The zenith is a symbol which can be synonymous with that of the central hole in the Chinese heaven known as pi, as well as with that of the peak of the mountain-temple, or the pyramid, or the sacrificial stake, or the pillar of the world . It is the point through which mystics believe their thoughts may pass out of space into non-space, out of time into timelessness. Hence, the importance of the formal likeness of this symbol with that of the hole.
One of the most widespread of symbols, despite its complexity. In almost every land and age its characteristics are the same—the circular form, the twelve subdivisions with their corresponding signs and their relationship with the seven planets. The Mesopotamian cultures, Egypt, Judea, Persia, India, Tibet, China, America, Islam, Greece and Northern Europe—all were acquainted with zodiacal symbolism.
The name of this circular 'form' comes from zoe life and diakos wheel; and the basic element of this 'wheel of life' is found in the Ouroboros the snake biting its own tail, symbolizing the Aion duration. The general significance of the Zodiac concerns the process by which 'primordial energy, once fecundated, passes from the potential to the virtual, from unity to multiplicity, from spirit to matter, from the non-formal world to the world of forms', and then returns along the same path . This accords with the teaching of oriental ontology, which holds that the life of the universe is split into two opposing yet complementary phases: involution or materialization and evolution or spiritualization.
Applying this belief to the Zodiac, the first six signs from Aries to Virgo come to represent involution, while the other six from Libra to Pisces relate to evolution. This pattern refers not only to the evolution of the cosmos in the broadest sense, but also to specific phases of this process as well as to any given period in the development of the manifest world as such for example, a period in history, the lifetime of a race or of an individual, the period of the torld's existence, the time taken in carrying out a task .
As evidence of the great antiquity of this symbol, we would point to the zodiacal signs in the rock-paintings in the Cueva de Arce at the Laguna de la Janda, Cadiz, the celestial maps in the stone-engravings at Eira d'os Mouros in Galicia, and the sculpting of the cromlech at Alvao in Portugal, not to speak of the numerous other examples of the same kind of thing: but there is no conclusive evidence of the existence of a truly systematic understanding of Zodiacal symbolism before the time of king Sargon of Agade 750 B.C., who was known to possess a work of astrology containing forecasts of the eclipses of the sun.
From the time of Hammurabi 000 B.C. man's study of the heavens began to assume a more scientific character. But the Zodiac, and the characteristic signs as we know them today, cannot, in the opinion of Berthelot, be traced back farther than the tablet of Cambyses th century B.C.; this, however, does not invalidate the theory that the separate elements that contributed to the symbolic pattern of the Zodiac as a whole were of much greater antiquity than this.
For example, the mystic twelvefold vision of the world; and the symbol of the ram associated with the mythic Ram and with the Primitive cult of the sun; and also the Gemini. Marc Saunier has commented, in connexion with the twelve-part division of the Zodiac, that spreading into our solar world from an unknowable unknown, through the twelve luminous doors of the Zodiac, it becomes concentrated into the form of the sun whence it radiates outwards to the seven planetary spheres which refract its unity in the gamut of sounds, rhythms and colours .
As Jung notes, according to Manichean belief the demiurge builds a cosmic wheel, related to the rota and the opus circulatorium of alchemy and identical in that it signifies sublimation . It is almost unnecessary to point out that this form of motion, rotation on the vertical plane—descending and ascending—echoes the Platonic theories of the soul's 'fall' into material existence and its need to find salvation by returning along the same path. The most important and definitive adaptations of the zodiacal cycle—for other variants arise by analogy—are, first, that which equates the twelve signs with monthly periods, and the complete cycle with the year commencing with March—with the spring, and, secondly, that corresponding to the great cycle lasting 25,920 years of the precession of the equinoxes, whereby, every 2160 years, the equinox withdraws by the space of one sign thirty degrees.
The fact that the figures which make up the zodiacal pattern are mostly animals has prompted Schneider to suggest that the constellations may owe their curious names to an earlier religion of totemistic origin, whose basic features were subsequently applied to the heavens through the process of catasterism . Piobb has observed that the Zodiac, besides being a process, may also be understood as a circuit and that its twelvepart division springs from the way in which the quantitative becomes qualitative in vibrations, sounds or colours and hence the ecliptic is a zone of energy differing in potential between its entrance Aries and its exit Pisces.
He also notes that, if one wishes to grasp the ancient conceptions, one must regard the Zodiac as a totality comprising twelve ideographs which, in sum, epitomize the dodecagon . It is clear that every twelve-part scheme alludes to the zodiacal pattern. The signs q.v. under separate headings are as follows: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces . According to Senard, these twelve signs are derived from the four Elements combined with the three modes or gunas levels known as sattva, rajas and tamas corresponding, firstly, to a situation—or level—of superiority or of essence; secondly, to an intermediate or transitional situation: and, thirdly, to the level of the inferior and material.
But we cannot here go into Senard's theory of the signs of the Zodiac, beyond noting, briefly, the meanings that he attributes to each of them: Aries he interprets as the urge to create and transform: Taurus as undifferentiated magnetism; the Gemini as creative synthesis, or imagination; Cancer as gestation and birth; Leo as individuation, will; Virgo as intelligence;
Libra as equilibrium; Scorpio as histolysis; Sagittarius as coordination and synthesis; Capricorn as ascesis; Aquarius as illumination; and Pisces as mystic fusion . Mertens-Stienon founds his study of the Zodiac upon an article by the Hindu T. Subba Rao, published in October 1881 and translated into French for Le. Lotus bled in 1937, drawing also upon the work of Blavatsky and Dupuis the latter favouring an almost exclusively astronomical interpretation of the myths. Mertens Stienon, then, divides the zodiacal signs into three quaternaries, although in our view a better division would be the inverse of this—four ternaries, forming a triunity for each of the seasons of the year as well as for the cardinal points.
He supports the view that the Zodiac may serve to symbolize and analyse the phases of each and every cycle, together with the evolutive stages which it embraces. He distinguishes between the astronomical Zodiac the constellations and the intellectual Zodiac symbols, affirming that it was the constellations that took their names from the symbols. For instance, since, in Egyptian times, so much importance was attached to the symbolic bull and ram, this was why, astronomically speaking, these figures came to mark the vernal equinoxes which, in our era, coincide with Pisces.
He shows that the apparent orbit of the sun through the twelve divisions corresponds to twelve degrees or stages in the action of the active principle upon the passive. These stages are denoted in mythology by the avatars of the creator-god—by his metamorphoses and manifestations. The precise symbolism of each sign springs from: a the number it bears in the series of twelve signs: b its situation within the series as a whole; c its situation within each of the four ternaries; d its symbolic figure; e the ideas related to this figure; and f the concomitant planetary symbolism.
In the symbolism of the Zodiac one can sense the resolve to create, as in the Tarot pack, an allembracing archetypal pattern—a kind of figurative model to serve as a comprehensive definition of each and every existential possibility in the macrocosm and the microcosm. As is the case with other symbolic forms, zodiacal symbolism is the product of the serial intellection of the universe, arising out of the belief that all things occupy positions and situations in space-time which are limited and typical, and implying, not determinism, but belief in the 'system of destinies', that is to say, the theory that certain antecedents must cause certain consequences and that any given situation must have ramifications that are neither replaceable nor arbitrary.
Regarding the application of the Zodiac to the cycle of human existence in the concrete sense, there are certain obvious affinities with symbols pertaining to medicinal rites, as Schneider has shown. It is to Jorge Quintana, and his El gobierno teocratico de Mohenjo-Daro Ampurias, IV, that we owe our knowledge of an octonary zodiac dating from the proto-Indian period of the third millennium before our era. This zodiac is composed of the following signs: edu the ram, yaw the harp, nand the crab, amma the mother, tuk the scales, kani the dart, kuda the pitcher and Man the fish. There are obvious parallels between most of these signs and those of the dodecanarian Zodiac. The supreme god of the proto-Indians was equated with the sun, crossing, in his procession through the constellations, the corresponding degrees of the Zodiac, whence he derives his title of 'god of the eight forms'.
Every zone or area of space holds a symbolic significance deriving from its level on the vertical axis and its situation in relation to the cardinal points. In the broadest sense, zone may, by analogy, be equated with degree or mode. The colours are really only zones of the spectrum, and, by this token, any arrangement of zones is susceptible of interpretation as a serial whole.