The God-Idea of the Ancients (or Sex in Religion)
By Eliza Burt Gamble

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Chapter XVI. Stones or Columns as the Deity

“Throughout all the world, 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."[157]

[157] Celtic Druids, ch. vi., p. 209.

In the language of symbolism the upright stone prefigures either a man, reproductive energy, or a god, all of which at a certain stage in the human career had come to mean one and the same thing; namely, the Creator.

In the earlier ages of male worship, upright stones as emblems of the Deity were plain unwrought shafts, but in process of time they began to be carved into the form of a man–a man who usually represented the ruler or chief of the people, and who, as he was the source of all power and wisdom, was supposed by the ignorant masses to be an incarnation of the sun. Thus arose the spiritual power of monarchs, or the “divine right of kings.”

Wherever obelisks, columns, pillars, attenuated spires, upright stones or crosses at the intersection of roads are found, they always appear as sacred monuments, or as symbols of the Lingham god.

The Chaldean Tower of which there are extant traditions in Mexico and in the South Sea Islands; the Round Towers of Ireland; the remarkable group of stones known as Stonehenge, in England; the wonderful circle at Abury through which the figure of a huge serpent was passed; the monuments which throughout the nations of the East were set up at the intersection of roads in the center of market- places, and the bowing stones employed as oracles in various portions of the world, have all the same signification, and proclaim the peculiar religion of the people who worshipped them.

Whether as among the Jews in Egypt, a pillar is set up as a “sign” and a “witness” to the Lord, or whether as with the Mohammedans these figures appear as minarets with egg shaped summits, or as among the Irish they stand forth as stately towers defying time and the elements, or as among the Christians they appear as the steeple which points towards heaven, the symbol remains, and the original significance is the same.

The Lord of the Israelites who was wont to manifest himself to his chosen people in a “pillar of smoke by day” and a “pillar of fire by night” is said to be none other than a reproductive emblem, as was also the “Lord” which “reposed in the ark of the covenant.” Monuments set up to symbolize the religion of the Parsees or fire-worshippers after they had succumbed to the pressure brought to bear upon them by the adorers of the male principle were each and all of them, like their great prototype the tower of Babel, typical of the universal creative power which was worshipped as male.

Notwithstanding the fact that the male energy had come to be recognized as the principal factor in reproduction, it is observed that wherever these monuments or other symbols of fertility appear, there is always to be found in close connection with them certain emblems symbolical of the female power; thus showing that although the people by whom they were erected had become worshippers of the masculine principle, and although they had persuaded themselves that it was the more important element in the deity, they had not become so regardless of the truths of Nature as to attempt to construct a Creator independently of its most essential factor.

Protestant Christianity, probably the most intensely masculine of all religious schemes which have claimed the attention of man, has not wittingly retained any of the detested female emblems, yet so deeply has the older symbolism taken root, that even in the architecture of the modern Protestant church with its ark-shaped nave and its window toward the rising sun, may be detected the remnants of that early worship which the devotees of this more recently developed form of religious faith so piously ignore.

The large number of upright columns, circles of stone, cromlechs and cairns still extant in the British Isles, bears testimony to the peculiar character of the religious worship which once prevailed in them. Of these shrines perhaps none is more remarkable than that of Stonehenge, in England. Although during the numberless ages which have passed since this temple was erected many of the stones have fallen from their original places, still by the light of more recently established facts concerning religious symbolism, it has been possible, even under its present condition of decay, for scholars to unravel the hitherto mysterious significance of this remarkable structure. Stonehenge is composed of four circles of mammoth upright shafts twenty feet high, the one circle within the other, with immense stones placed across them like architraves.

In ancient symbolism the circle was the emblem of eternity, or of the eternal female principle. Mountains were also sacred to the gods. It has been said that a ring of mountains gave rise to these circular temples. Faber assures us that a circular stone temple was called the circle of the world or the circle of the ark, that it represented at once the inclosure of the Noetic Ship; the egg from which creation was produced; the earth, and the zodiacal circle of the universe in which the sun performs its annual revolutions through the signs. Stonehenge is said to be the temple of the water god Noah, who, as we have seen, was first worshipped as half woman and half fish or serpent, but who finally came to be regarded as a man serpent (or fish) Deity.

On approaching Stonehenge from the Northeast, the first object which engages the attention is a rude boulder, sixteen feet high, in a leaning posture. This stone has been named the Friar’s Heel, but until recently its signification has been wholly unknown.

Regarding the upright shaft which stands sentinel over the mysterious circles of mammoth stones called Stonehenge, Forlong says that it is no Friar’s Heel, but an emblem of fertility dedicated to the Friday divinity. It is represented as the “Genius of Fire,” not the genius of ordinary fire, “but of the super-sensual Divinity, celestial fire.”

Regarding these remarkable stones to which the Lingham god is a mere introduction, Forlong says:

“No one who has studied phallic and solar worship in the East could make any mistake as to the purport of the shrine at Stonehenge . . . yet the indelicacy of the whole subject often so shocks the ordinary reader, that, in spite of facts, he cannot grant what he thinks shows so much debasement of the religious mind; facts are facts, however, and it only remains for us to account for them. Perhaps indeed in these later times an artificial and lower phase of sensuality has taken the place of the more natural indulgence of the passions, for procreative purposes, which principally engrossed the thoughts of early worshippers."[158]

[158] Rivers of Life, vol. ii., p. 233.

Higgins is of the opinion that Stonehenge is the work of the same era with the caves of India, the pyramids of Egypt, and the stupendous monument at Carnac–a structure which, it is claimed, must have required for its construction an amount of labor equal to that of the pyramids.

Undoubtedly there has never been a religious shrine which has excited more curiosity than has Abury, of which, unfortunately, nothing now remains, although in the early part of the eighteenth century enough had been preserved to prove the identity of its signification with other ancient religious monuments both in the British Isles and in the countries of the East. Perhaps there is no way by which this shrine can be better understood than by quoting the exact language of those who have written upon the subject. Especially is this true concerning the testimony of those who, after personal investigation, have given to the public the results of their research.

In the History of Wiltshisre, published by Sir R. Colt Hoare, Bart., appears the following from Dr. Stukeley:

“The situation of Abury is finely chosen for the purpose it was destined to, being the more elevated part of a plain, from whence there is almost an imperceptible descent every way. But as the religious work in Abury, though great in itself, is but a part of the whole (the avenues stretching above a mile from it each way), the situation of the whole design is projected with great judgment, in a kind of large, separate plain, four or five miles in diameter. Into this you descend on all sides from higher ground. The whole Temple of Abury may be considered as a picture, and it really is so. Therefore the founders wisely contrived that a spectator have an advantageous prospect of it as he appeared within view. When I frequented this place, which I did for some years together, to take an exact account of it, staying a fortnight at a time, I found out the entire work by degrees. The second time I was here, an avenue was a new amusement; the third year another. So that at length I discovered the mystery of it, properly speaking, which was, that the whole figure represented a snake transmitted through a circle. This is an hieroglyphic or symbol of highest note and antiquity.

“In order to put this design in execution, the founders well studied their ground; and to make their representation more natural, they artfully carried it over a variety of elevations and depressions, which, with the curvature of the avenues, produces sufficiently the desired effect. To make it still more elegant and picture-like, the head of the snake is carried up the southern promontory of Hackpen Hill, toward the village of West Kennet; nay, the very name of the hill is derived from the circumstance. . . . Thus our antiquity divides itself into three great parts, which will be our rule in describing this work. The circle at Abury, the forepart of the snake leading toward Kennet, which I call Kennet Avenue; the hinder part of the snake leading toward Beckhampton, which I call Beckhampton Avenue; for they may be well looked on as avenues to the great temple at Abury, which part must be most eminently called the Temple.

“The plan on which Abury was built, is that sacred hierogram of the Egyptians and other ancient nations, the circle and snake. The whole figure is the circle, snake, and wings. By this they meant to picture out, as well as they could, the nature of the Divinity.”

The temple which represents the body of the snake is formed by a circular agger of earth having its ditch withinside. As this is contrary to the mode adopted in works of defence, it is thought to prove the religious character of Abury. In a description given of this shrine by Higgins is the following:

“These ramparts inclose an area of 1400 feet in diameter, which on the edge nearest the ditch was set round with a row of rough, unhewn stones, and in the center was ornamented with two circular temples, composed of the same native stones."[159]

[159] Celtic Druids. Description of plates, p. xx.

The space of ground included within the vellum has been estimated at twenty-two acres, and the outward circumvallation was computed at 4800 feet. The number of stones that formed this outer circle was originally one hundred, of which, in the year 1722, there were eighteen standing, and twenty-seven thrown down.

In the village of Rudstone in Yorkshire there stands a huge stone, the significance of which, at the present time, is by scholars clearly understood. Its depth below the surface of the ground is said to be equal to its height above, which is twenty-four feet. It is five feet ten inches broad, and two feet thick, its weight being upwards of forty tons.[160]

[160] See Rivers of Life.

The gigantic rocking stones found in nearly every quarter of the globe are now known to be religious monuments of remote antiquity. Not long ago I saw a description of one of these oracles in Buenos-Ayres, South America, and a few months later there appeared the following account of a similar stone found in Sullivan Co., N. Y.:

“At first sight it would scarcely attract attention, but a closer observation reveals the remarkable position which it occupies. The total weight of the immense boulder has been variously estimated at from forty to fifty tons, and its bulk at from 500 to 700 cubic feet. It is almost perfectly round, much resembling a huge orange, and so nicely balanced on a table of stone as to be easily set in motion by a single man, providing the operator exerts his strength on the north or south sides. On either of the other sides the combined strength of forty elephants would not be sufficient to cause the least oscillation. Although it is easily rocked, we are assured that as many men as could surround it would be unable to dislodge it from the pivot on which it rests."[161]

[161] The St. Louis (Mo.) Republican.

The writer of the above, who was evidently ignorant of the extent to which these monuments are scattered over the earth, seemed to regard it as a singular freak of Nature with no significance other than that of a natural curiosity.

The round towers of Ireland, over the origin of which there has in the past been so much controversy, are now pretty generally admitted to be analogous in their use and design to Stonehenge, Abury, and other extant monolithic structures.

Many writers have endeavored to prove that these towers were belfries used in connection with Christian churches; others that they were purgatorial columns or penitential heights, similar in design to the pillar of St. Simeon Stylites. Others again have argued that they were used as beacons and others that they were intended simply as receptacles for the sacred fire known to have formerly been in use in the British Isles. Although numberless arguments have been brought forward to refute these theories, it is thought that the expensive architecture alone of the elegant and stately columns known as Round Towers contradicts all these “guesses,” and that their grandeur and almost absolute indestructibility proclaim for them a different origin from that of the lowly and miserable huts which in a later age were erected beside them for purposes of worship by the Romish Christians. The same objection is made also against the theory that these monuments were erected in memory of the several defeats of the Danes. As an answer to the argument that they were erected by the Danes to celebrate their victories, it is declared that such is the character of the hieroglyphics upon them as to make this theory worthless. Besides, throughout the country of the Danes and Ostmen, there is nowhere to be found an example of architectural splendor such as is displayed in the construction of these columns. In the north of Scotland was one of these monuments upon which were depicted war-like scenes, horses and their riders, warriors brandishing their weapons, and troops shouting for victory, while on the other side was a sumptuous cross, beneath which were two figures, the one evidently female, the other male.

In Cordiner’s Antiquities of Scotland is a description of an elaborately carved obelisk. On one side of this column appears a mammoth cross, and underneath it are figures of uncouth animals. Among these carvings are to be seen the Bulbul of Iran, the Boar of Vishnu, the elk, the fox, the lamb, and a number of dancing human figures. In fact all the configurations are not only in their nature and import essentially Eastern, but are actually the symbols of the various animal forms under which “the people of the East contemplated the properties of the Godhead.”

Carnac, in upper Egypt, is a monolith of the same symbolic character. It is hewn from a solid block of black granite and is eighty feet high.

Henry O’Brien, a cultured Irishman, who when in London became, in his own line of investigation, one of the chief contributors to Fraser’s Magazine while at its best, in response to a call by the Royal Irish Academy for productions relating to the origin and use of the Round Towers, declared that they were erected by a colony of Tuath-de-danaans, or Lingham worshippers from Persia, who had left their native land because of the victories gained over them by their rivals–the Pish de-danaans–a sect of Yoni worshippers; in other words, the sect which recognized the female element as the superior agency in reproduction, and who, therefore, worshipped it as divine. In the devastating wars which swept over Persia and the other countries of antiquity prior to the age of the later Zoroaster, the Pish-de danaans were victorious, and, driving from the country the Tuath-de danaans, or male worshippers, succeeded in re-establishing, and for a time maintaining, the old form of worship. O’Brien claims that the Tuath-de-danaans who were expelled from Persia emigrated to Ireland, and there continued or preserved their favorite form of worship, the Round Towers having been erected by them in conformity to their peculiar religious views. This writer assures us that the old Irish tongue bears unmistakable evidence of the relation existing between these countries. In addition to the similarity of language which is found to exist between ancient Ireland or Iren, and Persia or Iran, the same writer observes that in all their customs, religious observances, and emblems, the resemblance is preserved.

Much regret has been expressed by all the writers who have dealt with this subject that at an earlier age when Stonehenge, Abury, and various other of the ancient monumental shrines of the British Isles were in a better state of preservation, and before bigotry and religious hatred had been aroused against them, more minute observations of their character and of all the details surrounding them could not have been made; yet, notwithstanding the late date at which these investigations were begun, it is believed that a fair amount of success has crowned the efforts which have been put forth to unravel the mysteries bound up in them.

When we remember that every detail connected with the sacred monuments of the ancients was full of significance that their religious ideas were all portrayed by means of symbols which appeared in connection with their sacred edifices–the extent to which a thorough understanding of these details would assist in revealing the mysteries involved in the universal religious conceptions may in a measure be realized.

The identity of the symbols used to express religious ideas, and the extent to which the conceptions of a creative force have been connected in all portions of the globe, are set forth in the following from Barlow:

“A complete history of religious symbolism should embrace all the religions of antiquity no less than the Christian, and it would require as thorough a knowledge of their tenets as of our own to explain satisfactorily its influence in regulating the practice of art."[162]

[162] Symbolism, p. 10.


Preface  •  Introduction  •  Chapter I. Sex the Foundation of the God-Idea  •  Chapter II. Tree, Plant, and Fruit Worship  •  Chapter III. Sun-Worship--Female and Male Energies in the Sun  •  Chapter IV. The Dual God of the Ancients a Trinity Also  •  Chapter V. Separation of the Female and Male Elements in the Deity  •  Chapter VI. Civilization of an Ancient Race  •  Chapter VII. Concealment of the Early Doctrines  •  Chapter VIII. The Original God-Idea of the Israelites  •  Chapter IX. The Phoenician and Hebrew God Set or Seth  •  Chapter X. Ancient Speculations Concerning Creation  •  Chapter XI. Fire and Phallic Worship  •  Chapter XII. An Attempt to Purify the Sensualized Faiths  •  Chapter XIII. Christianity a Continuation of Paganism  •  Chapter XIV. Christianity a Continuation of Paganism–(Continued)  •  Chapter XV. Christianity in Ireland  •  Chapter XVI. Stones or Columns as the Deity  •  Chapter XVII. Sacrifices  •  Chapter XVIII. The Cross and a Dying Savior

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