The following article first appeared in “Theosophy” Magazine for July 1953, the main monthly publication of the United Lodge of Theosophists. It was followed by a footnote which said:
“The question to be put is: Are we sufficiently grateful to the ancient Sages for the Zodiac? Is knowledge of zodiacal symbolism of any moral worth? The student, for further inquiry, is directed to the works of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge, from which source these statements are gathered.”
There is a tremendous amount of valuable information contained in this article. Much of it comes from HPB’s “The Secret Doctrine,” a book which cannot be studied often enough or carefully enough. It takes effort but it is always well worth it if we do it right. This article still only touches the surface, however, of the Theosophical teachings and explanations regarding the zodiac and its metaphysical but still extremely real influences.
If you would like to read more on what Theosophy – the Esoteric Philosophy or Sacred Science preserved, guarded, and gradually made public by great Initiates and Adepts over untold millennia – discloses on astrological and astronomical matters, please read Our Sun and The True Sun, Three Statements About The Sun, Theosophy on The Milky Way, Theosophy on The Pleiades, Theosophy on Sirius, and Theosophy on The New Age of Aquarius.
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At last, like Adam, the “First-Born” of the Sioux became weary of living alone, and formed for himself a companion – not a mate, but a brother – not out of a rib from his side, but from a splinter which he drew from his great toe! This was the Little Boy Man. … His Elder Brother was his teacher throughout every stage of human progress from infancy to manhood, and it is to the rules which he laid down, and his counsels to the Little Boy Man, that we trace many of our most deep-rooted beliefs and most sacred customs.
– The Soul of the Indian
The highest of the “First-Born,” in Secret Doctrine symbology, are the hierarchies of the Architects and Builders of the universe and of living things on earth. They are generally called Gods and Dhyan Chohans, intelligent Forces through which the “principles” of Kosmos are brought into function. There are seven great hierarchies of Creative Powers, “the seven of the manifesting scale being connected with the Seven Planets.” From the latter, in turn, descend or emanate the Manus and Progenitors of mankind, spiritually, psychically and astrally, as well as physically.
According to Plato, the Universe was built by the “First-Born” on the geometrical figure of the Dodecahedron, a figure having twelve sides. This is typified in the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Eternity, or Duration, is pointed off into grand cycles, in each of which twelve transformations occur, following partial destructions by fire and water, alternately. These transformations begin with the metaphysical and supra-human, and end with the physical and purely human nature of Kosmos and man; they take place, as concerns our earth, during the four great ages, golden, silver, bronze and iron, of the first Mahayuga. But to the stories of Creation and the traditions of Deluges and the like there is more than one meaning attached. There are ages within ages, and man’s diurnal twelve hours are microcosmic counterparts of the prototypal twelve periods of an “eternity.” The twelve signs of the Zodiac are emblematic, in their manifold aspects, of the spiritual and physical evolution of human races, of ages, and of divisions of time.
This stupendous conception, the ancients synthesized for the instruction of the common people into a single pictorial design, the Zodiac, or celestial belt. They taught that the genesis of Gods and men takes its rise in and from the same Point, which is the One Universal, Immutable Eternal and absolute Unity. The first or rather ONE power was called the “circle of heaven,” symbolized by the hierogram of the point within the circle, the point being the Logos, the Central Spiritual Sun. This point is the First Cause. But THAT from which it emanates, or of which rather it is the expression, was by those ancient Instructors passed over in silence. The great circle or ring of the Zodiac symbolized Space, the one Unity. In the Occult Catechism of The Secret Doctrine the following questions are asked and answered:
“What is it that ever is?” “Space, the eternal Anupadaka (parentless).” “What is it that ever was?” “The Germ in the Root.” “What is it that is ever coming and going?” “The Great Breath.” “Then, there are three Eternals?” “No, the three are one….” (S.D. I, 11.)
Space is sometimes called the Great Mother, the mother Substance, the really primordial homogeneous matter. From a nucleus of Substance is born the Golden Egg (Hiranyagarbha), the Central Spiritual Sun of the Universe, whence emanate all the upper and lower hierarchies of Creative Forces and Powers and man’s divine Progenitors. “Mother-Space” is very properly called the “Mother of the Gods,” as it is from her Cosmic Matrix that all the heavenly bodies of our system were born – sun and planets. The doctrine of a common origin for all the heavenly bodies and planets was inculcated by archaic astronomy before Kepler, Newton and others.
With Pythagoras, the point in the circle was the unmanifested Monad living in solitude and darkness. When the hour strikes it radiates from itself ONE, the first number. The Monad returns into silence as soon as it has evolved the Triad, from which emanate the remaining seven numbers of the ten – which are at the base of the manifesting universe. Instead of the twelve signs of the Zodiac now known to the general public, there were originally but ten: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, followed by the dual Virgo-Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius and Pisces. These were exoteric. But in addition there were two mystic signs inserted, which none but the initiates comprehended. When it was found necessary to make the two secret signs exoteric, they were added under their present appellations as blinds to conceal the true names, which give the key to the whole secret of creation and divulge the origin of “good and evil.”
This of course refers to a time when the signs Virgo and Scorpio were originally undivided and considered as one; being later on separated by the insertion of Libra, the balance point, the Scales. The scales typified that eternal equilibrium which is the necessity of a universe of harmony, of exact justice, of the balance of the centripetal and centrifugal forces, darkness and light – SPIRIT and MATTER. In the subjective as well as in the objective worlds, they are the two POWERS, which through their eternal conflict keep the universe of spirit and matter in harmony. They force the planets to pursue their paths, and keep them in their elliptical orbits, thus tracing the astronomical cross in their revolutions through the Zodiac. The Sabean doctrine taught that within the double sign Virgo-Scorpio was hidden the explanation of the gradual transformation of the world, from its spiritual and subjective, into the “two-sexed” sublunary state. Conversely the union of these signs into a single entity is said to lead to the destruction of the phenomenal universe.
The “Sons of Light” called after their planets and often identified with them – Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Venus and presumably, the Sun and Moon – are our heavenly Parents, or “Father” synthetically. They were in ancient times considered as the heavenly bodies in direct astral and psychic communication with our earth, its guides and watchers, morally and physically; their visible orbs furnishing our humanity with its outward and inward characteristics, their Regents or Rectores with our Monads and spiritual faculties. As seven distinct rays radiate from the Central Spiritual Sun, so all the adepts and Dhyan Chohans are divisible into seven classes, each of which is guided, controlled and overshadowed by one of the seven forms or manifestations of the Divine Wisdom.
The latter, supreme Wisdom, has been identified during all times with the Dragon. Astronomically the constellation of Draco was at one time in the very centre of the heavens, so extensive that it was called the Great Dragon. Its body spread over seven signs of the Zodiac. When in earlier annals of the Fifth human race the great pyramid of Egypt was a fane of initiation, Draco was the pole-star, a symbol of the “Guide,” Guru and direction, the lode-star, the guiding sidereal divinity. The hierophant or Master of Wisdom who brought the neophyte into his spiritual rebirth was also “the Star.” These Elder Brothers of mankind are called by Hermes Trismegistus a colony of the Gods settled upon this earth in order that man may not remain destitute of a higher nature. They are the incarnations of the highest Seven. The Ah-Hi, says H. P. Blavatsky, have long ago become planetary, solar, lunar and, finally, reincarnating Egos. They are the collective hosts of spiritual beings. They become men as their own transformations. “The creators of the world are born on earth again and again.”
When mortals become sufficiently spiritualized, there will be no more need to force them into a correct comprehension of the ancient Wisdom. Man will know then that there never was yet a great World-Reformer whose name has passed to our generation, who (a) was not a direct emanation of the LOGOS (under whatever name known to us), i.e., an essential incarnation of one of the “Seven” of the divine “Spirit who is seven-fold,” and (b) who had not appeared before, during past Cycles. Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Manu, Tot-Hermes first appeared on earth as one of the seven powers of the LOGOS, individualized as a God. Then mixing with matter, they had reappeared in turn as great Sages and instructors who taught the Fifth race, after having instructed the two preceding races. … In ancient symbolism it was always the SUN (the spiritual, not the visible), who was supposed to send forth the chief Saviours and Avatars. The Manus and Rishis are also planetary gods, for they are said to have appeared at the beginning of the human races to watch over their evolution, and to have incarnated and descended on earth subsequently to teach mankind.
Humanity is divided into seven distinct groups and their subdivisions, mental, spiritual and physical. Hence the seven chief planets, the spheres of the indwelling spirits, under each of which is born one of the human groups which is guided and influenced thereby. The whole of antiquity believed with good reason that the human and all the races were intimately connected with the planets and these with the Zodiacal signs. The whole of the world’s history is recorded in the latter. At one time the neophyte in Egypt was taught the mystery of the signs of the Zodiac in a circle dance representing the course of the planets – as to this day, the dance of Krishna and the Gopis is celebrated in Rajputana. After this dance the neophyte received a cross, the Tau, becoming an Astronomos or healer. The cycle of initiations represented in miniature the great series of Cosmic signs of the sidereal year. As the heavenly bodies at the close of the sidereal year (of 25,868 years) return to the same relative positions they occupied at the outset, so at the close of the Cycle of Initiations the inner man had regained the pristine state of divine purity and knowledge with which he set out on the cycle of terrestrial incarnations.
The Zodiac was known in India and Egypt for incalculable ages. The knowledge of the sages and magi of these countries, with regard to the occult influence of the stars and heavenly bodies on our earth, was far greater than professional astronomy can ever hope to reach. Modern wisdom is satisfied with astronomical computations and prophecies based upon unerring mathematical laws. Ancient Wisdom added to the cold shell of astronomy the vivifying element of its soul and spirit – ASTROLOGY.
The chief features of one’s life are always in accordance with the Constellation under which one is born; that is, in accord with the character of its animating principle, the deity presiding over the Constellation – whether we call it Archangel or Dhyan Chohan. The units of humanity all proceed from the same source, the central SUN and its shadow, the visible sun. Every effort of the will to purify and unite with the “Self-God” breaks one of the lower rays; the spiritual entity of man is drawn ever higher, from ray to ray, until he is again reabsorbed into the one and highest beam of the Parent-Sun. The latter is the true center of every man, as of Cosmos; each can receive influence from that center, as “each man is or is to be connected with some particular one of these Adepts.” Our destiny is written in the stars. There is a true present day Astrology recoverable by those members of the Theosophical Movement who fulfill the moral requirements to repossess the “Great Mystery.”
The spirit of the foregoing is epitomized thus: “The hierarchy of Creative Powers is divided into seven (or 4 and 3) esoteric, within twelve great Orders, recorded in the twelve signs of the Zodiac; the seven of the manifesting scale being connected, moreover, with the Seven Planets. All this is subdivided into numberless groups of divine Spiritual, semi-spiritual, and ethereal Beings.” The teachings of the Zodiac are the work of the Sages who come at the beginning of the great human cycle and give to man, when he begins his toilsome ascent up the road of spiritual development, those great symbols and ideas of an astronomical character which will last through all the cycles. These include the “innate ideas” impacted in the imperishable centre of man’s nature. Some notion of the antiquity of zodiacal lore may be gathered from this memento of occult records from an age “unknown to history.” “On the plan of the Zodiac in the upper Ocean or the heavens, a certain realm on earth, an inland sea, was consecrated and called the Abyss of learning. Twelve centres in the shape of twelve small islands representing the Zodiacal signs – two of which remained for ages mystery signs – were the abodes of twelve Hierophants, or Masters of Wisdom. This sea of knowledge or learning remained for ages there, where now stretches the Gobi desert. It existed until the last glacial period, when a local cataclysm, which swept the waters of this sea south and west and so formed the great desolate desert, left only a certain oasis, with a lake and one island in the midst of it, as a relic of the Zodiacal ring on earth.”
The Secret Doctrine teaches that every event of universal importance, such as geological cataclysms at the end of one race and the beginning of a new one – involving a great change each time in mankind, spiritual, moral and physical – is prepared, so to say, in the sidereal regions of our planetary system. The ancient Wise Men had by observation, experiment and knowledge taken account of all conceivable combinations of causes and determined with mathematical precision those effects. Their knowledge came to them as the result of their purity on every plane of being. Mythology in ancient times included both astronomy and astrology. The planets were the hands pointing out, on the dial of our solar system, the hours of certain periodic events. At the intersection of great cycles dynamic effects follow and alter the surface of the planet by reason of the shifting of the poles of the globe and other convulsions, and affecting the course of human evolution. With this branch of cyclic law the Eastern sages are perfectly familiar. They have inquired into it, recorded their observations, and preserved them. Having watched the uncountable lives during cycles upon cycles past, and seen their behavior under different conditions in other stellar spaces long ago left behind, they have some basis upon which to draw conclusions as to what will be the state of things in ages to come.
The sidereal prophecies of the Zodiac never point to any one particular event, however solemn and sacred it may be for some one portion of humanity. Why, asks The Secret Doctrine, see in Pisces (sign of the Fish) a direct reference to Christ – one of the several world-reformers, when that constellation shines as a symbol of all past, present and future Spiritual Saviours who dispense light and dispel mental darkness? All such prophecies point to ever-recurring periodical laws in nature, understood but by the Initiate. “The Zodiac is the type of the Great Law.” Twelve Great Gods, as in Egypt, or twelve Orders of Being as in the Himalayan teaching, manifest the complete turning of the great Wheel of Life and the Law, embracing all the subjective and objective planes and all the states. As applied to our globe, of the twelve transformations, the earth after each one of its first six is grosser, and everything on it – man included – more material, than after the preceding one, while after each of the remaining six the contrary is true, both earth and man growing more and more refined and spiritual with each terrestrial change. When the apex of the cycle is reached, a gradual dissolution takes place, and every living and objective form is destroyed. But when that point is reached, humanity, animals, plants and every atom have become fitted to live subjectively as well as objectively.
Thus proceed the cycles of septenary evolution, the Septennial nature: the Spiritual and divine; the psychic or semi-divine; the intellectual, the passional, the instinctual; the semi-corporeal, and the purely material or physical nature. All these evolve and progress cyclically, passing from one into another, in a double centrifugal and centripetal way, one in their ultimate essence, seven in their aspects. Every principle of man’s sevenfold nature is correlated to a plane, a planet and a race; these can, each one, become beneficent and powerful forces for man.
The symbology of the Zodiac is not primarily religious, not primarily astronomical, nor even astrological. The key to the mysteries of the Zodiac has to be turned seven times. In every smallest event of life is an occult significance having a sevenfold root, whether human or cosmic. The knowledge of determining, in each event, this occult aspect, belonged at all times to adepts. Man is himself a zodiacal highway, through which his own particular sun, the Atman, makes a circuit. As our acquaintance, through devotion and endeavor, with the journey of our own sun through our own human zodiac grows better, we will learn the meaning of the greater pilgrimage of the earthly luminary.
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