The Egg was incorporated as a sacred sign in the cosmogony of every people on the Earth, and was revered both on account of its form and its inner mystery. From the earliest mental conceptions of man, it was known as that which represented most successfully the origin and secret of being. The gradual development of the imperceptible germ within the closed shell; the inward working, without any apparent outward interference of force, which from a latent nothing produced an active something, needing nought save heat; and which, having gradually evolved into a concrete, living creature, broke its shell, appearing to the outward senses of all a self-generated, and self-created being — must have been a standing miracle from the beginning.
The secret teaching explains the reason for this reverence by the Symbolism of the prehistoric races. The “First Cause” had no name in the beginnings. Later it was pictured in the fancy of the thinkers as an ever invisible, mysterious Bird that dropped an Egg into Chaos, which Egg becomes the Universe. Hence Brahm was called Kalahansa, “the swan in (Space and) Time.” He became the “Swan of Eternity,” who lays at the beginning of each Mahamanvantara a “Golden Egg.” It typifies the great Circle, or O, itself a symbol for the universe and its spherical bodies.
The second reason for its having been chosen as the symbolical representation of the Universe, and of our earth, was its form. It was a Circle and a Sphere; and the ovi-form shape of our globe must have been known from the beginning of symbology, since it was so universally adopted. The first manifestation of the Kosmos in the form of an egg was the most widely diffused belief of antiquity. As Bryant shows (iii., 165), it was a symbol adopted among the Greeks, the Syrians, Persians, and Egyptians. In chap. liv. of the Egyptian Ritual, Seb, the god of Time and of the Earth, is spoken of as having laid an egg, or the Universe, “an egg conceived at the hour of the great one of the Dual Force” (Sec. V., 2, 3, etc.).
Ra is shown like Brahma gestating in the Egg of the Universe. The deceased is “resplendent in the Egg of the land of mysteries” (xxii., 1). For, this is “the Egg to which is given life among the gods” (xlii., 11). “It is the Egg of the great clucking Hen, the Egg of Seb, who issues from it like a hawk” (lxiv., 1, 2, 3; lxxvii., 1).
With the Greeks the Orphic Egg is described by Aristophanes, and was part of the Dionysiac and other mysteries, during which the Mundane Egg was consecrated and its significance explained; Porphyry showing it a representation of the world, [[Ermenenei de to oon kosmon]]. Faber and Bryant have tried to show that the egg typified the ark of Noah, which, unless the latter is accepted as purely allegorical and symbolical, is a wild belief. It can have typified the ark only as a synonym of the moon, the argha which carries the universal seed of life; but had surely nothing to do with the ark of the Bible. Anyhow, the belief that the universe existed in the beginning in the shape of an egg was general. And as Wilson has it: “A similar account of the first aggregation of the elements in the form of an egg is given in all the (Indian) Puranas, with the usual epithet Haima or Hiranya, ‘golden’ as it occurs in Manu.” Hiranya, however, means “resplendent,” “shining,” rather than “golden,” as proven by the great Indian scholar, the late Swami Dayanand Sarasvati, in his unpublished polemics with Professor Max Muller. As said in the Vishnu Purana: “Intellect (Mahat) . . . the (unmanifested) gross elements inclusive, formed an egg . . . and the lord of the universe himself abided in it, in the character of Brahma. In that egg, O Brahman, were the continents, and seas and mountains, the planets and divisions of the universe, the gods, the demons and mankind.” (Book i., ch. 2.) Both in Greece and in India the first visible male being, who united in himself the nature of either sex, abode in the egg and issued from it. This “first born of the world” was Dionysius, with some Greeks; the god who sprang from the mundane egg, and from whom the mortals and immortals were derived. The god Ra is shown in the Ritual (Book of the Dead, xvii., 50) beaming in his egg (the Sun), and he starts off as soon as the god Shoo (the Solar energy) awakens and gives him the impulse. “He is in the Solar egg, the egg to which is given life among the gods” (Ibid., xlii., 13). The Solar god exclaims: “I am the creative soul of the celestial abyss. None sees my nest, none can break my egg, I am the Lord!” (Ibid., lxxxv.).
In view of this circular form, the “0″issuing from the “image O”or the egg, or the male from the female in the androgyne, it is strange to find a scholar saying — on the ground that the most ancient Indian MSS. show no trace of it — that the ancient Aryans were ignorant of the decimal notation. The 10, being the sacred number of the universe, was secret and esoteric, both as the unit and cipher, or zero, the circle. Moreover, Professor Max Muller says that “the two words cipher and zero, which are but one, are sufficient to prove that our figures are borrowed from the Arabs.* Cipher is the Arabic “cifron,” and meansempty, a translation of the Sanscrit name of nought “sunya,” he says.* The Arabs had their figures from Hindustan, and never claimed the discovery for themselves.† As to the Pythagoreans, we need but turn to the ancient manuscripts of Boethius’s Geometry, composed in the sixth century, to find among the Pythagorean numerals‡ the 1 and the nought, as the first and final ciphers. And Porphyry, who quotes from the Pythagorean Moderatus,§ says that the numerals of Pythagoras were “hieroglyphical symbols, by means whereof he explained ideas concerning the nature of things,” or the origin of the universe.