Some of the oldest versions of world history and human annals are found in the Hindu Vedas and in their Norse counterpart, the Eddas. Both stem from a root so ancient that no one can claim to know when they originated. All we can be sure of is that the wisdom they contain was old when our present humanity was young, and that they will be young when our human race ceases to be such as we know it. They deal with matters which are universal in scope, eternal in age and inspiration, passed from generation to generation for untold ages before someone wrote them down in order to preserve them for the future. It is likely they descend from a far prehistoric time when the gods mingled with humanity and taught their younger brothers how to live on this planet, how to make use of the materials of Earth to produce food, tools, and artifacts, and also what their purpose is: to aid the evolution of beings. Communication between gods and humans was then a natural intercourse, not dependent on codified language but conveying thought and instinct, which gradually became incorporated in what today we term mythology.
Mythology is in fact a sort of language, not of sounds and scribbles but of ideas, transmitted from mind to mind through whatever symbols have become familiar and memorable at any time. This makes it possible to transfer impressions in many different forms, which accounts for the numerous mythic tales that differ in rendering while embodying the same profound content of truth. Three factors are needed: the idea to be conveyed, the means to convey the idea, and an understanding mind to receive and interpret it.
All mythologies relate how worlds were born, how the human race began, and predict something of our function in the universe. Generally these themes are told in cryptic terms not easily understood, for there are many things too sacred to be readily discovered lest they be desecrated.
To compare two well-known myths: in Genesis man was made in the "image of the gods [elohim]" — something which passed unnoticed for ages, causing the reminder to be uttered by Jesus: "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" (John 10:34). This is supported by other scriptures and sacred traditions. The very universality of the idea lends credence to the concept that humanity is indeed a divine product, with all the responsibility such a lineage entails.
According to the sibyl's prophecy in the elder (poetic) Edda, the human race had reached only the stage of a dreamlike, vegetative existence when the gods "looked back and saw their plight." Finding them in the guise of the ash tree and the alder on the seashore where land and water meet, Odin (essence of air: spirit) and his brothers Lodur (essence of fire) and Honer (essence of water: liquidity) took pity on them, for they were "of little power, indeterminate," and bestowed on them their own divine attributes. Odin gave them breath (spirit), Lodur passion and will (fire, body temperature), Honer the stream of incessantly flowing mind. These godlike powers, combined with the physical, astral, and vital force already in the trees, made these early prototypes fit to govern their own destiny. Each life-form expresses to the degree it can the supreme essence of existence, hidden deep within this sixfold combination, which in many religions is referred to as God.
The new humanity was aided by the gods to arouse and use the divine endowments they had received. The descent from higher regions of solar and planetary spirit and mind into human forms took place in several stages. The initial awakening came when the gods first emitted a divine ray to visit early humankind. This is recorded in the Edda, when "the strong, mature, wise Ase (god), powerful, manly, wandering Rig strode along green lanes" and came to the hovel where Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother dwelt. Their door was closed, but he entered the shack and these progenitors of the first humankind entertained the god as best they could. He left with them his seed, from which in the course of ages descended a clan of rough, primitive people.
Again the god descended. He visited Grandfather and Grand- mother in their rustic cottage, whose door was ajar. They regaled him with the best they could muster: tasty fare, daintily served. From the seed he left with them grew their progeny — a capable, industrious, and amiable race of farmers and simple folk.
A third time Rig descended to Earth, this time to find Father and Mother in a well-constructed dwelling, whose door stood hospitably open. Following this visitation the semidivine offspring were valiant, of noble bearing, and given to knightly pursuits. The firstborn son was named Jarl (earl). Wise and generous, he understood birdsong and the voices of nature.
Once again Rig returned to Earth, taught and trained the boy until he vied with his divine sire and "did the better." He was then fit to undertake the human venture toward godhood, to be indeed a godmaker. Jarl married a maiden as noble as himself, and they headed a good and comely clan. The youngest son was Kon (king). "Kon, the young, knew runes, eternal runes and ageless runes. Mighty was he to rescue men, soothing swords and swelling seas."
Such is our heritage, thrice divinely begotten human beings. We have yet to relearn the secrets of birdsong — to understand and heed the voices of nature — and we are still far from soothing swords and mastering the power of the waves. As human nurslings of the gods, having received self-awareness and the power to choose, we became obstreperous and refused to be guided by our divine mentors, who thereupon retreated from our ken, leaving us to grow and evolve by our own devices, as we must. Many errors were committed by the new humankind and we had to suffer and learn by our mistakes. We were, however, never wholly abandoned. The gods, of whose essence we are the bearers and custodians, have never ceased to inspire and encourage their human offspring who travel various roads toward their own high state of becoming.
Rig represents that " 'Wondrous Being,' descended from a high region" (H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine 1:207) who taught our semidivine progenitors. We are their progeny and are progressing toward a destiny unspeakably sublime, awakening through ages the properties of the divine nature in ourselves until, in the far distant future, we shall become fit to take our places as governors of planets and in due course of even more exalted stellar hosts.
It is vain to describe any entity in terms of what it is, for there is nothing static either in infinite space or in the minuteness of subatomic worlds. Any being can be assessed only as an event, a flow, whether immeasurably vast or infinitesimal in scope. The great galactic superclusters move at their own majestic pace, the subatomic quarks at their vertiginous velocity. We stand always in the center of our field of vision surrounded by what appear to be extremes that we can never comprehend.
Some inkling does make itself felt in human hearts today, as the currently imbodied representatives of the human life-wave are searching for truth. There are as many roads as there are seekers but, broadly speaking, these fall into one of three categories. The first road is curiosity: many are enticed by anything that is out of the ordinary, seek miracles and wonders, something that every great religious teacher has regarded as superficial and of secondary importance. The Christian Jesus assured his followers that the works that he did they would do also and even greater works, not as a primary concern but as a byproduct of more essential matters.
The second road is the search for knowledge. Large numbers of people sincerely believe that knowledge is the same as understanding, but this is not necessarily true. Before knowledge becomes wisdom, there is a long road of growing comprehension to be traveled.
The third avenue is one that few will pursue, for it entails assimilation of the egoic personality in the greater Self, which is the root and ground of our being. To follow this path means extending the self-awareness to encompass and contain all. This is to embrace the world around us within the unconditioned love that wells unbidden from the heart of Being — not selectively, with preference for what is good and lovable, but impersonally, as the sun radiates away its substance in prodigal liberality to sustain the lives under its command, allowing each evolving soul full karmic scope for growth toward a nobler destiny. On this path self blends in the greater Self and duty takes on a grander significance.
The Edda describes the duty of Odin's warriors, the One-harriers, each of whom is in command of one — the soul of himself — as he furnishes the materials for building Valhalla (the Hall of the Chosen). To gain that holy place he must first cross the river Time, eluding earthly desires (the lures of the werewolf who fishes the stream for men), and also the river Doubt, before he reaches the shore whereon "the Hall of the Chosen glows golden in Gladhome." He must overcome the hounds Greed and Gluttony, and relinquish all weapons of both attack and defense: the warriors' spears are used to build the walls of the hall, while their shields furnish the roof. The hero must have vanquished the wolf of bestial propensities and the eagle of pride, and transfixed them over the door of the sacred fane to guard against their intrusion. Once inside he discards all personal armor, leaving himself utterly defenseless with perfect trust in his purity and the karmic Law (Orlog).
At Odin's table the warriors are regaled with the mead of bardic wisdom and fed the three boars that symbolize Earth experience: "Spirit lets mind be steeped in will and desire" yet it remains un- touched and pure. Daily the mystic number of One-harriers emerge from the Hall of the Chosen to wage the battle on the Field of Consecration wherein mankind is engaged, and nightly they are brought by the Valkyries, Crowners of the Chosen, to review their prowess and feast in Odin's sacred Hall. Among the celebrants are the souls of ordinary human beings, who attend the banquet of the gods, albeit unconsciously, for they are sound asleep, dreaming their heavenly dreams between earth lives. Only those who undertake willingly to aid the gods in their daily task can partake consciously of the food of immortality and toast Odin as Nikar (the Maligned) — who brings on the trials and misfortunes of the egos who are striving to become egoless.
The warriors of Odin are the forerunners who outstrip the slow course of human evolution into a higher kingdom of lives. The rest of us will in due course be able to assist in their heavy task, for we too are the godmakers, souls still seeking our "sleeping" Valkyrie in the depths of ourselves. When we find and "awaken" her, we shall be guided by her influence, our higher Self, in all our undertakings. We shall then become in truth the godmakers we potentially are.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1994; copyright © 1994 Theosophical University Press)
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The grand ideas that have set humanity afire through the centuries were never instigated by a group. On the contrary, the greatest minds and souls, in all areas of human endeavor, have always stood alone as sentinels along the way. They have captured in their heart that unity of spirit of which we partake, consciously or not, and in which rests the marrow of our existence, the pith of our being.
Very few of us will be able to keep this vision alive during our daily rounds; many a time we will fail, victimized by our own self-centeredness, sacrificing the highest in us to the fallacy of separateness. No golden age is awaiting us around the next corner, no panacea for the world's ills, no magic tower of Babel in reverse. Yet, if we as individuals seize the opportunities of the current cycle, and endeavor to remember this treasured vision in the quiet reaches of our soul, we will never again be so easily deluded by appearances. In the absence of prejudice, no gap in human relations is too wide to be bridged by an outstretched hand. — Willy Ph. Felthuis