A Toltec fairy tale tells of a young girl, Papalotl, who found protection in the country of the Tepictotons, the "Little People" of the ancient Mexicans. During the first meeting she was told that the Tepictotons are master craftsmen. Papalotl discovered that among other things the Tepictotons were responsible for the colors in nature. She never saw them at their work, and one day she asked the king how it was done. "It is done in the Parent-world, of course," said the king. "What is the Parent-world?" asked the girl. "T'schxt! Where does an oak tree come from?"
"An oak tree? From an acorn," the girl replied.
"What!" cried the king, "do you really believe that something as big as an oak tree can come out of an acorn which we can roll under our throne?"
"Everything grows out of a seed," said Papalotl argumentatively.
"Ridiculous! Everything grows through a seed, which is quite a different thing. It grows out of the Parent-world where we do our work, and expands just as the water in the lake expands from the narrow neck of a river." (From Magic Casements by Langston Day.)
We find similar stories in the folklore, mythologies, and fairy tales of all nations and races. They were collected by anthropologists and treated as interesting examples of how "primitive" races tried to explain the seemingly unexplainable. No explanation could be given of the astonishing similarity of these tales until attention was drawn to another persistent tradition that there once was an Age when great teachers, heroes, and demigods taught a nascent humanity the secrets and mysteries of nature and science. There are the mysterious "sons of God" and the "mighty men of old and men of renown" of Genesis 6; the "heavenly teachers" of the Book of Enoch; the "mighty men from the water" of the ancient Mexicans. Every race, from the most primitive to the most highly civilized, has a similar tradition.
From what we know today from the decipherment of papyri, from our comparatively recent contact with the wisdom of the East, many earnest researchers have postulated the existence of a universal wisdom-religion in ages long past and beyond our present knowledge of history. Archaeological discoveries have shown the existence of civilizations in America, India, and Asia with technologies far beyond our present understanding.
But man became "wicked." Wisdom and knowledge went under ground, became the secrets of the Mystery schools. When those of Egypt and Greece in time deteriorated, the Dark Ages engulfed the West; the Library of Alexandria was destroyed, and all knowledge and wisdom of a golden past vanished. From the ashes of spiritual slavery rose the phoenix of scientific discovery, the Age of Reason, and with it, as a natural reaction, scientific and historical materialism. Yet through it all, the myths and fairy tales remained. They were rediscovered by Humboldt, Schopenhauer, Grimm, Müller, and many others and attention drawn to their essential similarity. Still, for quite some time the study of mythology was the special province of the philologist until it became of interest to the biologists of the anti-Darwinian revolution. We forget so easily that only last century man's maximum age on this planet (as ape-man) was set at 15,000 years!
At the turn of the century, a strong reaction to Darwin and Huxley made itself felt in the scientific world; a reaction not only against the ape-descent (or -ascent) theory of man, but against the proclaimed absolute value of purely materialistic scientific methodology and the resulting Weltanschauung (philosophy of life, world outlook). The purely mechanistic world of the 19th century came under attack. Jacob Uexkuell, one of the fathers of modern biology, stated categorically that life and the laws governing life are not subject to the laws of physics and chemistry. Whilst Uexkuell's statement was axiomatic, it was brilliantly demonstrated forty years later by one of the world's great physicists, Erwin Schrodinger, in his celebrated lectures at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1943-46).
Uexkuell, Dacqué, and many others proved that fully developed man must be older than the anthropoid ape. We are here not concerned with the theories or laws of evolution, but with the fact of what still appears to be an uncomfortable truth: that man, even in his present-day physical constitution, is millions of years old; and that the still popular theory that man developed during a comparatively late geological age, by accident so to speak from an ape-ancestry, is scientifically untenable.
Edgar Dacqué, palaeontologist and biologist of renown, was one of the scientists drawing attention to the consistent material found in folklore, myths, and fairy tales. He with Uexkuell and many others represent the violent reaction against the purely mechanistic view of science which relegated man to the status of an accident of nature. This reaction was quite general and particularly significant in the philosophical schools of the first quarter of the 20th century (the modern Neoplatonists and the schools of modern philosophical and logical idealism). Professor Ernst Cassirer published his celebrated Philosophy of Symbolic Forms wherein considerable space was given to mythological thinking as a basic expression of man's relation to reality. At the same time, C. G. Jung published the results of his investigations on the archetypal character of myths and folklore, and postulated a stratum of collective unconscious, that is of racial memories dating back to the dawn of man and finding graphic expression in folklore, fairy tale, and mythology. The identity of the mythological symbols throughout the world, varying only in their different outer forms, would indicate a common experience of nature from the beginning of memory. Find the meaning behind the parable, and you will find the truth. There is the common memory of the Flood in the South Seas stories as well as in the Icelandic Edda.
Schelling, in his System of Metaphysics (about 1830) stated that the great creations of mythology make clear to modern man that he is face to face with the phenomenon of reality which in profundity, permanence, and universality is comparable only with nature herself. The anthropologist Malinowsky stated (about 1925) that the myth in a primitive society — the myth in its original living form — is not a mere tale told but a reality lived. It is not in the nature of an invention, but living reality, believed to have occurred in primordial times and to be influencing ever afterwards the world and the destinies of men . . . they are the assertion of an original, greater, and more important reality through which the present life, fate, and work of mankind are governed.
Malinowsky emphatically states, as a result of his researches, that a "tale" is not the explanation of an origin (as, for instance, in Ovid's Metamorphoses), but that it expresses in a primary and direct fashion precisely what it related — something that actually happened in primordial times. A myth, a folklore tale is not an explanation: it is the re-arising of a primordial reality in narrative form.
Long before modern science, however reluctantly, "established" the great age of man, mythologies, fairy tales, and the traditions of religions gave mankind an immeasurable age. There are traditions of nations of dwarfs (we are not referring to the "Little People"). Science has recognized the reality of dwarf people in times long past. There are the tales of dragons and mighty sea-serpents. We now know that these existed 100 million years ago; in fact, we have dug them out! How could primordial man "invent" these creatures unless he actually experienced them?
In Nordic myths tales are told of polar regions where the climate was mild, regions with great forests and tropical flowers. For many millennia the climate in these regions was cold. There was nothing but ice, and there is still nothing but ice. Wishful dreams? Alas, we have found under the ice-age strata fossils of the luxuriant vegetation of a tropical climate.
In that Toltec fairy tale, the Parent-world is an invisible realm in nature where a creative process takes place through something very small. The process realizes itself in this world as the phenomena of nature, the world of physical realities.
We find the idea of other worlds or planes of existence expressed in many forms in the mythologies and tales of nations and races. Planes of existence from which forces flow to our world: there is always a point of entry, a door, a gate, a bridge, or even the eye of a needle. In his dream Jacob saw the heavenly forces descending and ascending on the cosmic ladder. In many tales it is the magical precious stone through which the Forces enter the world of man. The ancient Greek philosophers Pythagoras and Plato postulated a world of Forms and Ideas (the drawing office of the Architect of Nature, so to speak), a world perceived as having its existence outside the perceptible world of material things. The secret doctrines or inner teachings of all great religious and philosophical systems conceive the universe as an infinite system of hierarchies ensouled by an all-pervading cosmic consciousness.
These ideas had no place in the methodologies of science. The scientist could only observe physical phenomena, endeavor to bring these phenomena into an orderly system and infer the general laws governing these phenomena; thus the laws of mechanics, thermodynamics, and chemistry were established and held to be generally valid throughout the universe, until new phenomena were observed to which these general valid laws could not be applied.
Whilst the orthodox scientist who still clings to the purely mechanistic view of nature maintains that there is no such thing as a soul, that life arose from "dead matter," he is a dying species. Modern science has discovered the existence of other planes, worlds, and dimensions, in fact postulates the necessity of their existence as essential for the explanation of observable phenomena. The scientist today uses words which are strangely reminiscent of the language of mythology and of the ancient wisdom.
The inner world of man has become the subject of scientific investigation. The totality of the human psyche, for example, is conceived by Jung and his followers as far transcending the limited realm of the human consciousness. The physicist of today speaks of fields of forces. Particles of matter are described as foci and vortices of activity. The concept of continuous creation taking place on a cosmic plane extraneous to our physical universe and "pouring" into it through some cosmic door was not formulated by some dreaming metaphysician, but by the scientists of the 20th century. Biochemists constructed a spiral model of the genes and called this model the ladder of life.
Professor Arthur Eddington, one of the foremost astrophysicists of our century, stated that science no longer identifies reality with the physical universe, for mind and consciousness belong to the unseen worlds; but there are also unseen universes beyond the possibility of man's experience (Einstein, Jeans). The modern scientific thinker clearly states that the reality of our physical universe is only a relative reality, relative to our experience. Without becoming aware of it, science has gradually adopted the basic principle of ancient wisdom: the fundamental UNITY of the universe and the interdependence of the various planes, worlds, and dimensions. The intuitive awareness of this unity, which is expressed in the infinite varieties of manifestations in the physical world, urges the scientific seeker of truth to search for the one underlying law governing the universe. The scientist of our time knows that certain laws, previously considered as immutable, are valid only in relation to given systems. Newton's square law is inapplicable to the phenomena of the expanding universe of the receding stellar systems. Euclidean geometry proved well in the survey of Great Britain, the United States, and Australia, but does not apply to the survey of cosmic space. "Behind one system lies another system to which the laws of the former cannot be applied . . ." The three-dimensional universe is a system of human experience, but there are physical phenomena which do not fit into a three-dimensional universe; reality must therefore be many-dimensioned.
We can only see the universe by the impressions of our senses reflecting indirectly the things of reality. . .
Imagine a bedbug completely flattened out, living on the surface of a globe. This bedbug may be gifted with analysis, he may study physics, he may even write a book. His universe will be two-dimensional. He may even intellectually or mathematically conceive of a third dimension, but he cannot visualize it. Man is in the same position as the unfortunate bedbug, except that he is three-dimensional. Man can imagine a fourth dimension mathematically, but he cannot see it, he cannot visualize it, he cannot represent it physically. It exists only mathematically for him. The mind cannot grasp it. (Cosmic Religion with other Opinions and Aphorisms, pp. 101, 102-3.) — Albert Einstein
It is here where the greatest thinker of our era erred! The mind who proved the one law governing matter and energy, who destroyed a dualistic universe forgot . . . the fairy tale! The intuitive knowledge of ages long forgotten tells us of the singular points through which continuous creation flows, of the great hierarchies of guiding intelligences endlessly extending on the ladder of life (Eddington's "mindstuff"); it tells us that life is not subject to the first and second law of thermodynamics (now readily admitted by the modern biologist). Einstein once said: "The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions. How can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one?" Perhaps the human brain cannot conceive of such ideas, but a higher mind of the inner man, the Self of Jung's depth-psychology has, in fact, conceived of such ideas. Intuition and inspirations come from those other worlds without and within; intuitive knowledge is expressed in age-old symbols and clothed in the garments of myth and legend. It is here where the scientist meets his fairy tale.
(From Sunrise magazine, December 1990/January 1991. Copyright © 1991 by Theosophical University Press)