The Uroboros Symbol






The above illustration is by the Christian mystic Jacob Boehme (1575-1642) published in his Theosophische Werke, (Amsterdam 1682). It is referenced as Plate 9 by Jolande Jacobi in her outstanding book, The Psychology of C.G. Jung, (Yale University Press, London, New Haven, 1973).

Dr. Jacobi says the following about this drawing: "It shows a sinful world of creation, surrounded by the Serpent of Eternity, the Uroboros, and characterized by the four elements and the sins corresponding to them; the whole circle relates to the centre, the weeping eye of God, i.e., the point where salvation, symbolized by the dove of the Holy Ghost, may be achieved by compassion and love."

From a Christian point of view, the present world system is controlled by, and under the temporary dominion of the fallen angel known as Satan, symbolized in the Bible by a great serpent. Men and women in their natural state are fallen and self-centered. The self-impregnating snake, the uroboros (or ouroboros) is a fitting symbol for this self-referenced framework for our race apart from God. Fortunately, God's sovereign grace operates both from outside and from within our fallen world. The Lord's compassionate identification with human misery, sorrow, and sin is well represented by the weeping eye at the center. The dove, is of course, a well known Biblical symbol for the Holy Spirit. The drawing also includes flames which symbolize God as "a consuming fire." Boehme's drawing is Trinitarian with its triangle symbolizing God's sovereignty over all of creation. The cross of course symbolizes Jesus the Son of God, the "Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world" for our sins.

For all who are willing, God offers each of us an inner transformation of identity from self-centered to self-giving. At enormous cost to Himself God has made a way of escape for all who discover that they have been born into an evil, selfish, fallen world. By nature we do not have the resources to change ourselves into something better---this is the resource the grace of God provides freely. Receiving Jesus as Lord and Master into one's heart and life breaks our inborn bondage to sin. Likewise shattered is our slavery to the world and to the serpent-god of this present age. This process is concisely stated by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians, Chapter 2,

"And you God made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God---not because of works, lest any man should boast."


The reality that God is both Just and Compassionate is reflected by Jeremiah's words written at the time of Jerusalem's destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.

"The Lord is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him;

let him put his mouth in the dust---there may yet be hope;
let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.

For the Lord will not cast off for ever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.


(The Lamentations of Jeremiah 3:22-23)

The self-enshrouded world we live in is the place of ultimate division between good and evil, between heaven and hell. The majestic God who created the universe continues to be deeply involved in all the affairs of our world---and the worlds that lie beyond. Ray C. Stedman wrote, "The proper attitude of Christians must be one of awe that a Being of such majesty and glory could find a way to dwell eternally with such sin-controlled and sin-injured creatures as us. 'Since our God is a consuming fire,' we must cry with Isaiah, 'Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?' (Is 33:14). God's love is just such a fire, it destroys what it cannot purify, but purifies what it cannot destroy. In Jesus we have a relationship that cannot be destroyed (Rom. 8:38-39). Our great king is leading us through trials and difficulties in order that we may at last cry with Job, 'He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold' (Job 23:10 KJV). See Commentary on Hebrews.

Alas! and did my Savior bleed And did my sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred Head For sinners such as I?

Was it for sins that I have done He suffered on the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown! And love beyond degree!

Well might the sin in darkness hide And shut His glories in.
When Christ the great Redeemer, died For man the creature's sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears.
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, And melt mine eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne'er repay The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away---'Tis all that I can do.

(Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed? Hymn by Isaac Watts)



July 26, 1996

Note added: On the origin of the Ourobouros (uroboros) symbol, April 30, 1998.

The Uroboros Symbol
by Lambert Dolphin

lambert@ldolphin.org

I send out periodic Bible-study newsletters. They are archived on my web site.

http://ldolphin.org/