Immortality of the Phoenix
“Both Herodotus and Pliny noted the general resemblance in shape between the phoenix and the eagle, a point which the reader should carefully consider, for it is reasonably certain that the modern Masonic eagle was originally a phoenix. The body of the phoenix is described as being covered with glossy purple feathers, while its long tain feathers were alternately blue and red. Its head was light in color and about its neck was a circlet of golden plumage. …
“The phoenix 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 phoenix (which is the mythological Persian Roc) is also the name of a southern constellation, and therefore it has both an astronomical and an astrological significance. In all probability, the phoenix was the swan of the Greeks, the eagle of the Romans, and the peacock of the Far East. To the ancient mystics the phoenix was a most appropriate symbol of the immortality of the human soul.” ~Manly P. Hall
Phoenix, Eagle, and More
Hall notes that the phoenix is probably the source of the Greek swan, the Roman eagle, and the Persian Roc. He doesn’t mention the Native American firebird, which resembles the phoenix more closely than and of the others mentioned. I think the idea in most, if not all of these sacred birds, is that they represent the human soul. When the phoenix rises and flies toward the sun, it is a hint from the ancient mystery schools on the process for awakening and developing the spirit and soul. The immortality of the phoenix comes from the part of the legend that says that when the phoenix does die after 500 years, it is reborn from the ashes. That is a simplification of the original story, but it is the most important part. The phoenix never truly dies, just like the divine-human soul.
The colors of the phoenix have meaning, as does almost everything about this legendary bird. The purple feathers are not seen on many modern depictions of the phoenix, but they are important. Purple is now thought of as the color of royalty, but it is also the color that represents advanced spiritual development or mystical development. In some churches, priests and ministers wear purple only on the holiest occasions.
Blue and Red Tail
There is a reason why so many national flags are red, white, and blue. White is neutral and represents purity. Red is the color of the lowest chakra and represents matter and materialism. Blue is a spiritual color and represents spirits, souls, and spiritual worlds. So a red and blue tail on the phoenix signifies that the phoenix stands between the two major realms of being, matter, and spirit.
The gold feathers around the neck of the phoenix can be considered to be much like a gold crown (click here to read an older post about gold crowns). Gold crowns originally were worn by high priests or advanced spiritual adepts to show that they were one with the sun. Gold often represents the sun, especially the spiritual sun. Here it tells us that the phoenix is associated in some way with the spiritual sun. We know it is the spiritual sun and not the physical sun because we have already shown by its colors and immortal status that the phoenix represents spirit.
Cycles of Time and the Immortality of the Phoenix
The age span of the phoenix represented, according to Hall, a major cycle of time, an age ore eon. But cycles of time come in all sizes. From solar activity alone we get three day, four day, and 54-day cycles, as well as cycles measured in years. But the immortality of the phoenix I a reminder that time is essentially an illusion as it affects only the false self, the material self. Spirits and souls exist outside of the limitations of time and space, so there is no such thing as an old soul since souls do not age. The immortality of the phoenix is the immortality of the soul, and we need to try to understand that.
Death and Immortality of the Phoenix
While we talk about the immortality of the phoenix, we also hear that it dies every five hundred years, then is reborn from the ashes. More accurately, according to the oldest legends, a worm is reborn in the ashes and eventually becomes the new phoenix. I think this part of the legend is trying to tell us that even though we are immortal as spirits and souls, we have a mortal body that will die, must die (or be transformed into spirit). So we shouldn’t spend all of our time caring for the body that will die anyway and start spending more time on the development of the immortal soul. It may be immortal, but it must still be awakened and developed in this life if we are to join with it and become an immortal integrated being. The immortality of the soul alone isn’t enough.