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“But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.”Book of Job 12:7-10
Introduction: What are Natural Symbols?
Man is constantly looking for patterns. A symbol is a way of capturing a pattern within a single glyph – such that lots of information can be compressed or contained within a condensed form, a letter, a number a word, a series of shapes, etc.
Although man is constantly searching for meaning in his surrounding environment, today he looks primarily in books, i.e. the written word. But ancient man looked to nowhere else than nature herself to provide him with all the symbols he needed. And indeed this was where the original religious impulse found its expression: through reading the symbols inherent in nature and deriving analogs to the spirit world, God, and man’s place in these high matters.
Modern man is trained not to look at “untamed” nature for intelligence. There is a tangled, chaotic mess of dog-eat-dog, modern dogmatic science tells us. Surely not a place where not only intelligence can be found but symbols can be pulled that have direct correlation and significance to man’s plight and journey.
But a quick cursory glance to nature proves this is not true, it is just that we are not reading Her with the right eyes, if you will. We all know, for example, that the female menstruation cycle is timed according to 28 day lunar cycles, but that is usually where the knowledge base ends in this field. We think it is peculiar perhaps, this correlation, but don’t know what to make of it.
The ancients did. Not only did they see such correlations as relevant to their religious impulse, but they had direct intuition that such correlations were purposefully place there by Deity in attempt to impart to man sacred truths. In this way was nature thus “read” and recorded by the ancients.
The night and day pattern, the seasonal changes, the shifting of the stars in the heavens, all told a deeper syncretic story that mapped onto the soul journey of man.
For example, as Alvin Boyd Kuhn made plain, the night, and winter became types for the incarnation, the dark night of soul, when its buried in the flesh of matter, separated from the hot and fiery heavenly realm, which was thus typed as day and summer.
These codified motifs survived into the old and new testaments by the way, if you know how to look.
The stars and constellations became a more complex and multi-layered which still told the hero’s journey, the hero being the sun, Helios, Horus, Jesus, as he traveled through the 12 constellations, embodying each sign as he went. There is always a death and resurrection, as the sun has to die at night when it goes below the HORizon, the son has to die on the cross, but is reborn again the next MORning (Mars), when the sun RIses (RA) and shines.
This is not just some hero’s journey, this is YOUR journey. This is what every soul must do, in order to reach everlasting conscious immortality, it must undergo cyclic incarnations, dying and being reborn, like the sun, until it masters the very forces of nature, those untamed elements, within his own being.
Thus we can define a natural symbol as any aspect of nature, from organisms to patterns in the cosmos, that tells an aspect of man’s story, through a convergence of pattern. And we must keep in mind at all times, that this pattern is never arbitrary, although we can arbitrarily deceive ourselves. The pattern is put there by Deity, just as the ancients knew but which modern man forgot, in order to remind him of who he really is on the soul level. God kicked us out of the garden but gave us the symbols required to piece our way back.
The topic of natural symbols is a huge one that would require many volumes to being to do it justice. This book will focus its attention, then, on just one aspect of this vast field, and that is the zootype. What we can learn from the lofty stars and from the planets and sun and moon is truly breath-taking, but perhaps what really hits home is when you discover that the very neighbors and friends which keep man company on Earth, the animals, are also there to tell us a story, in analog.
From the life cycle of the butterfly metamorphosing from a cocoon, to the hunting and sniffing of man’s best friend the dog, are traits and patterns that reveal hidden, occult truths as to the nature of man’s own soul journey. Every animal embodies one or several adaptations which were glyphed by the ancients as types or symbols of the hero. The bat’s ability to “see” at night was the hero not getting lost in the dark forest of his incarnation. The same for the fish who does not drown in the sea (or flood) of sense life. The bird was ever the symbol for the resurrection, for its flight symbolized the soul’s journey back to Heaven, having conquered the lower realms of flesh and sense.
Many of these animals thus became luminous Gods, as all the animal-headed or human-animal hybrid forms can attest to. Animal totemism was a kind of codified ritual system for embodying the animal powers of whatever animal the aspirant would evoke, through pelts and skins and face paint, through dance and chant, that animal spirit was evoked and its skills were, temporarily, imparted. This was and still is the basis for much magic ritual.
Each chapter in this book will be focusing on a different zootype, covering the main ones that survived the test of time and are found scattered through our myths and cultures, both modern and ancient. The zootypes haven’t left us, you’ll find, if you read on, they remain loyal as ever. It is modern man who has turned his back on them, thinking himself too lofty and important. But what is left when you forget the natural symbols and zootypes is a very gray and dull world indeed. It is time to reclaim the lost guides of the soul.