or the dynamic energies in matter and nature, – those potencies which modern science is now finding locked up in the atom.
But in the end all this typology leaves us face to face with a problem of transcendent interest and importance, which must have framed itself in the mind of the astute reader by this time. Mention has been made of the spirited revolt of women against the seeming implications of the symbolism. If woman is the type of matter, and matter carries all the theological connotations of the lower evil nature that must be cast out and changed, is not woman herself then stigmatized as evil?
Before one laughs at the presumed ridiculousness of this query, let it be said with all possible force that ignorant uncomprehending handling of this symbology has indeed gone far to victimize woman in western history. The pall of its warped shadow has fallen pretty heavily on woman actually. If woman has not enjoyed full equality with man, it is, in a measure not discerned by historians and students of sociology, due directly to the miscarriage of symbolic meanings. The shadow of evil that crude mishandling of the symbols flung over matter and the body with its seven fires of physical creation, has beclouded the actual life of womankind. Whatever debasement woman has suffered in a “man-made world” is in fact traceable to this source.
The menace is perpetuated today by a group of religious cults which have revitalized the philosophical doctrine of matter as the parent and embodiment of evil, and made it their central theme. There do virtually thereby stigmatize woman as evil. For woman is inescapably the type of matter, not only in the sacred myths, but in reality. To declare matter evil philosophically is by implication to declare woman evil. There is no escape, no evading this issue. If then we must regard woman as an error in cosmic creation, an embodiment of evil. She has not entirely escaped this degradation in actuality. Matter has been made to play the role of the enemy of the soul, the drag on the wheels of spiritual progress, the foil of the god, the villain of the theological piece. And woman is its symbol!
It is the final purpose of this dissertation to separate the wheat of this situation from its chaff of folly, and to free women in person from the last hue of stigma from that source. Women stand as the types of matter; but the assumption that matter itself is evil in any absolute sense is one of the grossest misconceptions in the philosophical field that has ever darkened the intellectual vision of mankind. The “evil” character assigned to matter, flesh, the body, and women as their type, in ancient literature must be understood as for the purposes of dramatic depiction only. It is to be read in the purely relative sense. Matter and spirit are as equally meritorious and as mutually indispensable as are man and woman in actual life. They are the two polar opposites, the two nodes of being into which God divided his original unit nature “in the beginning” of creation. Neither can exist without the other or out of tensional relation with it. Abolish matter, and spirit would disappear off the scene. Talk of spirit being all in all, and good, and matter nothing, and evil, is sentimental mystic nonsense. Matter is as essential in all living process as is the negative pole of magnetism or electricity. Imagine an electrician engaged to install some heating or lighting device in your house proclaiming that his creed limited him to the use of positive electricity only, and forbade his using the negative charge. Or picture the atom trying to support the universe without its negatively charged electrons whirling about the positive proton. Or, the same thing, conceive of the planets being pulled centripetally without the counterbalancing pull centrifugally. Would they stay in their orbits? The very stability of the universe rests on the exact countervalence of spirit and matter. Where the two are in equal tension and equilibrium, the worlds come into stable existence. When the tension is relaxed the two sink back into their primal undifferentiated union and homogeneity, and the worlds vanish into the thin air of empty space. To give validity or reality or even existence to the one, in total denial of them to the other, whether in actuality or in philosophy, is the veriest imbecility of thought. The kingdom of a mind in which matter is denied must in the end prove as chaotic as would be the kingdom of life in which there was operative spirit, but no matter. So we can fall back upon Dr. Johnson’s quip over the debate: “No matter; never mind!” – in the sense that if there was no matter there would not be any mind to debate its existence. Mind really does need a brain to function through – here. Where did life ever function without an appropriate instrument? And organic existence is ever the product of consciousness and matter in conjunction. Unbalanced idealism is as fantastic as unbalanced materialism.
Hence in archaic symbolic wisdom every god was allotted his Shakti, or goddess, his consort, his spouse. Why? Because without her he could not bring his ideographs or archetypal thought creations to manifestation in the concrete worlds. He was totally helpless until he could call upon matter to implement his conceptions. By cosmic decree he was under the necessity of linking his energies of mind with her energies of matter, if he would actualize any of his creations. He would have been punished for failure to “marry” his appropriate type of matter energy, or cosmic femininity, by remaining in the eternal bachelorhood of non-existence. And the ancient books record just such eventualities in early cosmic operations, when the great Lord ordered certain groups of Rishis to “create,” and they refused and fell into Samadhi or dreamy Nirvanic consciousness. As penalty they were forced to descend into the lowest material worlds for many ages. The cosmic Utopian state insists that its Kumaras, or “celibate young men” marry, that the birth rate among gods and men, planets, suns and galaxies be kept sufficiently high.
In the light of the symbolism, then, all rebellion of women against the superficial intimations as to their comparative base status in life is without valid reason or warrant. So far from depriving them of high rank and equal dignity with man, it is precisely the function of this typology to establish and support that rank and equality. But this can be seen only when contemporary notions and absurd philosophies which belittle matter and exalt “spirit” to soli- tary apotheosis, are dissipated by the light of common sense. An arrant “spiritualism” is as baneful as is “rank materialism.” And current folly under the name of spirituality is sufficiently heinous to warrant a vigorous campaign for a return to philosophical sanity. How long will it be until mankind learns that such sanity can never rest on a view which posits spirit alone, or matter alone, as ultimate reality? The life of man stands posed between the two worlds, and sanity can only be achieved by maintaining the equipose steadily until the forces of the two merge into a new creation.
It seems not unlikely that the terms of this symbolism may afford just that light which the modern mind needs to guide it to a better solution of the great problem of woman’s position and status. There is apparently just warrant for a “woman’s movement” and a full and free granting of “woman’s rights,” if such are still denied. But if the symbolism indicates one thing clearly, it is that, while matter is equal in value and function to spirit, operating in reciprocity with spirit, it surely stands at the extreme opposite pole of difference from it. If women are to be equal with men, it would seem to be established beyond debate that they should not try to be like men. The art of emphasizing the difference while preserving the delicate equilibration that is the life of the attraction between the two must be left to the individual and collective genius of the race.
The Bible is – in spite of the blatant ridicule of the atheists and freethinkers – a grand volume of a truly divine wisdom. But its quickening message is couched in the lost language of symbolism and natural analogue. Translated into meaning it spells out supreme guidance for human life. But mistranslated into the nonsense of a literal and historical rendering it has afflicted the western mind with disastrous befuddlement and played havoc with western society. From this miscarriage of symbolism came not alone the debasement of woman, but the ugly monster of religious persecution, which in the estimate of historians has cost the sacrifice of fifty millions of lives. The intrinsic values in human life, as Ruskin insisted, are fine, not coarse. And who, therefore, can calculate the dire injury inflicted on a world by the gross mistranslation of an allegory picturing cosmic Intellect purging and healing cosmic Matter into the objective story of a man – no matter how godlike – practicing sorcery on one woman and stopping the menstrual wastage of another? At this low level has Christianity transmitted to its devotees the sublime Ancient Wisdom. Need any further reason be advanced to explain why its own shepherds confess in every sermon its ineffective ministry in the modern world?