THE SYMBOLOGY OF THE SEAL OF THE T. S.
The meeting of Sunday evening, September 27, 1936, opened as usual, and the President, Dr. Edge, called upon Mr. E. W. Lambert to act as Chairman. Miss Elsie Savage then addressed the Lodge as follows on "The Symbology of the Theosophical Seal."
E. V. Savage — In preparing for the study of this evening, I unconsciously made a wise decision! There was so much to investigate on the subject, and such deep aspects to it, that I decided not to attempt to treat the subject fully, but merely to point out a few things. Then I opened The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, and found that the Master K. H. says, in speaking about part of the symbology of our Seal, "The chela who can explain this sign from every one of its aspects — is virtually an adept." So my decision was timely!
I came across the following interesting comment on symbols by the modern psychologist, C. G. Jung:
. . . the unconscious can only be reached and expressed by the symbol. . . . The symbol is, on the one hand, the primitive expression of the unconscious, while on the other hand, it is an idea corresponding to the highest intuition produced by consciousness.
Mr. Judge says somewhere that a symbol, to be correct, should express fully and in every detail what it stands for, and each part should be consistent with the whole; and he says that there lie concealed in our T. S. Seal all the doctrines and philosophy of Theosophy — at least as we have them in its modern presentation. As we proceed you will see how true this statement is.
I have found in recent months in corresponding with inquirers, that it is very valuable not only to know our Theosophical philosophy, but to be able to find in our literature the place where we can point to authoritative statements supporting our opinions; so I have made note of various places where the Seal is discussed, and I think some of you would find it interesting to look up these references. First of all, in Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, on pages 406-7, G. de P. has some interesting comments on the Swastika. It portrays evolution in motion, the cross symbolizing Matter traversing Spirit; and, what I thought particularly interesting, there lies concealed in this particular symbol, the intricate doctrine of the Lokas and Talas. He speaks also of the Egyptian Tau or Ansated Cross — says that while the swastika emphasizes the movements and circulations of consciousness in Space, the Tau has a vaster aspect, portraying the primordial movements and states of Kosmic Being. I think it is well worth our while to turn to those pages and read them.
In Lucifer, for January, 1935, in speaking of the Serpent, the Leader says that it is incorrect to say either that it is a good or that it is a bad symbol. It is like one of the neutral forces of Nature, and is either good or bad according to its use or misuse by individuals.
I am not treating any of these component parts of our Seal fully — the Serpent, the Swastika, the Interlaced Triangles, the Egyptian Tau, and the superimposed Om — because each is being treated separately by others in other meetings. But here is one interesting thing about the Serpent. In W. Q. Judge's magazine, The Path, for May, 1886, there is an article signed "Nilakant." I do not know if that is one of Judge's pseudonyms, but the writer first speaks of the symbol of the serpent biting its tail, thus forming a circle, as portraying both eternity — having no beginning or end — and wisdom. The scales of the Serpent signify the illimitable diversity of the aspects of Wisdom or Truth, and also the numberless individuals each having one phase of the truth, and all bound together on the path of evolution; and he says, "This is not due to any want of coherence or congruity in truth itself, but solely to the diverse views which each individual takes of the one Truth." Doesn't this remind you of the countless times in these meetings when the Leader has told us that in our discussions we have each given a part of the truth, and none of us the whole truth, and that what each one has contributed has been right from one angle?
You will notice that the Seal as we use it today is not encircled around its lower half by the motto of the Society, "There is no religion higher than Truth," which is the family motto of the Maharajas of Benares, the sacred city of India.
In The Path, April, 1892, there is an article signed by W. Q. Judge himself, containing several interesting points. One value of having Truth expressed by symbols is that symbols last through the ages, while books and writings are often lost and disappear. (Sometimes they are intentionally withdrawn from mankind by the Adepts, when the knowledge they contain is being misused. Then only those who have the keys can read the truth in the symbols.) He speaks about the signs of the Zodiac which we still use, but the origin of which is unknown to us, as they go too far back into antiquity. He refers to the serpent making a circle, the most perfect form in Nature, of which the ratio of the diameter to the circumference is as one to three. But when you express it in detailed figures, you cannot bring the decimal to a finite conclusion, symbolic of the unknown quantity in human affairs — never can you reach a finite conclusion to any act or thought.
The Crux Ansata stands, among other things, for the sign of Venus, the "Elder sister of the Earth" according to the Secret Doctrine, and changes taking place on Venus affect us on Earth. In the seal it stands for the regenerated man, a man become at one with his Atman. Now, this Tau is placed in the center of the interlaced triangles, and here is another interesting thing. The interlaced triangles make a six-pointed star, and the center is bounded by six sides, six being more frequently found in manifested nature than seven. Here we find the six sides standing for the six principles of man; and the center, in which regenerated man stands, represents Atman. See Chapter VI of Volume II of Isis Unveiled for an interesting discussion of these matters.
Freemasons, Mr. Judge says, do not generally know that the 33 ° of Freemasonry "may be obtained from this figure" of the interlaced triangles, emblematic of the great body of Sages.
Notice the way the white and black triangles are pointing, the white up, and the black down, which is the correct way. If the black is pointing upward it signifies the reign of the forces of Darkness. The white triangle stands for spirit and the black for matter, or the white for wisdom concealed, and the black for wisdom revealed. Notice that the six points of the star touch the serpent. Only by contacting spirit and matter, and living in the worlds of manifestation can man (the scales on the serpent) evolve.
I thought I would try to find out the origin of our seal, who first designed it: but in Volume VII of Mr. Judge's Path, on p. 343, I find an article on this very subject signed "By one of the Staff," written in 1893, showing that even at that time the matter was uncertain; and the writer calls attention to false claims made by several, each of whom stated that he was the true originator. But Mr. Judge points out that H. P. B. alone was the heart, head, body, past and future, of the T. S.; and that just as a general has his subordinates and agents who carry out his plans, so did H. P. B. have her workers who carried out exoterically the ideas that she herself was the channel for bringing to the world.
Whoever was responsible for it in its present form, it bears a strong resemblance to H. P. B.'s personal seal, which most of you are probably familiar with from our use of it as the emblem of the Women's Theosophical Club. In H. P. B.'s seal, however, her initials, E. B. (Elena, with an aspirated H) are in the center instead of the Egyptian Tau, the seal is surrounded with the Countess's coronet belonging to her family, instead of the Sanskrit Aum or Om, and inside the circle are astrological and cabalistic signs referring to H. P. B. herself.
In confirmation of the statement that the Seal contains hidden within it all our doctrines and philosophy, I want to read a remarkably interesting paragraph from The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, pp. 345-6, which is all the more significant in that K. H. evidently thought the meaning of the seal was worth his taking his valuable time to write about:
Does your B. T. S. know the meaning of the white and black interlaced triangles, of the Parent Society's seal that it has also adopted? Shall I explain? — the double triangle viewed by the Jewish Kabalists as Solomon's Seal, is, as many of you doubtless know the Sri-antara of the archaic Aryan Temple, the "mystery of Mysteries," a geometrical synthesis of the whole occult doctrine. The two interlaced triangles are the Buddhangums of Creation. They contain the "squaring of the circle," the "philosophical stone," the great problems of Life and Death, and — the Mystery of Evil. The chela who can explain this sign from every one of its aspects — is virtually an adept. How is it then that the only one among you, who has come so near to unravelling the mystery is also the only one who got none of her ideas from books? Unconsciously she gives out — to him who has the key — the first syllable of the Ineffable name! Of course you know that the double-triangle — the Satkiri Chakram of Vishnu — or the six-pointed star, is the perfect seven. In all the old Sanskrit works — Vedic and Tantrik — you find the number 6 mentioned more often than the 7 — this last figure, the central point being implied, for it is the germ of the six and their matrix. It is then thus . . . [At this point in the original there is a rough drawing of the interlaced triangles inscribed in a circle. — Ed.] — the central point standing for seventh, and the circle, the Mahakasha — endless space — for the seventh Universal Principle. In one sense, both are viewed as Avalokitesvara, for they are respectively the Macrocosm and the microcosm. The interlaced triangles — the upper pointing one — Wisdom concealed, and the downward pointing one — Wisdom revealed (in the phenomenal world). The circle indicates the bounding, circumscribing quality of the All, the Universal Principle which, from any given point expands so as to embrace all things, while embodying the potentiality of every action in the Cosmos. As the point then is the centre round which the circle is traced — they are identical and one, and though from the standpoint of Maya and Avidya — (illusion and ignorance) — one is separated from the other by the manifested triangle, the 3 sides of which represent the three gunas — finite attributes. In symbology the central point is Jivatma (the 7th principle), and hence Avalokitesvara, the Kwan-Shai-yin, the manifested "Voice" (or Logos), the germ point of manifested activity; — hence — in the phraseology of the Christian Kabalists "the Son of the Father and Mother," and agreeably to ours — "the Self manifested in Self — Yih-sin, the "one form of existence," the child of Dharmakaya (the universally diffused Essence), both male and female. Parabrahm or "Adi-Buddha" while acting through the germ point outwardly as an active force, reacts from the circumference inwardly as the Supreme but latent Potency. The double triangles symbolize the Great Passive and the Great Active; the male and female; Purusha and Prakriti. Each triangle is a Trinity because presenting a triple aspect. The white represents in its straight lines: Gnanam — (Knowledge); Gnata — (the Knower); and Gnayam — (that which is known). The black — form, colour, and substance, also the creative, preservative, and destructive forces and are mutually correlating, etc., etc.
And one sentence more about the "squaring of the circle" mentioned in the above paragraph:
The dual monad (the 7th and 6th principles) has, in order to manifest itself as a Logos, the "Kwan-shai-yin" to first become a triad (7th, 6th and half of the 5th); then, on the bosom of the "Great Deep" attracting within itself the One Circle — form out of it the perfect Square, thus "squaring the circle" — the greatest of all the mysteries, friend — and inscribing within the latter the — word (the Ineffable Name) — otherwise the duality could never tarry as such, and would have to be reabsorbed into the One. — The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 347
I think this paragraph from The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett well merits our deep and careful study.
After Miss Savage's address the meeting as usual was opened to general discussion.
Mr. F. C. Clemeshaw went to the blackboard and made a sketch of the sephirothal tree, as below:
marking the globes A to G as shown on the diagram of the Chaldean Kabbala in The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 200. He added, however, the Sephira or globe marked X on the above diagram and explained that this Sephira was not generally shown, but that it could be seen in one of the "Unpublished Letters of Eliphas Levi" (Lucifer, Vol. XV, No. 87, p. 335). He said that it was also mentioned by Israel Regardie in his recent book My Rosicrucian Adventure (p. 79) and also by W. W. Westcott in his book Numbers.
If the reader will fill in the lines to form the triangles XBE and CGA and draw a circle with center F and radius FX he will have all the elements of the Theosophical seal and also the Sri-antara mentioned by Miss Savage in the extract from The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett.
Mr. Plummer followed Mr. Clemeshaw at the blackboard.
La Fayette Plummer — There is one way to show that the Swastika and the interlaced triangles are not mere man-made designs, but have a deeper origin. Suppose we take the nine digits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. These may be arranged
in the form of a square, with three numbers on side, such that the sum of the figures in any row, column, or diagonal will be 15. Such a square of numbers is called a Magic Square (Fig. 1).
Now, the number 15 will be found interesting in this respect: in Mathematical Symbology it is customary to take account of the digits of which a number is composed, and in this case we have 1 and 5. Let us count by ones, or in ordinary sequence, and we have, as above, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. And now give the square a one-eighth turn (Fig. 2) and join by straight lines the numbers in the Magic Square,
to wit, 1,2, and 3 form a triangle with its apex pointing upward; 4, 5, and 6 form the "horizon" between heaven and earth, as it were; and 7, 8, and 9 form the lower triangle, with its apex pointing downward.
And now, we will count by fives, thus, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50. We shall modify this series of numbers, by making of each term a number which is the sum of its own digits, thus, first term, 5; second term, 1, because 1 plus 0 equals 1; third term, 6, because 1 plus 5 equals 6; fourth term, 2, because 2 plus 0 equals 2, and so on; so that we shall have 5, 1, 6, 2, 7, 3, 8, 4, 9, 5. And now we will join by straight lines the numbers in the Magic Square (Fig. 2) in this fashion: 5, 1, 6 (pause), 2, 7, 3, 8 (pause), 4, 9, 5, which brings us once more to the center of the square, the whole forming the Swastika as it appears in our Seal. The manner in which the Swastika is drawn is slightly unorthodox, but for that very reason presents a peculiarly interesting bit of symbology, relating to the Inbreathing and the Outbreaking, both of which are said to be represented in the Swastika.
G. B. — Mr. Chairman, may something be said about the Sanskrit word at the top of the Seal?
Madeline Savage — Mr. Chairman, I brought a few notes on that, which I found in Mr. Judge's Path.
The Chairman — We should like to hear them, if you please.
M. S. — The word represents in Sanskrit characters the sacred word, A U M. When considered as a single sound, or as one letter, the word is a symbol of the Supreme Spirit. But as a triliteral word it implies many things, many triads: the three Vedas, the three states of human nature, the three divisions of the Universe. It may also represent the three deities, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, who are the agents in the creation, preservation, and destruction of the world. They are the three principal attributes of the Supreme Being personified in those three deities. They symbolize the Universe controlled by the Supreme Spirit.
The A is the Logos — a single homogeneous sound or tone, the awakening and vivifying power, stirring all the molecules into action. Without this resonance or motion among the quiescent particles there would be no visible universe. The U represents the continuance of this sound or motion. The M signifies the stoppage or destruction of the word — or the motion. It causes the pralaya or universal dissolution, or even physical death. The whole word, Mr. Judge says, represents the undercurrent of meditation which should be carried on by us even during the everyday duties of life.
After further discussion the Leader spoke.
G. de P. — Mr. Chairman and Companions: If I remember aright, our Seal as we use it now, is the original seal of the T. S. as first composed in New York in 1875. It had no Aum or Om at the top, and no Sanskrit legend: Satydn nasti paro dharmah. After Olcott and H. P. B. went to India the Sanskrit was added.
There is no reason at all why the T. S. could not have got along perfectly well without a seal; and as a matter of fact, that seems to have been the first idea, because H. P. B. in the beginning, at least in private correspondence, and even somewhat officially, used her own seal, with her initials and her coronet and her own motto; and at one time this might have been called the Seal of the T. S.
I speak of this fact only in order to do away with any illusion in your minds that our T. S. Seal is something sacrosanct, to be spoken of in tones of awe and wonder. It is not. It is a remarkable symbolic design containing, as Miss Elsie has shown, virtually what you might call the synthesis of the basic teachings of all Theosophy. But in itself it has no magical power; and I should very greatly hate to see any one of our dear people, with the fumes of incense and chanting of mantras, begin to try to conjure up spirits out of the vasty deep, etc., etc. That is what some people do!
The interlaced triangles as an emblem have been called the Seal of Solomon by the Hebrews and Christians. It is called the seal of Vishnu in India; and for ages it has been used not only in tantric but in other practices there, and by would-be "magicians" in European countries.
This Seal, the whole of it: leaving out the Sanskrit monogram at the top, and the motto, as being adventitious though beautiful: and mentally picturating the expanding Monadic Center: the Seal as an emblem or symbol represents the Universe manifested, evolved forth from its central heart, expanding into manifestation or evolution, and comprised within the Serpent of Time and Space. Any universe it may stand for. The choice of the serpent is in many ways excellent, among others because that little "beastie" sheds its skin and comes out clean and refreshed and older, i. e., more evolved and rejuvenated, as universes do.
Of all the parts of this seal, that portion which to me personally has been the most significant, is the Egyptian Cross, and I will tell you why. This crux ansata, or "handled cross," can stand just as well for a universe itself in embryo as for any trial undergone in initiation. In other words, the crux ansata carried as an emblem by neophytes, simply stated, as it were, for those who bore it: I am a universe in embryo. Now, it was so chosen as a symbol on account of the circle (a reduplication in the small of the circle containing it) and the cosmic cross over which the circle hovers as the golden germ — hiranyagarbha — the seed to expand into life, into future glory, as the embryo grows and expands into the grown-up being. From it drops the perpendicular crossing the plane of matter, traversing it as it does so. This emblem, when taken as the symbol of the planet Venus, is the opposite of the symbol adopted by astronomers for the planet Terra, our Earth. Do you remember it? A cross over the globe: spirit ridden by trial and sorrow: matter. But Venus: trials and sorrows ridden by glory: an infinite promise of the future —. The circle, the egg, the golden germ, above the cross. In other words, this symbol is the opposite of the symbol for Earth —
Finally, I might point out to those who are interested in the Swastika, that this one-time universal emblem is likewise a component part of our T. S. Seal, as well as having been a component part of H. P. B.'s original personal seal from which our T. S. Seal was derived. Now many people have asked me at different times as to which way the swastika should "turn," i. e., as to the direction in which the "broken" ends of the arms should be drawn, and I have endeavored to point out that this is a matter of insignificant importance, because the "broken" ends of the arms are found pointing in both ways throughout the history of this emblem. Thus in our present Seal and in the Seal of the T. S. since H. P. B.'s days, the "broken" ends of the arms point in one direction; whereas in H. P. B.'s own original seal, as may be easily ascertained by anyone who will consult it, for it has been frequently reproduced in our books, the broken ends of the swastika point in the other or opposite direction.
This should be sufficient answer to those who mistakenly think that the broken ends pointing in one direction mean "black magic," and pointing in the other direction mean "white magic" — an erroneous and mistaken opinion.