Theosophical University Press Online Edition
In our modern day there does not exist the slightest doubt in the minds of the best European symbologists that the name Prometheus possessed the greatest and most mysterious significance in antiquity. While giving the history of Deukalion, whom the Boeotians regarded as the ancestor of the human races, and who was the Son of Prometheus, according to the significant legend, the author of the Mythologie de la Grece Antique remarks: “Thus Prometheus is something more than the archetype of humanity; he is its generator. In the same way that we saw Hephaestus moulding the first woman (Pandora) and endowing her with life, so Prometheus kneads the moist clay, of which he fashions the body of the first man whom he will endow with the soul-spark” (Apollodorus, I., 7, 1). After the Flood of Deukalion, Zeus, it was taught, had commanded Prometheus and Athena to call forth a new race of men from the mire left by the waters of the deluge (Ovid, Metam. 1, 81. Etym. M. v. [[Prometheus]]); and in the day of Pausanias the slime which the hero had used for this purpose was still shown in Phocea (Paus. x, 4, 4). “On several archaic monuments one still sees Prometheus modelling a human body, either alone or with Athena’s help” (Myth. Grece Ant. 246).
The same authors remind the world of another equally mysterious personage, though one less generally known than Prometheus, whose legend offers remarkable analogies with that of the Titan. The name of this second ancestor and generator is Phoroneus, the hero of an ancient poem, now unfortunately no longer extant — the Phoronidae. His legend was localized in Argolis, where a perpetual flame was preserved on his altar as a reminder that he was the bringer of fire upon earth (Pausanias, 11, 19, 5; Cf. 20, 3.) A benefactor of men as Prometheus was, he had made them participators of every bliss on earth. Plato (Timaeus, p. 22), and Clemens Alexandrinus (Strom. 1, p. 380) say that Phoroneus was the first man, or “the father of mortals.” His genealogy, which assigns to him as his father Inachos, the river, reminds one of that of Prometheus, which makes that Titan the son of the Oceanid Clymene. But the mother of Phoroneus was the nymph Melia; a significant descent which distinguishes him from Prometheus.
Melia, Decharme thinks, is the personification of the ash-tree, whence,
according to Hesiod, issued the race of the age of Bronze* (Opera et Dies, 142-145); and which with the Greeks is the celestial tree common to every Aryan mythology. This ash is the Yggdrasil of the Norse antiquity, which the Norns sprinkle daily with the waters from the fountain of Urd, that it may not wither. It remains verdant till the last days of the Golden Age. Then the Norns — the three sisters who gaze respectively into the Past, the Present, and the Future — make known the decree of Fate (Karma, Orlog), but men are conscious only of the Present. But when Gultweig comes (the golden ore) “the bewitching enchantress who, thrice cast into the fire, arises each time more beautiful, and fills the souls of gods and men with unapproachable longing, then the Norns . . . enter into being, and the blessed peace of childhood’s dreams passes away, and Sin comes into existence with all its evil consequences . . .” and Karma (See “Asgard and the Gods,” p. 10-12). The thrice purified Gold is — Manas, the Conscious Soul.
With the Greeks, the “ash-tree” represented the same idea. Its luxuriant boughs are the sidereal heaven, golden by day and studded with stars by night — the fruits of Melia and Yggdrasil, under whose protecting shadow humanity lived during the Golden Age without desire as without any fear. . . . “That tree had a fruit, or an inflamed bough, which was lightning,” Decharme guesses.
And here steps in the killing materialism of the age; that peculiar twist in the modern mind, which, like a Northern blast, bends all on its way, and freezes every intuition, allowing it no hand in the physical speculations of the day. After having seen in Prometheus no better than fire by friction, the learned author of the “Mythologie de la Grece Antique” perceives in this “fruit” a trifle more than an allusion to terrestrial fire and its discovery. It is no longer fire, owing to the fall of lightning setting some dry fuel in a blaze, and thus revealing all its priceless benefits to Palaeolithic men; — but something more mysterious this time, though still as earthly. . . . “A divine bird, nestled in the boughs of the celestial ash-tree, stole that bough (or the fruit) and carried it down on the earth in its bill. Now the Greek word [[Phoroneus]] is the rigid equivalent of the Sanskrit word bhuranyu (‘the rapid’) an epithet of Agni, considered as the carrier of the divine spark. Phoroneus, son of Melia or of the celestial ash, thus corresponds to a conception far more ancient, probably, than that one which transformed the pramantha (of the old Aryan Hindus) into the Greek Prometheus. Phoroneus is the
* According to the Occult teaching, three yugas passed away during the time of the Third Root-Race, i.e., the Satya, the Treta, and the Dvapara yuga, answering to the golden age of its early innocence: to the silver — when it reached its maturity: and to the Bronze age, when, separating into sexes, they became the mighty demi-gods of old.
(personified) bird, that brings the heavenly lightning to the Earth. Traditions relating to the birth and origin of the race of Bronze, and those which made of Phoroneus the father of the Argians, are an evidence to us that this thunderbolt (or lightning), as in the legends of Hephaestus or Prometheus, was the origin of the human race” (266).
This still affords us no more than the external meaning of the symbols and the allegory. It is now supposed that the name of Prometheus has been unriddled, and the modern mythologists and Orientalists see in it no longer what their fathers saw on the authority of the whole of classical antiquity. They only find therein something far more appropriate to the spirit of the age, namely, a phallic element. But the name of Phoroneus, as well as that of Prometheus, bears not one, nor even two, but a series of esoteric meanings. Both relate to the seven celestial fires; to Agni Abhimanin, his three sons, and their forty-five sons, constituting the forty-nine fires. Do all these numbers relate only to the terrestrial mode of fire and to the flame of sexual passion? Did the Hindu Aryan mind never soar above such purely sensual conceptions? that mind which is declared by Prof. Max Muller to be the most spiritual and mystically inclined on the whole globe? The number of those fires alone ought to have suggested an inkling of the truth.
We are told that one is no longer permitted, in this age of rational thought, to explain the name of Prometheus as the old Greeks did. The latter, it seems, “basing themselves on the false analogy of [[prometheus]] with the verb [[promanthanein]], saw in him the type of the ‘foreseeing’ man, to whom, for the sake of symmetry, a brother was added — Epimetheus, or ‘he who takes counsel after the event.’ ” But now the Orientalists have decided otherwise. They know the real meaning of the two names better than those who invented them.
The legend is based upon an event of universal importance. It was built “to commemorate a great event which must have strongly impressed itself upon the imagination of the first witnesses to it, and its remembrance has never since faded out from popular memory.” What is it? Laying aside every poetical fiction, all those dreams of the golden age, let us imagine — argue the modern scholars — in all its gross realism, the first miserable state of humanity, the striking picture of which was traced for us after AEschylus by Lucretius, and the exact truth of which is now confirmed by science; and then one may understand better that a new life really began for man, on that day when he saw the first spark produced by the friction of two pieces of wood, or from the veins of a flint. How could man help feeling gratitude to that mysterious and marvellous being which they were henceforth enabled to create at their will, and which was no sooner born, than it grew and expanded, developing with singular power. “This terrestrial flame,
was it not analogous in nature to that one which they received from above, or that other which frightened them in the thunderbolt?”
“Was it not derived from the same source? And if its origin was in heaven, it must have been brought down some day on earth. If so, who was the powerful being, the beneficent being, god or man, who had conquered it? Such are the questions which the curiosity of the Aryans offered in the early days of their existence, and which found their answer in the myth of Prometheus”; (Mythologie de la Grece Antique, p. 258).
The philosophy of Occult Science finds two weak points in the above reflections, and points them out. The miserable state of Humanity described by AEschylus and Prometheus was no more wretched then, in the early days of the Aryans, than it is now. That “state” was limited to the savage tribes; and the now-existing savages are not a whit more happy or unhappy than their forefathers were a million years ago.
It is an accepted fact in Science that “rude implements, exactly resembling those in use among existing savages,” are found in river-gravels and caves geologically “implying an enormous antiquity.” So great is that resemblance that, as the author of “The Modern Zoroastrian” tells us: “If the collection in the Colonial Exhibition of stone celts and arrow-heads used now by the Bushmen of South Africa were placed side by side with one from the British Museum of similar objects from Kent’s Cavern or the Caves of Dordogne, no one but an expert could distinguish between them” (p. 145). And if there are Bushmen existing now, in our age of the highest civilization, who are no higher intellectually than the race of men which inhabited Devonshire and Southern France during the Palaeolithic age, why could not the latter have lived simultaneously with, and have been the contemporary of, other races as highly civilized for their day as we are for ours? That the sum of knowledge increases daily in mankind, “but that intellectual capacity does not increase with it,” is shown when the intellect, if not the physical knowledge, of the Euclids, Pythagorases, Paninis, Kapilas, Platos, and Socrates, is compared with that of the Newtons, Kants, and the modern Huxleys and Haeckels. On comparing the results obtained by Dr. J. Barnard Davis, the Craniologist, worked out in 1868 (Trans. of the Royal Society of London), with regard to the internal capacity of the skull — its volume being taken as the standard and test for judging of the intellectual capacities — Dr. Pfaff finds that this capacity among the French (certainly in the highest rank of mankind) is 88.4 cubic inches, being thus “perceptibly smaller than that of the Polynesians generally, which, even among many Papuans and Alfuras of the lowest grade, amounts to 89 and 89.7 cubic inches”; which shows that it is the quality and not the quantity of the brain that is the cause of intellectual capacity. The
average index of skulls among various races having been now recognized to be “one of the most characteristic marks of difference between different races,” the following comparison is suggestive: “The index of breadth among the Scandinavians (is) at 75: among the English at 76; among Holsteiners at 77; in Bresgau at 80; Schiller’s skull shows an index of breadth even of 82 . . . the Madurese also 82!” Finally, the same comparison between the oldest skulls known and the European, brings to light the startling fact “that most of these old skulls, belonging to the stone period, are above rather than below the average of the brain of the now living man in volume.” Calculating the measures for the height, breadth, and length in inches from the average measurements of several skulls, the following sums are obtained: —
1. Old Northern skulls of the stone age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18.877 ins.
2. Average of 48 skulls of the same period from England . . . . 18.858 ”
3. Average of 7 skulls of the same period from Wales . . . . . . 18.649 ”
4. Average of 36 skulls of the stone age from France . . . . . . . 18.220 ”
The average of the now living Europeans is 18.579 inches; of Hottentots, 17.795 inches!
Which figures show plainly “that the size of the brain of the oldest populations known to us is not such as to place them on a lower level than that of the now living inhabitants of the Earth” (“The Age and Origin of Man”). Besides which, they show the “missing link” vanishing into thin air. Of these, however, more anon: we must return to our direct subject.
The race which Jupiter so ardently desired “to quench, and plant a new one in its stead” (AEsch.* 241), suffered mental, not physical misery. The first boon Prometheus gave to mortals, as he tells the “Chorus,” was to hinder them “from foreseeing death” (256); he “saved the mortal race from sinking blasted down to Hades’ gloom” (244); and then only, “besides” that, he gave them fire (260). This shows plainly the dual character, at any rate of the Promethean myth, if Orientalists will not accept the existence of the seven keys taught in Occultism. This relates to the first opening of man’s spiritual perceptions, not to his first seeing or discovering fire. For fire was never “discovered,” but existed on earth since its beginning. It existed in the seismic activity of the early ages, volcanic eruptions being as frequent and constant in those periods as fog is in England now. And if we are told that men appeared so late on Earth that nearly all the volcanoes, with the exception of a few, were already extinct, and that geological disturbances had made room for a more settled state of things, we answer: Let a new race of men — whether evolved from angel or gorilla — appear now on any uninhabited
* Prometheus Vinctus.
spot of the globe, with the exception perhaps of the Sahara, and a thousand to one it would not be a year or two old before discovering fire, through the fall of lightning setting in flames grass or something else. This assumption, that primitive man lived ages on earth before he was made acquainted with fire, is one of the most painfully illogical of all. But old AEschylus was an initiate, and knew well what he was giving out.*
No occultist acquainted with symbology and the fact that Wisdom came to us from the East, will deny for a moment that the myth of Prometheus has reached Europe from Aryavarta. Nor is he likely to deny that in one sense Prometheus represents fire by friction. Therefore, he admires the sagacity of M. F. Baudry, who shows in his Les Mythes du feu et breuvage celeste (Revue germanique, 1861 p. 356)† one of the aspects of Prometheus and his origin from India. He shows the reader the supposed primitive process to obtain fire, still in use to-day in India to light the sacrificial flame. This is what he says: —
“This process, such as it is minutely described in the Vedic Sutras, consists in rapidly turning a stick in a socket made in the centre of a piece of wood. The friction develops intense heat and ends by setting on fire the particles of wood in contact. The motion of the stick is not a continuous rotation, but a series of motions in contrary senses, by means of a cord fixed to the stick in its middle: the operator holds one of the ends in each hand and pulls them alternately. . . . The full process is designated in Sanskrit by the verb manthami, mathnani; which means ‘to rub, agitate, shake and obtain by rubbing,’ and is especially applied to rotatory friction, as proved by its derivation from mandala, which signifies a circle. . . . The pieces of wood serving for the production of fire have each their name in Sanskrit. The stick which turns is called pramantha; the discus which receives it is called arani and arani: ‘the two aranis’ designating the ensemble of the instrument” (p. 358 et seq.).‡
It remains to be seen what the Brahmins will say to this. But supposing Prometheus has been conceived in one of the aspects of his
* The modern attempt of some Greek scholars (poor and pseudo scholars, they would have appeared in the day of the old Greek writers!) to explain the real meaning of the ideas of AEschylus, which, being an ignorant ancient Greek, he could not express so well himself, is absurdly ludicrous!
† See also his Memoires de la Societe de la Linguistique following the “Fire Myths,” (Vol. 1, p. 337, et seq.)
‡ There is the upper and nether piece of timber used to produce this sacred fire by attrition at sacrifices, and it is the arani which contains the socket. This is proven by an allegory in the Vayu Purana and others, which tell us that Nemi, the son of Ikshwaku, had left no successor, and that the Rishis, fearing to leave the earth without a ruler, introduced the king’s body into the socket of an arani — like an upper arani — and produced from it a prince named Janaka. “It was by reason of the peculiar way in which he was engendered that he was called Janaka.” (But see Goldstucker’s Sanskrit Dictionary at the word Arani.) Devaki, Krishna’s mother, in prayer addressed to her, is called “the arani whose attrition engenders fire.”
myth as the producer of fire by means of pramantha, or as an animate and divine pramantha, would this imply that the symbolism had no other than the phallic meaning attributed to it by the modern symbologists? Decharme, at any rate, seems to have a correct glimmering of the truth; for he unconsciously corroborates by his remarks all that the Occult sciences teach with regard to the Manasa Devas, who have endowed man with the consciousness of his immortal soul: that consciousness which hinders man “from foreseeing death,” and makes him know he is immortal.* “How has Prometheus got into the possession of the (divine) spark?” he asks. “Fire having its abode in heaven, it is there he must have gone to find it before he could carry it down to men, and, to approach the gods, he must have been a god himself.” The Greeks held that he was of the divine race; the Hindus, that he was a Deva. Hence “with the Greeks he was the son of the Titan Iapetos,” [[Iapetonides]] (Theog. 528). . . . “But celestial fire belonged in the beginning to the gods alone; it was a treasure they reserved for themselves . . . over which they jealously watched . . . ‘The prudent son of Iapetus,’ says Hesiod, ‘deceived Jupiter by stealing and concealing in the cavity of a narthex, the indefatigable fire of the resplendent glow’ (Theog. 565). . . Thus the gift made by Prometheus to men was a conquest made from heaven. . .” “Now according to Greek ideas,” (identical in this with those of the Occultists) “this possession forced from Jupiter, this human trespassing upon the property of the gods, had to be followed by an expiation. . . . Prometheus, moreover, belongs to that race of Titans who had rebelled† against the gods, and whom the master of Olympus had hurled down into Tartarus; like them, he is the genius of Evil, doomed to cruel suffering, etc., etc.”
That which is revolting in the explanations that follow, is the one-sided view taken of this grandest of all the myths. The most intuitional among modern writers cannot or will not rise in their conceptions above the level of the Earth and Cosmic phenomena. It is not denied that the moral idea in the myth, as presented in the Theogony of Hesiod, plays a certain part in the primitive Greek conception. The Titan is more than a thief of the celestial fire. He is the representation of humanity — active, industrious, intelligent, but at the same time ambitious, which aims at equalling divine powers. Therefore it is humanity punished in the person of Prometheus, but it is only so with the Greeks. With the latter, Prometheus is not a
* The monad of the animal is as immortal as that of man, yet the brute knows nothing of this; it lives an animal life of sensation just as the first human would have lived, when attaining physical development in the Third Race, had it not been for the Agnishwatta and the Manasa Pitris.
† The fallen angels, therefore; the Asuras of the Indian Pantheon.
criminal, save in the eyes of the gods. In his relation with the Earth, he is, on the contrary, a god himself, a friend of mankind ([[philanthropos]]), which he has raised to civilization and initiated into the knowledge of all the arts; a conception which found its most poetical expounder in AEschylus. But with all other nations Prometheus is — what? The fallen Angel, Satan, as the Church would have it? Not at all. He is simply the image of the pernicious and dreaded effects of lightning. He is the “evil fire” (mal feu) and the symbol of the divine reproductive male organ. “Reduced to its simple expression, the myth we are trying to explain is then simply a (Cosmic) genius of fire” (p. 261). It is the former idea (the phallic) which was pre-eminently Aryan, if we believe Ad. Kuhn (in his Herabkunft des Feuers und des Gottertranks) and Baudry. For —
“The fire used by man being the result of the action of pramantha in the arani, the Aryas must have ascribed (?) the same origin to celestial fire, and they must* have imagined (?) that a god armed with pramantha, or a divine pramantha, exercised in the bosom of the clouds a violent friction, which gave birth to lightning and thunderbolts. . . . . This idea is supported by the fact that, according to Plutarch’s testimony (Philosoph. Plant., iii. 3), the Stoics thought that thunder was the result of the struggle of storm-clouds and lightning — a conflagration due to friction; while Aristotle saw in the thunderbolt only the action of clouds which clashed with each other. What was this theory, if not the scientific translation of the production of fire by friction? . . . . . . Everything leads us to think that, from the highest antiquity, and before the dispersion of the Aryans, it was believed that the pramantha lighted fire in the storm cloud as well as in the aranis.” (Revue Germanique, p. 368.)
Thus, suppositions and idle hypotheses are made to stand for discovered truths. Defenders of the Bible dead-letter could never help the writers of missionary tracts more effectually, than do materialistic Symbologists in thus taking for granted that the ancient Aryans based their religious conceptions on no higher thought than the physiological.
But it is not so, and the very spirit of Vedic philosophy is against such an interpretation. And if, as Decharme himself confesses, “this idea of the creative power of fire is explained at once by the ancient assimilation of the human soul to a celestial spark,” as shown by the imagery often made use of in the Vedas when speaking of Arani, it would mean something higher than simply a gross sexual conception. A hymn to Agni in the Veda is cited as example: — “Here is the pramantha, the generator is ready. Bring the mistress of the race (the female Arani). Let us produce Agni by attrition, according
* The italics are ours; they show how assumptions are raised to laws in our day.
to ancient custom” — which means no worse than an abstract idea expressed in the tongue of mortals. The “female Arani,” the mistress of the race, is Aditi, the mother of the gods, or Shekinah, eternal light — in the world of Spirit, the “Great Deep” and Chaos; or primordial Substance in its first remove from the Unknown, in the manifested Kosmos. If, ages later, the same epithet is applied to Devaki, the mother of Krishna, or the incarnated Logos; and if the symbol, owing to the gradual and irrepressible spread of exoteric religions, may already be regarded as having a sexual significance, this in no way mars the original purity of the image. The subjective had been transformed into the objective; Spirit had fallen into matter. The universal kosmic polarity of Spirit-Substance had become, in human thought, the mystic, but still sexual union of Spirit and Matter, and had thus acquired an anthropomorphic colouring which it had never had in the beginning. Between the Vedas and the Puranas there is an abyss of which both are the poles, like the seventh (atmic) and the first or lowest principle (the physical body) in the Septenary constitution of man. The primitive, purely spiritual language of the Vedas, conceived many decades of millenniums earlier, had found its purely human expression for the purpose of describing events taking place 5,000 years ago, the date of Krishna’s death (from which day the Kali Yuga, or Black-Age, began for mankind).
As Aditi is called Surarani (the matrix or “mother” of the sura gods), so Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, is called in Mahabharata Pandavarani — which term is already physiologized. But Devaki, the antetype of the Roman Catholic Madonna, is a later anthropomorphized form of Aditi. The latter is the goddess mother, the “Deva-matri” of Seven Sons (the six and the seven Adityas of early Vedic times); the mother of Krishna, Devaki, has six embryos conveyed into her womb by Jagaddhatri (the “nurse of the world”), the seventh (Krishna, the Logos,) being transferred to that Rohini. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the mother of seven children, of five sons and two daughters, (a later transformation of sex) in Matthew’s Gospel (xiii. 55-56). No one of the worshippers of the Roman Catholic Virgin would object to reciting in her honour the prayer addressed by the gods to Devaki. Let the reader judge.
“Thou art that Prakriti (essence), infinite and subtile, which bore Brahma in its womb. Thou eternal being, comprising in thy substance the essence of all created things, wast identical with creation; thou wast the parent of the triform sacrifice, becoming the germ of all. . . . Thou art sacrifice, whence all fruit proceeds; thou art the arani whose attrition engenders fire” . . . . (“Womb of Light,” “holy Vessel,” are the epithets of the Virgin). “As Aditi, thou art the parent of the gods. . . . Thou art Jyotsna (the morning twilight).” The Virgin
is often addressed as the “morning Star” and the “star of Salvation” — the light whence day is begotten. “Thou art Samnati (humility, a daughter of Daksha), the mother of Wisdom; thou art Niti, the parent of harmony (Naya); thou art modesty, the progenitrix of affection (Prasraya or vinaya); thou art desire, of whom love is born. . . . Thou art the mother of knowledge (Avabodha); patience (Dhriti), the parent of fortitude (Dhairya). . . . etc., etc.”
Thus arani is shown here as the Roman Catholic “vase of election” and no worse. As to its primitive meaning, it was purely metaphysical. No unclean thought traversed these conceptions in the ancient mind. Even in the Zohar — far less metaphysical than any other symbolism — the idea is an abstraction and nothing more. Thus, when the Zohar (iii., 290) says: “All that which exists, all that which has been formed by the ancient, whose name is holy, can only exist through a male and female principle,” it means no more than this: “The divine Spirit of Life is ever coalescing with matter.” It is the Will of the Deity that acts; and the idea is purely Schopenhauerian. “When Atteekah Kaddosha, the ancient and the concealed of the concealed, desired to form all things, it formed all things like male and female. This wisdom comprises all when it goeth forth.” Hence Chochmah (male wisdom) and Binah (female consciousness or Intellect) are said to create all between the two — the active and the passive principles. As the eye of the expert jeweller discerns under the rough and uncouth oyster shell the pure immaculate pearl, enshrined within its bosom, his hand dealing with the former but to get at its contents, so the eye of the true philosopher reads between the lines of the Puranas the sublime Vedic truths, and corrects the form with the help of the Vedantic wisdom. Our Orientalists, however, never perceive the pearl under the thick coating of the shell, and — act accordingly.
From all that has been said in this section, one sees clearly that, between the Serpent of Eden and the Devil of Christianity, there is an abyss. Alone the sledge hammer of ancient philosophy can kill this dogma.