The Mysteries of the Phoenix – Phœnix – Phenix – φοῖνιξ

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“Know that the Phoenix is the soul of the Iliaster (that is, the first chaos of the matter of all things). It is also the Iliastic soul in man. ~ Liber Azoth, S. V., Practica Lineae Vitae. 

Beautiful, glorious and sacrificing self for renewal, you build a pyre and set yourself ablaze. For the sake of self. Red bird of fire you come forth through your ashes a new bird shedding the old self which no longer is needful. You embrace your new strength and fly to the heights of the sky to the city of the sun and give the ashes unto the alter of the sun god for your immortality. Embrace yourself for you are a child of the sunand will live eternal through birth, death, and renewal! The spirit never dies!.     ~ Poem – The Phoenix – by Rebecca Wiles. 

“I am the Phoenix, the Fiery Sun, Consuming and Resuming Myself.” ~ The Egyptian Book of the Dead: Awakening Osiris. 

The phoenix, or phœnix as it is sometimes spelled, has been an enduring mythological symbol for millennia and across vastly different cultures. Despite such varieties of cultures, societies, and times, the phoenix is consistently characterized as a bird with brightly colored plummage, which, after a long life, dies in a fire of its own making, only to rise again from the ashes. From religious and naturalistic symbolism in ancient Egypt, to a secular symbol for armies, communities, and even societies, as well as an often-used literary symbol, this mythical bird’s representation of death and rebirth seems to resonate with humankind’s psyche and aspirations. 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, the myth says that the Bennu bird burst forth from the heart of Osiris. 

(“”I Am the Bennu/ Benu Bird (Phoenix), the Heart-Soul of RA, the Guide of the Gods to the Tuat (the Realm of the Dead)… I Flew Up and Out of the Primeval Waters, and I Came into Being like the God Khepra (the Divine Scarab), I Grew like the Plants, I Am Concealed like the Turtle, I Am the Essence of the Gods, I Am Yesterday of the Four Corners of the World and the Seven Urea Who Came into Being in the West, Whom Horus has Illuminated by His Hand and Witnesses against Seth, Where Thoth Dwelled in the Middle for Judgment, as Judge On Behalf of Sekhem and the Spirits of Annu (Heliopolis), He was like a Stream Between Them, I have Come, I Rise Up On My Throne, I Become the Shining One, I Am Mighty, I Become Holy Among the Gods, I Am the God Khonsu (the Moon) Who Drives Back All that is Opposed to Him.  ~ The Egyptian Book of the Dead.””) 

The Phoenix of Bunnu,, is believed to be a divine bird going back to Egypt … This Phoenix destroys itself in flames and then rises from the ashes, the Egyptians believed that the Phoenix was the representative of a god who “rose to heaven in the form of a morning star, like Lucifer, after his fire-immolation of death and rebirth …” The Phoenix is one of the most sacred symbols, as Horus the Brave, the offspring of the Sun, All glorious: whom the Sun has chosen, and the valiant Ares (Mars) has endowed. His goodness remains for ever, whom Ammon loves, who fills with good the temple of the Phoenix. To him the Gods have granted life, Horus the brave, the son of Heron Rhamestes, the king of the world: He has protected Egypt and subdued her neighbours: Him the Sun loves. The gods have granted him great length of life. He is Rhamestes, the Lord of the World, the Immortal, we know of as the Order of the Quest. It symbolises the morning star who is the son of the sun, the father in which the Egyptians celebrated through the rising of this most glorious fire- bird from the flames into immortality and reincarnation. The phoenix was seen as the son and the messiah, that has risen to become the soul of the Sun-God Ra. 

Éliphas Lévi, wrote; “However, as a guarantee of its renewed youth, the symbolical phoenix never reappeared before the eyes of the world without having consumed solemnly the remains and evidences of its previous life. So also Moses saw to it that all those who had known Egypt and her mysteries should end their life in the desert; at Ephesus St Paul burnt all books which treated of the occult sciences; and in fine, the French Revolution, daughter of the great Johannite Orient and the ashes of the Templars, spoliated the churches and blasphemed the allegories of the Divine Cultus. But all doctrines and all revivals proscribe Magic and condemn its mysteries to the flames and to oblivion. The reason is that each religion or philosophy which comes into the world is a Benjamin of humanity and insures its own life by destroying its mother. It is because the symbolical serpent turns ever devouring its own tail; it is because, as essential condition of existence, a void is necessary to every plenitude, space for every dimension, an affirmation for each negation: herein is the eternal realization of the phoenix allegory.” 

Clement, one of the ante-Nicæan Fathers, describes, in the first century after Christ, the peculiar nature and habits of the phœnix, in this wise: “There is a certain bird which is called a Phœnix. This is the only one of its kind and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed.” 

Although admitting that he had not seen the phœnix bird (there being only one alive at a time), Herodotus amplifies a bit the description given by Clement: “They tell a story of what this bird does which does not seem to me to be credible: that he comes all the way from Arabia, and brings the parent bird, all plastered with myrrh, to the temple of the sun, and there buries the body. In order to bring him, they say, he first forms a ball of myrrh as big as he finds that he can carry; then he hollows out the ball, and puts his parent inside; after which he covers over the opening with fresh myrrh, and the ball is then of exactly the same weight as at first; so he brings it to Egypt, plastered over as I have said, and deposits it in the temple of the sun. Such is the story they tell of the doings of this bird.” 

Both Herodotus and Pliny noted the general resemblance in shape between the phœnix and the eagle, a point which the reader should carefully consider, for it is reasonably certain that the modern Masonic eagle was originally a phœnix. The body of the phœnix is described as having been covered with glossy purple feathers, while its long tail feathers were alternately blue and red. Its head was light in color and about its neck was a circlet of golden plummage. At the back of its head the phœnix had a peculiar tuft of feathers, a fact quite evident, although it has been overlooked by most writers and symbolists. 

As the Greeks adapted the word bennu and identified it with their own word phoenix ‘φοινιξ’, meaning the color purple-red or crimson. They and the Romans subsequently pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle. Also seen in the ancient teachings of the yazidis in Melek Taus – Tawûsê Melek – the Peacock Angel or peacock King, who is one of the most important figures of Yazidi religion. In the Yazidi creation stories, God created the world and entrusted it to the care of seven Holy Beings, often known as Angels or heft sirr ‘the Seven Mysteries’ of which Tawûsê Melek, the Peacock Angel was One. For he Yazidi consider Tawûsê Melek to be an emanation of G’d and a good, benevolent angel who has become a ‘demiurge’ meaning a creator who helped in creation of the cosmos from the Cosmic egg. 

(“”The Auld alchemists represented their processes of soul alchemy by using the analogy of Birds, such as the Phoenix, the Crow, The swan, the Pelican and the Peacock. For instance, the Peacock stage of alchemy: Is often symbolized in alchemy by the image of the peacock’s tail, that the alchemists seen as the conscious experience of the astral body, with its splendid iridescence of colour. That is seen to represent as the inner experience of the astral world. The alchemists of auld termed this experience as the internal workings of the soul or Soul alchemy. Represented by five stages or soul levels, seen in the cabalistic analogy of Jacobs ladder with the five levels of soul.””) 

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. The phœnix was regarded as sacred to the sun, and the length of its life (500 to 1000 years) was taken as a standard for measuring the motion of the heavenly bodies and also the cycles of time used in the Mysteries to designate the periods of existence. The diet of the bird was unknown. Some writers declare that it subsisted upon the atmosphere; others that it ate at rare intervals but never in the presence of man. Modern Masons should realize the special Masonic significance of the phœnix, for the bird is described as using sprigs of acacia in the manufacture of its nest. Also known as the bird “rukh & the Huma رخ which is the mythological Persian roc.” The phœnix 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 a person on whom the Huma’s shadow falls. 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. ROC رخ Rokh or Rukh, also the name of a Southern constellation, and therefore it has both an astronomical and an astrological significance. In all probability, the phœnix was the swan of the Greeks, the eagle of the Romans, and the peacock of the Far East. To the ancient mystics the phœnix was a most appropriate symbol of the immortality of the human soul, for just as the phœnix was reborn out of its own dead self seven times seven, so again and again the spiritual nature of man rises triumphant from his dead physical body. Medieval Hermetists regarded the phœnix as a symbol of the accomplishment of alchemical transmutation, a process equivalent to human regeneration. Seen in the secret alchemical formula or process of soul alchemy. As the “alchemical phoenix” refers to the union of salt, mercury, and sulphur, known as the “Tria prima or three principles” of alchemy. As the Alchemical phoenix process, was derived from a text titled the ‘Treasure of Treasures for the Alchemists’ by Paracelsus – Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim 1494-1541. Who was a renowned sixteenth-century Physician, Botanist, and Alchemist. 

(see: The Alchemical Process of the Crow )

(“”The Spaygric Art of the Alchemists, and, in the space of forty days, you can fix this alchemical substance, exalt it, putrefy it, ferment it, coagulate it into a stone, and produce the Alchemical Phoenix. But it should be noted well that the Sulphur of Cinnabar becomes the Flying Eagle, whose wings fly away without wind, and carry the body of the phoenix to the nest of the parent, where it is nourished by the element of fire, and the young ones dig out its eyes: from whence there emerges a whiteness, divided in its sphere, into a sphere and life out of its own heart, by the balsam of its inward parts, according to the property of the cabalists. ~ Paracelsus – Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim 1494-1541.””) 

The familiar Pelican of the Rose Croix degree, “PERFECT PRINCE DE HEREDOM KNIGHT OF THE EAGLE AND PELICAN.” This is a philosophical degree. Seen as the end of all philosophy. That is to free the mind from those encumbrances which hinder its progress toward perfection and to raise it to the contemplation of Immutable Truth and the knowledge of divine and spiritual objects. This effect must be produced by easy steps, lest the mind, hitherto conversant only with sensible things, should revolt at the change. The Knight of the Eagle and Pelican is one of the titles applied to a Rose-Croix H-R-D-M Freemason; yet this degree is not strictly an order of knighthood, in the commonly received sense of the term. In these degrees, it is readily perceivable that we have now fully entered upon a long course of instruction into all the mysteries of the esoteric occult doctrines. {The Grand Jewel of this degree – Is an open compass, its points resting on a quarter circle. Between the legs of the compass is a cross, reaching from the head of the compass down to the quarter circle; on the cross is an opened rose; at the foot of the cross, on one side is an eagle with wings extended against the points of the compass, head down- wards; on the obverse side is a pelican, tearing its breast to feed with blood its young, seven in number, in a nest under it; on the head of the compass on each side of it is an antique crown with seven points; on the quarter circle, on one side is engraved the hieroglyphical characteristic of the Knight, and on the other side the cabalistic letters of the degree.}

(“”Omnia Ab Uno.” –

– “Sovereign Creator of all things, and source of life and light, who providest for all our necessities, bless the nourishment for the body we are about to take, and make it to give us strength to labor for thy glory and the advancement of all the great interests of humanity.” – Amen Amen Amen!””)

(“”The Pelican is shown above stabbing its breast with its beak and nourishing its young with its own blood is a perfect illustration of the Christ experience: and was used as such by the early alchemists. For they seen this process as being a kind of sacrificial relationship with the inner being. Sacrificing ones self for the greater good. Meaning we must nourish with our own soul forces, the spiritual embryo within and in the process one’s self must be changed, transformed, sacrificed to the developing spiritual self, to attain a true knowledge of oneself. Seen as self realization. This is almost invariably a deeply painful experience as we shed the falsity and false ego with in us, which in the process tests one’s inner resources.””)

The pelican is seen feeding its young from its own breast, is said to be in reality a phœnix, a fact which can be confirmed by an examination of the head of the bird in some Masonic illustrations. The ungainly lower part of the pelican’s beak is entirely missing, the head of the phœnix being far more like that of an eagle than of a pelican. In the Mysteries it was customary to refer to initiates as phœnixes or men who had been born again, for just as physical birth gives man consciousness in the physical world, so the neophyte, after nine degrees in the womb of the Mysteries, was born into a consciousness of the Spiritual world. This is the mystery of initiation to which Christ referred when he said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John iii. 3). The phœnix is a fitting symbol of this spiritual truth, as 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 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.” 

European mysticism was a big thing amongst the elect of Europe, at the time the United States of America was founded. The hand of the Mysteries controlled in the establishment of the new government, for the signature of the Mysteries may still be seen on the Great Seal of the United States of America. Careful analysis of the seal discloses a mass of occult and Masonic symbolism, chief among them the so-called American eagle–a bird which Benjamin Franklin declared unworthy to be chosen as the emblem of a great, powerful, and progressive people. Here again only the student of symbolism can see through the subterfuge and realize that the American eagle upon the Great Seal is but a conventionalized phœnix, the eagle on the Great Seal is believed to be a phoenix, a mythical bird in the Old Testament. “I will live as long as the Phoenix” (Job 29:18). The majority of drawings submitted for the Great Seal were actually of the phoenix and not of an eagle. The phoenix represents rebirth or resurrection. It is the symbol of universal good, a fact plainly discernible from an examination of the original seal. In his sketch of ‘The History of the Seal of the United States’, Gaillard Hunt unwittingly brings forward much material to substantiate the belief that the original seal carried the Phœnix bird on its obverse surface and the Great Pyramid of Gizeh upon its reverse surface. In a colored sketch submitted as a design for the Great Seal by William Barton in 1782, an actual phœnix appears sitting upon a nest of flames. This itself demonstrates a tendency towards the use of this emblematic bird, in size and shape it resembles the eagle, but with certain differences. The body of the Phoenix is one covered with glossy purple feathers, and the plumes in its tail are alternately blue and red. The head of the bird is light in colour, and about its neck is a circlet of golden plumage. At the back of its back the Phoenix has a crest of feathers of brilliant colour … The Phoenix & the Eagle was the living Symbol of Egyptian God Mendes … and the representative of the Sun & immortality and resurrection … The Phoenix is one sign of the secret orders of the ancient world and of the initiate of those orders, for it was common to refer to one who had been accepted into the temples as a man twice-born, or reborn. Wisdom confers a new life, and those who become wise are born again, If any one doubts the presence of Masonic and occult influences at the time the Great Seal was designed, he should give due consideration to the comments of Professor Charles Eliot Norton of Harvard, who wrote concerning the unfinished pyramid and the All-Seeing Eye which adorned the reverse of the seal, as follows: “The device adopted by Congress is practically incapable of effective treatment; it can hardly (however artistically treated by the designer) look otherwise than as a dull emblem of a Masonic fraternity.” – The History of the Seal of the United States. 

The eagles of Napoleon and Cæsar and the zodiacal eagle of Scorpio are really phœnixes, for the latter bird–not the eagle–is the symbol of spiritual victory and achievement. Masonry will be in a position to solve many of the secrets of its esoteric doctrine when it realizes that both its single- and double-headed eagles are phœnixes, and that to all initiates and philosophers the phœnix is the symbol of the transmutation and regeneration of the creative energy–commonly called the accomplishment of the Great Work. The double-headed phœnix is the prototype of an androgynous man, for according to the secret teachings there will come a time when the human body will have two spinal cords, by means of which vibratory equilibrium will be maintained in the body.

Not only were many of the founders of the United States Government Masons, but they received aid from a secret and august body existing in Europe, which helped them to establish this country for a peculiar and particular purpose known only to the initiated few. The Great Seal is the signature of this exalted body, unseen and for the most part unknown and the unfinished pyramid upon its reverse side is a trestleboard setting forth symbolically the task to the accomplishment of which the United States Government was dedicated from the day of its inception. 

One of the most prevalent emblems of the Scottish Rite is that of the Double-Headed Eagle, the symbol of the double-headed eagle is perhaps one of the most ancient emblems in Scottish Rite freemasonry, the significance of this symbol such that it has found its way into the mythology and symbolism of so many cultures over time, as a symbol, the image embodies many layers of meaning, each of which are significant. The eagle itself has always represented such ideas as, nobility and just rulership. The large wings are protective, while the razor sharp talons inflict punishment to evil. The noble white head indicates a just and aristocratic ruler. Strength, courage, foresight and immorality have all been associated with this image, however, the double headed eagle image, speaks to humanity at a primal, archetypal level, as a symbol, it is capable of transcending language, race, history, time itself – and presenting to the mind a presence of transformation and the eternal truth of man’s real nature. 
In order to understand this symbol we will necessarily have to venture into the recesses of the secret chambers of our hearts, the true sanctum sanctorum or secret shrine of the Divine. At the portico to the temple of Apollo at Delphi were said to be inscribed in gold letters the words GNOTHI SEUTON meaning “Know Thyself.” The symbol of the double-headed eagle will be found, to harken back to this simple instruction of the Greek sage Pythagoras; an instruction which is the gateway to Light and Truth, and the perfected nature of man when elevated to the highest degree. 
In the Louvre are two large terra cotta cylinders dating from approximately 3000 BC covered completely in cuneiform characters. Recovered from the remains of the Babylonian city of Lagash they record the foundation of the city by Gudea. The cylinders recite the story of the King, how the country was in drought when the “waters of the Tigris fell low” and the people feared that the gods were displeased. King Gudea had a dream in which a divine man came to him; a man whose stature was immense, with his feet firmly on the earth and his head reaching to the heavens, and upon his head was the corona of a god surmounted by the Storm Bird that extended its wings across all of Lagash, The Divine Man of Gudea’s dream is the Babylonian god Ningersu, a solar deity. Associated with Ningersu is an eagle called Imgig, usually depicted lion-headed. There are a few extant examples of Imgig depicted as a double headed eagle. The oldest known example is a clay cylinder from a priest of the Sun god Ningersu which depicts a Priestess presenting a nude neophyte before an altar to the goddess Bau. Raised behind the goddess is an inscription supported by the heads of the double headed eagle. To date, this is the oldest known representation of the double- headed eagle. 

Within Scottish rite freemasonry, the symbol was inherited from the Order of the Royal Secret, as the ensign of their highest degree. The Knight Kadosh or Knight of the White and Black Eagle, the emblem of this degree was the double-headed eagle. We see this in the 30th degree of ” Scottish rite freemasonry, the Knight Kadosh, these are just a few references to the historical usage of this icon. The emblem of the double-headed eagle has made a significant appearance throughout time and across cultures, awakening within man a remembrance of his nobility, aristocracy and remembrance of his divine nature. From ancient Egypt and Babylon to the Roman Empire, Knights Templar and the Greek Orthodox Church, the double headed eagle has played a significant role, as albert Pike cited several works as evidence for the true meaning and significance of the double-headed eagle, which he equated with the alchemical Stone of the Philosophers. 

(“”The Phoenix completes the alchemical process of soul development. As the metaphorical Phoenix, builds its nest which at the same time is its funeral pyre, and then setting it alight it cremates and consumes itself. Then arising anew from the ashes ever transformed. For the process of Soul alchemy, is seen as the integration, purification and transmutation of the soul.””)

The double headed-eagle, as the ensign of the Alchemical Rebus or Stone of the Philosophers, symbolizes this process, the Magnum Opus or Great Work of spiritual regeneration, through its unification of opposites and association with alchemical Fire, the path of regeneration and ascent up the Tree of Life is indicated. The double-headed eagle as an alchemical symbol illustrates the hermetic and alchemical axiom SOLVE et COAGULA, the process of separating the elements and then bringing them together after purification and consecration, this process is somewhat analogous to the psychological practice of in-depth analysis, where the personality is analysed in detail, subconscious elements are brought to light and processed, and the personality is then made whole or fully integrated so that all the aspects of consciousness are in harmony – thus the divided self is healed and the person becomes whole. 

By Paul Francis Young.

The views and opinions expressed on Qabick Cents are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Qabick Cents Productions. Any content provided by our authors and content producers are of their opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual.

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