Universal Brotherhood Path – February 1901


In the First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, a book well known to the Gnostics in the second century, is a story which has suggested the collection and arrangement of the material contained in this article. According to Sir John Chardin, this story is also held among the Persians, and is as follows:

"There was also at Jerusalem one Zaccheus who was a schoolmaster; and he said to Joseph, Joseph, why dost thou not send Jesus to me that he may learn his letters?

"Joseph agreed and told St. Mary. So they brought him to that master; who, as soon as he saw him, wrote out an alphabet for him, and he bade him say Aleph; and when he had said Aleph, the master bade him say Beth. Then the Lord Jesus said to him, tell me first the meaning of the letter Aleph, and then I will pronounce the Beth.

"And when the master threatened to whip him, the Lord Jesus explained to him the meaning of the letters Aleph and Beth; also which were the straight figures of the letters, which the oblique, and what letters had double figures; which had points, and which had none; why one letter went before another, and many other things he began to tell him, and explain, of which the master himself had never heard, nor read in any book.

"The Lord Jesus further said to the master, take notice how I say to thee; then he began clearly and distinctly to say Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, and so on to the end of the alphabet. At this the master was so surprised, that he said, I believe this boy was born before Noah; and turning to Joseph, he said, Thou hast brought a boy to me to be taught, who is more learned than any master."

It is well known that the Hebrew characters were, and are still used as symbols for numbers and objects. The explanations made by Jesus regarding the straight, oblique, double and pointed figures of the letters may be easily understood; but " why one letter went before another " calls for an additional explanation which will doubtless be new to the people of this time and place.

The English writing people do not recognize a system of symbology in their alphabet. Certain letters have acquired certain meanings in mathematics — as x and y stand for unknown quantites. equationis a statement of the Forty-seventh problem of Euclid. It is true that these letters stand for horizontal, perpendicular and oblique lines, and taken together they call for a right-angle triangle, but the formula is not a symbol in itself.

It is, however, true that many of our letters came from symbols — for example, the letter M, or more recently the letter W (an M inverted) both of which symbolize Water, the form of the letters being that of waves. waveis the symbol of Aquarius. The letter A inverted to a is the symbol of the Bull or Taurus — the form being that of a head with horns.

In the Greek and Hebrew the names of the letters are such that the letters themselves are the initials of their names. This is only partly true of the English letters, the exceptions being such as A (eigh), H (aich), R (are), etc. Moreover, there is evidence that the names of the Greek letters were words or combinations of words which had a clear meaning when recited in order. This meaning has not been lost, as witness the following:

In 1896, Augustus LePlongeon published a translation of the Greek alphabet as it would be understood by the Mayas of Yucatan. The Maya vocables were carefully tabulated by him, and when rendered in English, resulted in a Flood narrative, as follows:

Alpha Heavily break the waters
Beta extending over the plains.
Gamma They cover the land
Delta in low places where
Epsilon there are obstructions, shores form and whirlpools
Zeta strike the earth
Eta with water.
Theta The water spreads
Iota on all that lives and moves.
Kappa Sediments give way.
Lambda Submerged is the land
Mu of Mu.
Ni The peaks only
Xi appear above the water.
Omikron Whirlwinds blow around
Pi by little and little
Rho until comes
Sigma cold air. Before
Tau where existed valleys,
Upsilon now, abysses, frozen tanks. In circular places
Phi clay formed.
Chi A mouth
Psi opens, vapors
Omega come forth — and volcanic sediments.

The above is from the Greek to the Maya, and that its accuracy may be clearly shown, the Maya story may be now given just as it would be recited: Al pa ha be ta. Kam ma. Tel ta ep zil on ze ta et ha. Thetheah ha io ta. Ka pa. Lam be ta Mu. Ni xi. Om ik le on pi. La ho zi ik, ma ta u, u pa zi le on, pe hi. Chi pe zi, o mee ka.

Of course this is no coincidence, and the mind of the student is irresistibly hurried to the story of Atlantis for an explanation, at least in part, of the fact.

All this regarding the Greek alphabet is an intentional digression for the clearer understanding of the Hebrew "alephbeth," which must be reduced from symbols to thoughts, and from thoughts to words. The following table results:

ALEPH An Ox or Bullock, a sacrifice or at-one-ment. Its numerical value is ONE.
BETH A House or Tent, a dwelling or tabernacle, in, among, within, etc.
GIMEL A Camel, like a camel's hump, heap, collect, high.
DALETH A Door or Gate, lid, valve.
HE Lo, see, behold, (therefore) a lattice or window for that purpose
VAV A Peg, Nail or Hook, therefore, wherefore, then, that, in order that, so that, etc.
ZAYIN A Weapon, a shining sword, brightness, light.
CHETH An Enclosure, fenced in, ark, refuge.
TETH A Serpent, like a serpent, rolled, twisted, entwined.
YOD The Hand, the right hand, to strike or pierce, a stroke, a blow.
KAPH The Hollow or Palm of the Hand, curved, concave, a valley or basin.
LAMEDH A Goad, towards, into, unto, until, upon, even to, besides, etc.
MEM Water, waves, a flood.
NUN A Fish, to sprout, to put forth, Noah, (as one from whom all are propagated).
SAMEKH A Fulcrum, prop, lever, to help, to sustain, to uphold, the hinge of a mason's apron, a ladder or line connecting the lower with the higher, the Holy Ghost.
AYIN The Eye, to flow, to flow out, a fountain.
PE The Mouth, to breathe, to blow, a side or quarter of the heavens, region, part, quarter.
TSADHE A Scythe or Reaping-hook, just, pertains to the harvest or retribution. Tsadok is Jupiter or justice (in Sanscrit, karma).
QOPH Occiput, back of the head, to move in a circle.
RESH Head, first, foremost, beginning, front.
Rosh means a foremost or most northern nation.
SHIN Tooth, a sharp rock, cliff, crag.
The Almighty (Shaddi) if seen from the front, but Satan if seen from behind.
TAU A Sign or Mark, cross, a symbol, a token.

In examining these results there is no consecutive narrative clearly seen as there is in the case of the Greek alphabet. Indeed, it was several weeks after the above table had been prepared, that it occurred to the writer to read it backwards, or from bottom to top, making the "last first and the first last," for Hebrew is read from right to left — the opposite to English. If we begin:

A sign (Tau) came from God (Shin) to the foremost people (Resh), etc., etc., we make the following free translation:

A sign came from God to the foremost people, that the cycle was completed, and that Justice should come. A quarter of the heavens was moved; the Breath came, and the fountains were opened. The fulcrum was put forth. There came a flood into the low places, striking and twisting together. From their enclosure they saw brightness, and therefore they looked to see. They opened the door at the high place. They dwelt in tents, and offered a bullock.

There is another rendering, entirely warranted by interpretations which, however, are not all given in the table, and this rendering will interest a certain class of students. It will bear very careful study.

A sign came from the Higher Self to the lower self, that its cycle was completed, and that it should reap Justice. The quartenary was moved; the Breath came, and the fountain of the Eye was opened. The Antaskarana was put forth, and there came a flood of spiritual light into the lower self; piercing and like a serpent. From its enclosure, the lower self saw the seven shining weaponsand therefore it looked to see. It opened the door of the third Eye at the High place, and dwelling within, made the At-one-ment.

All this is the A, B, C, of one line of symbology — the expression of thoughts which are beyond words. It IS somewhat fascinating — is it not?

Theosophical University Press Online Edition