The Theosophical Forum – January 1950

IN THE BEGINNING — Hazel Minot

The words "to create" are often understood by the ordinary mind to convey the idea of evolving something out of nothing This is clearly not its meaning, we are mentally obliged to provide our Creator with chaos from which to produce the worlds. . . . Out of a void Nature cannot arise. . . .
      — Through the Gates of Gold

To different peoples at different times has come a "revelation" of universal truths. In the beginning each such revelation has been as a blinding light, and men have felt a nearness to "God," an awareness of unseen divinities who were their guides and protectors, and deep within themselves there has been a glowing something which they knew was akin to the flame burning on the altar-stone of heaven. But time does strange things, and however far-reaching the "revelation" or pure the source from which it came, as the ages have rolled by the original inspiration has become hidden from the eyes of men, even as a mountain stream may lose itself at last in desert sands.

Where the "voice of God" has been imprisoned in formalized religion, creed and dogma have done their part to still the magic of its tones and, with the passing years, echoes of far earlier "revelations" have been all but silenced; or, if heard, have lingered on as remnants of an age when men believed "strange things" about themselves and Nature. From time to time there is a resurgent interest in these very remnants: myths and legends, folk-lore and fairy-tales are gathered together and collated, but it is rarely that they take their place as source-material, giving an accurate though often fragmentary picture of the opening of any great period of manifestation.

There are a number of understandable reasons why these folk and other tales have not been recognized as hiding grains of ancient truth, and this despite the fact that the treatment of the subject has been extensive. Main groupings of the study include "Ideas and Superstitious Beliefs"; "Traditional Customs"; "Traditional Narratives"; and "Folk Sayings" — all having several sub-headings. The approach is in large part from the standpoint of gaining an advance in the "general knowledge of folk industries, folk aesthetics, and folk sociology."

Scientific investigations of myths and their origin, or the tracing of the migrations of tales, have contributed information in respect to community of descent or with reference to interchange of ideas through geographical proximity or through emigration. (1)

The method and purpose of this type of research have not concerned themselves with tracing the pattern of fundamental cosmic truths but rather with discovering the similarity of religious beliefs; the inner meaning of those beliefs being hidden under the manner of presentation peculiar to any particular locality. Often enough this "cover-up" has been deliberate: at the time when legends and myths were first given to men those who wove these tales gave out esoteric teaching in this form, using the simple means of symbol and allegory to convey their meaning. The relatively few who understood the symbols could interpret them; to others, they were just charming fairy-tales. But the message was there, the story thus veiled has endured through the centuries, and today it is as vital for him who can trace its meaning as it was at the time of its first recounting.

There are other factors that help to bewilder. The story does not always begin, grow to a point, and finish with a grand climax. Events, especially those dealing with the birth of worlds and humanities, have a way of apparently doubling back on themselves, or suddenly telescoping, so that the hope of beholding a sequential unfolding of the picture is hardly to be realized. This may be due to "wear and tear" and the strange twists and turns that come with the retelling of any tale; it may also have started out a little "on the bias" with the express purpose of confusing the issue. In addition, one has always to bear in mind that all the world loves a good story, and many a tale has as its prime object relaxation and entertainment.

To anyone delving into this wealth of material for proof that the Sacred Wisdom was indeed known to the peoples of ancient times, and that remnants of it still inhere in tribal beliefs and customs, the most responsive field of research is that of "Traditional Narratives"; for under this heading are included the myths concerning creation and various cataclysmic occurrences. Searching among these legends we are reminded of H. P. Blavatsky's statement in Isis (Vol. II, 431), that "there are few myths in any religious system but have an historical as well as a scientific foundation."

Comparing some of these tales of creation, one senses as a predominant factor the recognition, on the part of those who originally told them, of already existing material out of which earth and its humanities are gradually formed. For instance, in the Prose Edda, we have the story of the coming into being of the giant Ymir, from whose body the earth is later formed. Ymir took shape out of Ginnungagap (All Space) from the conflict of the elemental forces represented by Niflheim, the region of ice and snow, and Muspelheim, the region of elemental fire. This conflict caused the rime and ice of Niflheim to melt, and the falling drops assuming the shape of a mighty giant became Ymir.

H. P. B. says of Ymir that he is

the personified matter of our globe in a seething condition. The cosmic monster in the form of a giant, who is killed . . . by the three creators . . . Odin, Wili and We. . . . This allegory shows the three principal forces of nature — separation, formation and growth (or evolution) — conquering the unruly, raging "giant" matter, and forcing it to become a world, or an inhabited globe. It is curious that an ancient, primitive and uncultured pagan people, so philosophical and scientifically correct in their views about the origin and formation of the earth, should, in order to be regarded as civilized, have to accept the dogma that the world was created out of nothing!

Turning to the Greek story of creation as given to us by the poet Hesiod, we have Chaos as that from which the earth is formed. But this chaos, in the light of the Ancient Wisdom, is not a wildly disordered mass, but a repository, the storehouse of seeds from previous periods of manifestation, seeds that will develop into beings as well as things. It is not dissimilar to the Ginnungagap (All Space), for Space, too, is no empty nothingness, but filled full with being or life not yet manifested. A seeming contradiction, perhaps, but then, H. P. B. describes this very Ginnungagap as "the cup of illusion (Maya) the boundless and void abyss . . . this world's matrix. . . ."

From Chaos there came first of all the spirit of love, Eros; and though his wings may have been sadly soiled through the long, long ages, there is something surpassingly beautiful in this conception of Love as the first active principle in the evolution of the earth and the preparation for the races of men — a symbol of harmony, balance, and the never-ending quest of sentient beings for completion that this harmony and balance may be achieved. Next came Gaea, the broad-breasted Earth, and still later Ouranos (Uranos), and from the union of these two came the Titans.

Ouranos tried to stay the course of evolution by hurling his children back into the womb of their mother as soon as they were born, but was himself slain by his youngest son Kronos. It is but a momentary halting of the work of generation which

passes into the hands of Kronos, time, who unites himself with Rhea (the earth in esotericism — matter in general), and thus produces, after celestial — terrestrial Titans. The whole of this symbolism relates to the mysteries of Evolution.
      — The Secret Doctrine, II, 269

The story repeats itself with the children of Kronos. It is the Hellenic rendering of the unsuccessful attempts of "Earth or Nature" to create a humanity unaided, and is reminiscent of stanzas in the Book of Dzyan dealing with this very period of evolution. The vehicles are as yet unprepared — not merely the physical body but, more important, the intermediate nature — and not until they are fit receptacles for the divine "spark" will there really be a race of men on earth.

The gods are closely linked with man: witness the case of Deukalion and Pyrrha who are commanded by the gods to found a new race following their survival of a "flood." The pattern is not new, any more than was that relating to Noah, but the details vary to suit the age and race to which it applies. Nor is this link with divinity limited to august commands: the gods have literally given of themselves to form our earth and its children. Recall the names borne by the planets of our solar system and the teaching that each has played a part in the building of the earth chain. May it not have been this very truth that was suggested when, in the Prose Edda, Ginki, a wise king, "travels in search of knowledge to the home of the Asa folk — the Norse gods — each of whom supplies the visitor with some piece of special information": the bringing together of these separate items resulting in the cosmogonic history portrayed in the Edda? Also, it is significant that the "Asa folk" consist of Odin and the twelve Aesir, or gods.

Turning now to the Western Hemisphere, there is much food for thought in the Creation myth of the Wichita; especially in the names of the protagonists.

It was Man-never-known-on-Earth who created all things, and when he had formed the earth he then made a man whose name was Having-Power-to-carry-Light. He also made a woman, and her name was Bright-Shining-Woman. Though these names foreshadow a future time of "spiritual illumination" the man and the woman were as yet in darkness. Then came a thought into the mind of Having-Power-to-carry-Light that he must journey towards the east, and he did so, having many strange adventures. The myth tells how there came to be night and day, and how other promises were fulfilled that had been made by Man-never-known-on-Earth, who was henceforth to be known as Reflecting-man, the Sun. There were now more people on the earth, and Having-Power-to-carry-Light and Bright-Shining-Woman became their instructors, teaching them how to grow the precious corn, how to hunt with bow and arrow, and the use of various implements which the people had in their possession but did not understand. Then there came a time when the man and the woman must leave the people they had dwelt among, for each was to become something else. But before leaving they gave final instructions: how the people might tell what things were about to happen; how they should pay reverence to the stars and other heavenly bodies, and many other things important for them to know. Bright-Shining-Woman said she would be seen after the sun had gone down, and in the evening they beheld her in the sky, for she had become the moon. Having-Power-to-carry-Light told the people that they would see him early in the morning, before the light of day, and that henceforth his name would be First-Star-seen-after-Darkness-passes-by.

This simple tale, simply told, leaves no doubt but that the ancient American Indian was aware of the Divine guardians who cared for the race in its infancy. He knew, too, of his kinship with the Sun and Moon, and his debt to the planet Venus.

All peoples have had their "Bibles" and a profound study of the subject could well be the work of a life-time. To the interested reader there is a veritable gold-mine of interpretation to be found in the pages of Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. The sacred literatures themselves, their myths and legends, even of the most "primitive" peoples, fill one with reverence for the beauty of their language and the depth of their intuition.

FOOTNOTE:

1. The New International Encyclopaedia — "Folklore." (return to text)


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