The full moon of Aries is regarded as the beginning of the spiritual year because Aries initiates the cycle of manifestation. It is the birthplace of ideas. We are told that a true idea is a spiritual impulse taking form and the initial idea to manifest took place in Aries with the "will to incarnate". It is in Aries that the first ray aspect of the Monad, responding to the will of God "awakens the will to reach the lowest and there control, to know the uttermost and thus to face all experience".ii So the great divine experiment of manifested life, termed the "most ancient initiation", began in Aries.
Ancient wisdom also tells us that Aries brings Fire (ie electric fire)iii to our solar system along with the dynamic nature of God which has in it the qualities of fostering and nourishing heat but also those which burn and destroy - "our God is a consuming Fire".
As it descended into the lower planes, the pure essence of fiery Spirit (positive, masculine, radiating energy), united with Air, and Mind was born. As it further descended, it combined with Water (negative, feminine, receptive force) from which the Soul of humanity was formed. Then, as the Water principle moved further down into a dense manifestation, Earth came into existence. And so we have humanity, a mixture of all the elements but Fire in its essential nature. So perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to imagine ourselves falling into a burning ring of fire as we sought manifestation in accordance with Divine Will.
When one considers the nature of fire it is understandable that it is associated with spiritual energies. It is the most perfect and pure reflection of the one universal flame because it cannot be corrupted and it can give life infinitely without being reduced - from one candle all the candles in the world can be lit.
Meister Eckhart poignantly summed up the action of fire when he said:
Fire transforms all things it touches into its own nature.
The wood does not change the fire into itself; but the fire changes the wood into itself.
In the same way, we are transformed into God,
so that we may know Him as he is. iv
Fire was the great agent of purification in medieval alchemy, for it removed the dross from the gold. The same is true on the higher planes, for spiritual aspiration calls down an inner fire that purifies the gold from the dross in the aspirant's heart in a process that is at first painful but which results in the appearance of a golden sun of consciousness that shines with a light undiminished by impurity. This process of transformation is controlled by Aries and is often symbolised by a ring of fire in spiritual artwork, such as on the border of mandalas. The ring of fire reminds us that every human being has to undergo this purification before entering the sacred territory within. But just as the mandala also depicts the reward for this act of courage in its centre - a deity on a lotus flower - so too are aspirants rewarded by discovering their own deities in the centre of their hearts. Entering the ring of fire always leads one to God.
The important thing to remember is that the purpose of the fire is not to terrify one from entering into the inner circle, but rather to show that the flame of the wisdom contained within the mandala can burn away ignorance and error. By means of the symbolic fire, understanding of supreme reality may be attained.
The dim memory of our fiery essential nature has resulted in fire being venerated throughout the ages as a divine or sacred element and in almost every mythology there is an account of the way fire was brought to humanity. One Western example is Prometheus who is supposed to have stolen the fire from heaven and brought it to earth. Helena Blavatsky reminds us that the Promethean myth does not represent man's discovery of fire, as fire was never discovered but existed since the beginning. Rather it relates to the first opening of man's spiritual perception through the power of manas or the mind.v In fact, the name Prometheus is derived from the Sanskrit word Pramantha, meaning the instrument used for kindling fire. Mind is our Pramantha which enables us to rediscover our fiery natures so we may rule - in the first instance the forms we use to express God's purpose in our lives, our bodies of manifestation, and later to share with the Father the rulership of His body of manifestation - the planet.
We are told that on every level of form the indwelling entity of that form through the influence of the mind or manas, "intelligently reduces matter to form, and then uses that form to fulfil the purpose, will and desire of that entity. This principle of mind underlies all three aspects so that the intelligence of the Logos shows as will, love wisdom and intelligent activity." vi It is the mental substance of manas operating through the first ray power of Aries that drives us into incarnation and then through an inherent cohesive quality, enables the soul to combine vehicles of mental, emotional and physical substances into forms to achieve God's purposes.
Because the lowest points of physical manifestation for a solar logos, planetary logos or human being are controlled by the mind, the evolutionary development of the mental principle is of the utmost importance. This is one of present day humanity's foremost duties and it is achieved by progressively entering three halls described in esoteric literature as:
- The Hall of Ignorance where one acquires facts and knowledge
- The Hall of Learning where one learns to discriminate, evaluate, and choose
- The Hall of Wisdom where one learns to blend the opposites, keeping the best of all possible outcomes to produce the illuminating light of the soul.
Entry to each of these halls entails willingly stepping into the fires that lie between them - the fires of the burning ground.
What exactly is a "burning ground"? When a developing entity reaches a certain level of spiritual development, a time comes for the lower habits, old patterns, illusions and crystallised beliefs to be purified so as to better allow the fiery spiritual energies of the inner being to flow through the instrument without distortion. This can be a very stressful experience but people do not go through it unless they have fulfilled the prerequisites and sufficiently strengthened themselves so they can endure the flames.
Just as there are three halls to work our way through so too are there three main burning grounds.
- The burning-ground which lies between the Hall of Ignorance and the Hall of Learning. This is the destructive fire which is governed by the Law of Karma.
- The burning-ground of the “dead personality” which lies between the Hall of Learning and the Hall of Wisdom. It is found upon the shores of the river of life and has to be passed prior to the third initiation.
- The burning-ground which is found when one is ready to pass out of the Hall of Wisdom as a full adept. It is described as a triple burning-ground and is found "upon the mountain top, being kept alive and flaming by all the winds of heaven." It is responsible for the burning and destruction of the egoic or causal body.
On the early stages of the Path, we are concerned about character building and purifying the temple of the soul, the physical body. Eventually, often after several lifetimes of physical purification, our soul leads us into the first burning ground because we have sufficiently prepared ourselves to endure it. It is here that we must yield to the soul the aspect of our personalities which identifies with the physical body, and we experience a kind of death as we undertake this release. We must do this willingly as our free will can never be compromised. Just as we find the deity in the centre of the mandala we also discover our soul in the centre of the burning ground where the flames are fiercest. So many would recognise this dynamic - just when we think we cannot go on, the light appears and shows us the way forward. The Christ is born in our hearts, the first initiation is taken and we become disciples.
Over the next several incarnations, the relentless process of fiery purification continues and many minor burning grounds must be traversed. Having purified our physical bodies, we find that we must do the same with our emotional bodies. Our soul assists us in this self-initiated process by creating many opportunities for us to achieve emotional balance. So crisis after crisis takes place resulting in emotional swings, upheavals and suffering. If we remember, we take comfort in the fact that a crisis always precedes an expansion of consciousness, as we complete the necessary purification which enables us to approach a major crisis resulting in the second burning ground. As this one involves an emotional crisis and most of humanity still lives in the realm of the emotions, this burning ground is particularly painful and often we cannot stand the heat and try to evade the flames. But we find to our dismay that we cannot escape the periphery of the ring of fire and we have no choice but to turn back and walk into the fire. Of course, just as with the first burning ground, we meet our soul in the centre of the flames and somehow we find the courage to dis-identify with our feeling states and our emotionally based reactions, including all the feelings that validate our identity and beliefs about who we think we are. This burning ground, considered to be the most difficult facing present day humanity, can take several lifetimes to traverse. The reward is the completion of the second initiation and a balanced emotional body which can be used by the soul to serve others more effectively.
The next burning ground involves the purification of the mental body and is especially fiery because, as we know, it is through the principle of mind that we discover our essential fiery nature. So we discipline our mind using techniques such as meditation and develop our ability to use our intuitive mind until we face the burning ground that precedes the third initiation. The personality which is now totally identified with the mind has to submit to the will of the soul in order to pass this test and complete the process of allowing the soul control of the entire personality. If successful the personality is transfigured and with it all that attracts us to the lower worlds, and the "Son of Mind, the soul, [is] substituted for the concrete and hitherto directing lower mind".vii This is the reason the third initiation is referred to as the Transfiguration.
So the aspirant has traversed the Path of Purification, completed the Path of Discipleship and now stands as an Initiate recognising his or her self as they truly are. To quote Alice Bailey:
The initiate has ever been.
The divine Son of God has ever known himself for what he is.
An initiate is not the result of the evolutionary process.
He is the cause of the evolutionary process. viii
The burning ground leads us to the place where we are no longer subject to the vagaries of life and the world of effects. Instead we become causes and join with the Christ in furthering the evolution of humanity through service.
While it is true that those on the spiritual path have to willingly choose the burning ground, it is also true that the soul will inexorably lead us to it once we make our intentions known. One cannot help but think that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin had intimate knowledge of this process when he wrote:
Fold your wings, my soul
those wings you had spread wide
to soar to the terrestrial peaks
where the light is most ardent.
It is for you to simply wait
the descent of the Fire -
supposing it to be willing to take hold of you. ix
And as those who have experienced the fire tell us, it does indeed take hold of us. But we are never alone though the flames burn fiercely. Those of you who are familiar with the book of Daniel in the Old Testament may recall the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to bow down before the graven image erected by Nebuchadnezzar. The fire was so hot that it killed the king's guards as they threw the three men into the fire but when the king went to check up on proceedings, he was astonished at what he saw.
"Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."
He then called the three men out of the fire and everyone "saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
"Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God."
The king then promoted them all to high office. x
We are never alone as we walk through the fire. There is always one who "is like the Son of God" helping us conquer the flames. Furthermore, we come out of the fire unscathed, and, indeed, like the three heroes are given much more than we had before we willingly stepped into the furnace as the fire releases greater freedom in all aspects of our life.
One of the things we learn while sojourning in the burning ground is how to be an agent of fire rather than a victim. One physical plane technique used by firefighters today that can assist us is backburning. Backburning involves igniting a smaller fire from a secure control line and allowing it to burn towards the main fire. This technique consumes the fuel in the path of the main fire so that it will be stopped in its tracks. As we walk through the fiery energies that threaten to overwhelm us, we can assist ourselves by lighting another fire that will eventually defeat the main fire. We can literally fight fire with fire and use the power of Aries and the fiery Will of God to create a fire that will fight the willful fires of the lower self as it expresses itself in the burning ground. That fire is our mind nature, the lower reflection of the Will of the Father, and the lesser fires of the persona cannot withstand it.
As we enter a new cycle of opportunity in Aries we can also use the fire of the mind to burn away all that hinders our participation in Christ's resurrection and share in a more meaningful way the fullness of life it can bring. Like the phoenix, the mythical bird that never dies but which raises itself out of the ashes to scan the landscape and distant space, we can raise ourselves out of the ashes of our past and seek a renewed vision for our lives during the Aries/Easter period and the two succeeding major full moon festivals. And also like the phoenix, we can express great beauty - the beauty of our souls and the life of the risen Christ in the deathless inspiration and creative activity of Aries.
Now is a time for resurrection and renewed purpose; a time to reignite our fire. Perhaps we will leave the last words on the matter to the poet and author Ayn Rand:
Do not let your fire go out,
spark by irreplaceable spark,
in the hopeless swamps of the approximate,
Do not let the hero in your soul perish,
in lonely frustration for the life you deserved,
but have never been able to reach.
Check your road and the nature of your battle.
The world you desired can be won.
it is real,
it is possible,
it is yours.xi
Many Easter blessings to you all and may you be filled with the fiery resolve of Aries as you plan a new cycle of manifestation and service over the coming months.