Category Archives: Mystery of Birth

Christmas Symbolism: Ox and Ass

During the Age of Taurus (roughly from 3000 BCE to 800 BCE), the bull and the calf were venerated. As this Age transitioned to Aries, the Mithraic Mysteries arose where the cosmic Christ was sought as one overcame the bull within:Mithras

Note the symbol of the snake. Mithraism apparently grew out of Persia and became popular throughout much of the Roman empire just before the spread of Christianity.

Many of the Old Testament books have the expression ox and ass. For example, in Job 1:14 it says “and there came a messenger unto Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them,”

adelphia sarcophagus

Andrew Graham-Dixon of the Independent writes in his Arts column from December 1992, “The first reference to the ox and ass at the Nativity comes several centuries after the fact, in a book that is not much read these days: the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, written [down] some time in the eighth century [most researchers date this to 600 AD]. The author of this apocryphal text is unlikely to have invented this detail on his own. It seems probable that the early church fathers had also placed the ox and the ass at the Nativity because of what seemed a suggestive reference to the two animals in the Book of Isaiah: ‘The ox knows its owner and the ass its master’s stall; but Israel, my own people, has no knowledge, no discernment.’” The Adelphia Sarcophagus relief (to the left) is from roughly 330 AD; note the ox and ass in its nativity scene.

Giotto also places the ox and ass in his nativity scene. GiottoScrovegniChapel_Nativity 1305In his Escape to Egypt and the triumphant entry of Christ Jesus to Jerusalem includes an ass for travel (frescoes by Giotto).

19-flight-into-egyptIn Luke 13:15 we read “The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?”

A bit later in Luke, 14:5, it says “And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?”

OK, lots of other references are possible – you likely are aware there are many such references in the Bible and other related ancient texts. I have had a question about the symbolic or mystical purpose of these two beasts. In reading David Ovason’s book The Two Children, I found a treasure! “The ox was intended as a reference to the bull of Mithras, and perhaps even to the bull of the Egyptian god Apis – both important cults still offering initiation at the time of the birth of Jesus. … Just as the bull would have been familiar to the early Christians as being emblematic of the Mithraic cult, so the ass would have been familiar to them through the writing of the 2nd century AD African writer Lucius Apulcius.” Apulcius’ esoteric book The Golden Ass, is the story of a “human who had been metamorphosed into the body of an ass” but finds liberation through the “initiation rites of Isis”. David goes on to say that Gnostic deities were depicted with the head of an ass.Giotto Scenes_from_the_Life_of_Christ_-_10__Entry_into_Jerusalem

The gospel books are full of passages where the event could be happening in the physical or in the spiritual world or both (typically both).  I find it plausible that both the bull (ox) and the ass each represent a stream of the ancient mysteries. Linking the bull to Mithras and Egyptian Apis mysteries makes sense. And I can be persuaded that the ass represents the Osiris-Isis mysteries of Egypt but I’ll need more persuasion. Anyone want to persuade me?

Return of HephaestusTo close I’d like to add one more image. When Hephaestus returned to Mount Olympus, many years after his mother, Hera, threw him off because his foot was deformed and thus ugly, he rode on an ass. Christ did not copy this; rather he fulfilled the myths and the prophecies. What does this riding into Jerusalem or onto Olympus truly mean?

Mithraism and Christianity

In other posts we’ve looked at the guidance and wisdom carried in every religion by its local Mystery Center. The ancient mystery teachers had knowledge of the stars that, without telescopes, seems incredible to us today. The Caldeans and Persian astronomer/astrologers were well aware of the course of the sun through the zodiac and the movement of the planets. Yes, in their view of spirit as reality and physical as illusion, they placed the earth, from human perspective, in the center of the spiritual universe. They also knew that each human being begins each incarnation journey from out of the planetary spheres. Rudolf Steiner called this knowledge Etheric Astronomy. i think it relates powerfully with a healthy Eugenics.

As evolution progressed, and the sun moved from Taurus to Aries, new wisdom flowed into the Mysteries. Now the teachers learned one does not arrive at a full conception of the gradual approach of an entity out of extra-planetary spheres into the planetary and hence onto the earth sphere. No, their spirituals pictures revealed that this process leads not to a human being but rather to the human as a bull. No human beings would exist on earth if there were nothing besides this extra-planetary being that descends through the planetary sphere into evolution.

These teachers knew that the time had come when human beings must struggle against this bull-like nature with something still higher. Thus the Mysteries of Mithra came into being and spread from Persia (and perhaps from even farther east) into the Roman Empire from where it spread into eastern Europe and as far west as Spain.

This new mystery stream intended to lead humanity to overcome the aged-view of humanity’s pre-birth origin given by the ancient wisdom. What was offered outside of the Mystery Centers was the image of the bull with Mithras on top of it. Mithras was meant to be the human being who struggles to overcome the bull. Mithras was the sun force in the human being who rebelled against the merely planetary and terrestrial aspects that can only lead to the bull-human. There must be of far loftier origin than the being that was pictured according to the ancient teaching of wisdom. Mithras

Two outcomes resulted. One, the beginnings of revolt against the revered mysteries, and two, the inner preparation for the coming of Christ who was seen as this Sun being.

Remnants of Mithraism persist in the bull-fighting in Spain and Mexico.

In the statue, note the direction of Mithra’s gaze (and compare to this blog post). Note the ‘cosmic’ animals; note where each is on the bull: the crab, the snake, and the dog. I invite you to comment on what these represent.

Soul, Consciousness, and Embryology

  • Is mind a product of brain and body?
  • Does consciousness arise magically out of matter?Embryo
  • Are embryo cells individually intelligent, knowing what to do?

Like these questions above, the study of Embryology gives us some wonderful leading questions to this subject of consciousness. Here are some more:

  • What were we actually doing when we were an embryo?
  • Who is realizing itself?
  • When does this realization occur?
  • Are there patterns to consciousness arising that apply generically to all humans?
  • How does one exist as an embryo?

Much of modern philosophy on consciousness begins with an adult in its study. Only a few years ago, it was felt that by about 7 years of age, the brain completed its infrastructure development as a hard wired machine that now could be properly filled with knowledge data.  Mental illness was typically seen as irreversible because it arose out of ‘bad wiring’.  Today plasticity of the brain has been recognized but often this fixed-brain psychology persists in practitioners.

Futurologists such as Ray Kurzweil insist that artificial intelligence (AI) will one day soon be able to ‘reverse engineer’ the brain and thereby endow a computing machine with the ability to think and act like a human being.  Ray goes on to claim that with the exponential growth in computing capabilities, that by mid-century (roughly 2050) we will pass a Singularity point after which AI will race along leaving carbon-only humans behind. He states that to survive we will need to become a hybrid person, part carbon-based and part computer (silicon based) and eventually the weaker carbon-based part will disappear.  This concept of a hybrid human, oddly, may have some unintended truth to it which I’ll discuss in another offering later.  In many ways, we began down this path with the ‘personal computer’. But the intention that we can reverse engineer the brain to build a computer-based mind will fail because it fails to recognize the role of soul in human thinking.

Soul? Is not this an out-dated concept rejected in the 19th century? Indeed, materialism has sent the concept of soul to its death. Only religion, it seems, holds on to the concept to use it for the promise of an afterlife. Now, through an examination of pre-birth, through embryology, we can ask if this materialistic concept makes sense! [BTW, until the 8th Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, the human was always thought of as soma, psyche, and pneuma: body, soul, and spirit].

We turn now to embryologist Jaap van der Wal, some of whose work can be found here.  One of his [slightly edited quoted] papers show that “an embryo ‘behaves’. It is shaping its body, it moves, it performs (literally).  The first manifestation of behavior we exhibit as the psychosomatic body-mind being that we are, is our morphological behavior – that is to say, our body.  The gestures we make on the physiological level are also performance, the en-act dimension in us.  Going upright, finding the balance, centering: these are acts of the soul, of the human Self or spirit.  Before we can do these psychologically, we perform them physiologically at about one year of age, as in, trying to get upright in a playpen.  And even that is not the first time.  The first time you found your balance was when you shaped and organized the bodily organization as an embryo.  The human body is the only primate and mammalian body where the gravity center is organized inside and within the body.  To come to yourself as a human being you need the organization for that, i.e., a body (not only a brain) that can do so.  This is exactly what you do in the growing and shaping of your body as an embryo: you perform here the act of going upright and balancing in a morphological way.”

“Our body is behavior, human behavior, to be explicit.  The body is not a thing, an anatomical substrate; it is a performance, a function, a behavior.  Soul does not have a body, it is body; body does not have a soul, it is soul.  Even your spinal columnskeleton and brain (organs that for example are nearly structuralized to death and physical substance) are ‘on the move’, are processes. [Note the mystical numbers: 7, 12, 5, 5, 3]. I learned from embryology, Motion is primary, form is secondary!  Form arises out of motion (and not the reverse as reductionistic thinkers always propagate).  In that motion a behavior is performed.”

“Within the embryo, form and function are still related and linked together firmly.  Bodily and physiological functions are pre-exercised as growth gestures and as growing movements in the embryo.  In this respect a human being has already breathed long before he has taken his first breath after birth.  The dynamics with which lungs, thorax and diaphragm are developing and unfolding may be considered as a type of breathing because these dynamics are already breathing movements.  Considered in this way, an embryo looks, grasps, walks.  This can be called morphological behavior.”

Thus, I am a being of soul and body (not body and soul). It is not my muscles that move me, rather, it is my willing activity in my soul directed from my I that moves my limbs.  I am integrated with my body for my life on earth but I must not be confused to believe that my body is me or is moving me.  Consciousness is primary.

This takes us to more leading questions:

  • Does the soul exist before birth? before conception?
  • Can consciousness exist without the brain? If so, how is it different?
  • Besides our awake consciousness, we know we have three levels of lesser consciousness: dreaming, dreamless sleep, and coma. How many higher levels might there be?
  • If consciousness is primary, did evolution arise from it? If so, is the fossil record a story of the sequence of what precipitated out of a consciousnes

Ox and Ass = Mysteries of Mithras and Isis?

During the Age of Taurus (roughly from 3000 BCE to 800 BCE), the bull and the calf were venerated. As this Age transitioned to Aries, the Mithraic Mysteries arose where one was now to overcome the bull within:

 

Note the symbol of the snake. Mithraism apparently grew out of Persia and became popular throughout much of the Roman empire just before the spread of Christianity.

Many of the Old Testament books have the expression ox and ass. For example, in Job 1:14 it adelphia sarcophagussays “and there came a messenger unto Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them,”

Andrew Graham-Dixon of the Independent writes in his Arts column from December 1992, “The first reference to the ox and ass at the Nativity comes several centuries after the fact, in a book that is not much read these days: the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, written [down] some time in

Giottothe eighth century [most researchers date this to 600 AD]. The author of this apocryphal text is unlikely to have invented this detail on his own. It seems probable that the early church fathers had also placed the ox and the ass at the Nativity because of what seemed a suggestive reference to the two animals in the Book of Isaiah: ‘The ox knows its owner and the ass its master’s stall; but Israel, my own people, has no knowledge, no discernment.'” The Adelphia Sarcophagus relief (to the left) is from roughly 330 AD; note the ox and ass in its nativity scene.

Giotto also places the ox and ass in his nativity scene. In his Escape to Egypt and the triumphant entry of Christ Jesus to Jerusalem includes an ass for travel (frescoes by Giotto).

In Luke 13:15 we read “The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?”

A bit later in Luke, 14:5, it says “And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?”

OK, lots of other references are possible – you likely are aware there are many such references in the Bible and other related ancient texts. I have had a question about the symbolic or mystical purpose of these two beasts. In reading David Ovason’s book The Two Children, I found a treasure! “The ox was intended as a reference to the bull of Mithras, and perhaps even to the bull of the Egyptian god Apis – both important cults still offering initiation at the flight to egypttime of the birth of Jesus. … Just as the bull would have been familiar to the early Christians as being emblematic of the Mithraic cult, so the ass would have been familiar to them through the writing of the 2nd century AD African writer Lucius Apulcius.” Apulcius’ esoteric book The Golden Ass, is the story of a “human who had been metamorphosed into the body of an ass” but finds libEntry to Jerusalemeration through the “initiation rites of Isis”. David goes on to say that Gnostic deities were depicted with the head of a ass.

The gospel books are full of passages where the event could be happening in the physical or in the spiritual world or both (typically both).  I find it plausible that both the bull (ox) and the ass each represent a stream of the ancient mysteries. Linking the bull to Mithras and Egyptian Apis mysteries makes sense. And I can be persuaded that the ass represents the Osiris-Isis mysteries of Egypt but I’ll need more persuasion. Anyone want to persuade me?  Any other thoughts?

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