Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pagan Blog Project: C is for Cosmology (Part 1 - The Triple World Model)

Disclaimer: This post is not scholarly-minded. This is my personal system's cosmology and as such it is not found in any particular book or source (although it is obviously inspired and influenced by many different things).

NeoHellenic Witchcraft has a specific religious cosmology that acts as a theological foundation upon which the spiritual meaning and drive of its ritual and liturgy rest.
This religious cosmology is manifold in its aspects and not thoroughly explored or defined. In other words, I have not – yet – recorded all of my theories and beliefs even though I do make use of rituals that hinge, spiritually, even on some of the unexplored parts.

Currently, I recognise two main aspects of this cosmology: the Triple World model and the Hierarchy of Beings. The former deals with “physical religious cosmology”, i.e. the division of the layers of existence (the various worlds and realms), although it is symbolic rather than literal or even mythical. The latter deals with the “cosmology of being”, i.e. the division of the various entities and beings of existence (ranks, groupings etc). This, too, is more symbolic than literal. Both, however, have practical applications in ritual and spirit-work.

Before I define the Triple World model, I need to provide a bit of context and introductory information on my philosophical theories regarding existence, the world and the universe. This will mostly take the guise of brief definitions (which will be added, in the future, to my blog’s glossary). Note that certain terms might be used differently in here compared to common vernacular or scientific terminology.

Existence: The entirety of All-That-Is. Everything that ever was, is and will be, including time itself. Every concept, object, being or idea, physical, spiritual or mental.

The One: The state of existence prior to the Big Bang. The Great Monad, the First-And-Only, the amalgamation of All-That-Is in complete, homogenous and perfect union. The Cradle of Potential and the eternal, underlying state of Being (here meaning “existing” as in the verb “to be”).

The Great Division: The multi-dimensional and multi-layered process that is known as the Big Bang in scientific cosmology. The process of transformation of the One, the changing of the Great Monad into the Many, the Great Crowd – Singularity becoming Plurality.

The Many: The current state of existence (post-Big Bang). The Great Crowd or Great Plurality, the Ever-changing and Ever-progressing Cosmos in infinite, coherent and co-dependent unity.  A Sum rather than a Monad. The realisation of potentials and the eternal, experiential state of Being.

Universe: the entirety of the physical realm – all of space and time, from the tiniest subatomic particle to the greatest galactic supercluster.

Cosmos: all realms, physical and spiritual. All worlds and layers of existence, including the universe.

Realms: The various dimensions or layers of existence such as the physical realm, astral realm, specific dimensions like the realm of Hades, Olympus etc.

World: A synonym for realms, although sometimes taken to mean more fully developed and independent dimensions. Often also means clusters or groups of realms.

Now that the main cosmological terms have been defined, the Triple World model can be presented.

In the Triple World model, the entire Cosmos is divided, as the term suggests, in three types of groups of realms. These are called the Upper World (or Upper Regions), the Middle World (or Middle Regions) and the Lower World (or Lower Regions). The spatial modifiers are allegoric. An important thing to remember is that the Triple World model is a form of categorisation for the sake of philosophical simplicity and organisation, not an attempt at a cosmological and religious “theory of everything”. It intends to simplify the exploration of cosmological subjects so that others can understand how I perceive such matters. Therefore, it is not theologically applicable or (mis-)appropriative of any religion’s cosmology neither an attempt at homogenising – superficially – the cosmological tenets and realms of any religious system.

The Upper World is an allegoric grouping of all realms that share characteristics of being “heavenly” or “celestial”, “godly” and “transcendent”. Realms such as Olympus, the place of residence of many Hellenic deities, the Christian Heaven and the Platonic “world of ideas” are all of the “Upper World” type.

The Middle World is an allegoric grouping of all realms that are connected to or associated with the physical realm (in other words, the physical universe where we reside in). Realms such as the astral realm, the Otherworld(s) of folk belief systems, the spiritual concept of the “Veil (between/of) the Worlds” or the pocket realms of regional spirits and minor deities of places are all examples of “Middle World” types of realms.

The Lower World is an allegoric grouping of all realms that deal with the dead, fallen entities or rest and liminal transformation (such as many types of initiations, deep trance spirit-work, the process or “afterlife” between incarnations etc). Realms such as Hades, Tartaros, Hell or the kabbalistic Abyss are all examples of “Lower World” types of realms.

As I mentioned earlier, the Triple World model has practical (i.e. liturgical) applications as well as philosophical ones. Philosophically, it allows for an organisation of cosmology (the categorisation of realms into types or groupings for simplicity). Liturgically, it echoes the mystical symbolism and power of the number 3, especially in the way that number is expressed in Hekate’s triple form and nature as a liminal Goddess of the Crossroads. The Triple World model mirrors the three domains of Hekate, the Triad of Hekate’s Seal, the three faces of Hekate, the three Crafts of NeoHellenic Witchcraft, the three milestones of a human soul’s journey (birth, death, rebirth), the three main rites of passage (birth, initiation*, death) and countless other things.

The archetypal qualities and attributes of the Three Worlds can be accessed and utilised in ritual, especially in initiatory and other mystery rites as well as rites of journeying and trans-dimensional spirit-work (i.e. spirit-work that deals with multiple realms).

In ritual symbolism, the Triple World model is represented by the Sigillum Axis Mundi, the Seal of the World Axis. The Axis Mundi, also known as the World Tree – another significant and multicultural symbol –, is central to the Triple World model, symbolising the embodied authority of Hekate, the Anima Mundi (World Soul), over the Three World as well as the allegorical ladder or gateway that Hekate’s followers can utilise for their spiritual and mystical work in the many realms.

Just like the Three Worlds correspond to many things, including three of the main ritual tools of NeoHellenic Witchcraft (the Triad of Hekate’s Seal), the Axis Mundi also corresponds to a great many things, some symbolic, other mythical and yet other practical. Ritually, it is connected to the Minor Anima Mundi, the Torch of Hekate, which is one of the main tools of NeoHellenic Witchcraft and lies in the centre of Hekate’s Seal. It also corresponds to the Hermetic Rod, a wand-type tool associated with Hermes, his kerykeion and Wind (both the classical element of Wind and the Wind Gods [Theoi Anemoi]). The Hermetic Rod is heavily connected to the spiritual and liturgical concepts of movement, travel and progress, reflecting the World Tree’s role (among others) as a gateway and road between the many worlds.

The World Tree’s three levels of “branches”, “trunk” and “roots” also correspond to the Upper, Middle and Lower Worlds respectively. In the physical renderings of the Sigillum Axis Mundi, the symbolic markings of the Three Worlds are drawn on these respective levels.

Next time, we will explore the “Hierarchy of Beings”.

*Initiation: Including but not limited to spiritual and ritual/religious initiations as well as any other major transformative events and progresses in one’s life (such as marriage) excluding physical birth and death. Rituals and events that are also called rites of passage (such as cultural observances of the progression into adulthood) fall under “initiation” in this case.