Question:Do you consider the ancient myths of actual value, or are they largely figments of the imagination? (Vol. II, #165)
Answer: They contain profound occult truths. The contest between light and darkness is described in innumerable myths which are alike in the main features, though circumstances vary according to the evolutionary stage of the people among whom they are found. Generally they appear fantastic to the normal mind because the picture drawn is highly symbolical, and therefore out of tune with the concrete realities of the material world. However, embodied in these legends are great truths which appear when they are stripped of their scale of materialism.
In the first place, it should be borne in mind that the contest between light and darkness as fought here in the physical world, is but the manifestation of a similar contest fought also in the moral, mental, and spiritual realms. This is a fundamental truth, and he (or she) who would know truth should realize that the concrete world, with all the things which we now think so real, solid, and enduring is but an evanescent manifestation created by the divine thought, and it will dissolve into dust millions of years before the other worlds which we think of as unreal and intangible are similarly dissolved and we once more return to the bosom of the Father, to rest until the dawn of another and greater Cosmic Day.
It is particularly at Christmas, when the light is low and the night long, that humanity turns its attention to the Southern Sun, and waits in an attitude of expectancy for the moment when it shall again commmence its northward journey to bring back the light and life to our frozen hemisphere. In the Bible we learn how Samson, the Sun, waxed strong while His rays grew longer; how the powers of darkness, the Philistines, ferreted out the secret of his power and had his hair, or rays, cut, to rob him of his strength; how they deprived him of his light by piercing his eyes and finally slew him at the temple of the Winter Solstice.
The Anglo-Saxons speak of the victory of King George over the dragon; the Teutons call to mind how Beowolf slew the fire drake and how Siegfried conquered the dragon Fafner. Among the Greeks we find Apollos victorious over Python, and Hercules over the dragon of the Hesperides. Most of the myths tell only the victory of the newborn Sun, but there are others which, like the story of Samson just recited, and Hiram Abiff of the Masonic Legend, tell also of how the old year's Sun was vanquished after having completed its circle and was then ready to give birth to a new Sun, which rises from the ashes of the old Phoenix to be the Lightbearer of a new year.
It is in such a myth that we learn of the origin of the mistletoe, a tale which is told in Scandinavia and Iceland, particularly at Yuletide when the red holly mingles in decorative effect with the white mistletoe--a shadowy symbol of the blood that was scarlet with sin but has become white as snow. The story follows:
In ancient days when the Gods of Olympus reigned over the Southland, Wotan with his company of Gods, held sway in Walhall where the icicles reflected the winter Sun in all tints of the rainbow and the beautiful coverlet of snow made light the darkest night even without the aid of the flaming Aurora Borealis. They were a wonderful company; Tyr, the God of War, still lives in memory among us, for him we have named Tuesday. Wotan, the wisest among them, is remembered in Wednesday; Thor still is with us as the God of Thursday. He was the hammer swinger. When he threw his hammer after the giants, the enemies of God and man, he made thunder and lightning by the terrific force with which his hammer struck the clouds. The gentle Freya, the Goddess of beauty, for whom we have named Friday, and the treacherous Loke, whose name lives in the Scandinavian Saturday, are other present-day fragments of a forgotten faith.
But there was no one like Baldur. He was the second son of Odin and Freya. He was the noblest and most gentle of the Gods, beloved of everything in nature. He exceeded all beings, not only in gentleness, but in prudence and eloquence, also, and was so fair and graceful that light radiated from him. In a dream it was revealed to him that his life was in danger and this weighed so heavily on his Spirit that he shunned the society of the Gods. His mother Freya, having at length prevailed upon him to tell her the cause of his melancholy, called a council of the Gods, and all were filled with sad forebodings, for they knew that the death of Baldur would be the forerunner of their downfall--the first victory of the giants, or powers of darkness.
Wotan therefore cast "runes," magic characters, which were used to foretell the future, but all seemed dark to him. He could gain no insight. The "Vessel of Wisdom," which might have served them in their need was in the keeping of one of the Norns, the Goddesses of Fate, so that could not help them now. Ydun, the Goddess of health, whose golden apples kept the Gods ever young, had been betrayed into the powers of the giants by the trickery of Loke, the spirit of evil, but a delegation was sent to her, in order that she might be consulted on the nature of the sickness which threatened Baldur, if such it be. However, she only answered with tears, and finally after a solemn council held by all the Gods, it was determined that all the elements, and everything in nature should be bound by an oath not to harm the gentle God. This was done and a pledge was obtained from everything, except one insignificant plant which grew westward of the Palace of the Gods; this seemed so frail and fragile that the Gods deemed it to be innocuous.
However, Wotan's mind still misgave him that all was not right. It seemed to him that the Norns of good fortune had flown away. Therefore, he resolved to visit the home of a celebrated prophetess by the name of Vala. This is the spirit of the earth, and from her he would learn the fate in store for the Gods, but he received no comfort from her and returned to Walhall more cast down than formerly.
Loke, the spirit of evil, and treachery, was in reality one of the giants, or powers of darkness, but part of the time he lived with the Gods. He was a turncoat, who could be depended upon by neither party, and therefore he was usually distrusted and despised by both Gods and giants. One day while he was sitting bemoaning his fate a dense cloud began to rise from the ocean, and after a time the dark figure of the Giant King issued from it. Loke in some terror demanded what brought him hither. The monarch began to reproach him with the contemptible part he, a demon by birth, was acting in consenting to be the tool of the Gods in their warfare against the giants, to whom he owed his origin. It was out of no affection for himself that he was admitted to the society of the Gods, but because Wotan knew well the ruin which he and his offspring were destined to bring upon them and thought by thus conciliating him to defer the evil day. He who from his power and cuning might have been a leader with either party, was now despised and rejected by all. The Giant King further reproached him with having already frequently saved the Gods from ruin and even with furnishing them with weapons against the giants, and ended by appealing to the hatred which rankled in his bosom against Wotan and his whole race as a proof that his natural place was with the giants.
Loke acknowledged the truth of this and professed his readiness to aid his brethren by all means in his power. The Giant King then told him that the moment was now at hand when he might seal the fate of the Gods; that if Baldur was slain their destruction must sooner or later follow and that the gentle God's life was at that time threatened by some as yet undisvovered danger. Loke replied that the anxiety of the Gods was already at an end, for Freya had bound everything in nature by oath not to injure her son. The dark monarch said that one thing only had been omitted. However, what that was lay concealed in the breast of the Goddess and was known to no other. He then sank down again to his dark abyss and left Loke to his darker thoughts.
Loke then, having assumed the figure of an old woman, appeared to Freya and by his cunning drew from her the fatal secret; that presuming on the insignificant nature of the mistletoe she had omitted to obtain from it the pledge wherewith she had bound everything else. Loke lost no time in repairing to the place where the mistletoe grew, and tearing it up by the roots, gave it to the dwarfs, who were cunning smiths, to form into a spear. This weapon was made with many incantations, and when the spear was completed one called for blood to temper it. A child free from all taint was brought in, the dwarf plunged the spear into its breast and sang:
In the meantime the Gods and the dead braves, who are with them assembled for a tournament, in order to convince Baldur how groundless were his apprehensions, now that his life was deemed to be charmed, made him butt of all their weapons.
Loke repaired there also with the fatal spear and seeing the blind and strong God, Hoedur, standing apart from the rest, asked him why he did not honor his brother Baldur by tilting with him, also. Hoedur excused himself on account of his blindness and because he had no weapon. Loke then put the enchanted spear into his hands and Hoedur, unsuspicious of malice, pierced Baldur through the breast with the spear made from the mistletoe, so that he fell lifeless to the ground to the unspeakable grief of all creatures.
Baldur is the summer Sun, beloved by everything in nature, and in the blind God, Hoedur, who slays him with the spear, we may readily recognize the sign Sagittarius, for when the Sun enters that sign in December it is nearly without light and is therefore said to be slain by the blind God Hoedur. The bow of Sagittarius, as pictured on the zodiac of the south presents symbolically the same idea as the spear of the story in the Eddas.
The legend of Baldur's death teaches the same cosmic Truth as all other myths of kindred nature, namely, that the Spirit of the Sun must die to the glories of the Universe while, as Christ, it enters the Earth to bring it the renewed life, without which all physical manifestations on our planet must cease. As death here precedes a birth into the spiritual plane of existence before a birth can take place into the physical body. As Osiris in Egypt is slain by Typhon, ere Horus, the Sun of the New Year, may be born, so also Christ must die to the higher world before He can be born into the Earth and bring to us the needed annual spiritual impulse; but our Holy Season commemorates no greater manifestation of Love than that of which the mistletoe is emblematical. Being physically the extreme of weakness, it clings to the oak which is the symbol of strength. It is the very weakness of the weakest of the weakest of beings that pierces the heart of the noblest and gentlest of Gods so that, compelled by his love for the lowly, he descends to the shades in the underworld, even as Christ for our sake dies to the spiritual world each year and is born into our planet that He may permeate it anew with His radiant Life and Energy.
Question:How do you account for the present wide variation in the conditions and capabilities of people in view of the fact that we all started at the beginning of this Day of Manifestation as virgin spirits of equal power and possibilities? Why should we not all have developed at the same rate?
Answer: The reason is twofold: First, when we were differentiated as virgin spirits in God and commenced our pilgrimage through matter, we possessed the tremendous will power of the spirit and were able to direct our course within certain limits. We also possessed the all-consciousness of God. The object of our evolution in matter was to gain self-consciousness. Many egos disliked to give up the all-consciousness and go into the hard, unpleasant field of gaining self-consciousness through the difficult experiences of material existence. Therefore, being thus less adaptable than others, they clung to the all-consciousness to a greater or lesser degree and many of them refused to give it up, or partially so. The result was that these in the very beginning became stragglers and many of them remained such ever since. Then as evolution progressed and the crystallized conditions of matter became more pronounced, more and more egos lost their desire for penetrating farther into it, and hung back, longing and seeking for the all-consciousness which they had left. Thus more stragglers were added to the group.
Second, as the virgin spirits progressed through involution and finally made the turn at the lowest point into evolution, some became more attached to form than others and lost sight of their spiritual origin. That is, they became more and more materialistic, which tended to make them stragglers. This again produced more divergence between the conditions of the various egos.
These two reasons are sufficient to account for the present inequalities in the human race.
This article was adapted from "The Rosicrucian Philosophy in Questions and Answers, Vol. II," by Max Heindel.