In ancient China the feng-huang or phoenix bird regularly appeared in palace courtyards. Li Ki tells us that it came from the sun, from the land of sages.' The appearance of the phoenix heralded abundance, and its disappearance calamity. Egyptian accounts describe the phoenix rising from the East like the sun, cyclically, its gold and reddish plumage extending with a blue aureole into seven rose-colored rays. Its name, benu, is variously connected with the colors red and purple, with the palm tree, and with a stringed instrument. In the cosmogony of India the phoenix is represented by Garuda, the great bird-like vahan of Vishnu. As the emblem of cyclic time, it represents both the solar cycle and the Maha Kalpa.

 There are many accounts of the phoenix, ranging from the most metaphysical discussions of its symbolical meaning in the Indian tradition to modest descriptions of its physical attributes and historical appearances by Pliny, Herodotus and others. In considering the various accounts, one can perceive important similarities linking different cultural traditions in a shared perception of cycles and epicycles in nature and in man.

 The Egyptians identified the phoenix with the soul of Osiris, 'the rising god.' It connected the morning star (Venus), 'the heart of the renewed sun,' with the sun itself, representing light, life and consciousness. The benu reflected this synthesis of creative impulses in the form of a bird which is two birds. The Theosophical Glossary describes the benu as the Shen-shen (the heron) and the Rech (a red bird), both sacred to Osiris. "It was the latter that was the regular Phoenix of the great Mysteries, the typical symbol of self-creation and resurrection through death – a type of the Solar Osiris and of the divine Ego in man. Yet both the Heron and the Rech were symbols of cycles; the former, of the Solar year of 365 days; the latter of the tropical year or a period covering almost 26,000 years. In both cases the cycles were the types of the return of light from darkness, the yearly and great cyclic return of the sun-god to his birth-place, or – his Resurrection."

 The Egyptians described the phoenix as creating itself, rising in a fragrant flame over the celestial sycamore or Persea tree whose branches extend over the sarcophagus of Osiris. It is the soul of Osiris, the sun that rises and rests in the sacred tree over the tomb which embodies the god at Heliopolis. There the phoenix builds its nest of aromatics and is consumed in fire. Resurrecting itself from the flames, it rises once again in the red and golden dawn to commence a new cycle.

 In identifying the phoenix with the soul of Osiris, the Egyptians were symbolizing the essence of the third Logos, the first manifesting deity which combines the aspects of the spiritual and terrestrial macrocosmically, and the dual Ego, divine and human, microcosmically. As a solar deity, Osiris presided over twelve minor gods who were the twelve signs of the zodiac. He had forty-two and seven aspects, the forty-nine aspects involved in cycles at every level of Being and culminating in man. "Thus the god is blended in man, and man is deified into a god." The essence of the Logos, the light of Daiviprakriti, is the god and the immortal Ego in man, and both arc symbolized by the phoenix. Although the essential life of the phoenix is out of time and space, it enters this world periodically to die and be reborn. The sarcophagus of Osiris represents the death of worldly existence, but the soul which will rise is never fully entombed. It awaits the new cycle wherein it may once again illuminate the material world. The sacred tree upon which the soul or phoenix {benu) rests is a sycamore or Persea, a fruit-bearing tree native to Arabia. This suggests a connection with the date palm, which is etymologically connected with the word benu. The soul of the sun-god resting in this tree indicates the time of rest when the northern hemisphere is tilting away from the sun, the autumnal equinox. The resurrection marks the spring equinox. The Great Pyramid constitutes clear evidence that the ancient Egyptians had an exact knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes, that they calculated its rate at one degree in seventy-two years, thereby indicating clearly a twenty-six thousand year cycle for the complete precession. The authors of the symbol of the phoenix had exact and vast cyclical processes fully in mind when describing the pilgrimage of the soul in man within the larger framework of the cycles of divine teachers, globes and solar systems.

 It is, however, in Indian cosmogony that we find explicit information linking these aspects of the phoenix symbol and suggesting more clearly the correspondence between these great and small cycles of the embodied Logos. The counterpart of the phoenix in India, Garuda, is the vahan or vehicle of Vishnu. Vishnu is a manifestation of solar energy 'striding through the seven regions of the Universe,' marking the cycles of manifestation. Garuda is cyclic time. He was born out of an egg like Vishnu, who was born from an egg floating on the sea of potential life. In his 'man-lion' aspect Garuda symbolizes the Solar cycle. As the great bird, he symbolizes the great cycle or Maha Kalpa, co-eternal with Vishnu and the sun. From his crowned head seven rays extend out, each tipped with one of the seven sacred vowels. These represent the keynotes related to the seven Great Manus, each of whom is himself the embodiment of a keynote for a Great Race. It is from these seven Great Manus that the seven Manus under Them take the harmonic note marking the divisions of Root Races into sub-races. Thus the seven-times-seven Manus relate to the seven-times-seven cycles in each Round on each globe. This is related in turn to the forty-nine aspects of Osiris and to the idea of keynotes in the Chinese and Egyptian accounts as well. The fact that the Chinese recognized five colors representing five notes suggests that they were aware of the advent of five Manus and five Races relating to the development of the fifth principle in man, although the more complete picture is revealed in the Egyptian and Indian cosmogonies, which recognize the ultimate potential unfoldment of the seven rays or aspects of Being. It is significant that in all these traditions the idea of the keynotes is closely related to vivid descriptions of the color of the bird's plumage. This is particularly meaningful in relating the phoenix to the soul of man and the sun. One may meditate upon such mysteries in those moments just prior to and during the rising of the sun.

 As the Chinese related the appearance of the phoenix to abundance, the tree of the world bears fruit under the direct rays of the sun. But abundance in form will perish as light gives way to darkness. The mystery of the phoenix lies in that realm from whence it rises. Like the rising sun shedding its light upon the earth, the phoenix soul in all its brilliant colors rises out of the white light of the great night of non-manifestation. In shedding forth its soul-light it sacrifices itself upon the altar of the world, that matter may again unite with spirit in an immortal awareness. Thus all great Teachers of mankind shed Their light upon humanity in a never-ending process of sacrifice, that we may slowly realize that we are Them and They us . . . one great winged bird "which is not born, nor dies, but is the AUM throughout eternal ages."