The Rites of Passage
A rite of passage marks important occasions and bridges one stage in life to another.
Rituals are often markers for rites of passage.
Rites of passage act as a bridge between one stage and another. They may appear to be archaic in origin but have accompanied us into the twenty-first century, and still create important, significant markers in the lives of many. In cultures of the east, rather than our western world, these rites are often much more public, colorful and create a fanfare or noise to enable communities to share in the individual markers of an evolving or emerging life. Today, even in our modern technological and increasingly hedonistic and material societies, similar rites are performed to symbolically mark particular moments (marriage, wake / death) or to actually impart a measure of gravitas and inner learning (bar mitzvah, circumcision, confirmation of a degree or mastership).
For the vast majority of us in the west these rituals have receded into the background of day-to-day living, and it appears often that only select groups–usually those with strong spiritual traditions–maintain specific rituals; and these exclude the general population as they are sacred amongst the particular community, group or religion. These ancient rites such as circumcision in a male–or the public recognition of the specific moment–a woman’s first bleed– or the Bar mitzvah of a young male Jew, or Bat mitzvah for a young women, or the ceremonial seclusion of African men and women as they approach the divide between their need-driven lives (animal-human) to responsible lives (human-animal); are all driven by spiritual, moral and societal codes to put order and hierarchy into tribal or societal realms. Indeed in some western countries, infant circumcision as a medical imperative and habit (as in the US) hides the importance of these ancient rituals.
If we move away from the plainly religious, tribal or community affairs we can also mark these moments as the emergence of a new state. They mark the movement from one hurdle or barrier to another realm from which to operate; from a dependent child to a co-dependent teen or independent adult that then morphs into a healthy interdependency and personal autonomy; as we move from our parent’s lap, home or grip.
[Above: the building blocks of the human self; the various selves (material, vegetal, animal, ordinary human and noble human) that develop and slowly become integral within the larger Self, finding their right order and relationship with each other through the trials and ordeals, experience and learning throughout life.]
These passages are marked by a symbolic language–already used by us as stages in our gestational process. These symbols are the elements of the caduceus; an old symbolic representation used in many cultures, in many variants, dating back to Mesopotamia, Mezoamericas, India, portrayed in mythological form as Aesculapius’ staff, Hermes and Mercury’s wand and adopted in the seventeenth Century as a symbol of medicine via a printing houses mark on medical books.
The Caduceus is a symbol: it originally consists of three elements. The three elements also represent particular dynamics and are rich in symbolic history. They tell us a story with their inclusion, of a trinity–three-in-one. The religious idea of the Unknowable (God, Allah, Yahweh etc.,) and that which flows from this Absolute (Latin emanare – to flow from) which we could call Grace, and this benediction falls on the ‘son’ or humankind living a material existence. In our lexicon we have added two other icons to represent other elements which we, as humans can aspire to; namely a dove to represent surrender to the Source–a choice that only the human can make, and a jewel or diamond to represent the descent of value–the inner understanding of one’s inherent value in the great scheme by Love itself.
The Trinity can also represent a multitude of dynamics; societal, cultural, religious, spiritual and merely iconic, and we are free to interpret them from our own collective consciousness and by inner guidance. They have meaning at a superficial level “that’s the symbol of medicine” to meanings at an inner level signifying emergence, unity, transformation, light, truth.
Our emergence from infant to toddler, to young boy or girl, into teenage years, and adulthood and then to intimate relationships with another, allow us to emerge from state to state. This emergence is the development of these elements at a psychospiritual level. That is, these elements may or may not accompany us as we journey through life, and that the inner reality that these elements mark or point the way towards, may not be revealed to us as we journey through life. They are contingent on other factors.
The classical caduceus is made up of three elements. A staff or central axis (the integrity of our systems, neurology and purpose), a single snake superceding the double snake (the duality and flexibility of life is then presupposed to be unified as One: inner and outer life) that wraps around the staff (as Parvati wraps around her consort Shiva, as the vagina encloses the penis, the sheath the sword, night shadows the light) and a pair of wings unfolds above these two elements indicating true reflection, winged thought, and the coming of illumination and light (and neurologically of temporal lobe expansion and lateral ventricular unfolding).
Through clinical experience we noted empirically that two other elements allowed the human to really shift state and this was through guidance via surrender; in this way a value and self esteem permeated the being and uplifted them to a sense of value hitherto unattained or unrealized. Consequently we started to place these extra symbols upon the old caduceus to promote two extra bridges that facilitated real change.