Serpents and Lions
(Transcribed from a recording of a talk given at Sacred Space Conference on March 22, 2019.)
Serpents and Dragons… and Lions. Actually dragons are serpents. They are winged serpents.
I want to start by talking about why we are doing this. While I appreciate knowledge and information for the sake of knowledge and information, I appreciate the practicality of it as well.
We can start with the idea of symbols. We live in a culture that is based on literacy. Because of literacy, our concept of a symbol is a representation of something. That’s where we get our idea of sympathetic magic. We use something that has an affinity, that has some sort of energetic signature associated with something we are trying to draw in. But in oral cultures, it was a different concept. The symbol was a direct apprehension of a principle. It was a direct apprehension. It didn’t have that level of abstraction.
There are indicators of snake symbolism going back 40,000 years. For these people in these oral cultures, this was a direct apprehension of a principal. Most of us in our cultures and our societies have moved away from the connection with Nature, the connection with Earth. When I speak of this, I am not just talking about what we experience as what we call the physical manifestation of Earth. I am talking about the multi-levels of bandwidth associated with the Earth. We do this in our magical work where we work with symbols; we use those symbols that point to a different level of reality. That’s part of what we call to. We seek to take that symbol to a different level of understanding, a different level of reality.
There’s also a place beyond all of that. There is a place beyond thought. There is a place beyond perception. Part of our vision tonight, possibly, is we’re going to go there. In order to get there, we are going to start with actually working with a direct apprehension, not unlike our great ancestors would have done, by looking at the relationship of what these symbols meant to them and what, for many of us, it means in our current relationship.
One of the things that drew me to this, initially was – and I am going to confess up front, you are going to be hearing a lot of transpersonal psychology thrown into the mix in all of this, because it is all interconnected, and also because that’s a leaning that I have – but what drew me to this was I do feel personally an affinity, a relationship, with both of these frequencies (leonine & serpentine) and the way they express. If you look at it purely from an archetypal standpoint, we generally associate serpents in our current time, certainly in our Western tradition, as being of the chthonic world. It’s the underworld energy. It’s associated with moistness. It’s associated with deep, deep, subconscious content, whereas the leonine energy, while it is certainly associated with fiery emotion, tends to be associated with consciousness. It is sort of a masculine, solar energy that is associated with ego and with outstanding consciousness.
My initial attraction to this was to explore this relationship with what appear to be polar opposites, but the more that I got into the research as well as my own personal working with this, I learned that, yes, there are aspects of it that express itself in the appearance of duality, but when you look at it on pretty much the mini-subtle and not so subtle ways, there are many, many, many places where they intersect. In fact, there are many places where from the ancient perspective they were one and the same. Thought provoking, isn’t it?
We’re going to start with some basic concepts that are associated with each of them and then we are going to jump in from there. So, I’m going to engage you, because everyone in here is a practitioner. You’ve worked with these things. You have your own ideas. We’re going to start with the Serpent. When I say, ‘the Serpent’, going back to my starting out point of the Dragon, the Serpent can express itself as the Dragon, the winged creature. The Serpent is associated with the serpent that is underneath the ground, the serpent that is on the ground, flying serpents, cosmic serpents. Serpents have many, many, levels. They are creators. They are also destroyers. There’s a broad spectrum of understanding of serpents.
Speaking of “the Serpent”, does anyone want to jump in and tell me when you think of the experience of the serpentine energy, what is your primary thought that comes to mind, or your primary experience?
Healing, Renewal, Creation, Destruction, Transformation.
That’s a great start; that’s a great foundation. Those are powerful. When we speak of these words, we are talking about renewal. We are speaking here of transformation. We are speaking here of the powers of life and death.
Now we can look at this on one level and say, “Ok, as an ancient observer, when I look at a serpent, I’m seeing something that is totally other. How does a serpent do this thing called mobility? It doesn’t have legs. It’s not in the water with fins. And yet it can move. Not even can it move, it can move very quickly. Also, it doesn’t seem to ever close its eyes. Just on a pure physicality level, it doesn’t seem to have ears. It eats, but you may never see a serpent eat. A serpent is something that can eat and then not eat again for months. It also has the ability to inflict death if it is poisonous. These ideas that this energy represented was indeed resurrection, renewal, healing. We know that many of the healing gods were associated with the serpent.
Let’s talk a little bit about healing. We must explore it from the perspective for a moment of the difference between what we think of as healing and perhaps with what the ancients would consider healing. What do you think that might be, the difference? That’s an evocative question, isn’t it? Well, let’s start with myth. For those of us who were raised in the Christian tradition or have explored the Christian tradition, we have looked at the story of Lazarus and the story of resurrection. From the healer’s perspective, the ancients saw that anytime you were asleep or that you had illness, when you recovered you were resurrected, because when you were asleep or when you had illness, you were as one who was dead. And when you had healing, when you were upright, when you were able to engage in the world, then you were healed. The idea of resurrection is associated with healing, but it is associated with the ability to engage in life. It was not our understanding that you are literally physically dead and you are raised from the dead. Yes, you were raised from the dead from an ancient’s perspective, but death meant you were not able to engage in life, whether you were asleep or whether you were moving about.
Healing had a different connotation, because healing was not a separate category. We’re going back to oral traditions. We’re the ones who associate, “My leg is hurt. I need my leg to be healed.” Their perspective of a healing would be the abilities to engage in the qualities of life. If you could not do that, then there was need for healing, but healing may not mean anything to do with your leg. That’s always been confusing. You’ll see where someone has a hurt leg and the formula for the healing is to go in the yard and move a bush from here to here, replant that bush from one location to the other and that will facilitate the healing, and that person will walk again, or that person will move about again. We’re all going, “That doesn’t make sense. How can that bush over there have (anything to do with someone’s leg being healed)?” And that person many times will have an experience of healing. They will get up and walk. They’ve got this wound in their leg, but the wound heals. Because what they understood was it wasn’t separate. And they lived in a mindset that absolutely as a group agreed upon that. They agreed upon it and therefore it was so.
In the Egyptian system, Heka was Magick. It was the underlying force of all things. In physics, it’s quantum physics. We see the outer manifestation of it in physics, but that which upholds this foundation is the quantum level. It is where change occurs. If you don’t have this abstract layer that we have, which has by the way many advantages, but if you don’t have this in place in your culture and you have a direct apprehension, going back to the idea that a symbol is a direct apprehension of a principle, then if you have an understanding that that bush in your yard has a direct relationship with your ability to move, with your healing of your leg, then when you move that bush, you will have healing in your leg. That’s where I want us to go. Not to the bush. Although if it’s a burning bush, that could really be cool. But where we have to go, I’m going to circle back around, because part of my goal tonight is I want us to be able to go to the place that is beyond the logic that we have. Logic is a great thing, but we are going to talk about that with the Lion. Well, we’re really not, skip that, delete that. We’re going to talk about something else for the Lion. But logic has its place, just not with the Lion and the Serpent. That’s somebody else. Logic has its place, but it’s only one place. Many of us find ourselves in this paradigm of where we get stuck in that wheel and we can’t quite leap past it. And it’s that ‘past it’ place, beyond thought, that affords us the possibility, opening to new possibilities, new ways of perceiving, new ways of thinking, and new ways of healing.
So we have the Serpent who was apprehended as being associated with healing because what could the Serpent do? The Serpent has the ability to go into the underworld, to go into the underworld and talk to the plants. How do you do this? The Serpent was one seen as having the capacity to talk to the plants. But another aspect of the Serpent was that it could also go to the underworld to retrieve those hidden secrets. We all know that Serpents were associated with ones who gave prophecies.
The other aspect of Serpents was that Serpents were the messengers of the Gods. Does that sound familiar? And whom do we know and think of when we think of the messengers of the Gods? We think of Hermes, right? We think of Thoth. We think of those who have the ability to have this direct communication. But there’s another aspect to the Serpent. Serpents were often seen as divine in and of themselves. They often were in many cultures Gods and Goddesses. In fact, the Romans and the Greeks oftentimes depicted some of their Gods and Goddesses with serpentine features. For those of us who have had just bits of exposure to some of the African traditions, we also see a lot of the serpentine Gods being presented. So you have Serpents actually taking on the form of Gods.
The other aspect of the Serpent, going back to Egypt to the Goddess Wadjet, considered to be the Mother of all of the other Goddesses. All of the other Goddesses came from her. She is one of the most ancient forms… she and the Vulture, which is really about assimilation. Out of her came the ways that the other Goddesses expressed themselves, including, by the way, the lion-faced Gods. They were an expression of this Cobra Goddess, an early expression of the Cobra Goddess. For those of you who had seen my post, that was like an ‘aha’ moment. I know there are many people here who appreciate Sekhmet, who appreciate Isis, but there are early depictions of Sekhmet and Isis with a serpentine tail and the face of a lion. We are speaking here of the Serpent and the other aspect mentioned is when you do see this expression, which is also the Uraeus, the raising up. Uraeus was actually Greek, but then it was Latinized. Basically what Uraeus means from the Egyptian standpoint is rising up. You will see the Uraeus as being depicted as rising. It is always going up, not flat; that’s a different aspect. The earliest Goddesses in many traditions are often associated with Serpentine energy. On the one hand, we can look at that and say, “Oh, yes, they are associated here with an expression of the Earth.” There’s an aspect of that, but within that, there’s also a cosmic aspect. The early Goddess, while she had a relationship and dominion over the Earth and with the Earth and in the Earth, there is also the Serpent that is the Cosmic Serpent. That again crosses all traditions; there’s a multi-variant symbol. So you’ve got this Cosmic Serpent. The Eye of Ra is sent out. It’s a Cosmic principle; it comes back. There’s this whole thing that happens. In order to appease it, it’s put on the forehead. It comes up as serpentine. That’s where the Uraeus comes from. The Serpent energy is a Cosmic energy that has the capacity to operate on a cosmic level, on the level of the sky, on the level of the Earth, and the level underneath. That was known. That was depicted in this multi-variant symbol across the board. It’s depicted and apprehended, and again I’m using the word ‘apprehended’, as a power and potency in this frequency that was called upon as needed.
The other aspect you will actually see on sarcophagi depicts chariots that are being drawn by winged serpents, because these serpents had the ability, and were recognized as having the ability, to take you to wherever you needed to go.
There’s another aspect to Serpent energy. We’re all talking about, “Give me that Serpent. Bring it on. Healing, renewal, resurrection, yes! Divine Kingship, God. I could go for that. Ok.” Now there’s just one little tricky thing with the Serpent energy. It can kick your ass! And will! There’s that little catch. I really appreciate the many ways it’s expressed, but one of the strongest ways is in alchemy. It gives us the clearest understanding of what we’re talking about here, the alchemical understanding.
I am actually going to read you something that really depicts a big piece of what I want us to grasp with the Serpent energy. This is the flying Serpent. The aspect is the Dragon. This actually comes from an old Grimoire that is associated with alchemy:
I am a poisonous dragon, present everywhere, and to be had for nothing. My water and my f fire dissolve and compound. Out of my body thou shalt draw the Green and the Red Lion; but if thou dost not exactly know me thou wilt – with my fire – destroy thy five senses. A most pernicious, quick poison comes out of my nostrils, which hath been the destruction of many. I am the Egg of Nature, known only to the Wise. I am called Mercury. I am the old dragon that is present everywhere on the face of the earth. I am father and mother, youthful and ancient, weak and yet most strong, life and death, visible and invisible, hard and soft, descending to the earth and ascending to the heavens, most high and most low, light and heavy. I am dark and bright from the earth and I come from heaven.
The Lion and the Serpent both embody the opposites. The Serpent, and actually this alchemical is also, as we will see when we talk about the Lion, is the exact properties they associate alchemically with the Lion. There are some differences, which we will go over. But the Serpent energy in its most latent form, and again we must take off our overlay of what is good and what is bad, but in its most latent form has to do with the chthonic world with chaos, with that which is hidden, with that which is not known, which by the way should scare the shit out of us. If it doesn’t, come talk to me. We can be cavalier; I can be cavalier. I won’t even speak for you; I can be cavalier. Bring it on. I know chaos magicians have their gig, but we’re not even talking about that. That’s a tricky wicket, but we won’t go into that. Set, in the Egyptian pantheon, was a God of Chaos. I do know there are those people who are practitioners who work with Set. Ok. I appreciate that you have to have chaos, just like all things. You have to have chaos in order to have creation. But there’s a reason that Horus had to kick Set’s ass and keep it. And why? Isis got involved with that. There’s a reason for that, because with chaos, enough is never enough. It’s not like I have my little corner of chaos here and I’m good; you’ve got your part of chaos; and we’re in good balance; we’re all getting along; and we’re so happy. Chaos is like: More, More, More!
On the other hand, there is this aspect, and we’ll see this again with the Lion energy too, there is this aspect that I’m going to pretend that chaos does not exist in my subconscious realm. You don’t exist. You aren’t part of me. You aren’t a part of anything. I am order. I have got it going on. I’m good. And then you fall into the pothole of the reality that chaos is part of you and it’s right there, because the unconscious realm has a nagging way of biting at your feet. I’m using these metaphors, but I’m being very serious. We’re talking about creation here. We are talking about destruction. We are talking about ultimately… because what you heard is that dragon, and you’ll see this with the lion too, is that dragon can be very poisonous. It can be very dangerous. It can be very tricky. The Serpent energy can be very, very, tricky. Ask anyone who has tried to raise their Kundalini. O, wow, I want to be enlightened. It doesn’t always go so well. It can have consequences, and serious ones, including bodily physical consequences, emotional and mental consequences. I don’t want to be the voice of doom and gloom here. But I do know, we all know this, we are all serious practitioners, we are all in this work because we are drawn to this work. But we also know that in order to safely step beyond the realm… that is our goal here tonight, to learn how to step beyond the realm, or perhaps many of you have already been there.
I would like to teach you perhaps a way to going there consciously. We have to be able to recognize that we have to have a relationship within ourselves of our own duality, of our own polarities, and of that subsequently from the microcosm within ourselves to the all. So we talk about the Uraeus, we talk about the aspect of the cobra that is that nurturing aspect, that protective aspect. That is also the Eye of Ra that went out and destroyed. That is the Eye of Ra that will be vengeful, that will be vindictive. You see that again with the Serpentine energy. You see that also with the Lion energy. You’re going to see that energy that says: “Yes. I will protect you. I will be your guardian.” Not unlike the Lion, which I’ll speak more of. They are guardians of the gate in different ways. We see this in the stories of the mythology. I’m going to speak here for a moment about mythology, because mythology is also telling what are the underpinnings of reality. This is something I appreciated that Michael said today. We want to open up those file systems in ourselves so that we can apprehend what is being taught to us. We have to then be able to open to the levels of mythology in a whole different way. This is something that Leanne spoke about this morning. These were in the oral traditions that subsequently were written down. And yes, there were mistranslations and misquotations. But much of that, if you can get past that, is that they were talking about literally the underpinnings of reality. Remember what I spoke of earlier, that there were those who could heal by literally moving a bush. And it happened, because they spoke of a different reality, a reality that was apprehended upon, and agreed upon.
Now going back to my message about the Serpent energy and about the fact that it represented that which can be very dangerous, very tricky, very challenging, poisonous, because what it is drawing on, if we want to look at it at a microcosmic level within ourselves, is our deep unconscious content. I’m talking about the instinctual level. One of the things you’ll see, the differences between the way the Lion is portrayed and the way that the Snake is portrayed, is that the Snake doesn’t give an ass about you. It doesn’t. I have a friend, and I adore her. She has a snake and she’ll say to me, “I think my snake loves me.” No. We can’t have this good warm cozy feeling about this deep subconscious content. There is no love here. There is no “you’re such a nice guy”. You’re going to see that with some of the alchemical images. You’ll see the hero go in for the battle with the dragon. What does that hero have? He has got a sword, or she has got a sword, and she is armored up. It is serious. It’s not this, “I’m going to go in with a smile and a good attitude and we’re all going to get along.” No, because that’s the thing with the Serpent energy; if you go in with that attitude or, what scares me even more, when we go into that deep, instinctual, subconscious content, which is what Jung would call the imaginal realm, you go into that and you get a message. I have been told that I walk out that door where the exit is and my soul mate awaits me. We’re going to go off and I’m going to do that. The first person I see, I’m going to leave the hotel with them and find my way in the world because that’s what my instinctual content, what my message has been. But truly, we’ve seen cases where people will get a message from deep within themselves so they act upon it without consideration. That’s dangerous, too. On the other hand, what is it that the Snake is usually guarding? All of the wisdom, right? All of the secrets. All of the power, because that’s a big energy with the Snake and with the Lion, the power. So if you want to be able to access this level is that you go into this instinctual nature, which is not the feeling aspect that we’ll talk about with the Lion. It’s just pure instinct. It is on one level the Kundalini. In order to have a relationship with it, it has to do what? It’s got to rise. Going back to the ancient Egyptians, they were the risen ones. They rise up, in order to have that perspective, in order to do the work with consciousness in the sense that it has to make itself be known. So we have to be able to take that instinctual consciousness and raise it up. That is the message we receive in our communication over and over. If you work in that subconscious, and you take it and you work in those levels of the experience of life and death, duality, and you raise it up, then you have the ability to have a relationship with it, a conscious relationship, because the job of the consciousness is to be able to have self-awareness.
Going back to the image that you have the hero in the alchemical image that goes and fights the Dragon and often the Dragon is killed, because why? The implication of death is… Let’s take it from a quantum physics level. There is a method to my madness, I promise you. What do we know when an observer observes something, what happens? Change, right? When you are working with Serpent energy, you are armored up. You have your sword. You go in, not naïve: “I want to make friends with the Dragon.” But you go in with a sense of self. You go in prepared to do battle. And yes, in that battle, there is a major change that occurs. Oftentimes, the Dragon will be… the Serpent will be shown as going through a transformation, a death because it has come to have a relationship, a knowingness, with the ego self. But then what happens to the self? The hero changes. There is a major transformation there.
My bigger point of working with Serpentine energy is this: You have to hold your sense of self because you will get pulled in. It is a vast and roaring sea. We are talking here about an energy of creation and of death. We are talking here about that which has been long before. There are indicators that serpents themselves, in the life stream of humanity, have been here 70 million years. The Serpentine energy goes back. It is huger than huge. To work with the Serpentine energy you have to be able to have your sense of self and not give way to the power, because that is where you are dancing on madness. And believe me, I know. I know. That’s what we see on a microcosmic level… Have you ever seen some people who do this work who start out and sometimes things get a little bit wonky? They have trouble dealing with their life, or they go off on some grandiosity, or something that doesn’t go well. It’s because the instinctual subconscious content, where we’re drawing up this power, becomes seductive. It becomes overwhelming and we get pulled in.
Ok, so now that I’ve told you the cheery news, my question is why do it at all? The truth is, we can’t function in life without a relationship with our instinctual nature. We cannot function. I am not even talking about magick hoo-ha here. I am just talking about basic life function. Most of us are disassociated from our instinctual consciousness. Most of us don’t have a relationship. This goes back to the separation of extremes, etc. etc. We lose this incredible body of information. That’s the problem if we don’t have contact with this subconscious instinctual nature. It is an incredible wealth of information. Yes it is power. Yes it is vitality. Yes it is potency. But it is also an incredible body of information. It is a body of information that extends beyond all of our logical boundaries. It is a body of information that opens us to possibilities that we cannot conceive as imaginable. Then we have to be able to take that information, this is where the sense of self comes in, into a level where we make decisions around it. How do we use that information? If we’re lost in the information itself, we lose the power to do that. It takes over us. Actually for most of us in our modern society, we aren’t in touch with our instinctual nature. We just aren’t. It’s like we are disassociated from it. But if we do go down that road, we tend to get seduced by it; we tend to get overwhelmed by it. As we work with the Serpentine energy, as you open to this, which is really life. Really that’s what we’re talking about but it’s that heka. It is the magical field. It is the quantum field. If we want to look at it in a different language, it is those things that emanate from without, and within, and above, and below. That Serpentine energy is not emotional-based. It is based upon this level of consciousness. Part of the aspect of Serpentine energy is that it is wisdom. If you can take that body of knowledge and use it, raise that Serpentine energy up, it becomes wisdom, but it starts out as instinct. You can’t bypass it. You cannot bypass it. That’s the problem we have. We want to bypass it, because it’s sticky, nasty, horrible, yucky stuff as well as amazing, fascinating, and seductive. Ultimately, the Dragon becomes the Philosopher’s Stone. But guess what? That is also what happens with the Lion. We’re going to talk about the Lion, because the Lion is getting short-changed here. I will pay for it at 2am when I get woken up! I also do want to have time to do our working, too.
The Lion has all of the attributes: the Sacred King, kingship. The Lion is associated with fiery emotions. So let’s talk about emotions, because that is different from what we talked about Serpentine energy. What is this emotion thing? Why do we need emotions? We cannot have a relationship with spirit without emotions. I’m going to repeat that. We need emotions in order to have a relationship with spirit. We also need emotions in order to function in the world, because emotion is not unlike instinct. By the way, emotions and instinct have an intersection. They kind of cross over. There’s a place where instinct is beyond emotion, but a lot of emotion and instinct are like this. Emotions give us a lot of information. These emotions give us the ability to have a relationship with spirit. We need that fiery emotion. Emotions also give us that passion and the drive that actually keeps us alive. It’s like the Aphrodite energy. Life gets kind of sucky sometimes. Life gets hard. What is it that drives us to live? Emotion. But it’s because you like it. You have an emotional construct. It is the Aphrodite energy. Life itself without the drive of emotions is that it is hard to survive. It is hard to have the will to live. The Lion, fiery emotion, is associated with will, the will to live, the will to long, the will to reach. The will can go, not unlike with the Dragon, it carries us up because it’s that same will to reach out. That passion can turn into lust. It can turn into power for the sake of power. That’s that control. The Leonine energy, while it is associated with kingship, it is associated with this fiery kind of… if we want to look at it from the standpoint of Tiphareth, which is associated with the Sun, it is this idea of shining light on the entire kingdom and on all things. The other aspect of Leonine energy can also be abusive; it can be violent; it can be aggressive; it can be demeaning. That’s again that mixture of opposites, not unlike the Serpentine energy. It’s holding both. As I mentioned to you on the alchemical, you will often see in alchemical texts the same kind of thing, is that part of the job of the hero is to be able to conquer the lion. The typical idea is that we can’t let our emotions rule us, but we also can’t ignore them. We have to develop a relationship with them.
Let’s also talk more about the Lion in relationship to the idea that the Lion can be this fierce protector not unlike the Snake in a different way. The Lion has been associated with Sacred Kings. It has been associated with Christ Consciousness. It has been associated with gnosis, this higher level of wisdom and knowing. But they are often seen as boundaries. They are seen on the boundaries. They guard access to the mystical temples and to crossing over the boundaries. They are not just guarding the boundaries; they are guarding the entire mystical space. In the Egyptian systems, we see the Aker Lions that look behind and in front. I do want to mention this just for a place of knowledge: oftentimes we do associate the Lion with the Leo constellation, but understand, the Egyptians didn’t have a Leo constellation. There was no Leo constellation in their system. But they did have the Lion and they had, specifically, the lions that oftentimes were there, in many ways, guarding the temple gates, but also guarding the gates to the underworld. But when you encountered the Lion, if indeed you turned the Lion, which was usually done by some sort of initiatic things… The Lion, oftentimes when you saw this in the Mithraic kinds of initiation rituals, if you were able, and you could not do it through the means of a weapon, you had to do it through initiatory knowledge, if you were able to survive your encounter with the Lion without being devoured, then the Lion became your Guide. It became your Protector. We see that a lot with the Serpentine energy, too. The Serpent will be your Guide. It will be your Protector. In fact, they were called Knowers of the Way. The other interesting thing with the Lions in the Mithraic tradition was the Lion had a God that was like their version of the Christ. Many see it as a precursor to what became the Christian Christ. They associate the Lion with the ability to walk you through the underworld, not unlike the Serpent. The Lion could take you, not only into the upper worlds and into the celestial worlds, but could take you into the underworld.
So going back to what we talked about but in a different way, we’ve got this instinctual energy with the Serpentine that if it’s risen up in can become wisdom. Then what do we have with the Lion? We have this emotional energy, right? This passion. This desire. This capacity for a whole range of all the emotions. Go back to when you were 16, 15. What can those emotions do to us? Those emotions can be tricky wickets. We develop a relationship with emotions. We work with our emotions not unlike what we talked about in a different way with the Serpentine so that we have a different relationship with it. But specifically, you can’t bypass the emotions any more than you can bypass instinct. Just as Serpentine energy can be an energy that can give you incredible amounts of information. If you go in with a sense of self, it can help you open to a different level of knowing, of gnosis, not unlike that of your emotions, too. We see this in the alchemical texts, that by developing a relationship with your emotions, it can give you a different relationship with Spirit. It gives you a different access to Spirit. If you don’t develop that relationship, then you will get stopped at the gate.
Have you ever had an experience where you’ve had a contact, it may be an encounter with a being, it may be an experience that comes up, it may scare you, it may put you in awe, but there’s where you stop. Have you ever had that? Wherever is this place I’ve had this meeting at, this encounter, my emotional reaction ends up that I get right here. Have you ever had that? Afterwards, I feel like, yes, I got a piece of something but I wasn’t able to get more. I feel like I got stopped somehow. There is this refinement that happens between this instinctual level which has this vast array of knowledge with this emotional reaction to it. How you refine that emotion that then you use these two and you use your emotional reaction to it instead of stopping you, it can push you beyond into a different level of knowing. It can push you into a different level of relationship.
The Lion was the keeper of the borders. Our emotions are our keepers of the borders. That is why when we look at occult teachings, what is a whole boatload of energy spent on? A lot of it is spent on your personal stuff. A lot of it is on your personal refinement. A lot of it is on your personal refinement, your personality refinement. It spends a lot of time working with your emotions. If we don’t work with our emotions, many of us, at least for myself in my earlier training, I just thought that it would be that I’d turn into an a-hole. That’s sort of my take why I did all that emotional work. And then I matured a little bit in my understanding and it wasn’t just about me, golly gee. I haven’t quite got past that narcissistic sense that it must be, but it’s actually because it’s a bigger purpose. It’s great to have that kind of different sense emotionally, and have emotional intelligence, and be able to interface in a different way, but ultimately, if we are looking at it magickally, what we know is if we put on our magickal personalities, when we step into that part of our training, when we step into ritual space, is that we become focused. We have the ability to be both broad and simultaneously to be absolutely vertical. So we have this horizontal focus and the vertical focus. You can open to instinct. You can take that knowledge up to the emotional content, which is really going back to our identity, our sense of self, the armored hero. Ultimately, though, all of that becomes then a place where, instead of it stopping right there, it rises up.
There was an early Egyptian Gnostic symbol, Chnoubis, that was used quite a bit by Aleister Crowley. It was associated with the Gnostic, but you will actually see it has the body of a serpent rising up; it has the head of a lion. On one side is the sun; on the other side is the moon. Then you have either seven rays or twelve rays coming out of the head. In my opinion, if you can access that Serpentine latent instinctual consciousness, you develop a relationship with it with a strong sense of self, you bring it up, you have this emotional context with it which is that will that becomes singular-focused, that becomes the desire and the longing, and you raise it up, then not unlike the Egyptian Gnostic, you have the body of the Serpent that is risen up and you have the Leonine which is the emotions that have become focused and directed, and you have gnosis. You reach toward gnosis, toward knowing. This is a place you go beyond thought in your apprehension of what appears to be.
While oftentimes Serpentine energy is associated with water and moist, it is also, if we go to the Western traditions, associated with the chthonic kind of realm. Many of the Eastern traditions always associated the Serpent with the sun. Ok, I’m going to just say something. I just want to put it out there. I really love what our Elements do for us. They give us an incredible ability to move. But sometimes we get locked into a certain perception. What I can tell you is that in my experience, when we are talking about creation energy, solar energy can present itself as very moist and very watery, as very cold. It can also present itself as very fiery, as very hot, and as very dry. It’s all of it. (Opposites) do become combined and are associated when they become combined in a gnosis and enlightened kind of way, because they have qualities, they have the divine kingship, they have the protectorship, they have the divinity aspect, they have the ability to become guides and teachers, they have the ability to destroy you. Both (Serpent & Lion) of them do. They are different facing, but ultimately there are places more where they intersect than they are separated. I think what happens in my experience with it, the ways there are expressed in their symbols, on one level of apprehension they are one and the same. The intersection between instinct and emotion, while there is a place where instinct is non-emotional, most of the way that we apprehend instinct is through our emotions. It’s kind of like the chicken or the egg, what came first? Our apprehension of our instinct is through the emotional nature. If we look at it from a transformational consciousness level, we are opening the bandwidth up. As we open to the instinctual consciousness, we are opening the emotional bandwidth and then ultimately that’s opening up to a different level of gnosis. We may have a perception of ourselves that we are pretty broad emotionally, but there are those who would say, not so much. If you were opening to this masculine solar energy, of the solar concept of this Leonine energy, you were opening up to a different level of self consciousness, a sense of self, a sense of consciousness. It’s a sense that gives us the capacity for autonomy. When we have the capacity for autonomy, then we have the capacity to step beyond autonomy. When we have a sense of self, then we have the capacity to step beyond the sense of self. If we don’t have a sense of self, then we can’t step beyond it. That’s the sticking point. That’s in a different languaging. That’s what I was talking about, if we try to step into this sea of gnosis, without having the boundaries of a sense of self and without having this instinctual consciousness, that frankly… let me give you an example that hopefully will be a little helpful: There is a Being that I have had contact with. Frankly, she’s Death, and we’re not talking about the ‘feel good’ transition death. We are talking about Death in a big way. She is totally Other. There is very little if any resemblance to human death, because it’s so much bigger than what we call death as a human being or even could possibly experience. It’s the dance between opening and yet holding a boundary, because if I don’t hold a boundary with Her, I would dissolve. I truly know I would dissolve. On the other hand, if I hold a sense of self, there’s no contact. I can’t have contact with Her, because if I have a sense of self, then that stops the contact. But if I didn’t have a sense of self, I couldn’t have a boundary. That’s the koan, the conundrum. To do this work you have to have a sense of self and yet there’s a place in your work you have to go without a sense of self but at the same time have a sense of self.
From a counseling perspective, I will share with you, as a counselor, one of the things you do is there’s a place with your work that if someone doesn’t have a strong integrated sense of self, of ego self, you don’t do certain things because it’s unethical. It’s sort of like not having a skeleton. If you don’t have that internal sense of self, then there can be problems. So this Leonine energy helps support that internal sense of self, which includes the emotionality of it, but it’s the fiery sense of will. Going back to the alchemical imagery, you have to be very strong and attached, but you have to be willing to step beyond it. And the only way you can step beyond it is to have a strong sense of self so you can step beyond it.