Prof. Allan Anderson, of San Diego State University, once advised his students to “begin building a world for yourself from the inside out.” The word ‘world’ is often used to translate the Greek kosmos, and refers to the world as it appears to our senses, with a dome overhead and a horizon around us. Ignorant people unaware of this meaning of the word think that scriptural references to the roundness of the world prove that ancient peoples knew the planet earth to be round. Until classical times, the concept of the earth as a planet was nonexistent.
When we use the ancient concept of a cosmos, therefore, we should understand it in the terms in which it was anciently understood. Our present expanding astronomical knowledge of billions of galaxies lying at unimaginable distances, besides terrifying the ancients, would have seemed to them irrelevant, since the cosmos is a home in which we all live. It contains the sun and moon, wandering stars called planets (‘wanderers’), and fixed stars, with occasional interlopers like comets and meteorites. There is earth under our feet and sea roundabout. Day follows night and the seasons revolve predictably. All of this goes to make our cosmic home. We can relate to this cosmic home without denying the wider and deeper knowledge provided by science. Both concepts have their uses.
Theories of creation from antiquity (including, when it is honestly translated, the account in the first chapter of Genesis) aver that our cosmic home was put back together from a ruined state, and it was expected, in at least the writings of the Hindus, Egyptians and Norse, that it would eventually founder and re-enter the ruined state. The ruined state was called chaos, and it is a deliberate mistranslation of Genesis 1:2 to think of chaos as a void. The word tohu in Hebrew means a desolation, as readily illustrated in Mesopotamia by the numerous mounds that once were cities, even in the earliest times, but were left standing isolated in the desert by the shifting of the Euphrates. 1
The oldest accounts of this cycle of creation and destruction make it occur endlessly. It was the Persians, as instructed by Zoroaster, who flattened out the cycles into one cycle only. In so doing they invented history, but lost the ancient sense of involvement in an eternal succession of cycles. 2
As regards life on land, it began on the supercontinent of Rodinia, between 1.1 billion and 750 million years ago, with the development of the ozone layer. The ozone layer provides a protective shield (except over Antarctica in the wintertime, at least recently) against ultraviolet radiation. Before the appearance of the ozone layer, life was possible only in the sea. 3
This illustrates the primary act necessary in creating a cosmos. A boundary must be established which keeps out energies which are too volatile and powerful for the entities living within the boundary. Building boundaries is how the gods fashioned our cosmic home, and it is how we must go about building our outer and inner homes. Homes that break up due to the alcoholism of one of the residents illustrate how the energy swings of alcohol are too volatile for the needs of an outer home; families require energies which are stabler and more peaceful. The same is true of the personalities of residents in the family home; the terrible spectacle of the disintegration of a personality due to alcoholism or drug addiction illustrates the same principle of any sort of home anywhere: the principle of limitation.
Limitation is an unpopular term in the New Age. There are many gurus and mouthpieces of ascended masters, and so forth, who teach people to eschew the idea of limitation and lay claim to their birthright of unlimited abundance. 4 But without limitation there is nothing. Consider games. The ancient Egyptian game of Senet was popular for so long in that culture that no one troubled to write down the rules. We have a number of beautiful Senet boards and pieces, as well as stick dice, but we can only play with them; we cannot play Senet, for Senet consisted of the rules of the game, and these are lost.
I can make each day into a day-cosmos, but only if I compose a list of rules to follow, involving things to do and things to avoid doing. If I follow the list, my day will be a cosmos. To the extent that I welch on the rules, my day-cosmos will be invaded by chaos.
If I make rules for myself and follow them consistently, I shall be building my inner home. The rules would include excluding those energies, and whatever bears them, which are too volatile or unsettling, and including those energies and their bearers which have proven edifying. This is what Prof. Anderson meant by building a world for oneself “from the inside out.”
The inner home is reflected in the outer home, the sacred household. This is what Anderson meant by ‘out’ in his advice. The inner home grows outward, into the outer home. The outer home consists of a threshold, a hearth, and a pillar, among other things.
Our eyes are the threshold of our inner home, as our ears are the windows. Establishing a shrine to the threshold guardian (in Roman terms, Janus) on a small shelf next to or near the front door will ensure harmonious energy in the outer home, but only if we first establish our inner home’s threshold guardian. Above the shelf a mask is hung, the face of Janus or another appropriate deity. This face is conceived as a head penetrating the wall, with another face looking outside. The ritual to Janus, used both to establish and reinforce his presence, could run thus:
Honor and thanks to you, O Janus,
For guarding the theshold of my home.
May only harmonious beings enter here,
And may the discordant depart!
Open this week (month, year, etc.) for me on blessings,
And teach me to look out and in at once, as you do,
Thus guarding the threshold of my inner home;
For I, too, am a threshold guardian.
Looking out and in at once means perceiving one’s surroundings while observing one’s inner thoughts and feelings. We may think we do that already, but a little inspection will reveal that we generally alternate between the two. If we do both together, we shall sense that we are looking out from under an arch, the parts of the head which can be seen without a mirror or other reflecting surface. The arch was a sacred structure in ancient Italic religion. 5 Because the arch is open in front and back, one retains an active sense of what is occurring behind one’s observation point. Spirits dwell there.
The deity in the Sun is the threshold guardian of our cosmic home, looking out on interstellar space, while looking inward on his or her children in the solar system. That the Sun is, or contains, a guardian can be read in the tablets of both the Mesopotamians and the Hittites. 6
An anthropologist among the Ainu of south Sakhalin Island (transplanted to Japan after WWII) was instructed by them to perceive in this way. They pointed out that she did not do so as yet, as evinced by the fact that she was easily startled. 7 They warned her that in such moments of being startled, she was vulnerable to the ingress of hostile spirits. This, then, is a good test of whether or not we have established our inner threshold guardian. Once we are calm and not easily startled, we can project that calm bi-directional perception into the idol face hanging above our front-door shrine.
If we are so fortunate as to have a fireplace or something resembling a hearth, it is all the easier to establish a hearth shrine. The hearth corresponds to the heart, but the heart as anciently conceived, the center of thought and feeling. The goddess of the hearth (Hestia for the Greeks, Vesta for the Romans, Gabija for the ancient Balts, Brighid for the Celts) lives in the fire ignited there, at the very least in a candle. She is the life of the outer home and provides, besides heat and light, connection with the ancestors and deities in general. Offerings are made to her, some of which she is asked to pass on to the ancestors and the gods. Prayers to the gods can be made through her. 8
When the psychologist C.G. Jung visited the Pueblo Indians in the American Southwest, he had a conversation with the chief Ochwiay Biano (Mountain Lake), who astonished him by saying “The white man’s eyes are always restless. He is always looking for something. We think he is mad.”
“Why do you think we are mad?” Jung asked.
“You say you think with your heads,” the chief replied.
“Why of course. What do you think with?”
“We think here,” he said, indicating his chest, or, possibly, his solar plexus. 9
When we have established our Janus perception and acquired a sense of standing in an archway, keeping in view our apparent headlessness, 10 we can understand Ochwiay Biano’s statement; for the nearest part of our body in clear view will be the chest area. Our conditioning to ignore our headlessness, which makes us look out and in alternately, creates an identification with our heads as the location of our mental activity. This identification is not the same as the anatomical brain. It is an abstract mental construct which replaces the continual perception of our headlessness, of our arch atop the solar plexus.
When we deal with the world from a sense of location in the chest, we shall have engaged our inner hearth, and from that we can honor and offer to the Hearth Guardian, and, through her, to the ancestors and gods.
The ancestors are contacted through memory. For a while this is just ordinary memory, but little by little we begin to recover the actual flavor of events in the past, their atmosphere when we lived them. Then we feel an unusual vigor in our hearts (or thereabouts). In Ifé or West African religion, it was considered important to contact the ancestors and draw strength from them. If we drag through the days carrying a weight of depression, we are simply depleted of this energy we can receive from the ancestors. There is a lovely film about drawing strength from the ancestors, called “Daughters of the Dust.” 11
A cosmos, then, exists on many levels, like the nested babushkas 12 from Russian folk art, one inside another. Whatever is capable of evolving contains an inner cosmic home. 13 The outer home, our sacred household, works like an electrical transformer, stepping up the voltage of our prayers and offerings and stepping down the responses from the gods and demigods in our cosmic home. Naturally we don’t expect our physical home to evolve, but as the sacred household it provides a meeting-place for its inhabitants with cosmic energies promoting their evolution.
In ancient times many homes contained a pillar, generally next to the centrally-located hearth and thus almost directly under the smoke-hole in the roof. The master of the house had his chair next to the pillar, and in Lapp homes before conversion, he grasped an iron nail driven into the pillar at shoulder height so he could feel the power of Thorr in the storm. 14
The pillar of the outer home corresponds to the spine of the inner home, or, rather, the astral structures that lie along the spine. These are described in yoga as a central channel called the sushumna, around which coil two smaller channels called the ida and pingala. Where the three come together are power centers called chakras. These are variously described as wheels or lotuses, and serve as portals to other dimensions within the cosmic home. Many other cultures describe similar structures (for instance, the Hopis), 15 though they may differ as to the number of centers. For the Norse, the corresponding structure in the cosmic home was the World Ash Tree, called Yggdrasil or Othin’s steed (Ygg was one of Othin’s many names), and nine worlds ranged along it.
Where is this World Tree? If the cosmos looks different depending on which dimension of it is being viewed, the tree itself could stand for the sequential possibility of different states of consciousness. The middle power center is the one explored by science, on the large scale by the science of astronomy.
The pillar of the outer home, whether it is physically present or not, stands for the spiritual aspiration of the residents of the home. All should be committed to their individual paths to enlightenment or evolution, though no two residents, perhaps, will use the same form of meditation or askesis in its pursuit. The place where I meditate is in front of my pillar, and as I meditate I move up and down my own inner pillar.
The description of a family collectively dedicated to spiritual growth can be read in Lizelle Reymond’s charming autobiographical sketch, My Life with a Brahmin Family. 16 In the case of the Craft, the coven is such a family, even though the coveners live under separate roofs.
And when the coveners come together in the circle, they share their inner homes, casting the circle as an outer threshold. They invoke the Lady as their hearth guardian, and reaching through her and the Lad to their ancestors, each down his or her inner pillar, together they raise the Cone of Power.
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Works cited, other than internet addresses:
Dash, Julie, Daughters of the Dust (film), Kino Video, 1991.
Davidson, Hilda Ellis, The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe, New York, Barnes &
Harding, Douglas Edison, On Having No Head, London and New York, 1981.
Jung, Carl Gustav, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, New York, Random House,
Le Guin, Ursula, Lavinia, Orlando et al., Harcourt, Inc., 2008.
Ohnuka-Tierney, Emiko, Ainu of the Northwest Coast of Southern Sakhalin,
Long Grove, IL, Waveland Press, 1984.
Ouspensky, Peter Demianovich, The Fourth Way, New York, Random House,
Reymond, Lizelle, My Life with a Brahmin Family, Baltimore, Penguin, 1958.
Trinkunas, Jonas, ed. Of Gods and Holidays, Vilnius, Tvermé, 1999.
Waters, Frank, Book of the Hopi, New York, Penguin, 1963.
1 See Wikipedia article on tohu bohu, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tohu_wa-bohu.
2 There are cycles in Zoroastrianism, but they come to an end at the day of judgment.
4 See for instance the Unlimited Abundance program, http://www.unlimitedabundance.com/#sthash.HJllAVtR.dpbs.
5 See for instance the recent novel Lavinia, by Ursula le Guin.
6 The Norse warrior god and guardian of justice Tyr, or Tiwaz, was the Luwian name for the Hattic Sun god Ishtanu. Luwia was an important part of the Hittite confederacy. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hittite_mythology.
7 See the study Ainu of the Northwest Coast of Southern Sakhalin, by E.O. Tierney.
8 For Gabija, see Of Gods and Holidays, ed. by Jonas Trinkunas.
9 Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp. 247-8.
10 See On Having No Head, by D.E. Harding.
11 An independent film directed by Julie Dash, 1991.
12 As generally misnamed. They are more correctly called matryoshka dolls.
13 See Ouspensky, P.D., The Fourth Way, p. 187.
14 See The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe, by Hilda Ellis Davidson, p. 83.
15 See Waters, Frank, Book of the Hopi, pp. 222-3.
16 Reymond, Lizelle, My Life with a Brahmin Family. See bibliography.