Extract from the book
The Theosophical Seal
by Arthur M. Coon

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.
To those students who wish to probe more deeply into the symbolism of the Seal, this book will furnish a valuable guide. For the first time in our literature material has been brought together in a single work to trace the scattered threads of meaning that lie behind all of the elements of the Seal.

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.
The numbers "1" and "0" united, become "10", the Sacred Number.
The Point and the Circle united, become O, the Sacred Symbol.

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 Point in motion, becoming the Line, is the symbol of Spirit becoming matter.
Matter and Motion are essentially one.
Time and Space are only those fragments of Eternity and Infinity which the Line can measure.
Vowels to be articulate must be limited by consonants. Life to be cognized must be embodied in form.
God created a universe by limiting His essential nature. A fragment of the Infinite descends from "Heaven" that an immortal soul may be born on "earth".

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.
When we come to consider the Square and the number 4 is that we have stepped down into another world. The symbol of the point, the line and of the triangle dealt with the word of spirit,that which Plato called the Noumena. But when we come to consider the square (or the three dimensional cube) we come down into the world of things and events round about us. In general we may conclude that the symbol of the Square (or the Cube) and its numerical sign, the number 4, alludes to the realm of manifestation rather than to those causes and forces behind manifestation. We sense in the square a kind of mental or spiritual prototype towards which the present and imperfect state of things is evolving. Students of Masonry will recognise the recurring allusions to the square in the teaching and rituals of its degrees as referring to that state of perfection which is the ideal of human character and of society as a whole. We may easily see that the Pyramid of Gizeh, the Tetraktys of Pythagoras and the Masonic apron are adaptations of the same symbol of the Three and the Four or the Triangle and the Square.
Everything which we said about the Square could as truly be said about the Cross, although with certain significant differences. Like the square, the numerical value of the cross is 4. The cross divides the circle into four equal segments, the day into four parts and the year into four seasons. It marks off sidereal space into four cardinal points: North, East, South and West. However, the underlying difference in the philosophy of the Square and the Cross, it seems to me, lies in the distinction between the static and the dynamic, between finality and infinity. The square types a universe which is evolving towards a state of perfection, a state, however, which is fixed and final. It represents a creation which is ever in the process of becoming or moving towards a far-off ideal. It represents a universe which is dynamic, continually expanding under the pressure of the life force within it. It types not only an ideal or goal of perfection towards which man and the universe is evolving, but an ideal or goal which is itself ever expanding, ever moving in unending spirals throughout infinity. For this reason the cross is a dual symbol of Sacrifice and Death, for it embodies the idea of life or spirit as imprisoned or buried in the tomb of matter. It is the symbol of the Divine Incarnation, of God descending to earth and becoming man. It is no less the symbol of Hope and Life , for it is the symbol of the resurrection of life from its material bondage.

Tau

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.

Swastika

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 cross expresses the characteristics of Sacrifice, Truth, Law, Righteousness, Experience, Balance and Stability. The swastika expresses Courage, Daring, Venturesomeness, Lawfulness, Salvation and Well-being. Whether we think of those whirling vortices of force which make up the microscopic atom; the seven forces centers (Called Chakras) of the physical body which control its marvellous processes of growth and evolution; or macrocosmic revolution of planets around a central sun (the "wheels within wheels" of Ezekiel and Revelation) the Swastika or Whirling Cross is universal symbol. The Swastika is symbol of the Creative Fire of the Third Logos,the Holy Ghost or Brahma. It is the emblem of the activity of Fohat, of a living, moving, evolving unit of life, be that unit an atom or a solar system. It is that creative fire within all living things ,which breaks through every barrier and limitation to build anew and nearer to the likeness of its destined goal.In the mind of man it is the fire which makes him a creator in art, in literature, in music,mechanics,healing and indeed every phase of human activity. It is the fire within his own being which urges and torments him to become a god.

Snake

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 serpent symbol descends from this high realm of divine contemplation. Instead of pointing to those deific qualities,whether human or universal, it brings to mind just the reverse. From a classic heaven of law, order and harmony we have descended into a world of confusion, straddle, chaos. A new element has crept into the sublime atmosphere of the gods, the element of enquiry and doubt- enquiry after the sources of truth and doubt concerning all authority. With the entrance of the serpent, order and beauty have given way to human passions: desires, greed, ambitions, selfish loves and hates. The simple laws of being have become complex and complicated problems; and man has invented strange theologies to attempt to solve and to escape from them. Such words as sin, evil, punishment, hell, redemption and salvation have entered into the human vocabulary to bind men's hearts and minds in fear and ignorance. So are there two aspects of the serpent symbol; and Satan and evil give way to its more positive aspect as the Divine Healer.
The serpent is the symbol of the Cosmic Creative force. It finds its expression on all levels of manifestation. On the physical level it manifests as the procreative or sex- force. It is the perversion of this force which leads to degradation and death. On the spiritual level it is the Christ-force-that vivifying, fructifying power through whose action all things are brought into manifestation; that penetrating Love- Wisdom which is the great unifier and healer of all living things. This force is the great creative power in Nature and the most potent factor in man's evolution. This spiritualizing force which ascends in man from the base of the spine to the top of the head has been given by the ancients the name Kundalini or the Serpent Fire. Serpent is also simbol of wisdom. In ancient India, Naga was the serpent of wisdom.
If we would try to describe the meaning of the serpent in the act of swallowing its own tail, we would use these two words, Eternity and Infinity. The serpent-swallowing-its-own-tail symbol presents the idea of the :finite being " swallowed " by the Infinite, of time being "swallowed" by the Eternal. Surely in the fullness of time, as the finite is swallowed up in the Infinite, partial and relative truths will be swallowed up in ultimate Truth. Time and Space will disappear into Eternity and Infinity. Manifestation returns to Absolute Being. So the serpent swallows its tail.

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.
How intricate is man's relation with the universe about him and how intimate is his relationship with God and what could more truly express this relationship, with its infinite correspondences of parts, culminating in identification and eventual union, than the symbol of the inter- twining triangles? Even our most abstract thought follows the lines of this threefold pattern, for there must be the thinker, the thought, then the thing thought about. This is the eternal Triangle. When we consider His work as a Trinity, in its function in the creating of a universe, this work must be described as three distinct acts or "outpourings", referred to in Theosophical literature as the "three life waves".
What symbol could more appropriately express this "Divine Image" than the inter-twining of the triangles - the upward pointing triangle representing the divine Trinity, the downward pointing triangle being the sign of the human triad as Spirit - Soul - Body.
The six-pointed star is a crystalized "act of faith", for the upward pointing triangle represents man's aspiration reaching upward toward his own divine source, while the downward pointing triangle represents the down pouring of inspiration and spiritual power through his own higher vehicles. It is the sign of his present relationship with God and the assurance of his ultimate union. It is the Spirit which is God coming down to touch the spirit which is man; it is also the self which is man reaching upward to touch the Self which is God. A realization of the full meaning of this truth is the highest form of yoga and the consummation of all mystical experience. Yet, in a very real sense, this symbol of the two interlaced triangles is in itself incomplete. While it is the sign of union-of man's lower self with his higher, and of his higher Self with God-each of these trinities in itself alone is insufficient and incomplete. For at the center of each triad there is an invisible and unmanifest Reality. Within the divine Trinity there is God who is Absolute Being. Within the human triad there is the divine Monad. Within each triangle there is the invisible Point - its heart or soul. The symbol of the double triangles finds its completion only with this invisible Point as its center. Thus in man as well as in the universe, this union is complete only when the 6 becomes 7. The number 7, which is the Point, is the eternal "Silent Watcher". It is God in His universe. It is. God in man. It is the sign of attainment and triumph. In it is contained both the hope and the fulfilment or the integration of life and of man's ultimate union with God.

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.