Saturday, 1 August 2015

Stories from long ago

Cu chulain and his chariot


It is most odd reading the Norse myths while in Singapore. There could not be two more contrasting circumstances. I am reading four versions of the Norse myths, an anthroposophical explanation of them, and i am also reading the Ulster and Finn cycle, as well as Beowulf. All in the same ballpark area of myth and time as the Norse myths.

The Norse myths were probably conceived in that same dreamy time as many of the other mythic cycles. They do not have that same incredible quantum depth of the Hindu mythological cycles, sort of Greek like, but more fragmented. They, in fact, sound a lot like snippets of shamanic dreamings and folk wisdom as well as fireside tales all rolled into one. They are also very changeable. One myth you'd be reading sounds like something out of Genesis, then they next one sounds like something out of a Greek drama. One story could be a list of laws and home spun sayings, another a rip roaring fireside tale. 

To read them and then the literature of the British Isles - the Ulster and Finn cycle, and Beowulf, is really interesting. There are similar values, similar ways of looking at the world, similar ways of regarding nature. There is a great emphasis on warriorhood. And as i have been trying to interpret the Norse myths, they are also metaphors, all of them, of the human condition. None of them is just a story. They have at least two other layers to them, which is why they are so enduring. Which is why they speak so deeply to us. There is a tremendous connection to this past - as well as a future - for instance, in Ragnarok, the god Balder will rise and there will be a new Earth. Like a new Jerusalem. There is redemption in this. In the death of the warriors of the Other World, in the Ulster cycle, they make way for the Ireland we have now. Ireland is so ridiculously lucky having preserved so much of this literature from dream time. You can feel how much the past and the future are connected in the present. This is a kind of protection, a psychic protection which is like a spell, woven in the past to protect the Irish now. Honestly, i am not making it up. When i read these myths, when i read these stories, i can feel how much of a gift these stories, which are so pure in that they come straight from a time of unconsciousness, are sustaining the soul of Ireland today. It is in Class Four i think that the power of the story really comes into its own.

Cu Chulain is a sort of Thor figure in Irish mythology. In Norse mythology Thor represents the Egoic Body (according to the anthroposohic interpretation of the myth.) I am comfortable with this interpretation of Thor. Cu Chulain is not all god though - he is part human - and so he really is a study of the ego trying to incarnate into us. In this sense Cu Chulain is everyman. His struggles are our struggles. This is why he is so enduring. Not because he is superhuman, but because he embodies the strength which is required by anyone in order to work from our highest self. It is superhard to work from the highest self and the description of Cu Chulain's strength speaks to us of the effort which is needed to do this. Most touchingly is the final battle he has with the three witches which use spell, or mind games, to drive him insane. Who has never been in that place? that dark place of paranoia and fear, that place which makes us doubt everything and trust no one? It is really in that final story, when he dies, that it is clearly shown that in addition to being this wonderful adventure of a life his hero has had, it is nothing less than a metaphor, the tale of our own struggle in this life. Ulster, this very very special mythic place in Ireland - the Northmost edge of this mythical land. I am so filled with awe and respect for the land once again.

So inevitably, i wonder what is the mythic story we could have for this part of the world. Around the same time, from the same mythic consciousness, emerges the Sejarah Melayu. With the same super human struggles and the same dreamy awakefulness. I must really read that again. I have read bits of it, but i do think that this holds part of the key to creating my own connection to this island. Another island.

Back to Cu Chulain. There is really no other way to read the stories - i find that this kind of reading is like reading an orchestral score. You maybe reading one name, one action, one line, but really several interpretations are playing in its place. The Tain is not just a story about a cattle raid. It is also the story of this play between the active and passive principle in us. The yin and yang. It is also the battle of the male and female, outwardly. It is the story of the provinces. It is a story about loyalties and courage. It is a story about practicality and expedience. Ideals and principles. It is a story that gives us hope. A story which illustrates folly. It is fantastic. Each sentence in it is wrapped up in a million million threads - so deep that it clearly came from beyond a human consciousness.

So i continue reading and preparing for class. I find it hard to keep connected to the world around me in Singapore. It seems to irrelevant, so only of itself. There is a flatness which comes from the over materialisation of the external world. It has also ossified the inner world here - and i think that is what i object to so much. It does not breathe. 

I think it is time for me to return to the Sejarah Melayu and redeem my experience here. My connection here. I need to do this for myself, i really do.

No comments: