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The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, [1887], at

Idols of Baphomet

But it is now full time to return to Von Hammer's Baphometic Idols, and his profound interpretations of their figures and inscriptions. It is obvious at the first glance that the idea of most of them was suggested by the Roman Jupiter Hercules, or Silenus (classical types, by the way, entirely unknown to the art of the 12th and 13th centuries); their heads, or rather their faces, are triple, eyes and ears are plenteously distributed all over the body, which is moreover adorned with planetary signs. Our author sets them down without hesitation as the

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actual figures of the "Old Man" adored by the Knights, described so persistently by the witnesses against them as "une ydole avec trois faces." * The same statuettes are for the most part girded with serpents, whose heads they hold in their mouths, or in various distorted attitudes, amply sufficient grounds for Von Hammer to connect them with the Ophite mysteries. But this very attribute, together with the numerous eyes studding the body, would rather seem to betray an acquaintance in the sculptor with similar Hindoo creations--Indra, the eye-bespangled god of the firmament, for example. Similar fancies had found their way even into the Cinque-cento dress; Queen Elizabeth is painted in a gown thus embellished. Some, again, of these figures carry the Egyptian Tau (marculus, Masonic Knocker) conspicuously suspended from the neck. But, as already hinted, the artistic composition of these well-executed monstrosities, and the classical motives everywhere peeping out in their outlines, seem altogether foreign to the quaint simplicity of early mediæval art.

The three "Baptismal Vases," or Fonts, on which he lays so much stress, are nothing but little stone cups six inches high at the utmost, covered with bas-reliefs, the phallic character whereof would seem to point to their employment in the brewing of the Elixir of Life from its most obvious ingredients. The second of these reliefs, explained as denoting the "Baptism of Fire," does in truth recall to our recollection the "Twelve Tortures" of the Mithraic rock-tablets; for it exhibits a naked boy holding various instruments--the axe, lyre, bucket of Anubis--whilst another, blowing a horn, feeds the fire in a furnace. Of the third vase, however, the decoration savours strongly of Judaism, representing the lifting up of the Brazen Serpent, though the female reclining below appears rather to

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caress the living reptile that encircles her, than to be alarmed at its embrace; whilst the Candlestick of the Tabernacle, which the second female is quenching from a vase at the bidding of Von Hammer's "Mete," personified as a regular Dutch Solomon, but with uplifted hands whence drop off chains, all betray the same source of inspiration. Bacchic and sidereal symbols, amongst which the phallus of course predominates, are plentifully strewn over the field. But the Arabic legends in the modern lettering, in this case, equally with the classical air of the design in the second, suffice to convince the sober archæologist that all three vases are nothing more than a portion of the paraphernalia of those Rosicrucian or alchemical quacks, who fattened upon the credulity of that arch-virtuoso, Rudolf II., ever since whose reign these "fonts" have been treasured up in the Imperial Cabinet. A sufficient notion of Von Hammer's mode of explaining these monuments is afforded by his interpretation of the Arabic inscription upon the scroll displayed in the hands of his "Mete" (according to him the Ophite Sophia), a female yet bearded figure whose sex is ostentatiously revealed to view: "Exaltatur Mete germinans, stirps nostra Ego et Septem fuere. Tu es unus Renegantium. Reditus πρωκτὸς fit."

The Baphometic idol, that "Head of the Old Man," which makes so fearful a figure in the Articles of Accusation, reminds one of the crowned Osiris seen in front face, otherwise that terminal figure often to be found cut on certain large green jaspers, which differ widely in style from the true Gnostic talismans dating from the Lower Empire, but rather have something about them bespeaking a mediæval and Arabian origin. For example, Raspe * gives a gem (No. 588) with "God the Father" crowned with five stars, and several barbarous characters. Reverse, a square, a sphere, a pentagon of Pythagoras, and several astrological and geometrical figures. Such a talisman was lately found in the tomb of a Knight Templar which was opened in Germany. And here it may be parenthetically observed, that our Freemasons, in order to give a better colour to their pretence of descent from the Templars, perpetually talk of them as the greatest builders of their times,

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and as the best patrons of the subordinate body of working masons. Nothing can be more baseless than this assertion. The Order invested its wealth in a far more profitable manner than in stone and mortar, and really did nothing in the way of architecture, if compared with the great monastic Orders of the same period. In proof of this, notwithstanding its enormous possessions in England, no more than four churches were built for "Temples."

Von Hammer, amongst the numerous examples he has so indefatigably collected, presents many of a nature seemingly quite antagonistic to Catholic art, and of truly Gnostic and Oriental character. Conspicuous amongst them are the Three Vases, already described, in which he discovers examples of the true "Sangraal," that mystic cup which shines so brightly forth in the early romances of chivalry, the quest thereof being the highest adventure proposed in the Morte d’Arthur; perfect chastity being the indispensable condition for attaining unto the sight of the miraculous vessel. And in truth the decoration of these mystic fonts, used in the "Baptism of Mete" (the Gnostic Wisdom), whence their title "Baphometic," furnishes a very plausible foundation for the charges our author brings against their supposed inventors. But as for the obscene sculptures taken from the Templar churches, which he refers to the rites of the Venus Mascula celebrated therein, these are to be found in equal abundance and shamelessness amongst the carvings of other churches totally unconnected with the Order; for example, notably at Arcueil, near Paris. Such sculptures either contain a moral grossly expressed, according to the taste of their barbarous age, the censure of some particular vice, or may be no more than the ebullition of the brutal humour of the beery artist. But the gravest error into which this too sagacious interpreter has fallen is the attempt to identify the heresy of the Templar with the Ophite--that primitive form of the Gnosis, swallowed up so many ages before the foundation of the Order, in the overwhelming flood of Manicheism; a flood indeed that may, even at its source, Syria, have carried away as many inquiring spirits amongst the Knights, as it was simultaneously intoxicating in Italy and Provence. A great absurdity, too, is

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the building up his grand hypothesis upon the inexplicable "Mete," which he finds out for himself in these unintelligible legends, seeing that the Archaic Μῆτις was never used in Gnostic times as synonymous with Σοφία, Achamoth, an identity nevertheless taken for granted in his argument. And by the same rules does Von Hammer explain the Masons’ marks that he has collected, although they in no wise differ from others found in mediæval buildings of every conceivable destination and origin.

Before quitting this part of the subject, a word must be said upon other etymologies that have been proposed for the mighty word "Baphomet." One, equally consistent with Von Hammer's views, and much more so with the genius of the Byzantine language, would be βαφὴ Μητρός, "Baptism of the Mother," that special designation of Barbelo in the Valentinian theology. * Such Greek technical phrases may have been perpetuated in the Manichean ritual, wherever, and however late, it was introduced into France.

Another explanation makes Baphomet the corruption of Behemoth, meaning the golden calves Opis and Mnevis, whose bones were exhibited to their worshippers, set out upon the lid of the coffin. So in later times were the bones of Manes displayed for the adoration of his followers; and those of the G.M. Hiram,  according to report, at the initiation of a Templar. Hence came the Death's Head and Coffin, that figure so conspicuously at the Carbonari Conclaves, and the cognate engine of terror at our Masonic receptions, when the candidate for admission "being brought to the G.P. receives that sudden and awful impression on his mind that cannot fail to have the desired effect: a part of the ceremony that ought to be well attended to, as well for the honour and safety of the new-made brother, as of the Fraternity at large." But to return to etymology. Visconti is probably in the right after all, in considering "Baphometa" no deeper mystery that the French corruption of the name "Mahomet," as repeated by the ignorant witnesses for the prosecution.

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But although the fanciful Orientalist has pushed this theory to an unwarrantable and even ludicrous extent, yet proved facts, coupled with probabilities, will induce the unprejudiced inquirer to acquiesce in the conclusions of the judicious Raspe. "The Gnosis of Basilides was an occult science which, according to his tenets, should be known only and communicated to one in thousands, and to two in ten thousands, and that if the Knights Templars were guilty of any offence at the time of their extermination, it was that of having adopted the doctrines of the Gnostics, and consequently of having renounced the established doctrine of the Church on the human nature of Christ, and on the Trinity: in the place of which they, with the Gnostics, professed one Supreme Being, Father and Creator of all the Powers which, emanating from him, have created and do govern this world. At their reception or initiation into the highest degree of the Order they received βαφὴ μήτους, or μήτιος--that is to say, the Baptism or Tincture of Wisdom; they were presented with a sign or symbol of their baptism, which was the Pentagon of Pythagoras; and they worshipped a kind of image or idol; that like the Abraxas or this gem was the figure of a Bearded Old Man, or rather the representation of the only Supreme Being that they admitted and professed." The gem referred to is a jasper (Townley) presenting: "Abraxas, the Sun, or God-Father, or Demiurgus according to the Gnostics and necromancers. This head is crowned, the beard long, the hands crossed upon the breast: for the rest, he is formed as a Term, or a mummy. In the field are eight stars, probably an allusion to the eight Powers, or heavens, that are subordinate to them, according to Epiphanius. In the field are two Hebrew letters, ‏ת ה‎.

"Reverse. The same God the Father, or Abraxas, in the same attitude, standing above four angels placed upon a sphere and receiving his emanations; in the field are three, on the sphere are five stars. There are besides in the field two Hebrew letters, three lines of inscription, &c."

Figures of unquestionably mediæval workmanship do, however, exist, which would have stood Von Hammer (had he known of them) in far better stead than the easily recognisable legacies

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of Rudolf II. and his Rosicrucian quacks. Such is the brass statuette published by Caylus (Rec. d’antiq. v. Pl., 32) representing a man in tight jerkin and hose (as worn under armour), but head covered with a jester's horned hood. Upon his belly is emblazoned a blazing sun; he is girt with the broad knightly belt, engraved all round with planetary signs, and regular Masons’ Marks; which also run round the edge of the tripod upon which he stands. The figure, about five and a half inches high, extends both hands with the palms uppermost, and these are pierced with holes for the reception of the supports of some vessel, probably a magician's lamp. Amongst other devices engraved on the trunk, most conspicuous are the eagle, serpent, and crucible supporting a retort. Caylus places his drawing of it amongst his Egyptian monuments, but reasonably enough distrusting such an origin for the inscriptions, suggests, with no better reason, that the work belongs to Persia.


403:* "Car tantôt après ils alloient adorer une Idole, et pour certain icelle idole était une vielle peau, ainsi comme toute embaumée, et comme toile polie; et illecques certès le Templier mettoit sa tres vile foy et croyance; et en lui tres fermement croyoient. Et en icelle avoit ès fosses des yeux escarboncles reluisants comme clarté du ciel; et pour certain toute leur esperance étoit en icelle, et étoit leur Dieu souverain, et mêmement se affioit en lui de bon coeur" (Art. 3. Vie de Philippe le Bel, chap. 66. 'Chronique de S. Denys').

404:* 'Descriptive Catalogue of Engraved Gems.'

406:* Which made her the heavenly mother of the Saviour.

406:† Being set upon a coffin containing a corpse, elevated upon a catafalque of five steps (Clarkson).

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