A Tribute to Dichotomies

The Rebis

  • Consider the hermetic Rebis (below), where the first dichotomy that we see is an image of a body featuring two heads, one masculine and one feminine. The Rebis (from the Latin 'res bina', meaning dual or double matter) is an alchemical symbol for the divine androgyne. [You will recall that Genesis Chapter 5 reads, "In the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam", which implies that the 'image of God' is somehow both male and female.]

  • Notice that the male half holds a set of compasses and is accompanied by the sun, while the female half holds a square and is accompanied by the moon, telling us that symbolically the compasses are considered solar and male and the square is seen as lunar and feminine. A Dualistic Symbol Cluster with left-right (horizontal) symmetry is developed.

    Two Kingdoms

  • In another sense, the compasses represent the heavens (heavenly father) and the square represents the earth (mother earth) . In the image above, the dragon symbolizes the terrestrial (sub-lunar) forces, while the celestial forces (the planets - grouped in pairs of polar opposites - Mars and Venus on the left and Jupiter and Saturn on the right) are represented inside of five hexagrams. Below the (male) deity measures the heavens (with compasses).

  • The heaven/earth, mind/matter, spirit/body, dichotomy is a Vertical Metaphor sometimes described as a struggle between two kingdoms, an upper and a lower one. The figure standing on the dragon above represents symbolically victory over the earthly impulses. In Egyptian art they use a crocodile, while Christians use a snake. Matter and materiality are seen as something that needs to be overcome.

    Revelations 3:12 reads "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God". This, of course, reminds us of the Osiris story where he is sealed in a casket and cast into the Nile River. After coming to shore at Byblos (Lebanon today), the casket is encased by a tamarask tree that is later cut down and used as a pillar in a temple.

    [Note that the phrases "him that overcometh" and "he that overcometh" are each used four times in Revelations. Goto a search engine for the KJV.]

  • Temples were designed as metaphorical representations of our place in the the cosmos, where the floor represents the earth's surface, and the ceiling represents the sky and the heavens. A pillar in the temple connects and mediates between these two. In Egypt, the raising of the Djed Pillar (associated with Osiris) was intended to symbolically re-establish the proper realtionship between the earth and the heavens.

  • Below we see that Tut wears the head-dress of King Menes, who is said to have been 'the first to unite the two Kingdoms' of Egypt. Note that while 'the parable of the two kingdoms' is written in the form of a history, Menes, like the Djed pillar of Osiris, the Cadeusus, the Kundalini serpent, Jacob's Ladder and the Tree of Life, represents a bridge between the lower and upper kingdoms seen as the body and the spirit, matter and mind, and the earth and the heavens.

  • These are called symbols of transcendence, because they mediate between two realms or spheres of influence. The most common animal symbols used for this are serpents and birds, where the serpent represents the earth and the bird represents the sky. Above we see the cobra and vulture. Zarathustra was accompanied by a serpent and an eagle. The cadeusus features serpents and wings. Sometimes we see compound symbols like dragons with wings, or feathered serpents.

    The idea being conveyed is that there is a war in the heavens in that Man mediates between two realms, matter and spirit, that there are two distinct natures at work. See Herman Hesse's "Steppenwolf" p 40. -

    "There once was a man, Harry, called the Steppenwolf. The Steppenwolf had two natures, a human and a wolfish one. In him the man and the wolf did not go the same way together, but were in continual and deadly enmity."

    The same notion is conveyed by the two headed eagle. In the Bible Egypt and Babylon refer to the body and matter while Israel is symbolic of the spirit. When Bob Marley sang "We're leaving Babylon and going to Our Father's Land" he was being metaphorical not geographical, just as in the Menes legend.

    [It should be noted in relationship to the assignment of gender to the different elements above, that the sky has not always been the masculine figure. For instance, Osiris, the vegetation god, was the son of Nuit the sky goddess and Geb the earth god. Nonetheless, the horizontal (male-female) metaphor has been overlapped onto the vertical (heaven-earth) metaphor to create an extremely complex symbol cluster where mind, spirit, the heavens, and reason are seen as being 'masculine' while the body, matter, the earth and emotion are seen as being 'feminine'.]

  • The square and cube are associated with the earth, matter, materiality, and femininity, while the circle and sphere are masculine and associated with the heavens and spirituality, reason etc. If we imagine the square to represent matter and the compass mind, then the compass on top of the square represents the notion of 'mind over matter'.

    Albert Pike writes ("Morals and Dogma" p 854-5): "The noblest purpose of life and highest duty of a man are to strive incessantly and vigorously to win the mastery of everything, of that which in him is spiritual and divine over that which is material and sensual... Freemasonry is the subjugation of the Human that is in man by the Divine; the Conquest of the Appetites and Passions by the Moral Sense and Reason; a continual effort, struggle and warfare of the Spiritual against the Material and Sensual." - which is characterized as feminine.