As Above So Below Symbology Symbols: Language of Gods and Ancients

Symbols: Language of Gods and Ancients

Symbols: Language of Gods and Ancients
Catalog # SKU2059
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Count Goblet D'alviella


Language of
Gods and Ancients

The Migration of Symbols

The Count Goblet D'alviella

One of the most unexpected results of the critical study of these symbols is the establishment of their essential paucity. They undergo, alike by devolution and evolution, and a sort of ceaseless interfusion also, infinite permutations of both type and meaning, but in their earliest monumental forms they are found to be remarkably few.


They were at first but the obvious ideographs of the phenomena of nature that made the deepest religious impression on archaic man, such as the outstretched heavens above him, and the outspread earth beneath; both of which he naturally divided into four quarters, the east "fronting" him as he watched anxiously for the returning sun, the south on his "right" hand, the west "backing" him, and the north on his "left" hand; and this four-fold heaven and earth he signified by a circle, or a square, divided cross-ways; from which he was led to conceive of a "heavenly garden," watered by four rivers, and of a foursquare "heavenly city" with its four went ways; and gradually to model more and more in their similitude the four-square cities of antiquity, and those four-square well watered "paradises" ["far-i.e., heavenly-country"], the ground plans of which yet survive in every part of India.

Then came the observation of the daily renewed miracle of the phenomena of vegetable, animal, and human reproduction, expressed at first, as still in India, by the most directly realistic types, and afterwards by the lotus bud and flower, the date palm, and other conspicuously phallic flowers and trees: and that the symbolical "Tree of Life" of the Chaldæans, Assyrians and Babylonians, is indeed but a conventional representation of the date palm is sufficiently proved by the description given of the adorning of King Solomon's temple in 1 Kings, vii. 29-35:-"And he carved all the walls . . . round about with carved figures of cherubims and palm trees [tamar, the 'date palm']. . . . And for the entering of the oracle he made doors of olive tree . . . and he carved upon them carvings of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold, and spread gold upon the cherubims and upon the palm trees. . . . And the two doors of fir tree . . . he carved thereon cherubims and palm trees and open flowers:" and, again, of the adorning of the visionary temple of Ezekiel, chapter xli. 18:-"And it was made with cherubims and palm trees, so that a palm tree was between a cherub and a cherub;" and chapter xl. 26:-"And there were seven steps to go up to it, and the arches ["propylons," toruns or gopuras of the four cardinal points] thereof were before them, and it had palm trees, one on this side, and another on that, upon the posts thereof."

These are exact descriptions of the architectural decoration of the temples and palaces of Nineveh and Babylon, and they should satisfy anyone of, at least, the proximate botanical source of the Sacred Tree of the "Nineveh marbles." The Syrian brasses which have recently become articles of regular import into Europe, however, place the question beyond dispute. The so-called Saibis, the people who make these articles, call themselves mando Yahya, or "disciples of St. John," and are generally referred to by western writers as "Christians of St. John," and Mendæans. By their neighbours they are called sabiun, literally, "washers," i.e., in the ritualistic sense, "Baptists."

They are, and they are not, confoundable with the Sabæans,-not the people of that name in ancient South Arabia, but the Chaldæan worshippers of the "Host [saba] of Heaven." The Saibis of Mahomet were not idolaters in any form, but their modern representatives combine with pseudo-Christian and pseudo-Zoroastrian doctrines, the whole remaining body of ancient Chaldæan astrolatry; and how this came about is a matter of the utmost importance to the students of the history of the arts of the East, and of their applied symbolism. The Saibis of Mahomet's time were recognized by him as believers in a revealed religion, and were always treated by his followers with toleration. But their sword was unsparing against the still surviving star worshippers of Syria and Mesopotamia, and particularly against the handicraftsmen among them, who, in their several ritualistic arts, perpetuated the familiar "types" and "motives" of the obsolescent idolatry of Nineveh and Babylon.

These Sabæans of the Haran and Valley of the Tigris and Euphrates, to escape extermination, sheltered themselves under the name of the Saibis, and introduced all their own pagan practices among the latter sect, which is now really idolatrous. Its members are nearly all artizans, and most of the metal-work from the neighbourhood of Mosul, and Damascus, and Hillah, sold in Alexandria and Cairo, and now largely imported into Paris and London, is fabricated by these "Saibis." The "Tree of Life" appears everywhere on their brass dishes and bowls, and on a dish presented to me by the Count Goblet d'Alviella, and figured in his original volume and in the present translation on Plate V., letter l, the Sacred Tree is realistically rendered by the date palm. The conventional "Tree of Life," under the name of satarvan is an object of still living adoration among them, and as its worship has been traditionally handed down by them from the remotest Chaldæan period, the dish figured by the Count Goblet d'Alviella conclusively proves, so it seems to me, that the ancient Mesopotamian "Tree of Life"

310+ pages - 8¼ x 6¾ softcover

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