Symbology is one of the ancient keys unlocking the mysteries of man and Nature. H.P.Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine refers again and again to the hidden meanings revealed in symbol to the one who possesses the keys of understanding. From time immemorial man has set his mark upon his work that thereby he might be known through his artefacts. Always that mark has revealed the man who made it, his nature, his uniqueness, and his striving after distant goals. Nations, too, have adopted "marks" symbolic of their purpose and destiny. And, however unnoticed or misunderstood they may be, the symbols remain as reminders of veiled truth to those who can see.
To members of the Theosophical Society, as well as to countless non-members,
the Theosophical Seal with its motto, "There is no Religion Higher than
Truth", is everywhere evidence of the Society's existence. It is a distinguishing
badge, representative of the character of the Theosophical Society. More
than just a distinguishing mark, the Seal symbolises the truths of the
Ancient Wisdom which the Theosophical Movement was designed to promulgate
in the modern world, and something of the mission and high destiny of
the Society in the pure transmission of those truths.
James S. Perkins, a past President of the Theosophical Society in America.
The Seal of the Theosophical Society
The question which comes first to mind is, what is a symbol? A home-made definition might read: a sing,mark, figure, picture or story which brings or suggests to the mind some fact or idea other than that which appears. Webster puts this thought more concisely: "that which suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, etc." This definition allows a wide latitude. There are two general classifications of symbols: those which were man-invented, and those which seemed to contain within themselves certain intrinsic values. It is to the latter that we shall now direct our attention, because it is of these that the Theosophical Seal is composed. These are the symbols made up of certain fundamental geometric figures: such as the point, the line, the triangle, the square, or cross, the circle- and of course their three dimensional counterparts, the cube, the sphere, the tetrahedron, etc. - forms and shapes which came into existence coincident with the appearance of a universe. For this reason we may call them universal. It is said that "God Geometrizes". That must mean that in the creating of His universe, all forms of life, from rock crystals,plant structures and animal prototypes have been built upon (or evolved along) definite geometric patterns. These elemental geometric figures have sometimes been referred to as the "playthings of the gods". We may rightly call them a "divine alphabet", for it is their infinite variations and combinations which make up the pattern of Creation and by which Creation may be interpreted. But who can say what these figures really mean- the point, the line,the circle,the square and so on? They seem to be as eternal as Spirit itself. In attempting to attribute definite meanings to them, we feel that we are treading upon holy ground, yet somehow instinctively we feel that each of these figures, taken separately, represents its own specific idea and is the instrument for a distinctive type of force. These figures are the objectification, or crystallization in matter , of ultimate ideas. If that is so, their many combinations must conceal a wisdom which may rightly be called divine. The Theosophical Seal may thus become for each such a window through which he may, from time to time, catch glimpses of that Theo-Sophia- that Divine Wisdom. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end; the first and the last. ... Rev. 22: 13.
We can present this in the form of a mathematical formula:
The letters "A" and "O" united, become "AO",
(or IO), the Sacred Name.
And we can represent the symbolism of the Line symbol as follows:
God is within, as well as beyond His universe;
for there is nothing outside of Him.
The statement that all manifestation is dual
is only half the story. Duality is a truism only as it is a process which
leads to a third state. The first state is unity or being; the second
is duality, which is becoming; the third state of triplicity is fulfilment
or completion. It may truly be said that everything in the manifested
universe, from our highest concept of Deity to a grain of sand,follows
a threefold pattern. The geometrical figure which represents this truth
is the triangle; and we may conclude that the triangle is the sign which
is the third letter of our symbolical alphabet. If we go through the entire
gamut of dualities we find that each is complete only as it is seen as
a triplicity. Take the dual concept of matter-motion. Each would
be inconceivable without the third idea of space. If we extend
this idea to the realm of religion, we find that our highest concept of
God fulfils this threefold pattern. The Trinity concept of Deity is as
old as man's thoughts.
The TAU is the central figure of the Theosophical Seal and the heart of its message. In this symbol is contained the purpose of life and the assurance of the ultimate victory of life over death. In previous chapters we considered the cross as a symbol both of the material universe, its extension in time and space, and of man as a physical personality. Our present study will be that aspect of the Cross which symbolises the relationship of the external universe to the very source of its being. Since the Tau is a variant of the Cross, we shall take a quick review of the individual letters that go to make up this symbol. First we take the point,sign of God as Absolute, Potential Being. The point expanded becomes the circle, sign of infinity and eternity.The point expanded becomes the circle, sign of infinity and eternity. It is That which is all-inclusive and all-pervading Spirit. The horizontal line is the point in motion forming the material aspect of being. The vertical line represents Sprit or Life as descending into manifestation. Briefly, the two lines crossing signify the manifested universe as distinct from pure Spirit. Put these signs together in a certain order and we have the most mystic of all symbols, the ancient and sacred Tau.
In ancient times the mark of the Tau was set upon those who had been acquitted by their judges, as the sign of innocence. In Masonic symbolism is the sign of mastery and of a work completed. Interpreting the essential meaning of the tau with the circle (O) of infinity over the (T) of life in manifestation, we have the sign of the regeneration and purification of the personality, the victory of the spirit over the lower nature and the attainment of Masterhood or Godliness. Their union forms the sacred symbol which is the sign of victory and triumph- the victory of Spirit over matter, the triumph of Life over death. It is the "Signum Tau", placed upon the forehead of the disciple, as a sign that he has entered the "Path". When we look to ancient Egypt we find that there the Tau was definitely used in its secret ceremonials as a symbol of this Path particularly associated with the fourth great initiation.
The Swastika occupies a position in the Theosophical
Seal within the small circle at the top where the serpent swallows its
tail. Upon a blue background it presents at first sight an appearance
of serene tranquillity; yet after a few moments' contemplation upon its
form and implied motion,it is found to be the center and source of ceaseless
and untiring activity. Of all of the symbols comprising
the Seal,the swastika is the only one whose special characteristic is
motion. Others express states of being: the relationship between spirit
and matter; the nature of man and his relationship with God; the soul
and its path to perfection; God as Eternal, Infinite Spirit; God manifestation
as the "Word made flesh". The swastika is the sign of God as the Divine
Creative Fire in the Chaldean Book of Numbers, 'which striketh sparks
from the flint' (Space), those sparks becoming Worlds. This Divine Hammer
has been "degraded into the mallet or gavel " of Masonry where its power
is even there "sufficient to dissipate the darkness".
The Serpent swallowing its tail surrounds
and encloses all the other symbols in the Theosophical Seal. It is perhaps
the most mysterious and illusive of all the figures which make up the
Seal. All the individual figures seem to be endowed with, or at least
to express certain definite deific attributes or universal qualities .
Each represents, if we may recapitulate for a moment, a certain
aspect of Deity, some phase of God in manifestation. The Point, which
has no dimension, represents God as Spirit,the Father or the First Logos.
The Line - both the horizontal and the vertical - would indicate the dual
aspect of God in manifestation: Spirit-Matter, Life-Form, Father-Mother.
This is portrayed in the Cross as the Divine Sacrifice, God incarnate,
the "Word made flesh", the Son or the Second Logos. The Tau is the symbol
of man's path or return to God. The Swastika is the whirling fire of Spirit
in His creative aspect as the Holy Ghost,or the Third Logos. In the interlaced
Triangles is typed God as a Triune Being and man in His image and likeness.
The interlaced triangles
The interlaced triangle is the synthesis and
the summation of the Seal as a whole. If the Seal were a temple, the symbols
are its outer court. The interlaced triangles are the innermost shrine,
the holy of holies wherein is concealed the very nature of Being and man's
relationship with God. We find universally the concept of God as a Trinity.
To the Christian, He is Father, Son, Holy Ghost;
to the Hindu, He is Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva or Creator, Preserver, Destroyer.
In the ancient Egyptian Trinity, the relationship was definitely on the
family pattern, Osiris, Isis, Horus, or Father, Mother, Son. Many other
appellations, perhaps less personal, have been given to the Supreme. The
ancient Greeks called him First Logos, Second Logos and Third Logos (Logos
meaning Word). The Masonic Brotherhood knows Him as the Good, the Beautiful
and the True. Universally He is recognized as the Omnipotent, the Omniscient
and the Omnipresent. The ancient Hindus called these three worlds Sat,
Chit, Ananda. (We shall refer to these terms in a following chapter.)
Fitting our pattern to more modern thought we have the triangle of Spirit-Life-Matter
or Life-Consciousness-Form. In the purely physical world, we find that
matter is known by its three qualifications, stability - mobility - rhythm
or inertia - energy - law. Light is broken up into three primary colors
- red, yellow and blue. Philosophers see the universe as limited by Time
and Space, and Measure as the relation between them. We may even say that
" Measure " is three dimensional, namely - Distance, Duration and Direction.
Man is a microcosm, little universe. In him is contained in miniature
the vast macrocosm. Made in the " image of God ", his spiritual nature
is an emanation of the threefold nature of God. This "likeness" to God
as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a triad of three principles, expressed
as Will, Love - Wisdom and Creative Intelligence. The ancient Hindu term
for this human triad is Atma, Buddhi, Manas.
The Sacred Word
This final chapter deals with a subject at once so sacred, and wrapped in secrecy, that the writer feels that he is trespassing upon holy ground. This character is Sanskrit, and represents the Word OM (AUM). As a matter of fact, AUM (OM) is not a word at all in the strictest sense of the term, for it serves no grammatical purpose. It is said that the word AuM (as must all words) be considered from two points of view: first the written word; and then the spoken word. Through its form, it reveals - as well as conceals the wisdom of God. Through its sound it releases the power of God. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali we read, "The word of Ishvara is AuM (OM)". It is indeed the "Word made flesh". The first, if not the whole, purpose of religion, of yoga, and of meditation is to awaken man to the realization of this sacred truth. The " Word " within him is the Word of the Master, the inner God, who resides in the heart of all beings. This "Word" is the "Inner Voice" of conscience which, if heard and obeyed, guides one through the conflicts of passion and desire. It is the "still small Voice" that may be heard even in the midst of life's tumult. It has been stated that every Root Race upon our planet has had its own Word, within which was embodied its key-note and destiny. We have been told that for the Fourth Root Race, the Tau was that Word and Way of attainment. For our own, the Fifth Root Race, the sacred Word is AUM. AUM is a mantram or word of power. Man alone has the power to use his voice to translate the Word into Wisdom and Power.
To read a complete book go to The Theosophical Seal by Arthur M. Coon.