Origin of the Fish Symbol of Vishnu

It is well known, that the earliest Christian emblems — before it was ever attempted to represent the bodily appearance of Jesus — were the Lamb, the Good Shepherd, and the Fish. The origin of the latter emblem, which has so puzzled the arch^ologists, thus becomes comprehensible. The whole secret lies in the easily-ascertained fact that, while in the Kabala, the King Messiah is called

"Interpreter," or Revealer of the mystery, and shown to be the fifth emanation, in the Talmud — for reasons we will now explain — the Messiah is very often designated as "DAG," or the Fish. This is an inheritance from the Chaldees, and relates — as the very name indicates — to the Babylonian Dagon, the man-fish, who was the instructor and interpreter of the people, to whom he appeared. Abarbanel explains the name,

J The engraving represents the talisman as of twice the natural size. We are at a loss to understand why King, in his "Gnostic Gems," represents Solomon's seal as a five-pointed star, whereas it is six-pointed, and is the signet of Vishnu, in India.

by stating that the sign of his (Messiah's) coming "is the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the sign Pisces."* Therefore, as the Christians were intent upon identifying their Christos with the Messiah of the Old Testament, they adopted it so readily as to forget that its true origin might be traced still farther back than the Babylonian Dagon. How eagerly and closely the ideal of Jesus was united, by the early Christians, with every imaginable kabalistic and Pagan tenet, may be inferred from the language of Clemens, of Alexandria, addressed to his brother co-religionists.

When they were debating upon the choice of the most appropriate symbol to remind them of Jesus, Clemens advised them in the following words: "Let the engraving upon the gem of your ring be either a dove, or a ship running before the wind (the Argha), or a fish." Was the good father, when writing this sentence, laboring under the recollection of Joshua, son of Nun (called Jesus in the Greek and Slavonian versions); or had he forgotten the real interpretation of these Pagan symbols?

Joshua, son of Nun, or Nave (Navis), could have with perfect propriety adopted the image of a ship, or even of a fish, for Joshua means Jesus, son of the fish-god; but it was really too hazardous to connect the emblems of Venus,

* King ("Gnostics") gives the figure of a Christian symbol, very common during the middle ages, of three fishes interlaced into a triangle, and having the FIVE letters (a most sacred Pythagorean number) I. X. OYE . engraved on it. The number five relates to the same kabalistic computation.

Astarte, and all the Hindu goddesses — the argha, dove, and fish — with the "immaculate" birth of their god! This looks very much as if in the early days of Christianity but little difference was made between Christ, Bacchus, Apollo, and the Hindu Christna, the incarnation of Vishnu, with whose first avatar this symbol of the fish originated.

In the Hari-purana, in the Bhagavad-Gita, as well as in several other books, the god Vishnu is shown as having assumed the form of a fish with a human head, in order to reclaim the Vedas lost during the deluge. Having enabled Visvamitra to escape with all his tribe in the ark, Vishnu, pitying weak and ignorant humanity, remained with them for some time. It was this god who taught them to build houses, cultivate the land, and to thank the unknown Deity whom he represented, by building temples and instituting a regular worship; and, as he remained half-fish, half-man, all the time, at every sunset he used to return to the ocean, wherein he passed the night.

"It is he," says the sacred book, "who taught men, after the diluvium, all that was necessary for their happiness.

"One day he plunged into the water and returned no more, for the earth had covered itself again with vegetation, fruit, and cattle.

"But he had taught the Brahmas the secret of all things" (Hari-purana).

So far, we see in this narrative the double of the story given by the Babylonian Berosus about Oannes, the fish-man, who is no other than Vishnu — unless, indeed, we have to believe that it was Chaldea which civilized India!

We say again, we desire to give nothing on our sole authority. Therefore we cite Jacolliot, who, however criticised and contradicted on other points, and however loose he may be in the matter of chronology (though even in this he is nearer right than those scientists who would have all Hindu books written since the Council of Nicea), at least cannot be denied the reputation of a good Sanscrit scholar. And he says, while analyzing the word Oan, or Oannes, that O in Sanscrit is an interjection expressing an invocation, as O, Swayambhuva! O, God! etc.; and An is a radical, signifying in Sanscrit a spirit, a being; and, we presume, what the Greeks meant by the word Dxmon, a semi-god.

"What an extraordinary antiquity," he remarks, "this fable of Vishnu, disguised as a fish, gives to the sacred books of the Hindus; especially in presence of the fact that the Vedas and Manu reckon more than twenty-five thousand years of existence, as proved by the most serious as the most authentic documents. Few peoples, says the learned Halled, have their annals more authentic or serious than the Hindus."*

We may, perhaps, throw additional light upon the puzzling question of the fish-symbol by reminding the reader that according to Genesis the first created of living beings, the first type of animal life, was the fish. "And the Elohim said: 'Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature

that hath life' . . . and God created great whales . . . and the morning and the evening were the fifth day." Jonah is swallowed by a big fish, and is cast out again three days later. This the Christians regard as a premonition of the three days' sepulture of Jesus which preceded his resurrection — though the statement of the three days is as fanciful as much of the rest, and adopted to fit the well-known threat to destroy the temple and rebuild it again in three days. Between his burial and alleged resurrection there intervened but one day — the Jewish Sabbath — as he was buried on Friday evening and rose to life at dawn on Sunday. However, whatever other circumstance may be regarded as a prophecy, the story of Jonah cannot be made to answer the purpose.

"Big Fish" is Cetus, the latinized form of Keto — Kqxw and keto is Dagon, Poseidon, the female gender of it being Keton Atar-gatis — the Syrian goddess, and Venus, of Askalon. The figure or bust of Der-Keto or Astarte was generally represented on the prow of the ships. Jonah (the Greek Iona, or dove sacred to Venus) fled to Jaffa, where the god Dagon, the man-fish, was worshipped, and dared not go to Nineveh, where the dove was revered. Hence, some commentators believe that when Jonah was thrown overboard and was swallowed by a fish, we must understand that he was picked up by one of these vessels, on the prow of which was the figure of Keto. But the kabalists have another legend, to this effect: They say that Jonah was a run-away priest from the temple of the goddess where the dove was worshipped, and desired to abolish idolatry and institute monotheistic worship. That, caught near Jaffa, he was held prisoner by the devotees of Dagon in one of the prison-cells of the temple, and that it is the strange form of the cell which gave rise to the allegory. In the collection of Mose de Garcia, a Portuguese kabalist, there is a drawing representing the interior of the temple of Dagon. In the middle stands an immense idol, the upper portion of whose body is human, and the lower fish-like. Between the belly and the tail is an aperture which can be closed like the door of a closet. In it the transgressors against the local deity were shut up until further disposal. The drawing in question was made from an old tablet covered with curious drawings and inscriptions in old Phrenician characters, describing this Venetian oubliette of biblical days. The tablet itself was found in an excavation a few miles from Jaffa. Considering the extraordinary tendency of Oriental nations for puns and allegories, is it not barely possible that the "big fish" by which Jonah was swallowed was simply the cell within the belly of Dagon?

It is significant that this double appellation of "Messiah" and "Dag" (fish), of the Talmudists, should so well apply to the Hindu Vishnu, the "Preserving" Spirit, and the second personage of the Brahmanic trinity. This deity, having already manifested itself, is still regarded as the future Saviour of humanity, and is the selected Redeemer, who will appear at its tenth incarnation or avatar, like the Messiah of the Jews, to lead the blessed onward, and restore to them the primitive Vedas. At his first avatar, Vishnu is alleged to have appeared to humanity, in form like a fish. In the temple of

Rama, there is a representation of this god which answers perfectly to that of Dagon, as given by Berosus. He has the body of a man issuing from the mouth of a fish, and holds in his hands the lost Veda. Vishnu, moreover, is the water-god, in one sense, the Logos of the Parabrahm, for as the three persons of the manifested god-head constantly interchange their attributes, we see him in the same temple represented as reclining on the seven-headed serpent, Ananta (eternity), and moving, like the Spirit of God, on the face of the primeval waters.

Vishnu is evidently the Adam Kadmon of the kabalists, for Adam is the Logos or the first Anointed, as Adam Second is the King Messiah.

Lakmy, or Lakshmi, the passive or feminine counterpart of Vishnu, the creator and the preserver, is also called Ada Maya. She is the "Mother of the World," Damatri, the Venus Aphrodite of the Greeks: also Isis and Eve. While Venus is born from the sea-foam, Lakmy springs out from the water at the churning of the sea; when born, she is so beautiful that all the gods fall in love with her. The Jews, borrowing their types wherever they could get them, made their first woman after the pattern of Lakmy. It is curious that Viracocha, the Supreme Being in Peru, means, literally translated, "foam of the sea."

Eugene Burnouf, the great authority of the French school, announces his opinion in the same spirit: "We must learn one day," he observes, "that all ancient traditions disfigured by emigration and legend, belong to the history of India." Such is the opinion of Colebrooke, Inman, King, Jacolliot, and many other Orientalists.

We have said above, that, according to the secret computation peculiar to the students of the hidden science, Messiah is the fifth emanation, or potency. In the Jewish Kabala, where the ten Sephiroth emanate from Adam Kadmon (placed below the crown), he comes fifth. So in the Gnostic system; so in the Buddhistic, in which the fifth Buddha — Maitree, will appear at his last advent to save mankind before the final destruction of the world. If Vishnu is represented in his forthcoming and last appearance as the tenth avatar or incarnation, it is only because every unit held as an androgyne manifests itself doubly. The Buddhists who reject this dual-sexed incarnation reckon but five. Thus, while Vishnu is to make his last appearance in his tenth, Buddha is said to do the same in his fifth incarnation.*

The better to illustrate the idea, and show how completely the real meaning of the avatars, known only to the students of the secret doctrine was misunderstood by the ignorant masses, we elsewhere give the diagrams of the Hindu and Chaldeo-Kabalistic avatars and emanations. + This basic and true fundamental stone of the secret cycles, shows on its very face, that far from taking their revealed Vedas and Bible literally, the Brahman-pundits, and the Tanaim — the

* The kabalistic Sephiroth are also ten in number, or five pairs. f An avatar is a descent from on high upon earth of the Deity in some manifest shape.

scientists and philosophers of the pre-Christian epochs — speculated on the creation and development of the world quite in a Darwinian way, both anticipating him and his school in the natural selection of species, gradual development, and transformation.

We advise every one tempted to enter an indignant protest against this affirmation to read more carefully the books of Manu, even in the incomplete translation of Sir William Jones, and the more or less careless one of Jacolliot. If we compare the Sanchoniathon Phrenician Cosmogony, and the record of Berosus with the Bhagavatta and Manu, we will find enunciated exactly the same principles as those now offered as the latest developments of modern science. We have quoted from the Chaldean and Phrenician records in our first volume; we will now glance at the Hindu books.

"When this world had issued out of darkness, the subtile elementary principles produced the vegetal seed which animated first the plants; from the plants, life passed into fantastical bodies which were born in the ilus of the waters; then, through a series of forms and various animals, it reached Man."}

"He (man, before becoming such) will pass successively through plants, worms, insects, fish, serpents, tortoises, cattle, and wild animals; such is the inferior degree."

"Such, from Brahma down to the vegetables, are declared the transmigrations which take place in this world."*

In the Sanchoniathonian Cosmogony, men are also evolved out of the ilus of the chaos,+ and the same evolution and transformation of species are shown.

And now we will leave the rostrum to Mr. Darwin: "I believe that animals have descended from at most only four or five progenitors."}

Again: "I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth, have descended from some one primordial form.§ . . . I view all beings, not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited."**

In short, they lived in the Sanchoniathonian chaos, and in the ilus of Manu. Vyasa and Kapila go still farther than Darwin and Manu. "They see in Brahma but the name of the universal germ; they deny the existence of a First Cause; and pretend that everything in nature found itself developed only in consequence of material and fatal forces," says Jacolliot.++

Correct as may be this latter quotation from Kapila, it demands a few words of explanation. Jacolliot repeatedly

f See Cory's "Ancient Fragments."

J "Origin of Species," first edition, p. 484.

ff "La Genese de l'Humanite," p. 339.

compares Kapila and Veda Vyasa with Pyrrho and Littre. We have nothing against such a comparison with the Greek philosopher, but we must decidedly object to any with the French Comtist; we find it an unmerited fling at the memory of the great Aryan sage. Nowhere does this prolific writer state the repudiation by either ancient or modern Brahmans of God — the "unknown," universal Spirit; nor does any other Orientalist accuse the Hindus of the same, however perverted the general deductions of our savants about Buddhistic atheism. On the contrary, Jacolliot states more than once that the learned Pundits and educated Brahmans have never shared the popular superstitions; and affirms their unshaken belief in the unity of God and the soul's immortality, although most assuredly neither Kapila, nor the initiated Brahmans, nor the followers of the Vedanta school would ever admit the existence of an anthropomorphic creator, a "First Cause" in the Christian sense. Jacolliot, in his Indo-European and African Traditions, is the first to make an onslaught on Professor Müller, for remarking that the Hindu gods were "masks without actors . . . names without being, and not beings without names."}} Quoting, in support of his argument, numerous verses from the sacred Hindu books, he adds: "Is it possible to refuse to the author of these stanzas a definite and clear conception of the divine force, of the Unique Being, master and Sovereign of the Universe? . . . Were the altars then built to a metaphor?"§§

JJ "Traditions Indo-Europeennes et Africaines," p. 291. §§ "Traditions Indo-Europeennes et Africaines," pp. 294, 295.

The latter argument is perfectly just, so far as Max Müller's negation is concerned. But we doubt whether the French rationalist understands Kapila's and Vyasa's philosophy better than the German philologist does the "theological twaddle," as the latter terms the Atharva-Veda. Professor Müller and Jacolliot may have ever so great claims to erudition, and be ever so familiar with Sanscrit and other ancient Oriental languages, but both lack the key to the thousand and one mysteries of the old secret doctrine and its philosophy. Only, while the German philologist does not even take the trouble to look into this magical and "theological twaddle," we find the French Indianist never losing an opportunity to investigate. Moreover, he honestly admits his incompetency to ever fathom this ocean of mystical learning. In its existence he not only firmly believes, but throughout his works he incessantly calls the attention of science to its unmistakable traces at every step in India. Still, though the learned Pundits and Brahmans — his "revered masters" of the pagodas of Villenoor and Chelambrum in the Carnatic,* as it seems, positively refused to reveal to him the mysteries of the magical part of the Agrouchada-Parikshai,f and of Brahmatma's triangle,} he persists in the honest

* "Les Fils de Dieu," p. 32. f "Le Spiritisme dans le Monde," p. 78 and others.

J "Les Fils de Dieu," p. 272. While not at all astonished that Brahmans should have refused to satisfy M. Jacolliot's curiosity, we must add that the meaning of this sign is known to the superiors of every Buddhist lamasery, not alone to the Brahmans.

declaration that everything is possible in Hindu metaphysics, even to the Kapila and Vyasa systems having been hitherto misunderstood.

M. Jacolliot weakens his assertion immediately afterward with the following contradiction:

"We were one day inquiring of a Brahman of the pagoda of Chelambrum, who belonged to the skeptical school of the naturalists of Vyasa, whether he believed in the existence of God. He answered us, smiling: 'Aham eva param Brahma' — I am myself a god.

" 'I mean that every being on earth, however humble, is an immortal portion of the immortal matter.' "§

The answer is one which would suggest itself to every ancient philosopher, Kabalist and Gnostic, of the early days. It contains the very spirit of the delphic and kabalistic commandment, for esoteric philosophy solved, ages ago, the problem of what man was, is, and will be. If persons believing the Bible verse which teaches that the "Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life," reject at the same time the idea that every atom of this dust, as every particle of this "living soul," contains "God" within itself, then we pity the logic of that Christian. He forgets the verses which precede the one in question. God blesses equally every beast of the field and every living creature, in the water as in the air, and He

endows them all with life, which is a breath of His own Spirit, and the soul of the animal. Humanity is the Adam Kadmon of the "Unknown," His microcosm, and His only representative on earth, and every man is a god on earth.

We would ask this French scholar, who seems so familiar with every sloka of the books of Manu, and other Vedic writers, the meaning of this sentence so well known to him:

"Plants and vegetation reveal a multitude of forms because of their precedent actions; they are surrounded by darkness, but are nevertheless endowed with an interior soul, and feel equally pleasure and pain" (Manu, book i.).

If the Hindu philosophy teach the presence of a degree of soul in the lowest forms of vegetable life, and even in every atom in space, how is it possible that it should deny the same immortal principle to man? And if it once admit the immortal spirit in man, how can it logically deny the existence of the parent source — I will not say the first, but the eternal Cause? Neither rationalists nor sensualists, who do not comprehend Indian metaphysics, should estimate the ignorance of Hindu metaphysicians by their own.

The grand cycle, as we have heretofore remarked, includes the progress of mankind from its germ in the primordial man of spiritual form to the deepest depth of degradation he can reach — each successive step in the descent being accompanied by a greater strength and grossness of the physical form than its precursor — and ends with the Flood. But while the grand cycle, or age, is running its course, seven minor cycles are passed, each marking the evolution of a new race out of the preceding one, on a new world. And each of these races, or grand types of humanity, breaks up into subdivisions of families, and they again into nations and tribes, as we see the earth's inhabitants subdivided to-day into Mongols, Caucasians, Indians, etc.

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