The Theosophical Forum – March 1937



Held sacred from the remotest antiquity as emblem of the productive power of Nature, both spiritual and physical. But in calling it a symbol, let us remember what has been said about symbols in general: that, as the word is used in these articles, a symbol is not an arbitrary sign chosen by somebody to represent something because it seems appropriate, but an actual manifestation of the idea or quality or power which it represents. The universe is a manifestation of the cosmic seed, and the plant kingdom is one of the hierarchies of the manifested world. There can be no potency or quality or principle in human nature, spiritual, mental, or physical, which has not its counterpart somewhere in the plant kingdom; in the plants we find an inexhaustible wealth of forms and colors and perfumes and curative essences; astrology and herbalism have found out what plants belong to what planetary spirits, and what are good for certain ills. The lotus must evidently be — not a plant arbitrarily chosen — but the plant in particular which wise men of old have discovered to be the actual counterpart of this universal productive power in Nature, whether we call it spiritual nature or physical nature, or what not. One feels, in studying what has been said about the symbolism, that more might have been said; but the truth of a revelation consists not so much in what is said as in what is conveyed to the mind of the hearer; and this latter must depend in no small degree on the condition of that mind.

The lotus grows in the earth, sends its stem through the water, and blossoms in the air and sun; so that it has its home in the four elements and rises from the lowest to the highest. The seeds contain, even before they germinate, perfectly formed leaves, the miniature shape of the plants they will become. What better emblem could there be of that principle by which the part is a miniature of the whole? In a machine or a building, the parts do not at all resemble the whole; in an organism it is otherwise.

The lotus, says The Secret Doctrine, is the flower sacred to nature and her gods, and represents the abstract and the concrete universes. It was held sacred by the Aryan Hindus, the Egyptians, the Buddhists, and by China and Japan. The Christian Churches adopted the symbol using however the Easter or Madonna lily; in pictures of the Annunciation, Gabriel appears to the Virgin holding them in his hand. It typifies Fire and Water, the two creative principles. This is the same idea as that of the lotus in the hand of the Bodhisat who announces to Maha-Maya the birth of the Buddha. Osiris and Isis were represented in association with the lotus. The lotus is a well-known form of the capital in Egyptian columns. The lotus is the two-fold type of the divine and human hermaphrodite, being of dual sex. Fire and Water are the symbolic names of the two creative powers, the one being energic, the other receptive and formative. They are Father-Mother, and produce the Son, which is the manifested universe, or a world, or man, or any other being that is produced. In the Bible, the Divine Spirit is represented as brooding on the waters of Space, and similar emblems are found in all other cosmogonies. The lotus symbolizes the emanation of the objective from the subjective, Divine Ideation passing into concrete form. In the first chapter of Genesis it is said: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth . . . the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself."

The analogy to the birth of a child is shown by the attachment of the seed-bearing flower by a long stalk to mother-earth, from whom it draws nourishment; and in some representations a child is seen seated on the flower. But the original impersonal and pantheistic and reverential view of the early Aryans has been degraded in some later religions by attaching too much importance to the physiological aspect. The day of H. P. Blavatsky's death, May 8th, is called White Lotus Day, and the name is preserved in the Lotus-Circles for children which were founded under the inspiration of our great Leader.

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