HERMETIC - ESOTERIC - MYSTICAL PHILOSOPHIES
HERMETIC - ESOTERIC - MYSTICAL PHILOSOPHIES
EXPLORING THE MYSTERY OF JANUS THE GOD OF GATEWAYS
Janus, the ambivalent Indo-European deity with two faces, one on each side of the head, was one of the earliest gods of Rome. Originally the god of gods and benevolent creator, he became the god of change and transitions such as the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, and of one universe to another. He was god of the gate and the presiding deity of the beginning of anything.
The opening month of the year (January, from janua, "gate") was sacred to him, as was the first day of each month. He presided over the start and the vestals took care of the completion of any enterprise. He ruled the birth of gods, the cosmos, mankind and its undertakings. As warden of gates, which he opened and closed, he was depicted with a doorkeeper’s keys and staff. His two faces meant that he watched entrances as well as exits, and saw into the internal as well as the external world, left and right, above and below, before and after, for and against. His shrines were archways, such as gateways or arcades at crossing places. (Taken from Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant).
Let us look now at the esoteric symbolism of Janus, especially in connection to arcane Christian Mysteries. A curious document expressly representing Christ in the form of Janus shows a cartouche painted on a detached page of a fifteen century manuscript found at Luchon, in France. This painting ends the leaf for the month of January in the prefatory calendar of the book. At the summit of the medallion is the monogram "I.H.S" (for Hiesou, Greek for "Jesus") surmounted by a heart.
The rest of the medallion features a bust of Janus and his dual function in the harmonization and blending of his/her dual nature. The two faces represent a male and female; they both share one crowned head, which we will discuss later on. The male figure holds a sceptre in his hand and his female counterpart holds a key.
In reproducing this document,
Charbonneau-Lassay writes: "On Roman monuments, Janus is shown
crowned as in the cartouche of Luchon, with the sceptre in the right
hand, because he is king; he holds in the other hand a key which opens
and closes the epochs; this is why, by extension of this idea, the
Romans consecrated to him the doorways of houses and the gates to
To translate the Christ mystery into our own language, the "cartouche" shows the process and the result that it brings about in a seeker. It shows us the level of consciousness we call the Cosmic Christ or Cosmic Consciousness. In the Christic Mysteries, the seeker who has reached this level of attainment is called a "Son of God."
Before going deeper into the symbolic meaning of Janus, let us look at what Charbonneau-Lassay meant by the word "blood." In an esoteric and spiritual context, blood represents all the integral qualities of fire, heat and vitality inherent to the Sun and the Cosmic Christ. Therefore, according to mystical tradition, blood represents new life, new beginnings and resurrection. By "blood of Christ," Charbonneau-Lassay means a spiritual and alchemical process of purification from all past karma so as to receive "new blood" and reach a new level of spiritual energy. This means that this process brings about a complete renewal and the birth of a "Son of God" in the flesh.
The symbolic image of Janus/Jana is androgynous, since the masculine and feminine energies and qualities are in complete balance and harmony and their respective attributes makes the head of Janus/Jana crowned. This shows us that their dual nature unites at the mind level and becomes one complete new being. Some authors regard Jana as Diana/Artemis, a lunar goddess representing the feminine aspect of Janus. Janus is also a lunar symbol but it represents another aspect of the lunar process that is more active and masculine. Hence when observed separately, each of the figures of Janus/Jana represents the psychic energies within the seeker that have been transformed and purified, each holding his/her own virtue and function.
The crown that harmonizes and unites them after their "mystical wedding" gives rise to the third face, which remains invisible and represents the crowning of the great work, the androgynous level of consciousness where God incarnates in the seeker. Thus, the seeker knows in all humility that he is a Son of God. For this reason, the crown is a solar symbol and, therefore, the two streams of the moon within the seeker blend, and from a level of duality, they unite with the Sun symbol of the Father and God. The alchemical symbol of the rebis reminds us of the same principle hidden behind the cartouche of Janus/Jana.
Whenever the symbolism of Janus relates to time, between the past (which is no longer) and the future (which is not yet), the true Face of Janus—that which looks at the present and is supposed to face us—is not shown; it is neither one nor the other of the two we can see. This third face is, in fact, invisible because the present in its temporal manifestation is but an intangible and imperceptible instant. (This is also why certain languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic, do not have present tense verbs.)
Thus, the seeker lives on a different plane of existence, since he is "invisible" and does not dwell in the past or the future. He is awake in the present, and is not affected by his past or his future. He trusts only the present moment because he lives in the spirit, which contains all reality. This third, invisible face of Janus reminds us of the sacred and divine face of the Cosmic Christ, the Divine Face hidden within the "seed." Thus this little cartouche contains all the keys and tools of the mystical process of this great mystery.
Hindu tradition has a similar symbol: the third eye of Shiva that is also invisible and not represented by any corporeal organ. This invisible eye represents the "sense of eternity," and its glance is said to reduce everything to ashes, to destroy all manifestation, and purifies and transforms karma, keeping only what is pure in the eternal present. Thus the apparent destruction is, in reality, a transformation of the old ways into no ways, no opinions, no judgments, no limitations, living "out of time" and yet in it.
Thus we see that Janus represents he who is not only the "master of the triple time (past/future/present—a designation that Hinduism also applies to Shiva), but also, and above all else, he is the Lord of Eternity.
In the New Testament, Christ said, "I am the alpha and omega," the beginning and the end. The master of time cannot himself be subject to time, which has its principle in him, just as, according to Aristotle, the prime mover of all things or the universal principle of movement is necessarily immobile. It is the center that is everywhere, and its circumference nowhere.
Janus is portrayed as holding the sceptre and the key. Now, like the crown, the sceptre is the emblem of royal power. Seen from a mystical perspective, they symbolize one who has reached the highest level of Cosmic Consciousness as an awakened master of himself and of his own destiny. Furthermore, since the sceptre is on his right, or masculine, side he represents, in an initiatory sense, the inner spiritual power of the mystic. The key, on his left, or feminine, side represents Jana, his complement, or Sophia, the higher intuition and intelligence within a mystic that holds the key to the kingdom. The crown symbolizes the three principles in a mystic, i.e., his mystical wedding or the union of the two opposites on the axial neutral pole of pure Consciousness and Being. According to Hebrew Kabbalah symbolism, the right and left correspond respectively to two Divine attributes: mercy (CHESED) and justice (GEBURAH). On one level, this shows that the seeker judges no one except himself, and on a more spiritual level, it proves that the invisible part or third face is the real judge of the living and dead, the one that conveys harmony and peace. This small cartouche, therefore, shows us that when the masculine and feminine energies within the mystic function properly and in harmony, then the mystical wedding takes place in the seeker, bringing about his/her own invisible face and presence of Cosmic Consciousness. This invisible presence also has the symbolic name of Melchizedek.
Sometimes Janus is shown with two keys, those of the solstice gates, Janua Celi and Janua Inferni, corresponding respectively to the winter and summer solstices, the two extremes in the sun’s annual course, for as master of time, Janus is the janitor who opens and closes this cycle. Janus is also the god of initiation into the mysteries. (The word "initiation" derives from in-ire, or enter (again the symbolism of the gate). Christ said, "I am the Way"—another connection between Janus and Christ?)
Turning to their initiatory symbolism, Janus as the god of initiation has two keys, gold and silver, that represent the greater mysteries and the lesser mysteries, and the celestial and terrestrial paradises, respectively. Because Janus is also the master of the solstices, with ascending and descending cycles that begin at the winter and summer solstice respectively, he is also the Master of the Two Ways to which the solstice gates give access, the ways of the right and the left, which the Pythagoreans represented by the letter "Y," represented exoterically in the myth of Hercules as the ways of virtue and vice.
In Hindu tradition, these same two ways are termed the "Way of the Gods" (deva-yana) and the "Way of the Ancestors" (pitri-yana). The symbolism of Ganesha has many parallels with that of Janus. He, too, is the Master of the Two Ways and therefore Lord of Knowledge, echoing the idea of initiation into the mysteries. Finally these two ways could be construed as those of the heavens and of the hells. However, for seekers, these two ways are part of an initiatory process, the right side representing ascension into heaven and the left, descent into hell—cycles of purification that the seeker must undergo.
So Janus/Jana acquire their powers and virtues only after the seeker has successfully entered and purified his own karmic "inner hell," a long and gradual process. The more the soul of the seeker "allows" him to descend into the depth of his personal "hell," the more he is elevated and ascends to a level of "heaven" that corresponds to the level of consciousness that he has achieved through purification. These spiritual "operations" are linked together and can never be separated.