The double-headed eagle: “the great work”


“The Sun is its father, the Moon is its mother, the Wind has carried it in its belly, its nurse is the Earth.”

The Double-Headed Eagle is a symbol dating back to ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, etc. The oldest such motif ever discovered was found in Jiroft, Iran and dates back to 3000 B.C. The symbol is known to have esoteric and alchemical connotations. The image on the right is from an old manuscript called Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians of the 16th and 17th Centuries” and, as you can see, it also displays three alchemical glyphs for “Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury”. This symbol relates to the alchemical regeneration and transmutation of the “soul personality” in the individual: a spiritual alchemical awakening process that can only be integrated by upright living. The double-headed eagle is also known as the “phoenix, the bird of resurrection”. This mythical bird was said to live up to 500 or 1000 years. The phoenix was known as the Swan of the Greeks and the Eagle to the Romans. According to the ancient mystics, this bird was the symbol of the immortality of the Soul, one side Feminine (Left) relating to the Moon, the other Masculine (Right) relating to the Sun, representing the duality of the Spirit and the Soul, the Ba and the Ka of the Egyptian, and Eros and Psyche of the Greeks. In the words of Hermes Trismegistus:

“The Sun is its father, the Moon is its mother, the Wind has carried it in its belly, its nurse is the Earth.”

The union between these two dualities produces a spiritual awakening and an alchemical reaction within the soul personality of the individual. In the 16th century Rosicrucian manifestos, this is referred to as the “Alchemical Wedding” which is the alchemical Magnum Opus or the Great Work. The Rebis image from the book “Theoria Philosophiae Hermeticae” by Heinrick Nollius explains this union of opposites. You will find familiar Masonic emblems being held by the “Great Hermaphrodite”. In Freemasonry, the symbol of the 18th degree of the Scottish Rite is the pelican or the eagle. The Hebrew masculine noun “רחם” means “a kind of vulture or Pelican”. In fact, the name Abraham contains this very reference: “Ab” meaning “Father” and “Raham” meaning ”Pelican”. The name of Abraham correlates to an alchemical implication where Abram means “exalted father or sublime”. The major character of the Blue Lodge Degree Hiram in Hebrew means “Exalted Brother or Sublime”. These symbols and rituals, as well as the characters, are allegorical. They held that initiation elevated the soul from a material, sensual and purely human life, to a communion and celestial intercourse with the gods. The Three alchemical symbols “Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury” pertain to the three Degrees of the Blue Lodge.

In the words of one of the Church Fathers of Christianity Clement of Alexandria:

“Let us consider the strange sign which takes place in the East, that is in the districts near Arabia. There is a bird which is called the Phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives 500 years;  and when the time of its dissolution in death is at hand, it makes itself a sepulcher of frankincense and myrrh and other spices, and when the time is fulfilled, it enters it and dies. Now, from the corruption of its flesh, there springs a worm, which is nourished by the juices of the dead bird and puts forth wings. Then, when it has become strong, it takes up that sepulcher, in which are the bones of its predecessor, and carries them from the country of Arabia as far as Egypt until it reaches the city called Heliopolis, and in the daylight in the sight of all it flies to the altar of the Sun, places them there, and then starts back to its former home. Then the priests inspect the registers of dates, and they find that it has come at the fulfillment of the 500th year.”

It is said that the Pyramid of Giza stems from the word phoenix. This bird is said to derive from the  name of the biblical character Enoch. The Pyramid is reputedly known as the “House of Enoch”. The word “pyramid” comes from the Greek “Pyramis” and “Pyramidos”. Pyramis may relate to the shape of the Pyramid whereas Pyramidos has been translated to “Fire in the Middle”. In Egypt, the Pyramid is called “Mer”. Some scholars believe it was called Per-Neter or “House of Nature or House of the Gods”. In Phoenician, it is Purimiddoh which means “light measures” and even in Hebrew the word “Midah” means “measure”. Moreover, the Greek word Pyramis is related to the pointy topped wheat cakes of the Egyptians because of its cone-like shape and its similarities to the Benben capstone that was once located on top of the pyramid. Curiously, the Egyptian word for Phoenix is “Bennu”.

“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Written by:

Bro. Rene Perez, 32°