In this episode, we complete our discussion of the Lecture of the 28th Degree - “Knight of the Sun” (Part 3 of 3) as we continue our exploration of "Morals & Dogma: The Annotated Edition". It is highly recommended that you read the chapter in order to fully follow our discussion.
"Morals and Dogma" is available from these sites:
Gene: Hello Dave.
David: Hello Gene.
Gene: So… are you ready to dig our way out of the “Rabbit Hole”?
David: I hope so. But, before we get started, as always, I want to remind everyone that Show Notes, Chapter Markers and a Transcript of this, and all episodes, are available on our website - WayOfTheHermit.com. So, the “Rabbit Hole” Gene was referring to is the esoteric turn we made midway through the last episode with the story of Helen Keller.
Gene: That’s right. The Lecture doesn’t have that story in it, but it makes that turn towards reading the symbols we’ve discussed in the earlier degrees in a much more personal way… and the Helen Keller story perfectly captures that turn.
David: Yeah, I think so, too. There’s so much in this Lecture… it’s over 200 pages… it’s easy to miss how it actually turns the ideas of the previous degrees inside-out.
Gene: Very true. Hey - before we dive in, I wanted to refer back to “The Matrix” movie, which you played a clip from last time.
Gene: The hero of “The Matrix” is Neo, which is short for “Neophyte”. That is what someone going through the Mysteries is called. And the first movie actually follows the “Gnostic Myth”. Neo dies and is reborn at the end, and even appears as light bursting out of an Agent who represents darkness.
David: Again, “light dawning in darkness”.
Gene: It’s also interesting that in real time we’ve just passed the Winter Solstice, the shortest day… so the Light is returning as we conclude the “Knight of the Sun Degree”. Just another interesting coincidence.
Hidden Light (02:48)
David: It is. And as “light dawning in darkness” is the primary metaphor of “The Mysteries”, let’s start by recapping the “Mysticism of Light” as it’s described in the Lecture.
Gene: OK. The first quote I have says “Light was the first Divinity worshiped by men… It seems an emanation from the Creator of all things, making known to our senses the Universe which darkness hides from our eyes…”.
David: So Light reveals or seems to create… at least to the senses… and darkness hides or destroys. And the Lecture says that “Naturally, therefore, two substances of opposite natures were imagined… To one all good was attributed; to the other all evil; and thus the words "Light" and "Good" became synonymous, as did the words "Darkness" and "Evil."
Gene: And that distinction, the “Knowledge of Good and Evil” became personified and “formed one of the principal bases of all religions… (and) the Mysteries of antiquity.”... that there were “two gods, with different occupations”. One that we call “God”, who makes the good, and the other that we call “The Devil” that works evil.
David: The Lecture mentions this motif in the myths of Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome and elsewhere - with Osiris and Typhon, Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, Zeus and Hades, Jupiter and Pluto, and Apollo and Dionysus.
Gene: But as we’ve discussed, those all are two sides of a coin… but the truth is the whole coin… the Unity that we perceive as duality.
David: Yes. I like the quote from Isaiah 45:6-7 that says ”That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me…. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”
Gene: I like that quote, too. There’s another quote from Plutarch that expresses that same sentiment - “The harmony of the Universe is a combination of contraries, like the strings of a lyre, or that of a bow, which alternately is stretched and relaxed." And Eurpides says that "The good is never separated from the Evil. The two must mingle, that all may go well."
David: And this Degree is about finding a symbol that encompasses both Light and the Dark.
Gene: Well… in the 19th Degree, we made a promise to continually seek higher and higher conceptions of God… so we’re just trying to fulfill that obligation.
Formless Fire (05:18)
David: That’s right. Another symbol of Unity, which we’ve discussed previously is the “Central” or “Formless Fire”. A quote from the Lecture says that the Kabbalah, like the Egyptian cosmology, imagined God to be "a most occult Light,"... not our material and visible Light, but the Substance out of which Light flows… a light (recognizable) only by the intellect... from which souls emanate, and to which they return. Light, Fire, and Flame… are the Trinity in the Chaldæan Oracles… All things are begotten from one Fire."
Gene: That part that says God is a Light only recognizable by the Intellect is interesting. That ties back to the “Helen Keller Moment” from the previous episode. It also makes you wonder, if that spark of reason is what creates our reality, does it also create our concept of God? I mean… ultimately, that leads to the question of does God… or universal mind… whatever you want to call it… does God create us or do we create God?
David: Yes. But seriously, the Lecture says “In the heaven of human conceptions, it is humanity that creates God; and men think that God has made them in His image, because they make Him in theirs.”
Gene: Oh wow! That’s a jaw-dropper.
David: It is… if you just read that one quote in isolation. But here’s the explanation - “Mind cannot advance in metaphysics beyond self-deification. In attempting to go further, it only enacts the apotheosis of its own subtle conceptions… The realities which Plato could not recognize in phenomena, he discovered within his own mind.”
Gene: So it’s not saying that God doesn’t exist, it’s just saying that our mind is the only tool we have to know reality… or God… so that’s the farthest we can go with our conceptions… what we’re able to conceive of in our own mind.
David: Right. Which also means that what we know, or think we know, is always an approximation of something that’s ultimately unknowable… in its essence.
Gene: Again, trying to use better symbols, or language, to express something that’s beyond language and symbols. There’s a Taoist saying that says “He who thinks he knows… does not know. He who knows he doesn’t know… he knows.”
David: That’s what the previous quote called the “apotheosis of our own conceptions” - mistaking our own conceptions for God. The Lecture says this constitutes “idol worship”. It says the “Ancient religious reformers pronounced the worship of "idols" to be the root of all evil… The maxim still holds good; for the worship of idols, that is, of fanciful conceits, if not the source of all evil, is still the cause of much; and it prevails as extensively now as it ever did. Men are (always) engaged in worshiping the picturesque fancies of their own imaginations.”
Gene: That’s a good quote. So how are we supposed to separate what’s real from our own conceptions… or our Microcosm from the Macrocosm?
David: As the “Emerald Tablet” says, we have to separate the “subtle”, the patterns, from the “gross”, the actual physical things. We called this “esoteric counting” last time and the modern term for it is analysis. Taking something concrete and finding the pattern behind it.
Gene: A quote from the Lecture says that “The great aim of reason is to generalize; to discover unity in multiplicity, order in apparent confusion”. And through this intellectual activity, it says there can arise “solemn and reverential feelings, which… may eventually ripen into philosophy.”
David: That’s what all the sciences are… finding laws or rules that govern a given field.
Gene: And it’s also saying that this is where genuine religious feelings emerge, too. Ultimately, the sciences are looking for the “Big T.O.E.” - the “Theory of Everything”... the “Unified Field Theory”, if you will.
Cosmic Egg (09:19)
David: And we’ve now talked about two of the symbols of the “Mystical Theory of Everything” discussed in the Degree - the “occult” or “hidden light” of the Kabbalah and the “formless fire” of the “Chaldean Oracles”. One other symbol presented in the Degree Lecture is the “Cosmic Egg”.
Gene: Yes. Pike mentioned several cultures as having myths with some sort of egg from which hatches Heaven and Earth and a being that bridges them.
David: In Orphic theogonies, the Orphic Egg is a cosmic egg often depicted with a serpent wrapped around about it. From it hatches a golden winged hermaphroditic deity called Protogenos, meaning First-Born, or Phanes which means "to bring light"... and that name is also related to the Latin "Lucifer".
Gene: The name “Lucifer” means “light bearer”. It refers to Venus as the “Morning Star” when it comes up just before sunrise.
David: And the other name there, “Protogenos”, derives from the Greek “proto” which means “first” and “genos” which means “mankind” so he’s called the “Primordial Man”.
Gene: Adam Kadmon… which makes sense. They’re both described as the “First Born” from the void and chaos. And they’re described as hermaphrodites, both male and female. The only new element is the wings. It’s the same story. “Light emerging from darkness”. It’s another telling of the “Big Bang” or the “Helen Keller Moment” at the beginning of time and order.
World Animal (10:49)
David: It really is the same story. The “hidden light”, the “formless flame” and the “Cosmic Egg” are all symbols of the unmanifest light. But the Lecture says that the Being that hatches from the “Cosmic Egg” unites “in itself the two principles whereof Heaven and the earth are forms, and which enter into the organization of all beings which the heavens and the earth engender by their concourse (and it) furnishes another emblem of the double power, active and passive, which the ancients saw in the Universe”.
Gene: So it encompasses the two principles - Light and Dark, active and passive, male and female… and it’s the pattern that everything that exists emerges from… so… it’s also the Logos… the organizing principle.
David: Yes and the Lecture says that in Hinduism, “Mind is the Universal Element, the One God, the Great Soul, Mahatma… (who) is both the web and the weaver. He is the Macrocosmos, the universal organism called (Vastu Purusha) ... His head is light, his eyes the sun and moon, his breath the wind, his voice the opened Vedas. All proceeds from (Brahman), like the web from the spider and the grass from the earth.”
Gene: Another quote says that to the Ancients, the Universe “was no machine, no great system of clockwork; but a great live creature, an army of creatures, in sympathy with or (acting against) man…. The wonders of the volcano, the magnet, the ebb and flow of the tide, were vital indications (of) the breathing or moving of the Great World-Animal.”
David: Which many cultures have symbolized as a great serpent or dragon… including the Druids. I’ve got a clip I’d like to play from the movie “Excalibur” where Merlin is explaining this concept to Arthur before he becomes King.
Gene: Cool. Play it.
David: Alright. Here it is.
Merlin (Excalibur): What are you afraid of?
Arthur (Excalibur): I don’t know!
Merlin (Excalibur): Shall I tell you what's out there?
Arthur (Excalibur): Yes, please.
Merlin (Excalibur): The Dragon. A beast of such power that if you were to see it whole and all complete in a single glance… it would burn you to cinders.
Arthur (Excalibur): Where is it?
Merlin (Excalibur): It is everywhere. It is everything. Its scales glisten in the bark of trees. Its roar is heard in the wind. And it’s forked tongue strikes like… well like… Oh… Like lightning. Yes, that's it!
Arthur (Excalibur): How can I? What… what should I? Must… must I?
Merlin (Excalibur): Do nothing. Be still. Sleep. Rest in the arms of the dragon. Dream…
David: I love that movie! In the movie, the dragon is the source of Merlin’s power.
Gene: It’s everywhere and permeates everything. Here’s a quote I like about that. It says - “In virtue of this in-dwelling of God in matter, we say that the world is a revelation of Him, its existence (His show)... The manifold action of the Universe is only His mode of operation, and all material things are in communion with Him. All grow and move and live in Him, and by means of Him, and only so.”
Astral Light (14:06)
David: OK. So that’s the “World Egg” and the Dragon that hatches from it.
Gene: Alright. What is the Dragon in us… what do you think that is esoterically?
David: Your imagination… what Pike and Levi call the “Astral Light”. It’s where you create everything.
Gene: Yeah… that’s a weird way to think of it… but it’s true. You can create whole worlds there… well, we do really… all the time.
David: And imagination is a God-like ability. Your imagination is like a plastic medium that you mold into shapes and thoughts and words and stories.
Gene: In magical parlance, that would be saying that symbols are the tools wielded by the magician to mold the Astral Light.
David: Exactly. It’s the Light that turns on once you can use symbols. It lights up a quote-unquote “place” we call our imagination. As we said in the last episode in reference to Helen Keller, she started to live in a symbolic world of things with names… that is this place.
Gene: Right. It’s our interior world… our Microcosm. It’s where we build our hopes and dreams… nightmares… heavens and hells… all of those at one time or another, I suppose.
David: Yes. It’s a place that’s definitely not all Light.
Gene: Definitely not. It’s more like a melting pot of good and not so good… sometimes downright evil… aka the subtle and the gross.
David: Which brings us to the subject of Alchemy and the “Emerald Tablet of Hermes” which details the operations of the Sun and the separation of the subtle from the gross. That separation, it says, takes place in a Hermetically sealed vessel.
Gene: That’s funny now. “Hermetically sealed”!
David: Right. You need the Hermetic key to understand what’s going on inside the vessel.
Gene: But that vessel is your imagination. I’ve got a quote that says “When the Masters in Alchemy say that… but a single vessel is necessary, when they speak of the Great and Single furnace, which all can use, which is within the reach of all the world, and which men possess without knowing it, they allude to the philosophical and moral Alchemy.”
David: And that Alchemy takes place in your interior world, your microcosm through the assertion of your will. That quote continues by saying that “a strong and determined will can, in a little while, attain complete independence; and we all possess that chemical instrument, the great and single athanor or furnace, which serves to separate the subtile from the gross, and the fixed from the volatile. This instrument, complete as the world, and accurate as the mathematics themselves, is designated by the Sages under the emblem of the Pentagram or Star with five points, the absolute sign of human intelligence.”
Gene: And as we discussed in the 2nd Degree and in the 14th Degree, the Pentagram is a symbol of the spiritual ideal ruling over the material or elemental world.
David: But as a symbol, that’s only when it’s pointing upwards.
Gene: Correct. Pointing downwards it means the opposite. That’s the material ruling over the spiritual. The upside down Pentagram has come to be considered a Satanic symbol… which it can be.
David: It can represent that.
Gene: But the Eastern Star uses an upside down Pentagram. What does it mean there?
David: I think it means the earthing of spiritual ideals. Turning them into something real or materializing the spiritual… or it could even mean bringing Heaven down to Earth. All of that is represented in that symbol, too. The two versions of the Pentagram would ultimately represent the male and female or the active and passive currents.
Gene: Right. The upright Pentagram is the upward current that spiritualizes and the upside down is the downward or materializing, making something real. Dissolve and recombine.
Emerald Tablet (18:13)
David: While we’re on the subject of Alchemy, I’d like to go through the text of “The Emerald Tablet of Hermes”. The Lecture provides a complete interpretation of it.
David: I’ll read from Sir Isaac Newton’s English translation, which I’ve linked in the “Show Notes”. It starts off with “Tis true without lying, certain and most true. That which is below is like that which is above and that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracle of one thing. And as all things have been and arose from one by the mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.”
Gene: What it’s calling the “One Thing” is the “Astral Light”... right?
David: Right… a symbol for the stuff you build with in your imagination. It says - “The Sun is its father, the moon its mother, the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth is its nurse.”
Gene: There’s the four elements - fire, water, air and earth. So again, the upright Pentagram would symbolize ruling over those.
David: Which would symbolize being able to direct the currents. It says that “The father of all perfection in the whole world is here. Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.”
Gene: That’s what we talked about last time as “real magic”. Taking something totally abstract… from a thought, to something imagined and finally to something you can hold in your hand… or listen to… like this podcast.
David: Yes. And the next part describes how those creations… well actually how all creation takes place. It says “It ascends from the earth to the heaven and again it descends to the earth and receives the force of things superior and inferior. By this means you shall have the glory of the whole world and thereby all obscurity shall fly from you. Its force is above all force, for it vanquishes every subtle thing and penetrates every solid thing. So was the world created.”
Gene: Wow! After you know what it’s talking about, it’s saying it very clearly. But you can read it and miss what it’s talking about completely.
David: It’s “Hermetically Sealed”.
Gene: It really is! It’s basically saying that you can work out any problem through analysis and design.
David: That’s definitely one of the meanings of that… but it’s layered. Anyway, the “Emerald Tablet” ends with “From this are and do come admirable adaptations where of the means is here in this. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegistus, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world. That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished and ended.”
Gene: And again, wow! The “admirable adaptations” are all the sciences! And it calls the whole process the “operation of the Sun”... it’s your Sun… your light… the one that’s in your head.
The Great Work (21:07)
David: And once we understand the nature of that Light, we’re supposed to turn it to a specific purpose. The Lecture says that “The Great Work (of Alchemy) is, above all things, the creation of man by himself; that is to say, the… entire conquest which he effects of his faculties and his future. It is, above all, the perfect emancipation of his will, which assures him the universal empire of Azoth, and the domain of magnetism, that is, complete power over the universal Magical agent.”
Gene: Pike is quoting all of that from Eliphas Levi and in typical fashion, it’s really obscure. What is it saying there?
David: It’s talking about using your will to control your imagination.
Gene: OK. Or as the “Emerald Tablet” says “Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.” You’re doing that in your head.
David: Right… that’s thought. And what you control in that process is what you decide to pay attention to.
Gene: And thinking of trying to control your own attention… it’s like a battleground… a war between earthly or spiritual concerns. Kind of like the Catholic idea of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other whispering in your ears. Which is the real reason for all those myths and stories of Gods and their adversaries.
David: Those are the two pillars, the fixed and the volatile with you as Mercury. The Lecture says - “To fix the volatile, in the Hermetic language, means to materialize the spirit; to volatilize the fixed is to spiritualize matter. To separate the subtile from the gross, in the first operation, which is wholly internal, is to free our soul from all prejudice and all vice.”
Gene: That’s the Soul’s return to the “Central Fire” and it’s the purification process that we’ve covered in the lower Degrees. And again, you can’t just skip over all that. You can get burned if you do… like in the stories of people who transgressed and got burned into ash. That’s pointing out that anytime you do deep psychological work, like questioning your most basic beliefs…
David: Like we’re doing here.
Gene: Exactly. Anytime you do that… there’s a very real possibility of touching on deep issues that you may not realize you have. Which… can have more of an effect on your life than you could possibly imagine… unless you’ve been through something like that.
David: It got very quiet there for a second.
Gene: Yes it did. The point is that you’re supposed to have done some basic work on yourself before you get too deep… otherwise, you get smited… so to speak. In Jungian terms, that would be encountering a hidden complex and unconsciously projecting it… or something like that.
David: Basically being ambushed by something within yourself.
Gene: The things that hide in the shadows. You have to shine a light in there… and some of those revelations take time. “Know Thyself”. It sounds easy.
The True Nature of Sacrifice (24:06)
David: Yeah, deceptively so. I’ve got a quote here from Levi that says anyone “who has prejudices and fears, any individual who is a slave to his passions, is incapable of gathering or coagulating… the astral light or world soul. All true adepts were independent under torture, sober and chaste until death; and the reason for this anomaly is that, to command a force, you cannot be taken over by that force to such an extent that it commands you.”
Gene: Again, those are blind spots we all have about ourselves. Places where you’re psychologically vulnerable.
David: And… to throw in some “New Age” terminology here, those would be called “weak spots in your aura”.
Gene: Right. A quote from the Lecture describes what can happen because of these weak spots. It says “Let a cunning and evil spirit possess himself of this, and you are lost. Then you become, not foolish, nor an idiot, but positively a lunatic, the slave of an impulse from without… We become subject to the wills of others by the analogies of our inclinations, and still more by those of our defects.”
David: Ooh! That really cuts to the heart of the reasoning behind the purification. The kind of magic we’re talking about can’t be wielded without doing that.
Gene: What do you mean?
David: Well, another quote from Levi says “men will cry out who look to magic as a means of satisfying their natural desires, what use does this power serve if one cannot use it to satisfy oneself? If I told you, you poor people who ask such a question, how would you understand me? Are pearls then nothing, because they have no value for Epicurus’s flock of piglets? Does one not need to be a little more than just an ordinary man if one hopes to become godlike?”
Gene: That sounds like one of Pike’s rants!
David: It does… anyway, Levi ends it by saying “Incidentally, I am sorry to distress or discourage you, but I am not reinventing the high sciences here; I teach them and I am attesting to their strict requirements by mentioning their primary and most inexorable conditions…Pythagoras was a chaste and sober… man; Apollonius… and… Julian were men of frightful austerity; … Raymond Lully pushed the strictures of his life to the point of the most exalted asceticism; Girolamo Cardano so exaggerated his practice of fasting that he almost died of starvation, if we are to believe tradition.”
Necessity, Liberty & Reason (26:33)
Gene: That quote goes on to ask - “Must one be like them to know what they knew? Certainly not, and this book which I write is the proof; but to do what they did, it is absolutely necessary to use the same means that they used.”
David: And that means is explained like this - “The absolute in reason and will is the greatest power which it is given to men to attain; and it is by means of this power that what the multitude admires under the name of miracles, are effected. Power is the wise use of the will, which makes Fatality itself serve to accomplish the purposes of Sages.”
Gene: That’s talking about Necessity, Will and Reason. The “Holy Trinity” of the individual according to Pike. Your Salt, Sulphur and Mercury.
David: Right. Necessity means fate, or the “Will of God”, ultimately it’s causality. It’s like a line of dominos. When you push one, the rest fall.
Gene: Every action has a reaction.
David: And those reactions can branch out.
Gene: Like hitting multiple new lines of dominos.
David: Yes. And the effect of every action goes on forever. So really, the effect of every action is eternal. It never ends.
Gene: That’s a scary thought! So that’s Necessity… cause and effect. Liberty is our “Free Will” to choose which actions to take. We can choose… even against our own best interest.
David: So we have Necessity, cause and effect… the Fixed “Laws of the Universe”, on the one hand, and Liberty… which is our Sulfur… our individuality, on the other. And we use Reason to choose which actions to take. It’s our Mercury… your Guide.
Gene: Which makes me immediately think of Hermes… the creator of language… the psychopomp who travels between the worlds. He’s the ultimate prototype of the Magus. It makes me think about what Pike meant by performing miracles.
David: Yeah there was a section that said that through the knowledge of these operations, a person could perform seeming miracles. What did it make you think about?
Gene: Like… say all you see is a room full of… or even a warehouse full of dominos falling… it could look so impressive that you might think it was a miracle. But really… it all started with a simple action.
David: The Lecture says that “The common error in relation to miracles is, to regard them as effects without causes; as contradictions of nature; as sudden fictions of the Divine imagination; and men do not reflect that a single miracle of this sort would break the universal harmony and re-plunge the Universe into Chaos…. To expect of the Divine Free-Will an effect whose cause is unacknowledged or does not exist, is what is termed tempting God.”
Gene: I had a quote, too which says - “Miracles are the natural effects of exceptional causes. The immediate action of the human will on bodies… exercised without visible means, constitutes a miracle in the physical order. The influence exercised on wills or intellects, suddenly or within a given time, and capable of taking captive the thoughts… constitutes a miracle in the moral order.”
David: But neither of those is an effect without a cause.
Gene: No. It’s just that the line of dominos is occult or hidden. From the outside, it looks like Magic.
David: And when people can’t see or don’t understand something, they sometimes demonize it. The Lecture says that behind this occult power “hid the principles of all the sciences, and of the whole progression of the human spirit.” Fables got mixed in with the real successes these early scientists had and it “made tyrants turn pale on their thrones, and ruled over all minds by means of curiosity or fear.”
Gene: People then, and now, are scared of things they don’t understand. All the sciences were driven underground until just a few hundred years ago. The Lecture says that “Christianity should not have hated magic; but human ignorance always fears the unknown. Science was obliged to conceal itself... It enveloped itself in new hieroglyphs, concealed its efforts (and) disguised its hopes.”
Dual Current (30:51)
David: And speaking of magic, I’d like to play one more clip from the movie “Excalibur” where Merlin has promised Morgana the “Charm of Making”... and he takes her down into the earth where his magical power comes from.
Morgana (Excalibur): What is this place?
Merlin (Excalibur): Here, you enter the coils of the Dragon. Here, my power was born. Here, all things are possible ...and all things meet their opposites.
Morgana (Excalibur): The future?
Merlin (Excalibur): And the past.
Morgana (Excalibur): Desire?
Merlin (Excalibur): And regret.
Morgana (Excalibur): Knowledge?
Merlin (Excalibur): And oblivion.
Morgana (Excalibur): Love?
Merlin (Excalibur): Oh, yes.
Gene: Oh yeah!
David: Yeah. So, Merlin knows how to unite the opposites in himself. We talked about the Dragon as the “World Animal” earlier. Here he’s revealing the secret of the Dragon… the “Charm of Making”... which is how he works his magic.
Gene: So… Merlin is like Hermes… he’s the Guide… and he’s taking us to the source of his power. Into the “Belly of the Beast” so to speak.
David: Yes… where “all things meet their opposites”.
Gene: What’s the force he controls by uniting the opposites within himself?
David: It’s the “Dual Current” which the Lecture says is the “most potent force, by means whereof a single (person), who could possess (themselves) of it, and should know how to direct it, could revolutionize and change the face of the world. This force was known to the ancient (and is) … what the Adepts of the Middle Ages called the elementary matter… (or the Universal Agent or) ”the igneous body of the Holy Spirit; and it was adored in the secret rites of the Sabbat or the Temple, under the hieroglyphic figure of Baphomet or the hermaphroditic goat of Mendes.”
Gene: Ah! And finally… we come to the proverbial “elephant in the room”.
David: Don’t you mean the goat in the room?
Gene: Naaa! I ain’t afraid of no goat!
David: Well, a lot of people are. We’re talking about the image that we used for the icon of this episode. It’s the image called “Baphomet” or “BaphoMET”, which appeared in Eliphas Levi’s book that we quoted from earlier… and one that Pike has quoted from liberally throughout the Degrees… “The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic”.
Gene: That image has become linked in people’s minds with the Devil. And because Masonry uses that symbol… not for the Devil… but for something else… some people believe that Masonry is Satanic.
David: The image of Baphomet has been used in anti-Masonic literature, but it became linked in public consciousness with the Devil by its apparent inclusion in the Rider-Waite Tarot deck as card number fifteen entitled “The Devil”.
Gene: And that Tarot deck was incidentally, created by members of the “Golden Dawn”.
David: That’s right - Arthur Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith. But if you compare their Devil card with Levi’s Baphomet, the one used in Masonry, they represent two different things.
Gene: That’s right. Levi and Pike’s Baphomet has an upright Pentagram on its forehead while the Devil Tarot card has an upside down Pentagram. They’re the two sides of the coin that we’ve talked about. They represent the “Astral Light”... or the “Prima Material” of the imagination in their two different orientations… the upward and downward currents… spiritualizing or materializing.
David: Exactly. Here’s what Tracy Twyman says in her book “Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled” - “despite the great many words being written about Baphomet, very few seem to understand it as anything more than a symbol of Satan. It may be that, but it is a lot more also. In fact, as Masonic writers have hinted in the past, it may be the preeminent mystery of the Western spiritual tradition.”
Gene: It is a symbol for your mind… your imagination and how it works.
David: If its a symbol for our imagination, why is it so menacing looking?
Gene: How do we explain to ourselves some of the things we’re able to imagine? It’s not all sweetness and light in there.
David: No it’s not. Also, when the Templars were rounded up and executed, they were accused of worshiping something called Baphomet, but it’s unclear in the trial records what that actually was. Some people said it was a head… maybe the head of John the Baptist. But others said it was a depiction of a goat.
Gene: A head… or a depiction of what goes on inside your head. I’ve got a quote from a paper by Julian Strube that says “the meaning of the drawing, as ghastly as it may appear to the beholder, is neither satanic nor anti-Christian. There is a wealth of academic and non-academic literature that points out Lévi’s intention: a symbolization of the equilibrium of opposites… His Baphomet has to be seen as an iconic representation of this “true” doctrine, as the Knights Templar were considered to be the successors of the very same heretical revolutionary tradition that reached back to the “Gnostics” of the late ancient School of Alexandria, the environment where the momentous separation between “true” and “false” religion supposedly took place.”
David: That’s a great quote. Just so everyone knows what we’re talking about, Levi’s image of Baphomet, which I’ve linked to in the “Show Notes”, is of a winged goat seated cross-legged on a globe. As we said, it has an upright Pentagram on its forehead above which is a torch with a triple-flame between two horns. In its lap is a caduceus on a round shield covered in scales. The right hand is raised, points upwards to the Sun and has the word “Solve” on it. The left hand points downward to a crescent moon and has the word “Coagula” on it. It also appears to be both male and female… because on one side it has a breast. So it’s a hermaphrodite.
Gene: That symbol encompasses everything we’ve talked about in this Degree. It’s really a tracing board of the Knight of the Sun Degree. It’s Alchemy. It’s analysis and design. The dual principles. The upward and downward currents.
David: And the four elements are all there - fire is there in the flame, wings are air, the scales for water and the hooves there on the globe for earth.
Gene: It’s a Sphinx… which the Lecture associates with the “Cherub… which Moses places at the gate of (Eden), holding a blazing sword.” It says that the Cherub “is a Sphinx… And that it “represents the law of the Mystery, which keeps watch at the door of initiation, to repulse the Profane.”
David: Which makes the Baphomet image a concrete example of a “Hermetic Seal”. For the initiated, it’s a shorthand for the “Primitive Philosophy”. For the uninitiated, it’s a frightening figure that is actually intended to scare you away from knowledge that could be harmful to you.
Gene: That’s really true. If… after all of the Degrees where we’ve discussed the symbolism of Masonry… If you can still look at that image of Baphomet and only see a literal portrait of Satan… you should turn back because “You can’t handle the truth”. You have to be willing and able to see that you are Light and Shadow, good and evil.
David: And that seems like a good place to end our discussion. I do have one more enigmatic quote from the Lecture , which I’d like to just read and just let people ponder on their own.
David: It says “If Oedipus, in place of slaying the Sphinx, had conquered it, and driven it into Thebes harnessed to his chariot, he would have been King, without incest, calamities, or exile. If Psyche, by submission and caresses, had persuaded Love to reveal himself, she would never have lost him. Love is one of the mythological images of the grand secret and the grand agent, because it expresses at once an action and a passion, a void and a plenitude, an arrow and a wound. The Initiates ought to understand this, and, lest the profane should overhear, Masonry never says too much.”
Gene: I like that a lot! I also have a final enigmatic quote.
Gene: It says - “Creation is the habitation of the Creator-Word. To create, the Generative Power and Productive Capacity must unite, the Binary become Unity again by… conjunction… SANCTA SANCTIS… Holy things to the Holy… Seek and ye shall find, say the Scriptures: knock and it shall be opened unto you. If you desire to find and to gain admission to the Sanctuary, we have said enough to show you the way. If you do not, it is useless for us to say more, as it has been useless to say so much.”
David: Wow! That’s a great quote to end our discussion of the Knight of the Sun Degree. So what else would you like to say before we end?
Gene: Oh man. It’s been trippy. The only thing I can think of… is to link the things we’ve discussed in this episode to the changes that were made to the Degree Ritual.
David: What did you want to say about those changes?
Gene: Just to say again that I think that those changes, maybe purposefully, were a way to distance from any taint of the supernatural… and from words like “occult” and “magic”. But it’s just a mistake. It really is… because it’s only after you fight through those preconceptions that you see the power that this Degree still has.
David: I feel the same way.
Gene: What about you? What else do you want to say?
David: Well… just that… like you, I see the Jewel that this Degree really is in the Scottish Rite system. It’s… I’d say gratifying… maybe is the right word… it’s… it’s just great to find out that after all this work, there is actually a treasure here.
Gene: I like that! It’s like Geraldo opening the vault and instead of it being empty… he finds the “Holy Grail” inside!
David: Yeah… always with Geraldo… but, yes - “The “Holy Grail” is Inside”.
Gene: Indeed it is.
David: So Gene, what are we doing next time?
Gene: In the next episode, we discuss the 29th Degree - Knight of St. Andrew.