Long ago, before the days of art or legend, Eros and Aphrodite stood for a moment on the bank of the river Euphrates, Seeking refuge from the pursuing Typhon, they plunged into the swirling waters and became two fishes. Their celestial destination is suggested, for the Euphrates was seen as a sacred channel of the heavenly waters surrounding the earth.
O Dark Waters of Ancient Days
O depths that hold the living seed;
What monsters lie within thy fold
What gods are mirrored on thy wave?
Tiamat, the tumultuous sea, the chaotic mother of space and the primordial waters, was killed by the godly hero Marduk. He destroyed the monsters she had spawned and wrested order out of chaos. He cleaved her body "like a fish in two parts" and from one half fashioned the heavens, from the other half the earth. He organized the world and the fish above became reflected in the fish below. The stars we call Pisces contain in their design the secrets of these ancient allegories, constituting the heavenly record of an arcane division and an implicit unity. The dual fish 'Iχθύς and 'Iχθύες are identical to one another but are each depicted as facing away from the other. The left fish can be seen as symbolic of the process of involution, or the beginning of a new cycle, while the right fish signifies evolution, the progression out of a cycle.
The actual constellation has a forked appearance and contains no bright stars. The two fish appear to be tied together with a cord which lies beneath the forefoot of the Ram. The Arabs called these stars Al Risha, or the 'cord' which unites the fishes, while the Akkadian name for Pisces was Dur-Ki, the 'palace of the cord.' It is suggested by some that this represents the binding afresh of the soul to the wheel of samsara or the zodiac. Indeed, Pisces, as the twelfth sign, did mark the end of the old cycle and the beginning of the new, and the month when the sun was in its zone was called Se-Kistl, the 'sowing of the seed.' Between the involuting and evoluting fishes lay the seed which could either bind back the soul or permit it to realize unification.
In Euphratean symbolism the original glyph for Pisces described only one fish which represented the sun hidden in the waters before its rising. This is reminiscent of Surya, who in Vedic tradition was 'drawn by the gods' from the ocean and placed apart in his celestial ark. The identification of the fish with the sun can only be understood in terms of the soul rising from the waters of chaotic matter in the form of that fish which the Chaldeans called 'The Intelligent One,' Ea, the father of Marduk, the purveyor of Soul upon the Waters.
H.P. Blavatsky wrote that the constellation of Pisces "shines as a symbol of all the past, present and future Spiritual Saviours who dispense light and dispel mental darkness." The sign of 'Iχθύς the Fish does not merely relate to Christ but to all world reformers. It is the 'Sign of Jonas,' the sign from heaven of the sun reborn in Pisces, the rising from the waters of Cannes, Ea, and of Quetzalcoatl, who in his feathered scales represented the man-dragon, the serpent of the deep risen to enlighten the world. It is this rebirth out of the waters that lies behind the universal traditions which describe the coming of gods out of the Dark waters. Men who long to be born again only imitate this immensely powerful symbolism when they submerge themselves in the rite of baptism. A Zohar allegory tells of a stranger who taught the Law and said that his father "had his dwelling place in the Great Sea, and was a fish therein. He was great and mighty and swallowed all the other fish." Thus it was that the early Christians called themselves pisciculi or 'little fishes' and talked of "so many fishes bred in the water, and saved by one great fish." How great was the privilege accorded Simon and Andrew when Christ said unto them, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."
As in the sign of Makara, the sacred letter 'M' signifies the presence of the Great Sacrifice in the world. The Fish Avatar of Vishnu was called Matsya, while the word Messiah itself suggests the nature of the work of great teachers symbolized by Meena, the Sanskrit name for Pisces. The Babylonians called the phase from Capricorn to Pisces 'the Field of Ea,' the man-fish, and believed that it was in these signs that man was instructed in the wisdom which would truly make him human. From the legendary boy on the dolphin to Cannes who rose from the Persian Gulf, the symbol of the man-fish moves in and through the signs of Makara, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Cannes was believed to have made four appearances at intervals of over thirty thousand years, while Quetzalcoatl was said by the Aztecs to have gone beneath the waters to re-emerge at a future time of man's development. These 'Scaly Ones' are Initiated Adepts. They are healers, givers of health, spiritual and physical, and of enlightenment. Their influence upon mankind in general can be critically potent from January to April, while those individuals born in 'the Field of Ea' have a concentrated opportunity to recognize and manifest the process of accelerated spiritualization that commenced with Capricorn and culminates with Pisces.
Capricorn involves a shedding of everything extraneous to the process of soul-evolution. The Ego experiences the full limitations of Saturn and can benefit by becoming concentrated and powerfully focussed upon the task at hand. In Aquarius, the Ego becomes engaged in expansion. Great mental gifts are freely shared and a lack of protective self-interest permits a continual drawing of the larger circle. The mind reaches a peak of expression and old modes become fodder for new ones. In Aquarius there is the strong tendency to break away from form, but it is in Pisces that the final movement of dissolution is played out. The cord of Pisces will either bind the soul to the left-handed fish of involution, ensuring his rebirth through Aries the Ram, or it will lead to liberation, the dissolution of all ties with earthly existence.
Like other signs of the zodiac, Pisces has a higher and lower potential. If the soul has partaken fully of the Lethe waters prior to its birth in Pisces, the emotional character of this sign will manifest overwhelmingly, creating karmic bonds which will ensure a submergence in avidya and an entrance into a whole new series of births. If, however, the soul has drunk of the Supernal Cup, these powerful feelings can embrace the whole of mankind and the forces of love and sympathy released can actually transform the lives of others.
Always looking for something beyond, the Piscean is drawn powerfully by the mystical but may live a succession of fantasies causing his or her life to degenerate into indiscipline and a fusion between fact and fancy. This tendency to expansive excess and love of mystery can express itself beautifully as it did in the poetry of George Russell when he wrote:.
When the breath of twilight blows to flame the misty skies,
All its vaporous sapphire, violet glow, and silver gleam
With their magic flood me through the gateways of the eyes;
I am one with the twilight's dream.
But if the tendency to excess and indiscrimination are expressed by an individual who is self-centred, then indulgence mars the work and the great heart-potential of the Piscean becomes a trap of ever-growing delusion and a source of continual self-dramatization. The feelings that could have been so lofty, so pristine, become an emotional wallowing ground for low-level translations of love and suffering as well as hope and aspiration.
Being a mutable sign, Pisces is like a 'hinge' which directs the soul one way or the other. It thus reflects, as do all watery signs, either the higher influences or the lower. It is one of the most impressionable signs and can take on any form. It may be moulded by inner promptings or outer currents. But while it is fluidic, it propels, becomes steam, stirs up things to activity and, in its Sanskrit name Meena, is revealed as related to the five elements, the senses, and the causes of suffering. Of the elements, water in the sense of the Universal Solvent is its most important correlate, and indicates that the dissolution culminating in Pisces is strongly linked up with action altering the human senses.
Traditionally, Pisces was believed to have been ruled by Jupiter, which is an expansive and optimistic influence. However, in modern times, the influence of Neptune is also thought to be relevant. While the expansiveness and synthesizing powers of Jupiter may manifest, the heavy hand of Neptune is prone to sow the seeds of chaos, death and destruction. Echoing the twelfth Nidana, Jaramarana, which denotes death and decay, the sign of Pisces simple indulgence or one which marked the end of a search for ultimate meaning. Venus, exerting her influence in Meena, moves the Ego to seek expansion and unity. The unrefined Ego will pursue this through pleasures but the fully refined Ego will suffer the depths of collective feeling while experiencing conscious unification with the rest of humanity.
Perhaps a clue to the way in which the emotional Piscean arises from the mentally acute Aquarian lies in the fact that the parts of the body related to this symbol are the feet and the left eye. The feet upon which man, the thinker, stands are often thought of in terms of clay. They are related to the lower serving caste in India and they constantly rest upon the least spiritual aspect of nature. How, then, can they be associated with 'fishers of men' or saviours? What connection could they possibly have with the left eye? It is necessary to consider the complexity and importance of the feet to come to an appreciation of this symbolic relationship. Not only do they permit movement along any path upon the face of the earth and support the total external vehicle of the indwelling soul, but the feet contain a most complex set of nerves linked with all parts of the body, permitting, through proper manipulation, the healing of many of its ailments. The feet act as a synthesizer of the senses, as does the brain, but in a way that permits effects to be compensated from below above. The higher power of Mahat, developed in the Aquarian stage, comes to focus through the left eye of Time and is brought down through the whole body of man to become reflected in the delicate movement and condition of the feet. Thus the lotus marks the sacred feet of all Bodhisattvas. Surely it may be said of them that they would move in complete harmony with the Universal Mind and that the earth upon which they stand would be thrice-blessed. All Great Ones who sacrifice for humanity take on feet of clay, the fish's body, in order to swim in the worldly current.
The chaos related to Pisces has to do with the Mother Sea which resides in seeming oblivion beyond the order introduced by Marduk. It is also linked with the destruction and dissolution of form wrought by the symbolical and actual deluges that mark the end of cycles. The Great Teachers who pass among men for a short rime on earth personify the death of the personality and have taken on form only for the sake of others. It is deeply significant that such beings often suffer failure, betrayal and even violent death. The soul is willingly 'crucified' on the cross of matter in order that men may catch a glimpse of that which they truly are. When Jesus was crucified, this seemingly terrible agony was a re-enactment of the death of the lower aspects of the personality as they fell away from the liberated Christos. The dissolution was that of the lower quaternary, while the universal solvent which made it possible lay in the realm of pure Akasa, the watery realm of the fully realized Pisces.
"THE SPARK HANGS FROM THE FLAME BY THE FINEST THREAD OF FOHAT." It journeys through the Seven Worlds, becoming metal, stone, plant and animal. "FROM THE COMBINED ATTRIBUTES OF THESE, MANU, THE THINKER, IS FORMED. WHO FORMS HIM? THE SEVEN LIVES; AND THE ONE LIFE. WHO COMPLETES HIM? THE FIVE-FOLD LHA. AND WHO PERFECTS THE LAST BODY? FISH, SIN AND SOMA."
The Secret Doctrine teaches that Fish, Sin and Soma are conjointly the three symbols of the 'Immortal Being.' They are related to Joshua, who caused the walls of Jericho to tumble; to Jesus, whose life dramatized the Fall of Spirit in matter; and to the Lunar Pitris, who provided the necessary vehicles for human incarnation. Further, the Hebrew god Sin, who inspired the name of Mt. Sinai, was fructified by Jehovah who "manifested on the lunar mountain," which was a terrestrial symbol for the Ark intimately related to the deluge. These elements again suggest the idea of the Fall into matter, the provision of the lunar vehicle and the destruction of form. In several traditions the earth is supported by a huge fish. According to the Altaic people, his head is toward the north, and when it bends down there are floods in the northern hemisphere. The cord which tilts the head is believed to be held by the Bodhisattva Manjusri. This symbolic concept describes the cycles of the tilting of the earth's axis. The sinking of Atlantis was brought on by such a shift, and it was the Matsya Avatar who enacted the key role of Preserver in that mighty deluge.
In the Mahabharata the story is told of Vaivasvata who sat in meditation by the side of a river. As he reposed, a fish appeared and begged his protection from another larger fish. Vaivasvata put the fish into a jar which it quickly outgrew. It continued to increase until finally it had to be placed in a great ocean, whereupon it told Vaivasvata of the impending flood. The fish was Matsya, the Avatar of Vishnu, and it ordered an ark built to carry Manu and the Seven Rishis or races of men. The ark bearing the seed of life was guided by Matsya to Mount Meru, the birthplace of the new race. The cleansing destruction of water is like the fire of Akasa in which the dissolution of all form takes place, mirroring the glorious process which will perfect the 'last body.'
Pisces symbolizes a force which is intimately bound up with emotion and feeling, and all goodness and pleasure in this watery sign is brought on through their expansiveness. This force reflects the all-pervasive nature of Akasa and would seek to discover no limits to its expression. The prime attribute of Akasa is sound symbolized in speech, which is beautifully manifested in the teaching abilities of Great Spiritual Reformers. Akasa is also the indispensable agent of every magical performance. It stirs up the power lying latent in Brahma in much the same way as the words of an Adept-Teacher stir the hearts of men. The higher feelings possible in Pisces enable an activation of the higher sheaths of the soul and the development of a condition where feelings derived from the senses are synthesized totally into one powerful radiating force. This is achieved through the fusion of the five senses into one, which takes place when the higher astral sheaths are activated. Thus the non-discriminating tendencies of the lower Piscean nature are supplanted by a unifying force on a higher level of evolution.
The word 'emotion' means to 'move out or away,' strongly suggesting the stirring up, the agitating motion which characterizes Akasa. However, uncontrolled or poorly understood emotions, far from partaking of Akasa, repeatedly damage the higher vestures and bring certain destruction and death in their wake. The expansive potential of that type of emotion which 'feels1 with the whole of humanity requires tremendous powers of control in order to manifest. The Sadhaka has rigidly to exclude any impure thoughts and emotions if he wishes his manomaya kosha to vibrate with the highest realms of Akashic purity until the base material of the vehicles has been dissolved and completely replaced by subtly refined matter. One of the most important steps in controlling emotion involves the total mastery of the mirrored Akashic attribute of speech. In preparation for the Great Renunciation made by the 'Fishers of Men/ endless self-denials, especially in the realm of speech, must be made. Robert Crosbie wrote of such control in connection with the building of the permanent astral, stating that as this mental control increased, "what were merely centres of force around which organs were builded now tend to become separate astral organs." These are built up into a complete astral body which synthesizes all the organs of the physical body. The disciple is now beyond the dominion of the physical senses and has the power of the astral body, which is extremely effective on its own plane, with a wide range of action through its 'seven super-senses.' The expanding brilliance of relationships exemplified in Aquarius has now totally activated the waters of the heart and the entire being is given over to an expression of expanding light. Immense suffering is necessary to produce the heat required to dissolve the last walls of separative consciousness that bind the soul, which has now become what Shankaracharya describes as Kutichaka, 'the hut-builder who has reached the place of peace,' the builder of the eternal vestures who will receive birth but once more.
In these last stages of evolution, the 'feeling-soul' is compelled by suffering to enter into a profounder sense of self-reflection. This reflection grows with the power of Ananda, from which fertile soil passion rises into reason and knowledge. As self-knowledge reasons outward, it progresses through the development of chit into universal sympathy. It is then that emotions reach their consummation and all passions expire in giving birth to "an eternal sentiment of justice and love, which are ultimately One" - Sat. A total union with the One leads the pilgrim soul beyond the cycling of the zodiacal wheel of life. At this point the soul must decide whether it will pursue its liberation or renounce it to enter once again the circuit of the wheel, to come again among men as part of that Lodge of the Holy Saviours of men. 'The Field of Ea' has been traversed and man has risen to the calm Akashic regions of ideal spiritual life where there labour, "unhastening, unresting," the Rishis, Munis, Saints and Prophets. He may rest now among the Immortals or rise from the Waters like Oannes to move among those who rejoice and weep from life to life, chained to the wheel of karmic action.
Hermes, April 1977