Like a vision of Merlin, the romance of the Holy Grail sprang from an unseen source and lives timelessly in the imagination of men. Tendrils of mist shroud the beginnings of such ideas and their emerging forms only later become crystallized in the shape of a vessel, a precious stone, or the leonine guards at the gate of Castle Mortal. Every man dreams of the divine, and it is in the greater passion that the impetus for its pursuit lies. The longings of a Lancelot may become ensnared in the coils of earthly beauty but the chaste strivings of Percival succeed in bringing him face to face with the awful beasts which guard the object of his quest. Some men have approached the two lions, red and white, and have trembled for a moment. Those whose hearts were greater than fear pressed forward and entered the fray.
Sir Percival was instructed by his uncle to put his trust in the white lion, which would reveal to him the intent of God, and if he sought to further this intent, he would win his way past the nine bridges into the castle. The red lion would continually burst forth from its chains to oppose the progress of the brave knight, but if he persisted and followed the revelation given him, he would arrive finally at the last bridge. There, he was told, the white lion would slay the red, and the usurper-king, deprived of his roaring defenses, would then capitulate and slay himself.
The knight who begins the quest kills neither the false king nor the raging beast but pins the success of his mission in the trust he sustains for the noble white lion who alone can vanquish the foe. But how does one distinguish the white from the red when approaching the goal through a thick, opalescent mist? Their shapes loom large, silhouetted at the edge of a long and darkly overgrown pathway. A quickening in the heart signals their presence, but the discovery of their real nature requires meeting them face to face. The teachings of Peter in his Second Epistle warn, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." One may hold fast to that darkened pathway, prompted by the inner voice that informed Blake, "The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God."
Leo corresponds with the nidana, saday atana, the six ay atanas or powers of perception. These depend upon namarupa or name and form, and comprise the five physical senses as well as the mind considered as the organ of mental perception. At this stage of the involution of spirit into matter, name and form interact in complex, ever-changing ways with the mind as well as the five senses. The consciousness which arose in the nidana corresponding to Gemini now manifests through the conditioned interstices of the screen of namarupa. The powers that first developed on the astral plane and which formed centres in the astral body now rush forth in the fiery force of kama. The primary sensations which were evolved in response to the action of subtle external stimuli become feelings which act upon the mind and engender emotions. All the elements or entities existing in potentia prepare to separate into distinct entities under the next three phases of the zodiac. The ultimate union of these elements brings about the dissolution of the phenomenal universe, while their separation builds it and brings into view the picture gallery of avidya or maya. The emotions which gather force through the fiery sign of Leo are, in their pristine form, the vehicles through which the separation takes place. Attaching themselves to form, they reflect the activity of spirit galvanizing the elements into the riot of phenomena. Leo witnesses the awakening of the motive power of evolution which lies dormant in the sign of Taurus. The soul is propelled forward into the realm of limitation where it experiences passion and pain.
In classical times Manilius depicted Leo as the lion who "inclines men's minds to hunt and fills our noble's spacious halls with grinning spoils". Indeed, Leo is like the raw youth who stands firmly upon his own feet, indomitable but overextended, fearless but cocksure. The whole force of kama, in its unadulterated form, rushes outward as passion which may accumulate unwanted results. But the child of Leo is courageous and imposes himself upon a situation by sheer force of passion and personality. Individuals born under its influence often appear as powerful and imperious agents, straightforward, unhypocritical champions of what they believe. It is said that those born at sunrise, noon and sunset in the sign of Leo are of kingly heart and wholly simple in their love of the good. Goethe, who was born at noon when the sun was in Leo, expressed this when he wrote, "Poetry presupposes in the man who makes it a certain good-natured simple mindedness, in love with the Real as the hiding place of the Absolute." The lover of the Real does not, however, pursue his quest easily, for the truth painfully eludes all but the most passionate seeker and the requisite passion may consume as well as reveal. To kindle such fires and control the effects of their heat needs much wisdom as all too easily the blaze runs wild and swallows up the very memory of one's intent.
The unchecked passion separates into the mundane and sordid details making up the play of life. There is no greater degradation of true and lofty feeling than that flood of unrefined emotion which reduces the dignity of introspective suffering to the marketplace of sighing and crying. As Prince Hamlet put it, "In the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it a smoothness. 0, it offends me to the soul to see a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags . . ." Even great passion which may inspire the loftiest human drama runs the risk of folly in its nearsighted exuberances. Shakespeare wrote that "The hind that would be mated by the lion must die for love" and the example of such heedless ardour tends to divert others from the path of discrimination. But if the fire of passion is dangerous, it is also necessary. The Akkadian name for Leo was Nenegar, the 'fire-making fire'. They considered it to be the burning of the fire of Bahu, or the Great Deep of Aquarius, the sign opposite Leo on the zodiac and representing man. Mystics of ancient times believed that Leo kindles the fire of passion which will spark the final pilgrimage of the human soul. This double-edged nature of passion is hinted at by Robert Burns:
Misled by fancy's meteor ray,
By Passion driven,
But yet the light that led astray Was light from heaven.
Hegel emphasized the unavoidable necessity of the fiery quality in his assertion, "We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion." It is only when passion is fixed upon a limited object that cannot bear its intense focus that it rebounds upon itself and blinds the weary seeker. But the great force of kama which is often exercised on behalf of the separate self can be fruitfully placed at the service of the greater Self of all. He who succeeds in doing so becomes the hero. The change in the direction of force is brought about by a transformation of the object of desire. As an occultist wrote, "Make that change — and it is sometimes done by a flash of illumination — and then the whole of that energy will be turned towards the achieving of the higher end."
The Chinese word shib means both lion' and 'teacher'. Leo is related to the illuminating sun. There can be no mistaking the influence of this fiery solar sign in the life of H.P. Blavatsky who, in addition to her role as the parent of the Theosophical Movement, exemplified the courage and nobility of Leo throughout her lifetime as a compelling teacher of soul-wisdom. It was as though, with this additional fiery sheath, she was able to disperse the force of spiritual desire necessary to give life to the teachings and to the astral structure of her work. The meaning of the epithet 'Lion-Hearted' given to such a great Teacher-Adept can be traced in the ancient practice of garbing prophets and seers in lion skins. To this day some African tribes recognize a prophet by this emblem draped across his shoulder.
Of the stars in the constellation of the heavenly lion, Regulus is the brightest, this name having been given by Copernicus who believed that its brilliant white and blue light ruled the affairs of heaven as well as that of men. In India Regulus was called Magha, the Mighty, while in Persia the name Mrjan, the Centre, was assigned and the Turanians called it Masu, the Hero. It was said in the days of Nineveh, "If the star of the great lion is gloomy, the heart of the people will not rejoice." Regulus marks the heart of the lion and since Leo is the house of the sun, it is considered to rule the human heart. Together with Fomalhaut, which rests at the feet of Aquarius, Aldebaran, the Eye of Taurus, and Antares in the constellation of Scorpio, Regulus forms one of the four celestial cardinal points. It is one of the guardians of heaven which are said to act of themselves. They are cardinal lokas which oversee the processes of evolution. They contain the mystery that lies behind the throat, the heart, the generative organs and the earthbound feet of the great sacrifice which is man, the microcosm.
In Hindu cosmology one of the Avataras of Vishnu is Nara-Simha, the Man-Lion. As his vahan, Garuda is the emblem of cyclic and periodic time and is coeternal with both Vishnu and the Mahakalpa. Simha is the emblem of the solar cycle, representing the life and duration of the sun. The sun is the heart of the solar system and its being symbolized by the lion who rules the human heart suggests something of the mystery of Leo in connecting the hidden fire of the spiritual sun to the fire that lights the spiritual heart of man. A connection between the heart and the eye is analogously suggested by the ancient Egyptian belief that the eye of the sun was the great lion-form of Shu. In fact, the lion was often spoken of as dual and the sun as "Thou, luminous through the two lions", suggesting the guarding or transmitting role of Leo. These two lions were spoken of as the dual force or power of the two solar eyes, or the electro-positive and the electro-negative forces. The perfect balance of these powers may produce the white lion of Sir Percival, and the imbalance the red.
The glyph of Leo can be seen as a serpent beginning to move. Instead of accepting the traditional interpretation of the glyph as the lion's mane, one may consider it as an emblem of the uncoiling power of kundalini awakening into activity at this stage of development. From the zodiacal phase marking the painful fall of pure spirit into conditioned manifestation in Aries, the vital spark of divine light spread throughout the finest matrix of Akasa. From the Mother, Vach through the guise of Taurus manifested universal Mahat, the androgynous consciousness of the emerging microcosm. From this consciousness, impressed upon the Mother Deep, arose the astral plan of the names and forms to be, Cancer doing the work of unfolding. All this was then vivified by the spirit from beyond manifested life, the fiery Breath, the electric fire of all life which in our world system is the visible, life-giving sun. In ancient times this fiery breath was spoken of as Agni, Vayu and Surya, or fire, air and sun — the three occult degrees of fire. Allegories of the Puranas speak of the sacredness of these fires and their manifestation in man: "Every fire has, in its essential nature, a corresponding relation to one of the human psychic faculties, besides its well determined chemical and physical potencies when coming in contact with the terrestrially differentiated matter." The sacred triad of fires are all considered sons of Agni representing Atma-Buddhi-Manas. In Leo the electric fire of Pavaka awakens like the serpent, the solar fire of Suchi streams forth from the sun's eye, and the friction fire of Pavamana is sparked by the complex interaction of mind with the senses as well as name and form. This fiery force spreads through every atom of existence and spills over into the receptive soil of Virgo the Virgin, who is inseparable from Leo and who marks the last signs of the zodiac, which are agents of spiritual involution. The fire which builds the prison is also that which releases, and one can see in its dual power the alternating dance of Shiva and his shakti which takes place throughout the passage of all twelve signs of the zodiac. Perhaps Leo holds the vital key which unlocks the mystery of the positive and negative electric powers of life coiled in the complex interactions' of air, earth, fire and water, the progeny of the divine Flames.
The Hindu name for Leo is Simham, which word is said to be powerful in its utterance and to reveal mysteries to seekers of occult wisdom. Subba Row wrote that Simham had two synonymous terms — Pancasyam and Hari — indicating its relation to the five Dhyani Buddhas and to Narayana the Jivatma. He points out that the unfoidment of Jivatma is placed by ancient Upanishadic texts in the fifth sign of the zodiac, as it is the house of the son and Jivatma is the son of Paramatma. This corresponds to Leo as the house of the sun in that Surya is the son of the light of its hidden parent, the invisible sun. Narayana is the name for Vishnu in his aspect of Spirit moving on the Waters of Creation. In the Rig Veda Vishnu, the Pervader, is described as being a manifestation of primal solar energy. Striding through the seven regions of the universe, he envelops all things "with the dust of his beams". If Narayana is the primal manifestation of the life principle, spreading out in infinite space, Jivatma is the One Universal Life itself and the divine Spirit in man. The Secret Doctrine states that before evolution prakriti was in a lay a state of absolute homogeneity. Then it became anu or atomic, the particles of the dust of Vishnu's beams being called suddhasatva, a substance not subject to the qualities of matter. Out of this luminiferous essence the bodies of the inhabitants of Vaikuntaloka, the Heaven of Vishnu, are formed. This is the realm of the three sacred fires which are parents of the Gods, of the highest Dhyanis, of the five Dhyani Buddhas called the Fiery Lions. In them Paramatma manifests as Jivatma, pervading every particle of subsequently manifesting matter, vitalizing and electrifying the whole of nature.
The Stanzas of Dzyan reveal that the hierarchy of creative powers resides in the twelve great orders of the zodiac. The chief among these are the Four and Three related to the great quaternary and the Panchasyam or five Dhyani Buddhas. These Fiery Lions and their esotericism are said to be securely hidden in the zodiacal sign of Leo which itself is the nucleole of the Superior Divine World, a sacred aperture through which streams the emanating spiritual light of the hidden source of the sun. Perhaps for reasons connected with this arcane phenomenon, the ancient Egyptians referred to the Eye of the Sun as a lion and thus symbolically clothed one of the greatest occult mysteries of creation in the garb of seemingly fanciful myth. The manifestation of gods in the Divine World and the subsequent spreading of their fire through all realms of prakriti marks the spiritual anthropogenesis which precedes material cosmogenesis, the merging of the divine into the human which creates the visible universe in its descent into matter. Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer are all preparatory to the actual manifestation of vitalized matter and the entry of Ishwara into human form. This can be seen in the long curve of vast cycles of zodiacal evolution where an entire epoch is characterized by the expression of divine substance permeated with divine fire, or it can be seen in the limited cycle of a time in human life when the fire of mental awareness quickens the very metabolism of the still plastic material vestures of the Ego.
Leo is the eternal and everlasting nucleole of the Superior Divine World. According to The Secret Doctrine, the nuclei "form part of the Absolute. They are the embrasures of that black impenetrable fortress, which is forever concealed from human or even Dhyanic sight. The nuclei are the light of eternity escaping therefrom." It is that light which condenses into the forms of the Lords of Being — the highest collective Being, the Jivatma. It is that light which is the Logos appearing at the beginning of every new manvantara. The aperture of Leo is thus a channel of birth for vital substance, a conductor of light and life experienced in the world. In the ancient Egyptian teaching, at creation the sun arose near Denebola in the sign of Leo, which was considered to be the home of the sun.
The Copts called this home or birthplace Titefui or 'the forehead', reminding one of the kingly fire of the central spiritual eye. The legends that surround the Holy Grail hint that it came from the East, from the place of the source of illumination. The grail was said to have been fashioned by unseen hands from a rare jewel which dropped from Lucifer's forehead as he was hurled into the abyss. The Christian patina covering this myth does not hide its strong allegorical similarities to arcane teachings concerning the third eye of Shiva. The loss of the grail is symbolic of humanity's loss of the eye of spiritual vision and its pure arcane light of wisdom which was the attribute of divine Spirit before its engulfment in matter. The quest for the Holy Grail, therefore, is the search for the mystic centre which inspired the Round Table, the heart of life and light symbolized by the sun, whose mystery can be fathomed only by grasping the significance of the connection between the sacred eye of the forehead and the central spiritual sun. The eye, the heart and the sun form a triangle which contains the secret of the divine Flames.
Within the mystic heart of the seeker, the fire of passion born in Leo must be purified so that its heat gradually reduces to ashes the thraldom of identification with name and form. The separate bonfires of delusive emotion must be refined and unified within the well of Universal Selfhood. It is not the separate self that slays the devouring beast; it is the pure fire of the white lion, the holy force of the divine Dhyanis working through human vestures that conquers the foe. Man approaches the gateway of the Lion across the bridge of evolution. The flames within him purified, he stands before their divine archetypes, prostrates himself and enters into their light. Through their illumination he sees that he is none other than the Jivatma which entered the human form prepared for him and he realizes his true origin. He perceives, in a glorious revelation, that he is a spark which hangs from Ishwara, the Flame, by the finest thread of daiviprakriti which, after millennia of involvement in the inherent limitations of conditioned existence, is now returning home.
Hermes, August 1977