A few Sabian Symbols from
Symbol: Aroused strikers surround a factory.
Keynote: The disruptive power of the ambitious mind upon the organic wholeness of human relationship.
We are dealing ... with man's discovery of the new powers residing in his special contribution to the total organism of this planet Earth -- his consciousness and aggressive mind. The first stage dealt with oil, the typical form of energy which the modern mind has made available. Now we see in this new symbol a pictorial indication of what the use of this intellect-generated energy inevitably leads to: industrial unrest and violence. As man manages to rape the earth in order to demonstrate his power and intensify his pleasures and his sense of proud mastery, conflicts and disruptive processes are inevitably initiated.
The arousal is presented .. here in its collective social form
Symbol: A quiver filled with arrows.
Keynote: Man's aggressive relationship to natural life, as a basis for survival and conquest.
The bow and arrows represent symbolically man's ability to extend the scope of his conquest of nature and to kill enemies in order to build a larger base for the collective development of culture and an organized society. Implied in the symbol of the arrow is the piercing of a target. The mind of man is essentially a trans-piercing power; it goes through the object toward which it is aimed. It seeks to go through and beyond the obstacles on its path, and this usually implies the destruction of the obstacle. At a higher level -- as in the Zen practice of archery -- the obstacle is the ego.
At this ... phase ... we are shown the archetypal symbol of Man, the Conqueror. It may be a conquest of outer nature or that of instinctual drives and of the limiting power of the ego. It is always CONQUEST.
Symbol: In a portrait, the significant features of a man's head are artistically emphasized.
Keynote: The capacity to picture to oneself clearly the salient features and the overall meaning of any life situation.
(In Leo) the "feel" of energy at work has been the dominant feature of a consciousness still strongly ego-centered yet at times eagerly and devotionally reaching up to a realization of divine or cosmic order. Now we have come in the seasonal cycle to Virgo. It is in a sense the symbol of harvesting, but it is also that of the Path of discipleship, and of all strongly determined processes of training, or retraining. Flooded with and having enjoyed and released energy, the personalized consciousness now has to learn the lesson of significant form. It must be able to see life situations as wholes of experience, and to discover their meaning by distinguishing their most characteristic features.
... its Keyword is DISCRIMINATION. Implied is discrimination in both analysis and intuition. The mind separates and identifies - and unfortunately often exaggerates - what makes a person or a situation different from another, but the intuitive responses of the whole person to what confronts him or her is also essential, for what matters is not only my or your "difference," but the place and function this difference occupies in the organic pattern of the evolution of "humanity as a whole," i.e. of Man.
Symbol: In the zoo, children are brought face to face with an orang-utan.
Keynote: A direct confrontation with the "wild" power of primordial nature within oneself.
Every hidden motive and depth energy has to be "led out" and
objectively faced. According to the occult tradition, at least some of
the ape species are actually throwbacks resulting from the perversion
of the Man archetype when it belatedly came in touch with the elemental
energies of an adolescent Earth.
This symbol speaks of KARMIC CONFRONTATION.
Symbol: A volcanic eruption.
Keynote: The explosive energy of long-repressed contents of the subconscious.
We are dealing here with the dramatic release of energies which have been kept in check by the outer shell of the ego-controlled consciousness. It may be a spectacular catharsis, but it often takes paths of destruction. Yet unless some form of purification by fire is experienced, the inner pressure of the karmic past or of more recent frustrations would shake up perhaps even more destructively the very foundations of the personality.
...the objective confrontation with an image of the karmic past is replaced by a subjective irruption of repressed memories and primitive cravings. Everything must be released from the psyche seeking to attain the transfigured state. The soul must become empty, the mind translucent. The keyword is EXPLOSION
Symbol: A ouija board.
Keynote: The ability to contact deeper recesses of the unconscious psyche and sensitiveness to psychic intimations and omens.
The ouija board is considered here a modern device similar to many ancient instruments used for divination and prophecy. Certain states of threshold consciousness are stimulated by such a use, and what the experience produces may vary greatly in quality and in origin. The release of unconscious material has lost the explosive force (of the volcanic eruption), yet ... there is still no conscious and willful control over what reaches the ego-consciousness.
It is at best a stage of transition which stresses a passive openness to the unknown. The glamor of it may subtly pervert the mind of the aspirant; but in some cases, this can be the first manifestation of INNER GUIDANCE. The difficulty is to correctly evaluate what or who does the guiding.
Symbol: A flag at half-mast in front of a public building.
Keynote: The social acknowledgment of a job well done and a destiny fulfilled.As an individual who has accepted any significantly met public responsibilities reaches the end of his service to his community or to mankind as a whole, he gains social immortality, at least to some extent. In death he becomes identified with the archetype that ensouled his public office. He becomes a "culture hero", enshrined in the official memory of his race. He has found his place in history. The symbol implies the ability to carry any task to its ultimate fulfillment, provided this task is carried out with reference to the need of a collectivity, small or large as it may be.
In this ... we are presented with an image of the end results of the individual's service to mankind. His personal failings may be forgotten but his achievements remain. They are given PUBLIC RECOGNITION.
Symbol: A boy with a censer serves the priest near the altar.
Keynote: The first stage of actual participation in the great ritual of planetary evolution.
Whether we think of the ancient mysteries, or of a Catholic Mass, or of some still more transcendent ceremony in which great Beings charged with planetary responsibilities are involved, we are dealing with a type of archetypal activity. The ritual is archetypal in that it represents, in however small a field of activity, a portion of the evolving structure of the cosmos, as this structure is understood in its "sacred" sense. Every such activity is performed "in the presence of God". Menial as it may be, it nevertheless acquires a sacred meaning.
The individual is "e-ducated", i.e. led out into the world of transcendent activity, the world of archetypal performance. He must learn to serve, humbly and with intense attention, in what as yet is beyond his spiritual understanding. He learns to perform every action super-personally. He learns to PRACTICE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD.
Symbol: Totally intent upon completing and immediate task, a man is deaf to any allurement.
Keynote: The total concentration required for reaching any spiritual goal.
This is the final symbol of the first half of the cycle. The last message of this hemicycle ... is that on all decisive occasions, what must be done has to be done so intently that no outer voices can penetrate the mind, still less the soul. The neophyte stands at the gates of the sacred Pyramid. There is only one step he can take -- ahead, or he is lost.
This is the culminating step, the decision that results from a myriad of small choices. Still a shadow of hesitation can remain. Attention may be distracted from the Now by a voice from the past, glamorizing some old memory. The outer doors of perception and thought must be closed, so the soul can complete its CONQUEST OF ILLUSION.
Symbol: In a collection of perfect specimens of many biological forms, a butterfly displays the beauty of its wings, its body impaled by a fine dart.
Keynote: The immortal archetypal reality that a perfect and dedicated life reveals.
In the yearly cycle we have reached the fall equinox, the symbolic time of bringing in the harvest in preparation for winter. It is the time consecrated to the seed, just as the spring equinox is consecrated to the germ, the new rise of life which in-forms the growth of individual organisms.
At this autumnal point, the drive toward individualization and self-assertion has lost much of its momentum, while a new trend is successfully and dynamically challenging its hegemony - the trend toward the formation of collectivities of individuals. But this new trend can be misunderstood if seen only superficially as the mere gathering together of individual persons. The process has a much deeper meaning, and indeed an inner source of power, for what is at stake is not merely an aggregation of separate units (*simple or already complex, as in the case of "families"). At the core of this "coming together," the "descent" or externalization of archetypal realities is gradually occurring. At the Libra stage, these archetypal realities are " Forms"; at the Scorpio stage they will be "Powers". The symbol for this degree of the fall equinox thus describes a "perfect form" - the result of the metamorphosis of "worm" into butterfly, a process the symbolism of which has so often been used to indicate to man the possibility of his being transformed into "More-than-man", the transhuman being, the true Initiate, the Adept, the Perfect. The perfect butterfly in impaled by a fine dart; the symbol of "dart of wisdom" was used in Marc Jones mimeographed course, while the original notation of what the clairvoyant has seen indicated "a butterfly made perfect by a dart through it," suggesting a process of perfection through sacrifice.
As I see it, the dart can hardly be said to have made the butterfly perfect, but it keeps it perfect by killing the living organism. The impaled butterfly is preserved by the dart which "fixes" it in perfection for a whole cycle, i.e., it makes an archetype of it. By thus escaping the normal process of dying and decay, the butterfly form (the "perfection") is kept. It is kept in the mystical Shamballah, where it is said that the Pattern of Man is kept, just as the perfect bar measuring exactly one meter is (or was) kept in a crypt in Paris, where the metric system was originally devised.
The perfect butterfly thus represents the outcome of the process of occult discipleship symbolized by the sign Virgo. From then on, a new process begins, that of collectivization. At the very core of that new process, the perfect Form of Man must remain as a standard of value if this processs is to be valid and meaningful.
This is the symbolical Transfiguration at the Mount of Transfiguration; Jesus, the Son of Man, was "impaled" by the ray of Divine Light, making of him a Son of God. It was at this very moment that he learned of the Crucifixion awaiting him. Thus the merely human individual is MADE SACRED, becoming the pure embodiment of an archetype.
Symbol: Three "Old Masters" hanging on the wall of a special room in an art gallery.
Keynote: The need to return to source during a confused search for new value in a chaotic society.
There are always moments which focus in our minds the longing to re-ground ourselves in the great achievements of the past. The number 3 suggests completeness; esoteric traditions speak of the three-fold Soul, or of three fundamental "Rays". Meditation, in its deepest sense, is a return to Source -- an attempt to re-identify oneself with one's archetypal essence of being, which is triune in manifestation, and now after confused but challenging wanderings, to identify oneself consciously with this "essence". The finer forms of one's culture provide the means to do this. The great moments of the collective past become an inspiration of new, yet sound, beginnings. The seed of tomorrow salutes the seed of yesteryear.
. . . it is suggested that in the process of "Transfiguration" the presence of the greatest moments of the past is called upon, as Moses and Elijah were invoked in Jesus' Transfiguration. The seed of the new day depends upon the seed of yesteryear for an experience of the cyclic continuity of spirit. This is the basis for the institutionalized ideal of APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION, the guruampara (an uninterrupted chain of gurus) of Indian tradition.
Symbol: An Indian squaw pleading to the chief for the lives of her children.
Keynote: Love as a principle of redemption.
Here the soul is presented as a mother whose sons (i.e. her active energies) have become disruptive forces in the collective life of the tribe. She seeks to counteract the karma of their misdeeds through her love and implorations. The soul is responsive to the experience of unity (the spiritual king or chief) but the energies of human nature often follow their self-seeking, divisive tendencies.
This symbol ... presents us with the value of prayer. The principle of wholeness in man -- the soul -- acts to offset or attenuate the dictates of karma. In a religious sense, Mary, the Mother, is seen as the Mediatrix, in constant acts of INTERCESSION for the sake of wayward individuals.
Symbol: Two men playing chess.
Keynote: The transcendent ritualization of conflict.
Essential to socio-cultural living is the transmutation of man's natural aggressiveness under most conditions of existence. Many rituals, sports and games have no other basic aim. In chess, the complex types of energies, which in their togetherness constitute a human person, are symbolized by six kinds of pieces (king, queen, bishops, knights, rooks, and pawns). The struggle between light and darkness (the Yang and Yin forces) is ritualized, ending in most cases with the checkmating of the king (the ego, the conscious self). In a dualistic world such a contest between polarized forces is omnipresent. the chess game trains men to be more objective, more careful, more aware of whole situations -- and less impulsive and intent upon side issues.
This ... symbol deals with conflict, but at the level of group culture and psychological symbolization. It brings to the objective consciousness the basic realities in interpersonal INTERPLAY.
Symbol: A little child learning to walk with the encouragement of his parents.
Keynote: The natural assistance of superior powers during crises of growth.
At an early stage in its development, every living organism must make an attempt to overcome the power of gravitation, or rather to learn to use it in order to fulfill the purpose of its life. This implies passing through a critical state of growth -- growth in freedom, potency and individuality, inasmuch as "walking" always symbolizes self-induced progress. In such a crises the individual is not left alone. Some more evolved Power and Intelligence watches, encourages and gives examples to be followed.
It presents a picture of the conditions under which a RESOLUTION OF CONFLICT can be ensured, whether at the organic, the personal or the super-personal level of unfoldment.
Symbol: The groundhog looking for its shadow on Ground-hog Day, February 2.
Keynote: The value of anticipating new turns of events and ascertaining future prospects.
In our modern industrial society where policy changes and decisions often take several years to reach full actualization, it has become essential to plan with an eye on probable future developments. Such planning requires a study of past trends and the extrapolation of the results. What above all is implied in the symbol is a sensitivity to social or planetary rhythms, and the need to ensure at least relative safety by planning ahead.
In its highest form the knowledge required is "eonic consciousness" -- in modern terms, the new science of PROSPECTIVE.
Symbol: A Man who had for a time become the embodiment of a popular ideal is made to realize that as a person he is not this ideal.
Keynote: The need to deal with human beings as persons rather than as screens upon which one projects one's dream and ideal.
Here ... a final statement on the relationship between mental-spiritual vision and living reality, between persons and the ideal that they appear to incarnate, between the "great lover image" and one's need for love -- a love his presence stimulated and aroused. The "star" on the movie screen is not the actual person. The star's popularity fades away, the person remains. What has this episode of popularity actually done to the person? This is a question that can be applied to a great variety of circumstances.
This ... symbol ...brings to our attention an issue that is basic and may confront us in various forms. Person versus archetype. This can mean a critical need for SELF-REVALUATION.