Serpent of Good, Snake of Evil

“The serpent was chosen as the head of the reptilian family. Serpent worship in some form has permeated nearly all parts of the earth. The serpent mounds of the American Indian; the carved stone snakes of Central and South America; the hooded cobras of India; Python, the great snake of the Greeks; the sacred serpents of the Druids; … the mystic serpent of Orpheus; the snakes at the oracle of Delphi twining themselves around the tripod upon which the Pythian priestess sat, the tripod itself being in the form of twisted serpents. … All these bear witness to the universal veneration in which the snake was held. In the ancient Mysteries the serpent-entwined staff was the symbol of the physician. The serpent-wound staff of Hermes the emblem of the medical profession. Among nearly all these ancient peoples the serpent was accepted as the symbol of wisdom or salvation. The antipathy which Christianity feels towards the snake is based upon the little-understood allegory of the Garden of Eden.

“The serpent is true to the principle of wisdom, for it tempts man to the knowledge of himself. Therefore, the knowledge of self resulted from man’s disobedience to the Demiurgus, Jehovah. How the serpent came to be in the garden of the Lord after God had declared that all creatures which he had made during the six days of creation were good has not been satisfactorily answered by the interpreters of Scripture. The tree that grows in the garden is the spinal fire; the knowledge of the use of that fire is the gist of the great serpent.” ~Manly P Hall

Serpent and Snake

It is true that serpents or snakes are found in a surprisingly large number of symbols used by ancient mystery schools, medical schools, and schools of philosophy. I don’t think it is accurate to say that until Christianity made them symbols of evil that snakes and serpents were always good. Even in ancient times, there were both good and bad serpents.

One of the best known of these ancient snake symbols is Ouroboros. This symbol originated in ancient Egypt and is a symbol of Alchemy. Before the symbol was adopted by Alchemists, it was considered a symbol for renewal or the cyclical nature of life. It shows a snake biting its own tail forming a circle. The earliest copy of it is found in a shrine at the tomb of Tutankhamen. In this case, it is said to represent the beginning and end of time, which is a curious idea. Apparently, the ancient Egyptians knew that time was not permanent but part of the illusion of the physical universe.

In ancient Greece, where much was copied from their friends in Egypt, the symbol of Asclepius, the physician who was considered the god of healing, used as his symbol a staff with a snake wrapped around it.

As Hall notes, many other ancient civilizations had snake symbols in various places that showed the serpent (or snake) as a beneficial thing. But that changed with Christianity.

Evil Serpent or Snake

It is curious, I think, that Christianity is credited with making the snake a symbol of evil, yet that is based on a tale in the Bible that is in the Old Testament and predates Christianity. Specifically, it is the serpent that tempts Adam and Eve to do evil, which is to say, disobey God. But Hall says they have it all wrong.

In Hall’s opinion, the restrictions on eating from the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” was a rule of the false god, the Demiurge as he is known in Gnosticism. So by this logic, Adam and Eve were not doing evil at all. This interpretation, however, does not explain why they got bounced out of Paradise, home of the real God, and send to the realm of matter where the Demiurge reigns. Why would violators of the Demiurge’s rules be sent to his realm for the violation? It makes no sense to me, so I can’t agree with Hall on this point.

It is common practice for demons, devils, servants of the Demiurge, to make themselves appear as something good such as an angel or a saint. It is logical then they one would appear as a serpent to trick Adam and Eve if it knew that Adam and Eve considered the serpent a beneficial symbol. SO I think the allegorical tale recorded in the Bible is reasonably accurate. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is a symbol of materialism. It is a symbolic name for the material sun. Looking at it gave Adam and Eve knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge is generally considered a good thing, but it isn’t always. Some years ago, many were quite angry with a writer who published a book giving people instructions on how to make homemade bombs. That is an example of evil knowledge and it is something the real God didn’t want Adam and Eve to have. Once they had knowledge of evil in their minds, they were automatically forced out of Heaven where only good can exist. They were not chased out by angels except as having those angels represent the natural forces created by God that automatically control his realm and keep it good and clean, free of evil. So this is one case where the demon disguised as a snake was truly evil.

dying god

Dying God Myth and Symbolism

“The myth of Tammuz and Ishtar is one of the earliest examples of the dying god allegory, probably antedating 4000 B.C. … Tammuz did not occupy a position among the the first deities venerated by the Babylonians, who for lack of deeper knowledge looked upon him as a god of agriculture or a vegetation spirit. … Like many other savior gods, he is referred to as a ‘shepherd’. … Tammuz occupies the remarkable position of son and husband of Ishtar, the Babylonian and Assyrian Mother goddess. Ishtar was the most widely venerated deity of the Babylonian and Assyrian pantheon. … The story of her descent into the underworld in search presumably for the sacred elixir which alone could restore Tammuz to life is the key to the ritual of her mysteries. … Enraged upon beholding Ishtar, the Mistress of Hades inflicts upon her all manner of disease and imprisons her in the underworld.

“As Ishtar represents the spirit of fertility, her loss prevents the ripening of the crops and the maturing of all life upon the earth. …

“The myth of Ishtar symbolizes the descent of the human spirit through the seven worlds, or spheres of the sacred planets, until finally, derived of its spiritual adornments, it incarnates in a physical body—Hades—where the mistress of that body heaps every form of sorrow and misery upon the imprisoned consciousness. The waters of Life—the secret doctrine—cure the disease of ignorance, and the spirit, ascending again to its divine source, regains its God given adornments” ~Manly P. Hall

Dying God Allegory

Why would anyone create a god that does? And how can anyone think that a being is a god if that being can die? The answer seems to be that that among the ancients who worshiped a pantheon of gods, they generally had a hierarchy for them. Some gods were more powerful than others, and there was usually a chief god or father god who was the true God who was eternal and all-powerful. Tammuz was not considered that chief god. He was, we could say, a few levels down on the pyramid of gods. As such, it was possible for him to die, though it would take some supernatural being or force to do it.

More importantly, it seems that Tammuz was not a true god at all, but simply an allegory or metaphor for the forces of nature. The primitive people say the cycles of nature where plants seem to die in the fall and magically return in the spring. We know now that this happens in one of two ways. Some plants really do die, but leave seeds that sprout in the spring. Other plants only die above the ground leaving bulbs or roots below ground that do come back in the spring. So with the first type, they really do die, but their offspring are born to replace them. In the second case, they only appear to die, but part of them remains alive. So in no case do they truly die and get reborn. Nonetheless, a dying god generally represents this cycle of nature. As such, we can probably assume that to some degree, and on some level, Tammuz was a solar deity. Other dying gods can be found in other cultures, many of them copies of Tammuz who came earlier. Jesus could be put into this category, although he never claimed to be God or a god, but only Messiah. But there are many who believe Jesus was God, yet he was put to death. Continue reading “Dying God Myth and Symbolism”

John the baptist

John the Baptist and His Odd Habits

“Without laying stress on the details of the story of John’s infancy as given in the third gospel, reminiscent as they may be of the Old Testament birth-stories of the old-time national heroes Isaac, Samson and Samuel, not to mention the coincidence that the two heroines of the gospel birth-narratives bear the names of Miriam and Elisheba, the sister and wife respectively of Aaron, the first priest, we may very reasonably believe, as it is stated, that John was of priestly descent; and therefore in every probability he was well versed, if not highly trained, in the scriptures. Vowed from his birth to God by his parents, his strange dress and peculiar ascetic mode of life are quite in keeping with prophetical traditions, and thus of the schools of the prophets. But in keeping with the spiritual significance of his whole teaching, which will be more fully brought out in the sequel, such an outer sign in high probability had an inner meaning for this great proclaimer of repentance, of the turning back of Israel in contrition unto God. Now there were certain Palestinian pre-Christian allegorists or exponents of the scriptures on quasi-mystical lines called Dorshē Reshumōth. According to a Rabbinic legend, going back along this line of interpretation, the ancient myth of Gen. 3:21 was conceived more spiritually. After the fall, the first falling away from God, Yahveh-Elohīm clothed Adam and Eve in coats of skin, not because of their nakedness, but in exchange for their lost paradisaical garments of light.” ~”Gnostic John 
the Baptizer: Selections from the
 Mandæan John-Book” by G. R. S. Mead

John The Baptist

It is strange that John the Baptist is treated by many Christians as a superficial character in the story. Most know him as nothing more than the one who baptized Jesus. But John wasn’t just a typical wandering priest unaffiliated with any church or religious organization. Others may remember that he was a strong supporter and defender of Jesus and his teachings and was eventually put to death for it. Still, when they talk of the great figures of the Bible, John the Baptist is probably not in the top five.

Mead says that John was of priestly descent and probably well versed in scripture. John was, in fact, a Rabbi of the Essene sect, just as was Jesus and his family. While there were many wandering priests and preachers in those days, few achieved the following of John and Jesus. Some people are able to recognize truth and holiness when they see it and hear it. Those people listened to these holy men.

The Strange Habits of John the Baptist

One of the best known of the strange habits of John was his food. It is said he lived on honey and locusts. A strange diet for sure. But is that really what he ate, and the only things he ate? Probably not. While it is true that the highly trained and experienced members of Essene communities ate little, when they did eat, it was simple food like bread, herbs, and wine or water. There is no mention that I am aware of Essenes eating locusts or any other insects. So why does the Bible say that John did? There are two possibilities. One is that this claim was made my an enemy to put him down as a crazy person to be ignored. Another is that it was symbolic, not literal.

The locust or grasshopper generally symbolizes a leap forward. When dealing with spiritual people, it likely means a leap forward in faith and beliefs. So John “eating” locusts meant that he had had a leap forward, a spiritual awakening. This made him a worthy preacher and teacher, a proper forerunner and defender of Jesus and the true teachings that have largely been lost or abandoned by the popular churches of today.

Honey is a symbol of heavenly bliss, therefore also represents a spiritual awakening. More specifically, honey does not rot. It lasts virtually forever. And coating outer things in honey can preserve them for a long time. It therefore also represents immortality.

So when it is said that John the Baptist “ate” honey and locusts, it means that he has taken that leap forward, has awakened his spirit and soul, and has become a true immortal. Immortality is never a thing of the material body, but one of the spirit and soul. But we don’t truly become immortal as individuals until we awaken the soul, which is to say, making it conscious by filling it with Divine Light from the spiritual sun.

The Even Stranger Clothing of John the Baptist

It is said in the Bible that John the Baptist was clothed in skin just as Adam and Eve were after they fell from the Garden of Eden. Mead gets it partially correct when he says that this was not to hide their nakedness, but because they had lost their divine garments of light. He takes it too literally, though, in believing that this means that Adam and Eve wrapped themselves in the hides of dead animals. Even more, he gets it wrong when he accepts that John the Baptist did the same in memory of that event.

Again, we are dealing with allegory, symbolism. Adam and Eve were not wearing the skins of animals. They were wearing their own skins, skins and bodies of dense matter. This they didn’t have before the fall. In the garden of Eden, they had bodies of spirit and light, not matter. After the fall, their true self was hidden in a garment (cage?) of flesh so they could function in a world of matter. T was the recognition of this fact that had Adam and Eve trying to cover and hide themselves. They wanted to hide their bodies of matter, not specific organs.

So when it says that John also clothed himself in skin in memory of Adam and Eve, it means that he was a spiritual being, perhaps an angel, who “fell” down to the dimension of matter where he had to take on a body of matter in order to function. What he wore on that body is not relevant. It is the body itself that is being discussed when it says he wore skins.


Orpheus, Eurydice and the Orphic Mysteries

“Orpheus, the Thracian bard, the great initiator of the Greeks, ceased to be known as a man and was celebrated as a divinity several centuries before the Christian era. ‘As to Orpheus himself,’ writes Thomas Taylor, ‘scarcely a vestige of his life is to be found amongst the immense ruin of time. …

“Orpheus was founder of the Grecian mythological system which he used as the medium for the promulgation of his philosophical doctrines. The origin of his philosophy is uncertain. He may have got it from the Brahmans, there being legends to the effect that he got it from a Hindu. … Orpheus was initiated into the Egyptian Mysteries, from which he secured extensive knowledge of magic, astrology, sorcery, and medicine. The Mysteries of the Cabiri at Samothrace were also conferred upon him, and these undoubtedly contributed to his knowledge of medicine and music.

“The romance of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the tragic episodes of Greek mythology and apparently constitutes the outstanding feature of the Orphic rites.” ~Manly P. Hall

The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice

According to the tale, Eurydice, while trying to escape from a would-be rapist, was bitten by a poisonous snake on the heel of her foot, and died. Orpheus went to the underworld and convinced Pluto (Hades) to release her. But Hades put a condition on it. Orpheus had to return to the realm of the living without once looking back. If he did, Eurydice could follow. But Orpheus became fearful that she wasn’t behind him and turned around to see. With a cry of dismay, she was pulled back to the underworld.

The Symbology of The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice

There is much spiritual symbology in this tale, and that is the point. Such tales are rarely if ever, intended to be taken literally. It is the symbology of it that matters.

First, we have a very obvious one. Orpheus let his fear get control of him. As a result, he failed in his quest. Someone needs to explain this to the followers of Trumpery. If you let your fear take control of you, you make bad choices and fail in your quests. Wise people have known this for many centuries. Fools refuse to listen.

The heel is often a symbol of moving forward. Being bitten by a poisonous snake probably represents that Eurydice took some false advice, perhaps from a being of darkness, and went to her death while thinking she was moving forward. We can see this as a warning to be careful who we take advice from.

While many would assume the land of the living to be the material world, it is more likely to mean the spiritual world where every being lives forever. So Eurydice became materialistic (another interpretation of the snake) and therefore was trapped in the realm of matter.

The whole story is a warning to not let our fears of the unknown—the spiritual realm—prevent us from developing our spiritual self. Also, to not cling to the temporary things of matter. Those who cling to matter become trapped in it. Those who seek higher realms can reach them if they know what they are doing and are not following a false teacher.

Man to God

We should take careful note of what Mr. Hall says about Orpheus being a man who ceased to be a man and became a god in the eyes of the Greeks. This is not something limited to the ancient Greeks. It is the same thing that was done with Jesus and Buddha. Too often people can’t understand the greatness of truly awakened masters so think they must be gods.

Orphic Mysteries

There is more to the Orphic mysteries than just the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Details of the group are scarce. It is believed that they influenced the Pythagoreans and Platonists, so we can get some idea from those philosophies. What is known is that the Orphic views included the idea that the soul was divine and immortal. They also practiced methods that were supposed to release them from being trapped in materialism and aid them in communicating with God. Since Orpheus was known as a musician and is depicted with a lyre, we can assume that music was used in their methods of awakening the spirit and soul. This was also true of the Pythagoreans as I’ve previously covered in this blog.