Mudras & Hand Symbolism: Hand Symbolism & Beliefs Part 3
[Note: This paper contains images which may be seen as originally published at our website] As a support for our statement above, we might mention the Tarot cards as an example. These esoteric cards nowadays degraded to a method of divination, was actually a training manual for the promotion of one's spiritual and divine expression in the world of matter. The pictorial diagrams of the Major and Minor Arcana holds secrets that the casual operator of the cards are unaware of. When properly understood the Tarot cards take us step by step to our goal of human perfection through the alchemical process. Having gone underground the Initiates of the Mystery Schools were quick to appropriate the popular religions to embody their secret doctrines and practices. Not only are satanic elements quick to jump on the bandwagon of spiritual establishments, angelic forces are adept in letting the Dark Ones think that they have the upper-hand while in the meantime reorganizing their army and infiltrating stealth-like into their religious camp upsurped from the Light forces.
Like Dante, angelic consciousness wrote books of their spiritual wisdom using Christian imagery; or painters like the multi-genius Leonardo Da Vinci, who represented important occult precepts in his artwork using Christian themes. Music composers too, cleverly inserted mystical formulas and teachings into their symphonies, concertos, operas and sonatas. As an example, the musical piece, "The Magic Flute" of Mozart comes to mind. However, what is relevant here is that occult signs are portrayed profusely, graphically in art, and we would do well to focus on that. Above we mentioned Da Vinci who conveyed teachings in his art productions.
There were many others, like Albrecht Durer, Fra. Angelico, and Raphael. The signs that these artists and many others around the world for countless generations represented in their paintings and drawings were related to the secrets of initiation and the process of spiritual development where human genius, I., creativity, morality, and holiness were raised to a sublime degree. The ancient Greeks, Chinese, Hindus and many other cultures and civilizations all had their initiates who were highly developed mentally, morally, and spiritually--these men and women were well beyond their time and the lay people viewed them as demi-gods and apotheosized them. The artists and artisans of the secret Mystery schools made used of almost every material available for conveying the metaphysical doctrines of the Ancient Wisdom, such as papyri, stone, bronze, terracotta, clay, mosaics, ivory, enamels, stained glass, gems, crystals, cloth, wood, canvas, tiles, leather, etc. The most prominent feature of the art productions of the Initiates of the Mystery Schools were the hand signs and this was known as the Ancient Sign Language which was transmitted from Age to Age, culture to culture. Ward made a thorough study of this secret sign language and in his book, "The Sign Language of the Mysteries," he identifies several of these hand signs and gestures to be found mostly in Christian art although by no means limited to Christendom. In his book Ward offers many instances of each sign. He explains that these hand poses are to be found all over Europe, Africa, Asia, India, Oceania, the Americas, ancient Crete, Polynesia, Babylonia, etc., in short, all over the world. Among the hand signs that he discusses are: Sign of Preservation Sign of Faith Sign of Distress/Surrender Sign of Death Sign of Praise Sign of the Heart Sign of Prayer Sign of Benediction or Blessing Sign of Secrecy Sign of Destruction Sign of Exultation Sign of Reverence Sign of Horror Sign or Resignation Sign of Sacrifice Sign of Heaven and Earth Sign of Despair/Regret Sign of Preservation There are many variations of this sign. Basically, it is posed by placing one hand over the heart and raising the other at an angle at the elbow with the hand pointing upwards. In some forms, it is the index finger that points skyward. In most depictions of this sign it is the left hand rather than the right that is raised. There are numerous instances of this pose in Egyptian art.
The Egyptologist, E. Wallis Budge, interprets the hieroglyph with this sign as Hen, or "praise." The god Anubis is often represented with this hand posture, and murals in the palaces and tombs of the pharaohs often illustrate votaries of Ra with this significant gesture. This sign is also found in the Minoan and Mycenaen civilizations. In Christian art, Jesus is often portrayed assuming many occult hand signs, among these is the Sign of Preservation. The sun god Damuzi of the Babylonians while descending into the underworld likewise bears this sign, as depicted on certain objects. In his book mentioned previously, J. Ward tells of a Roman sarcophagus in the Bardo Museum, Tunis, showing the emergence of Jonah from the whale that swallowed him for three days, and making the Sign of Preservation--in effect, indicating that his life was saved. Among the mystical Islamic sects, the Whirling Dervishes appropriate the use of this important hand pose in their ceremonial rites and practices. In archaic times, the Sign of Preservation was adopted by those petitioning the deity for the preservation of oneself or someone else, and with the strong conviction that the request was granted. In contradistinction to this, it was also employed by those of high spiritual attainment assuring others of their salvation. In Christianity it is often associated with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Sign of Faith This sign resembles the Sign of Preservation with the exception that the hand pointing upwards is not squared at an angle and not pointing to the sky. It points outwards away from the body. Like the above sign, many examples of these are to be found distributed all over the world. Sign of Distress/Surrender When the two hands are lifted upwards above the head with the elbows bent--this is known as the Sign of Distress.
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