The Wand, and Fire
Morgan P. Stevens
The wand is associated chiefly with two principles: Harmony and Fire. Harmony belongs to the wand in an architectural context; as an implement with which the first master builders set out the proportions for their temples. Rods of measure evoke the septenary, and form a link between the trinity and the four elements; between the inner and the outer world. The fiery quality, however, is connected to the rod of measure—forming the symbolic wand, as we will see—through the esoteric significance of the trinity.
Both the wand and the sword are implements, wielded by man, in order to extend his will over his environment in one way or another. The difference between the two lies in the fact that the wand is a creative tool, whereas the sword is only a weapon; it has no function for the artisan or craftsman. With the sword, which is equated to the intellectual faculties, one man imposes his will over another, corporeally. Thus the destructive function of the sword can be equated to the torment of the alchemical salt. Conversely, the wand is a creative implement, which enables man to become—with it the mage neither imposes nor impedes, but rather, calls out or conjures forth the divine, inborn fire; directing it toward some purpose.
The divine nature of the soul has long been attributed some specific relationship to fire. The warmth of the living body belies some internal source of heat, which dissipates along with the breath at the moment of death. Looking toward other living entities, ancient man observed that the plant, in conjunction with other manifestations of the natural environment, was likewise in possession of some internal force which animated them; some vigorous volition. That volition seemed to ‘hide’ inside of objects possessed of it, and could be called forth through some magical means. Striking stones, for example, yielded a spark of flame for even the most distantly primitive man. Fire resulted as well from friction between heavenly and chthonic phenomena, and was likewise produced from lightning and volcanism. Fire was revealed to the rational observer as the most evident candidate for this in-dwelling, vivifying component.
The puckish character of ancient messenger gods, all associated with fire—of Agni, of Thoth and his ape, and of Hermes or Mercury--reveal their greater, unalloyed, and nascent meaning.
Fire, in an esoteric sense, is characterized by a threefold nature insomuch as it resultant from a pairing.
The manipulation of fire (and of heat) are the preferred catalytic tools for eliciting changes in the form of material, for both Nature and for her surrogate, the alchemist. Agrippa describes the numerical importance of the genesis of the elements:
“Now each of them is three-fold, that so the number of four may make up the number of twelve; and by passing by the number of seven into the number of ten, there may be a progress to the supreme Unity, upon which all virtue and wonderful operation depends.”
Mircea Eliade described man’s “mastery of fire” as that thing which propelled him beyond the world of the beasts, and allowed him to delineate both time and space through rational divination. In a word: Creation, is the act and essence of what Chaucer famously considered “magyck natureel.”
The common symbolic importance of fire for pagan peoples is not coincedental. We see it in form of the enlightened flame of the saints, in the emblematic fire of Pentecost, in the hermetic sulfur and consequential torment of the element, and in the Eastern awakened kundalini ushering the opening of the ‘third eye.’ We see it as well, being the source of light for Al-Kindi, and Agrippa who claimed that “for the sight is fiery, neither can it perceive without fire and light.” The iconographic royal corona, which matured into the form of the crown, all descend symbolically from the inborn, kinetic phenomenon. Doubtlessly, the enigmatic fire worshipers of antiquity, smiths, artisans and their corresponding gods bear an ineffable sympathy with fire, as Eliade describes once more:
“It is this intimacy, this sympathy with fire, which unites such differing magico-religious experiences and identifies such disparate vocations as that of the shaman, the smith, the warrior and the mystic.”
The flame comes to be representative of what hermeticists called gnosis. Gnosis stands apart from both intellect, and intuition. To continue with reference to Egyptian systems and philosophy, Schwaller de Lubicz posits that this faculty was encapsulated in something called “the-intelligence-of-the-heart.” While cardiac intelligence only recently came to the frontier of modern medical sciences, the ancient Egyptian identified the god Ptah of the Memphite Triad to be was responsible for the creation of all things. It was Ptah who instilled fire in their cores, and it is through the Hellenic exposure to Ptah that land of ‘Hwt-Ka-Ptah’ came to be called “Egypt” by the Greeks. Ptah, like many artisan gods, was lame. His feet were bound, and it was only when he was freed from his bondage that Ptah was able to carry out his task of awakening the world. It was Sekhmet who released him, or said another way, the one recognizing itself immanetizes the duality. Through dis-parity, the triad is formed. Ptah was considered the patron of architects, and the world-pillar of djed is also deeply related to the symbolic mythos of Ptah. As a matter of fact, the first recorded architect in history, Imhotep, traced his lineage directly to Ptah.
The ancient Egyptians, who in all likelihood were the first inheritors of the Hermetic sciences, had the wherewithal to rightly furnish numerous different symbolic wands across their mythos and throughout their iconography. Throughout their tradition, they evidently maintained the same outward and inborn expression by virtue of their firm grasp of the concept of unity; the cause-without-cause, or the “One.” The later Babylonians and Greeks extrapolated the symbol, and in doing-so emblematize a more degenerated rod symbol. It’s for this reason that the wand begins to appear as a trinitarian image itself; flanked with wings or serpents that bear physiological correspondences.
The unitarian purpose of the wand, originating as an architectural symbol of the divine rule, gave way to the trinity as-such, and thereafter the two additional aspects of the trinity were identified with the masculine and feminine—the Ida and Pingala; the ascending and descending, the active and receptive. The wand was formed into a basal ‘threeing,’ and the true notion of its creative capacity was obscured.
Images of the twinned snakes coiled around the staff; the Hellenic Caduceus or the Babylonian god Ningishzida; display the wand in a culturally withered form. They have become the completely preferred, albeit debased, method of transmittance--hence the famous wand being indicative of the Psychopomp's charge. Through it, one may colloquially unlock the gates of the underworld as alluded by Dante’s Inferno, Inanna-Ishtar’s katabasis, and Hermes’ divine duty, sufficiently signifying their mastery of the ubiquitous phenomena of life, death, transmutation and metamorphosis. Figures that wield this form of the wand travel freely—of their own volition—between the two realms. To list all capabilities and mythological forms would be exhaustive, and serve little purpose beyond calling attention to more obscure forms, which have long-been taken for wand’s origin.
Schwaller de Lubicz reminds the initiate that man has paid too much attention to his rational faculty; that he has weaponized the intellect, and in doing so has divorced himself from the “intellect-of-the-heart,” which so characterized the Egyptian symbolique. This much is to be said of the sexual and phallic obsessions often read-into the wand by charlatans and moderns.
Plato's Timaeus and Aristotle's Historia Animalium remark on an occult vascular system in which they describe two complementary channels that flank the spine and follow it down the body, crossing at certain loci or ‘chakras’ terminating ultimately in the phallus. These channels then, provide the pathways for ushering on the soul-marrow-seed that was thought to reside in the skull, down and out, through the phallus during the procreative act. That classical man believed the skull to be the commensurate seat of the psyche or soul is undeniable, as noted by R.B Onians, and numerous other scholars. Thus, the head is connected to the procreative organ both physiologically and esoterically.
The indwelling fire, ‘vivifying sacrament,’ ‘soul,’ or ‘quintessence,’ has been analogized sexually, but this, too, is evidently another degeneration of the original conception. Plato was fortunate enough to recognize as much by remarking that the true eros is constituted not of sexual desire, but rather it is resultant in a higher form of generation, much the same as Athena was immaculately conceived directly from Zeus. Platonic and Pythagorean thought count sexual desire not among the proclivities of the lower soul—but as a degeneration of the colloquial 'higher' soul. Eros does not and cannot be exclusive to the material realm. Sexual desire then, is taken to be a confusion, as Thomas McEvilley synthesized, "through the bewilderment of existing in time, the soul now mistakenly sees merging with the species as merging with the One, and desires to attain immortality through offspring.” Sexual desire and physical procreation are, for the mystically inclined, a subsidiary expenditure or bastardization in light of its other, more superlative functions.