«YULE AND NOEL: THE SAGA OF CHRISTMAS Yule and Noel: The Saga of Christmas By Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Ph.D. Get any book for free on: Get any ...»
His possession of the powers symbolized by the bough of spiritual gold alone guaranteed his emergence in safety from this underrealm of fleshly dusk.
35 THE YULE-LOG AND THE MISTLETOE
In much the same broad significance as the pine tree comes the symbolism of the Yule Log. As the log again portrays outdoor nature, its ritual treatment within the house differs only in form from that of the green pine by the brightness of the ornaments. In the case of the log the "fire" is actually produced, as the wooed is placed directly on the hearth and burned. Here the emblemism of being "consumed in the fire" is introduced. All Bible students are familiar with this figure of the lower, coarser elements of man's composition, the dross and the chaff, being cast into the fiery furnace and utterly consumed. This carries the significance here. The log of wood, creation of the natural world, speaks of the natural man with all his gross propensities springing from the carnal nature. Under so many names and figures in the old Scriptures these are to be defeated, routed and slain by the sword of the spirit of God. The "animal" was to be burned upon the foursquare altar of the doubly-dual nature of man. In this world of mingled soul and body fires, flames of pure spiritual consciousness being smudged by lurid flames of the sensual instincts, the mightier potency of the diviner flame conquers in the end and coarse matter is burned out, leaving the flame clear and beauteous. The Egyptians called the body wherein these two fires contend for mastery "the crucible of the great house of flame." Again they denominated the earth, or the earthy body of man, "the Pool of the Double Fire." The chaff is cast into the fiery furnace of earthly passion and consumed. The burning of the Yule log on the hearth in the old days 36 stands as beautiful typism of this great segment of the festival's meaning.
Then there is the strong suggestive symbolism of its being burned on the hearth in the home of humans. It is obvious that the word "hearth" is closely connected with "heart." The hearth well represents in the house the innermost holy of holies of the sacred temple of religion. It is in the deepest mind and soul of the human that this conversion of the lower elements of his nature into the all-consuming fire of redeeming love takes place. The hearth of old times was the center and, so to say, the altar of the family life. Fitting and impressive it is, then, that the Yule log be laid upon the hearth and in the very heart of the home be lighted up and transformed into the type of spiritual and deific essence.
High up on the great oak grew the mistletoe, so uniquely employed by the Druids--whose name is derived from the Greek word meaning "oak"--as a symbol of the divine elevation of the soul in man. Its semantic import stems from the fact that it is a parasite and grows aloft on the branches of its host. Of most pertinent significance it is that it does not draw its sustenance directly from the earth, but secondarily lives upon a growth that does extract its strength and nutriment of energy transmuted from earthly elements, in combination with the vital essences it can abstract from the air, the sun and the rain.
From these basic data the plant becomes an apt figure of the Christos. For the Christ-self grows high up on the tree of the natural life, and likewise must draw its sustenance from what the nature-growth has drawn up from earth and converted into forms of nourishment for its rootage and support. This phase of the imagery will glow more brilliantly in the light of the candle symbol. But it shines out clearly here as well. The Christ nature can not evolve and blossom to mature loveliness unless sustained from below by the products of the life of the physical organism. It is, in a strictly symbolic sense also a parasite, living on the physical body of its host.
The divine plan countenances this interdependence of host and guest on the successive planes of nature. A lower material organism must play host to a higher life energy, while the latter on its part ensouls the form that sustains it in the dual relationship.
The idea of lovers kissing under the mistletoe sprig accentuates the conception that the birth of the Christ follows upon the union of the two lovers in man's nature, the spirit-soul and the bodysoul. The mistletoe suggests the Christ, born high up on the evolutionary tree of life, subsisting upon that tree's natural elements, and generated by the union of the "female" physical components of the tree's life derived from the soil with the "male" spiritual principles of the air and the sun. On our planet there is no life generable without the union of these four elements.
The mistletoe symbolizes this union of the human and divine, or male and female, elements, the "kissing" or commingling of which bring the Christ to his birth.
A Nordic custom of the Christmas celebration that has fallen into desuetude was that of sprinkling wheat on the doorstep outside the house or upon the hearth inside, or of parching wheat in the fire of the Yule log. It should need no dissertation to elucidate the significance of
wheat and its edible product, bread, in religious literature. John, Paul, the Christ figure himself and many another allegorist of the spiritual life have made wheat and bread the great central symbol of the divine soul in man. "This is that bread which came down from heaven, that if a man eat of it he shall hunger no more." The Christos says that his (spiritual) body is the bread of life, broken into pieces that all may eat of it, and that all who will eat of it shall have eternal life.
But the allegorical genius of the ancients pictured the unground and unbaked grain as the "raw" or undeveloped germ of future Christhood, the seed of divinity that had to undergo planting in the soil of human nature, initial "death" in that dark underworld, then germination, growth and eventual ripening of its manifold harvest in the perfected product. This process wrote the history of the youthful Sons of God as they first descended into incarnation, being planted in the ground of human life, "dying" as divinities to be reborn as men, regaining their Paradise through growth and evolution, and returning to the Father's house as victors over the world and the power of matter. These pure "virgin souls" (for they were named in India Kumaras, meaning "virgin youths," "celibate young men," since they were children of God, born of his eternal mind, not yet ever wedded to material bodies and now in their first descent into bodily life) were likened to the raw 39 wheat grain, needing to be ground, mealed, baked and made nourishing for man. So St. Paul says: "And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body which shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body." This is to remind us that God does not plant in our nature the full-grown tree of the Christ consciousness, but only its seed potential. Failure to recognize this true element in religious ideology has led to untold fanaticism and dementia.
This "bare grain" of inexperienced and undeveloped divinity is to suffer maceration, to be refined, then mixed with "water," then baked and finally eaten by man for his eternal nutriment.
Have we sufficient analogical skill to see that the grinding, the milling, the flouring of the raw grain is just the breaking up of the unity of Christhood on its own high level, as it is fragmented in its division and partition amongst the bodies of mortals, and its crushing between the good and evil of the rough human experience undergone in its life as the ensouling principle in mortal bodies? The Christ himself in the drama says that we must eat his "body which is broken for you."
In the apocryphal Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans there is found one of the most striking analogical depictions of this process in all Christian literature, in the passage in which the soul, speaking, says: "For I am the wheat of God; and I shall be ground between the teeth of the wild beasts that I may be found the pure bread of Christ." Ground between the teeth of the wild animals indeed is its fate, for the allegory refers to these animal bodies of ours within whose constitution it makes its earthly sojourn. The bare wheat grain is the descending virgin soul of divinity; the animals are these 40
bodies of ours; the grinding is the crushing and bruising between the upper and the nether millstone of our dual nature; the water that cements the flour into cake form is the watery nature of the body; the fire that bakes the cakes is the double fire of heavenly flames of love and the murky flares of the "earthly, sensual, devilish" lower self that rage within us; and the "pure bread of Christ" is the finally perfected and fully nourishing cake of the divine soul glorified. God plants the wheat grains of his generated children in the soil of humanity, and looks to see the milling and the cake-baking take place in the "crucible of the great house of flame." The Egyptian Book of the Dead tells of the soul being "moistened with water and roasted with fire in the underworld." And the underworld, let mystified scholars be enlightened at last, is this world of ours.
A shorter symbol, or analogue, that quite well carried the same broad meaning was the parching of the raw wheat grains. Parched wheat is itself a tasty and nutritious edible. So that to scatter wheat about the door, or to parch it on the hearth, especially in the flames of the Yule log, was to dramatize faithfully the purifying and divinizing experience of the soul in the progress of its development of the Christ nature through life in the flesh.
41 THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW
And the candle with its encircling halo of mystical radiance--what is its message of beauty and significance? More wonderfully even than the pine tree and the Yule hearth-fire and the holly does this enlightening symbol of the Christ-birth announce its meaning for the intelligence of thinking man. Here is the flame that connotes the fire of deific being in the mortal constitution. It is attached to and holds its connection with the body of animal tallow by means of the wick, tipped by flame at its top, but immersed deeply in a body of animal derivation below. The wick corresponds to the animal soul, or psyche, which in the human organism is the connecting principle between spirit-soul and physical body. Then there is the solid body of oil-rich material from the animal world. The candle thus constitutes an almost exact reduplication of the organization of the three bodies in man.
The power of spirit, represented by the flame, is imparted to the wick by the energies of intelligence in an order of conscious being far transcending the physical world. From the wick it is brought into relation with the tallow, typifying the lower world. In the meeting of these two, flame and tallow, takes place the physical-chemical operation that should speak in voluble tones to the mystical sense of mankind. By the power inherent in its nature the flame is able to act upon the tallow so as to change its state from solid to liquid, then from liquid to gaseous, and in this form convert it, transmute it, into the essence of its own magically powerful nature. Thus it continues to feed upon the strength of the elements below it in the structure and so perpetuates its existence in the manifest world.
42 The parallel with man's life is perfect. The flame of divine spirit at the summit of his nature communicates itself through the intermediary wick of the human-animal soul to the elements of the animal-body itself. These it continues to refine and sublimate through its efficacious contact Get any book for free on: www.Abika.com 23
YULE AND NOEL: THE SAGA OF CHRISTMASwith their more sluggish nature, until in the end it converts them "into the likeness of its own glorious body," as St. Paul phrases it. It is the fire of divinity within us that, while drawing its own nourishment and prolonging its own existence in the body by feeding upon the lower elements of the physical, is at the same time lifting that body into its upper kingdom by its power of transubstantiation, a mystery that must be thought of in the terms of a spiritual alchemy. The flame of spirit-soul feeds upon the subordinate elements of man the natural, the while it converts them into the similitude of its own transcendent life. Such is the grandiloquent message of the Christmas candle in the window or above the altar, proclaiming silently, but beautifully the birth of the Christos.
The philosophical moral of this elucidation is all too likely to be missed by those "spiritual" cultists of the present day who most need to be impressed with what the wondrous analogue has to teach them in correction of their overweening laudation of "spirit" and corresponding derogation of "matter." One who has ever deeply reflected on the candle flame as he sees it replenished, refueled by the contribution of baser matter to its maintenance can never again join the blatant chorus of philosophical condemnation of matter. Without matter to feed its life, spirit could not for a moment maintain its connection with living experience in the world, and its own evolution would be at a standstill. All too much of unschooled philosophy has berated matter, decried spirit's alliance with it and characterized the 43 soul's relation to it as its sin and fall into degradation. Orthodox theology has tainted its systematism with the same allegation of the "fall" into matter and generation.
But all this is simply an unbalanced and unintelligent mishandling of subtle elements of the old cosmic dramas. Soul's linkage with matter in incarnation is the natural and wholly salutary and beneficent planting of a seed in its proper soil. Without the union of seed and soil there can be no new growth. The human body and its sensuous life provide the fertile soil; the unit of soul consciousness is the divine seed. Spirit must be able to relate itself to matter so as to be able to draw upon the sustaining power of the energy in the atom if it is to establish itself anew in a cycle of growth.