THEOSOPHY, Vol. 44, No. 7, May, 1956
(Pages 317-323; Size: 20K)
TWO ARCHETYPAL SYMBOLS(1)
TWO symbols that remain as bulwarks of ecclesiasticism are the Dragon and the Virgin. The former has been reduced to the status of a snake in the form of a humanized Devil, the latter to a woman apotheosized in the flesh. Yet, as regards occult history, they have not been long so regarded. The sign and myth of the mother and child were known thousands of years before the Christian era. According to Plato, it was at the ray of this first mother, one in three, that "God lighted a fire which we now call the sun." The Mother or Virgin is the Pleroma, the universal soul, the vehicle of Light and the receptacle of all forms. It is the great magic agent called by some the astral light, by others the Sidereal Virgin and the Mysterium Magnum; and by the Eastern Occultists Æther, the reflection of Akasha. From its swelling electric bosom spring matter and spirit. Within its beams lie the beginnings of all physical and chemical action, and of all cosmic and spiritual phenomena. It is a Force which vitalizes and disorganizes; it gives life and produces death, and from its primordial point gradually emerged into existence the myriads of worlds, visible and invisible celestial bodies.
The symbol of the Dragon has ever represented Divine Wisdom. It is the "Logos," also the sun; the Dragon and the Serpent were names given to the "Wise Ones," the initiated adepts of olden times. The Dragon, considered now mythical, is "in fact an extinct antediluvian monster." In Babylonian antiquities it is referred to as the "scaly one" and connected on many gems with Tiamat, the sea. "The Dragon of the Sea" is repeatedly mentioned. In Egypt, it is the star of the Dragon (then the North Pole Star), the origin of the connection of almost all the gods with the Dragon. Bel and the Dragon, Apollo and Python, Osiris and Typhon, Sigurd and Fafnir, and finally St. George and the Dragon, are the same. They were all solar gods, and wherever we find the sun there also is the Dragon, the symbol of Wisdom. The Hierophants of Egypt and of Babylon styled themselves "Sons of the Serpent-God" and "Sons of the Dragon." "I am a Serpent, I am a Druid," said the Druid of the Celto-Britannic regions, for the Serpent and the Dragon are both types of Wisdom, Immortality and Rebirth.
In the Hindu Mythology Vasuki, the Great Dragon, pours forth upon Durga from his mouth, a poisonous fluid which overspreads the ground, but her consort (Siva) caused the earth to open her mouth and swallow it. Thus the mystic drama of the celestial virgin pursued by the dragon seeking to devour her child, was not only depicted in the constellations of heaven, but was represented in the secret worship of the temples. It was the mystery of the god Sol, and inscribed on a black image of Isis. In days of old -- of the divine Dynasties on Earth -- the now dreaded reptile was regarded as the first beam of light that radiated from the abyss of divine Mystery. Various were the forms which it was made to assume, and numerous are the natural symbols adapted to it, as it crossed æons of time; as from Infinite Time itself -- Kala -- it fell into the space and time evolved out of human speculation. These forms were Cosmic and astronomical, theistic and pantheistic, abstract and concrete. They became in turn the Polar Dragon and the Southern Cross, the Alpha Draconis of the Pyramid, and the Hindu-Buddhist Dragon which ever threatens, yet never swallows the sun during its eclipses.
Cosmically, the Dragon represents the ceaseless creative and destructive force, the sevenfold potency. The Virgin represents the universally reproductive power found in nature. It is a force whose secret powers were thoroughly familiar to the ancient theurgists, but is denied by modern sceptics. The antediluvian children, who perhaps played with it, using it as the boys in Bulwer-Lytton's Coming Race use the tremendous "vril" -- called it the "Water of Phtah." Their descendants named it the Anima Mundi, the soul of the universe; or the "Milk of the Celestial Virgin," the Magnes and other names. But our modern learned men will neither accept nor recognize it under such appellations; for it pertains to magic, and magic is in their conceptions a disgraceful superstition. Woman stands in early cosmogony in relation to "matter" or the great deep, as the "Virgin of the Sea" who crushes the Dragon under her foot. For one acquainted with these tenets it becomes more than suggestive to learn that with the Catholics the Virgin Mary is not only the accepted patroness of Christian sailors, but also the "Virgin of the Sea." So was Dido the patroness of the Phoenician mariners, and together with Venus and other lunar goddesses -- the moon having such a strong influence over the tides -- was the "Virgin of the Sea." Mar, the Sea, is the root of the name Mary.
From the remotest antiquity the serpent was held by every people in the greatest veneration, as the embodiment of Divine Wisdom, and the symbol of Spirit. Hermes or Thot in Egypt regarded the serpent as "the most spirit-like of all the reptiles"; and the Gnostic serpent with the seven vowels over the head is but a copy of Ananta, the seven-headed serpent on which rests the god Vishnu. It is mankind which has become the "Serpent of Genesis," and thus causes daily and hourly the Fall and sin of the "Celestial Virgin" -- which thus becomes the mother of gods and devils at one and the same time; for she is the ever-loving, beneficent deity to all those who stir her Soul and heart, instead of attracting to themselves her shadowy manifested essence, called by Eliphas Levi "the fatal light" which kills and destroys. The serpent became the type and symbol of evil, and of the Devil, only during the middle ages. The early Christians -- besides the Ophite Gnostics -- had their dual Logos: the Good and Bad Serpent, the Agathodæmon and the Kakodæmon.
The seven-headed serpent has more than one signification in the arcane teachings. It is the seven-headed Draco, each of whose heads is a star of the Lesser Bear; but it was also, and pre-eminently, the Serpent of Darkness (i.e., inconceivable and incomprehensible) whose seven heads were the seven Logoi, the reflections of the one and first manifested Light -- the universal Logos. The septenary Dragon-Logos has been in the course of time split up, so to say, into four heptanomic parts, or twenty-eight portions. Each lunar week has a distinct occult character in the lunar month; each day of the twenty-eight has its special characteristics; and each of the twelve constellations, whether separately or in combination with other signs, has an occult influence either for good or for evil. This represents the sum of knowledge that men can acquire on earth. Yet few are those who acquire it, and still fewer are the wise men who get to the root of knowledge symbolized by the great Root Dragon, the spiritual Logos of these visible signs. But those who do, receive the name of "Dragons," and they are the "Arhats of the Four Truths and of the 28 Faculties," or attributes, and have always been so called.
All the dragons and serpents of antiquity are seven-headed, "one head for each race, and every head with seven hairs on it," as the allegory has it. From Ananta, the Serpent of Eternity which carries Vishnu through the Manvantara, from the original primordial Sesha, down to the seven-headed Akkadian Serpent. This typifies the seven principles throughout nature and man; the highest or middle head being the seventh. The legends of every nation and tribe, whether civilized or savage, point to the once universal belief in the great wisdom and cunning of the serpents. They are "charmers." They hypnotize the bird with their eye, and man himself very often does not feel above their fascination influence. The symbol is a most fitting one.
The Ophites asserted that there were several kinds of genii, from god to man; that the relative superiority of these was ruled by the degree of light that was accorded to each; and they maintained that the serpent had to be constantly called upon and to be thanked for the signal service it had rendered to humanity. For it had taught Adam that if he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would raise his being immensely by the learning and wisdom he would thus acquire. Such was the exoteric reason given. It is easy to see whence the primal idea of this dual, Janus-like character of the Serpent: the good and the bad. This symbol is one of the most ancient because the reptile preceded the bird, and the bird the mammal.
Thence the belief, or rather the superstition, of the savage tribes who think that the souls of their ancestors live under this form, and the general association of the serpent with the tree. The legends about the various things it represents are numberless; but, as most of them are allegorical, they have now passed into the class of fables based on ignorance and dark superstition. For instance when Philostratus narrates that the natives of India and Arabia fed on the heart and liver of serpents in order to learn the language of all the animals, the serpent being credited with that faculty, he certainly never meant his words to be accepted literally. It was the wisdom and the learning of the "Wise Ones" that were devoured or assimilated by their followers, whence the allegory. When the Scandinavian is fabled to have roasted the heart of Fafnir, the Dragon whom he has slain, becoming thereby the wisest of men, it meant the same thing. Sigurd had become more learned in the runes and magical charms; he had received the "word" from an initiate of that name, or from a sorcerer, after which the latter died, as many do, after "passing the word."
Epiphanius lets out the secret of the Gnostics while trying to expose their heresies. The Gnostic Ophites, he says, had a reason for honoring the Serpent: it was because he taught the primeval men the Mysteries. The Alexandrian Neo-Platonists asserted that to become real Chaldees or Magi, one had to master the science of the periods of the Seven Rectors of the world, in whom is all wisdom. The "True and Perfect Serpent" is the seven-lettered God. The Nagas of the Hindu and Tibetan adepts are human Nagas (Serpents), not reptiles. Moreover, the Serpent has ever been the type of consecutive and serial rejuvenation, of IMMORTALITY and TIME.
According to the notions of the oldest philosophers the earth, serpent-like, casts off its skin and appears after every minor pralaya in a rejuvenated state, and after the great pralaya resurrects and evolves again from its subjective into objective existence. Like the serpent, it not only "puts off its old age," says Sanchoniathon, "but increases in size and strength." This is why not only Serapis, the "Dragon of Wisdom" in Egypt during the first centuries of Christianity, and later, Jesus, was represented by a great serpent, but even why in the nineteenth century big snakes were kept in Moslem mosques. In India in some children's cradles a pair of serpents, male and female, are reared with the infant, and snakes are often kept in houses, as they are thought to bring good luck. They are the progeny of Sarpa Rajna, the earth, "Queen of the Serpents," and endowed with all her virtues.
As a symbol, the serpent had as many aspects and occult meanings as the tree itself; the "Tree of Life," with which it was emblematically and almost indissolubly connected. In the beginning of their joint existence as a glyph of Immortal Being, the Tree and Serpent were divine imagery, truly. But whether viewed as a metaphysical or a physical symbol, the tree and serpent, jointly or separately, have never been so degraded by antiquity as they are now, in this our age of the breaking of idols, not for truth's sake, but to glorify the more gross matter. Certain symbologists entirely fail to see that their interpretations of the "Tree of Life," as the cross and phallus, fitted the symbol and approximated it only on the lowest and last stage of the evolutionary development of the idea of the Giver of Life. It was the last and the grossest physical transformation of nature, in animal, insect, bird, and even plant. For biune, creative magnetism, in the form of attraction of the contraries, or sexual polarization, acts in the constitution of the reptile and bird as it does in that of man. Moreover, the modern symbologists and Orientalists -- from first to last -- being ignorant of the real mysteries revealed by Occultism, can necessarily see but this last stage. If told that this mode of procreation is but a passing phase, a physical means of furnishing the conditions to, and producing the phenomena of life which will alter with this, and disappear with the next Root-race -- they would laugh at such a superstitious and unscientific idea. But the most learned Occultists assert this because they know it.
But what of the symbol of Isis, the "Celestial Virgin," the Magnes and Akasha, now turned into the Virgin Mary by the Church? Albumazar the Arabian indicates the identity of the several "Mary" myths as follows: "In the first decan of the Virgin rises a maid, called in Arabic Aderenosa (the Hindu Adha-nari?), that is, a pure immaculate virgin, graceful in person, charming in countenance, modest in habit, with loosened hair, holding in her hands two ears of wheat, sitting upon an embroidered throne, nursing a boy, and rightly feeding him in the place called Hebræa; a boy, I say, named Iessus by certain nations, which signifies Issa, whom they also call Christ in Greek." Albertus Magnus, himself an alchemist and student of occult science, as well as a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, in his enthusiasm for astrology declared that the zodiacal sign of the celestial virgin rises above the horizon on the twenty-fifth of December, at the moment assigned by the Church for the birth of the Saviour.
In Indur Subba, the south entrance of the Caves of Ellora, may be seen to this day the figure of Indra's wife, Indranee, sitting with her infant-god, pointing the finger to heaven with the same gesture as the Italian Madonna and child. In Pagan and Christian Symbolism, the author gives a figure from a medieval woodcut -- the like of which we have seen by dozens in old psalters -- in which the Virgin Mary, with her infant, is represented as the Queen of Heaven, on the crescent moon, emblem of virginity. "Being before the sun, she almost eclipses its light. Than this, nothing could more completely identify the Christian mother and child with Isis and Horus, Ishtar, Venus, Juno, and a host of other Pagan goddesses, who have been called 'Queen of Heaven,' 'Queen of the Universe', 'Mother of God', 'Spouse of God', 'the Celestial Virgin', 'the Heavenly Peace-Maker', etc., etc." Such pictures are not purely astronomical. They represent the male god and the female goddess, as the sun and moon in conjunction, "the union of the triad with the unit." The horns of the cow on the head of Isis have the same significance.
When Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria, had openly embraced the cause of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, and had anthropomorphized her into Mary, the mother of God; and the trinitarian controversy had taken place; from that moment the Egyptian doctrine of emanations of the Creative God out of Emepht (Unknown) had to be tortured in a thousand ways, until the Councils had agreed upon the adoption of it as it now stands -- the disfigured Ternary of the kabalistic Solomon and Philo! But as its origin was yet too evident, the Word was no longer called the "Heavenly Man," the primal Adam Kadmon, but became the Logos -- Christ, and was made as old as the "Ancient of the Ancient," his father. The concealed WISDOM became identical with its emanations, the DIVINE THOUGHT, and was made to be regarded coequal and coeternal with its first manifestations.
The famous Catholic theologian, Tillemont, assures us in his writings that "all the illustrious Pagans are condemned to the eternal torments of hell, because they lived before the time of Jesus, and therefore, could not be benefited by the redemption." This includes foremost of all the Pagans whose allegories most closely resemble those of the Christian Dispensation. He also assures us that the Virgin Mary personally testified to this truth over her own signature in a letter to a saint. ...There are two precious missives from the Virgin in the archives of the Church. The first purports to be a letter in answer to one addressed to her by Ignatius. She confirms all things learned by her correspondent from "her friend" -- meaning the Apostle John. She bids him hold fast to his vows, and adds as an inducement: "I and John will come together to pay you a visit!" (See further, Isis Unveiled II, 75, 86, et seq.)
The civilized world may yet expect the apparition of the materialized Virgin Mary within the walls of the Vatican. The so often-repeated "miracle" of the Immaculate Visitor in the medieval ages continues to be enacted at Lourdes, and why not once more, as a coup de grace to all heretics, schismatics, and infidels?
Such are today's "Mysteries." But the Mysteries of the past, in the history of every ancient nation, were a series of dramatic performances, in which the truths concerning cosmogony and nature in general were personified by the priests and neophytes, who enacted the parts of various gods and goddesses, repeating supposed scenes (allegories) from their respective lives. These were explained in their hidden meaning to the candidates for initiation, and incorporated into philosophical doctrines. In the past, the name of the new initiate was Mystes. It is now that of Roman Catholic Cardinals, who, having borrowed all their other rites and dogmas from Aryan, Egyptian, and Hellenic "heathen," have helped themselves to the "mystery name" of the neophytes. To these latter belonged, too, the archaic dramas of the Dragon and the Virgin.
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