Cauldron of Knowledge

Print by J.E.C. Williams in the book 'Y Mabinogion', trans. J.M. Edwards (Wrexham, 1901).
Print by J.E.C. Williams in the book ‘Y Mabinogion’, trans. J.M. Edwards (Wrexham, 1901).

There is a Celtic legend called the Cauldron of Changes that you can read on the website, Chalice Centre. I would like to discuss one aspect of this story that pertains to the knowledge of Soul and its transformative effects on human beings.

In the story, a peasant boy named Gwion is hired by Ceridwen to stir and keep watch over the cauldron, which she has prepared for her ugly and hapless son, Avagddu. Because of her great love for the boy, she desired to find a way to transform her son. After studying books of Druidic alchemists, Ceridwen has learned how to make a special brew that can illuminate one with the knowledge of all things, past, present, and future. She carefully gathered all the necessary ingredients into a large iron cauldron, which must simmer for a year and a day. She conscripts Gwion to keep watch over the steaming vessel.

According to the alchemists, tasting three drops of the magical liquid would bestow the aforementioned knowledge. For a year, Gwion stirred the cauldron with a large wooden spoon, and kept the flames burning by feeding it with twigs and leaves. On the last day, Gwion decided to stir the pot sunwise for luck. As he did so, three drops flew out of the pot and landed on his hand, burning him. Immediately, he thrust his hand into his mouth to cool the burn. An instant after swallowing the magical elixir, his mind was illuminated. Worlds upon worlds opened within him, spreading out endlessly into eternity. In an instant, he was made aware of all the interconnections of Nature. He could hear and understand the trees, the babbling brook, the crawling insect. He could hear and understand their music and their languages.

You can read the rest of the story in the above link. What I have described so far is quite intriguing for someone who is fascinated by the things of the Soul.

First of all, this myth reveals the powers contained within the cauldron, which I see as a metaphor for the unconscious psyche. In our stage of evolutionary development, a simple taste of these powers can transform our entire lives. Perhaps in the future, there will be a greater flow of knowledge between consciousness and unconsciousness. For most of us, however, these incidents do not occur all the time. Now, we experience occasional irruptions of the unconscious into our conscious minds. These are incidental, stupendous, and wonderful examples of the powers of the soul, but they are prototypical of what lies ahead for the human species.

After our culture has experienced several centuries of intense emphasis on reason, logic, rationality, and science, the powers of the soul have atrophied. This began to change in the twentieth century, with the increased interest in things of the soul. This is in large part a result of the work of C.G. Jung. We still, however, have a long way to go. The process of evolution takes much time. We know we are circumambulating to a point in history where the powers of the soul will be restored. We see it moving in that direction everyday, especially on the Internet.

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An Increase in Subtlety

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The Flame (aka Goddess of Fire), by Odilon Redon

…it should be obvious that an increase in ‘subtlety’ is an inward evolution (Colin Wilson, The Occult: A History).

The human race is ready for an increase in subtlety. In the past, I have called it “the epoch of soul.” We yearn for a deeper descent into the depths of the unconscious in order to gain new meaning, new significance for our lives. I believe the next evolutionary leap will be one of consciousness. This will bring a tremendous increase in our ability to access the unconscious mind, thus opening doors to powers that have lain dormant for centuries, if not millennia.

The subtler powers of human being include things that science and reason have taught us to reject as nonsense and superstition. In many cases, these powers manifest, at times, even now. For instance, someone is preparing to board a plane, but they have a heavy feeling of uneasiness about the trip, a feeling of dread. They make the decision to make other arrangements, and the plane crashes, killing all those aboard. The person is saved by a premonition. This knowledge does not come from ratiocination, but from subtler sources in the unconscious.

The mind is not really bifurcated into conscious and unconscious. We simply discuss it this way for convenience. Furthermore, the mind is not just the brain. These are not synonymous. The mind functions throughout the human body. The brain is a facilitator. The ways and depths of the psyche are beyond our attempts to grasp them intellectually. After we reach the next stage in our evolution, we will undoubtedly gain new insight into the interaction between consciousness and unconsciousness.

Future humans will have senses beyond the five that we are aware of. What they will be like is unknown, but they will undoubtedly have greater awareness of their environment and of their own selves. The most poignant difference will be a freer flow of information between the conscious and unconscious minds.

Rudolf Steiner said,

I have often mentioned that a new stream of spirituality is now ready to pour into man’s earthly existence. The present forms a link in mankind’s evolution between an era of mainly intellectual development which began in the first third of the fifteenth century and has now practically run its course — and a future devoted to the spiritual. The most important task for mankind in the era of intellectuality was the development of reason through the investigation of external nature and the development of technology (The Elemental World and the Future of Mankind, lecture given in Dornach, May 28, 1922).

I take issue with the use of the word, “spirituality,” because I believe spirit is an archetype of the soul, but I understand and concur with what Steiner is saying. We are headed toward a new day in the evolutionary process, which, in my opinion, is entirely natural. There are sufficient powers in the universe to bring all this we have discussed to pass. The soul is a deep, deep well of living water.

The “era of intellectuality,” as Steiner calls it, has served its purpose. We have achieved amazing things using our intellects to develop science and technology, but these are powerless against solving mankind’s greatest problems. Most technological breakthroughs nowadays are made in the name of corporate profit. It is time for a deeper knowledge to come forth in the earth. I am referring to a deeper knowledge of the most precious jewel in the universe, Soul.

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A Framework for Life

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Christian Rohlfs – Abstraction (the Blue Mountain)

One of the primary things missing from modern life is a framework upon which the fabric of one’s life can be hung. Our lives once hung upon the framework of Christianity, but, after the death of the monotheistic God, our lives were without a frame of reference. Many still are in this condition. It is like a body walking around without a skeleton to support it. I believe this lack of a schema is why we have biological imbalances that bring about the inevitable encounter with nihilism, and then black states of depression. The soul and body are so closely intertwined that our biological chemistry does, indeed, affect our mental well-being. This is just one example of living in a soulless age.

The recent passing of actor, Robin Williams, greatly saddened me. He follows a long line of geniuses who have battled the abyss of melancholy. The ideas of modern science have failed to provide an adequate framework that can protect and uphold our lives. All they offer is drug therapy, which is merely a palliative. By not providing an adequate framework for coping with life’s pathology, modern psychology has failed the masses of humanity who suffer from depression. Geniuses suffer most because their minds are more acutely aware of reality and its terrors.

Once, mankind’s suffering was mitigated by participation in the imaginal realm through myth, ritual, stories, music, and art. During and after the Enlightenment, the sacred nature of these was relegated to an inferior position in human affairs, thus desouling and desacralizing human consciousness. For instance, there was a very good reason for ritual in ancient times. Symbolic rituals have a way of moving the soul, building it and protecting it from harm.

Joseph Campbell wrote,

For it is the rite, the ritual and its imagery, that counts in religion, and where that is missing the words are mere carriers of concepts that may or may not make contemporary sense. A ritual is an organization of mythological symbols; and by participating in the drama of the rite one is brought directly in touch with these, not as verbal reports of historic events, either past, present, or to be, but as revelations, here and now, of what is always and forever. Where the synagogues and churches go wrong is by telling what their symbols “mean” (Myths to Live By).

To attempt to give meaning to the mystery of ritual symbols is to try and force the dark secrets of the Underworld up into the light of day where the ego can understand them. These things, however, work, many times, apart from the understanding. The archetypal Powers who work through the symbols cannot be rationalized. They are suprarational entities. As long as the scientific model remains closed to the experiences of the psyche, science will never accept the truth of the soul.

The framework we need to restore to mankind is the knowledge of soul. All the truth we have gleaned concerning soul: myth, symbols, ritual, art, the imaginal, music, and all other avenues that build soul (there are many), can be disseminated around the globe. I believe if we can restore this framework to our world, we will see another renaissance, not only of learning and the arts, but of physical and mental health. It will not be perfect because the way of soul is pathologization, but we will once again have a strong skeletal structure upon which to hang our lives. If we continue on the road we are on, the entire structure will collapse.

 

For it is the rite, the ritual and its imagery, that counts in religion, and where that is missing the words are mere carriers of concepts that may or may not make contemporary sense. A ritual is an organization of mythological symbols; and by participating in the drama of the rite one is brought directly in touch with these, not as verbal reports of historic events, either past, present, or to be, but as revelations, here and now, of what is always and forever. There the synagogues and churches go wrong is by telling that their symbols ‘mean.’ The value of an effective rite is that it leaves everyone to his own thoughts, which dogma and definitions only confuse.” – See more at: http://mythicdreams.org/ritual-as-organization-of-mythological-symbols/#sthash.6CXtRD3S.dpuf
For it is the rite, the ritual and its imagery, that counts in religion, and where that is missing the words are mere carriers of concepts that may or may not make contemporary sense. A ritual is an organization of mythological symbols; and by participating in the drama of the rite one is brought directly in touch with these, not as verbal reports of historic events, either past, present, or to be, but as revelations, here and now, of what is always and forever. There the synagogues and churches go wrong is by telling that their symbols ‘mean.’ The value of an effective rite is that it leaves everyone to his own thoughts, which dogma and definitions only confuse.” – See more at: http://mythicdreams.org/ritual-as-organization-of-mythological-symbols/#sthash.6CXtRD3S.dpuf
For it is the rite, the ritual and its imagery, that counts in religion, and where that is missing the words are mere carriers of concepts that may or may not make contemporary sense. A ritual is an organization of mythological symbols; and by participating in the drama of the rite one is brought directly in touch with these, not as verbal reports of historic events, either past, present, or to be, but as revelations, here and now, of what is always and forever. There the synagogues and churches go wrong is by telling that their symbols ‘mean.’ The value of an effective rite is that it leaves everyone to his own thoughts, which dogma and definitions only confuse.” – See more at: http://mythicdreams.org/ritual-as-organization-of-mythological-symbols/#sthash.6CXtRD3S.dpuf
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Worlds of Being and Meaning

 Nova Aurigae, Stanislaw Ignacy, Witkiewicz - 1918

Nova Aurigae,
Stanislaw Ignacy, Witkiewicz – 1918

This article is dedicated to my brother, Jeffrey, who died July 27, 2014, of complications resulting from congestive heart failure. Jeff was only 49. He was a life-long student of history, religion, and the esoteric. He bequeathed to me his library, which I will cherish as long as I am upon this earth.

…the Gods and Goddesses are worlds of being and meaning in which my personal life participates (Miller 61).

Our ego-centered culture has not yet grasped the fact that the archetypal structures of all reality are these worlds of being and meaning. We do not live in these worlds; these worlds live through us.  To the degree that we recognize the Powers who manifest through our lives, we can become that which we were meant to be.

These Powers are in conflict with each other. Throughout our lives, we undergo our very own Trojan War. Pathologization is the way of the soul. This conflict can be mediated by a “transcendent function,” which is the “transpersonal nature of the archetypal structures…it gives us an Archimedean point of leverage, a perspective on the world from the standpoint of the world whose name is that of a God or Goddess” (ibid.).

This viewpoint transcends both the subjectivity of psychology and the objectivity of science. In essence, there is no inner/outer dichotomy. All reality is founded upon these worlds of being and meaning, the pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, and how they manifest through, not only our lives, but through the entire universe: stars, worlds, galaxies, and all animateriality. One can trace all things back to a particular God or Goddess. These are the foundation stones upon which our reality is built.

The Powers have manifested throughout human history in many different forms, especially in the many religious views of the world. I have always wondered why there are so many different factions within Christianity, for instance, since this is where my roots are. There are even factions within the factions. There is a first church of this and a first church of that. It seems so insane, but it is the way of reality, the way of the Powers. They fight and war against each other continually. This is how the Fabric of Reality is constructed.

During the nineteenth century, Friedrich Nietzsche believed that the monotheistic God of Christianity had lost its potency. Each God or Goddess has potency and uniqueness. Because they are at war, a God or Goddess who loses its potency is supplanted by others. This is connected with the idea that a symbol or image can lose its power, and is then subsequently replaced by other symbols. In the case of the monotheistic God, the practice of using symbols and images was, for the most part, eliminated during the Reformation. Symbols possess power, so when the symbol goes, the God will eventually die out. Nietzsche also believed that the monotheistic nature of this God led to his death, and then mankind’s encounter with nihilism. But the encounter with nihilism is but a prelude to transformation. “The death of God gives rise to the rebirth of the Gods” (Miller 4).

Jung’s idea of the archetypes of the collective unconscious was an imaginative historical breakthrough, a watershed event for human psychology. As we hear the stories of the Gods and Goddesses, we are provided with a framework for imagining their worlds of being and meaning, how they live and breathe through us, and through all of reality throughout the universe.

 

Works Cited

Miller, David. L. The New Polytheism. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

 

 

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