Parsons The Non- Christian Cross
ORIGIN OF THE PRE-CHRISTIAN CROSS.
HAVING in the foregoing chapters demonstrated
that it is possible, if not indeed probable, that the instrument
of execution to which Jesus was affixed was otherivise than cross-shaped
; and having also shown that it was not mainly, if indeed even
partially, that the early Christians signified that instrument by
the sign of the cross; it is now desirable that, as a preliminary
to an enquiring into the circumstances under which the cross
became the symbol of Christianity, we should enquire into the
origin of the Pre-Christian cross.
That there was a pre-Christian cross, and that it was, like ours,
a Symbol of Life, is generally admitted.
The authorities upon such subjects, however, unfortunately differ
as to the reason why the Cross came to be selected by the
ancients as the Symbol of Life. And not one of their suggestions
seems to go to the root of the matter.
Let us therefore in thought go back tens of thousands of years,
and conceive the genus Homo as a race gradually awakening to
reason but as yet unfettered by inherited traditions and creeds.
Let us imagine Man ere he began to make gods in his own image.
Let us remember that what would strike him as the greatest of all
marvels would of necessity be Life itself, and that far and away
the next greatest marvel must have been the glorious Sun ; the
obvious source of earth life, and Lord of the Hosts of Heaven.
Let us bear in mind, too, that though the Nature Worship of our
remote ancestors had other striking features, the facts mentioned
would lead to the predominance of the phallic idea, and to its
association with Sun-God worship. And as Life, the greatest
marvel of all, must have had a symbol allotted to it at a very
early date, let us ask ourselves what the untutored mind of Man
would be most likely to select as its symbol.
To this question there is, so far as the author can see, but one
reasonable answer:-the figure of the cross :-because the figure
of the cross is the simplest possible representation of that
union of two bodies or two sexes or two powers or two principles,
which alone produces life.
For the ancients cannot fail to have perceived that all life more
immediately proceeds from the union of two principles ; and the
first, readiest, simplest, and most natural symbol of Life, was
consequently one straight line superimposed upon another at such
an angle that both could seen ; in other words, a cross of some
description or other.
It is evidently probable that this was the real reason why the
figure of the cross originally came to be adopted as the Symbol
of Life. But, course, whatever the original reason, as time
rolled on other reasons for the veneration of the Cross were
pointed out; nothing being more natural than that primitive Man
should, or more certain than that he did, find pleasure in
connecting with other objects of his regard than Life itself,
that which as the Symbol of Life was pre-eminently a symbol of
The most notable instance of this is the way in which, or rather
the different ways in which, the figure of the cross was
connected with the Sun-God.
A good example of the last named fact, is the declaration of the
philosophers of ancient Greece that the figure of the cross was
the figure of the Second God " or " Universal Soul,"
the Ratio as well as the Oratio of the All-Father, which they
called the Logos of God; a term badly translatcd in our versions
of the Gospel of St. John as the Word of God, as if it signified
the Oratio only.
It was this Logos or "Second God" whom Philo, who was
born before the commencement of our era, described as the "
Intellectual Sun," and even as God's "First Begotten"
and " Beloved " offspring, and the " Light of the
World terms afterwards made use of by the writers of our Gospels
in describing the Christ, And, as will be shown in a chapter upon
the subject, the reason the philosophers, among whom was Plato,
crave for declaring the cross to be the figure of the Logos, was
that the Sun creates this fig ure by crossing the Equator.
An even better illustration can be Seen in the fact that in days
of old almost every civilised race held feasts at the time of the
Vernal Equinox, in honour of the Passover or Cross-over of the
The fact that the ancients were thus at special pains to connect
the symbol of Life with the Sun-God, and also, as we know, spoke
of him as the "Giver of Life" and the only "Saviour,"
was doubtless due to their perceiving, not only that life is the
result of the union of the two principles distinguished by the
titles malc and female, but also that the salvation of life is
due to the action of the sun in preserving the body from cold and
in producing and ripening for its use the fruits of the earth.
As the Giver of Life, the Sun-God was of course considered to be
bisexuals But when the two great lights of heaven, the Sun and
the moon, were associated with each other, as was often and
naturally the case, the Sun was considered to be more especially
a personification of the Male Principle, and the waxing and
wanirlg moon, as represented by the Crescent, a personification
of the Female Principle. Hence the worship of the God associated
with the radiate sun, as of that of the Goddess associated with
the crescent moon and called the Sun-God's mother or bride, was
phallic in character ; and their connection is repeatedly
symbolised upon the relics which have come down to us from
antiquity by the sign of the crescent containing within its horns
either a disc or what we should consider a star-like object,
which latter was almost as favouritc a mode with the ancients of
representing the sun as it is with us of representing a star or
planet, as will be shown further on.
Returning, however, to the symbol of the cross, as the first and
simplest representation of that union of the Male and Female
Principles which alone produces what we mortals call life, it is
extremely curious that the selection of the figure of the cross
in comparatively modern times as the simplest and most natural
symbol both of addition and of multiplication, should have led no
one to perceive that, being for these very reasons also the
simplest and most natural symbol of Life, a probable solution of
the mystery surrounding the origin of the pre-Christian cross as
a symbol of Life, as it were stared them in the face.
As to the contention of not a few authorities, apparently founded
upon the mistaken assumption that the Svaslika was the earliest
form of cross to acquire importance as a symbol, that the pre-Christian
cross was originally a representation of the wheel-like motion of
the sun or a reference to the whcel of the Sun-God's chariot; it
need only be remarked that evidence exists to show that the cross
was a symbol of Life from a period so early, that it is doubtful
if the Sun-God had then been likened to a charioteer, and not
certain that either chariots or wheels had been invented. It is
true that the Solar Wheel became a recognized symbol of the Sun-God,
and that additional veneration was paid to it because the figure
of the symbol of Life was from ot's form less discoverable in the
spokes allotted to the Solar Wheel ; but it is putting the cart
before the horse to suppose that the cross became the symbol of
Life because its form was so discoverable.
It only remains to be added that there undoubtedly was a
connection, however slight, between the pre-Christian Cross as
the Symbol of Life, the Solar Wheel as a symbol of the Sun-God,
and the Cross as the symbol of the Christ. And whatever the date
at which the cross was first adopted as a Christian symbol, or
whatever the reason for that adoption, there is no doubt that, as
will be shown further on, our religion was considerably
influenced by the facts that the Gaulish soldiers whose victories
enabled Constantine to become Sole Emperor venerated the Solar
Wheel, or ..., and that their leader, who was anxious to obtain
the support of the Christians, allowed a loop to be added to the
top of the vertical spoke so that the Christians might be able to
interpret the victorious symbol as ....or ....,i.e., XP or XPI,
the first two or three letters of the Greek word XPISTOS,
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