In the beginning there was no earth or sky but only the dense darkness of space. Darkness was everywhere and yet it seemed alive, for out of it came sound, darkest sound. And then appeared a flash of light which cut the depths of space, leaving behind the froth of the mother substance. This substance lay like the white of egg upon the stomach of darkness, which resembled a spider's web. Three times the substance strove to give birth, and in the third attempt it was pierced with a lightning ray. Being thus penetrated, it slowly grew and in time produced two great eggs. When the eggs began to hatch they broke first at the top, revealing two heads, then shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and toes. Mukat and Tamaoit emerged. They were twins and fully grown at birth. Mukat remained upon the newly created earth and begat life out of his essence. Tamaoit disappeared beneath the earth, leaving only mountains to commemorate his birth.
This, in paraphrase, is what old Cahuilla Indians told the young about the creation of the world. Like multicolored skeins gathered around the nesting place of the cosmos, all cultures have woven their legends of the mystery of creation. Perhaps one of the most powerful symbols of this mystery is the egg.
To ancients in all lands, the egg was the symbol of generation and immortality. In Scandinavia and Russia clay eggs were put in tombs to ensure life after death. A similar idea was signified in ancient Egypt by the winged egg floating above the mummy, carrying the soul to another birth. The Chinese believed that the first archetypal man sprang from an egg dropped by Tien, a great bird. The alchemists spoke of the philosophical egg which combined all the elements of life, the container of thought and matter. The Greeks thought of the egg as the seven-fold vault of space, a symbol originally compounded in the dual septenary planes of the Cosmic Egg of Hindu tradition.
Reverence for the egg is evoked by its form as well as by its mystery. Its elliptical form describes the movement of heavenly bodies and of the earth itself. It describes the sphere of light that surrounds all living things. It is in the oviform that the potency of spirit in matter manifests. The Katakopanisad teaches that in the Spiritual Egg, Purusha or Divine Spirit stands before primordial matter and from their union springs the great Soul of the World.
Often connected with the Spiritual Egg is the idea of a sacred bird that drops the Egg into the waters of space or chaos. Just as there is the Chinese Tien-bird, so there is Seb, the Egyptian chicken who gave birth to the egg of Ra, the sun. In Hindu tradition the 'Swan of Eternity' lays a 'Golden Egg' at the beginning of each Mahamanvantara. This Swan is the sacred Kalahansa, the Word. Its egg is the Word made manifest. The raven is sometimes connected with the egg-symbol of generation and primeval wisdom as illustrated by Odin's black ravens fluttering around the Goddess Saga or Noah releasing the black raven after the great deluge or pralaya. The Omaha Indians describe a beginning when all things were in the mind of Wakonda. There was naught but silence, nothing was joined, nothing stirred. Within this darkness was the germ of the maker and moulder, the hurler, the Bird Serpent. Then rose up Hurakan, the night wind; the great black raven dropped its egg upon the waters. Beneath the raven's sheltering wings, the mothers and fathers to be slept within the egg.
On every level the egg eternally regenerates. Virginal, it embodies the quality of eggness, the power of becoming developed through fecundation. The human egg is the female reproductive element. It is larger than other bodily cells, and is made up of a nucleus surrounded by cytoplasm, plasma membrane, chorion, albumin layers and shell membrane. These coats are added successively as the egg passes down the oviduct. The egg is initially formed by materials that have migrated into the special environment of the ovaries. Only in this environment do those primordial germ cells become eggs. The egg contains within itself all the essentials for development, leaving the sperm the role of activating an already prepared system. The 'coats' of the egg are distinctive in the human and it is the case that a close if not always obvious relation exists between the cellular features of the egg and the life history of the species to which it belongs. The protoplasmic framework of the egg sets the structural framework of the new individual. Using the method of analogy and correspondence, this is a potent axiom when applied to the process of cosmic birth.
If man is the microcosm of the macrocosm, then the egg of man must contain within it the secrets of the universal egg. As Pure Spirit fecundates and interblends with the Cosmic Egg, so analogously the human egg whirls around its center when fecundated by the sperm, and the protoplasm of the two cells becomes continuous. The sperm passes through the cytoplasm of the egg and penetrates the nucleus. At this point the first cell division occurs. In the process of sexual cell division there is a recapitulation of cosmic manifestation.
Initially, the cell contains its nucleus and centriole but there is no apparent activity. The evenly granular appearance of the nucleus is then replaced by tangled thread structures which become rod-like chromosomes as the nuclear membrane disappears. The differentiation of these bodies increases with the activity. The centriole divides and moves toward opposite poles of the cell while the chromosomes lie along an equator. All potential manifestation gathers along the equator of this microcosmic globe. Pairs on either side of the equator fuse and replication takes place. Chromosomes then gravitate toward the poles, and cell division occurs only to re-occur once again. With this division there is duality and a combining of male and female elements. With this duality there is growth. In fact, it is only through cell division that growth can occur. In this outstanding fact of manifest nature we find a perfect reflection of the necessary process whereby the One becomes the Many.
In The Laws of Manu it is written: "Removing the darkness, the Self-Existent Lord wishing to produce beings from his Essence created, in the beginning, water alone. In that he cast seed . . . that became a golden egg." The depth of the mystery of the early stages of this cosmic process is beautifully suggested in the lines from the Third Stanza of The Book of Dzyan:
The world egg is the microcosmic symbol of the macrocosmic prototype, the virgin mother or chaos. Thus from his virgin mother, the Creator Brahma is born. So too in the Orphic hymns, Eros-Phanes, the Revealed One, the Word or Logos, "evolves from the Spiritual Egg which the Aethereal winds, moving across the face of Aether or chaos, impregnate." The Egyptians designated the first principle as Emepht, which produced a germ-containing egg which it in turn vivified by its essence. The creative, active principle then issued forth as Phtha, who through his will, or breath, informed the cosmic matter or law of evolution by setting in motion the potencies latent in it. Thus were formed suns, planets and stars, all within the immutable law of Harmony. It is, however, in the descriptions of Brahm becoming the creative god Brahma, that one is afforded a more complete glimpse into the mystery of the generative process.
The very word Brahma comes from a Sanskrit root Brih, which means 'to expand.' Within the Golden Womb of Hiranyagharba, Brahma dwells for one Divine Year, at the end of which he divides the Egg into the upper heaven and the lower earth, with a sky of perpetual waters intervening. "This non-eternal universe arises from the Eternal, by means of the subtle elements of forms of those seven very glorious principles." These seven principles or zones can also be called the seven purushas or prakritis. They are five elements plus Manas and Ahamkara. The Puranas tell us that "Mahat and matter are the inner and outer boundaries of the universe," the negative and positive poles of dual nature, the abstract and concrete. Thus the Mundane Egg is externally invested with seven principles while the universe, or Brahma the Egg, is likewise encompassed. "As above, so below."
Brahma, the Creator, is the Emanated Logos, the synthesis of the Six Prajapati who are the Builders of the Physical Universe. As progenitor of the future universe, Brahma is both spirit and matter. Being androgynous, it is only when separating into two halves, Brahma Vach and Brahma Viraj, that the Prajapati become the male Brahma. The monad becomes the duad, a pair comparable to the infinite and the finite in Plato's Philebus. This suggests the inner meaning of the Cahuilla twin gods and the Greek Castor and Pollux born from eggs parented by Leda and the god-swan. These twins represent the immortal and mortal aspects of being and are both embodied in Brahma.
In The Secret Doctrine the point within the circle becomes the first divisional line which rests horizontally on the phenomenal plane and represents the androgynous Logos. The point in the circle, the germ in the egg, is not a particular point in space but exists inherently in every atom. It is vivified by the One Ray through the manifestation of the collective creative Deity. Intelligence becomes life. "The Absolute can neither will, think or act . . . to do this it must become finite. It does so by its Ray which, penetrating into the mundane egg (infinite space), emanates from it as a finite god." Within the egg, the universe is breathed out and breathed in.
As the seven forms or principles of Prakriti emanate from Mahat to earth, so at the time of pralaya these seven re-enter into each other. The Egg of Brahma, the Sarva-Mandala, is dissolved within the seven zones or dwipas . . . the seven oceans, seven regions and seven mountains. As described in the Vishnu Purana:
The discrete is thus absorbed by the undifferentiated. The energy of the Manifested Word, having had its growth, culmination and decrease, withdraws into the Boundless One. The Night of Brahma enfolds all and darkness reigns in the folds of timeless space until that appointed moment when the germ will throb in the virgin bosom and enwrap itself once again in the glorious vestures of the Golden Egg of Brahma.