The recent controversy whether or not doctors can use the Red Cross sign has brought about the need to understand the deeper meaning behind the doctor’s emblem. Doctors are required to use this original emblem: The staff with two snakes entwined. The emblem has much deeper spiritual meaning and is the perfect reminder of well being. Most of the medical Assocaitionsworld over use a modification of the emblem: The compulsory triad of a staff, two snakes and another object to represent well being which can a candle, lamp, wings, birds etc.
Doctor’s emblem has deep spiritual meaning: The emblem represents the Mind Body and the Soul. The staff represents the Body, The Snakes The Mind and the Wings the Soul. The Staff is the Earth, the wood component. The snakes represent the disturbed state of consciousness, the ego, the triad of mind, intellect and ego, the triad of action, memories and desires etc. Two in number the snakes are the representation of the duality of nature and the mind.
The two wings, birds, lamp or any other such symbol represents the enlightened soul, well being of a person, a person with a physical, social, mental and spiritual well being. A person can be healthy only when his physical body is in union with the mind. He has to learn to control the duality of the mind. The main factor there is to control the ego. If the ego is directed inwards it controls the mind. The two snakes in all vedantic symbols have the head of the snake directed inwards and not outwards.
The two snakes are like the two nadis, Ida and Pingla encircling the central sushumnanadi, it represents a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Only in parasympathetic state of mind one can acquire inner well being. The staff with the single serpent is the symbol for Medicine and Health and the winged staff is the symbol for Medicine and Health and the winged staff is the symbol for peace or spiritualism.
A plant grows into big tree and a child grows into a perfect person. The snake symbolizes all the danger and diseases which may decay and destroy the tree of life. It is the story of Life and Death. The tree of life is often attacked by disease some of which are deadly like poisons. But there are angels in the form of physicians to save the tree of life. The serpent is the symbol for the poison that can cure as the same ego can be nectar if directed outwards.
Another interpretation stresses the symbolism of fertility. The caduceus stresses the symbolism of fertility. The caduceus comprises two serpents coupling on an erect phallus. It would seem to be one of the most ancient of Indo European images found in association with various rites in both ancient and modern India, as the emblem of Hermes, conductor of souls penetrates from the known into the unknown world seeking a spiritual message of deliverance and healing. The Caduceus also unites the four natural elements and their symbolic qualities. The rod corresponds to Earth, the Wings to air, and the Serpents to Fire and water. However it is not simply their snaking movement like the waves of the sea or the flicker of flames, which identifies serpents with water and fire but their very nature. Their poisonous bite is fiery, their fluid movement almost liquid making them the source of both life and death.
The serpents entwine around the staff symbolizing the tree of life to show egotism tamed and brought under control, their venom transformed to healing the corruption of the life force brought back to its proper channel. Health in the right proportion harmonization of desire (the serpents symmetrical coils) control of emotional stimuli the need for spiritualization and sublimation which not only rule the health of the soul but determine the health of the body as well. Such an interpretation would make the caduceus the symbol of psychosomatic balance.
The symbol is also a true representation of balance between Vata, Pitta and Kaha. The staff represents Kapha the earth and the Tamsic state of mind, The snakes represent Pitta or Rajaic state of Mind and the Wings the Satvic state state of the mind and the Vata Dosha.
The ambulance emblem is staff with a snake without the wings meaning there by a sick person. Ansence of wings means absence of well being.