He is 'the One-Footed Goat' who symbolizes the swift movement of lightning striking the hardened earth. He is the climber of lonely heights, the hoofed one from the sea. He is Makara, the watery dragon of primeval antiquity, having a dolphin or crocodile form. This vahan of Varuna-Poseidon merges with the mountain goat to become a powerful and mysterious sign of the ancient zodiac.
In Egypt the stars of Capricorn were identified with the crocodile which was to them a sacred animal signifying the meeting of water and air upon the earth. The amphibious nature of the crocodile suggested fecundity and, like the dragon, became the symbol of knowledge. In Coptic Egypt he was called 'OpÎύζυς. While retaining the meaning of the original symbol, he was actually depicted as a mirror. The concepts of lightning and fire, the earth, the air and the watery depths had been consolidated in the profoundly simple phenomenon of reflection. But the mysterious form of the goat-fish persisted in far-flung cultures such as that of the Aztecs, who portrayed the constellation as Cipoctli, the narwhal or unicorn of the sea.
As centuries unfolded, the ancient dragon became known as the 'scaly-one,' a representative of the fallen Satan. The goat was often identified with Pan, who was denigrated into the symbol of lustful desire. Forgotten were the ancient meanings that must have prompted Plato to write:
The fish-tailed goat ceased to be associated with the mirror of mind and the inward beauty of the human soul. Since the occult implications of this sign are barely suggested in the lists of personal attributes assigned to those born under it, the beginning student of human nature must look at the outward indicators with the aim of correlating them with what is intuitively glimpsed regarding the indwelling ego and the more general process of soul evolution.
Tradition teaches that Capricorn is the birthplace of Saturn, bringer of limitations and old age. If one translates cosmo-chemical affinities and influences into human character traits, it follows that the child of Capricorn expects little from the gods. By nature he is ascetic in his ways, does not rely on others' opinions and is coolly conscious of his own limitations. He is economical in speech, action and thought. Single-minded and capable of devotion and focus of will, he does not squander the few boons he has worked so hard to achieve in life. Expecting little, he gets little but he is not distracted by idle hopes. His faith is born of hard experience, not wishful thinking. The Saturnine influence in Capricorn reflects the basic economy which reigns in the universe and which, though seemingly bountiful at times, in the end eliminates all that is superfluous to discover the bedrock necessities affecting the evolution of the soul.
Capricorn was considered by the Platonists to be the Gate of the Gods. It was held that the souls of all men released from the body ascended through this constellation into heaven. During the time of Plato, Capricorn was in the place of the winter solstice, 'the Southern Gate,' and was thought to be a natural symbol of death and resurrection. On the cosmic level, Hindu tradition teaches that the world will be destroyed at a time when all the planets meet in Capricorn. It is written that "when the sun passes away behind the 13th degree of Makara and will reach no more the sign of Meenam (Pisces), then the Night of Brahmā has come." As man lives and dies, so too do worlds have their cycles. Everything in nature is interdependent and mutually correlated. The metaphorical teaching that during cosmic manifestation there were seven steps taken in the direction of the four cardinal points is mysteriously reflected in the twenty-eight stars of the constellation Makara. The twenty-eight stars appearing with the newborn infant Buddha echo something of the hidden nature of these astral forces.
The Buddhist Nidana or cause of existence traditionally related to Makara is bhava which signifies 'becoming,' a giving of birth and the organization and development of the Namarupa. This process is naturally linked up with the earth or the realm of form, and Makara, along with Taurus and Virgo, are earth signs involving different expressions of spirit in matter. Taurus demonstrates fixed stability and slow, logical thoroughness, while Virgo manifests the same traits at a more critical level. Makara-Capricorn reveals a refinement of these tendencies, coupled with the potentiality of a lofty spiritual perspective suggested in the symbol itself. Makara is the vahan of Varuna, 'the Universal Encompasser,' 'the All-Embracer.' This oldest of Vedic gods fell, in time, into generation, becoming a sort of Neptune, and his vahan is linked up with 'the Fall' of spirit into matter. Out of the sea of chaos, 'the Dragons of Wisdom' manifested their fruits and through the form of the goat they seek to uplift matter to the heights of spiritual consciousness. Makara-Ketu is a name for the personification of Kama, but it also signifies the desire which the Rig Veda says led to the eventual generation of conscious life.
Ma means 'five' and karam, 'side,' indicating that Makaram is a name for the pentagon, the symbol of thinking, conscious man. Kara also means 'hand' and refers to the five fingers as well as the five extremities of the human body which cause it to resemble a five-pointed star. The Secret Doctrine mentions that five symbolizes "the Spirit of life eternal and the Spirit of life and love terrestrial in the human compound." It is the quintessence, the whole of the material quaternary plus the centre and the essence of Eros or Desire made manifest. This noble concept eventually degenerated into baser ideas centred around the Kamic deities of Hinduism and the Hellenic god Pan. The desire expressed in the Sacred Fifth 'Creation' of Makara or the Kumaras is connected with the birth of the spiritual microcosm or man. It is closely related to the fact that this zodiacal sign will mark the dissolution of the physical universe. Makara represents both the manifest macrocosm and the microcosm, and illustrates the compassionate descent of spirit into matter, as well as its ascent out of it.
According to Plato, the phenomenal universe is a dodecahedron which has emerged from the icosahedron of the astral world. The five, related to the pentagons of Makara making up the twelve faces of the dodecahedron, has precipitated from the three of the triangular faces of the icosahedron. The Triads of the Third Hierarchy of 'Creation' become the Pentagonal Dhyanis or Kumaras, which name is an anagram for Makara. From the centres of the triads, the vertices of the pentagons come to be placed so that the faces of the icosahedron are convertible into the vertices of the dodecahedron. This process can be reversed so that the five becomes the three. In either conversion the lines of the edges of the faces always cross one another perpendicularly. Thus the twenty which is twice ten is linked to the twelve of the zodiac through the three and the five. The Fifth Creative Hierarchy contains the spiritual and physical poles of the universe designated as twice five or ten, the Gate of the Gods.
BEHOLD THE BEGINNING OF SENTIENT FORMLESS LIFE
The hierarchy of creative powers is four and three, or seven esoterically, within the twelve great orders symbolized in the zodiac, The seven involved with manifestation are connected with the seven planets, all emanated from the One Divine Flame. The first hierarchy is that of Divine Fire, the Logos at three descending levels. The second is Fire and Ether or the Atma-Buddhic prototype of the incarnating monads. The third hierarchy is that of the Divine Triads (Atma-Buddhi-Manas), while the fourth involves the noumenal elements that contain the germ that will fall into generation. The fifth hierarchical group is that of the Dhyanis, 'the Dragons of Wisdom' who are connected with the crocodile and have their abode in Capricorn. These are the Five Kumaras who "gained exemption from passion" and have within them the soul of the five elements. They bear the primal germ of mind which connects entity with non-entity. These mind-born sons took on the task of presiding over the constellation of Capricorn, "to inform the empty and ethereal animal form and make of it the Rational Man." It is they who enact 'the Fall' of once pure spirit into material form by bringing down the flame. The Book of the Dead intones the mission:
I am the god (crocodile) presiding at the fear... at the arrival of his Soul among men. I am the god-crocodile brought for destruction.
The Egyptian Book of Tuat describes that division of the Underworld where the union of Khepera and Ra occurs and the germ of new life is introduced into the body of him who will be the living god ready to emerge into a new day. All is in preparation for the coming of man. But the 'boneless' Fathers of esoteric tradition could give no life to beings with form and bone, and it is only later, with the production of 'the Egg-born,' 'the powerful with bones/ that the Lords of Wisdom said, "Now shall we create." Capricorn marks the formation and hardening process, the work of Fohat, which is critically related to the individuation of self. The weary soul within the body aspires to come out and be separate. The Ego knows it must gain knowledge of itself in order to attempt the climb ahead and perhaps this very motion of individuation inspires the symbolical linking of Capricorn with the human knee. Of all the bodily parts involved in locomotion, this is the one which is indispensable to climbing.
The knee joint is like a bridge between the lower and higher leg, while the ligaments secure the relationship of the bones to the joints. This development takes place with the onset of true bone formation in the fifth month of foetal life, and represents the condensation of young connective tissue. The knee is the largest joint in the body, sustaining the greatest stress, and its principal functions are flexion, extension and length rotation. The knee is the link which enables the movement from the flat and shuffling plains to the mountain top. It is an analogue of the Antaskarana bridge between the lower earthy man and the aspiring god within, and mirrors the bridge extended by the Divine Kumaras.
The ascending goat of Capricorn has a natural love of high places which are stony and hard. The seductions of softness and moistness are overcome by deep thought and steadfast aspiration towards that place where the soul will be tempted by the promise of worldly power. The Akkadians called Capricorn Abba-E, 'the Cave of the Rising.' They believed he was born from rock and was ever-subject to the austere influence of Saturn. The denser, limiting and solidifying vibrations enable the soul to know itself thoroughly as a self-conscious being, such that the ideal of Capricorn may be to become like a crystal: impervious, compact and brilliant. Reduced to the smallest possible space, there is nothing superfluous about it, nothing redundant. Naught else would serve the constellation in which the vehicle of the new man will be built.
The traditional description of the Saturnine influences stresses restriction, limitations, even disasters and defeats. Thorough realism and constant reliability are continually tempered by deprivation. As Keats wrote:
Just as Fohat hardens the atoms until they reflect 'the Self-Existing Lord,' so the sad separation from the gathering of the common herd slowly isolates the lone climber with his heaven-bent horns, Saturn, 'Bringer of Old Age,' 'Revealer of Truth.'
The Babylonian god Ea, who walked with a fish-shaped cloak and came out of the sea to teach the people of Mesopotamia, was called 'the Antelope of the Ocean.' He came from the wetness unto the dryness of land and marked the rising and falling of rivers by the progress of the moon in his sign of Capricorn. In Egypt when the moon was full in the goat-fish's tail, the Nile began to rise. The rising of the waters corresponds to the moisture of expanding life, while the drying up and solidifying process involves a concentration and focusing of energy related to the gradual separation of the soul from the ever-changing stream of physical consciousness. In cosmic evolution the pure light of Spirit becomes the cold flame which, in turn, becomes a fire. The fire gives forth heat which generates the waters of life. The soul, travelling back along that path, moves from the external heat to the internal fire and aspires, increasingly, to reach the sanctuary of the cold flame. It moves from the astral waters to the rock of the unchanging.
In his search for immortality, the hero of the Epic of Gilgamesh comes to the shores of the Waters of Death. He is transported across by the servant of Ea, 'the Antelope of the Ocean.' He seeks Tsit-Napishtim ('Offspring of Life') on the farther shore and the bark of Ea which transports him thither is the vehicle by which the change of planes of consciousness is effected. It is the bridge between personality and individuality which purifies and refines through the steady sober action of Saturn. It is the Antaskarana, 'the Chastener,' the divider of the pure from the impure and hence the necessary source of sorrow and pain. Passage over this bridge is like a reflected recapitulation from below-above of that which has taken place cosmically. From the Divine Arupa World, Fohat took five strides and built the wheels for 'the Holy Ones' and their armies. These are the essences, the flames, the elements, the Builders, Numbers, Arupa and Rupa - the force of Divine Man. The Lipika circumscribed first, the triangle, secondly, the cube, and then the pentacle within the egg. THIS IS THE RING CALLED 'PASS NOT' for those who DESCEND and ASCEND. This is the Gate beyond the bridge which the hero hopes only to approach, only to mirror in the form of his fully realized quintessential self. He has left behind the common waters and followed the solitary path of the antelope. He has crossed the abyss of the great watery mother on the raft of the goat-fish to approach the realm of the Great Sacrifice.
In occult tradition 'M' is held to be the most sacred of all letters. It symbolizes the waters of the deep and their denizen, the serpent ^^^, and great dragon Makara. Ma, signifying 'five' is the binary symbol of the two separated sexes as well as their progeny. It is the secret name of Maitreya, the Fifth Buddha, spoken of in Hinduism as the Kalki Avatar who will come as the last Messiah and culminate the Great Cycle. It is intoned in the names Monas, Monad, Mahat, Maya and Manu, and is the third element of the mystic syllable AUM. As Makara it reaches a sublime and compassionate fruition in its aspect of the Kumaras whose chief is Sanat Sujata, the Great Dragon of the Waters.
The Kumaras are the fashioners of the inner man, the Solar Deities, the Sons of the Flame. They are the progenitors of the true spiritual Self in the physical man of bones and flesh who reappear in the Vaivasvata Manu period for the progress of mankind. They are the seven sons of Brahmā in Rudra or Shiva, and of their number, five play an active role in relation to man. As sons of Rudra-Shiva, 'the Good Gardener of Nature,' they aid in his destruction of human passions and senses and are ever-involved in the development of the "higher spiritual perceptions and the growth of the inner eternal man." They are like the Archangel Michael who presides over Saturn (Shiva) and every Kumara bears the prefix of Sanat: Sana is the name of Saturn.
Saturn, 'the Chastener,' is the seventh and last macrocosmic emanation in the solar system. His rings or girdles are symbolic of death to the physical body. Yet Saturn, like Shiva, is intimately involved in the bringing down of the flame of knowledge. In ruling Makara, the 'scaly-one,' Saturn is also related to Satan who bears the shame of generation and who entered into bondage as did the Kumaras. Like Saturn, "he compasseth with bonds and limits all things. . . ." The Kumara 'Rebels,' being Virgin-Ascetics, would not 'create' will-less irresponsible men, nor could they give men only a reflection of their attributes. Like Satan and Prometheus, they taught the knowledge of good and evil which would initiate the path of man toward self-conscious godhood. They preferred the 'curse of incarnation' and endless rebirths to the passive observation of the mindless automata created by the lunar gods. They take up an earthly abode for an entire Mahayuga, "exchanging their impersonal individualities for individual personalities." As incarnations of Shiva, they enlighten the races of man and engage in continual destruction and remodelling of the human form. The Virgin Kumaras sacrifice themselves for the sins of the world and the instruction of the ignorant.
Hermes, February 1977