The God-Idea of the Ancients (or Sex in Religion)
By Eliza Burt Gamble
Public Domain Books
Chapter VIII. The Original God-Idea of the Israelites
Not only were religious doctrines veiled beneath allegories and convenient symbols, but names also had a religious significance.
We are given to understand that in Chaldea and Assyria every child was named by the oracle or priest, and that no one thought of changing the appellation which had come to him through this heavenly source.
 Inman, Ancient Faiths, vol. i., p. 3.
Inman, in his Ancient Faiths, calls attention to the fact that in the Old Testament kings, priests, captains, and other great men have had names bestowed upon them, each of which has some religious signification; that this name was given the individual “at circumcision, or soon after birth.”
In the ancient names of what are designated as the Shemitic races, children were called after the god alone, and sometimes in connection with an attribute. Especially were these names applied to royalty or to persons of distinction; for instance, names were given signifying, God the good, God the just or the merciful, God the strong, The Warrior God, etc.
As the higher conception of a Creator was forgotten, and as human beings, or perhaps I should say their power to control circumstances coupled with the ability to reproduce or create, had become god, they assumed the titles or names of the Deity; hence, it is not perhaps singular that in later times kings and heroes were invested with all the attributes of the gods.
We have seen that according to various writers Om or Amm was the holy one whose name in India it was sacrilege to pronounce. It was the eternal sun, or the Great Mother. As this word stands also for “tribe or people,” it seems to mean, too, that which binds, holds, or endures.
As Om or Amm signifies the Great Mother, so An or On means the Great Father. Concerning the word Am-mon, Inman writes as follows:
“The association of the words signifying mother and father indicates that it is to such conjunction we must refer creative power. With such an androgyne element the sun was associated by ancient mythologists. Jupiter was himself sometimes represented as being female; and the word hermaphrodite is in itself a union between Hermes and Aphrodite, the male and female creative powers. We may fairly conclude, from the existence of names like the above, that there was at one time in Western as there was in Eastern Asia a strong feud between the adorers of On and Am, the Lingacitas and the Yonijas, and that they were at length partially united under Ammon, as they were elsewhere under Nebo or the Nabhi of Vishnu."
 Ancient Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names, vol. i., p. 237.
Inman relates that once when a friend of his was conversing with a very high-caste Hindoo he casually uttered this word Amm or Om, whereupon the man was so awe struck that he could scarcely speak, and, in a voice almost of terror, asked where his friend had learned the word. Of this word Inman says:
“To the Hindoos it was that incommunicable name of the Almighty, which no one ventured to pronounce except under the most religious solemnity. And here let me pause to remark that the Jews were equally reverent with the name belonging to the Most High; and that the third commandment was very literal in its signification.”
The same writer remarks that in Thibet, too, where a worship very nearly identical in ceremony and doctrine with that of the Roman papists exists amongst the Lamas, the name of Om is still sacred.
The Iav of the Jews was equally revered, but in the later ages of their career they seem to have lost sight of its true meaning.
According to Inman’s testimony and that of other etymological students, the true signification of the cognomen Jacob is the female principle.
It is believed by various writers that the story of Jacob and Esau as related in Genesis has an esoteric as well as an exoteric meaning–that Jacob has reference to the female creative energy throughout Nature, or, rather, to the great mass of people who in an early age of the human race believed in the superior importance of the female in the office of reproduction, and that Esau signifies the male. Attention is called to the fact that Esau is represented as a “hairy” man, rough-voiced and easily beguiled, while Jacob, on the other hand, is smooth-faced, soft-voiced, and the favorite of his mother.
There is indeed much in this myth which seems to indicate that it is an allegory beneath which are veiled certain facts connected with the struggle between two early contending sects regarding the relative importance of the sexes in reproduction. Of this Inman says:
“My own impression is that Esau, or Edom, and Jacob are mystic names for a man and a woman, and that round these, historians wove a web of fancy; that ultimately the cognomen Jacob was recognized, and that to allow the Jewish people to trace their descent from a male rather than a female, the appellation of Israel was substituted in later productions."
 Ancient Faiths, vol. i., p. 607.
As most of the myths or allegories in Genesis are now traced to a source far more remote than the beginning of legitimate Jewish history, it is not unreasonable to suppose that this story, too, was copied by the Jews from the traditions of earlier races; nor, when we remember the true meaning of the cognomen Jacob, that the entire story should be regarded as an attempt to set forth certain facts connected with the great physiological or religious conflict between the sexes.
The significance of the idols worshipped by Jacob and his family is not for a certainty known, but it is believed by certain writers that the Seraphim and Teraphim were the usual images which were used to represent the male and female energies. “Then Jacob said unto his household and to all that were with him: Put away the strange gods that are among you.” In referring to this passage, Inman, in a note, says:
“The critic might fairly say, looking at Genesis xxxv., 2, ’Put away the strange gods that are among you,’ that there were images of God which were not strange, and that in these early times there were orthodoxy and heterodoxy in images as there are now. In ancient times the emblem of life-giving energy was an orthodox emblem; it is now a horror and its place is taken by an image of death. We infer from the context that Laban’s gods were orthodox.”
So, also, must have been the stone pillar set up by Jacob at Bethel (place of the sun). From a study of similar stones, examples of which are to be found in nearly every country of the globe, it is known that they represent the male energy, and from all the facts connected with the story of Laban’s gods it is probable that they were emblems of this power. We may suppose then that the “strange gods,” the unorthodox gods, which Jacob ordered put away, were those representing the female energy.
It seems strange that any person can study the history of the Israelitish Exodus by the light of later developments in biblical research without recognizing the fact that the “Lord” which brought the children of Israel out from the bondage of Egypt was the male power, which by a certain sect had been proclaimed the only actual creative agency, and therefore the “only one and true God.”
Although, at the time at which Abraham is said to have lived, the knowledge of an abstract dual or triune God still remained, yet, during the five hundred years which elapsed until the time of Moses, the grossest idolatry had come to prevail. Notwithstanding the fact that Moses had learned much from the Egyptians, he seems not to have risen above a very gross conception of a deity. His god was by turns angry, jealous, revengeful, vacillating, and weak. He was in fact the embodiment of human passions and desires. We have seen that the third person in the ancient Trinity had, in Egypt, India, and Persia, come to be recognized in place of the three principles originally worshipped–that, as it really embodied the essence of the other two, little was heard of the Creator and Preserver. Doubtless this God was the one which Moses intended the Israelites to worship, but as they were unable to conceive of an abstract principle he invested it with a personality which, as we have seen, was burdened with the frailties and weaknesses common to themselves.
As the Regenerator or Destroyer represented the processes of Nature,–the dying away of the sun’s rays at night only to reappear on the following day, and the withdrawal of its warmth in winter only to be renewed in the spring,–so this God portrayed also the beneficent Creator and Preserver of all things, at the same time that it was the Destroyer. It embodied the fundamental idea in all religions, namely, life and fertility. So also did the “Lord” of the Israelites represent reproductive energy, but as man being spirit had come to be a Creator of offspring, while woman being only matter furnished the body, this “Lord” was male. Connected with it was no hint of the female nature or principle, except the ark or chest in which it was carried about. To those who have acquainted themselves with the significance of ancient religious symbols, the fact is plain that the “Lord” of the Israelites, which in their journeyings toward Canaan they carried in an ark or chest, and which was symbolized by an upright stone, was none other than a “Life-giver” in the most practical sense. It was the emblem of virility, and from the facts at hand, at the present time, there is little doubt but that all the spirituality with which we find this “Lord” invested was an after-thought and comprehended no part of the belief of the Jews until after their contact with the Persians during the Babylonian captivity.
Doubtless the story in which their journeyings toward Canaan are set forth contains an esoteric as well as an exoteric significance for ages known only to the priests, and that within it is embodied not alone something of the true history of this people, but an account also of their struggle against an older religion. At this time the Israelites had practically commenced the elimination of the female principle from their god-idea, and had begun the worship of the male element, the female being represented by an ark, chest, or box. This ark, as the receptacle of the god, was still a holy thing.
Not only among the Israelites, but among other nations of the East, we find the devotees of the male god beginning to assume a position quite independent of the beliefs of their fathers. At this time great towers or pillars begin to be erected in honor of this deity, which is figured as the “God of Life,” or as the “Lord of Hosts.” Notwithstanding the fact that the story of the Exodus contains much historical truth, it is altogether probable that the priests have used it, as they did that of the flood, to conceal their religious doctrines.
At the time of the Exodus, the Israelites were ignorant tribes without laws or letters, and while in Egypt were menials of the lowest order. Hence, the laws written on the two tables of stone, and which it is claimed were elaborated during their wanderings in the wilderness of Sinai for the guidance of these unlettered slaves, show the desire of the priests of later times to invest the “chosen people” with the insignia of enlightenment.
Regarding the character of the god which they worshipped, we have ample proof in the Old Testament. It is plain that at the time of their bondage in Egypt the Jews had become the grossest phallic worshippers, adoring the emblems of generation, with no thought of their earlier significance as pure symbols of creative force in mortals.
The fact will doubtless be remembered that, among the Jews, to be barren was the greatest curse, and that the principal reward promised to the faithful was fruitfulness of body. The essence of this deity was heat or passion, and his emblem was the serpent or an upright stone. It has been observed that when this “Lord" was invested with personality he was subject to all the frailties of his followers. His chief and most emphatic characteristic, however, was jealousy of other gods, and most of the imprecations thundered against the chosen people were directed against the worship of the gods of surrounding nations, those which the Israelites had originally worshipped.
That portion of the Decalogue relating to a jealous god is seen to belong wholly to the Jews, or to the Israelites, who were descendants of Jacob. The older nations, among which was the ancient family of the Hebrews, knew nothing of a jealous god. Notwithstanding the fact that the God of the Jews appeared and talked face to face with Moses, that he exhibited portions of his body to him, and that he thundered his law to this people from Mt. Sinai, still they were constantly lapsing into the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth, which fact shows how deeply rooted was the belief in a dual or triune God. It is plain that this “Lord," the fierce anger of whom was kindled because of their digressions, was none other than the jealous male god which had but recently been elevated to the dignity of a supreme Creator.
Although the angel of the Lord when he came down from Gilgal commanded his followers to “throw down the altars of the people of Bochim,” they nevertheless continued to do evil in the sight of the Lord, and
“followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bound themselves unto them and provoked the Lord to anger.
“And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel."
 Judges ii., 12, 13.
“And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.
“Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth and served the Lord only."
 I Samuel vii., 3,4.
The extreme hatred of the schismatic faction for the opposite worship, and the punishments which were meted out to those who should dare to rebel against the chosen faith, are indicated by the language which throughout the Old Testament is put into the mouth of their Lord–a Deity which rejoices in the title of a jealous God.
“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known thou nor thy fathers:
“Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
“Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
“But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
“And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
“And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you."
 Deuteronomy xiii.
The constantly recurring faithlessness of the Jews, their restlessness and proneness to wander from their one-principled deity which had been set up by their priests for them to worship, was doubtless an unconscious effort on the part of the people to mitigate the outrage which had been committed against their Creator. It was but a reaching out for that lost or unrecognized element which comprehends the more essential force both in human beings and in the conception of a deity. In other words, it was an attempt at recognition, in the objects worshipped, of that missing female element which had always been worshipped, and without which a Creator becomes a misnomer–a meaningless, unexplained, and unexplainable monstrosity.
When the Jews first make their appearance in history, they are sun worshippers, as are all the nations by which they are surrounded. They are worshippers of Seth the Destroyer and Regenerator; but when the philosophical truths underlying the ancient universal religion were forgotten, or when through ignorance the language setting forth these mysteries was taken literally, Seth became identified with the Destroyer, or the Evil Principle. In the meantime man had come to believe himself the sole creator of offspring. He is spirit, which is eternal; woman is matter, which is not only destructible but altogether evil. He is heat or passion–the principle through which life is produced. She represents the absence of heat. She is the simoom of the desert and the chilly blast which destroys.
That it was no part of their plan to change their original form of worship for a spiritual conception of a Creator is apparent from their history. On the contrary, it is plain that they desired simply to eliminate from the hitherto dual conception of a deity the female principle, which, in their arrogance, and because of the change which had been wrought in the relations of the sexes, they no longer acknowledged as important in the office of reproduction.
It is quite true they would worship only one god–the “Lord,"–but that lord was, as we have seen, a deity of physical strength and virile might, a “Lord of Hosts,” a god which was to be worshipped under the symbol of an upright stone–an object which by every nation of the globe down to a comparatively recent time has typified male pro-creative energy. That the masses of the people, even as late as the time of Jeremiah, had no higher conception of a God than that indicated by an upright stone, is shown by that prophet when he accuses the entire house of Israel, “their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets,” of “saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth.”
That the people could not, or would not, be prevailed upon to renounce the Queen of Heaven, the Celestial Mother, is seen in Jer. vii., 17, 18:
“Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods.”
Also in Jeremiah xliv:
“Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee.
“But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.
“But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.
“And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her and pour out drink offerings unto her without our men?”
That the above represents a quarrel in which the women of Judah openly rebelled against the worship of the “Lord,” at the same time declaring their allegiance to the female Deity, the Celestial Mother, Queen of Heaven, is only too evident, the curse pronounced upon them by Jeremiah, in the name of the lord, having little effect upon them to change their purpose.
“Therefore, hear ye the word of the Lord, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the Lord, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord God liveth.
“Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them.”