Universal Brotherhood – April 1899

EASTER EGGS — M. J. Barnett


Certain archaic teaching gives us much of interest concerning the egg as a universal symbol. "The egg has been incorporated as a sacred sign in the cosmogony of every people on the earth, and has been revered both on account of its form and its inner mystery. From the earliest mental conceptions of man, it was known as that which represented most completely the origin and secret of being. The gradual development of the imperceptible germ within the closed shell; the inward working without any apparent interference of force which from a latent nothing produced an active something — needing naught save heat — and which gradually evolved into a concrete living creature, broke its shell, appearing to the outward senses of all, a self-generated, and self-created being — must have been a standing miracle from the beginning."

Among prehistoric races the "first cause" was pictured in the imagination as an invisible mysterious bird that dropped into chaos, an egg, that became the universe. Brahm was called the "Swan of Eternity." The egg was a symbol of not only the universe as a whole, but also of all its spherical bodies. The uniform shape of our globe must have been known from the beginning of symbology, for the Kosmos in the form of an egg, is a widely diffused representation of antiquity. It was a symbol among the Greeks, the Syrians, the Persians and Egyptians. With the Greeks the Orphic egg is described by Aristophanes, and was part of the Dionysiac, and other mysteries, during which the mundane egg was consecrated, and its significance explained. In the Book of the Dead, the solar God exclaims: "I am the creative soul of the celestial abyss, none sees my nest, none can break my egg, I am the Lord!"

Among ancient peoples the sacredness of the egg was extended to certain feathered tribes. In Egypt, he who killed an Ibis or golden hawk could hardly escape death. Zoroaster forbids the slaughter of birds as a heinous crime.

Orpheus taught how to perceive in the yolk and white of the egg, under certain conditions, that which the bird born from it, would have seen around it during its life. This occult art, which 3,000 years ago demanded the greatest learning and the most abstruse mathematical calculations, is now only travestied by fortune-tellers for the benefit of maidens in search of husbands, by means of the white of an egg in a glass.

Engraved on an ancient Egyptian papyrus is an egg floating above the mummy. This is a symbol of hope and the promise of a second birth for the Osirified dead, whose soul after due purification will gestate in this egg of immortality to be reborn from it into a new life on earth. The winged globe is but another form of the egg and has the same significance as the scarabeus, which relates to the rebirth of man, as well as to spiritual regeneration. The egg was sacred to Isis; the priests of Egypt never ate eggs on that account.

According to mythology, from Leda's egg, Apollo and Latona were born, as also Castor and Pollux — the bright Gemini. The Buddhists as well as the ancient Egyptians, and modern Brahmins, do not eat eggs lest they should destroy the germ of life latent in them, and thereby commit sin. The Chinese believe that their first man was born from an egg which a God dropped down from heaven to earth into the waters. This idea may well represent the present origin of human life and is a scientific truth.

Respect is shown to the symbol of the egg from the most distant past, by the Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Japanese, Siamese, North and South American tribes, and even the savages of the remotest islands. In Scandinavian Cosmogony, the mundane egg is again discovered, in the phantom germ of the universe, which is represented as lying in the cup of illusion, the boundless and void abyss.

The Christians, especially the Greek and Latin churches, have fully adopted this symbol as a commemoration of eternal life, of salvation and of resurrection. This is found in, and corroborated by the time-honored custom of exchanging Easter eggs. From the egg of the ancient Druid, whose name alone made Rome tremble with fear, to the red Easter egg of the Slavonian peasant, a cycle has passed, yet whether in civilized Europe or among the peoples of Central America, we find the same, archaic, primitive thought, the original idea of the symbol.

At the present day even in humdrum, unimaginative, practical America, this symbol of everlasting life and of resurrection, receives its due share of attention, with the arrival of the festival of Easter as indicated to us by the church calendar, under lunar control.

The ingenuity of this most inventive age and race is taxed to the utmost in a bewildering variety of devices embodying the ancient symbol. Yet, how few among us realize its sacredness or its full significance.

Easter, the day on which the resurrection of a certain historical Christ is commemorated, may come home to us still nearer, as a day for the resurrection, or rising up into supremacy, of the eternal Christ principle within each one of us, divine and human followers of that great divine and human teacher.

Thus the Easter egg would become more than a mere bauble wherewith to enrich a feast. It would be a symbol, not so much of work that was once accomplished for us, as of work that we must repeatedly and unceasingly accomplish for ourselves, in rising up from a dead self to the living eternal universal self.

Universal Brotherhood