THEOSOPHY, Vol. 16, No. 4, February, 1928
(Pages 163-170; Size: 27K)
(Number 25 of a 59-part series)
THE THEOSOPHY OF THE FAR NORTH
LURED on by what mysterious attractions or, perchance, by what memories of ancient wisdom, have recent Arctic explorers risked all in their daring flights to discover the North Pole?(1) "The Sacred Imperishable Land" which capped over the whole North Pole -- said to have existed from the beginning of this Manvantara and destined to endure to its end -- once had a tropical climate, and one could cross from Norway by way of Iceland and Greenland to the Hudson Bay country almost on dry land.(2)
To later dwellers in the Far North, one of the thirty-five Buddhas of Compassion taught the "sayings" of the eternal Wisdom. In the Sagas(3) and Eddas his name has come down to us as Odin, or Woden, a memorial of whom is our Wednesday (Woden's day). He is said to have given to the earliest Norsemen their method of writing runes, which modern scholars describe as "merely fanciful signs supposed to possess magic power." The word itself means hidden lore or mystery and is suggestive of a language like the Sanscrit, in which each letter has a numerical value and special meaning. In the epic poem of Finland, the Kalewala, the hero battles with the Serpent of Evil, whoAccording to the earliest Norse legends, in the beginning was neither day nor night, naught but a boundless, yawning abyss called Ginnungagap(4) -- the cup of illusion (Space). In its midst lay as in sleep the Home of the Mist, Nifleheim or Nebelheim(5), in which was dropped a ray of cold light that overflowed the cup and froze therein. Then from the far-off Home of Brightness, Muspelheim, the Invisible, blew the breath of a scorching wind, which dissolved the frozen waters and cleared the mist. These waters, the streams of Elivagar, distilled in vivifying drops, bringing forth the giant Ymir(6) -- who had "only the semblance of a man" -- and the cow Audhumla, from whom issued four streams of milk that diffused themselves throughout space. By licking the mineral salt from the blocks of ice that still remained, Audhumla produced a superior being named Buri. This was when Darkness still reigned throughout Space, when the Ases were not yet evolved, when the Yggdrasil, the Tree of Time and Life, had not yet grown, and there was no Valhalla, or Hall of Heroes."Pounces with his mouth of venom
At the head of Lemminkainen.
But the hero, quick recalling,
Speaks the Master words of Knowledge,
Words that came from distant ages,
Words his ancestors had taught him."
Now Ymir fell asleep and sweat profusely; the drops of perspiration, as large as full-grown men, hardened over like gigantic eggs, from which were hatched the Hrimthursar,(7) or Frost-Giants. Although inferior to the being produced by Audhumla, a daughter of one of the Frost-Giants was taken in marriage by Buri, and their son Bor became the father of Odin and his two brothers, Vili and Ve, or "Spirit," "Will," and "Holiness." In the course of time the Ases, or Æsir(8) -- the sons of Odin -- slew Ymir. The streams of blood flowing from his wounds were so copious that they drowned the whole race of Frost-Giants,(9) one alone escaping with his wife in a bark and later transmitting a new race of giants from the old stock. They then proceeded to create our world. From Ymir's blood they made the oceans and rivers; from his bones, the mountains; from his teeth, the rocks and cliffs; from his head, the heavenly vault, supported by four pillars -- representing the four cardinal points; while from his eyebrows they formed the future home of men, Midgard. This abode, says the Edda, to be correctly understood, must be conceived as round as a ring or disk, floating in the midst of the Celestial Ocean; and to protect it from the incursions of the giants, it was encircled by Jormungand, the gigantic serpent, holding its tail in its mouth (The astral light). After the creation of the earth, as the Æsir walked along the ocean beach, perceiving their work incomplete, for as yet there were no men, they espied two sticks floating on the waves, "powerless and without destiny." Into these Odin breathed the breath of Life; Vili (Hönir in some versions) endowed them with soul and motion (Manas); Ve (or Lodur) gave them beauty, speech, sight and hearing. Ask (the ash tree) was the name they gave to the man, Embla (the alder), the name of the woman, and they put the pair in Midgard (mid-garden) or Eden.
This "creation" of man clearly indicates his triune nature: the first, which sprang from the remains of the giant Ymir -- matter; the second is that which is given him by the Æsir, the "minor gods" or pitris; the third, the higher triad, is received from the representatives of mind, soul and spirit. We also see that the Hesiodic ash tree, whence issued the men of the generation of bronze (the Third Root Race), the Tzite tree of the Popol Vuh, out of which the Mexican third race men were created, the Gogard of the Avesta, the Tibetan Zampun, the tree in the garden of Eden, and the mighty ash, Yggdrasil, are all one. For, according to another version of the Eddas, the universe sprang from beneath the luxuriant branches of Yggdrasil, the tree with three roots, extending the one into Midgard -- the dwelling of mortals; one into Jötunheim -- the abode of the giants; the third, into the region of death. The first root, under which is the Urdar fountain, is carefully tended by the three Norns who every morning, while fixing the term of human life, draw from the fountain and sprinkle the mundane tree that it may not wither nor die. Under the second root is the well of Mimir, the thrice-wise Jötun, who passed his life by this primeval fountain, the crystalline waters of which daily increased his wisdom; because, it was said, the world was born of water, hence wisdom is found in that element. Odin asks for a draught of this water and in exchange has to pledge an eye, leaving it at the bottom of the well.(10) The third, extending into the infernal regions (of our earth), is perpetually gnawed by Nidhogg, the dark dragon of despair. The mundane tree remained verdant till the last days of the Golden Age, and under its protecting shadow humanity lived without desire as without fear. The lust of wealth was unknown, the gods played with golden disks and nothing disturbed the rapture of mere existence. But no sooner does Goltweig (Gold Ore) the bewitching enchantress, come, who thrice cast into the fire,(11) arises each time more beautiful than before, than the souls of gods and men are filled with unappeasable longing. The Norns, who gazed respectively into the Past, the Present, and the Future, and made known the decree of Orlog (Karma), then enter into being, the blessed peace of childhood's dreams passes away and sin comes into the world with all its evil consequences -- KARMA.
As the Ashwattha tree grew with its roots above, so Yggdrasil extended into Asgard, the abode of the gods. Here are golden and silver palaces and the beautiful Valhalla, Odin's hall, whither warriors who die valiantly in battle are borne by the Valkyries. Upon a gorgeous throne sits Odin, the All-Father. Upon his shoulders are the ravens, Thought and Memory, who fly every day over the whole world and on their return report what they have seen and heard. They flutter around the goddess Saga and whisper to her of past and future. What is the meaning of these black birds? They are all connected with the primeval wisdom which flows out of the pre-cosmic Source of all, symbolized by the head, the circle and the egg.
Beside Odin are his wife Frigga and his sister Freya, the most propitious of all the goddesses, from whom is our Friday. Tyr, or Tiu, is the god of battles, preserved in our Tuesday. Thor, the Thunderer, is commemorated in our Thursday. Balder is the god of sunlight; his opposite is Höder, god of winter's cold. Bragi, the god of New Life (of the reincarnation of nature and man) is the "divine singer," without spot or blemish. He is represented as gliding in the ship of the Dwarfs of Death during the death of nature (pralaya), lying asleep on the deck with his golden-stringed harp near him, dreaming the dream of life. When the vessel crosses the threshold of Nain (the Dwarf of Death), Bragi awakes and, sweeping the strings of his harp, sings a song that echoes over all the world, -- a song describing the raptures of existence, and awakening dumb, sleeping nature out of her long rest. His wife, Iduna, keeps in a box the apples of eternal youth and health which she feeds every morning to the gods. Heimdall is the watchman of the gods, placed on the borders of heaven to prevent the evil giants from forcing their way over Bifrost, the bridge between heaven and earth -- the Scandinavian Cherubim with the flaming sword "which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life" in the garden of Eden. Loki, in the beginning a beneficent god, becomes the evil brother of Odin, as Ahriman became the evil brother of Ormazd, and Typhon, of Osiris, after he had mixed too long with humanity. Like all fire-gods, since fire burns and destroys as well as warms and creates, he ends by representing the evil passions of man. He is the father of the Fenris wolf, the Midgard snake, and of Hela, the dark queen of the Kingdom of Shades (whence our "hell"). The name Loki comes from the word liechen, to enlighten; it has, therefore, the same meaning as the Latin lux. Hence Loki is identical with Lucifer, the Light-bringer. But he is still more closely related to Prometheus, as he is chained to a sharp rock, while Lucifer (identified by Christians with Satan), was chained down in hell -- a circumstance which prevented neither of them from acting in all freedom on earth, if we are to accept the theological explanation.
Thor, the Scandinavian Zeus, possesses three precious things; the hammer, Miölnir, forged by the dwarfs against the giants(12); a magic belt which, whenever girded about his person, doubles his celestial power; and a pair of iron gauntlets. Whenever Thor would grasp the handle of his terrible weapon (the thunderbolt) he is obliged to put on his iron gloves. He rides in a car drawn by two rams with silver bridles, and his awful brow is encircled by a wreath of stars. His chariot has a pointed iron pole and the spark-scattering wheels continually roll over rumbling clouds. When he repairs to the Urdar fountain, where the gods meet in conclave to decide the destinies of men, he alone goes on foot, the rest of the deities being mounted. He also walks in crossing Bifrost, the many-hued Æsir bridge (the rainbow), for fear he might set it on fire with his thunder car and at the same time cause the Urdar waters to boil. This myth shows the Norse legend makers were thoroughly acquainted with electricity, for Thor handles this peculiar element only when protected by gloves of iron, which is its natural conductor. His belt of strength is a closed circuit, around which the isolated current is compelled to run instead of diffusing itself through space. When he is rushing through the clouds with his car he is electricity in its active condition. The pointed pole of his chariot suggests the lightning rod. The two rams who serve as his coursers and the silver bridles (silver being the metal of Diana) typify the active and passive principles in nature. He goes afoot over the rainbow bridge because in order to mingle with other gods less powerful than himself, he has to be in a latent state, which he could not be in his car; otherwise he would set on fire and annihilate all. The Urdar fountain, which he is afraid to make boil, is needed for the daily irrigation of the mundane tree, and if its cool waters had been disturbed by him (as active electricity), they would have been converted into mineral springs unfit for the purpose. The ancient philosophers believed that not only volcanoes, but boiling springs were caused by concentrations of underground electric currents, and that the same cause produced deposits of various natures, which form curative springs. Thor's hammer -- the "Worker's Hammer" in the Chaldean Book of Numbers, "which striketh sparks from the flint," (space) those sparks becoming worlds, -- is the Swastika. This "Hammer of Creation" with its four arms bent at right angles refers to the rotation of the earth's axes and their equatorial belts, the two lines forming the Swastika meaning spirit and matter, the four hooks suggesting the motion of the revolving cycles. Applied to man, it shows him to be a link between heaven and earth: the right hand being raised at the end of the horizontal arm, the left pointing to earth. The symbolism of this universal and most suggestive of signs contains the key to the seven great mysteries of the Kosmos. Bifrost may be regarded as the Ether, the bridge or medium between the various states and planes of substance, in virtue of which all things in the universe are welded into one. The ether is not only a medium, but "a medium plus the invisible order of things, so that when the motions of the visible universe are transferred into ether, part of them are conveyed as by a bridge into the invisible universe, where they are made use of and stored up."
How prophetic are the songs of the three Norse goddesses to whom the ravens of Odin whisper of the past and the future, as they flutter around in their crystal abode beneath the flowing river! The songs are all written down in the "Scrolls of Wisdom," of which many are lost, but some still remain. They repeat in poetical allegory the teachings of archaic ages. They foretell the "renewal of the world," a prophecy of the seventh race of our round, told in the past tense. It had been said that when the Ases had been purified by the fire of suffering in their life-incarnations, and had become fit to dwell in Ida in eternal peace, then Miölnir would become useless. "Then came the sons of Thor. They brought Miölnir with them, no longer as a weapon of war, but as the hammer with which to consecrate the new heaven and the new earth." "...on the plain of Ida, the field of resurrection (for the Fifth Round), the sons of the highest gods assembled, and in them their fathers rose again.(13) They talked of the Past and the Present, and remembered the wisdom and prophecies of their ancestors, which had all been fulfilled. Near them, but unseen of them, was the strong, mighty One, who rules all things...and ordains the eternal laws that govern the world. They all knew he was there, they felt his presence and his power, but were ignorant of his name. To the south above the field of Ida, he made another heaven called Audlang, and farther off, a third, Widblain.(14) Over Gimil's Cave, a wondrous palace was created, covered with gold and shining bright in the sun. There the Gods are enthroned, as they used to be. From Gimil's heights(15) they looked down upon the happy descendants of Lif and Lifthrasir,(16) and signed them to climb up higher, to rise in knowledge and wisdom, step by step, from one heaven to another, until they were at last fit to be united to the Gods in the house of the All-Father.
The same prophecy is uttered by Balder. Balder, the bright god, so fair and dazzling in form and features that rays of light seem to issue from him, is killed by the crafty Loki, because Frigga, while entreating all creatures and all lifeless things to swear that they will not injure the well-beloved, forgets to mention the mistletoe, just as the mother of Achilles forgot her son's heel. A dart is made of it by Loki and he places it in the hands of the blind Hödur, who kills the sunny-hearted god of light. (The Christmas mistletoe is probably a reminiscence of the mistletoe that killed the Northern God of Goodness.)
That night in a vision Balder appears to his wife Nanna and tries to comfort her:(17)The new earth is described in a dialogue between Balder and Hermod, who twice has ridden to Hela's realm to rescue the ill-fated god:"'Yes, and I fain would altogether ward
Death from thy head, and with the gods in heaven
Prolong thy life, though not by thee desired--
But right bars this, not only thy desire.
Yet dreary, Nanna, is the life they lead
In that dim world, in Hela's mouldering realm;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
For of the race of gods is no one there
Save me alone, and Hela, solemn Queen;
For all the nobler souls of mortal men
On battle field have met their death, and now
Feast in Valhalla, in my father's hall:
Only the inglorious sort are there below'--
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"He spake, and straight his lineaments began
To fade; and Nanna in her sleep stretch'd out
Her arms towards him with a cry.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .then
Frea, the mother of the gods, with stroke
Painless and swift, set free her airy soul,
Which took, on Balder's track, the way below;
And instantly the sacred morn appear'd.""'But not to me so grievous as, I know,
To other gods it were, is my enforced
Absence from fields where I could nothing aid;
For I am long since weary of your storm
Of carnage, and find, Hermod, in your life
Something too much of war and broils, which make
Life one perpetual fight, a bath of blood.
Inactive, therefore, let me lie in gloom,
Unarm'd, inglorious; I attend the course
Of ages, and my late return to light,
In times less alien to a spirit mild,
In new-recover'd seats, the happier day.'
"He spake; and the fleet Hermod thus replied:--
'Brother, what seats are these, what happier day?
Tell me, that I may ponder it when gone.'
"And the ray-crowned Balder answered him:--
'Far to the south, beyond the blue, there spreads
Another heaven, the boundless -- no one yet
Hath reach'd it; there hereafter shall arise
The second Asgard, with another name;
Thither, when o'er this present earth and heavens
The tempest of the latter days hath swept,
And they from sight have disappear'd and sunk,
Shall a small remnant of the gods repair;
Höder and I shall join them from the grave.
There reassembling we shall see emerge
From the bright ocean at our feet an earth
More fresh, more verdant than the last, with fruits
Self-springing, and a seed of man preserved,
Who then shall live in peace, as now in war.
But we in heaven shall find again with joy
The ruin'd palaces of Odin, seats
Familiar, halls where we have supp'd of old,
Reënter them with wonder, never fill
Our eyes with gazing, and rebuild with tears.
And we shall tread once more the well-known plain
Of Ida, and among the grass shall find
The golden dice wherewith we played of yore;
And that shall bring to mind the former life
And pastime of the gods--
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
O Hermod, pray that thou may'st join us then!
Such for the future is my hope.'"
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
THE IN-DWELLING EGO
How precise and true is Plato's expression, how profound and philosophical his remark on the (human) soul or Ego, when he defined it as "a compound of the same and the other." And yet how little this hint has been understood, since the world took it to mean that the soul was the breath of God, of Jehovah. It is "the same and the other," as the great Initiate-Philosopher said; for the Ego (the "Higher Self" when merged with and in the Divine Monad) is Man, and yet the same as the "OTHER", the Angel in him incarnated, as the same with the universal MAHAT. The great classics and philosophers felt this truth, when saying that "there must be something within us which produces our thoughts. Something very subtle; it is a breath; it is fire; it is ether; it is quintessence; it is a slender likeness; it is an intellection; it is a number; it is harmony..." (Voltaire). -- S.D., II, p. 88-89.
BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA
(Part 26 of a 59-part series)
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SEVENTEEN (17) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(1) See THEOSOPHY, Vol. XIII, p. 453; also Vol. XIV, p. 251.
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(2) When Commander Byrd flew over the North Pole in the late Arctic winter, the coldest weather of the trip was 10° warmer than the coldest temperature recorded for New York City. It should be remembered that he made no landing.
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(3) Compare the German word sagen, meaning to say or to speak.
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(4) Ginnungagap, the world's matrix, is called the cup of illusion because all matter is an illusion, a maya, in one sense.
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(5) Nebelheim, the cold place, represents a state of non-consciousness and inactivity. Under the influence of heat we see the expansive disintegration of the nebula which is to concentrate into new worlds. It is the phantom-germ of the future universe.
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(6) Ymir, unruly, turbulent matter, or matter in ebullition, and the cow, the "Nourisher," represent the pairs of opposites, the pre-cosmic union of spirit and matter (cooled and still seething). We might connote with this Kamaduk, the cow of plenty, in the Bhagavad-Gita; also Vach, "the melodious cow." The four streams from Audhumla bear a curious resemblance to the river of Eden, which "parted and became into four heads."
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(7) The Grecian myth of Leda is duplicated in the hatching out of the Hrimthursar.
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(8) Æsir was an old Irish god, the name meaning "to light a fire." The same word is found in old Etruscan. Asar was Egyptian for Osiris.
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(9) Just as Cronus was dethroned by Zeus, so the early race of Frost-Giants is supplanted by the sons of Buri, who initiate a new cycle of evolution.
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(10) The deity reflected in its creation. The meanings of this symbol are many. The well and its waters typify hidden wisdom, the Secret Doctrine, beheld by the "Third Eye" -- now lost to all but the "Arhans of the boundless vision."
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(11) The thrice-purified gold is Manas.
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(12) The Titanic forces of nature which rebel and, while alive in the region of matter, will not be subdued by the gods (the Agents of universal harmony), but have first to be destroyed.
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(13) The Egos of all their past incarnations.
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(14) These are the three gradually ascending globes of our chain.
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(15) The seventh globe.
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(16) The coming Adam and Eve of purified humanity.
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(17) Matthew Arnold's "Balder Dead."
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