As a young visitor to the British Museum, I was awe-struck by the sight of the great statue in the main entrance, a massive Easter Island statue labelled “Hoa-haka-nana-ia, symbol of the wrath to come”, a stone giant now in the Museum of Mankind. The dire circumstances he portends is cause to ponder. After the Fall of the Roman Empire there arose a belief in the end of the world. Such ideas have been revived in many ages since. Is there an everlasting pattern to which such an event corresponds?
When the so-called Millennium Clock was started last year, a minister said that the Government was looking to the year 2000 as a year of celebration. Some will look to mark the end of a millennium, others to greet the start of the new. Some esotericists held special celebrations around the autumnal equinox five years ago. Vatican astronomers had computed that the Star of Bethlehem was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and it was reckoned that the Saviour of the World was born under Libra in 7 BCE, so Christian initiates had their Millennium party in 1993. For cultures not geared to the Gregorian era, these chronological shenanigans have little import. But the significant thing is that each year sees the anniversary of the Birth of the Universe, and the cycle of every year echoes the continuous orgasm of creation.
“For the Cosmos is never bereft of any of the things that are, but is perpetually being conceived and moved within itself, and is in labour to bring forth the things that are” said Hermes Trismegistos to his disciples1. The word “cosmos” means order and beauty, but commonly is taken to signify the solar system and the universe, and sometimes the world. But in the hermetic writings it is the Principle or Idea of all Order by which all things not only proceed from their causes, but by which alone it is possible for them to be manifested, to be held together, to be related or ordinated to each other, and to the end and purpose for which they exist.
Order from Chaos – the Me and Maat
Accounts of the beginning of the world vary according to which cosmogony is followed. According to the records of the earliest civilisations, it was generally assumed that the gods had existed for a very long time, but not forever, and that man was a later arrival on the scene. To express the idea of creation, the Mesopotamians used various images. First the idea of sexual intercourse between the gods. (A Sumerian poem tells how this produced Summer and Winter.) Second, the image of modelling by hand a figurine of clay was used, particularly for the creation of mankind. Finally, the quickening power of the divine utterance is seen as responsible for creation. God is described as undertaking the organisation of the universe, and as accomplishing this solely by the creative power of his word.
The properties or powers of the Gods which enabled all the activities of human life, especially religion, to take place were known by the Sumerian word “me” (pronounced “may”). The term is a plural, inanimate noun, expressing a very basic concept in Sumerian religion. A related tern is “gis-hur” (“plan”, “design”), denoting how these activities ought, ideally, to be: the “me” are the powers which make possible the implementation of the “gis-hur” and which ensure the continuation of civilised life. The are ancient, enduring, holy, valuable. Mostly they are held by the Gods An and Enlil, but they can be assigned or given to other Gods of lesser rank. Some “me” are conceived in very concrete terms – the throne of kingship (symbolising the activity of kingship) or a temple drum (symbolising the performance of ritual music) – and consequently are sometimes said to be “sat on”, “carried”, “worn”. In times of social upheaval the “me” may be “dispersed”, “forgotten” or “gathered together and stood in a corner”. The “me” are comprised of the secret formulae by which the deities exercise their share of the divine power. As a corpus of divine rules they are controlled by Enmesarra, chthonic God of the law.
“The truths contained in religious doctrines are distorted and systematically disguised” wrote Sigmund Freud.2 In seeking to uncover some of the truths disguised under the figures of religion and mythology, we need to read their symbolic language. First we must learn the grammar of symbols, and as a key to this mystery a good tool is astrology, which serves as the Esperanto of the occult. If we permit this as an approach, ancient meanings become apparent. There are differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind, but the diligent will discern similarities and perceive that perennial philosophy that has echoed down the ages in different guises. As we are told in the Vedas: “Truth is one; the sages speak of it by many names.”
The alteration of the seasons, like the phases of the moon, punctuate the rhythm of life and the stages in the cycle of development – birth, growth, maturity and decline. This is applicable to human beings as well as to their societies and civilisations. It symbolises perpetual rebirth. The start of the year is brought in by Aries with the Spring equinox, when day and night are of equal length, but it should be noted that the zodiacal sign of Libra, the Scales, heralds the Autumn equinox when at half-way the year as a whole is in balance. The movements of the Sun in its annual cycle, like those of the scale-pans of Libra, correspond to the relative “weight” of darkness and light. When the pans are in balance (at the equinoxes), the pointer on the scales become the symbol of the changeless “centre”. This connotes with the balance of “yin” and “yang” that gives rise to phenomenal manifestation. Given moral connotations light and darkness correlate with the doctrine of the Cabala that the Universe is perpetuated through the interaction of good and evil. Bringing matter and time and the visible and the invisible into balance was a preoccupation of the alchemists who strove for that knowledge which was “mastery of the scales”; since this knowledge was that of the correspondences between the material and the spiritual universe, between heaven and earth, the key to the very genesis of the cosmos. At creation the disorganised forces of chaos were subdued, the Kings of Edom vanquished, and disorder banished; the delicate balance that is cosmos was achieved and the world was born. Life manifested and the manifold activities of the universe ensued. It behooves all beings to perpetuate that correct order which is the foundation of the world and of life itself. As the prophet said: “Let us choose to us judgement; let us know among ourselves what is good.” (Job 34 v4)
The great regulator of the cosmos is the sun. A cylinder seal from the Akkadian Period shows the Mesopotamian sun-God Shamash as dispenser of divine justice. Before him are held the scales, and he is distinguished by the rays emanating from his shoulders and by his weapon called “shashsharu”, a serrated sword. The scales are the acknowledged symbol of moderation, prudence and balance because their purpose corresponds precisely with the weighing of actions and activities. When associated with the sword, scales symbolise Justice. They are the emblems of administration and duty, and those of kingly power. Extending the foregoing meanings to divine makes the scales the symbol of the Last Judgement. Thus the aegis of divine justice lies with the solar deity.
Having created the world by naming all its parts, the Ancient Egyptian sun-God Re (or Ra) became king of both Gods and men, ruling with his daughter, Maat, at his side. Maat was the personification of Truth and Justice. She was depicted by Egyptian artists as a woman wearing an ostrich plume on her head. A picture of this feature was often used as the hieroglyphic symbol both for her name and for the noun “truth”. The feather was used in the Judgement of the Dead, when it was weighed in a balance against the heart of the deceased person undergoing the Judgement to see if he or she possessed “maat”, that is, had lived life in conformity with truth and justice. The concept of Maat stood for much more than Truth and Justice; it represented the divinely appointed order of things, the equilibrium of the universe within the world, the regular movements of the stars, the sun, the moon, the seasons and the sequence of time. Within the world which Re created according to his divine plan, Maat stood for social and religious order, the relationship between one human being and another, between mankind and the gods, and between mankind and the dead. Kingship, in the person of Re, and Order, in the person of Maat, came to earth at the very beginning. Thus, the creation of the world was synchronous with the creation of kingship and social order. However, chaos was an ever-present threat to the existence of this divinely created order. Only by practising Maat could the Egyptians preserve the harmony of the universe. This belief was the basis of Egyptian religion; and the cult practised in temples was designed to uphold Maat so that Egypt might prosper.
The Emerald Tablet of Hermes says: “As above, so below”, meaning that it is incumbent upon man to live his life on earth in conformity with divine law. The psychostasis, or the weighing of souls, so famous a subject of Ancient Egyptian theology and art, symbolises God’s judgement of the individual with all the individual with all the formidable apparatus of justice. Psychostasis means that no human is insignificant in God’s sight. It symbolises judgement, but, at a deeper level, responsibility as well. Before Osiris and his forty-two assessors, armed with knives, these being the canonical number of sins, stood the scales of judgement, attended by Anubis, holding the dead person’s hand and leading him towards the scales. In his other hand the God holds an ankh, the symbol of the generative forces in the universe, representing the eternal life which the dead person hopes to obtain. Anubis placed the souls of the deceased in the balance against the feature of truth, whilst the record-keeper Thoth inscribed on his palette the result of the weighing.
Thoth, whose ancient name was Tehuti (a toponym from Djhut), was important as a mediator and counsellor amongst the Gods. In some inscriptions he is described as a son of Re. Thoth is generally regarded as benign. His also scrupulously fair and is responsible not only for entering in the record the souls who pass to the afterlife, but of adjudicating in the Hall of the Two Truths, the Hall of Truth and Justice. Those unfortunate souls found wanting in the balance were devoured by the monster Am-mut, part crocodile, part lion, part hippopotamus, the “eater of the dead” whose fearful minds were haunted by images of these wild creatures from beyond the pale. Sorcerers along the Nile painted the symbol of Maat on their tongues to make them “true of voice”. Ordinary people faced dire consequences if they spoke “corruptly”. One Neferalu admitted that he swore a false oath, for which he suffered blindness: “I swore falsely by Ptah, Lord of Maat, therefore he made me see darkness by day.” 3
Divine Order in the Graeco-Roman World
The symbol of the scales was evident in the classical world. Alexander conquered Egypt and the Greeks identified Thoth with their Hermes. A Greek vase depicts Hermes weighing the souls of Achilles and Patrolocus. In Ancient Greece, Themis, the Goddess who ruled the world in accordance with universal law, represents the scales with their concomitant notions not only of justice, but of moderation, order and balance as well. According to Hesiod, the Goddess was the daughter of Heaven (Ouranos) and Earth (Gaia) and therefore of matter and spirit, of the visible and the invisible. In Homer she is viewed as a symbol of Fate. During the battle between Achilles and Hector, we read how Zeus lifted on high his golden scales, and set therein two fates of grievous death, one for Achilles and one for Hector. (Iliad 22, 208-13) The notion of fate bears with it that of an individual’s life-span, and the scales were an emblem of Saturn or Cronos, who as judge and executioner measured out human life and also held the scales, to balance the portion of years and seasons, days and nights.
Erinys was the chthonic Greek Goddess of wrath. She may be equated with a wrathful Demeter who is sometimes given the epithet Erinys. Erinys appears in the collective form of the three Erinys. In the Iliad they are described as those “who beneath the earth punish dead men, whoever has sworn a false oath.” In Roman mythology they are the Furies. The Romans inherited not only the mysteries of Egypt but also purloined the myths of Greece.
Themis became the Graeco-Roman Goddess of justice and order. She is the impartial deity who sits blindfolded in Hades and judges the souls of the dead to determine whether they will pass to the Elysian fields or the fires of Tartarus. She was attended by three lesser judgement deities, Aeacos, Minos and Rhadamanthos. In these we see the shadowy faces of the Norns. The guilty are handed over to the Furies – the Dirae, Erinys or Eumenides. In Attica Themis was accorded a sanctuary beside which that of Nemesis was later built. Nemesis was the Graeco-Roman Goddess of justice and revenge, the dreaded deity who, with the Furies, is responsible for transporting the souls of the guilty to Tartarus. She is also described as the deification of indignation. In certain respects she provides a parallel with the Goddess Erinys. Her cult became one of morality.
Scales are often depicted on Christian graves, Judaeo-Christian thought on this subject being much the same as that of pagan antiquity. The Cabala says that before creation, “the Ancient of Days held the scales,” before the divine command which set creation in motion. Several Old Testament writers compare notions of good and evil with those of the scales. Thus Job (31 v6): “Let me be weighed in the balance, that God may know my iniquity,” and “The way of the just is uprightness; thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.” (Isaiah 26, v7). Knowledge of good and evil is an exact and strict science. It weighs in the balance. This meaning comes out in Ecclesiasticus (16 v24-25): “My son, hearken unto me, and learn knowledge …. I will show forth doctrine in weight, and declare his knowledge exactly.” Good means what has struck a balance between the internal and the external. In Jewish thought devils are regarded as being powerless against what has achieved this balance. In terms of practical occultism, that which is “evil” is such only in that it is “unruly”, ie difficult to control, and “unbalanced force” in cabalistic terminology.
In Christian iconography, St Michael, the Archangel of the Day of Judgement, holds a pair of scales. Jesus was held to be the demi-urge as Christ Pantocrator. He was “clothed with the sun” and the two-edged sword of truth and justice issued from his very mouth. In Byzantium a seat was reserved at the council table of the Emperor for the physical presence of the Logos. Divine law was translated to the earth to maintain the balanced relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm. Curiously, in the Armenian cathedral in Jerusalem hang ostrich eggs, suspended from the ceiling, as symbols of hope and resurrection, the legacy of Maat as conducive to those ends. In England the exercise of heavenly justice survived in the Divine Right of Kings until the demise of Charles I who succumbed to secular law. The blindfolded statue of Justice, the Justitia of the Romans, atop the Old Bailey bears the scales and a sword. At the State Opening of Parliament the Sword of State is borne before the Sovereign. At her coronation, Queen Elizabeth was enjoined: “With this sword do justice; stop the growth of iniquity.”
The Influence of India
The armies of Alexander the Great reached the borders of India. On the sub-continent (and in provincial temples in the UK today) Siva is a deity with the dual role of both creator and destroyer of life, more generally the latter. He personifies the inexorable passage of time and out of destruction he creates new life. He is thought to be a pre-Indo-European deity whose attributes appear on seals from the Indus Valley civilization. His consort, or more precisely his female aspect, is Sakti, but he is also closely linked with the terrible Kali and the goddess Sati. One of his attributes is a drum (“damaru”), producing the rhythm of creation. He has a strong association with fire and holds a ball of flame – the destructive corollary to creation. The Saivite sect envisage Siva as a creator, preserve and destroyer and he is manifest in three aspects of his own power. As the “Lord of the dance”, Nataraja, Siva’s steps follow the rhythm of universal forces. He dances in a circle of fire, treading upon the dwarfish figure, Vamana, who is the personification of ignorance, symbolising the puny state of many in the cosmos. In his cosmic capacity as Nataraja, “king of the dancers”, he performs before Parvarti, his wife, in order to relieve the sufferings of his followers. Here it is that we encounter one of the great symbols of world mythology, a profound conception realized in the beautiful bronzes of southern India. The trances induced through dance and yoga are viewed as the same, and can be observed in the ritual dancing before the holy images in Hindu temples. Siva Nataraja is encircled by a ring of flames, the vital processes of universal creation, and with one leg raised, he stands upon a tiny figure crouching on a lotus. This dwarfish demon represents human ignorance, the conjurings of “maya”, illusion, whose conquest is the attainment of wisdom and release from the bondages of the world. In one hand the god holds a drum, its sound the sign of speech, the source of revelation and tradition; his second hand offers blessing, sustenance; in the palm of the third hand a tongue of fire is a reminder of destruction; and the fourth hand points downward to the uplifted foot, already saved from the power of illusion. It signifies the refuge and salvation of the devotee.
The sacred language of the Hindus is Sanskrit. “Karma” is the Sanskrit word (from the root “kri”, meaning “to make” or “to do”) that denotes the linkage of cause and effect which assures the stability of the universe. With this cosmic meaning is mingled an ethical significance, human actions being inextricably linked with their consequences producing situations for which those who committed the acts are responsible, either in this life of in past lives. During the Vedic period “Karma” carried with it a ritual, evidence of that awareness that whatever happens may be regarded as just reward or punishment. All is contained within a span of time far longer than an individual’s life. Here lies the basis of reincarnation. “Human beings are the heirs of their actions,” said the Buddha. “Awareness is based upon intentions, plans and preoccupations … From this rises that whole burden of pain.” By its definition, “Karma” depends upon awareness. It is a vision linking human freedom with the universal order in an organised physical and moral system. “Karma” means approximately “action”, though linked with the idea of consequence of actions, through the chain of causation. In western occultism it is applied to the “Law of Karma”, the unfolding of destiny through repeated earth lives, in which merit and demerit are reflected in life conditions, events and inner attitudes. Applied to astrology it is increasingly used in esoteric circles, and many astrologers regard the natal chart as an impress of the particular karma which the incarnating ego (that is, the native) has undertaken to resolve in this particular lifetime. Some astrologers see the horoscope as reflecting the result of a series of past lives.
Tao – The Way
Beyond India, through Indo-China and in the Far East, Tao is not only a definite philosophical doctrine, as in Taoism, but it is also the basis of a number of differing philosophies. In Chinese, the word “tao” means “the way” or “the path”. Any explanation of the meaning takes us back to “yin” and “yang”. It is, however, in no sense the sum of the two since “yin” and “Yang” either alternate or co-exist in a state of opposition. “Tao” might be said to govern their alternation. This explains the basic law at the root of all actual or symbolic change, which allows Tao to be regarded as a principle of order ruling mental activity and the cosmos alike without distinction between them. It may be compared with the Stoic notion of reason, the Logos immanent in the universe as a whole and in each individual in his or her specific fate. It is “that which is” and correlates with the concept throughout the cosmos. Such ideas inform the divinatory processes of the I Ching
Christian missionaries have availed themselves of the force inherent in the word “tao”. Thus the earliest translation of the Gospel according to St John reads: “In the beginning was the Taw and the Tao was with God, and the Tao was God.” Religious devotees adopted Tao as the name of their divinity. It is evident that the Tao played a paramount role in the life and culture of the Chinese, as various schools of philosophy as religions adopted the term. In the UK there are branches of the True Jesus Church, a sect originating in Hong Kong. Yang, the light, active masculine principle, and Yin, the dark passive and feminine, in their interaction underlie and constitute the whole world of forms (“the ten thousand things”). They proceed from, and together make manifest, Tao, the source and law of being. As “road” or “way”, Tao is the way or course of nature, destiny, cosmic order; the Absolute made manifest. Tao is also therefore “truth”, “right conduct”. Yang and yin together as Tao are depicted by the familiar swirling circle. Tao underlies the cosmos. Tao inhabits every created thing; it is the basis of the increasingly popular Feng-Shui. The Great Original of the Chinese chronicles, the holy woman T’ai Yuan, combined in her person the masculine Yang and the feminine Yin. The cabalistic teachings of the medieval Jews, as well as the Gnostic Christian teachings of the second century, represent the Word Made Flesh as androgynous – which was indeed the state of Adam as he was created before the female aspect, Eve, was incarnated in another form.
“So God created Adam in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1 v27) The question arises as to the nature of the image of God; but the answer is already given in the text, and is clear enough. “When the Holy One, Blessed be He, created the first man, He created him androgynous.” (Midrash Rabbah 8 v1; commentary on Genesis) The removal of the feminine into another form symbolises the beginning of the fall from perfection into duality; and it was naturally followed by the discovery of the duality of good and evil, exile from the garden where God walks on earth, and thereupon the building of the wall of Paradise, constituted of the “coincidence of opposites”, by which Man (now named man and woman) is cut off from not only the vision but even the recollection of the image of God, guarded by the Angel with the flaming sword. This is the Biblical version of a myth known to many lands. It represents one of the basic ways of symbolising the mystery of creation; the development of eternity into time, the breaking of the one into the two and then the many, as well as the generation of new life through the reconjuncton of the two. This image stands at the beginning of the cosmogonic cycle, and with equal propriety at the conclusion of life’s quests, at the moment when the wall of Paradise is breached, the divine form found and recollected, and wisdom regained, when “…. the rim of the Abyss is shattered and is known consummation”. 4 This may be compared to the reflection of James Joyce: “in the economy of heaven there are no more marriages, glorified man, an androgynous angel, being wife unto himself”. (Ulysses, p210)
Underlying the notions of the creation and destruction of the world are found in the theme of the Celtic story of the Battle of the Mag Tuired between the Gods, the Tuatha de Danann, representing the ordered, hierarchical society of Gods and men, and the Formorians, an image of Chaos and the world before Genesis. No Celtic mythological source describes the creation of the world directly, but Ireland underwent five mythic invasions and each time fresh fields, new lakes and fresh rivers came into existence bearing the names of their creators. Chaos was annihilated, making it possible to settle, stock to be raised, hunting to take place and finally a culture to be established. Creation signals the end of chaos through the introduction into the universe of a degree of shape, or order and of hierarchy. Traditional hieroglyphics attributed to the ancient Egyptians depict the main aspects of creation as geometric figures, as a square, representing the orderly world, firmly based upon the four cardinal points. This is echoed in alchemical diagrams, as in the Seventh Key of Basil Valentine, which shows the cosmic scales and sword of justice, with the four seasons surrounding Aqua, or primeval water. After the act of creation, a distinction is generally drawn between the two forces, one immanent in matter, the other transcendent. The former is matter itself, suffused with creative energy and tending spontaneously to produce constantly differentiated shapes.
The latter is creative energy continuing its work and sustaining it in being, the world being conceived as a continuous creation.
Tiw and Forseti – Law and the Vikings
The Romans amalgamated their gods with the deities of conquered peoples. When they came to Britain it is likely that the Germanic Tiw who is alluded to in a Latin inscription on a Roman altar discovered at Housesteads in Northumberland, near to Hadrian’s Wall. This altar dates from the third century and was erected by German soldiers serving with the Roman legions. It bears the Latin inscription: “Deo Marti Thincso …”; that is: “To the god Mars Thincsus …”. The epithet “Thincsus” shows that Tiw was seen as a native Mars who presided over the “thing”, the assembly where the discussions of the community were regulated according to law. Tiw’s spear was not so much a weapon as a sign of juridical power. Some skalds said that he was the son of Woden. He was extremely brave and enterprising. He often awarded victory to one of the sides engaged in combat. Thus it was prudent to invoke him when going into battle. In one legend the poets give him the leading role, a tale which bears witness to the energy of his character, in which the wolf Fenris, understanding that he has been outwitted, bit off the god’s right hand at the wrist. Thenceforth he was one-handed. It is significant that Tiw’s most important appearance in mythology is in a matter of legal contract. With Woden, he forms a dyad which is found elsewhere amongst the Indo-European peoples, the one-handed and the one-eyed. the man of law and the man of magical fury. The south Germans gave Tiw the name Ziu, the north Germans Tuiz. The Scandinavians called him Tyr. It is generally admitted that all these appellations correspond to the Sanskrit “dyaus”, the Greek Zeus and the Latin Deus. Originally Tiw had been a god corresponding to the Indian Mitra, who was patron of the legal side of government, but with the gradual militarisation of Germanic society he had gradually been restricted to the field of rules governing battle, at which time the Romans identified him with their Mars, and the Latin “Martis dies” by transposition became the day of Tiw, or Tuesday.
Another significant Northern deity is Forseti, said by Snorri Sturlsson (1179 – 1241) to be the son of Balder. According to an Icelandic list of dwellings of the Gods, Forseti owned a gold and silver hall, Glitnir, and was a law-maker and arbiter of disputes. As the son of Balder, God of light, and of Nanna, Goddess of immaculate purity, Forseti was the god of justice and truth. He was the wisest, most eloquent and most gentle of all the Gods. When his presence in Asgard became known, the Gods awarded him a seat in the council hall, decreed that he should be patron of justice and righteousness, and gave him as abode the radiant palace Glitnir. This dwelling had a silver roof, supported on pillars of gold and it shone so brightly that it could be seen from a great distance. “There Forseti dwells, throughout all time, and every strife allays” says Saemund’s Edda (Thorpe’s translation). Here, upon an exalted throne, Forseti, the law-giver, sat day after day, settling the differences of Gods and men, patiently listening to both sides of every question and finally pronouncing sentences so equitable that none ever found fault with his decrees. Such were this God’s eloquence and power of persuasion that he always succeeded in touching his hearers’ hearts and never failed to reconcile even the most bitter foes. All who left his presence were thereafter sure to live in peace for none dared break a vow once made to him lest they should incur his just anger and be smitten immediately to death.
As God of justice and eternal law, Forseti was supposed to preside over every judicial assembly; he was invariably appealed to by all who were about to undergo a trial, and it was said that he rarely failed to help the deserving. Forseti was said to hold his assizes in spring, summer and autumn but never in winter. It became customary, in all the Northern countries, to dispense justice in those seasons, the people declaring that it was only when the light shone clearly in the heavens that right could be apparent to all, and that it was utterly impossible to render an equitable verdict during the dark season. There is no paradox here with the blindfolded figure of Justice. The light of heaven gives perspicacity; the blindfold is a symbol of impartiality.
Forseti is seldom mentioned except in connection with Balder. He apparently had no share in the closing battle in which all the other Gods played such prominent parts. His absence is symptomatic of cosmic disorder. (In times of social upheaval the “me” of Mesopotamia were “dispersed” or “forgotten”.) As the created form of the individual must dissolve, so that of the universal also. This has been called the “cyclic uproar” and is a final, all-engulfing cataclysm. One of the strongest representations of this Armageddon appears in the Poetic Edda. Pitted against the Gods was a race of frost giants, the descendants of Bergelmir, survivor of the bloody deluge caused by the slaying of Ymir. It is evident that the Gods were in the hands of fate and inexorably moving to their own doom, “ragnarøk” (ragnarok) . On this day, the forces of evil would overcome the Gods and their allies, the “einherjar”, the slain champions beloved of Odin. Fenrir, the great wolf, would catch and swallow the sun at this day of doom.
The idea of “Dies Irae”, literally “Day of Wrath”, was prevalent in the Middle Ages. Folk looked to the end of the world, anticipated the Last Judgement followed by the Millennium. The year 1000 excited mythological speculation. Mankind expected a new revelation, the coming of Antichrist, and the last days of wrath. There was also a vision of the new age. The Saviour would return, bind Satan, and reign forever after. This new aeon would bring forth a new community of perfected beings who have no need of clergy or sacraments or scripture. This anticipated modern millennium theories. In old northern beliefs, two human beings. Lif and Lifthrasir, would survive the cataclysm: they will re-people the earth and worship Balder, some of Odin, in the new heaven.
Living with Divine Law
It is apparent that some kind of good behaviour is enjoined on humans to maintain the stability of universal life. Order was established out of cosmos at the creation of the world. Divine laws were translated to earth to maintain the balanced relationship between the visible and the unseen. There must be a necessary balance between good and evil to sustain life. Evil is what inhibits this balance and hence destroys good works. Satan was considered evil because he was proud, ie “ungoverned”; he upset the balance and was obdurate in his “sin”. The old Egyptians recited a “negative” confession that denied any transgressions. Conjurers using the Clavicle of Solomon use a confession that admits a catalogue of sins for which forgiveness is sought, as only “the pure in heart” shall see God and the spirits. The panoply of the law may deter many from frustrating divine order. (Any sane person who has been indicted at the Old Bailey will readily admit the overpowering majesty of justice.) But what may be undertaken to foster a balanced life for all those who crave peace and joy? Following the Ten Commandments, or such as the laws of Olodumare, the chief power for followers of Santeria, the Afro-caribbean cult path, which echo the decologue? Yet there is no law beyond “Do what thou wilt!” though votaries are wisely enjoined to add the tenet of the Wiccan Rede that “it harm none”.
The latter is creative energy continuing its work and sustaining it in being, the world being conceived as a continuous creation.
The cosmic economy as exemplified by the laws of balance is met with in cultures other than those noted above. The scales of the Last Judgement are alluded to in the Koran; in Tibet, the pans of the scales used to weigh the individual’s good and bad deeds are loaded with white and black pebbles respectively. In Persia, the angel Rashnu stood beside Mithras and weighed souls at the Bridge of Fate. This faith came to Albion with the Romans. Mithras was praised on his birthday, 25th December, in the wake of the solstice, and honoured as Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. This date was taken as the official birthday of Jesus, who was hailed as the Sun of Righteousness. His Second Coming, to “judge the quick and the dead by fire”, will be heralded by “cyclic uproar” when “the sun is darkened, the moon turned to blood, the stars fall from heaven and the angels die”.. This cataclysm is a type of that fear of cosmic disintegration hidden in the psyche of man since the foundation of the world. It is not given to us to know the advent of divine wrath in our lives: the eyes of the Easter Island statues are sightless. At the dreadful moment of truth when we stand alone, we may only pray that our lives have been integrated with cosmic law, that we appear “justified” and are given a place in the barque of the Sun God, the “Boat of Millions of Years”, so that we may journey through the portals of heaven into the dawn of the New Aeon, be it clothed in the guise of whatever belief. So mote it be!
1. The Divine Pymander; Shrine of Wisdom (1923) p30
2. The Future of an Illusion; Hogarth Press (1928) p78
3. M Lichtheim – Ancient Egyptian Literature Vol 2, New Kingdom; Berkeley (1976)
4. Fr Ordinabo – Search for the Black Aleph or DIY Eschatontology; unpublished (nd)
By Anthony Roe