Epic tales, epic symbolism

 

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The Battle between Good and evil –by Robert Adelman found on Deviant Art

 

 

As a boy I was fascinated by the tales of Middle Earth as told by J.R.R. Tolkien. I also knew that if one fought bravely enough that good could eventually triumph over evil.

As I grew older I became aware of the Northern Norse mythology that Tolkien used as the foundational source material for his work. But unlike his stories I learned that the most striking feature of this mythology was that all was hopeless, that the apocalyptic battle at Rognarök was humanity’s doom, and that no matter how bravely the hero fought the monsters and giants would defeat humanity and the gods of Asgard.

But I also learned that for the gods and heroes and heroines of the North loss in battle gave meaning and mettle to the warrior who courageously stood their ground and fought on regardless of the fact that all was hopeless.

What’s this? I was dismayed that these epic battles would ultimately end with evil triumphing over good. How could this be? The purity of courage be damned I thought, it needed to be rewarded and besides winning and defeating was the goal of all good and evil confrontations or so I thought. Oh yes and by winning of course was meant that “good” would always prevail.

It wasn’t until years later that I achieved some insight into these wonderful tales from the North.

From the writings of Carl Jung I was introduced to the concept of the Conflict of Opposites and the effect of either ignoring or battling the shadow i.e. evil aspects of our personal or collective nature. In this context. either ignoring or actively suppressing the shadow one gives it power, diminishes their own power, and leads to their being overwhelmed by it.

I surmised that if Jung were right, then the hopelessness and defeat so often celebrated in the Northern myths becomes an allegorical warning to mankind regarding its relationship with the shadow aspects of its personality. Is it possible that when one resists or denies the shadow either in themselves or the society in which they live that its power over us becomes paramount in that our violent response only adds to the violence of the shadow and increases its power and makes impossible to overcome? Oh I won’t deny that some battles can be won but ultimately the shadow keeps returning ever more powerfully. Will we never defeat it and have a permanent peace?

We are both good and evil. So what does this say about a God in whose image we are created? If then God is also both, to resist this would seem futile and self-defeating.

I remember that in a long ago Judo class the teacher talked about not meeting force with force to overcome ones opponent but by using the opponent’s own energy to defeat them. To me now this simple strategy seems a  useful metaphor for dealing with the shadow forces of our nature. If we allow ourselves to become the shadow by denying it we will be defeated no matter how glorious or courageous our actions but if we learn to accept this darker aspect as part of ourselves and turn its energy toward good it can add to our own best intentions and we can prevail.

 

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The Circle in Dreams

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Witches Circle

 

 

He drew a circle that shut me out, heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win, we drew a circle that took him in.”“Outwitted” by.– Edwin Markham

 

 

 

 

The Circle it’s arguably the most powerful of all the geometric symbols in both the waking and dreaming worlds. There’s “a circle that drew him in”, an inner circle, crop circles, expand the circle, circle of life, concentric circles, magical circles, circular thinking, a containment, circular file, geomancy, Ouroboros, circle the wagons, coming full circle, secret circles, pie charts, Arctic Circle, going in circles, square the circle, circle of friends,, circling the drain and on and on and on…

Circles in dreams, mandalas, magical incantations, and intuitive awareness’s are used to exclude and include, highlight or delete, expand or restrict awareness. Without the circle virtually nothing would move or exist for that matter e.g. there are gears, wheels, cells, atoms, planets, planetary orbits and galaxies that all come in circle-like forms.

Interpreting dreams can be like peeling an onion that symbolizes the concentric layers of the dream’s symbolism that can lead one to the inner self or God Him/Herself.

This process of digging down into the self is often represented by a circle that is in itself a representation of the self called a mandala. There are also bisected circles to represent the need for balance (yin/yang) or a circle with a cross to represent the Earth our birth mother or with a central dot to represent the life giving mate of the Earth, the Sun.

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Astronomical symbol for the Sun

Buddhists draw the circle to represent completeness and wholeness while Christians, Hindus, Muslims, and Jews use it to symbolize the divine.

Carl Jung the famous Analytical Psychologist and dream guru suggested that anything circular in a dream from a bicycle wheel to a ball symbolized a mandala that in itself represented a divine map to the soul.

 

 

“Draw the circle,

draw the circle wide.

Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.

No one stands alone,

we’ll stand side by side.

Draw the circle,

draw the circle wide.”

“Draw the circle wide” By – Gordon Light

 

 

Many views on a god: An oversimplification

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Given that this time of year has several of the world’s religions celebrating the spirit I thought I’d do a quick and dirty review on the Gods they believe in.

 

Atheism presents a case against the existence of God, but wouldn’t it need an image of God to present a case against it? Why the need to refute the existence of something you know doesn’t exist? These might be considered antireligionists. In fact they seem to make a religion out of antireligion. Originally this word “atheist” was given to those who didn’t believe in the gods of the larger society. Today it represents the belief that there are no gods. They base their beliefs on the fact that there is no “empirical evidence”. Never mind that there may not exist the means for gathering or detecting empirical evidence re: the spiritual.

Life after death: In atheism there is the belief that there is no life beyond death. There is of course no “empirical evidence” to support this belief.

Deism suggests that there is a God but that it is not involved in our every day life. It teaches that God is knowable through creation itself.

Life after death: Regarding any after death phenomenon the deist claims that there’s no evidence either way i.e. of its existence or non-existence.

Theism makes a case for God’s continued intervention in the lives of its creation. Theism teaches that God is not knowable. Types of theism 1) traditional Abrahamic religions known as monotheisms and 2) polytheism such as Hinduism comprised of many gods and demi gods with one primary god and with each representing a different aspect of reality. Note that Paganism may be considered a branch of polytheism. In truth this term was used by Christians to demonize polytheistic religions so as to establish their inferiority. Modern Paganists incorporate nature worship into their belief systems. There are Pantheistic (the belief that all reality is identical with divinity), Polytheistic, animistic and even monotheistic pagans. There are even Henotheists who believe in their one god but not to the denial that there may be other gods e.g. Yaweh or Allah. The Muslims believe that Allah and Yaweh is the same God. Pantheists believe that though there may be many gods such as with polytheism there is an underlying unity e.g. in Hinduism, the Brahman.

is copy.jpegThe Brahman

Life after death: Theists believe in a life after death though there is no evidence to support it.

Animism: Totemic Spirit beings formed the creation. For example, in the Australian Aboriginal cosmology Rainbow Snake created the world. Totemic beings continue to create the world as the ancestor spirits. The Inuit of the Pacific Northwest Americas have stories of Raven who created the Earth, the father of all life who was created out of the darkness. As with some of the old Hellenistic religion Raven could come to earth as a human (remind you of anyone?) or an animal (e.g. lion, sheep, dove)

 

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Raven– creator god

Life after death: The Australian Aboriginal, for example, believes that every person essentially exists eternally in the Dreaming. This eternal part existed before the life of the individual begins, and continues to exist when the life of the individual ends. Both before and after life, it is believed that this spirit-child exists in the Dreaming and is only initiated into life by being born through a mother. The spirit of the child is culturally understood to enter the developing fetus during the fifth month of pregnancy.

Secular Humanism: Secular humanism posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. This may be somewhat like Atheism but a little less cynical. An essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy without the imposition of any belief.

Life after death: A concern for this life (as opposed to an afterlife) and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.

 

Nearly all the isms require either belief or experience.

Belief of any kind requires trust and confidence that something is true or the validity of something often backed by evidence but also through something called faith.

Experience is a direct observation or personal encounter not requiring trust or confidence, faith or evidence. It’s a knowing separate from knowledge. Knowing is the experience of something first hand while knowledge is gained through other people’s experience. It’s like the difference between book learning and on-the-job practical experience.

Belief seems to lock up ones thinking because if you think you know the truth there’s no room for the truth in your knowing. Belief tends to be static but experience is in the moment-by-moment living. Experience is of the “be here now” while Belief may be of the “be here then”.

For example, at one time I could never believe in God for I had no experience of it. Once I had an experience of it I no longer needed a belief in it. Now that doesn’t mean that I haven’t locked-in my experience and turned it into a belief e.g. “I believe in God because I’ve had an experience of it”. I’m only human and that’s what we do. When I notice I’ve done this I try to think of the experience as a fond memory of a past moment that I’m not experiencing at the present moment and let it go. When I’ve truly let it go the moment often returns reminding anew.

This isn’t easy this not holding onto a favorite memory and allowing whatever experience I’m having in the moment to just be what it is. But somehow there’s a knowing that transcends the memory and the desire to lock it up in a precious little silver box, a knowing that floats freely wherever I go as long as I don’t hold onto it. It’s that free-floating knowing that keeps God bidden or unbidden always by my side.