In her book Esoteric Astrology, Alice Bailey tells us that, "Cancer is one of the most ancient of the signs and one of the first to be recognised and established as an influencing factor by ancient humanity". i This is undoubtedly because everyone's first incarnation as a member of the human family takes place in Cancer as we begin our task of uniting spirit and matter. The energies of Cancer represent humanity in a God impregnated state, a holy womb in which God gestates, preparing to express new life and creativity in Aries nine months later.
We are told that the essential substance of manifestation united with Life in Aries, Consciousness in Taurus, (the next sign to Aries) and manifested duality in Gemini, (the sign preceding Cancer) and these three, blended together, came into outer manifestation in Cancer, thus completing an esoteric quaternary of great importance.
The symbol of Cancer is the Crab, a sea creature encased in a hard shell. In most philosophical and spiritual traditions, the sea symbolises the undifferentiated state of primeval formlessness - the universal matrix of life - from which all creation arose.
This is described in the first three verses of the Book of Genesis:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. ii
This describes the Spirit of God, moving on the waters to commence the creative process just as the Hindu God, Vishnu, slumbered on the waters before waking and starting another round of creation. In the mythology of ancient Egypt, the coming into being of earth and life was conceived in terms of emergence from the ocean, just as mudbanks emerged from the falling floodwaters of the Nile. Thus creation, even that of the gods themselves, arose from the primeval waters. iii The ancient Greeks and Romans offered horses and bulls in sacrifice to the sea in recognition of the waters which gave life to all creation.
The Crab features in almost all world mythologies. In the Bengali Munda tradition, the Crab (after the tortoise) is the first Demiurge despatched by the Sun, the supreme deity and husband of the Moon, to fetch the earth from the bottom of the sea. It is frequently regarded as an incarnation of transcendental vital forces, usually originating in the underworld but sometimes in the sky where it is seen as a lunar force. Indeed, in esoteric astrology, Cancer is ruled by the Moon and the Crab is included on the Moon card in the tarot deck because "just like the Moon, sometimes (crabs) move forward and sometimes backwards. iv
While some mythologies view the Crab as a lucky symbol, many see it as evil or conveying the spirit of evil. This fits in with the common view of the sea being the place of dark and mysterious monsters that bring misfortune and danger.
Esoteric wisdom tells us that the waters of Cancer specifically relate to mass life, mass consciousness, and mass activity. We are told that mass consciousness and group consciousness are quite distinct things. Mass consciousness is a form of instinctual awareness, which relates to the anima mundi, the world soul. There is little sense of division between the individual's consciousness and that of the life and consciousness sensed pulsating through all forms, and this is expressed in the earliest types of animistic religions. And so the sea has come to represent all that is unconscious, our unacknowledged archetypes and shadows - in fact, all that holds back our evolution. This is symbolised by the Beast that arose from the sea to make war on the saints in the Book of Revelation.v
The great psychologist, Carl Jung wrote extensively about the dangers of this "collective psychosis". Consider the following quotes from his Collected Works:
One does not realize yet that when an
archetype is unconsciously constellated and not consciously
understood, one is possessed by it and hence forced to its fatal
goal." [when we are not in conscious relationship to a deeper
power like an archetype it possesses us from behind and acts
itself out through us].
It is becoming ever more obvious that
it is not famine, not earthquakes, not microbes, not cancer but
man himself who is man's greatest danger to man, for the simple
reason that there is no adequate protection against psychic
epidemics, which are infinitely more devastating than the worst of
natural catastrophes. The supreme danger which threatens
individuals as well as whole nations is a psychic danger. Reason
has proved itself completely powerless, precisely because its
arguments have an effect only on the conscious mind and not on the
unconscious [this is why we can't dialogue rationally with Bush
supporters]. The greatest danger of all comes from the masses, in
whom the effects of the unconscious pile up cumulatively and the
reasonableness of the conscious mind is stifled. Every mass
organization is a latent danger just as much as a heap of dynamite
We can no longer afford to
underestimate the importance of the psychic factor in world
Evil needs masses for its genesis and continued existence.vi
Yet the sea also symbolises the upper waters of Divine Being, Nirvana, and the Tao. In fact, the existence of two seas is suggested in Chapter I of Genesis:
Then God said, "Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other." And so it happened: God made the dome, and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it. vii
Further on in the Book of Revelation, we read of John's vision of a Sea of Glass before the very throne of God:
And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. viii
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. ix
There is nothing in the description of this sea that suggests chaos, danger, or collective psychosis. Indeed, it reminds one of the Ocean of Joy of the Beguines, or al-Jili's Ocean of the Glory of God or Mahayana Buddhism's Ocean of Dharma-kaya, the Enlightened Body of the Buddha, with its calm surface symbolising enlightenment and emptiness.
So often in the Bible, and perhaps in other sacred scriptures, we are presented with a chiasmus, a literary structure of the form ABCBA in which the end is a mirror image of the beginning, with the middle being where all the action takes place and important points of tension reached and mastered. The image of the sea is one such example. We begin with the dark, chaotic sea in Genesis and end with the Sea of Glass in Revelation. The story of how the sea is transformed constitutes the "action" which engages everyone as they strive to manifest the Plan of God until humanity becomes the fiery, triumphant, and transparent crystalline sea located in front of the throne of God.
One must consider the process of the evolution of the consciousness in order to understand this transformation. The purpose of consciousness is to unite spirit and matter by establishing a relationship between the two. It is the Son or mediating aspect in the Trinity of Father, Mother, and Son. As the consciousness within each form evolves through experience and manifestation i.e expands and improves in quality, life expands - the Son unites the parents. This is the crux of the evolutionary process with the purpose of consciousness providing a field and framework for evolution. The Mother provides the underlying relatively static material substructure for consciousness to gestate and grow, and the Father provides the overshadowing purpose and will that induces evolution by way of consciousness.
The inherent and latent powers of the godhead hidden under the protective shell of Cancer and the sea of mass consciousness develops into self-consciousness; and from there expands and unfolds through evolution into superconsciousness or a consciousness of, and identification with, the unity of all life.
Mass consciousness is characterised by its passivity and it tends to coagulate in fixed patterns of behaviour and thought, such as cultural traditions, which persist indefinitely unless change is forced upon it. Therefore, all the achievements of humanity have been the achievements of individuals and not of groups. It is formed largely because of the legacy of past ancestral heredity (genetic imprints) so change is slow and only takes effect after continuous repetition, ie until it is integrated into the subconscious to become part of the collective conditioning.
The evolutionary impetus for the human soul to achieve superconsciousness impels individuals to recognise, emerge from, and overcome the downward pull of the masses. This occurs through the experience of a series of crisis points, usually comprising stress, pain and suffering which eventually become so unbearable that there is a pivotal series of lifetimes when the seeds of self consciousness are sown and grown as one attempts to discover the meaning of life. Estefan Lambert describes this massive task in his upcoming book, "the conscious individual steps out of the stream of horizontally determined time and realizes a complete vertical discontinuity with respect to the past. The immensity of the task of conscious individuation lies precisely in the fact that the collective mind is constituted not only of the existing generations but also by the whole cumulative influence of its hereditary antecedents which are continually active at the level of the subconscious mind". x
Nevertheless, while the passionate pursuit of individualism in the form of self-interest and self-consciousness is a necessary step in the evolution of consciousness as people awake to themselves and their God within, there is a growing recognition that this awakening does not provide lasting satisfaction. In recent years, there has been the development of a leap beyond the personal sphere to one of group consciousness, the group being humanity. While we still applaud and admire our heroes, our extraordinary individuals, more and more people are looking not to individuals to lead the way, but to humanity working together as one mind and heart to become the new world saviour. We are approaching a time when achievements will be the achievements of the group and not just of outstanding individuals.
Furthermore, the evolution from mass consciousness to self-conscious has enabled people to think not just for themselves, a laudable goal, but also to think with the group so that a group mind and wisdom is accessed. The result is that the force generated from the combining of like minds is geometrically greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, minds that are focused together upon a common theme create a mutual force that is not merely additive, but vastly more powerful than any one individual or group of individuals.
As we consider these developments in the context of the Sea of Glass, it is interesting to note that the chief raw material in the manufacture of glass is sand. Sand is created by physical forces such as weathering, erosion, and pressure eg from tree roots growing in a crevice. Abrasion can occur when chips and chunks of rock enter a river. As these tiny pieces of rock go downstream, they grind and grate against other rocks in the riverbed until they erode into miniscule pieces of sand. A mixture of sand, and other ingredients such as soda, and lime, is heated to a high temperature until it assumes a molten, or liquid, state so that it can be manipulated to form any shape.
The Sea of Glass before the Throne of God is humanity, every individual like a weathered grain of sand which has been fired by the Spirit of God over countless lifetimes. The glass is totally transparent and capable of transmitting the power, love and light of the Father to all creation without distortion or impediment. Another feature of transparency is permeability to electromagnetic radiation, once again, indicating an ability to wield the power and energy of the Father.
One of the key features of the Sea of Glass is that those who have obtained victory over the Beast stand on the glass. Alice Bailey tells us that the Beast is "the lower nature as far as man is concerned, and is all that which seeks to destroy the higher life, but also that which can be controlled and directed finally by the soul". xi The lower nature includes the energy of all that is not conscious, including the unthinking, habitual, blind, fear-inspired consciousness of the mass. Those who have overcome their lower natures by the application of fiery experience and under the direction of their souls are given the right to stand victoriously on the sea, presumably even closer to God. They play harps symbolising joy and healing as well as the mystic ladder (antahkarana) they themselves have built which unites heaven and earth.
As one pictures this scene, one cannot help but recall the story of the Christ, the foremost unifier of the lower and higher worlds, walking on water towards his disciples in the storm tossed boat. While to the modern mind, walking on water signifies defying gravity, to the ancient mind, it symbolised overcoming the powers of chaos, darkness and death represented by the stormy sea. Perhaps the Christ was showing us that we, too, would one day walk on a sea, a Sea of Glass, having mastered life, including the murky and violent waters of our lower lives. As Peter walked towards Him, he started to sink, only to be rescued by the Christ who told him his faith was weak. Indeed, faith is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to walk on the spiritual waters of life; not the blind, devotional faith of old, but an undeviating intention and strong confidence in the future and the Plan of God for humanity. But perhaps Peter also failed because he left his companions behind in the boat to walk towards the Christ. The boat may be regarded as representing the groups with which we are karmically aligned - all kinds of groups from friends and family, the New Group of World Servers, prayer and meditation groups, ashramic affiliations - and certainly the group which comprises humanity. We are told that we are now in times where individual spiritual aspiration and progress is made within a group context and indeed, group initiation is now the only form of initiation (at least for the lower degrees). If we attempt to leave our spiritual community to walk on the water by ourselves, we will surely fail.
This brings us to the true meaning of Cancer - the mass movement towards liberty, release, and light that we see occurring throughout the world today. Everywhere there is a growing impetus for humanity not to be controlled by that which lies outside it. Rather there is a growing awareness of, and identification with, that which lies within it and a recognition that we are all part of the One Life through our shared soul. Furthermore, this evolutionary thrust is the achievement of an organic integration of self-conscious individuals, rather than a product of the unconscious mass psyche, where conscious co-creation is seen not only as possible but essential if humanity is to survive and evolve. People are starting to see that the world we are experiencing today is the result of our collective consciousness and if we want a new world, we must work together and take responsibility for helping to create it.
Doc Childre and Howard Martin sum up this process in their book The HeartMath Solution, "While there's more incoherence than coherence being transmitted in the mass consciousness at this time, we see considerable evidence of the coherence momentum. More and more people are talking to each other about heart, following their heart, and trying to increase their appreciation, compassion, and personal balance". xii
Disciples in Cancer cease identifying with their physical, emotional and mental existence represented by the orthodox ruler of Cancer, the Moon, the Mother of Forms, and start to incorporate into their lives the energy of Neptune, the hierarchical and esoteric ruler of Cancer. Neptune enables us to learn divine compassion and universal love via the development of the intuition which we are told is the faculty by which unitive consciousness is achieved. In some respects, Neptune is the Christ, the present world Initiator, "Who rules the ocean, whose trident and astrological symbol signifies the Trinity in manifestation". This is the Christ Who walked on the waters and Who reaches out to all humanity to join him on the Sea of Glass before the Throne of the Father.
Perhaps we should leave the last words to that great server who worked so tirelessly for humanity, Mahatma Gandhi:
You must not lose faith in humanity.
Humanity is an ocean;
if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
Gandhi showed us how to become the Crab, "who clears the ocean of matter which flows around the soul of man".xiii
May we all know at the deepest levels of our Being that humanity is a Sea of Glass situated in front of the Throne of the Father. And as we embody and express this certainty in our daily lives, may we bring others to this realisation as well so that everyone knows that their high calling and Divine Purpose is to be luminous agents of light for the Father.