A Cock To Aesculapius
[Ancient Philosophy] 

B.P. Wadia  

© 2003 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö 

The Cock, that is the trumpet to the morn, 
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat 
Awake the God of day; and at his warning 
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,  
The extravagant and erring spirit hies 
To his confine.                     

He [SOCRATES] was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said (they were his last words) he said: Crito, I owe a cock to Ćesculapius; will you remember to pay the debt?


The ancient Sages were highly scientific in creating their symbols and emblems, their tales and talismans. The Hierophants were not only mystics who felt the unity and moral power behind the manifested universe, relying on intimations, which however intuitive were vague all the same. The experiences of most mystics consisted in lofty and stirring feelings. They touched heights of the heart and in themselves were content in the hope that others in due course would have similar experiences. Not so, the Sages who also felt but who sought knowledge to understand what they felt and, not content with the experience of bliss, secured full mastery over the Powers of Nature as of Self. The Sages saw and understood the mighty magic of Prakriti, and controlled it through the power of Purusha, the Spirit. 

Such a Sage is able to rise to the Highest Place; controlling both Spirit and Matter he becomes Uttam Purusha, the Superior Man, the Mahatma very difficult to find. The Sage not only feels the Presence of the Macrocosm, within and beyond himself, as the mystic does. He knows the Great Universe, how it comes into being, what laws govern it, how evolution spirals onward. He gains the victory over death and so becomes Master of Life, surviving every change, every transmutation, every destruction. He is the Regenerated, Puissant One in whom Compassion Absolute throbs, keeping time and rhythm with the heartbeats of Wisdom. 

Therefore, Sages who see the sorrowful plight of humankind try to save man from the death of the Soul, which follows mental blindness and moral decay. The Light of Wisdom-Compassion which the Sage-Seer embodies is constantly, as well as cyclically, used by him to help human souls drowning in the ocean of Samsara. One way in which such helpful knowledge is imparted is through symbols, allegories that can awaken the human mind. 

Ancient Symbols are profound. Such true symbols are not arbitrarily created. They are true, living messengers in the manifested universe. The Sage has deciphered and points to them as visible signs of hidden eternal verities. The Powers of Krishna, enumerated by himself in the Gita are an example. In Iranian Mythology as in those of Greece and Scandinavia and in others, many striking symbols are to be found. Thus, the Egg is a symbol; the Tree is another. There are flowers, birds, beasts, and reptiles, which are concrete messengers of grand truths. 

Symbols and allegories were not invented by sages; they were natural concrete objects which carried hidden truths, through the verities they represented. Between the Seer's penetrating gaze and the poet's or the philosopher's flights of fancy there is a difference. A distinction must be made between true symbols, emblems, and allegories, which form part of living Nature or Pan-Sophia and man-made images, similes, and comparisons. The former prove the Law of Correspondence and Analogy actually at work in living Nature. Man-made images often distort the operation of that Law, confusing human perception. 

Today we are pointing to one such true symbol from the Zoroastrian Vendidad, which mentions the Holy Cock Paro-dars" – "He who fore-shows the coming dawn." 

The cock is known for his eerie crowing and poets and dramatists have sensed its weird significance. Not all have evaluated truly the nature and character of the bird, which the Greeks named Alectroun, because it is the most magnetic and sensitive of the feathered tribe. The cock was sacred to
Ćesculapius, the Soter, the Savior, who had the power to raise the dead to life. The cock was always connected in symbology with the Sun, Death, and Resurrection. The cock crows in time producing .one rhythm; out of time and then it is out of tune. Its crowing is held to be a sign of death unless the bird crows in the small hours of the morningherald of the dawn, the resurrection of night into a new day. 

In this sense some verses in the Vendidad, are worth reflecting upon. In the 18th chapter, Ahura Mazda declares that the cock Paro-darsh is the vehicle of the shining Sarosh who embodies the Holy Word. In the small hours of the morning that cock absorbs the peculiar dauntless energy of the Ushah period and gives out his cry. This period is also that of Usha, the Maiden who is at work preparing to welcome the Sun. What does the cock cry?
"O men, awake, praise the Purity of the True and thus destroy the powers of darkness! If you do not, the demon of idleness and inertia, Bushyasta of the very long arms, will crush you." This demon tries to throw over the waking men his darkening net of lazy lolling, whispering "Sleep, O poor man; this is no time to do work." The cock crows again: "O men, overlong sleep is not suitable for you!" 

This which is written in reference to the body, is an allegory of the Soul. The mind waking to the pearly light of a New Day, while catching a glimpse of the Rosy Dawn, is tempted to procrastinate, and too often returns to his material, sensuous environment wherein the Demon of real idleness rules. The devil of the sensuous social order is busy; keeping men and women tied to their sense-life he is the destroyer and harasser of Soul Life. Verily that demon has long, long arms and they catch to his embrace thousands of men, many of whom have glimpsed the Light of the True, and who, therefore, should be beyond his reach. 

There is the Christian Gospel story of Peter and the cock crowing thrice. Is not this its message?
That the Master gave the opportunity to Peter to resurrect himself to die so that he might live an opportunity which Peter failed to use? Who can say that the failure of the Roman Church to be true to the pure teachings of the Master was not due to this failure of Peter, who denied his Lord to save his own skin? 

We may well take these lines in Hamlet about the Birth of the Christ-Spirit as an intuition that the great dramatist expressed:

Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes 
Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated, 
The bird of dawning singeth all night long. 

The cock has the power to resurrect. His cry is the symbol of the resurrecting power of the benign Spirit, which lights the mind and works for the series of progressive awakenings. Those who refuse to receive its benign influence go from death to death. Those who bow to its influence pass from life to life. Does not everyone aspiring to resurrection owe, like Socrates, a cock to


From "Thus have I heard", pages 116-20. Utgiven av Indian Institute of World Culture, 1959.


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