Part 7 in the ‘Mysteries of Isis’ –
Some early writings on Isis, from my “Arcanum Two”:
25 September 1991 – The symbol for Taurus the Bull, ruled by Venus, is a circle crowned with a crescent – a pair of horns. Why the horns? To explore this question is fruitful.
How does it feel? The horns have sharp points. They are a heavy head-dress. They give majesty to the Full Moon, and define the New Moon. They are a garment of authority and they inspire fear. The horns of the Bull are antennae of the earth’s fecundity and riches. To encounter suddenly in my life a blindfold soothsayer or white witch, crowned with archaic and savage horns and sitting so still, is startling.
The horns are there to drive away or impale unwary or merely inquisitive trespassers into her subtle magnetic field. They make a repellant aura around her: a defense system. The priestess is in myself. What am I guarding? What am I protecting? Whom do I attack?
To look inward, into the well of God within atoms, is to create a surrounding “field” of space which reinterprets my material body. As “I” collapse inward – like into a black hole – this field extends outward in all directions from the singularity. It is the veil of the inner sanctuary. In all the old legends the dragon or serpent is coiled around the golden fleece. The hero must, in stepping over or neutralising the dragon, confront the storms around his own Cape Horn, and master the creative daemons that arise from his “unconscious” seeking consciousness. His chaos must transmute to kosmos — the Greek word for harmony. Only then, when the tumult dawns transformed in his being, might he behold the light of the golden fleece, by the gentle light of Isis – her moonbeam.
The hero in all these tales is the alchemist, and the adventure is trans-formation. Tentatively I suggest that the lady Isis in her pure state, together with Thrice Great Hermes who flows and makes speech with metals, is the catalyst of this transformative process. But I speak now personally …. I suppose I speak from many lifetimes. They are all only this one. For instance: I sit down each day here to write, and I do not know what it will be, and the content may flow or not as the case may be, but I am almost invariably astonished.
In the classic The Golden Ass, Lucius Apuleius gives an allegorical account of his initiation. Transformed into a donkey he had to suffer and witness the depth of human iniquity, and be beaten and abused by his inner discordancy, before the lady Isis rising from the midnight sea offered him the key to his release into human form … he must eat the rose carried by the Great Hierophant during the procession the following day, of her Mysteries. In the vision of Apuleius, as she rose from the dark sea to instruct his still asinine form:
“Her long thick hair fell in tapering ringlets on her lovely neck and was crowned with an intricate chaplet in which was woven every kind of flower. Just above her brow shone a round disk, like a mirror or like the bright face of the moon, which told me who she was. Vipers rising from the lefthand and righthand partings of her hair supported this disk, with ears of corn bristling beside them. Her many coloured robe was of finest linen; part was glistening white, part crocus-yellow, part glowing red, and along the entire hem a woven bordure of flowers and fruit clung and swayed to the breeze.
“But what caught and held my eye more than anything else was the deep black lustre of her mantle. She wore it slung across her body from the right hip to the left shoulden where it was caught in a knot resembling the boss of a shield; but part of it hung in innumerable folds, the tasselled fringe quivered. It was embroidered with glittering stars on the hem and everywhere else, and in the middle beamed a full and fiery Moon.”
Apuleius The Golden Ass
Her mantle of night is that of the visible universe, the stars and the spaces between. The snakes that support her disk, besides echoing the pair of horns, suggest the caduceus of Hermes:
Two serpents, the positive and negative polarity, entwine a staff of authority or directed power, and are held in equilibrium. The equilibrium forms the circle of her disk.
The ears of corn in Apuleius’s description, remind me of Ceres. Ceres is the ripe standing wheat of the earth, and the mother of Persephone who married the dark Underworld. “Hades”, king of the Underworld, is derived from the Greek eidein, to see.
“The centre, the depths of this sphere (of the universe) is named Hades the invisible, because the centre of a sphere cannot be seen from without. It appears visible only by means of those special forms whose images appear graven upon it, it shows itself only in effigy; but in reality it is always invisible in itself.”
Trismegistus, The Virgin of the World
Ears of corn, or wheat, are the vessels of that sprouting grain of the inner world. They are the visible allegory which is “graven upon its surface”. I, dreaming twice in the last few nights about taking earplugs out, am perhaps being advised to hear; to be here, listen and hear. For this is the way the priestess receives information … silently into the oracle or shell of her ears. The oracle, coracle, is a celtic craft on the waters. The waters dance and play with reflections from the sky in crescents of light like fallen leaves or “boats of mine a-floating … Where will all come home?”
She has her eyes closed because the instruction is to be still and hear, to be not taken in by the deception, the flickering screem of sensory sight. To hear the unruffled depth of the settling water is to be the quietness of the water itself.
I drew the ears of earth (that is Ceres) with wheat growing in them, like little masts in a walnutshell boat.
Burial and Hermetic Initiation – the Grain Sprouts
To be the awareness of the ears is to extend and receive the lateral sense of consciousness; the Capitols of the two pillars. I am what rests between them, that which is, as it is.
From that alone comes forth what is relevant to the time. Silence must receive its own information, before delivering it. Thus is truth. Open the ears, the arms, of my Soul. These horns are the ears or antennae of some creature of the deep.
The horns of Isis are the sense organ through which she receives the waves. This is her focus of divination. Between the horns is held, or hung, the equilibrated breath of her magnetic field.
In the Masons’ craft, there is a ceremony of passing, from being an entered apprentice to receiving the degree of fellowcraft. This represents work on the soul, or ability to listen, in the Middle Chamber. The candidate must bear in time and maturity the fruit of his own work. So upon acceptance he is given an ear of corn.
In this gesture there is a profound mystery, which lies in the ancient body of Egypt. Isis is the dark earth or body receiving the golden grain of Osiris in the flood of the Nile river which spreads it to all parts of the black land.. . When the waters ebb the grain sprouts. This is the Child who is also the Father. The land of upper, middle and lower Egypt was, in ancient times the head, thorax and abdomen of the subtle body. These are parts of the embodied fragment of God which lay beneath heaven.
Like the lower arm of the letter BEIT, this fragment – like all the “fragments of hermetica” that survived the destroyed Alexandrian library – echoes but is not quite the same as the Firmament. But from within the fragment (the rock, the tomb of forgotten awareness) can be resurrected the light of Osiris. I am reminded of Thomas Browne again: We are somewhat more than ourselves in Sleep, and the Slumber of the Body seems to be but the Waking of the Soul.
It seems that in most cases the slumber or apparent death of the body, (death of the world-orientation) was a pre-requisite to resurrecting the consciousness – the Spirit – outside and encircling the spacetime continuum.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead was written to guide those who, plunged by subtle arts into profound physical sleep, awoke to behold the Holy One. The weighing of the Soul and all that followed, was not the sole prerogative of those who had reached the end of their earthly span. Some who passed through the gates or pillars of “death”, returned re-born in the light of the Sun to bear witness (and keep the secret). This idea was explored in some of Paul Brunton’s meditations in his Search in Secret Egypt.
The Sacred Books of Hermes are a collection of fragments and discourses written down in Alexandria just before or after the time of Christ. In them seems to be reflected the essential wisdom of Thoth. Thoth is the ancient secretary to the gods. He has the head of an Ibis bird, and carries his pad and pencil. The hieroglyph for AKH – Light, or the scribing of a light that pre-exists Creation – is in the form of an Ibis. The crest and plumage of this bird is dark green and shot through with glittering metallic specks of light. The root of AKH is Spirit, to shine, to irradiate. The curve of the Ibis’s neck is like the uraeus or cobra, worn by Pharaoh as his “third eye” or pineal body*. And it is not altogether unlike the neck of a swan.
The letter BEIT is a “neck” or channel of the current of speech. Yes! Speech is Hermes. The neck through which the silvery river flows, is the lady Isis. Isis and Hermes together are Thoth, the month of the harvest, the art of the priesthood. Isis’ womb-brother Osiris is then Self knowledge within the art, for he is the Sun.
The precious stone assigned to Hermes is emerald. The Bible of spiritual alchemy “As above so below” was traditionally inscribed by him on the legendary Emerald Tablet which – says Eliphas Levi – contains all of Magic in a single page. It was found by Alexander the Great in the depths of the Great Pyramid where priests in ancient times had concealed the tomb of Hermes. In the time of the Romans the emperor Severus buried the Mysteries in Alexander’s tomb, and Diocletian destroyed all the books on alchemy. Christianity dawned upon a devastated battlefield of esoteric knowledge, a burnt-out wound of the world, a Way swept clear.
*In this light, consider the ideas of modern physicists: “Light – the range of electro magnetic frequencies – precedes the the manifestation of luminous bodies. Radiant energy is held to be the basis of all things within the range of human perception.” (P.Foster Case). The symbols and colours which picture the ancient-world mysteries are tools equivalent to the equations used in our day.
These inscriptions, burials and tombs are direct reference to language, its events and its veils. The esoteric language had to be veiled from temporal powers who would exploit or destroy it: yet perennially accessible to ‘those who knew’.
I feel the Hermetic cosmology – which has been handed down as an oral tradition, like the Kabbalah – has a Vedic antiquity. There were originally four Sacred Books of Hermes. These were subdivided into forty-two volumes, the same number as those of the Vedas which were carried from India into Egypt by the Yadava emigration (cf. Mrs Child: The Progress of Religious Ideas, 19th century). There are innumerable stories and conjectural confluences of this kind, behind the shadows we see on the wall.
But, more importantly, the Egyptian doctrine of initiation, that the Eye of God opens in the most profound “sleep” of the organic and astral body, corresponds to advaita or “Not Two” of the elder East and of Gautama. Ramana Maharshi said the SELF of God awakens in the Fourth state of consciousness – that of deepest physical “sleep” … and is always awake. The other three states of consciousness are: the physical world, dreaming, and normal sleep. All three conform to the conditioned self-world view, a horizontal play on surfaces. Awareness in the Fourth state alone is unchanging and infinite.
Awareness in the Fourth state intersects the worldview everywhere at each point vertically. The worldviews of the three other states are sections across it, and thus illusory. Our worldview has the measure (or maya) of rings of time across a living tree. The presence of the Tree itself, its root, its many branches, the birds in the foliage, and seasonal colours and sound of the wind, is invisible to the cut surface spectrum. To appreciate that a whole Tree exists NOW, above and below the surface, requires a radical leap in the inner life which till then was occupied with one ring after another of historical time.
The way is : I AM THE TREE ITSELF. I AM ROOT AND SHOOT.
In both Western and Eastern traditions, pentacles and yantras combine the flat, diagrammatic plane of sacred geometry, with the vital dimension of which it is a talisman. The solar system itself, apparently a disk of planetary orbits of time around the Sun, is a section across a living organism like a whole egg, or the petals of a rose without an outline … So it is also with the structure of the atom. Electrons around the nucleus are not things, or even points, but waves ensphering it. Sages know this intuitively, which is why they say “All is well”; for they are That. The human worldview, like music in the grooves of a flat disk, perceives what begins and ends, and must take the sage’s view on trust until the limited perception “dies”.
Nature is full of allegory: the section across the tree: concentric ripples of sound, or over water: the vessel which rises from the potters’ wheel: the spiral of seasons and orbits. The clean section across a tree is itself artificial, conforming to human tools. The faculty is specialised, and yet it still obeys the ripple form.
Awareness in the Fourth State alone unchanges. The disciple of life has no access to it through the normal senses, and so in its presence, he sleeps, he “dies”, it is night to him.
In the ancient world, the physical catalepsy, through which the divine bird flew free of the mortal frame, is a conditional form of enlightenment. Advaita teachings call it “nirvikalpa samadhi”: the bird flies free but then returns to ignorance. The Sun is hid again in the night, and becomes a memory. In unconditioned illumination, no catalepsy of the body is necessary. The sage moves easily as air with his environment. He or she is the SUN. In all their atoms, they are and know the source, as simply as the stars.
The idea is not the temporal histories and how they might all be filed together on the disk, but what the currencies of mysticism all have in common, free from time; for it is obvious that many rivers within one River flow … from the pregnant void of Source, to the ocean which is itSelf. Here again, the human view is specialised, seeking in attainment, peace.
The inner Light has no past or future. Maybe it is a musical chord of kalpas, ever present.
The foregoing was an exploration, turning up from the subconscious field, spontaneous references to ears, hearing and speech. The title, Why Does Isis Have Horns? delivered to me, the Taurus symbol … in which the Moon (High Priestess) is exalted. This means, that when the Moon is going through Taurus, the tidal fertile function is supreme, in nature and humanity.
The Moon’s actual ruling sign is Cancer – the sensitive shoreline, the rhythm of the tides, the breath and endochrine system. When the Moon is in the Earth-sign Taurus, the tide deposits the fruits of earth on fertile ground.
Taurus’s planetary ruler is Venus – attraction, affinity, passion, the laws of gravity. With reference to hearing and speech, Taurus is assigned to the faculty of hearing, and to the throat – which I was not aware of, at the time of writing.
So sea birds follow the plough – the upturned furrows of earth – to feast.
My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.
This blog is a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.
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