The brazen and the fiery serpents of the staff of Mercury or the Caduceus replaced by the golden serpents of the tree of life

Each of you carries a serpent within your being. This serpent coils in and around your tree of life. The head of the beast is clearly visible to the ordinary physical vision. In the Holy Language the serpent is designated symbolically as ‘the brazen serpent’. It is your soul being, the radiation of your consciousness, the soul-potential filling your entire serpent-fire system, that is your head-spinal system. It is this brazen serpent that creeps over the earth with a deadly venom in its head.

Why is it referred to as a brazen serpent? The hebrew word ‘copper’ may also be translated as ‘serpent’. Then we must realize that copper — ergo the serpent — is a female principle. The Venus metal is copper. The generating principle, the female principle, lies in the soul, in the serpent-fire potential.

But the creative principle, the male soul-aspect lies in the same system. In every soul system, in every serpent-fire system there are two aspects, the brazen serpent and the fiery serpent, or respectively the female and the male aspect within us.

Symbolically it may be said that there are two serpents dwelling in the human tree of life. In one person the male principle is positive and the female principle is negative, whereas in another person the reverse is true.

Consequently, if we see the staff of Mercury, the caduceus with its two serpents, a white and a black one, this symbol indicates a general dialectical, biological situation, which is the tree of life with its two soul-aspects. When we look at images of Egyptian priests with their twofold reptile adornment, we see in this the signification, outwardly, of their inner soul being and that of their fellow men.

The two soul principles in us which may also be called Adam and Eve (Adam, the fiery serpent and Eve, the brazen serpent), are in continual disagreement. They are perpetually deliberating and making decisions.

We all possess the faculty of inner deliberation. The two serpents coil around each other and around the tree of life. At one moment the male principle speaks to the female one, the next moment the tables are turned.

They assault each other, they accuse each other. The fiery serpent wants realization, whereas the brazen serpent wants possession. The creative and the generative passions are in perpetual strife. Yet the soul has only one interest, which is self maintenance, the struggle for life. Thus, the hissing reptile crawls over and through the filth of this nature. And God have mercy upon whoever offends it.

You know of that deliberating of your own serpents. At one moment it creeps into the heart sanctuary to deliberate on your interests; the next it makes its appeal to your head.

The venom concocted in these sanctuaries is slyness, strategy, cunning and with their aid man’s objectives are pursued. The organ through which the venom is spewed is the larynx. There are all sorts of venom and there are all kinds of methods of bringing the poison to the place you want it.

There is a science which has been cultivated for eons, whose purpose it is to perfect the activity of the two serpents of the soul. We call it occultism. In past civilizations the man who excelled at this science sometimes arrived at wearing a metal symbol on his head as a sign of his degree of advancement in the development of his personality.

In many a history of creation we find the description of the birth of the complicated human soul. This birth always presented two phases: firstly the birth of the fiery serpent, Adam, and secondly the birth of the brazen serpent, Eve. The fiery serpent is Adamas, the thinker, receiving suggestions of the mind; the brazen serpent is Hevah, the mother of the living. It is the principle that brings suggestions to realization, the one who generates. So, Adam and Eve are soul-principles within us.

As soon as the soul misuses its tremendous power, it breaks aways from the spirit and is cut off from the omni-consciousness, whereupon it enters into nature, the house of death. Then the two original soul faculties are in a continuous state of ignorance; hence, in darkness and in discord. The entire system, which is controlled by the soul, is bound to degenerate and crystallize. There is no trace of the past glory of the soul left and the sinful soul must live in an agony of death, tied to the wheel which drags it through the spheres of dialectics.

The man who realizes this state may wonder, possibly after making many efforts to elevate himself: ‘How can the fallen soul be saved?’ This is a question, a fundamental question on which the Gnosis gives an answer.

The point now is whether the fallen soul is able to understand this answer of the gnosis, whether it is still able to understand it. This is the great psychological test for all of us: are our souls able to understand the language of the soul or not? At this psychological point the Gnosis tells the candidate: ‘Be therefore wise as serpents.’

Then there has to be waited whether there will be a reaction. Be then wise as serpents. What kind of serpents are meant here? Does this perhaps refer to the two soul principles within us? Not here! These words refer to the radiations of the Gnosis itself, to the golden serpents of the true divine Spirit and no true priest will venture to make an imitation of these serpents from any metal to adorn himself with.

The Spirit-radiation, the fiery flames of the Spirit, also present themselves in two different forms. In the first form they arouse the new Adamas and in the second they arouse the new Hevah; the two counterparts of the new soul ‘standing before God’.

These two contact points are sometimes represented as the Seraphim and the Cherubim, as the golden serpent and the Griffin, the winged mystery beast. In ancient Persian mythology the griffin is the mystery beast that guarded the golden mountain. If the pupil is still able to understand the call of the Gnosis, he will turn to the golden mountain of the Spirit, from where his help will come. When he approaches the holy mountain of the Beatitudes, he cries out in a strong voice: ‘My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth’.

As soon as he has uttered this mantram the guardians of the mountain, the mysterious griffins, the Cherubim, hover over him. One of them darts at him with the speed and brilliance of lightning, rips open his chest and scorches him with a great heat in the serpent-fire system. One who has thus been touched by the Spirit-fire hears a loud thunder-clap and rising from the din a voice saying: ‘A son of man and a son of the serpents. Behold, I send you as a sheep in the midst of wolves, be then wise as serpents.’

The pupil turns away from the golden mountain. The time for him to ascend has not yet come. He turns his steps again toward the valley and goes out like a sheep amidst the wolves, his arms crossed over the gaping wound inflicted by the griffin.

He now stands as a servant under the new law. If the worker behaves in accordance with this law, then the old self in him, the two serpents of the betrayal of nature will die a total death. The enduristic sacrifice of self is a sacrifice made in the service of mankind.

The pupil knows that he has just begun and he moves painstakingly on from one town to another, from one man to another with the tiding: ‘Hora Est, the Kingdom has drawn near’. He realizes that there is still a very long way to go. Then it comes to pass suddenly, as by miracle that he finds himself on the golden mountain in de midst of the Seraphim and the Cherubim, in the Holy Presence itself, and he hears the words that have never yet been heard by a human being.

Be therefore wise as serpents.
That is the key to the path.

Source: The Universal Gnosis , J. van Rijckenborgh and Catharose de Petri

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