The Sibyl’s Prophecy/Nordic Creation. Note Quote.

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The Prophecy of the Tenth Sibyl, a medieval best-seller, surviving in over 100 manuscripts from the 11th to the 16th century, predicts, among other things, the reign of evil despots, the return of the Antichrist and the sun turning to blood.

The Tenth or Tiburtine Sibyl was a pagan prophetess perhaps of Etruscan origin. To quote Lactantus in his general account of the ten sibyls in the introduction, ‘The Tiburtine Sibyl, by name Albunea, is worshiped at Tibur as a goddess, near the banks of the Anio in which stream her image is said to have been found, holding a book in her hand’.

The work interprets the Sibyl’s dream in which she foresees the downfall and apocalyptic end of the world; 9 suns appear in the sky, each one more ugly and bloodstained than the last, representing the 9 generations of mankind and ending with Judgment Day. The original Greek version dates from the end of the 4th century and the earliest surviving manuscript in Latin is dated 1047. The Tiburtine Sibyl is often depicted with Emperor Augustus, who asks her if he should be worshipped as a god.

The foremost lay of the Elder Edda is called Voluspa (The Sibyl’s Prophecy). The volva, or sibyl, represents the indelible imprint of the past, wherein lie the seeds of the future. Odin, the Allfather, consults this record to learn of the beginning, life, and end of the world. In her response, she addresses Odin as a plurality of “holy beings,” indicating the omnipresence of the divine principle in all forms of life. This also hints at the growth of awareness gained by all living, learning entities during their evolutionary pilgrimage through spheres of existence.

Hear me, all ye holy beings, greater as lesser sons of Heimdal! You wish me to tell of Allfather’s works, tales of the origin, the oldest I know. Giants I remember, born in the foretime, they who long ago nurtured me. Nine worlds I remember, nine trees of life, before this world tree grew from the ground.

Paraphrased, this could be rendered as:

Learn, all ye living entities, imbued with the divine essence of Odin, ye more and less evolved sons of the solar divinity (Heimdal) who stands as guardian between the manifest worlds of the solar system and the realm of divine consciousness. You wish to learn of what has gone before. I am the record of long ages past (giants), that imprinted their experience on me. I remember nine periods of manifestation that preceded the present system of worlds.

Time being inextricably a phenomenon of manifestation, the giant ages refer to the matter-side of creation. Giants represent ages of such vast duration that, although their extent in space and time is limited, it is of a scope that can only be illustrated as gigantic. Smaller cycles within the greater are referred to in the Norse myths as daughters of their father-giant. Heimdal is the solar deity in the sign of Aries – of beginnings for our system – whose “sons” inhabit, in fact compose, his domain.

Before a new manifestation of a world, whether a cosmos or a lesser system, all its matter is frozen in a state of immobility, referred to in the Edda as a frost giant. The gods – consciousnesses – are withdrawn into their supernal, unimaginable abstraction of Nonbeing, called in Sanskrit “paranirvana.” Without a divine activating principle, space itself – the great container – is a purely theoretical abstraction where, for lack of any organizing energic impulse of consciousness, matter cannot exist.

This was the origin of ages when Ymer built. No soil was there, no sea, no cool waves. Earth was not, nor heaven above; Gaping Void alone, no growth. Until the sons of Bur raised the tables; they who created beautiful Midgard. The sun shone southerly on the stones of the court; then grew green herbs in fertile soil.

To paraphrase again:

Before time began, the frost giant (Ymer) prevailed. No elements existed for there were ‘no waves,’ no motion, hence no organized form nor any temporal events, until the creative divine forces emanated from Space (Bur — a principle, not a locality) and organized latent protosubstance into the celestial bodies (tables at which the gods feast on the mead of life-experience). Among these tables is Middle Court (Midgard), our own beautiful planet. The life-giving sun sheds its radiant energies to activate into life all the kingdoms of nature which compose it.

The Gaping Void (Ginnungagap) holds “no cool waves” throughout illimitable depths during the age of the frost giant. Substance has yet to be created. Utter wavelessness negates it, for all matter is the effect of organized, undulating motion. As the cosmic hour strikes for a new manifestation, the ice of Home of Nebulosity (Niflhem) is melted by the heat from Home of Fire (Muspellshem), resulting in vapor in the void. This is Ymer, protosubstance as yet unformed, the nebulae from which will evolve the matter components of a new universe, as the vital heat of the gods melts and vivifies the formless immobile “ice.”

When the great age of Ymer has run its course, the cow Audhumla, symbol of fertility, “licking the salt from the ice blocks,” uncovers the head of Buri, first divine principle. From this infinite, primal source emanates Bur, whose “sons” are the creative trinity: Divine Allfather, Will, and Sanctity (Odin, Vile, and Vi). This triune power “kills” the frost giant by transforming it into First Sound (Orgalmer), or keynote, whose overtones vibrate through the planes of sleeping space and organize latent protosubstance into the multifarious forms which will be used by all “holy beings” as vehicles for gaining experience in worlds of matter.

Beautiful Midgard, our physical globe earth, is but one of the “tables” raised by the creative trinity, whereat the gods shall feast. The name Middle Court is suggestive, for the ancient traditions place our globe in a central position in the series of spheres that comprise the terrestrial being’s totality. All living entities, man included, comprise besides the visible body a number of principles and characteristics not cognized by the gross physical senses. In the Lay of Grimner (Grimnismal), wherein Odin in the guise of a tormented prisoner on earth instructs a human disciple, he enumerates twelve spheres or worlds, all but one of which are unseen by our organs of sight. As to the formation of Midgard, he relates:

Of Ymer’s flesh was the earth formed, the billows of his blood, the mountains of his bones, bushes of his hair, and of his brainpan heaven. With his eyebrows beneficent powers enclosed Midgard for man; but of his brain were surely all dark skies created.

The trinity of immanent powers organize Ymer into the forms wherein they dwell, shaping the chaos or frost giant into living globes on many planes of being. The “eyebrows” that gird the earth and protect it suggest the Van Allen belts that shield the planet from inimical radiation. The brain of Ymer – material thinking – is surely all too evident in the thought atmosphere wherein man participates.

The formation of the physical globe is described as the creation of “dwarfs” – elemental forces which shape the body of the earth-being and which include the mineral. vegetable, and animal kingdoms.

The mighty drew to their judgment seats, all holy gods to hold counsel: who should create a host of dwarfs from the blood of Brimer and the limbs of the dead. Modsogne there was, mightiest of all the dwarfs, Durin the next; there were created many humanoid dwarfs from the earth, as Durin said.

Brimer is the slain Ymer, a kenning for the waters of space. Modsogne is the Force-sucker, Durin the Sleeper, and later comes Dvalin the Entranced. They are “dwarf”-consciousnesses, beings that are miðr than human – the Icelandic miðr meaning both “smaller” and “less.” By selecting the former meaning, popular concepts have come to regard them as undersized mannikins, rather than as less evolved natural species that have not yet reached the human condition of intelligence and self-consciousness.

During the life period or manifestation of a universe, the governing giant or age is named Sound of Thor (Trudgalmer), the vital force which sustains activity throughout the cycle of existence. At the end of this age the worlds become Sound of Fruition (Bargalmer). This giant is “placed on a boat-keel and saved,” or “ground on the mill.” Either version suggests the karmic end product as the seed of future manifestation, which remains dormant throughout the ensuing frost giant of universal dissolution, when cosmic matter is ground into a formless condition of wavelessness, dissolved in the waters of space.

There is an inescapable duality of gods-giants in all phases of manifestation: gods seek experience in worlds of substance and feast on the mead at stellar and planetary tables; giants, formed into vehicles inspired with the divine impetus, rise through cycles of this association on the ladder of conscious awareness. All states being relative and bipolar, there is in endless evolution an inescapable link between the subjective and objective progress of beings. Odin as the “Opener” is paired with Orgalmer, the keynote on which a cosmos is constructed; Odin as the “Closer” is equally linked with Bargalmer, the fruitage of a life cycle. During the manifesting universe, Odin-Allfather corresponds to Trudgalmer, the sustainer of life.

A creative trinity plays an analogical part in the appearance of humanity. Odin remains the all-permeant divine essence, while on this level his brother-creators are named Honer and Lodur, divine counterparts of water or liquidity, and fire or vital heat and motion. They “find by the shore, of little power” the Ash and the Elm and infuse into these earth-beings their respective characteristics, making a human image or reflection of themselves. These protohumans, miniatures of the world tree, the cosmic Ash, Yggdrasil, in addition to their earth-born qualities of growth force and substance, receive the divine attributes of the gods. By Odin man is endowed with spirit, from Honer comes his mind, while Lodur gives him will and godlike form. The essentially human qualities are thus potentially divine. Man is capable of blending with the earth, whose substances form his body, yet is able to encompass in his consciousness the vision native to his divine source. He is in fact a minor world tree, part of the universal tree of life, Yggdrasil.

Ygg in conjunction with other words has been variously translated as Eternal, Awesome or Terrible, and Old. Sometimes Odin is named Yggjung, meaning the Ever-Young, or Old-Young. Like the biblical “Ancient of Days” it is a concept that mind can grasp only in the wake of intuition. Yggdrasil is the “steed” or the “gallows” of Ygg, whereon Odin is mounted or crucified during any period of manifested life. The world tree is rooted in Nonbeing and ramifies through the planes of space, its branches adorned with globes wherein the gods imbody. The sibyl spoke of ours as the tenth in a series of such world trees, and Odin confirms this in The Song of the High One (Den Hoges Sang):

I know that I hung in the windtorn tree nine whole nights, spear-pierced, given to Odin, my self to my Self above me in the tree, whose root none knows whence it sprang. None brought me bread, none served me drink; I searched the depths, spied runes of wisdom, raised them with song, and fell once more from the tree. Nine powerful songs I learned from the wise son of Boltorn, Bestla’s father; a draught I drank of precious mead ladled from Odrorer. I began to grow, to grow wise, to grow greater and enjoy; for me words from words led to new words, for me deeds from deeds led to new deeds.

Numerous ancient tales relate the divine sacrifice and crucifixion of the Silent Watcher whose realm or protectorate is a world in manifestation. Each tree of life, of whatever scope, constitutes the cross whereon the compassionate deity inherent in that hierarchy remains transfixed for the duration of the cycle of life in matter. The pattern of repeated imbodiments for the purpose of gaining the precious mead is clear, as also the karmic law of cause and effect as words and deeds bring their results in new words and deeds.

Yggdrasil is said to have three roots. One extends into the land of the frost giants, whence flow twelve rivers of lives or twelve classes of beings; another springs from and is watered by the well of Origin (Urd), where the three Norns, or fates, spin the threads of destiny for all lives. “One is named Origin, the second Becoming. These two fashion the third, named Debt.” They represent the inescapable law of cause and effect. Though they have usually been roughly translated as Past, Present, and Future, the dynamic concept in the Edda is more complete and philosophically exact. The third root of the world tree reaches to the well of the “wise giant Mimer,” owner of the well of wisdom. Mimer represents material existence and supplies the wisdom gained from experience of life. Odin forfeited one eye for the privilege of partaking of these waters of life, hence he is represented in manifestation as one-eyed and named Half-Blind. Mimer, the matter-counterpart, at the same time receives partial access to divine vision.

The lays make it very clear that the purpose of existence is for the consciousness-aspect of all beings to gain wisdom through life, while inspiring the substantial side of itself to growth in inward awareness and spirituality. At the human level, self-consciousness and will are aroused, making it possible for man to progress willingly and purposefully toward his divine potential, aided by the gods who have passed that way before him, rather than to drift by slow degrees and many detours along the road of inevitable evolution. Odin’s instructions to a disciple, Loddfafner, the dwarf-nature in man, conclude with:

Now is sung the High One’s song in the High One’s hall. Useful to sons of men, useless to sons of giants. Hail Him who sang! Hail him who kens! Rejoice they who understand! Happy they who heed!

Richard Wagner: Parsifal

Art which transcends its own time, in addition to mirroring the artist’s quest for truth, is also a source of inspiration for those who contact it. Such art is often extremely complex and its profound meaning difficult to discern. Richard Wagner is one of the most controversial and wholly misunderstood artists of the past 200 years; and his opera Parsifal one of the most complicated works.

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Wagner felt the first impulse to write Parsifal at the age of 31. He was in Marienbad working on the opera Lohengrin when he read Wolfram von Eschenbach’s ParzivalThis epic poem brings together various mythical traditions; Wagner later added elements from other legends. Three years later, in 1848, the main features of Parsifal flowed over into the draft of a drama entitled “Jesus of Nazareth,” in which Mary Magdalene takes the place of Kundry. In May 1856 Wagner wrote the draft for a Buddhist drama with the working tide “Der Sieger” (“The Victor”), in which the features of what later became Parsifal are already clear. Wagner spent Good Friday 1858 in his Zurich retreat where he had a vision and decided on the main motifs of the opera.

In the years that followed, individual characters began to take shape. At the same time, however, Wagner experienced the immense difficulties presented by the subject matter. Time and again he postponed committing anything to paper — he was plagued with such doubts that he felt like giving up the whole idea. It was not until August 1865 that he wrote a detailed draft at King Ludwig II’s insistence. But a further twelve years elapsed before the work was completed in April 1877, being published in book form the same year. The composition of the music took five more years, and only on July 26, 1882, did the first performance take place in the “Haus Wahnfried” in Bayreuth. Thirty-seven years had gone by between the first idea for the work and its completion.

Concerning Wagner’s knowledge of occultism, we know he was acquainted with Freemasons, with whom he entered into fierce debate, and with the Rosicrucians. In his library, now situated in Bayreuth and open to the public, there are translations of the Upanishads and the Mahabharata, which were just being published in his time. I suspect that Richard Wagner had exceptional intuitive abilities and could see many extremely subtle realms and interrelations directly; also that he suffered deeply because all too often he simply could not find the words to express what took place so clearly before his spiritual eye. It is therefore understandable that he identified with the figure of Amfortas: Wagner believed in living life to the full; he also saw things but could not grasp them. The basic spiritual tendency running through the opera is compassion or buddhi. Reincarnation and karma are clearly described in several places — without them the whole drama would be inexplicable.

A number of symbols and mythical elements are important for a general understanding of the work. First, the symbol of the Grail combines elements of legends from Persia and Asia Minor with those from Celtic mythology. The Grail, the cup which Jesus Christ used at the Last Supper, was made from the stone which fell from Lucifer’s crown as he plunged to earth. Lucifer (the Light-bringer) brought the mental principle to evolving humanity. The stone from Lucifer’s crown can therefore be regarded as ego-consciousness or “I am I”: without the awakening mind principle humanity would not be able to acquire knowledge, and the first step along this path is “I am I.” That this stone was fashioned into a cup or bowl which was used to catch the blood of Christ elevates its meaning because it then stands for the divine self, atma-buddhi. As Wagner remarked, it becomes “Grail consciousness” — purified, redeemed “I am.” The Grail is entrusted to Titurel. He gathers a brotherhood of knights around him, called the knights of the Grail, who devote themselves to the service of this Grail consciousness through noble deeds.

A second important symbol is the spear, derived from the spear of Longinus who, it is said, thrust it into Christ’s side during the crucifixion, shedding the Savior’s blood. It stands for higher mind, that part of us which must decide whether the mind will aspire to spirit or succumb to material desire.

A third central symbol is the swan, denoting the north. Wagner uses the swan as a symbol of those beings who, though still devoid of individual consciousness, are located in the divine realms, but have their whole development before them; this symbol is identical with that of the angel. In the last scene a dove appears, symbol according to Wagner of “divine spirit, which floats down idealistically onto the human soul.” It is the Holy Ghost or Spirit — atma-buddhi.

The first act of the opera, which takes place in the realm of the Grail, begins with trombones sounding the reveille. Gurnemanz, teacher and guardian of the secret wisdom of the Grail, wakens two squires lying asleep under a tree, saying: “Do you hear the call? Give thanks to God that you are called to hear it!” That the reveille sounds from the realm of the Grail indicates that it is a spiritual call. Buddhi penetrates the consciousness of the awakening men and Gurnemanz feels it to be a blessing. He calls on his pupils to give thanks, for he knows that few are granted the privilege of feeling this call of buddhi.

At this time Amfortas, King of the Grail, lies sick and wounded, the wound being an external symbol for inner events. In his striving towards higher things, Amfortas battled in the realm of the lower mind ruled by the black magician Klingsor and lost the spear (mind). Klingsor wounded him in his side with the spear, a wound which will not heal. This wound is the pivot of all further action. It is the fissure between the higher self and the personal self, caused by the fact that the mental principle was directed into the earthly realm where it is now ruled by Klingsor, or mind linked with desire. Gurnemanz and the squires, impelled by buddhi, now try to alleviate the pain suffered by the King of the Grail. They wish to bathe the wound, though Gurnemanz in his wisdom knows this will be of no avail. The King’s wound, an inner wound, cannot be closed by baths or ointments. Wrapped in thought, he sings: “There is but one thing can help him, only one man.” When a knight asks the man’s name, he avoids answering.

Then Kundry enters the scene, appearing wild one moment, lifeless the next. She presses on Gurnemanz a small crystal vessel containing balsam with which Amfortas might be healed. Kundry personifies the desire nature, messenger and temptress at the same time. On the one hand, desire binds us to earthly things, while on the other it provides the first impulses to understand what is hidden. Thus Kundry serves both the Grail and also, as temptress, Klingsor who seeks to divert people from the quest for the divine through the power of the senses. Wagner remarks that the black magician

beclouds the divine judgment of man through the sense impressions of the material world, and thereby leads him into a world of deception.

A dispute arises between the knights of the Grail and Gurnemanz about Kundry (desire). The squires mistrust her, but Gurnemanz says:

Yes, she may be under a curse. She lives here now — perhaps reincarnated, to expiate some sin from an earlier life not yet forgiven there. Now she makes atonement by such deeds as benefit our knightly order; she has done good, beyond all doubt, serving us and thereby helping herself.

Naturally, Kundry was also involved when Klingsor seized the spear of mind from Amfortas.

In his pain, Amfortas addresses the Grail and asks for a sign of help. In a vision he describes how someone will come to help him: “Enlightened through compassion, the innocent fool; wait for him, the appointed one.” This announcement of the foolish innocent (“Fal parsi,” hence Parsifal) refers to the reincarnating ego, which hastens from life to life. If the reincarnating ego gives full expression to its divine individuality in its personal life, the inner fissure — the wound — will be closed again, for the mind which has been directed to things of matter will be turned back to the divine.

Before divinity can be attained, however, human evolution has to be experienced. At the outset, mankind is completely unself-conscious and lives in a state of divine innocence, untouched by things of matter and without an independent mind, a state symbolized by the swan. It has to leave this state, descend to the physical realm, and experience all the conflicts that evolution entails. Through the associated suffering and the development of the thinking principle, humans learn from their own experience to feel compassion for other beings.

These developments find their corollary in the departure of young people from their parental home, the maternal plane. Such a departure is often very difficult and may be accompanied by a great deal of pain and many reproaches; but this break is absolutely necessary if young people are to go through their own experiences and develop the ability to think for themselves, though this simultaneously causes the maternal principle much grief. The result is often condemnation by one’s fellowmen.

This “descent” or gaining of independence by the monad is represented by Wagner in the slaying of the swan by Parsifal. Gurnemanz sternly reproaches Parsifal for killing the swan with an arrow. Parsifal is at first filled with childlike pride at his accuracy but becomes increasingly disturbed when he looks at the dead bird, and for the first time he feels pity. Gurnemanz inquires of Parsifal his name and origin, but Parsifal cannot remember and replies: “I had many, but I know none of them any more.” The only name he remembers is that of his mother: Herzeleide (Heart’s Sorrow). Kundry is able to provide more information about his origin: his father was killed in battle, and his mother ” reared him up in the desert to folly, a stranger to arms.” Parsifal nevertheless recalls that one day he saw the knights of the Grail riding along the forest’s edge: “I ran after them, but could not overtake them; through deserts I wandered, up hill and down dale.”

The monad yearns for more than a solitary, peaceful life. Kundry confirms this, and informs him of his mother’s death. Parsifal springs furiously at her, but Gurnemanz restrains him. Thus although the monad is endowed with a feeling of right and wrong, mind is not yet fully developed. It therefore turns, in conjunction with desire, to anger and rage. Gurnemanz, the initiate, restrains him.

The rest of the opera describes what takes place during this descent of the human monad. Gurnemanz has already recognized that Parsifal is someone who can restore the divine harmony. He offers to lead him to the feast of the Grail. Both move into their inner, spiritual realms, represented by the temple of the Grail. This realm lies beyond the differentiation of space and time. Hence Parsifal remarks: “I scarcely tread, yet seem already to have come far.”

Gurnemanz answers: “You see, my son, time here becomes space.” This is because the inner vision appears to the physical person as space. Gurnemanz warns Parsifal to pay close attention to everything he encounters and later to take it back into the realm of his personal consciousness. Before them both a scene opens with a pillared hall where the knights of the Grail carry in Amfortas. The covered shrine of the Grail is carried before them. In the background can be heard the voice of Titurel, the former guardian of the Grail, who received the Cup from the angel’s hands and learned the occult mysteries in an inner vision. He says, “Amfortas, my son, are you in your place? Shall I again today look on the Grail and live?” This indicates that the life forces of spiritual traditions steadily weaken if they are not renewed by intuitive, creative individuals. Time and again attempts are made to establish a spiritual, compassionate brotherhood. If, however, the innovators fail, the effort comes to a standstill; the teachings ossify, and what used to be the content becomes a veil, until nothing is left of the original impulse. Titurel must therefore die.

So Titurel calls upon Amfortas to view the Grail. But Amfortas is incapable of doing so — he has lost the mental principle to Klingsor, the lower mind. Titurel now calls for the uncovering of the Grail, the revelation of occult wisdom. When, at his insistence, this takes place, Amfortas is racked with pain: for those imprisoned in the lower mind, the sight of divine wisdom is unbearable. The tragedy of such a situation is clear. On the one hand, such people are impelled by divine, buddhic impulses; on the other, they are completely entangled in the world of deception and sensuality. When the full, idealistic nature of the Grail appears to Amfortas, so great becomes his despair that he begs to die. But the Chorus sings again: “Enlightened through compassion, the innocent fool: wait for him, the appointed one.”

Gurnemanz, who led Parsifal to this inner vision, stands beside Parsifal throughout the scene. At the end he asks Parsifal: “Do you know what you have seen?” But Parsifal cannot answer, as he is overcome by the suffering he has seen. Gurnemanz angrily dismisses him. Parsifal is not yet able to help, as this requires more than just a vision of things occult. He must first acquire occult knowledge on the physical plane. This alone will enable him to internalize what he has seen and make it part of his consciousness. Only in this way can the divine be carried over into all realms.