The Word Foundation
Share this page



MAY 1912

Copyright 1912 by H. W. PERCIVAL


Why is the eagle used as an emblem of various nations?

It is likely that various motives have prompted the taking of the eagle as an emblem by the many nations which have adopted it. Yet it may be supposed that it was taken because it best represented the nature and the policy, the ambition, the ideal of the nations who have borne it as their standard.

The eagle is king of birds and of the air, as the lion is said to be king among beasts. It is a bird of prey, but also of victory. It is a bird of great endurance, capable of swift and long flight. It swoops rapidly on its prey, rises quickly, and soars in majesty at great heights.

A nation desires strength, endurance, courage, swiftness, dominion, power. An eagle has all of these to a high degree. It is reasonable to suppose that these are some of the reasons which led nations or tribes or rulers to adopt the eagle as their standard. The fact is that it has been the symbol of many of the conquering nations of our historical period, and particularly of those who conduct war at great distances.

These are the characteristics of the eagle. But the nation who adopts this bird as its symbol, usually qualifies or specializes its particular nature or intent or ideal either by a motto accompanying the eagle or by placing a symbol in the eagle’s talons or in his beak, such as a branch, arrows, a flag, a shield, the sceptre, the lightning, each of which alone or in combination with other emblems symbolizes the character of the nation or the characteristics the nation likes and what its aims are.

All this is from a practical and material standpoint. There is another symbolism of the eagle where the same characteristics may be viewed from a more spiritual standpoint.

It is one of the four “Living Beings” mentioned in the Apocalypse who are said to stand around the throne of God. The eagle is assigned to the sign Scorpio of the Zodiac. It symbolizes the spiritual power in man. The eagle is the virile, spiritual power in man which may rise to the greatest heights. The nation or man who takes the eagle as an emblem in the spiritual sense aims to attain in a spiritual way all that is represented by the eagle in its material symbolism. He aims for victory over all that is below him and uses his power to rise to higher realms. By directing this power represented by the eagle, he is the conqueror of his desires, gains dominion in the region of his body through which he ascends and, like the eagle, makes his home in the mountain heights of the body above the cervical vertebrae. So he rises from the sign Scorpio, which is the lowest end of the spine, to the top, which leads into the head.


Does the double headed eagle now used as the national emblem of some countries, and which is found on the monuments of the ancient Hittites of Biblical times, allude to the androgynous condition of man?

When a double-headed eagle is used as a national emblem it is sometimes intended to signify among other things intended, that two nations or countries are united as one, though there may be two heads to the government. Unless other symbols accompanied the double-headed eagle on the monuments of the ancient Hittites, this symbol would not refer to androgynous man. Androgynous man or dual sexed man, must include two functions, two powers of opposite natures. The double headed eagle is the same in nature, as both heads are of eagles. For androgynous man to be represented by an eagle, the eagle should be accompanied by or be connected with a lion, which, though in a different realm, represents among the animals what the eagle is among the birds. The ancient Rosicrucians spoke of “The Blood of the Red Lion,” by which they meant the desires, or animal nature in man. They also spoke of “The Gluten of the White Eagle,” by which they meant the psycho-spiritual power in man. These two, the blood of the red lion, and the gluten of the white eagle, they said, should meet and commingle and marry, and from their union would develop a greater power. This sounds like empty ravings of a lunatic unless the symbolism is understood. When it is, it will be realized that they understood more about physiological processes than they were given credit for.

The blood of the red lion is the active desire which lives in the blood of the body. The gluten of the white eagle is in its first aspect the lymph in the body. The lymph enters the heart and so is united with the blood. From this union there is born another power which impels to generation. If this impulse is gratified, the Alchemists said, that the lion would become weak and the eagle would lose the power to rise. If, however, the gluten of the white eagle and the blood of the red lion should continue to mingle together without giving way to the impulse, the lion would become strong and the eagle powerful, and the new-born power from their commingling would give youth to the body and strength to the mind.

These two, the lion and the eagle, symbolize the two principles, the masculine and feminine aspects of man from the psycho-physical standpoint. The androgyne is one who has the masculine and feminine natures and functions. The lion and the eagle, the blood and the lymph, commingling in the same body and performing their functions to generate a new power within that body and without giving way to the impulse for outward expression, create a new bodily power from which is born a new being which, like the eagle, may rise from the earth and soar into higher realms.

A Friend [H. W. Percival]