Mithras’ ‘Slaying of the Bull’

& Cherishing a Life of Light, Freedom & Power

(from "The Path of Enlightenment in the Mithraic Mysteries")





l have already mentioned that the "bull" symbolizes the elementary life-force. It is to be identified with the Green Dragon of Alchemy, with tantric kundalini or with the Taoist "Dragon." The disciplines which focus on breathing call this force prana - a breathing considered in its "luminous" and "subtle" dimension. Prana is related to material breathing as the soul is to the body. This life-force is naturally evasive and resists coercion; it is the restless "mercury," the "volatile," the "bird" (the hamsah bird of the Hindu tradition, ham and sah being respectively the sound of inhaling and exhaling), which the initiate has to "ride" and to "immobilize." The practice consists in focused breathing and in becoming lost in it; then, boldly, in letting go, in sinking. This is what the expression "the Dragon flies away" is supposed to mean.

According to the initiatory disciplines found in Hinduism, breath has four dimensions: a material dimension (sthula), related to the state of wakefulness and to the cerebral-psychological faculties; a subtle, luminous dimension (sukshma), related to the dream state and to the nervous system; a causative, igneous dimension (karana), related to the state of deep sleep and to the blood system; and finally a dimension which the Hindu texts call turiya (the fourth), which is related to the special state observed in catalepsy: a state of apparent death, related to the skeleton and the reproductive function.

Mithras, who after taking hold of the bull "lets himself be carried" in a wild ride without ever letting go, symbolizes the Self which, as it sinks, goes through these four stages and through the neutral areas separating them. By contrast, ordinary people simply lose consciousness and fall asleep at the very first stage. The bull gives up only when Mithras shows enough boldness and a subtle enduring strength, or until the process of "sinking" reaches the fourth stage. At this point, the basic mechanisms of the primitive life-force are seized and brought to a halt; the mercury is fixed and congealed; the "bull" is slain. The life-force, finally deprived of all support, is suspended, broken, burnt to the roots.

Once this climactic point is reached a miraculous transformation occurs. A blazing, whirling, divine life arises from the deep, quick as lightning. This new life-force permeates the whole body with a gleaming which transfigures it. It recreates the body ab imo, as an entity of pure activity, as a glorious body of immortal splendor; this is the "radiating body," the augoeides, the Hvareno, the vajra, the Dorje. These are all different names recurring in various Eastern and Western traditions, describing the same force. This new life-force, which has the nature of diamond and of irresistible thunderbolt, transforms the mortal and deprived condition into one of immortality.

What oozes from the bull's wound is not blood, but wheat, the Bread of Life, as a perennial source created by the surrounding desert and as the miracle of a new kind of vegetation. However one obstacle still needs to be overcome: swarms of impure animals crowd around the dying bull to drink its blood and to bite its genitals, thus poisoning the source of life. This is the last episode in this saga; the meaning of this is that the prodigious and superhuman power, called kundalini in Hindu tradition, is awakened once the bull is slain. This power immediately floods all the principles and the functions which support the physical being. If during this process all these elements have not been purified, organized and unified, they become unleashed, absorbing and transforming to their advantage the higher power which was supposed to transform them into a spiritual body. What ensues, therefore, is a terrible setback, an emanation, a gushing forward of those forces which belong to the animal and emotive nature, and which are now extraordinarily excited. This phenomenon has been variously called the "clouding of the sky," "the storm," or the "deluge." In the alchemical and Taoist traditions, this "storm" is said to occur after somebody has drunk the "Virgin's milk," which is the "Dragon's blood." In the myth of Mirhras this phenomenon corresponds to the swarming of the impure animals.

It is unlikely that this experience could be entirely avoided, since it is the very last trial. But lo, after it has taken place, the sky opens up and the miracle continues. The last obscure obstacles are swept away by the rising flood of light and sound, illuminating what is latent, obscure, buried, contracted in the form of bodily organs, in gestures, in a powerful and cosmic enlightenment. This constitutes the ascent of the man-god to the heavenly spheres, to the hierarchy of the "seven planets." Here the external dimension of things fades away, becomes inwardly bright, and then bums up. Everything becomes alive, awakens and is reborn from within; everything becomes symbolic, meaningful, radiant - the spirit of an unlimited and eternal body.

Beyond the seventh sphere lies the ULTIMATE, where there no longer is a "here" or a "there," but calmness, enlightenment and solitude as an infinite ocean. It is the dimension of the "Father," beyond which lies the dimension of the "Eagle," the apex, the substratum of the flaming, whirling world of powers.

This is the path and the challenge open to man, according to Mithraic wisdom, which competed with Christianity to inherit the legacy of the Roman empire. Once it was pushed back and relegated to the external, exoteric plane, the efficiency of the mystery wisdom was preserved in the occult tradition, but it continued to operate on Western historical events, exercising a subtle, invisible influence. Today, once again, it surfaces again beyond that world which science has "liberated" and which philosophy has "internalized." It re-emerges in attempts still very confused; in beings who have been broken under the weight of a truth too heavy for them, which however others will know how to take up and to affirm. It re-emerges in Nietzsche, in Weininger, in Braum, in the most radical trajectories of the most recent Idealism. It re-emerges in myself, in my yearning for the infinite, in the only value that I cherish: a regal and solar life, a life of light, freedom and power.



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