Aries 1: Scene 1 Desire. First Level Actional. Phase 1.
A WOMAN JUST RISEN FROM THE SEA. A SEAL IS EMBRACING HER.
This is the first of the 360 phases of a universal and multilevel cyclic process which aims at the actualization of a particular set of potentialities. These potentialities, in the Sabian symbols, refer to the development of man's individualized consciousness — the consciousness of being an individual person with a place and function (a "destiny") in the planetary organism of the Earth, and in a particular type of human society and culture.
To be individually conscious means to emerge out of the sea of generic and collective consciousness — which to the emerged mind appears to be unconsciousness. Such an emergence is the primary event. It is the result of some basic action: a leaving behind, an emerging from a womb or matrix, here symbolized by the sea.
Such an action is not to be considered a powerful, positive statement of individual being. In the beginning is the Act; but it is often an imperceptible, insecure act. The small tender germ out of the seed does not loudly proclaim its existence. It has to pierce through the crust of the soil still covered with the remains of the past. It is all potentiality and a minimum of actual presence.
In the symbol, therefore, the emergent entity is a Woman; symbolically speaking, a form of existence still close to the unconscious depths of generic biological nature, filled with the desire to be rather than self-assertion. The woman is seen embraced by a seal because the seal is a mammal which once had experienced a biological, evolutionary but relatively unconscious emergence, yet which retraced its steps and "returned to the womb" of the sea. The seal, therefore, represents a regressive step. It embraces the Woman who has emerged, because every emergent process at first is susceptible to failure. This process is indeed surrounded by the memory, the ghosts of past failures during previous cycles. The impulse upward is held back by regressive fear or insecurity; the issue of the conflict depends on the relative strength of the future-ward and the past-ward forces.
The possibility of success and that of failure is implied throughout the entire process of actualization. Every release of potentiality contains this two-fold possibility. It inevitably opens up two paths: one leads to "perfection" in consciousness, the other to "disintegration" - the return to the undifferentiated state (the state of humus, manure, cosmic dust - i.e. to the symbolic "great Waters of space," to chaos)
This symbol characterizes the first of five stages which are repeated at three levels. This stage represents the initial statement, or theme, of the five-fold series which refers to the first level: IMPULSE TO BE.
Emergence of new forms and of the potentiality of consciousness.
Aries 2: Scene 1 Desire. First Level Actional. Phase 2.
A COMEDIAN REVEALS HUMAN NATURE.
The capacity to look objectively at oneself and at others.
While the first phase of the process of emergence is essentially in terms of subjective impulse and the desire to act, the second phase represents the attempt to evolve an objective awareness of existence. Through a sense of contrast, consciousness is gradually being built. It is what Teilhard de Chardin calls "reflective consciousness": the ability to see oneself reflected as in a mirror, and eventually to laugh at the inadequacy of the form one sees; thus "humor," the triumph of objective consciousness over subjective feeling or moods, or involvement in self.
This symbol characterizes the second stage in the first five-fold sequence of phases: the stage of OBJECTIVATION OF CONSCIOUSNESS. This second phase complements and polarizes the first, which stresses the subjective desire to become individually conscious.
Aries 3: Scene 1 Desire. First Level Actional. Phase 3.
THE CAMEO PROFILE OF A MAN, SUGGESTING THE SHAPE OF HIS COUNTRY.
The sustaining power of the Whole, as the individual identifies themselves with It’s life.
Having become objectively aware of their nature and basic humanity, the individualizing person finds power and inner security in realizing their essential identity with the section of the universe in which they operate. They and it seem to the consciousness united in a cosmic-planetary process - in a "participation mystique." Metaphysically expressed, this is the concept of the identity of Atman and Brahman. In another sense, through the ability to identify themselves with the complex of life activities surrounding them, the individual person can become truly, not only an image and representation of the Whole of their natal environment (local, planetary and perhaps eventually cosmic), but an agent through whom the Whole may express itself in an act of creative resonance and outpouring. This is the avatar ideal — the ideal of a "transpersonal" life and consciousness totally consecrated to and directed by a divine Power. This Power can also be conceived as the archetypal Self, the Christ-principle as it operates in and through an individual person and destiny who have become its outward manifestation in order to meet a collective human need.
The concept of the formal-structural identity of the universal macrocosm and the human microcosm is a very important one, as it manifests itself at many levels. It provided an inner sense of security and harmonic strength to archaic man. To the modern individual assailed by surface evidence of meaninglessness and futility it gives a feeling of participation in the vast tide of evolution. It is the answer to the tragic sense of alienation so prevalent today.
This symbol characterizes the third stage of the first five-fold sequence of phases: the stage of PARTICIPATION IN A GREATER LIFE.
Aries 4: Scene 1 Desire. First Level Actional. Phase 4.
TWO LOVERS STROLLING ON A SECLUDED WALK.
The progressive polarization of energies needed for fulfilling one's life function.
In order to respond fully to the potentialities released by a sense of identification with a greater Whole, the human being should be himself whole. An interplay of bipolar energies is needed to provide a sustained and dynamic "resonance" to any superior and encompassing form of life. This may imply a temporary withdrawal from routine activity, i.e. a "secluded" process. It is not, however, a closed process. The positive and negative polarities do not meet in a closed circuit, reconstituting a neutral state of potentiality. They operate in dynamic, open, unresolved togetherness in contact with the surrounding energies of nature.
This symbol characterizes the fourth stage of the first five-fold sequence of phases: the stage of dynamic and unresolved POLARIZATION. It introduces the basic means - one might say, the technique - to establish consciousness in the world of duality.
Aries 5: Scene 1 Desire. First Level Actional. Phase 5.
A TRIANGLE WITH WINGS.
The capacity for self-transcending.
This is the symbol of the desire to reach a higher level of existence, of pure aspiration or devotion, of bhakti. What has emerged in the first phase of the process of differentiation is becoming aware of the possibility of further up-reachings. The principle of "levitation" is seen as one of the two essential factors in evolution. The emergent being glorifies and deifies it, but it is still only an ideal. At this stage, nevertheless, the whole being experiences a childlike longing for its eventual realization.
At this point the last and synthesizing stage of the first five-fold unit in the cyclic process is reached. A NEW DIMENSION of being is envisioned mobilizing creative endeavors.
Aries 6: Scene 1 Desire. Second Level Emotional/Cultural. Phase 6.
A SQUARE, WITH ONE OF ITS SIDES BRIGHTLY ILLUMINED.
The emotional desire for concrete and stabilized existence as a person.
This desire for individualization operates at first as a one-pointed or one-sided drive focusing itself upon an exclusive goal. All emotions are at first possessive, and all cultural manifestations operate on the principle of exclusion. All that does not belong to the tribal sphere (one blood, one land, one folk) is the potential enemy. This is a necessary phase, for - as in the case of "the woman emerging from the sea" - the first attempt at building an inner realization of integral being may be defeated at any time by the regressive pull toward undifferentiation and the prenatal state of non-individualization within the vast womb of nature or within unformed cosmic space.
This first stage of the second five-fold sequence of symbols presents the theme which will be dialectically developed - a five-phase dialectical process: A ONE-SIDED URGE FOR INNER STABILITY.
Aries 7: Scene 1 Desire. Second Level Emotional/Cultural. Phase 7.
A MAN SUCCEEDS IN EXPRESSING HIMSELF SIMULTANEOUSLY IN TWO REALMS.
The first realization of the dual nature of man and of the possibilities it implies.
This symbol represents the antithesis of the thesis pictured ill Phase 6, yet in such a five-fold sequence what we see is contrast rather than opposition. The primordial one-sidedness of emotional and cultural manifestation actually calls for the compensatory ability to operate at two levels. Thus the primary dualism of Sky and Earth, of the divine and the human, of spirit and matter. The vision and the emotions are focused within sharply defined boundaries, but within these boundaries they express themselves at two levels. This is the foundation of religion as well as of magic.
A situation which has become characterized by this symbol can be successfully faced if its spiritual and material implications are understood and actualized.
At this second stage of the second five-fold sequence of symbols we see at work man's capacity for LIVING TWO SEPARATE LIVES - and finding fulfillment and happiness in both. On this capacity are founded many of the complexities of human nature.
Aries 8: Scene 1 Desire. Second Level Emotional/Cultural. Phase 8.
A LARGE WOMAN'S HAT WITH STREAMERS BLOWN BY AN EAST WIND.
Protection and spiritual guidance in the development of consciousness.
This somewhat strange image can be understood if every stated feature in it is clearly analyzed without preconceptions. Here again we see a woman; but now her head is covered with a large hat - a protection against the forces of nature, i.e. cold and/or the penetrating rays of the sun. At this emotional-cultural level (Phases 6 through 10) the mental processes are still largely undeveloped) thus they need protection from the elemental forces of life. A too great openness to the Sky-energies and the "spiritual" level could lead to obsessions of one kind or another.
The symbolic image implies a rather strong wind, thus the activity of some more-than-material, and especially psychic, forces. These originated in the East, traditionally the seat of spiritualizing and creative-transforming influences. The woman's hat has streamers, which enable it not only to respond to the wind but to indicate its source. In other words, the image symbolizes a stage of development of consciousness in which the nascent powers of the mind are both protected and influenced by energies of a spiritual origin. This suggests a probationary stage in the process of individualization.
Under protective guidance a still most receptive person (a woman) is being influenced by spiritual forces.
This is a third stage symbol in which we see the first and second stages of this second five-fold sequence producing results which require PROTECTIVE FORMS (which is what a culture and ethical precepts provide) and SENSITIVITY to spiritual energies.
Aries 9: Scene 1 Desire. Second Level Emotional/Cultural. Phase 9.
A CRYSTAL GAZER.
The development of an inner realization of organic wholeness.
The crystal sphere symbolizes wholeness. Within the sphere images take form. These images may reveal future events, but more significantly they picture "the situation as a whole" – the situation which the clairvoyant is meant to interpret.
The nascent mental faculties operating through still dominant emotions (or collective cultural incentives) act as a centralizing and whole-making power. What the intelligence perceives in its concentration is the function of every inner impulse and outer events in the open field of a "personality" still unclouded by egoism.
At this fourth stage of the five-fold sequence the new technique required for the development of individualized consciousness is revealed: CONCENTRATED ATTENTION.
Aries 10: Scene 1 Desire. Second Level Emotional/Cultural. Phase 10.
A TEACHER GIVES NEW SYMBOLIC FORMS TO TRADITIONAL IMAGES.
Revision of attitude at the beginning of a new cycle of experience.
This phase is the fifth of the second five-fold sequence, and in it we find expressed the capacity to restate the problem inherent in the first phase, i.e. the problem of focusing one's energies upon emotional drives and cultural values which exclude far more than they include. The subsequent stages of development taken together have added considerably to this attitude; as a result, there arises in the consciousness a desire to reformulate at a new level much that had been taken for granted because it indeed originally had been an evolutionary necessity. The very concrete emotion-arousing images of the past can now be reinterpreted as "symbols" with a wider scope of meaning.
At this fifth stage a new dimension of consciousness is discovered, revealing higher possibilities of experience and mental development. This is a phase of ABSTRACTION and of emotional allegiance.
Aries 11: Scene 1 Desire. Third Level Individual/Mental. Phase 11.
THE RULER OF A NATION.
The power resulting from the format integration of the collective desire for order.
At this stage of the cyclic process this symbol refers to the appearance of the (personal) ego as the central manifestation of a type of "order" which transcends and seeks to rule the emotional and instinctual drives of the individual person. Actually the ruler at this social-political and mental level of integration is often the one who is being ruled by collective pressures. Nevertheless, a desire for a larger type of integration has now emerged. It is no longer biological-impulsive (Aries 1°) or emotional-personal (Aries 6°), but social-collective and institutional. At this ego level, laws and the restrictive power of a police force are dominant features. Psychologically speaking, this means that the integrative principle is the limited, more or less narrow "I am" realization. It manifests itself as the personal ego exerting its will to control the reactions of the bio-psychic organism.
This is the first stage of the third five-fold sequence of the cyclic process. It indicates a CENTRALIZATION OF POWER at the level of a rigidly structured consciousness.
Aries 12: Scene 1 Desire. Third Level Individual/Mental. Phase 12.
A TRIANGULARLY SHAPED FLIGHT OF WILD GEESE.
An idealistic reliance upon a mental image of universal order.
The wild goose is the mystical bird, hamsa, of Hindu tradition. This word, which has recurred in various cultures (the Hansa League of Germanic cities in the late Middle Ages, and El Hanza, the founder of the occult Brotherhood of the Druzes in Lebanon, during the era of the Crusades), has always had at least an undertone of integration at an expansionistic level, spiritual or economic. The Hindu hamsa was the symbol of man's transcendent soul. What previous interpretations of this Sabian symbol have failed to grasp is that the flight of geese presents not only a remarkably geometrical V-shape moving through the sky, but also that this flight is seasonal and therefore attuned to planetary rhythms. Thus, it symbolizes cosmic order, in contrast with the social-political order within a nation which is represented by its ruler. It is order made visual on the background of the clear sky. It is a "celestial" type of order, even though it is earth-born birds which reveal it by their ability to keep their flight structured. The symbol therefore refers to the Soul-consciousness as visualized by the heaven-oriented mind. Yet this soul-consciousness can be called transcendent because it has not yet become "incarnated."
Because this is a second stage in the third five-fold sequence begun with Phase 11, we have to consider what it pictures in contrast to the preceding symbol. A basic dualism of consciousness is thus suggested. We see arising a potential conflict between cosmic and social principles of order. The principle of COSMIC ORDER polarizes the all-too-human reliance on the social concept of law and order.
Aries 13: Scene 1 Desire. Third Level Individual/Mental. Phase 13.
AN UNEXPLODED BOMB REVEALS AN UNSUCCESSFUL SOCIAL PROTEST.
An immature evaluation of the possibility of transforming suddenly the status quo.
The symbol pictures the result of a particular attempt to resolve the conflict between two concept-feelings of order. Resolution by violence fails because the ego-power at this stage of the process of individualization is far too strong. "The State" thwarts attempts at popular revolution, because these are premature expressions of a consciousness which is not free, but can only react "wildly" to constraint and to a central ruling power. It is thus a symbol of immature refusal to conform, in the name of an over-idealistic desire for harmony and peace.
This is the third stage of the third five-fold sequence. A negative attempt at reconciling the spiritual ideal and the very earthly reality, denying the validity of the latter. It suggests ADOLESCENT FRUSTRATION.
Aries 14: Scene 1 Desire. Third Level Individual/Mental. Phase 14.
A SERPENT COILING NEAR A MAN AND A WOMAN.
Identification in bipolar relationship with the impersonal rhythm of natural energy.
The symbol for Phase 4 pictures a man and a woman in love walking together. At this new and more mentally stimulated level of experience and consciousness, a third factor appears: the serpent, whose coiling represents the spiral-like process of evolution - not merely "sex" according to the maker of cathartic symbols, Sigmund Freud. We can understand this "triangular" image — man, woman and the serpent — if we relate it to the preceding one in the series, the unexploded bomb of the anarchist or activist. The urge to blow up some structure which somehow has become in the activist's mind a symbol of the Establishment — the ruling elite — is usually the protest of an alienated and often immature mind that refuses relationship, because in the relationship he would occupy a subservient position. In this symbol, the serpent represents the acceptance of relationship by the two polarized human beings.
There must be a polarization before there can be fulfillment. The tragedy of so many contemporary lives is that, having become sharply individualized, the men and women cannot find their truly matching polar-opposite. Because they are not fulfilled at the root level of human emotions and vitalistic forces, they pass their lives seeking the ideal complement, often glamorized as the "soul mate." This search can find its expression at several levels. At the mystical level we have the examples of the "spiritual marriage" of Saint Francis of Assisi and Santa Clara, or recently of Sri Aurobindo and Mother Mira.
The Adam and Eve story (in Hebrew, Ish and Isha - much more significant names!) refers to this principle of polarization, although the story has been turned upside down by priestly intellects to serve their purposes. Adam and Eve accepted the Presence, not of the Tempter, but of the Individualizer, who sought to have them born out of the womb of unconscious passivity to Nature's God. But the result of the experience frightened them. They "hid"; they failed in the great test of individualization, and in this sense the archetype of that failure is deeply imbedded in man's generic unconscious. It is repeated time after time.
Modern "individuals" are confronted with another test, but they do not understand its meaning. It is the test of polarized conscious participation in the evolutionary process - a polarization that could dissolve alienation, isolation and egocentricity. In a sense at least, this was the old Tantric concept in India; but today many young people accept the concept only superficially and miss its real essence. They cannot understand the meaning of entering into the serpent, i.e. of developing eonic consciousness and that transpersonal living which once was characterized by the words: Not I live, but Christ lives me - Christ, whose symbolic number in Gnosticism is 888.
At this fourth stage of the third five-fold sequence, we are confronted with an image suggesting the transpersonal way to the "cosmification" of desire and the conscious acceptance of polarization as the solution of the problems generated by individualization. But this need not mean what is currently meant by "sex" and the glorification of the orgasm. It implies rather the RITUALIZATION OF RELATIONSHIP.
Aries 15: Scene 1 Desire. Third Level Individual/Mental. Phase 15.
AN INDIAN WEAVING A CEREMONIAL BLANKET.
Projecting into everyday living the realization of wholeness and fulfillment.
In Christian tradition one hears of Jesus' "seamless robe." In Asia one is told of the "spiritual vesture" of the Perfect Ones. The man who has attained the spiritual state is figuratively robed in the universe — and more precisely, in the Milky Way, the Great White Robe of interwoven stars. This is the ultimate kind of weaving. There was also Penelope's weaving and unweaving, waiting for the return of her polarizing mate. The mind of the American woman in which these symbols took concrete form could think only of "Indian weavers." For the white man who is hungering for symbols of a state of living in total harmony with the universe, the traditional Indian can be glamorized as the answer to the inner emptiness of the city-dweller surfeited with artificial values. At any rate, we may thus prefigure a future state of fulfillment in conscious harmony and unpossessive love.
If this symbol comes to the consciousness of the inquirer after meaning, deliberately or through an aleatory act of revelation (like the act of throwing sticks to obtain an I Ching symbol), implied is the profound fact that every individual has as his ultimate conscious task the weaving of his "immortal body," his Gnostic Robe of Glory. It may sound very mystical and "far out," but there is a moment in every cycle when, in however small a degree, every individual may be confronted with the potentiality of a fulfilling act of self-realization and may, ever so relatively, find himself "clothed in light" for an instant.
This fifth stage of the third five-fold sequence of symbols ends the first of the twenty-four "scenes." We are told by it that the FULFILLMENT OF DESIRE is a possibility, at whatever level and in however incomplete a manner it may be experienced.
Aries 16: Scene 2 Potency. First Level Actional. Phase 16.
NATURE SPIRITS ARE SEEN AT WORK IN THE LIGHT OF SUNSET.
Attunement to the potency of invisible forces, of nature.
In the light of personal fulfillment (symbol of sunset and wisdom) man may be able to establish a life-giving contact with natural forces. These are active any time growth processes take place, but man's individualized mind is usually too focused on working for consciously set goals to be able to realize concretely the presence of invisible (or "occult") forces in operation. These forces constitute a specific realm of any planetary life. They are inherent in all "biospheres," on whatever planet. They are non-individualized and un-free energies forming in the substratum of all life processes - thus of the process of integration at the level of the planet-as-a-whole, i.e. the planet as an organism with its automatic systems of growth, maintenance and organic multiplication. In this planetary organism those nature forces act as guiding and balancing-harmonizing factors - somewhat as the endocrine system does in a human body, and behind this system the more occult web of chakra energies related to prana - the solar energy. It is when this energy becomes less dominant - thus symbolically at sunset - or when the body energy is weakened by illness, fasting or sensory deprivation, that it becomes easier to perceive these "nature spirits" and to give them forms that symbolize the character of their activities. These forms differ with the cultural imagery of each human collectivity, retaining nevertheless some basically similar characteristics.
When this Sabian symbol reaches into the consciousness of a man seeking meaning, it should be seen as an invitation to open his mind to the possibility of approaching life in a holistic and nonrational, intuitive manner.
This is the first stage of the fourth five-fold sequence of cyclic phases. It implies a call to REPOTENTIALIZATION. What this means also is the process of "becoming like a little child."
Aries 17: Scene 2 Potency. First Level Actional. Phase 17.
TWO DIGNIFIED SPINSTERS SITTING IN SILENCE.
The ability to transform a natural lack of potency into poise and inner serenity.
Here we have a symbol which contrasts with the preceding one. In our culture, the "spinster" represents the woman who has been unable to meet or accept the vitalizing power of love and organic fulfillment through biological polarization. Yet the symbol depicts two spinsters, emphasizing that refusing the natural expression of bipolar love has produced a special kind of dualism of experience. The two women are silent because this dualism has a narcissistic character. Life has turned inward seeing itself in a self-created mirroring. We have here the result of a negative inward approach to potency. The ascetic or saint also turns inward, but he accepts a higher non-biological type of polarization: man and God. Just as the activity of nature has a compulsive character, so the resistance of the spinster to biological fulfillment is also compulsive.
This is the second stage of the fourth five-fold sequence. Like all second stages it reveals a contrasting potentiality of experience which can also be seen to complement or polarize the symbol of the first stage. It refers to the value of a dignified INWARD WITHDRAWAL.
Aries 18: Scene 2 Potency. First Level Actional. Phase 18.
AN EMPTY HAMMOCK STRETCHED BETWEEN TWO TREES.
A constructive alternation of activity and rest.
The symbol refers to the ability to balance outer vitalistic activity and withdrawal from such activity and relaxation. The owner of the hammock is active, but in his consciousness he can hold the image of rest in the midst of reenergizing nature. The concept of following the rat race of business therefore has no hold. Potency may be preserved and extremes avoided. Time is found for recuperation.
This is a third stage symbol which suggests a middle path between total involvement in instinctual or social drives, and withdrawal in impotent silence and narcissism - thus LIVING RHYTHMICALLY.
Aries 19: Scene 2 Potency. First Level Actional. Phase 19.
THE "MAGIC CARPET" OF ORIENTAL IMAGERY.
The use of creative imagination.
A way of life refusing a hectic involvement in social competition and waste-producing overproduction allows for the development of unattached and transcendent understanding. The static floor (carpet) on which man's feet (symbols of understanding) rest can become transformed into the means for great flights of imagination and super-physical perception. The period of rest from outwardly directed activity bound to collective normality presents the creative mind with the possibility of surveying in dreams the totality of the present-day social situation, thus "to see whole."
The fourth stage of the fourth five-fold sequence of symbols invokes the possibility of developing a new technique of perception, A STRIFE-TRANSCENDING AND UNATTACHED OUTLOOK UPON EVERYDAY REALITY.
Aries 20: Scene 2 Potency. First Level Actional. Phase 20.
A YOUNG GIRL FEEDING BIRDS IN WINTER.
Overcoming crises through compassion.
Nature's seasonal rhythms imply an oscillation between living and dying. Through creative imagination man can "fly over" the cycle, and discover means not only to escape from the fatality of seasonal decay or deprivation, but to assist other living entities to survive through crises. Migrating birds fly south (cf. symbol of Aries 12°), but by establishing a partnership with other creatures unable to escape wintry deprivation or death, man can maintain the life of the spirit (symbolized by birds) steady through all crises if, like a "young girl," he is widely open to the promptings of love and sympathy. At this fifth stage of the symbolic sequence we witness human activity motivated by sympathy overcoming the seasonal phase of impotency. Life potency in nature spirits reaches a higher level in the human being. The theme is THE TRANSMUTATION OF LIFE INTO LOVE.