What's in a Name? - Why the Magazine is called "Lucifer"
What's In A Name?
WHY THE MAGAZINE IS CALLED "LUCIFER"
What's in a name? Very often there is more in it
than the profane is prepared to understand, or the learned mystic to explain.
It is an invisible, secret, but very potential influence that every name
carries about with it and "leaveth wherever it goeth." Carlyle
thought that "there is much, nay, almost all, in names." "Could
I unfold the influence of names, which are the most important of all clothings,
I were a second great Trismegistus," he writes.
The name or title of a magazine started with a definite object, is, therefore,
all important; for it is, indeed, the invisible seed-grain, which will either
grow "to be an all-over-shadowing tree" on the fruits of which
must depend the nature of the results brought about by the said object,
or the tree will wither and die. These considerations show that the name
of the present magazine rather equivocal to orthodox Christian ears is
due to no careless selection, but arose in consequence of much thinking
over its fitness, and was adopted as the best symbol to express that object
and the results in view.
Now, the first and most important, if not the sole object of the magazine,
is expressed in the line from the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, on its
title page. It is to bring light to "the hidden things of darkness,"
(iv. 5); to show in their true aspect and their original real meaning things
and names, men and their doings and customs; it is finally to fight prejudice,
hypocrisy and shams in every nation, in every class of Society, as in every
department of life. The task is a laborious one but it is neither impracticable
nor useless, if even as an experiment.
Thus, for an attempt of such nature, no better title could ever be found
than the one chosen. "Lucifer," is the pale morning-star, the
precursor of the full blaze of the noon-day sun the "Eosphoros"
of the Greeks. It shines timidly at dawn to gather forces and dazzle the
eye after sunset as its own brother "Hesperos" the radiant evening
star, or the planet Venus. No fitter symbol exists for the proposed work that
of throwing a ray of truth on everything hidden by the darkness of prejudice,
by social or religious misconceptions; especially by that idiotic routine
in life, which, once that a certain action, a thing, a name, has been branded
by slanderous inventions, however unjust, makes respectable people,
so called, turn away shiveringly, refusing to even look at it from any other
aspect than the one sanctioned by public opinion. Such an endeavour then,
to force the weak-hearted to look truth straight in the face, is helped
most efficaciously by a title belonging to the category of branded names.
Piously inclined readers may argue that "Lucifer" is accepted
by all the churches as one of the many names of the Devil. According to
Milton's superb fiction, Lucifer is Satan, the "rebellious"
angel, the enemy of God and man. If one analyzes his rebellion, however,
it will be found of no worse nature than an assertion of free-will and independent
thought, as if Lucifer had been born in the XIXth century. This epithet
of "rebellious" is a theological calumny, on a par with that other
slander of God by the Predestinarians, one that makes of deity an "Almighty"
fiend worse than the "rebellious" Spirit himself; "an omnipotent
Devil desiring to be 'complimented' as all merciful when he is exerting
the most fiendish cruelty," as put by J. Cotter Morison. Both the foreordaining
and predestining fiend-God, and his subordinate agent are of human invention;
they are two of the most morally repulsive and horrible theological dogmas
that the nightmares of light-hating monks have ever evolved out of their
They date from the Mediæval age, the period of mental obscuration,
during which most of the present prejudices and superstitions have been
forcibly inoculated on the human mind, so as to have become nearly ineradicable
in some cases, one of which is the present prejudice now under discussion.
So deeply rooted, indeed, is this preconception
and aversion to the name of Lucifer meaning no worse than "light-bringer"
(from lux, lucis, "light," and ferre "to
bring")1 even among the educated classes,
that by adopting it for the title of their magazine the editors have the
prospect of a long strife with public prejudice before them. So absurd and
ridiculous is that prejudice, indeed, that no one has seemed to ever ask
himself the question, how came Satan to be called a light-bringer,
unless the silvery rays of the morning-star can in any way be made suggestive
of the glare of the infernal flames. It is simply, as Henderson showed,
"one of those gross perversions of sacred writ which so extensively
obtain, and which are to be traced to a proneness to seek for more in a
given passage than it really contains a disposition to be influenced by
sound rather than sense, and an implicit faith in received interpretation" which
is not quite one of the weaknesses of our present age. Nevertheless, the
prejudice is to the shame of our century.
This cannot be helped. The two editors would hold selves as recreants
in their own sight, as traitors to the very spirit of the proposed work,
were they to yield and cry craven before the danger. If one would fight
prejudice, and brush off the ugly cobwebs of superstition and materialism
alike from the noblest ideals of our forefathers, one has to prepare for
opposition. "The crown of the reformer and the innovator is a crown
of thorns" indeed. If one would rescue Truth in all her chaste nudity
from the almost bottomless well, into which she has been hurled by cant
and hypocritical propriety, one should not hesitate to descend into the
dark, gaping pit of that well. No matter how badly the blind bats the dwellers
in darkness, and the haters of light may treat in their gloomy abode the
intruder, unless one is the first to show the spirit and courage he preaches
to others, he must be justly held as a hypocrite and a seceder from his
Hardly had the title been agreed upon, when the first premonitions of
what was in store for us, in the matter of the opposition to be encountered
owing to the title chosen, appeared on our horizon. One of the editors received
and recorded some spicy objections. The scenes that follow are sketches
A Well-known Novelist. Tell me about your new magazine.
What class do you propose to appeal to?
Editor. No class in particular: we intend to appeal to
Novelist. I am very glad of that. For once I shall be
one of the public, for I don't understand your subject in the least, and
I want to. But you must remember that if your public is to understand you,
it must necessarily be a very small one. People talk about occultism nowadays
as they talk about many other things, without the least idea of what it
means. We are so ignorant and so prejudiced.
Editor. Exactly. That is what calls the new magazine into
existence. We propose to educate you, and to tear the mask from every prejudice.
Novelist. That really is good news to me, for I want to
be educated. What is your magazine to be called?
Novelist. What! Are you going to educate us in vice'?
We know enough about that. Fallen angels are plentiful. You may find popularity,
for soiled doves are in fashion just now, while the white-winged angels
are voted a bore, because they are not so amusing. But I doubt your being
able to teach us much.
A Man of the World (in a careful undertone, for the
scene is a dinner-party). I hear you are going to start a magazine,
all about occultism. Do you know, I'm very glad. I don't say anything about
such matters as a rule, but some queer things have happened in my life
which can't be explained in any ordinary manner. I hope you will go in
Editor. We shall try, certainly. My impression is, that
when occultism is in any measure apprehended, its laws are accepted by
everyone as the only intelligible explanation of life.
A M. W. Just so, I want to know all about it, for 'pon
my honour, life's a mystery. There are plenty of other people as curious
as myself. This is an age which is afflicted with the Yankee disease of
"wanting to know." I'll get you lots of subscribers. What's the
Editor. Lucifer and (warned by former experience)don't misunderstand the name. It is typical of the divine spirit which
sacrificed itself for humanity it was Milton's doing that it ever became
associated with the devil. We are sworn enemies to popular prejudices,
and it is quite appropriate that we should attack such a prejudice as this Lucifer,
you know, is the Morning Star the Lightbearer, . . . . . .
A M. W. (interrupting). Oh, I know
all that at least don't know, but I take it for granted you've got some
good reason for taking such a title. But your first object is to have readers;
you want the public to buy your magazine, I suppose. That's in the programme,
Editor. Most decidedly.
A M. W. Well, listen to the advice of a man who knows
his way about town. Don't mark your magazine with the wrong colour at starting.
It's quite evident, when one stays an instant to think of its derivation
and meaning, that Lucifer is an excellent word. But the public don't stay
to think of derivations and meanings; and the first impression is the most
important. Nobody will buy the magazine if you call it Lucifer.
A Fashionable Lady Interested in Occultism. I want to hear some
more about the new magazine, for I have interested a great many people
in it, even with the little you have told me. But I find it difficult to
express its actual purpose. What is it?
Editor. To try and give a little light to those that want it.
A F. L. Well, that's a simple way of putting it,
and will be very useful to me. What is the magazine to be called?
A F. L. (After a pause) You can't mean it.
Editor. Why not?
A F. L. The associations are so dreadful! What
can be the object of calling it that? It sounds like some unfortunate sort
of joke, made against it by its enemies.
Editor. Oh, but Lucifer, you know, means Light-bearer;
it is typical of the Divine Spirit
A F. L. Never mind all that I want to do your
magazine good and make it known, and you can't expect me to enter into
explanations of that sort every time I mention the title? Impossible! Life
is too short and too busy. Besides, it would produce such a bad effect;
people would think me priggish, and then I couldn't talk at all, for I
couldn't bear them to think that. Don't call it Lucifer please don't. Nobody
knows what the word is typical of; what it means now is the devil, nothing
more or less.
Editor. But then that is quite a mistake, and one of the first
prejudices we propose to do battle with. Lucifer is the pale, pure herald
Lady (interrupting). I thought you were going to do something
more interesting and more important than to whitewash mythological characters.
We shall all have to go to school again, or read up Dr. Smith's Classical
Dictionary. And what is the use of it when it is done? I thought you were
going to tell us things about our own lives and how to make them better.
I suppose Milton wrote about Lucifer, didn't he? but nobody reads Milton
now. Do let us have a modern title with some human meaning in it.
A Journalist (thoughtfully, while rolling his cigarette).
Yes, it is a good idea, this magazine of yours. We shall all laugh
at it, as a matter of course: and we shall cut it up in the papers. But
we shall all read it, because secretly everybody hungers after the mysterious.
What are you going to call it?
Journalist (striking a light). Why not The Fusee?
Quite as good a title and not so pretentious.
The "Novelist," the "Man of the World," the "Fashionable
Lady," and the "Journalist," should be the first to receive
a little instruction. A glimpse into the real and primitive character of
Lucifer can do them no harm and may, perchance, cure them of a bit of ridiculous
prejudice. They ought to study their Homer and Hesiod's Theogony if they
would do justice to Lucifer, "Eosphoros and Hesperos,"the Morning and the Evening beautiful star. If there are more useful
things to do in this life than "to whitewash mythological characters,"
to slander and blacken them is, at least, as useless, and shows, moreover,
a narrow-mindedness which can do honour to no one.
To object to the title of LUCIFER, only because
its "associations are so dreadful," is pardonable if it can be
pardonable in any case only in an ignorant American missionary of some
dissenting sect, in one whose natural laziness and lack of education led
him to prefer ploughing the minds of heathens, as ignorant as he is himself,
to the more profitable, but rather more arduous, process of ploughing the
fields of his own father's farm. In the English clergy, however, who receive
all a more or less classical education, and are, therefore, supposed to
be acquainted with the ins and outs of theological sophistry
and casuistry, this kind of opposition is absolutely unpardonable. It not
only smacks of hypocrisy and deceit, but places them directly on a lower
moral level than him they call the apostate angel. By endeavouring to show
the theological Lucifer, fallen through the idea that
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell;
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven,
they are virtually putting into practice the supposed crime they would
fain accuse him of. They prefer reigning over the spirit of the masses by
means of a pernicious dark LIE, productive of many
an evil, than serve heaven by serving TRUTH. Such practices
are worthy only of the Jesuits.
But their sacred writ is the first to contradict their interpretations
and the association of Lucifer, the Morning Star, with Satan. Chapter XXII
of Revelation, verse 16th, says: "I, Jesus . . . am the
root. . . and the bright and Morning Star" "early rising"): hence
Eosphoros, or the Latin Lucifer. The or probrium attached to this
name is of such a very late date, the Roman Church
found itself forced to screen the theological slander behind a two-sided
interpretation as usual. Christ, we are told, is
the "Morning Star," the divine Lucifer; and Satan the usurpator
of the Verbum, the "infernal Lucifer."2 "The great Archangel Michael, the conqueror
of Satan, is identical in paganism3 with
Mercury-Mithra, to whom, after defending the Sun (symbolical of God) from
the attacks of Venus-Lucifer, was given the possession of this planet, et
datus est ei locus Luciferi And since the Archangel Michael is the 'Angel
of the Face,' and 'the Vicar of the Verbum' he is now considered
in the Roman Church as the regent of that planet Venus which 'the vanquished
fiend had usurped'." Angelus faciei Dei sedem superbi humilis Obtinuit,
says Cornelius à Lapide (in Vol. VI, p. 229).
This gives the reason why one of the early Popes was called Lucifer,
as Yonge and ecclesiastical records prove. It thus follows that the title
chosen for our magazine is as much associated with divine and pious ideas
as with the supposed rebellion of the hero of Milton's "Paradise Lost."
By choosing it, we throw the first ray of light and truth on a ridiculous
prejudice which ought to have no room made for it in this our "age
of facts and discovery." We work for true Religion and Science, in
the interest of fact as against fiction and prejudice. It is our duty, as
it is that of physical Science professedly its mission to throw light
or facts in Nature hitherto surrounded by the darkness of ignorance And
since ignorance is justly regarded as the chief promoter of superstition,
that work is, therefore, a noble and beneficent work But natural Sciences
are only one aspect of SCIENCE and TRUTH.
Psychological and moral Sciences, or theosophy, the knowledge of divine
truth, wheresoever found, are, still more important in human affairs, and
real Science should not be limited simply to the physical aspect of life
and nature. Science is an abstract of every fact, a comprehension of every
truth within the scope of human research and intelligence. "Shakespeare's
deep and accurate science in mental philosophy" (Coleridge), has proved
more beneficent to the true philosopher in the study of the human heart therefore,
in the promotion of truth than the more accurate, but certainly less deep,
science of any Fellow of the Royal Institution.
Those readers, however, who do not find themselves convinced that the
Church had no right to throw a slur upon a beautiful star, and that it did
so through a mere necessity of accounting for one of its numerous loans
from Paganism with all its poetical conceptions of the truths in Nature,
are asked to read our article "The History of a Planet." Perhaps,
after its perusal, they will see how far Dupuis was justified in asserting
that "all the theologies have their origin in astronomy." With
the modern Orientalists every myth is solar. This is one more
prejudice, and a preconception in favour of materialism and physical science.
It will be one of our duties to combat it with much of the rest.
Lucifer, September, 1887
H. P. Blavatsky
1 "It was Gregory the
Great who was the first to apply this passage of Isaiah, 'How art thou fallen
from Heaven. Lucifer. son of the morning,' etc., to Satan, and ever since
the bold metaphor of the prophet, which referred, after all, but to an Assyrian
king inimical to the Israelites, has been applied to the Devil." back to text
2 Mirville's Memoirs to the Academy
of France, Vol. IV, quoting Cardinal Ventura. back to text
3 Which paganism has passed long
millenniums, it would seem, in copying beforehand Christian dogmas
to come. back to text