The gods

   Now, the energies of nature are present in the outer world, but also inside ourselves, because we are particles of nature.  So when you are meditating on a deity, you are meditating on powers of your own spirit and psyche, and on powers that are also out there.  One finds in practically all the religious traditions of the world (with a few exceptions) that the aim is for the individual to put himself into accord with nature, with his nature, and that’s both physical and psychological health.  These are what in our traditions are called the nature religions, and the deities are not final terms; they are references to spiritual energies.  So when mythology is properly understood, the object that is revered and venerated is not a final term; the object venerated is a personification of an energy that dwells within the individual, and the reference of mythology has two modes – that of consciousness and that of the spiritual potentials within the individual.  

   If a mythology doesn’t have that accent, what’s it all about?  The way to misunderstand mythology is to think that the image is the final term.  And of course this is one of the problems in what we call the monotheistic systems.  God is not transparent – he’s a final term.  And when the deity is a final term and is not transparent to transcendence, then the worshipper is the final term also and is not transparent to transcendence, and what you have then is a religion of a relationship of the individual to the god.  But as soon as you open the god and realize that he’s a personification of a power, then you yourself open as another personification and vehicle of that power.  In such a system, you can have such a saying as comes from the Chāndogya Upanisad: Tat tvam asi (Thou art that).   That is hereby when the god is closed. 

Caesar, in the sixth chapter of his Gallic Wars, describes the gods of the Celts but gives them Roman names.  This is wonderful: the Romans, and before them the Greeks, could see that the gods of other people were the same gods they worshiped, because those gods are personifications of the energies that shape and maintain the universe.  So Caesar could go into Gaul and say, “He whom you call Cernunnos we call Pluto.”  When Alexander the Great went into India, 327 B.C., he recognized Krishna as a counterpart of Herakles and Indra as a counterpart of Zeus.  So there is no missionizing, but rather a wonderful recognition.  But you could not possibly say, “He whom you call Ashur we call Yahweh.”  And why is that?  That’s because for the Celtic tribes, the desert people, the principle divinities were the tribal gods, the patrons of their tribes, and the gods of nature were secondary or nonexistent.  But in the Greek and Roman traditions, the principal deities are the deities that support the universe and the secondary deity is the tribal patron – the one who happens to be the guardian and advisor of a particular race.  These two mythological perspectives are in total contrast.  One is exclusive, the other is what is called syncretic.  So, with the Romans we begin to have a combination of classical and Celtic divinities, and they all come from the same Indo-European Bronze Age background.  There’s a wonderful coordination taking place.  TMTT 222

   The Roman Empire was vast and included the whole world of the Near East, North Africa, and Europe.  Alexander had gone through to India.  King Ashoka, the great Buddhist king of the third century B.C., had sent Buddhist missionaries to Cyprus, to Macedon, and to Alexandria.  So Hinduism and the Gnosticism of Buddhism were also operating in the Roman Empire and underlying these symbols, and these people knew about it.  The Roman army included a lot of Persians who were sent up to Britain to defend the borders.  The Danube was another border, and the Roman armies along there included many soldiers from the Orient.  Then, in the fifth century, the Huns from Asia come smashing in with Attila, and they hit the Ostrogoths, who then bump into the Visigoths, and they in turn run into the Sarmatians, and so forth and so on, and the Roman lines cannot hold.  Rome collapses. 

In Mycenae is the great mound known as Agememnon’s Treasury, which was actually a great burial mound.  Now, following the traders’ path across the Mediterranean, we find a similar mound in southwest Spain, and then heading north into Ireland, we find Newgrange, site of another such burial mound, which dates from as early as 3100 B.C.  What I’m trying to bring out here is that the marginal northwest of Europe was, from perhaps 3000 B.C., in immediate connection with the high cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Syria.  That’s the deep ground of our story. 

   The nature rules live in the heart.  The society rules and gods are always “out there.”  But the source of the lyric is in here, in the heart.  And that is the sense of the inward-turned meditation.  There is where the god is that is dictating to you.  There is where the muses live, in your own heart, not out there in some book.  TMD 184

In most mythologies, whether primal or from the high civilizations, deities are personifications of the energies of nature.  The energies are primary, while the deities are secondary. 

Gods are metaphors transparent to transcendence.  And my understanding of the mythological mode is that deities and even people are to be understood in this sense, as metaphors.  It’s a poetic understanding.  It is to be understood in the same sense as Goethe’s words at the end of Faust.   “Alles Vergängliche ist nu rein Gleichnis” (Everything transitory is but a reference”).  The reference is to that which transcends all speech, all vocabularies, and all images.  I think of the more prosaic style of thinking about these references as theological rather than mythological.  In theology, the god is taken as a final term, a kind of supernatural fact.  When the deity is not transparent, when he doesn’t open up like that to the transcendent, he doesn’t open up to the mystery of our own lives.  G 101