By Joseph “Joe” Panek | A Seeker’s Thoughts
Just like the Unicorn, the Phoenix is a mystical and magical creature. The Symbolism of the Phoenix can be found in the myths, fables, legends and religions of nearly all civilizations and indigenous cultures throughout the world. In Ancient Egypt it is called the Benu bird; in India Garuda; in Chnia Feng Huang; and in Japan Ho-oo. In addition, the Phoenix is also an integral, and archetypal, Symbol used in Alchemy.
The Phoenix is a fabulous bird which enjoys an extremely long life span. When its current life Cycle is complete, the Phoenix Sacrifices its current self through Fire and renews itself three days later. Only one Phoenix can exist at any given time.
Since the mythology of the Phoenix is found in so many different cultures, scattered throughout the most remote reaches of the world, we find ourselves asking the question: What is the hidden meaning, and sacred Lesson, contained with this wondrous and Symbolic creature?
To answer this question, we must delve into the esoteric Symbolism, and not simply the fairy-tale-like “story”, associated with the Phoenix.
In a way, the Symbolism of the Phoenix is similar to that of the Serpent. The Serpent sheds its worn-out old skin in order for it to renew itself with the new skin of youth in the physical realm.
However, the Phoenix is a bird. And as birds can fly and travel through the element of Air, they have been, since ancient times, Symbolic representations of mind and Spirit. Therefore, when the Phoenix “gives up” its old and completed self, it does so because it is ready to be transformed and reborn unto a much higher realm. The Phoenix Symbolizes the ultimate Act of Creative Destruction, Sacrifice, and rebirth within the sublime realm of mind and Spirit.
In Ancient Egypt The Phoenix was also a Symbol and Metaphor for the setting and rising Sun. The Sun disappears beneath the Western Horizon in a ball of flames when Its daily Journey is complete so that it may be re-born anew in the East the following morning by way of a new ball of Fire.
Symbolically, Fire represents light, enlightenment, and illumination. The Fire in which the Phoenix Sacrifices and renews itself is not the fire of physical destruction which is portrayed in paintings. It is the Spiritual, Alchemical Fire indicative of Purification, Wisdom, Transformation, and Rebirth; it is the “Fire which does not burn”.
The three-day process of Death, Transformation, and Renewal referred to in the legend of the Phoenix appears numerous times in Legend, Myth, and Sacred Texts. It is an allusion to the Rite of Initiation which an Ancient Initiate was required to submit him, or her, self to in order to Transcend, by way of Sacred Ritual, to the next higher plane of Instruction and Initiation.
This Initiation Ceremony was conducted during the three dark, or silent, nights of the new moon.
Death, Transformation, and Renewal. This Lesson is constantly emphasized within Ancient Teachings found throughout the entire world. It is presented to us in the Lesson of Creative Destruction, the Act of Sacrifice, and the Symbolism of the Phoenix.
It is a constant reminder that our Current Incarnation is a Path of expansion and growth. It is also a reminder that our Journey is an infinite Adventure in which we can Decide, at any time, that our old self has completed its Cycle of usefulness. Once we Choose to leave our old self behind we simply need to follow the example of the Phoenix: immerse ourself in the Spiritual Fire of Sacrifice and Transformation, and use the ashes of our old self to create the new person we are Destined to Become.