Nothing seems to have surprised the first Spanish adventurers in Mexico and Peru more than the extraordinary similarity to those of the old world, of the religious beliefs, rites, and emblems which they found established in the new. The Spanish priests regarded this similarity as the work of the devil. The worship of the cross by the natives, and its constant presence in all religious buildings and ceremonies, was the principal subject of their amazement; and indeed nowhere--not even in India and Egypt--was this symbol held in more profound veneration than amongst the primitive tribes of the American continents, while the meaning underlying its worship was identical. In the west, as in the east, the cross was the symbol of life-sometimes of life physical, more often of life eternal.
In like manner in both hemispheres the worship of the sun-disk or circle, and of the serpent, was universal, and more surprising still is the similarity of the word signifying "God" in the principal languages of east and west. Compare the Sanscrit "Dyaus" or "Dyaus-pitar," the Greek, "Theos" and Zeus, the Latin "Deus" and "Jupiter," the Keltic "Dia" and "Ta," pronounced "Thyah" (seeming to bear affinity to the Egyptian Tau), the Jewish "Jah" or "Yah" and lastly the Mexican "Teo" or "Zeo."
Baptismal rites were practised by all nations. In Babylon and Egypt the candidates for initiation in the Mysteries were first baptized. Tertullian in his De Baptismo says that they were promised in consequence "regeneration and the pardon of all their perjuries." The Scandinavian nations practised baptism of new-born children; and when we turn to Mexico and Peru we find infant baptism there as a solemn ceremonial, consisting of water sprinkling, the sign of the cross, and prayers for the washing away of sin.
In addition to baptism, the tribes of Mexico, Central America and Peru resembled the nations of the old world in their rites of confession, absolution, fasting, and marriage before priests by joining hands. They had even a ceremony resembling the Eucharist, in which cakes marked with the Tau (an Egyptian form of cross) were eaten, the people calling them the flesh of their God. These exactly resemble the sacred cakes of Egypt and other eastern nations. Like these nations, too, the people of the new world had monastic orders, male and female, in which broken vows were punished with death. Like the Egyptians they embalmed their dead, they worshipped sun, moon and planets, but over and above
[1. See Humboldt's Mexican Researches and Prescott's Mexico.
2. For a fuller description of Baptismal Rites see W. Williamson's "The Great Law, " chap. "Sacraments and Blood Covenants.]
these adored a Deity "omnipresent, who knoweth all things ... invisible, incorporeal, one God of perfect perfection."
They too had their virgin-mother goddess, "Our Lady" whose son, the "Lord of Light," was called the "Saviour," bearing an accurate correspondence to Isis, Beltis and the many other virgin - goddesses of the east with their divine sons.
Their rites of sun and fire worship closely resembled those of the early Celts of Britain and Ireland, and like the latter they claimed to be the "children of the sun." An ark or argha was one of the universal sacred symbols which we find alike in India, Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, Greece and amongst the Celtic peoples. Lord Kingsborough in his Mexican Antiquities says: "As among the Jews the ark was a sort of portable temple in which the deity was supposed to be continually present, so among the Mexicans, the Cherokees and the Indians of Michoacan and Honduras, an ark was held in the highest veneration and was considered an object too sacred to be touched by any but the priests."
As to religious architecture, we find on both sides of the Atlantic that one of the earliest sacred buildings is the pyramid. Doubtful as are the uses for which these structures were originally intended, one thing is clear, that they were closely connected with some religious idea or group of ideas. The identity of design in the pyramids of Egypt and those of Mexico
[1. See Sahagun's Historia de Nueva España, lib. vi.
2. Vol. viii, p. 250.]
and Central America is too striking to be a mere coincidence. True some--the greater number--of the American pyramids are of the truncated or flattened form, yet according to Bancroft and others, many of those found in Yucatan, and notably those near Palenque, are pointed at the top in true Egyptian fashion, while on the other hand we have some of the Egyptian pyramids of the stepped and flattened type. Cholula has been compared to the groups of Dachour, Sakkara and the step pyramid of Médourn. Alike in orientation, in structure, and even in their internal galleries and chambers, these mysterious monuments of the east and of the west stand as witnesses to some common source whence their builders drew their plan.
The vast remains of cities and temples in Mexico and Yucatan also strangely resemble those of Egypt, the ruins of Teotihuacan having frequently been compared to those of Karnak. The "false arch"--horizontal courses of stone, each slightly overlapping the other--is found to be identical in Central America, in the oldest buildings of Greece, and in Etruscan remains. The mound builders of both eastern and western continents formed similar tumuli over their dead, and laid the bodies in similar stone coffins. Both continents have their great serpent-mounds; compare that of Adams Co., Ohio, with the fine serpent-mound discovered in Argyleshire, or the less perfect specimen at Avebury in Wilts. The very carving and decoration of the temples of America, Egypt and India have much in common, while some of the mural decorations are absolutely identical.