Stones, Metals and Gems

EACH of the four primary elements as taught by the early philosophers has its analogue
in the quaternary terrestrial constitution of man. The rocks and earth correspond to the
bones and flesh; the water to the various fluids; the air to the gases; and the fire to the
bodily heat. Since the bones are the framework that sustains the corporeal structure, they
may be regarded as a fitting emblem of the spirit–that divine foundation which supports
the composite fabric of mind, soul, and body. To the initiate, the skeleton of death
holding in bony fingers the reaper’s scythe denotes Saturn (Kronos), the father of the
gods, carrying the sickle with which he mutilated Ouranos, his own sire.
In the language of the Mysteries, the spirits of men are the powdered bones of Saturn.
The latter deity was always worshiped under the symbol of the base or footing, inasmuch
as he was considered to be the substructure upholding creation. The myth of Saturn has
its historical basis in the fragmentary records preserved by the early Greeks and
Phoenicians concerning a king by that name who ruled over the ancient continent of
Hyperborea. Polaris, Hyperborea, and Atlantis, because they lie buried beneath the
continents and oceans of the modern world, have frequently been symbolized as rocks
supporting upon their broad surfaces new lands, races, and empires. According to the
Scandinavian Mysteries, the stones and cliffs were formed from the bones of Ymir, the
primordial giant of the seething clay, while to the Hellenic mystics the rocks were the
bones of the Great Mother, Gæa.

After the deluge sent by the gods to destroy mankind at the close of the Iron Age, only
Deucalion and Pyrrha were left alive. Entering a ruined sanctuary to pray, they were
directed by an oracle to depart from the temple and with heads veiled and garments
unbound cast behind them the bones of their mother. Construing the cryptic message of
the god to mean that the earth was the Great Mother of all creatures, Deucalion picked up
loose rocks and, bidding Pyrrha do likewise, cast them behind him. From these rocks
there sprang forth a new and stalwart race of human beings, the rocks thrown by
Deucalion becoming men and those thrown by Pyrrha becoming women. In this allegory
is epitomized the mystery of human evolution; for spirit, by ensouling matter, becomes
that indwelling power which gradually but sequentially raises the mineral to the status of
the plant; the plant to the plane of the animal; the animal to the dignity of man; and man
to the estate of the gods.
The solar system was organized by forces operating inward from the great ring of the
Saturnian sphere; and since the beginnings of all things were under the control of Saturn,
the most reasonable inference is that the first forms of worship were dedicated to him and
his peculiar symbol–the stone. Thus the intrinsic nature of Saturn is synonymous with
that spiritual rock which is the enduring foundation of the Solar Temple, and has its
antitypc or lower octave in that terrestrial rock–the planet Earth–which sustains upon its
jagged surface the diversified genera of mundane life.
Although its origin is uncertain, litholatry undoubtedly constitutes one of the earliest
forms of religious expression. “Throughout all the world, ” writes Godfrey Higgins, “the
first object of Idolatry seems to have been a plain, unwrought stone, placed in the ground,
as an emblem of the generative or procreative powers of nature.” (See The Celtic Druids.)

Remnants of stone worship are distributed over the greater part of the earth’s surface, a
notable example being the menhirs at Carnac, in Brittany, where several thousand
gigantic uncut stones are arranged in eleven orderly rows. Many of these monoliths stand
over twenty feet out of the sand in which they are embedded, and it has been calculated
that some of the larger ones weigh as much as 250,000 pounds. By some it is believed
that certain of the menhirs mark the location of buried treasure, but the most plausible
view is that which regards Carnac as a monument to the astronomical knowledge of
antiquity. Scattered throughout the British Isles and Europe, these cairns, dolmens,
menhirs, and cistvaens stand as mute but eloquent testimonials to the existence and
achievements of races now extinct.
Of particular interest are the rocking or logan stones, which evince the mechanical skill
of these early peoples. These relics consist of enormous boulders poised upon one or two
small points in such a manner that the slightest pressure will sway them, but the greatest
effort is not sufficient to overthrow them. These were called living stones by the Greeks
and Latins, the most famous one being the Gygorian stone in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Though so perfectly balanced that it could be moved with the stalk of a daffodil, this rock
could not be upset by the combined weight of many men. There is a legend that Hercules
raised a rocking stone over the graves of the two sons of Boreas whom he had killed in
combat. This stone was so delicately poised that it swayed back and forth with the wind,
but no application of force could overturn it. A number of logan stones have been found
in Britain, traces of one no longer standing having been discovered in Stonehenge. (See
The Celtic Druids.) It is interesting to note that the green stones forming the inner ring of
Stonehenge are believed to have been brought from Africa.

In many cases the monoliths are without carving or inscription, for they undoubtedly
antedate both the use of tools and the art of writing. In some instances the stones have
been trued into columns or obelisks, as in the runic monuments and the Hindu lingams
and sakti stones; in other instances they are fashioned into rough likenesses of the human
body, as in the Easter Island statues, or into the elaborately sculptured figures of the
Central American Indians and the Khmers of Cambodia. The first rough-stone images can
hardly be considered as effigies of any particular deity but rather as the crude effort of
primitive man to portray in the enduring qualities of stone the procreative attributes of
abstract Divinity. An instinctive recognition of the stability of Deity has persisted through
all the intervening ages between primitive man and modem civilization. Ample proof of
the survival of litholatry in the Christian faith is furnished by allusions to the rock of
refuge, the rock upon which the church of Christ was to be founded, the corner stone
which the builders rejected, Jacob’s stony pillow which he set up and anointed with oil,
the sling stone of David, the rock Moriah upon which the altar of King Solomon’s
Temple was erected, the white stone of Revelation, and the Rock of Ages.
Stones were highly venerated by prehistoric peoples primarily because of their
usefulness. Jagged bits of stone were probably man’s first weapons; rocky cliffs and crags
constituted his first fortifications, and from these vantage points he hurled loose boulders
down upon marauders. In caverns or rude huts fashioned from slabs of rock the first
humans protected themselves from the rigors of the elements. Stones were set up as  markers and monuments to primitive achievement; they were also placed upon the graves
of the dead, probably as a precautionary measure to prevent the depredations of wild
beasts. During migrations, it was apparently customary for primitive peoples to carry
about with them stones taken from their original habitat. As the homeland or birthplace of
a race was considered sacred, these stones were emblematic of that universal regard
shared by all nations for the place of their geniture. The discovery that fire could be
produced by striking together two pieces of stone augmented man’s reverence for stones,
but ultimately the hitherto unsuspected world of wonders opened by the newly discovered
element of fire caused pyrolatry to supplant stone worship. The dark, cold Father–stone–
gave birth out of itself to the bright, glowing Son-fire; and the newly born flame, by
displacing its parent, became the most impressive and mysterious of all religiophilosophic
symbols, widespread and enduring through the ages.


From Catrari’s Imagini degli Dei degli Antichi.

Saturn, having been warned by his parents that one of his own children would dethrone him, devoured each
child at birth. At last Rhea, his wife, in order to save Jupiter, her sixth child substituted for him a rock
enveloped in swaddling clothes–which Saturn, ignorant of the deception practiced upon him, immediately
swallowed. Jupiter was concealed on the island of Crete until he attained manhood, when he forced his
father to disgorge the five children he had eaten. The stone swallowed by Saturn in lieu of his youngest son
was placed by Jupiter at Delphi, where it was held in great veneration and was daily anointed.

p. 98
The body of every thing was likened to a rock, trued either into a cube or more ornately
chiseled to form a pedestal, while the spirit of everything was likened to the elaborately
carved figure surmounting it. Accordingly, altars were erected as a symbol of the lower
world, and fires were kept burning upon them to represent that spiritual essence
illuminating the body it surmounted. The square is actually one surface of a cube, its
corresponding figure in plane geometry, and its proper philosophic symbol.
Consequently, when considering the earth as an element and not as a body, the Greeks,
Brahmins, and Egyptians always referred to its four corners, although they were fully
aware that the planet itself was a sphere.
Because their doctrines were the sure foundation of all knowledge and the first step in the
attainment of conscious immortality, the Mysteries were often represented as cubical or
pyramidal stones. Conversely, these stones themselves became the emblem of that
condition of self-achieved godhood. The unchangeability of the stone made it an  appropriate emblem of God–the immovable and unchangeable Source of Existence–and
also of the divine sciences–the eternal revelation of Himself to mankind. As the
personification of the rational intellect, which is the true foundation of human life,
Mercury, or Hermes, was symbolized in a like manner. Square or cylindrical pillars,
surmounted by a bearded head of Hermes and called hermæ, were set up in public places.
Terminus, a form of Jupiter and god of boundaries and highways, from whose name is
derived the modern word terminal, was also symbolized by an upright stone, sometimes
ornamented with the head of the god, which was placed at the borders of provinces and
the intersections of important roads.
The philosopher’s stone is really the philosophical stone, for philosophy is truly likened
to a magic jewel whose touch transmutes base substances into priceless gems like itself.
Wisdom is the alchemist’s powder of projection which transforms many thousand times
its own weight of gross ignorance into the precious substance of enlightenment.

Like the sapphire Schethiyâ, the Lapis Exilis, crown jewel of the Archangel Lucifer, fell
from heaven. Michael, archangel of the sun and the Hidden God of Israel, at the head of
the angelic hosts swooped down upon Lucifer and his legions of rebellious spirits. During
the conflict, Michael with his flaming sword struck the flashing Lapis Exilis from the
coronet of his adversary, and the green stone fell through all the celestial rings into the
dark and immeasurable Abyss. Out of Lucifer’s radiant gem was fashioned the Sangreal,
or Holy Grail, from which Christ is said to have drunk at the Last Supper.
Though some controversy exists as to whether the Grail was a cup or a platter, it is
generally depicted in art as a chalice of considerable size and unusual beauty. According
to the legend, Joseph of Arimathea brought the Grail Cup to the place of the crucifixion
and in it caught the blood pouring from the wounds of the dying Nazarene. Later Joseph,
who had become custodian of the sacred relics–the Sangreal and the Spear of Longinus–
carried them into a distant country. According to one version, his descendants finally
placed these relics in Glastonbury Abbey in England; according to another, in a
wonderful castle on Mount Salvat, Spain, built by angels in a single night. Under the
name of Preston John, Parsifal, the last of the Grail Kings, carried the Holy Cup with him
into India, and it disappeared forever from the Western World. Subsequent search for the
Sangreal was the motif for much of the knight errantry of the Arthurian legends and the
ceremonials of the Round Table. (See the Morte d’Arthur.)

No adequate interpretation has ever been given to the Grail Mysteries. Some believe the
Knights of the Holy Grail to have been a powerful organization of Christian mystics
perpetuating the Ancient Wisdom under the rituals and sacraments of the oracular Cup.
The quest for the Holy Grail is the eternal search for truth, and Albert G. Mackey sees in
it a variation of the Masonic legend of the Lost Word so long sought by the brethren of
the Craft. There is also evidence to support the claim that the story of the Grail is an
elaboration of an early pagan Nature myth which has been preserved by reason of the
subtle manner in which it was engrafted upon the cult of Christianity. From this particular
viewpoint, the Holy Grail is undoubtedly a type of the ark or vessel in which the life of
the world is preserved and therefore is significant of the body of the Great Mother–
Nature. Its green color relates it to Venus and to the mystery of generation; also to the
Islamic faith, whose sacred color is green and whose Sabbath is Friday, the day of Venus.
The Holy Grail is a symbol both of the lower (or irrational) world and of the bodily
nature of man, because both are receptacles for the living essences of the superior worlds.
Such is the mystery of the redeeming blood which, descending into the condition of
death, overcomes the last enemy by ensouling all substance with its own immortality. To
the Christian, whose mystic faith especially emphasizes the love element, the Holy Grail
typifies the heart in which continually swirls the living water of eternal life. Moreover, to   the Christian, the search for the Holy Grail is the search for the real Self which, when
found, is the consummation of the magnum opus.
The Holy Cup can be discovered only by those who have raised themselves above the
limitations of sensuous existence. In his mystic poem, The Vision of Sir Launfal, James
Russell Lowell discloses the true nature of the Holy Grail by showing that it is visible
only to a certain state of spiritual consciousness. Only upon returning from the vain
pursuit of haughty ambition did the aged and broken knight see in the transformed leper’s
cup the glowing chalice of his lifelong dream. Some writers trace a similarity between the
Grail legend and the stories of the martyred Sun Gods whose blood, descending from
heaven into the earth, was caught in the cup of matter and liberated therefrom by the
initiatory rites. The Holy Grail may also be the seed pod so frequently employed in the
ancient Mysteries as an emblem of germination and resurrection; and if the cuplike shape
of the Grail be derived from the flower, it signifies the regeneration and spiritualization
of the generative forces in man.
There are many accounts of stone images which, because of the substances entering into
their composition and the ceremonials attendant upon their construction, were ensouled
by the divinities whom they were created to resemble. To such images were ascribed
various human faculties and powers, such as speech, thought, and even motion. While
renegade priests doubtless resorted to trickery–an instance of which is related in a
curious apocryphal fragment entitled Bel and the Dragon and supposedly deleted from
the end of the Book of Daniel–many of the phenomena recorded in connection with
sanctified statues and relics can hardly be explained unless the work of supernatural
agencies be admitted.

History records the existence of stones which, when struck, threw all who heard the
sound into a state of ecstasy. There were also echoing images which whispered for hours
after the room itself had become silent, and musical stones productive of the sweetest
harmonies. In recognition of the sanctity which the Greeks and Latins ascribed to stones,
they placed their hands upon certain consecrated pillars when taking an oath. In ancient
times stones played a part in determining the fate of accused persons, for it was
customary for juries to reach their verdicts by dropping pebbles into a bag.
Divination by stones was often resorted to by the Greeks, and Helena is said to have
foretold by lithomancy the destruction of Troy. Many popular superstitions about stones
survive the so-called Dark Ages. Chief among these is the one concerning the famous
black stone in the seat of the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey, which is declared to
be the actual rock used by Jacob as a pillow. The black stone also appears several times
in religious symbolism. It was called Heliogabalus, a word presumably derived from
Elagabal, the Syro-Phoenician sun god. This stone was sacred to the sun and declared to
possess great and diversified properties. The black stone in the Caaba at Mecca is still
revered throughout the Mohammedan world. It is said to have been white originally and
of such brilliancy that it could be seen many days’ journey from Mecca, but as ages
passed it became blackened by the tears of pilgrims and the sins of the world.


by Manly P. Hall


About sooteris kyritsis

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