The Serpent in Myth, Antiquity, and Freemasonry

The serpent is one of mankind’s most significant symbols, showing up prominently our myths, stories, and dreams. What is it about the slithering snake which speaks to us on such a deep level, that resonates with some archetypal force in our inner depths? Furthermore, what role does the snake play in esoteric philosophy? 

The language of symbolism is built on a structural syntax of similarity of forms. Two otherwise disparate things are connected, because they bear some likeness to one another, and through this principle of sympathetic resonance, all things are connected. So, what likeness does the snake owe it’s archetypal resonance?

Serpent in Myth and Legend

The serpent plays a role of some kind in most mythological systems, and is one of the most common elements to appear in individuals’ dreams. Dreams are still a mystery to science, but those who delve into their analysis can see that they speak a language which stretches beyond our nightly sojourns, into the dream of this waking life, as well. So, the serpent, too, spans the gulf between personal sleep, and waking collective myth.

Serpent in the Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden – Lucas Cranach (1531) 

Perhaps the most famous snake in the Western world was that which tempts Eve in the Garden of Eden to eat of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Whether this Knowledge purveyor was truly a deceptive villain depends on the interpreter of the story, but certainly the mainstream of Christianity sees the it as such, even the devil himself. A Gnostic view, on the other hand, portrays the Edenic serpent as the Luciferian liberator of mankind from Jehova’s captivity.  

In other myths and traditions, the serpent is seen as less nefarious, and often as a symbol of wisdom, perhaps because of its apparent stillness, self-control, and single-pointed precision when attacking. It plays the role of guardian of the center of the world in Greek mythology, twin encirclers of the world in Chinese mythology, intermediary to the Gods and bringer of wisdom and culture by the Aztecs, and initiator of manhood by the Australian Aborigines, just to name a few. 

Perhaps most significantly to Freemasons, the Egyptians saw the serpent as one of the primary forms of the Sun God Amun-Ra, the divine inseminator of the cosmic egg from which sprung all of Creation. As we’ve all seen, the Pharaohs were also represented with serpents emerging from their forehead, and many have speculated that this relates to the “third eye,” the psychic or spiritual eye which is said to see all.

Last, but not least, the Vedantic teachings of the East also use the serpent as the representation of one of the most important forces in the universe, that coiled-up latent power which dwells in the gut and lower regions of the Human being, known as kundalini. It’s said that as one progresses along the yogic path, this serpentine life-force energy will be roused from its sleep, and climb up through the chakras, to finally arrive at the third eye, and provide complete illumination to the enlightened individual. 

The Serpentine Universe

Beyond the investigation of the serpent’s mythological roles throughout history, another connection interests me, and that is the serpent’s form as an apt representation of both dimensionality, and the central nervous system.

Serpent Nebula: Found in the western region of the Milky Way

As you may recall, the progression through the dimensions begins with the zero-dimensional point, proceeds to the one-dimensional line, the two-dimensional plane, three-dimensional space, and perhaps beyond into higher dimensions. And this dimensional framework makes up the basic structure or matrix of our reality. 

If you consider the head of the snake to be the zero-dimensional point, which leads the motion of the snake creating a one-dimensional line, then this motion slithering in an S-form also reveals the two-dimensional plane; finally, when the king of snakes, the cobra, stands upright and erect, it reveals three-dimensional space. Thus the serpent can be seen to represent the most basic form of any entity existing in the matrix of space-time. 

Furthermore, as illustrated in this video, the possibility of higher dimensions implies that our entire 3D physical universe may be a single point, like the original zero, in yet higher dimensions, moving through hyperspace to leave behind a snake-like timeline which makes up the past, a process which repeats to create higher and higher dimensional spaces until, perhaps, the tenth dimension of infinity.

The Serpent of Man

Lastly, you can take everything just said about the serpent and apply it to our own form,

Central Nervous System of Man

The Central Nervous System that of an upright central nervous system. Have you ever looked at an image of our nervous system removed from the body?

We are like serpents who grew limbs, hair, and skin. The central intelligence of our body/mind is a serpentine brain and spinal cord, with various smaller branches protruding out into the rest of the body. So, perhaps in the end, we are the serpent.

As always, the thoughts expressed in this writing are not the official views of Universal Co-Masonry, but just the reflections of one Co-Mason.

3 Comments on “The Serpent in Myth, Antiquity, and Freemasonry

  1. The Truth.
    The truth can be turned into any side but it will still remains the same. It can be feel from the inside when you finally discover it.
    I had much problems with the cheap and Childish explanations of this story by the Preachers, I was never convinced.
    Your explanation has changed my conception about the Serpent as my number one enemy. After all, we have the Serpent in us. We are made of Serpent. And the Bible was not talking about a physical and bush Serpent.
    Lies can hold for a while, but those who are determined to seek the truth shall always find it.
    Paul Tsekar ( Paulson Ronald Tsekar)


  2. I, like many others, was conditioned and made believed that the Serpent was the Enemy of Humanity.
    It is rather amazing to realized the contrary truth that we are even made of Serpent. That so called bad and evil is lies.
    That it takes day and night to make our World of time. It takes a Man and Woman to produce Life. That Electric current works only when there is Negative and Positive. That the so called evil is not an Independent Entity.
    How I wish I could go out there and make the Blinds to see, and the Deft and Dumb to hear.


  3. Dear Jonathan,

    Have you seen Richard Cassaro’s research into recurring serpent symbolism through history? I admit the man might come across a bit egoistical with some of his peculiar ways of presenting things (like watermarking all photographs he uses by plastering his name/website on them) but unlike many fringe and ancient alien-types, he lets his evidence speak for itself – and I, personally, feel like the evidence – or at the very the way it is presented – is compelling. There are so many uncanny similarities between ancient cultures’ use of the serpent and serpent symbolism, in particular the “king/queen of animals”-symbol of a god-being holding two snakes/animals in each hand, that it’s baffling. He too draws parallels between the serpent symbolism and double-helix.

    @TSEKARPAUL, excellent point about how we’re conditioned to think of the serpent as the enemy. The discrepancy between the west and the rest of the world is very deep. In the west, I saw many snakes in zoos and books, but the first time I actually came into physical contact with one, was in Istanbul – and while I was very frightened at first – which had much to do with being forced into handling the snake – I didn’t feel the sort of primal fear my instincts usually reserve to animals (I’m an agoraphobic and scared of a lot of other animals and insects).

    I know a talking snake doesn’t really belong inside the bounds of reality as we know it, but I find the characterization of the snake in the creation story, doesn’t mesh with the animal we know of – the animal that in it’s nature (no pun) is easily frightened and only attacks when provoked. We know that snake cubs are the most poisonous because they can’t control it – yet we are told that this species is, in it’s “very nature”, controlling and scheming. Sounds like a retcon.


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