Torn


 

I am like that of a two-faced Janus – “With one face I laugh, with the other I weep!”

~~Søren Kierkegaard~~

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, and thereby of gates, doors, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. The Romans named the month of January (Ianuarius) in his honor.

 

From the Journals of Søren Kierkegaard he writes that he was profoundly dissatisfied with the emptiness of his existence and with his inability to find some center of focus for his life.  On the one hand, he complains of the futility of seeking pleasures which invariably left in their wake feelings of ennui and malaise; on the other, he expresses impatience with learning in so far as this is regarded as a purely dispassionate pursuit of knowledge and understanding – ‘what good would it do me if truth stood before me, cold and naked, not caring whether I recognized her or not?’

 

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I wonder if Kierkegaard would feel differently if he had borne children?  He died at the age of 42 in 1855 over 159 years ago.  The expression of grief and anguish in a life lived can be seen through-out many of the world’s populations, especially of those that comprise the existentialist philosophical types.  In my readings I have pondered some questions about how others have dealt with their pain and suffering.  How they have made sense out of a very fault-finding society that displaces guilt, purges frailty, and uses weapons of discourse to manipulate the emotion of others.  There are countless examples of ruthless behavior demonstrated by bitter souls that have an axe to grind.  The resulting emotional poison of this fester within the veins of the disgruntled who do not transition out from the emotional swamp that impedes spiritual growth among those who suffer from its grasp.

There is nothing more dear to me than the love for my children and those I truly love.  It is simply the most powerful feeling I have ever known on this earth.  As I reflect upon our relationship through the years, as children, as children of a divorce, and now as young adults living far away from me I’ve had some time to think about just how these feelings present themselves to the world during the span of experiences we perceive.  Especially if there is an estrangement between those you love, not knowing the details of their true feelings, but only knowing the distance experienced and you are left to fill in the blanks yourself because they may not want to hurt you or that their ambivalence is a result of one-sided family conversations you have never been included in or part are of.  If you have undergone a divorce and separation from your children that has not gone in your favor, then you may understand just what emotional heartbreak is involved when the single most valuable people move away from you, not knowing if and when the next time you see them will be allowed because of the schedules you have to deal with and the person you negotiate this is willing to oblige.

I struggled with this for many years as the job I held was not very accommodating to my child care schedule, my legal support did absolutely nothing to help me, and I was at the mercy of an Ex-Wife who in my opinion alienated the children from me even to this day.  I do not wish to hang out my dirty laundry in regards to explaining my position.  I do not wish to solicit any pity or express myself in a passively aggressive story of my telling.  What I do know is that this experience has left me to think about how cruel this life can be.  I do know that true justice in this world can be a fairly tale; a fiction that may never come to be.  That we can hopelessly pray, wish, and pretend things will work out in some way that will have an equitable ending, but many a time this is simply not the case.  It is possible that some reckoning and honest objective ending will present itself after the writing of this post that has not yet come to be, but I will still have to endure the circumstances for what they are and continue to live hoping for the best.  That was some time ago.

Despite the particular theory of emotion you subscribe to, one must still deal with the resulting emotions that come to be.

I think that love itself is just that, the most intense emotion that we as humans can ever experience.  Love has built-in cognitive components that synthesize the emotion to greater levels of experience than pure emotional or rational experience.  There is a blend of “gut”, “heart”, and “mind” that come together to place it among the most influential and enduring emotional products of the human being.  Some would say that anger and hate are equally just as powerful often being compared in intensity, but I do not see this as an equality in human experience.  The complexities of these emotions are much more visceral than most other emotions experienced.  It is possible that hate and anger are felt as strongly, but the underlying psychological reasons for them to come into being are not even close to gaining my vote on whether they are of equal intensity.

The wisdom of the ages all have chimed in on the argument for the power of love.  The hierarchy of human emotion and the corruptible condition that leads humans to do some very distasteful things to one another is a product of our society and an untrained mind.  Conversely how we can bestow immense acts of kindness and love to those who give us a wrongdoing is a testament to the spectrum of our capacity for good.

Many emotions that are experienced may be factors of related more primal emotions such as fear, such as jealousy.  The underlying emotional and rational components to what we perceive are synthesized together creating this emotion and realized through our behaviors when we take action upon them.  The overall view amongst all theories (James-Lange, Cannon-Bard, Schacter-Maranon, Cognitive, or Perceptual theories) is that they do have a symbiotic composite.  The only questions left are really epistemological.  A which comes first debate usually ensues, ( what is a priori, and what is a posterori ) but is not of importance for this post.

 Examples of basic Emotion

Joy

Joy is a magical, often transformational emotion. In an article titles “The Alchemical Emotion of Joy,” Kevin Ryerson called joy, “the ability to feel the essence of your own divinity.” Related emotions include happiness, exhilaration, excitement, pleasure and contentment.

Anger

Anger can be felt on many levels, ranging from highly irritable to frustration. It is defined as a strong feeling of disapproval or dissatisfaction, usually brought on by some real or perceived wrongdoing. Related emotions include resentment, exasperation, rage and fury.

Anxiety

Anxiety can be subjective and difficult to describe. Most often, it means feeling nervous or uneasy, but in many cases there is no specific reason for feeling so. Impending danger, an upcoming exam, speaking in front of an audience, a blind date, and even day-to-day stress can lead to feelings of anxiousness. Related emotions include distress and apprehension.

Surprise

Feelings of surprise can be pleasant or unpleasant. The one constant, however, is the suddenness of the feeling. Related emotions include amazement, bewilderment, astonishment or feeling startled.

Trust

Also referred to as strength or self-assuredness, trust enables humans to rely on confidence, impart confidence or experience hope. Related emotions include certainty, faith and a feeling of security.

Grief

Mental suffering over a great loss or painful experience are the hallmarks of this emotion. Like anger, there are varying degrees of grief, ranging from disappointment to great despair. Related emotions include anguish, heartache, melancholy and woe.

Fear

Fear is an adaptive human emotion that often has unpleasant side effects.  In cases of violent crime or a near-death experience, the victim might experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Fear can also have a protective effect. Think of the father who, for only a moment, can’t locate his child in a busy supermarket. His immediate response (fear), enables him to quickly read his surroundings, listen for his child’s voice and locate the child. Related emotions include apprehension, terror, panic and dread.

Love

Feelings of personal attachment to a child, husband, wife, parent or friend are most commonly associated with love, but love can fall anywhere on the spectrum from passionate affection to mere enthusiasm. Feelings of love might be romantic, or they could mean having a high regard for a friend, church or cause. Related emotions include fondness, adoration and passion.

 

Knowing the distinction between how we feel and how we act upon them becomes the morality we live every day.  The choices we act upon in behavior defines our characters.  The angst (possibly a quasi-primary emotion), we feel when we contemplate such matters of the heart are common place among many of us despite the awareness of our feelings, out thoughts, or that experienced within our “gut”.  They say that integrity means “doing the right thing even when others are not looking!”  I sometimes wonder if the self-imposed morals that we often adopt lead us to be more prone to feelings of anxiety and despair?  If we adopt a flawed morality, do we suffer from the outcomes of our behavior when we live by these rules, or is it that we change our reasoning due to our cognitive dissonance resulting from the outcomes?

Having to taste from the well of a polluted pond, and having to taste the nectar of honey can leave an impression upon those who have been able to distinguish between them.  There are those who cannot make that distinction and thus live accordingly to this perception of the world.  I sometimes think that I can see the world with a Janus face…..laughing at the absurdity of our human affairs whilst weeping at the outcomes of our faulty misdeeds, thus I am torn!

The question eluding many of us is how will we live with our actions and those of others who impart calamity in our lives?  I believe there is a force in the universe that is able to distinguish between the good and bad, the right and wrong, the just and unjust behaviors that embellishes our deeds and somehow in our existence makes amends to control the balance of nature.  The only proof that exists in my mind of this principle is what is observed within my life in defiance of cases which have not yet come to be.  For that I can only have faith that a harmonious balance exacts its own justice out of the affairs of human kind.

 

Morality in Retrograde


Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all. If he has not virtue, he is the most unholy and the most savage of animals, and the most full of lust and gluttony.

—Aristotle—

In Book One of Aristotle’s Ethics, he considers perhaps the most vexing question that humanity confronts: What is the purpose of life? Aristotle argues that everything has a purpose or goal, and that the purpose is always to attain some good. The “Chief Good” for humanity is that purpose for which all human action is performed. Aristotle believes that the Chief Good for humans is Eudaimonia (often translated as ‘happiness’).

What is the prime directive we seek as Humans?  Is it Happiness?  If so, then what makes our times happy?

Do we attach this happy moment with something that we bring to it within ourselves, or is it something that we discover inside the moment when it happens?  Is it a prelude of decisions that make us decide this happiness quotient?  Maybe it is the removal of negative thoughts that would harm this happiness quotient?  Laboring over unnecessary thoughts that impede the joy of an experience can be observed all the time in everyday life by ourselves and people we know.  I wonder how much we sabotage the experience with our dissonant moods? I also wonder if we keep our secret thoughts out of public view because we know that it may disrupt the status quo.

Beyond the capacity to experience Happiness, I would question the nature of people who give up their accountability when coworkers or other superiors have conducted themselves in inauspicious ways which leads them to follow in suit.  If you know of wrongdoing that you inadvertently take part in, can you be happy and live with yourself?  Being a part of something complicit you would think must make someone uncomfortable.  If this is not the case, then are they morally corrupted?  So they think of the situation as morally justified and are left out of the equation for judgement?

The soul is divided into an irrational element and a rational element. The irrational element contains a vegetative part concerned with nutrition and growth. The vegetative part is common to all living beings. Since this part of the soul is not concerned with morality, we will examine it no further. The irrational element of the soul also contains an appetitive part. This part is concerned with impulses. The appetitive part obeys the commands of the rational element in the soul of a virtuous man, but disobeys the rational element in the soul of an incontinent man.

Siddhārtha Gautama AKA Gautama Buddha had a specific plan to deal with such matters that he called the Eightfold Path.  In his assessment much of our experience is the creation suffering explained in his four noble truths.

The first noble truth is suffering.  The central importance of suffering (dukkha) in Buddhist philosophy has caused some observers to consider Buddhism to be a pessimistic philosophy.  However, the emphasis on dukkha is not intended to present a pessimistic view of life, but rather to present a realistic practical assessment of the human condition—that all beings must experience suffering and pain at some point in their lives, including the inevitable sufferings of illness, aging, and death.  Contemporary Buddhist teachers and translators emphasize that while the central message of Buddhism is optimistic, the Buddhist view of our situation in life (the conditions that we live in) is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic.

The second noble truth is that the origin of dukkha can be known.  Within the context of the four noble truths, the origin of dukkha is commonly explained as craving or thirst conditioned by ignorance.  On a deeper level, the root cause of dukkha is identified as ignorance of the true nature of things.

The third noble truth is that the complete cessation of dukkha is possible, and the fourth noble truth identifies a path to this cessation (the Eightfold Path).

The good times which you reflect upon somehow have the sense of possibility built in the potential thoughts we carry around within us.  Not being compelled to undertake the diverging negative thoughts that will come to mind and will not be conductive for a positive experience may just be a factor that challenge us from time to time.

Making goals and achieving them will often result in satisfaction, and even “happy” on occasion.  The harder you work for something and finally comes the day when you have achieved that goal, the sweeter the reward seems to be.  But if no work was placed into some of these goals, yet they were bestowed to you, the taste is not as sweet then if you had labored over it for a period of time.

But if you no longer feel connected to a morality that protects our citizens, or one that is based on a reciprocity that all of us would reason to be morally just, then what in the world helps those that sleep at night who work for immoral companies that know the costs and outcomes for extremely poor decisions that affect the lives of millions of people from their products, byproducts or services?

Plato wrote the Republic in 380 BC. The first book of Plato’s Republic is concerned with justice.  In the Republic, Socrates concludes that everything has an end and an excellence.  The end of the eye is sight, the end of the ear is hearing, and the end of the soul is happiness.  If an eye’s particular excellence deteriorates, then it will not be capable of achieving its particular end.  Accordingly, if the soul’s excellence, which is justice, deteriorates, then it will not be capable of attaining its end, which is happiness.  Socrates proves that justice is wisdom and virtue while injustice is ignorance and vice by demonstrating that the just do not wish to have more than the just, but do wish to have more than the just, while the unjust want more than the just and unjust.  A mathematician does not wish to have more knowledge in mathematics than another mathematician, but he does wish to have more knowledge in mathematics than someone who is not a mathematician.  A person ignorant of mathematics wants to have more knowledge than both a mathematician and one who is ignorant in mathematics.
Because justice is wisdom and virtue, it is stronger than injustice which is ignorance and vice.  The unjust are incapable of common action. If thieves needed to work together, then they would need to act justly with respect to on another. If the thieves are entirely unjust, then they would do evil to each other and would not be able to work together.  Injustice located within one individual renders action impossible by reason of sedition and distraction.

Oh benevolent father send me no pain, don’t turn your back upon me again

I seek to live without the toil, my saga leads only to wander in foil

Mistakes I’ve made plunge me deeper with debt, a point I often return to I regret

To seize the day one must stay strong, fend off the forces that don’t belong

Deny binding forces and live again, or doom yourself and plunder within

The world I live in has many foes, but it is I who decide my circumstance of woes

 

 

Being human subjects us to ponder over such matters that compels us to continually question the status quo and how we fit into the scheme of things over the span of our lives.  The experiences that inhabit our lives despite what position we hold are felt by all of us.  There is no special person that is exempt from the human condition, albeit, people do differentiate in the ways in which they deal with the stark realities that the world bluntly delivers to us.  Some administer better coping skills, education, psychological conditioning, and moral obligations that help people in navigating the hardships in this world, yet I think that there is no one with a conscience that has not somehow been affected by the status of their well-being.

In the spectrum of human affairs a person’s position, career, or social status may interfere with how they conduct their lives.  The politicization of many careers effect a huge portion of those employed in all sectors of society.  Moral turpitude is rampant among many of the citizens that are sworn in to protect the American public.  Whether they actually believe the immoral policies that their employers embark upon only they and God can answer.  Case in point is the following documentary of the war waged upon the whistle blowers by the US government. The distinction to correct the immoral behavior of an organization without “leaking” but rather by justly telling the truth and providing information that is about waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality.  It is precisely these people that the Obama administration is targeting and threatening as opposed to being an administration of transparency, it is one of immense secrecy.

In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act!

     ~~George Orwell~~

 

The creation of a governance with no oversight, usurping the United States Constitution, betraying the US citizens, and acting in line with a morality based on Greed, Power, and above the Law is Tyranny.  One example that has taken our country over is The Federal Reserve.  It is by no means “Federal” and is comprised by a group of Private Bankers that was given the power to print and regulate the US Dollar and subject to market manipulation in the deflation and inflation of our currency.  This is by definition breaking the power of the constitution and betraying the people of this country which former Presidents have warned us about time and time again.  The US Constitution gives us the right to print our own money, without interest from the debt.  We have also pulled the gold standard away from our currency, giving away the wealth of this country to the wealthiest few on the planet.

Morality in retrograde is one that infects the moral stability of any institution or nation built upon the lies and deceit of those in power and in turn pollutes the minds of the citizens.  If we do not follow in kind, we just may have a chance, if we continue down the path we are on, History will surely repeat itself again showing to the world the nature of human arrogance and failure to overcome its own moral turpitude.  I highly recommend you watch the following documentary to its completion.  The information of such abuse of power is pandemic.

 

 

 

 

 

The Phoenix


 

φοῖνιξ

   G31

Bennu HumaGaruda
Phoenix

It’s interesting to note that ancient cultures must have had similar experiences when devising this myth from what I presume out of their own desires and thus assign the sentiment with mythological cadence that is still prevalent in cultures today.  Consider our use of the comic book, and the characters in these stories.  Part entertainment, part wonderment, with the only difference that we now can monetize these ideas and sell them for money.  We are only following a tradition that has been going on for a millennia and probably longer.  Challenging the human condition by testing the boundaries of our abilities often played out in the Olympic fields of Greece, as well as an understanding of the limitations of the human being. We are mortal, and we have always known that.

The verbal traditions of story-telling may be lost to many of us today simply because those traditions died out many, many generations ago.  Prior to the written languages, we spoke and told stories to others to pass on knowledge, culture, and tradition.  The only remaining evidence we have of what they have thought are only in ancient texts, and thus written accounts of these mythologies are all we have left since nothing else exits.

To bring about a change in a person, to develop a kind of philosophy that can motivate someone to rise up out of the ashes from a former existence is a powerful talisman that many would like to employ to reach a new beginning and start again from a foiled past.  One must think of what is possible.  One must align with a rejuvenated sense of themselves to enact and embark on a new path that allows them to achieve planned goals.  The desire to reinvent themselves leaving behind them the dead weight which had possibly bogged them down and hindered their personal growth from a shadowy past is a very strong motivator if it led to the creation of an anthropomorphic myth.  In these times I’m sure that it was probably a matter of life or death, when facing some challenging goal against another tribe, country, or nation.  One can only wonder the kind of ethic that operated during ancient times when the myth’s were conceived and told.

Questing to overcome obstacles and reexamining our strategy can bring about newer ideas on how we can master these impediments.  When the paradoxical question of an unstoppable force meets an immovable object comes to mind in our accounts of life, we are either left to consider that they would surrender to one another, or that it was the cause of our unsuccessfully mastering our former failed plans.  The human mind always considers the boundaries and sometimes it does not.  The paradox arises because it rests on two premises—that there exist such things as irresistible forces and immovable objects—which cannot both be true at once.  If there exists an irresistible force, it follows logically that there cannot be any such thing as an immovable object, and vice versa.  Thus even the ancients were playing language games back in the day.  The thought of exposing oneself revealing their vulnerabilities has persisted in these timeless tales of myth and defines us since we create these extensions of human thought that reach out to us even in this day.  Instead of Zeus, the topic instead may be replaced by the fictions of Marvel comics or movies.

One can argue that the myths and legends were believed and thought to be true by the ancients, whereas, we today know that they are just simple stories for entertainment, but I suggest that this is irrelevant and thus believing in them does not refute the nature of them despite their truthfulness.  The fact that they are conceived in the first place is all that matters, since we as mortal beings define what it is to be human, or god, or superhero.  It does not matter whether we create myth to explain our universe in a language that we can understand prior to a scientific knowledge, but the fact that we still continue to create an explanation given whatever understanding we do have that can make sense out of it continues to define us as human.  Do we not project explanations such as ghosts, spirits, and demons to this day?

However these interpretations affect us, the use of mirth and woe are common in such tales, and we are surely linked by this expressive human idiosyncrasy.  With few exceptions, I don’t believe that a second passes without someone of our kind who does not ponder their relationship to themselves and to the human condition that binds our experience in this world.  This is the quintessential human undertaking that faces us all.  How we choose to deal with it, is up to us.

Egyptian

Bennu –or Heron
Phoenix
in hieroglyphs
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The earliest representation of the phoenix is found in the ancient Egyptian Bennu bird, the name relating to the verb “weben,” meaning “to rise brilliantly,” or “to shine.” Some researchers believe that a now extinct large heron was a possible real life inspiration for the Bennu. However, since the Bennu, like all the other versions of the phoenix, is primarily a symbolic icon, the many mythical sources of the Bennu in ancient Egyptian culture reveal more about the civilization than the existence of a real bird.

One version of the myth says that the Bennu bird burst forth from the heart of Osiris. In the more prevalent myths, the Bennu created itself from a fire that was burned on a holy tree in one of the sacred precincts of the temple of Ra.  The Bennu was supposed to have rested on a sacred pillar that was known as the benben-stone. At the end of its life-cycle, the phoenix would build itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignited; both nest and bird burned fiercely and would be reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arose.  The new phoenix embalmed the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg made of myrrh and deposited it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis (“the city of the sun” in Greek).

The Bennu was pictured as a grey, purple, blue, or white heron with a long beak and a two-feathered crest.  Occasionally it was depicted as a yellow wagtail, or as an eagle with feathers of red and gold.  In rare instances the Bennu was pictured as a man with the head of a heron, wearing a white or blue mummy dress under a transparent long coat. Because of its connection to Egyptian religion, the Bennu was considered the “soul” of the god Atum, Ra, or Osiris, and was sometimes called “He Who Came Into Being by Himself,” “Ascending One,” and “Lord of Jubilees.”  These names and the connection with Ra, the sun god, reflected not just the ancient Egyptian belief in a spiritual continuation of life after physical death, but also reflected the natural process of the Nile River‘s rising and falling, which the Egyptians depended upon for survival. The Bennu also became closely connected to the Egyptian calendar, and the Egyptians kept intricate time measuring devices in the Bennu Temple.

Persian

The Huma, also known as the “bird of paradise,” is a Persian mythological bird, similar to the Egyptian phoenix. It consumes itself in fire every few hundred years, only to rise anew from the ashes.  The Huma is considered to be a compassionate bird and its touch is said to bring great fortune.

The Huma bird joins both the male and female natures together in one body, each sharing a wing and a leg.  It avoids killing for food, rather preferring to feed on carrion. The Persians teach that great blessings come to that person on whom the Huma’s shadow falls.[1]

According to Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Kahn,

The word huma in the Persian language stands for a fabulous bird.  There is a belief that if the huma bird sits for a moment on someone’s head it is a sign that he will become a king.  Its true meaning is that when a person’s thoughts evolve so that they break all limitation, he then becomes a king.  It is the limitation of language that it can only describe the Most High as something like a king.[2]

Greek

The Greeks adapted the word bennu and identified it with their own word phoenixφοινιξ’, meaning the color purple-red or crimson.  They and the Romans subsequently pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle.  According to Greek mythology, the phoenix lived in Arabia next to a well.  At dawn, it bathed in the water of the well, and the Greek sun-god Apollo stopped his chariot (the sun) in order to listen to its song.

Detail from mosaic Semis de roses et phénix Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Oriental

The phoenix (known as Garuda in Sanskrit) is the mystical fire bird which is considered as the chariot of the Hindu god Vishnu. Its reference can be found in the Hindu epic Ramayana.

In Tibet, the phoenix is also called Garuda, which means “the bird of life” and is depicted as a conglomerate of the typical brightly colored bird, eagle, and human.[3]

In China, the phoenix is called Feng-huang and symbolizes completeness, incorporating the basic elements of music, colors, nature, as well as the joining of yin and yang.  It is a symbol of peace, and represents fire, the sun, justice, obedience, and fidelity.  The Feng-huang, unlike the phoenix which dies and is reborn, is truly immortal although it only appears in times of peace and prosperity.[4]

Judaism and Christianity

In Judaism, the phoenix is known as Milcham or Chol (or Hol): The story of the phoenix begins in the Garden of Eden when Eve fell, tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit. According to the Midrash Rabbah, upset by her situation and jealous of creatures still innocent, Eve tempted all the other creatures of the garden to do the same. Only the Chol (phoenix) resisted. As a reward, the phoenix was given eternal life, living in peace for a thousand years and then being reborn from an egg to continue to live in peace again, repeating the cycle eternally (Gen. Rabbah 19:5). Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, better known as Rashi, commented that death has no power over the phoenix, “because it did not taste the fruit from the tree of knowledge.”[5]

The phoenix also appears in the Book of Job: “I shall multiply my days as the Chol, the phoenix” (Job 29:18), again indicating long life if not immortality. This reference, however, is controversial since chol has been translated as phoenix, sand, and palm tree in different versions.[6]

The phoenix became a symbol of Christianity in early literature, either from the ancient Hebrew legend or from the incorporation of Greek and Roman culture, or from a combination of both. In any case, the ideology of the phoenix fit perfectly with the story of Christ. The phoenix’s resurrection from death as new and pure can be viewed as a metaphor for Christ’s resurrection, central to Christian belief. The phoenix is referenced by the early Christian Apostolic Father Clement in The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. Most of the Christian-based phoenix symbolism appears within works of literature, especially in Medieval and Renaissance Christian literature that combined classical and regional myth and folklore with more mainstream doctrine.

In Greek mythology, a phoenix (Greek: φοῖνιξ  phoinix) is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn.  Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.  The phoenix is a sign of rebirth, The image of the mythological bird rising from the ashes is understood the world over as being a symbol of resurrection.

Meanings known

  • Life
  • Time
  • Magic
  • Purity
  • Clarity
  • Rebirth
  • Renewal
  • Longevity
  • Creativity
  • Protection
  • Immortality
  • Resurrection
  • Reemergence
  • Transformation

According to the Greek historian Herodotus (b: 484 BC), the phoenix was a mythical bird from Ethiopia. It was spectacularly large, beautiful and adorned with mind-blowing plumage. The historian also reported that the phoenix made a nest cypress branches. Rather preparing to lay eggs, the phoenix was preparing to die. While sitting in the nest, the bird created a great deal of heat, and set itself on fire from its own heat with the cypress serving as kindling. After three days, the phoenix emerged from its own ashes – reborn and released from the sentence of death, able to live on forever.

Herodotus may have borrowed some of his impressions about the meaning of the phoenix from the Greek poet, Hesiod, (b: 700 BC) who proclaims the phoenix as a brilliant bird who could outlive nine generations of ravens. That’s about 90,000 years in Hesiod-time.

In Rome, the phoenix was a symbol of the perpetual continuation of the Roman Empire, and the bird was featured on Roman coins as a reminder of the indomitable strength of the Empire. That didn’t pan out too well – the Empire didn’t last forever, but the legend of the phoenix certainly did.

Because of its ability to die and come back to life, the meaning of the phoenix has a foundation of resurrection. To wit, the phoenix was a symbol of Christ in the Middle Ages – specifically, His resurrection – having died on the cross and returned from death in three days, just as the legend of the phoenix.

In Egypt, the meaning of the phoenix is connected with the sun and the Nile. Their version of the phoenix was a Bennu, which was part heron, and part falcon. The Bennu was said to control the cycle of the sun each day. It flew with the sun in its beak, plucking it from its sleeping place at dawn, and putting it to rest at sunset. In this way, the Bennu is symbolic of the daily death and birth of the sun. This symbolic connection is far-reaching, it implies the Bennu affected life and death for the Egyptians, as there would be no food crops without the Bennu establishing the rising and setting of the sun. The Egyptian phoenix continues its life-giving role with the Nile. The Egyptians felt the Bennu was responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile. This flooding was relied upon to sustain agriculture in this region. In short, the Egyptian meaning of the phoenix deals primarily with themes of life and death associated with provision.

In addition to the Nile, the art of alchemy also runs through the land of Egypt. Ancient alchemists employed the Egyptian Bennu in their alchemical rituals concerning life, death and renewal. In alchemical texts, the phoenix is connected with powerful correspondences. Here are a few…

Phoenix Correspondences in Alchemy

  • Direction: South
    Southern symbolism (and hence phoenix symbolism in alchemy) deals with purity, renewal, strength, health and the present moment in time.
  • Element: Fire
    Fire in alchemy is a symbol of transformation, purification, life, creation/creativity, consumption.
  • Celestial: Sun
    Much like fire, the sun’s connection to the phoenix in alchemical practice is akin to the cycle of time and cycles of life. It’s also symbolic of clarity, illumination, immortality and expression.
  • Season: Summer
    The summer season in alchemy is the same for almost every other cultural wisdom. It equates to growth, rejuvenation of the earth, continuation of life, and the symbolic celebration of the strength of the sun after being weakened though winter.
  • Chemical: Sulfur
    Alchemy is a practice that incorporates physical, mental, mythical. Red sulfur and phoenix energy would be simultaneously invoked in ceremonies intended to influence the universal principal of life. The element of sulfur in alchemy is synonymous with the animus (the soul), and is a powerful chemical representative of existence.

In Chinese wisdom, the phoenix is commonly seen in twos, male and female.  But it’s not as simple as gender identification.  Two phoenixes together represent yin and yang.  Now we’re talking about symbolic themes of balance, duality and polarity.  The female meaning of the phoenix deals with yin energy.  Yin phoenix is passive, intuitive, moon, winter.  Conversely the yang (male) phoenix is iconic of assertion, action, sun, summer.  These are just a few of a long list of yin-yang meanings.  As a whole, a dynamic phoenix duo is an emblem of divine, immortal partnership.  In fact, a display (illustration, embroidery, etc) of two phoenixes were commonly extended as a wedding gift.  It was said to be an auspicious gift, insuring a happily-ever-after lived marriage.