Integral Spiritual Mythology: Mirror Images of the Soul (Part II)
"The three-faced Hecate is not the only instance of an expression of nocturnal triadicity... the ancients also recognized three dream genies... Cerberus, who guards the nether world, also has three heads... Poseidon bears the trident, an attribute of the night... The original number of the muses was three, and later increased to nine (three times three); threefold is also the number of the Gorgons... The primordial giant Geryon, whose cattle were stolen by Heracles, had three bodies; We would also mention Varro’s demand that the number of those dining together be not less than three (the number of the graces), nor greater than nine (the number of muses)."
- Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin
We saw in the ancient Indian epic poem, the Bhagavad Gita, threefold imagistic relations were revealed by Krishna to Arjuna's soul - the "Ignorance" (lower region; instinctive will; tamas nature), the "Passion" (mid-region; feeling soul; rajas nature), and the "Soothfastness" (head region; thinking spirit, sattva nature) were especially emphasized. That occurs in the second half of the poem, reflecting the glimmers of self-consciousness emerging in the late 3rd epoch. On the whole there is not much qualitative numerology in the Gita. Ancient Greek mythology of the fourth epoch, however, was especially permeated with the images of that numerology. We see that in Jean Gebser's quote above, who we will return to later in this essay. These threefold 'nocturnal' or 'lunar' essences (involution from spiritual to physical = differentiation) are not other than the three epochs prior to the Central fourth. When they are reflected across the fourth epoch - temporally and spatially - they become 'Solar' essences (evolution from physical to spiritual = integration). All essential relations can be imagined in a 'Higher' and 'lower' version in this way. We will return to that soon as well. A critical aspect of the Imaginative thinking process is to resist the urge to fragment pockets of knowledge here from pockets of knowledge there. Instead, every attempt must be made to keep the Whole of previously learned relations at hand when exploring new territory.
Now let us briefly note that the soul-qualities at the dawn of the fourth epoch were not only reflecting the emergence of self-consciousness in our current age, but also mirroring an even larger arc of the Spirit's descent through seven Ages in which our current age is fractally nested. Likewise, there is a still larger arc of the Spirit through seven Cycles in which the seven Ages are nested, and an even larger arc of seven Aeons. It is well beyond our humble scope here to venture out into these pitch black realms of our collective subconscious, but we should keep in mind our current Age is not the only one or the last one, and we are dealing with truly epic 'territories' and 'timescales' when it comes to the Spirit's involution (descent into the physical sense-world) and evolution (ascent back to spiritual realms). Just as our current Age has seven epochs, it is only one of seven other Ages which are nested within the broader sevenfold relations mentioned above. Our current Aeon, Cycle, and Age are all the Central fourth stage in these sevenfold relations, with threefold essential relations mirrored across each 'side' by the fourth stage. We are now exploring the Central 4th epoch of our current Age, which is the reflecting Mirror itself.
"How many people today are clear as to what is to be understood by the Spirit? People have become such ‘abstractlings’, satisfied with the mere empty husks of words; either they remain in the churches and are satisfied; or if they are — as they call it — ‘enlightened’, they turn all to ridicule. What is given in empty husks of words can never have the power to bring light to the individual activities of human knowledge."
- Rudolf Steiner, Man: Hieroglyph of the Universe (1920)
Before the soul can remember the Divine realms from within the sense-world, it will need to rehabilitate its relationship with the dimensions of Space and Time. For we 'abstractlings', this relationship has become a thin, pale, and sickly accounting of width, height, depth, and linear sequential moments. Our souls feel as helpless specks of dust in the infinite expanse of space, carried along by the oppressive and monotonous flow of linear time. It is easy to test how poorly we are experiencing these dimensions by attempting to imagine them and observe what, if any, qualities of meaning arise within us. Do we vaguely picture equations, lines, shapes, flattened 'things', and sequential moments in an external manner, or are we directed back inwards to imagine the meaning of interpenetrating primordial forces revolving around the very Center of our soul's activities? Our mythic ancestors prior to the fourth epoch, and even for some time within that epoch, still experienced the latter and that is what we need to seek from within ourselves for reorientation in the present day. This reorientation towards the images of spatiotemporal dimensions should really drive home the point that we are not speaking of mere metaphors when exploring ancient mythology, but rather we are speaking of the literal 'location' that our soul occupies in the Cosmic panorama of meaningful qualities.
We discussed in Part I that Imaginative thinking must recover the essential inner meaning from images and then discard most of the outer visual structure, since the latter generally work to keep us within the confines of mere abstract intellect and, therefore, apart from Imaginative essence. The mere intellect consists in the mineralized and sterilized concepts of the Primary Imagination that Coleridge spoke of. The more layers added to the visual imagery - especially in the modern age of digital effects - the more difficult it becomes to extract the inner meaning and overcome the visual abstractions. That is especially true when we come to the qualities of the spatiotemporal dimensions. We can get a sense of this obstacle to inner meaning if we consider the musical aesthetic compared to those which rely on mental pictures of the artists and the viewers - it is significantly easier to sense the inner meaning of music as we listen and participate in its rhythms, melodies, and harmonies, than it is for drawings, paintings, sculptures, architecture, etc., which take a fair amount of reflection to discern their meaning, and, even after that reflective process, may only leave us with shallow and abstract meaning. For that reason, we are going to proceed with the most simple images here, with very little added color or flare.
"Basic characteristic of an individual organism: to divide, to unite, to merge into the universal, to abide in the particular, to transform itself, to define itself, and, as living things tend to appear under a thousand conditions, to arise and vanish, to solidify and melt, to freeze and flow, to expand and contract. Since these effects occur together, any or all may occur at the same moment. Genesis and decay, creation and destruction, birth and death, joy and pain, all are interwoven with equal effect and weight; thus even the most isolated event always presents itself as an image and metaphor for the most universal."
- Goethe, Maxims and Reflections
The first two dimensions of Space - height and width - can be visualized as two intersecting lines of Up-down (Conscious-unconscious) and Right-left (Wisdom-form). These lines are spectrums of qualitative experience and the two poles on either side are inseparable, always existing in relation to each other. As Goethe illustrated above, there are many other manifestations of these poles, such as Unity-diversity, Expansion-contraction, Warmth-coldness, Growth-decay, Creation-destruction, and infinitely more. They all associate with the polar relation of Spiritual-physical; or Solar-lunar. What is important for us now is to internalize the general concept of the polar relation - whenever an experience arrives to the Light of our conscious mind, it is forged through two inseparable, yet distinct polar forces. In the modern age of dualism, which infects the thinking of nearly all Westerners regardless of philosophical or spiritual orientation, we think of these forces as strictly "opposite", where one cannot be present if the other one is present. That is actually an inversion of their true essence, which is an abstract mentality born of the 'lower' physical-lunar pole. In Reality, one cannot be present without the other one. Keeping that in mind, the Up-down qualitative dimension conveys the inner meaning of a crawling human infant struggling its way upwards from the Earth so that it can stand up tall, walk, talk, and think.
Yet even after learning to walk, humans souls remain very close to the ground. So we should not confuse the quality of "Conscious" with abstract intelligence or individual sense-awareness. It is related more to where our soul-life dwells in the Cosmos. Does it mostly reside up in the astral realms of the Heavens, down near the terrestrial plane of Earth, or even further below the surface of the Sea? Ancient souls prior to the fourth epoch were more qualitatively conscious than the modern one in that regard, since they sensed a more concrete contrast between the entire World of thought-beings and thought-content, and the entire World of sense-impressions. Their souls were still in a relatively holistic relationship with the Cosmos, so they did not experience the phenomenal world as only existing within the immediate reach of their bodily and cognitive senses as we do now. For the ancient soul, there was still a sense the deep relation between the Solar and lunar forces, extending way up into the abodes of the Divinities and way down into the spiritual forces who stand in polar opposition to them. When the modern soul tries to conceive of these spiritual realms beyond its physical and cognitive reach, it is only by way of the most dried up pictures which we can barely visualize abstractly, let alone sense concretely.
"For true reality cannot be found in the abstract ideas which are simply transferred from nature to the spirit, but solely through being able to deepen oneself in the spirit itself and there find the polarities corresponding to the spirit." - Rudolf Steiner
The polar quality of the Right-left width spectrum is perhaps most usefully related to the modern scientific human soul by way of the right brain hemisphere ("RBH" - integrated Wisdom) and the left brain hemisphere ("LBH" - fragmented form). After many rigorous experiments involving individuals who had their LBH and RBH 'disconnected' by procedures for treatment of epilepsy, researchers gathered data demonstrating that these two modes of consciousness within each individual approach the phenomenal world in two polar opposite ways. The LBH perceives the world as a place of manifold 'things' that it seeks to exhaustively analyze and attain a level of certainty about them. It is a conscious disposition which is most comfortable in abstract thought. The RBH perceives the world as place of interconnected and concrete meanings - it is not only a disposition which is normally unconscious for us, but it is also the manner by which our lower instincts and feelings are infused with enough thoughtful meaning to keep us alive. LBH seeks to fix 'things' in the spatiotemporal dimensions and abstractly reflect on them afterwards, while RBH seeks to experience the living dynamisms of those dimensions immanently. The RBH reflects to our soul all of our higher imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions, even when we are not consciously aware of this reflective process. For the ancients, the spatial dimensions of height and width was still completely spiritual - all forms and qualities were imbued with spiritual meaning, as dream-like pictures floating in space.
"For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another."
Let's recognize that the polar forces are not strictly "equal" because they are inseparable - rather one (LBH) must always serve the other (RBH); form must always serve Wisdom. That relation of emissary to Master holds true for all polarities of our experience. Just as the individual members serve the body as a Whole, the particular should always serve the Universal; the diversity should always serve the Unity; the lunar, the Solar; the physical, the Spiritual. Service of this sort - the kind which contributes selflessly to the living organism of the Whole - was not always considered as distasteful as the modern soul finds it today. In the first epoch of our current age - the ancient Indian epoch - the image of this humble and sacrificial service was manifested in the 'caste system'. Souls of different spiritual capacities worked together without ego or envy for the benefit of the collective Soul's organism. A person's caste was inherited at that time, rather than voluntarily accepted as it will be in future epochs. The ego did not play any significant role simply because it was not fully developed. The fully developed ego of modern man now forsakes all service to the Whole for a naïve sense of "freedom", and therefore needs to rediscover, via devotional contemplation, the Wisdom of all such service for the Whole. We will be discussing the integral mythic implications of this 'caste system' in a later installment.
"Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear."
- Acts 2:33
For now, we should recognize that none of these cultural developments are arbitrary or isolated from the overall mythological evolution of the Spirit. They were all serving a purpose in the integral process of reconciling the LBH's fragmented forms of the sense-world with the RBH's Wisdom of the spiritual realms. The process of fragmentation itself was a necessary 'emptying' of Spirit into ever-smaller 'things' (kenosis) so that it could eventually be reborn into the voluntary service of the Whole, through the Imaginations, Inspirations, and Intuitions of each individual soul. That is how each soul is exalted by the integral process of theosis; the process of man becoming One with God in the act of knowing. For that to have occurred, however, the soul must have also first passed through the trials and tribulation of the 3rd spatial dimension, when the potential for the fullness of "depth" was seeded in the Center of the fourth epoch. That potential could only be realized by the actuality of the individual ego's tortuous death within the sense-world. All of these integral developments apply to each person's individual soul. The story of our collective mythic-spiritual evolution is not other than the story of our own individual evolution. Each individual soul will undergo all of these metamorphoses over the course of their journey back to the Divine. We are all truly participating in the integral human mythology through every waking and sleeping moment of our lives and after-lives.
Threefold qualitative polarities of this sort are endless, so we should not imagine the labels used above exhaustively represent them all. This new 3rd-dimension of 'Before-behind' conveys the inner meaning of Spiritual-physical. It was also sensed in the fourth epoch that thoughts were now always in the process of dying. The life of the Spirit was always becoming increasingly more material as the days, weeks, months, years, and centuries progressed. What was Spiritual was always becoming more material; what was living was always dying in the time between sunrise and sunset - between physical birth and death - and what was Before the soul was always going behind it. The ancients had a great sense of this qualitative dynamic of the depth-dimension, which is why the mythic beings who preceded before were always considered more Divine than those who were behind them. In the modern age, we have abstracted far away from living experience of "Divine" and "less-Divine" to arrive at the vague, inverted, and qualitatively inert concepts of "past" and "future". It is no coincidence that the 19th-21st century Western mythos became clothed in symbols of cynicism and pessimism. What other outlook could there be when the phenomenal world we perceive around us becomes increasingly less Divine - less intuitive, less inspiring, and less imaginative - and increasingly mired in the cold, dead, and rotting corpses of purely physical thought?
All qualities of our experience should be contemplated in this manner, including our inner thoughts on a daily basis. What we normally perceive in our waking consciousness, during the modern age, are the dead corpses of our thoughts. They began as thoughts with living spiritual energy within our deep sleep but, by the time they are actually reflected back to our waking-conscious ego, they are rotting corpses. It is that qualitative progression from Spirit to matter - Divine to non-divine; Alive to dead - which makes sense of why so much of the world around us, especially within the plant and mineral kingdoms, appears "inanimate" to our senses. Modern man has completely stopped questioning what his senses, which are always interlaced with those deadened thoughts, relay to him. It is assumed that the way we see it is actually the way it is. A single flower is a single flower; a single rock is a single rock. The metaphysical idealist may get creative and say, the single flower is an "idea-flower", and a single rock is an "idea-rock". The ancients prior to the fourth epoch, although naively, knew much better - all of Nature was alive in their vivid dream-like thoughts and therefore in their perceptions as well. That living essence can be recovered by the modern soul by genuine effort and a slight shift in perspective
“Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down... Because of the multiplication of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved."
This 'dark night of the soul' within the fourth and fifth epochs was not without its purpose in the integral progression of spiritual mythology, just as the 'caste system' of the ancient Indian first epoch was not without its own. The 3rd-dimension of abstract space had to unfold and stretch itself across the kingdoms of the Earth before the human soul could rediscover meaning from within itself - within the core of its essential "I" - in the full freedom of higher imaginative, inspired, and intuitive consciousness. Although the seeds of the 3rd-dimensional spatial transformation were already planted in centuries before Christ incarnate, we can get a much better sense of its meaningful qualities by contemplating images from the end of the fourth epoch in the late medieval era. That is when the abstract space's unfolding accelerated to infinite quantities, also reflected in the mathematical developments related to "infinity" in the several centuries following the 14th. Jean Gebser documented many of these images in his magnum opus, The Ever-Present Origin, which, as the title suggests, also illustrated the fourth epoch's 'Centroverted' reflecting essence which gives unceasingly gives birth to the Origin within the present. We can imagine the dimensional transformation in the highly aesthetic scene Gebser painted of Francesco Petrarca's ("Petrarch") ascent of Mount Ventoux in the French Alps (~1300 A.D.).
In contrast to the earlier vaulted sky, the heaven of these frescoes is no longer an enclosure; it is now rendered from. the vantage point of the artist and expresses the incipient perspectivity of a confrontation with space, rather than an unperspectival immersion or inherence in it. Man is henceforth not just in the world but begins to possess it; no longer possessed by heaven, he becomes a conscious possessor—if not of the heavens, at least of the earth. This shift is, of course, a gain as well as a loss.
There is a document extant that unforgettably mirrors this gain and loss, this surrender and beginning; in a few sentences it depicts the struggle of a man caught between two worlds. For his time, his description [of ascent of Mount Ventoux] is an epochal event and signifies no less than the discovery of landscape: the first dawning of an awareness of space that resulted in a fundamental alteration of European man’s attitude in and toward the world.
Mount Ventoux is located to the northeast of Avignon, where the Rhône separates the French Alps from the Cevennes and the principal mountain range of Central France. The mountain is distinguished by clear and serene contours; viewed from Avignon to the south, its ridge slowly and seamlessly ascends against the clear Provençal sky, its southwestern slope sweeping broadly with soft restraint toward the valley. After a downhill sweep of nearly two kilometers, it comes to rest against the sycamore slopes of the Carpentras, which shelter the almond trees from the northern winds.
Here, the Gnostic tradition had encouraged investigation of the world and placed greater emphasis on knowledge than on belief; here, the tradition of the Troubadours, the Cathari, and the Albigensi remained alive. Petrarch’s letter is in the nature of a confession; it is addressed to the Augustinian professor of theology who had taught him to treasure and emulate Augustine’s Confessions. Now, a person makes a confession or an admission only if he believes he has transgressed against something; and it is this vision of space, as extended before him from the mountain top, this vision of space as a reality, and its overwhelming impression, together with his shock and dismay, his bewilderment at his perception and acceptance of the panorama, that are reflected in his letter. It marks him as the first European to step out of the transcendental gilt ground of the Siena masters, the first to emerge from a space dormant in time and soul, into “real” space where he discovers landscape.
- Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin
Gebser placed "real" in quotes because he was referring to the "naïve realism" emerging in the modern sense-world, where the exterior surfaces of 'things' fixed in space were considered to be the totality of what actually exists. That is far from the philosophical realism of the medieval era and the mythic imagery we are exploring. That imagery is there to remind us that, prior to Petrarch, and certainly prior to the fourth epoch, the World Content was experienced as more 'circular' system, always returning to itself in the natural rhythms of Nature (see the 'ouroboros' image of a snake eating its own tail). There was an ever-present interpenetrating polar quality to all experience. These things were experienced by the ancient soul dimly - not in the full Light of conscious awareness - but that impulse to experience the harmonic spiritual relations in full clarity of consciousness is precisely what the Central fourth epoch has planted deep within our souls. It is that impulse which transfigures the 2-dimensional circular 'polarity' and the 3-dimensional spatial infinity into the 4-dimensional ever-ascending spiral which raises above itself and simultaneously views itself as a Whole. Through that impulse, the inner darkness of the intellectual soul is Enlightened and reflected back to its Source. Then it is we who become the reflecting mirrors, sacrificially sending back to the Divine all that was rayed forth to our souls throughout the epochs and incarnations, and thereby manifesting some measure of our future theosis within the present.
"Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light."
These are not absolutely fixed qualities, like the quantities of abstract space, but interpenetrating and relational ones. Due to rigorous scientific research, we know of people who experience 'synesthesia' and perceive colors as sounds, tastes as visual images and textures, and other overlapping and interweaving sensory experiences of that sort. Those people are only acute cases of what we all experience in various circumstances of our lives. There are times when we sense that the quality of 'down' (unconscious) has been flipped and is now 'Up' above by way of introspective knowledge (conscious) which sheds light on unexamined experiences. Or we experience the quality of 'left' (fragmented form) shifting to the 'Right' (integrated Wisdom) by way of careful Thinking activity. Shifting the quality of 'behind' towards the quality of 'Before' is a much more tricky endeavor. Walking backward through space is difficult enough, but moving backwards through Time will seem downright impossible to the abstract intellect (or pictured in the most remotely fanciful ways). In the fourth epoch, the impulse to begin remembering the more ancient Wisdom was made possible by the emergence of inner thought. After that, thoughts which impressed into our soul left an 'after-image', like the eye perceives an after-image of an object after it is seen and disappears from view. That after-image of thought is what we call Memory, and, through the proper experience of Time, the soul can reintegrate its deadened and isolated experience back into the living organism of the Whole.
"With all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance... I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you."
So now we must also internalize these dynamics if we want to understand the essential relations at play in mythic and physical imagery alike - the spatial and temporal dimensions we experience abstractly are, in their essence, mirrored images of the qualities we sense inwardly. That is, those dimensions could not exist as outward perceptual experience until there was also an inner and formless soul-life which projected its qualities into the phenomenal world in the form of those dimensions. Many secrets of ancient mythology will be unlocked when we internalize this fact, since we will understand exactly why the ancient myth-makers experienced those dimensions differently than we do. Then we can 'decode' what spiritual experiences the mythic spatial symbols are pointing us towards, while also seeking a higher perspective on how their spiritual experiences relate to our own. All of these things should be understood so that they help us perceive the world, and ourselves in it, with more qualitative meaning. That is what Owen Barfield meant when he spoke of each individual soul's responsibility to "save the appearances" of this world by reimagining them in the proper spiritual Light. Re-Minding, Re-Imagining, Re-Membering, and Re-Integrating is how each of us can begin that process of Re-Deeming the World Soul right this moment and the next as we continue exploring.
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory."
Towards the end of our exploration of the fourth epoch in Part I, we arrived on the shores of Mount Parnassus with Deukalion, son of Prometheus and Noah, from ancient Greek and Hebrew mythology, in the wake of the great Flood. That was when the spiritual was enveloped in the dark shadows of the collective subconscious so as to obscure its ever-presence within the sense-world. The ancient Indians knew of a being they called "Pramathesis", who was drawing ever closer to humanity as the 'Black Age' of Kaliyuga approached and eventually obscured the spiritual from within the sense-world. Kaliyuga was considered to be the offspring of this being, Pramathesis, who is one and the same as the titan Prometheus of Greek mythology. His offspring, "Kaliyuga", can also be translated as "Kalion" in ancient Greek. When a "d" for "darkness" is added, we get "Deukalion", the son of Prometheus. In Ovid's mythic imagery, Deukalion prepared for the great Deluge with his wife, Pyrrha, and was transmigrated by the Ark to the slopes of Mount Parnassus. They were the last two humans on Earth after the deluge. Was "Pramathesis" the name ancient Indian sages actually used for that Divinity? Can "Kaliyuga" really be translated to the Greek "Kalion" and, if so, why are we allowed to add the "d" for "darkness"?
I am not asking anyone to accept these connections on faith - one can and should investigate them for oneself within the esoteric mythic traditions and see how well they align with our Reason and Imagination. However, what is critical for purposes here is to remember that, whether these occult name-connections exist or not, the underlying imagistic meaning of the connections are undeniably real. It would take a deep failure of the Imagination for us to deny that all of these images - hindsight (Epimetheus-Cain), foresight (Pramathesis-Prometheus-Abel), Black Ages (Kaliyuga-Deluge-Flood), deliverance by Arks (Deukalion-Noah), and many more related images that we find in the ancient traditions - ones common to all the seven cultural epochs we are exploring - emerge from an essential spiritual foundation which gave rise to them all. That is the real point worth remembering as we probe deeper into the integral mythic Space and its dimension of Time. The LBH's abstract intellect wants to fragment and isolate all of these imagistic forms, so it demands that we remain excessively skeptical and cynical about all such meaningful connections between them - no matter how obvious or direct - so the integral Wisdom of the RBH's Imagination must overcome that fragmenting tendency in the process of remembrance.
"Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send... who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."
When the essential spiritual meaning of these images faded from direct consciousness of the human soul in the fourth epoch, now immersed within the sense-world - thrown back upon itself to rediscover, by careful thought, what spiritual truths were earlier revealed to it - those souls who were able to reestablish a concrete connection with the spiritual by way of such thought encoded them within mythology and philosophy to spread that Wisdom while also guarding some of its deeper secrets. It was known within the circles of those initiated into this knowledge that the general state of human consciousness in the the first three epochs of our age, as well as the next two - which culminate in the end of Kaliyuga - was not yet ripe enough to absorb such knowledge and bear fruit; that disperse all such knowledge into the public would do more harm than good. Hence the need for the secrecy which led to what we now know as 'esoteric' and 'occult' Wisdom traditions. It is the initiates who prepared the way for the One to come, along with an even more mysterious group of souls in the 4th epoch - the Hebrew prophets. The Old Testament mythology imagined in scripture, due to its sheer length and detail, as well as its poetic grandeur, gives the most splendid view of the integral spiritual progression, as externally perceived thoughts of the Divine are increasingly internalized within the later prophets. Mircea Eliade, a profound religious historian of the 20th century, documents this phenomena very well.
The pre-exilic prophets never defined what the cult activity of the believer should be. The problem did not even arise so long as the people did not return to Yahweh. The prophets did not pursue the reform of the cult but the transformation of men. It is not until after the fall of Jerusalem that Ezekiel proposes a revised divine office.
Desacralization of nature, devalorization of cult activity, in short, the violent and total rejection of cosmic religiosity, and, above all, the decisive importance attributed to spiritual regeneration of the individual by a definitive return to Yahweh... The “joy in life” that is bound up with every cosmic religion was not only an apostasy, it was illusory, bound to disappear in the imminent national catastrophe. The traditional forms of cosmic religion, i.e., the mystery of fertility, the dialectic solidarity between life and death, henceforth offered only a false security. Indeed, cosmic religion encouraged the illusion that life does not cease to go on and hence that the nation and the state can survive, despite the gravity of historical crises.
The “future” that [the post-exilic prophets] announced was in fact imminent. The prophets never ceased to predict it, in order to change the present by bringing about an inner transformation of the faithful. Their passionate interest in contemporary politics was religious in nature. In fact, the march of events was capable of forcing the sincere conversion of the nation and hence its “salvation,” the only possibility for the survival of Israel in history. Fulfillment of the predictions uttered by the prophets confirmed their message and, particularly, the conception that historical events were the work of Yahweh. In other words, historical events acquired a religious meaning, were transformed into “negative theophanies”, into the “wrath” of Yahweh. In this way they unveiled an inner consistency by proving to be the concrete expression of a single divine will.
- Mircea Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas - Volume 1: From the Stone Age to the Eleusinian Mysteries
A striking image of this progression is provided in the Book of Tobit, which is included in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox canons. It tells of a son (Tobias) who was sent by his father (Tobit) to retrieve ten silver talents around the 10th-8th century B.C. Throughout Tobit's journey, he is guided by a very specific and externalized Divinity - the Archangel Raphael. What is really striking in the narrative image is the way in which Tobias interacts with Raphael, just as he would interact with any other human being he may happen upon in the sense-world. That is the dawn of the fourth epoch when spiritual beings, who are not other than the beings responsible for our highest thoughts, were sensed as external presences in the world. When we get to the later prophets of the Old Testament, there is almost no external presence of Divinities to speak of. All the great spiritual truths of those prophets are expressed from within the depths of their own individual soul. By contemplating this involution of the mythic imagery, we are truly glimpsing the world from those ancient perspectives during the most monumental metamorphoses of the Spirit in the approach to the central Heart of the fourth epoch. We are, in fact, beginning to travel through Time.
"Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
When we move from the book of Tobit to the book of First Kings, we then find the most striking counter-image which helps us imagine the spiritual metamorphosis taking place from the dawn of the fourth epoch to the centuries approaching its Center. The figure of the prophet Elijah is portrayed as a force of Nature. With regards to 'external' Divinities, the most we get from the narrative is that "the word of the Lord came to Elijah". After that, Elijah brings forth prophesied droughts, unlimited flour and oil, revives a breathless child by stretching himself out on the child three times, and ends the previous drought by bringing forth rain. All of these spiritual powers seem to emerge from within his own soul, without any external presence of God or Angels. In referencing the "word" of the Lord, we can already sense the dawning New Testament imagery which deemphasizes the the Hebrew Law, such as dietary commandments, and emphasizes the connection between the One Divine Spirit who acts in the world, human speech arising from within the soul, and spiritual thoughts reaching back up to the Divine. All three of these aspects find their expression in the Logos who is imaged in the very beginning of Saint John's Gospel. In the next installment, we will explore the imagery of the Gospels - four unique lines of spiritual sight on the "Good News" of humanity's entire mythic history and future - as it came to be embodied by One individual Soul.
"In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." - John 1:1-5