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SYMBOLISM AND FREEMASONRY -

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ASTRONOMY -THE FIRST OF THE LIBERAL ARTS AND SCIENCES The Cosmographies of the Babylonians and Hebrews How The Ancients Viewed the Heavens Arthur A. Page, Grand Lecturer, S. G. R. A. C. Qld. THE COSMOGRAPHIES OF THE ANCIENTS POINT TO THE SAME ORIGIN? A cosmography is best described as a graphic representation of the scenario of the myth of creation as viewed by a people. The cosmography involves a graphic view of the creation of the earth and sky by imagined mythological events and/or characters. While cosmographies point to common impressionistic imageries, the tenor of their messages can be interpreted. The eminent German psychologist Erich From suggests these types of imageries are undatable, being inspired by the intrinsic relation between Man and his spirituality, or his view of himself vis-3-vis the cosmos. It is not difficult to understand the cosmography of the Sumero-Babylonians reflecting a specific mood, and like with most of the ancient cosmographies, the mood expressed by the graphic conceptualisation of creation is generally suggestive of AWE and FEAR, providing the base for distrust of its own power!! The Tigris and Euphrates were rivers which rose up with fury and threat. The wild meteorological and geographical features also contributed to framing an impression or mood. An eventual symbolism therefore demanded the subservience of man himself to the forces of nature over which be could not (and still cannot) control! Thus, when the pantheon involving the Sun, Moon and planets was established, the idea was formed that each member of the pantheon expressed its own cosmic authority. Hence came into being the idea that the cosmos represented the celestial dominion and state, giving rise, for example in the Babylonian system, of assigning the pantheonic deities to represent their dictatorship cities, each represented by the allotted planet or member of the solar system! These cities were Eridu on the shore of the Persian Gulf, and Nippur in northern Babylonia. On examination of the early Babylonian cosmography, one has to be impressed by the contrast between it and the earlier Neolithic (new Stone Age -15,000 -5,000 B.C.) outlooks. What a contrast was presented against that of the primitive democratised Mother-goddess communities of the earlier Neolitbs (?40,000 -15,000 BC.).! Some writers are now referring to this period as the Golden Age of Human Existence, as there is evidence that these Neolithic people lived without the dominance of war as part of human social existence. It was thus that Babylonian cosmography symbolising a world order of regularity of its system was not possible because of the clash of divine wills of the members of its pantheon. This had a big effect on the development of Babylonian symbolisms. By using the term mood rather than essence, one becomes better equipped to understand the innuendos poised by the cosmography and its subsequent symbology. The Babylonian cosmography is one underlined by the mood of distrust. This distrust also intrudes its way into the Hebrew modus vivendi, but in a different sense. It is this element that suggestively influenced Hebraic thinking during the Captivity, while that of the Hebrew implies a more simplistic cosmographical universe which implies its own moral responsibility over itself, and also an end to itself. Hence the moral differences between the Babylonian and Hebrew models. WHO CREATED THE FIRST COSMOGONY? The Babylonian view of the Universe should be regarded as the first cosmography of representing an advancement of cosmogonical thought. It was based on the principle of Anu,
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the god of heaven, En-Iil, god of Storm, and Enki, god of the Earth, but also as the EarthMother, the Sun god Utu, or the later Shamash or Utu-Shamash. The cosmography of the zodiac was drawn up to represent living creatures. The five visible members of the Solar System were assigned deitic imageries, which were believed by them to be the agents of the gods which exerted their influence and even control over the destinies of and fate of the kingdom. The professional practice by the priest-astrologers served the King only, hence its original name The Royal Art. That it was religious in basis, there can be little doubt. Also, that it incorporated myth and even legend. But because of the diversity of the people forming the first of the city-state complex, and the power of newly developing agriculture, it arose from the fertile regions around the river delta, such as Ur, Erech and Kish. The first language used was Akkadian (with sub-groupings and the origin of Arabic), and as the conquest developed over Mesopotamia, it eventually, from the time of Sargon 1, brought about the dynasty of Hammnrabi and the rise of Babylon, -1,800 B.C. The cosmography of the inhabitants of the Nippur Universe was as follows: The land emerged in the form of a mountain. It is the shortest of all cosmographies. But, it will be shown shortly that the symbol of the mountain played a vitally constructive part in later mystic symbology. This cosmography can only be dated prior to 2,200 BC. THE SECOND BABYLONIAN COSMOGRAPHY By around the 8th Century B.C.E., , the Babylonians had developed a second cosmography. These later Babylonians regarded the heaven as a fixed vault, whose foundations rested upon the vast seas, which supported the earth. Above the vault flowed the upper waters, above which was located the dwelling house of the gods. The earth represented a mountain (an extension from the original cosmography), above which stood the Sun-illuminated house, the Sun rising through the eastern gate, and passing through the west gate in the evening. Underneath the Earth was a great hollow, which was developed to tune in with the theme of the our quadrants. In the east stood the high mountain of sunrise, and in the west the dark mountain of sunset. between heaven and earth stood the two great waters of the east and west oceans. Inside the Earth's crust stood the abode of the dead, the entrance to which was from the west. The vault of the three heavens was stationary, but the Sun, Moon and Stars were living beings or deities. The symbol of the encircled four quadrants of the Earth, is used today by astronomers and astrologers as the glyph or symbol for the Earth. Saigon I of Akkad (2,300 B.C).pronounced himself the ruler of the four quarters of the world -hence the expression to the four corners of the earth. What are the important features of such a cosmography and how are the components interpreted? The importance of symbolical meaning relates to a number of issues. The first is the idea of the mountain. A mountain stood at the East and one at the West of the world!. According to Mircea Eliade and F. W. Albright , the symbolism of the Centre represented a place of prestige, that the Sacred Mountain is the point where heaven and earth meet, at THE CENTRE OF THE WORLD. Thus every temple or palace conveys the symbolism of being situated at the centre of the world. There are numerous examples of sacred mountains, MI. Horeb, MI. Zion, Mt. Tabor, Golgotha, Olympus, and as also expressed by different civilisations. The ziggurat conveyed a cosmic connection as the point between heaven and hell One cannot say when the concept of hell became part of the religious scenario. One could ask the question as to whether the Paleoliths had conceived of a hell as exemplified by their inhumatory (disposal of the dead) practices. Was the N-S or E- W alignment connected in any way with a notion of hell? We know of Mesopotamia's Marduk's descent into hell Workers in the field of studying the ancient symbologies are generally agreed that the Creation story as appearing in the Christian Bible Genesis is related with the ancient Babylonian cosmography of Marduk and Tiamal. Tiamat becomes the Hebrew theme, the deep, with God creating the sea-monsters of Leviathan and Rahab, which is referred to in Isiah's second book 51:9. The ancients reverted to myths and associations with symbols in nature, including the stars and planets, giving each a poetic quality simply to ,illustrate the omnipotence of God, by whatever imagery one viewed it. The noted archaeologist and expert symbologist, J". Campbell suggests that the ziggurat symbolised paradise, which he dates as being in existence -3,200 B.C. Although there is every reason to support the notion that astrology and calendrics were already well on their way by the period of Sargon 1 of Agade, the earliest known compiled astrological and astronomical records belong to that era c2,300. B.C. These records show the type of observations conducted
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regarding predictions based on the positions of the Sun, Moon and the five planets (these had already been attributed with divine relationships). These were observed together with natural phenomena (earthquakes, floods, large flights of birds, examination of sheeps' livers etc). Recurrences were noted carefully. By this time the ziggurat was identified as the templeobservatory designed on the basis of the point within the circle, and whose alignments corresponded with the cardinal points of direction. In creating the New Year imagery based on the return of the Sun to its starting point, it is as a result of a direct astronomical controller for symbolic celebrations, symbolic of a return to chaos followed by a re-creation. This symbolism is an extension of that applied to the symbol of birth, death and re- life (the Mesopotamian myth of Tiamat and Marduk all over again). It is this symbolism which was passed down the Semitic world, and hence to eventually become involved with Western ethos, and eventually represented by the three Craft Degrees of Freemasonry. As the Third Degree symbolises the attaining of a finite understanding of his locus in the Universe, so the Royal Arch Degree symbolises the individual as being part of the unity between the Physical and Spiritual Universe in the form of a cosmic unity. This is the key to understanding what the Royal Arch symbolises. Yet, the reason for the Hebrews repeatedly calling upon the name of Yahweh to deliver them from their travails is always associated with a self-admission of having turned away from Him to worship the Baal, Bel, Ashteroth and so forth. (Read your old Testament eg., the Book of Daniel, Ezekiel etc). It is symbolic of nothing but turning to the Supreme Being to be saved from a peril (once again the theme of awe and fear). Hence the utterance locus of the prophet. "With the faith of God, we kept not". The writing of the text of the account of the Hebrews during the Captivity shows the recalling of those terrible years under the scourge of Assyria and Babylon. Astronomical alignments in architecture, however, basic, can be said to have found its origins with pre-historic people. This involved the practice of laying the corpse along astronomical directions of either North-South, or East-West (sunrise-sunset). This is really our first evidence of the recognition by first Neanderthal and secondly Cro-Magnon sometime between 120,000 and 35,000 BC. (Palaeolithic Age). The ziggurat symbolised the Sacred Mountain, the altar of the temple representing the Point within the Circle, the junction of heaven, earth and hell Thus, it came to pass that the point within the circle symbol or glyph became the conventional symbol for the Sun, which is used by astronomers and astrologers today. As the Babylonian temple represented a mesocosmos, so came a place of esoteric ritual, which in the case of Masonic ritualistic is represented by the sacred symbol in a Lodge as the point of the circle, the circle being the Lodge. The altar would be placed beneath the sacred symbol, indicating it as the communicating symbol between heaven and earth. The initiate is made at that point representing him as a model for the creation of the earth, namely, the entry of the being into his physical world via the centre! This symbolism is characteristic of practically every known esoteric rite, abounding over the earth, religious or otherwise! Every new initiate represents a repetition of the creation. Hence its meaningfulness of sanctity and rebirth. One of these is the significance of the East in a Lodge room. The Babylonians ritualistically associated the east with the Sun -the Fountain of Light, symbolic of the adept having received the divine gift of light and spiritually as one with the rising sun. The consequence to this was that it was only the ritually privileged or installed elite that were permitted to be placed in the east. It was therefore anathema for the uninstalled to be placed in the east. A similar symbolism applies to the architecture of a church. The interpretation of the AII-Seeing Eye suggests that as a symbol, it could be older than the point within the circle. It represents the Omnipotence of the Supreme Being and his protection of his domain. Not only has it been found in Babylonian symbology but as well, in Egyptian and Hebraic imageries. The Roman historian Plutarch suggested that it was more Egyptian in nature representing the solar flame (the Radiant Sun) of Hamurabi, now depicted on a Grand Master's apron and also on the Royal Arch Jewel. The radiant Sun was identified with Utu-Shamash, the Babylonian sun-god. Hammurabi, the king in -1,800 BC instituted the system of a king ruling by divine right. He gave himself the title of the Sun-King. He established the festival of new year's day -617 April, the 7th month -of Nisan -, on which day Marduk (planet Jupiter) and his son Nabu (Mercury), were to be worshipped, which he decreed was the chief holiday of the year. This became the model for the eventual adoption of New Year's Day. Marduk was immortalised for his destruction of Tiamat, emblematic of chaos, thus his having restored order in the Universe! One cannot but help to appreciate the elegance of this proposition. Instead,
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humankind has only given a goodly measure of strict and even vitriolic criticism, until more recent times when rabid rigidity of thought gave way to the appreciation of the eloquence of ancient thinking. The Assyrian empire of Ashurnarsipal II (884-859 BC.) also ruled with great cruelty -yet, paradoxically, astronomy benefited under his rule. His son Shalmanasar IIJ (859-824 BC.) continued the work. The king Ashurbanipall (688-627 BC. ), re-established a cruel Assyrian domination,' but at the same time he increased the astronomical data storage and library at Nineveh. He was later overthrown by Nabopolasser of Babylon, who was in turn subsequently overthrown by Nebuchadnezar II (of Daniel fame), who worshipped the sun-god Shamash, the biblical Baal or Bel, at Sippar. With the rise of the Persian Empire and the manifestation of Zoroastrianism which followed in the years of the 6th Century BC., astronomical symbolisms constituted a basic component of that theosophy, based on the worship of the Sun-god, as a monotheistic religion. The symbolisms associated with the layout of the worship-site of that religion has interesting similarities with the symbolisms of a Masonic Lodge Room. Now, one would be prone to remark that the latter system borrowed from the more ancient system. That this association could only happen by other means would be held in great doubt. How could this be possible, unless one had the knowledge to apply the ancient system to the modern model? By the time Speculative Freemasonry (as against Operative Masonry) came into being, traditions had been formed and modulated by the civilisations themselves. Architecture came to be associated with symbolisms and mysticisms through the centuries. The question now begs, how did Speculative Freemasonry come to possess such a wealth of Hebraic and Christian cabalistic symbolisms, if it did not obtain them from earlier systems? The answer to this is very interesting. It must be remembered that during the First Renaissance in the 13th Century, a good deal of knowledge was imported through various ways from the Middle East. The centre of gravity of enlightenment of the sciences, medicine and philosophy rested with the Arabs. However, as far as Masonry was concerned, the operative craft had been in existence for some two hundred years at least, and already had acquired a system of symbols, relating obviously closer to the practice of a craft. After the Second Renaissance during the 16th Century, with the onset of speculative Freemasonry, there must have been a proliferation of symbols, based on the then known philosophies of the ancients. Naturally, the actual origins of these symbols were not fully understood until much later, beginning from the 18th and more still in the 19th Century, where particularly the work of Sayce and Oppert presented to the world the cosmic view held by the Chaldeans. This later gave rise to rigid views governed strictly by biblical association, which only until very recently are proving to be incorrect. First, it can be reliably shown that ancient history to the year 1000 BC., cannot hold credence with the historicity of the Bible. It can further be shown that the translation of the Christian Old Testament, that is, as it appears in the Holy Bible with which we are familiar, is dependent on the influence characterising the intent of the translation. Consequently, when the works of Sayce were published many writers snapped on to the band-wagon of the day, astronomers like Maunder for example, being no exception. Unfortunately the bias demonstrated as well as the rigidity of ecclestiatical thought hammering western society in the post-Darwin era, the open conflict between the concept of a Mother Nature Universe having to give way to the idea of a mechanistic Universe (post-Newtonian) , greatly attenuated the infusion of liberal thought into the area of mystical symbolisms. .However one desires to explain this, there is no doubt that a wealth of symbolistic ideas from several diverse ancient sources have fused with the Masonic system of symbolism. Astronomical symbols of the ancients have been traditionally passed down the centuries in esoteric form, and many of these found their way into the mediaeval and middle ages. Today, what has been hitherto uncovered is due to the fact that many professions have handed together on a multi-discipline basis: these include archaeologists, palaeographers (those who study ancient writing systems), astronomers, social historians, anthropologists and members of the Holy Orders, thus making for a broader base for investigation, research and the establishment of new theories. The importance of the Zodiac to Royal Arch Freemasonry will be dealt with as a special study, as it incorporates a wide field of the symbolisms of the ancients. The importance of the symbolisms of the planets of the solar system is of major importance to Ancient and Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

REFERENCES I. Elliade,M., 1991 (reprint of 1954 ed.) -The Myth of the Eternal Return -Arkana, London. 2. Albright, F. W., 1919, The Mouth of the Rivers, Am. J. Sem.Lit., XXXV, 173. 3. Campbell, J., 1987, Primitive Mythology, in Masks of God Series, 148, Penguin Books, London. 4. Budge, E. A., 1927, The Book Of The Cave Treasures, (trans),London.