I recently watched Survive the Jive’s YouTube video about the Norse god, Odin (also known as Wotan, Woden, Wotanaz in other Northern European cultures). As per usual with Tom of Survive the Jive, the video inspired some thoughts.
I mainly here wish to focus on the threefold aspects of Odin, and their correspondence with the classical threefold metaphysical order of life.
We can understand this threefold order as the three planes a human being needs to engage with/activate within themselves to fully awaken and fully live:
the physical plane,
and the transcendent plane.
Naturally, this presentation will also reflect on some aspects of the number three itself.
We’ll then explore how this threefold understanding of existence relates to the practice of “sacrificing oneself to oneself,” and how this notion can guide us throughout the ages.
I’ll begin my discussion with the latter part of Tom’s video (roughly the final ten minutes, starting at the 20 minute mark):
The Three Forms of Odin and The Aspects of Life They Correspond To
To review, Tom discussed the god Odin in his three forms. The translations of old terms present Odin in the following manners:
Tom explains that when referring to Odin the high, he’s often represented as the wise wanderer, the archetype reflected in literary characters like Merlin and Gandalf. We see a mature and realized person.
Tom states that “any man can be Odin in his first, physical form.”
Odin the high seizes the runes in Norse myth, which is to say, seizes esoteric knowledge, wisdom.
Yet Odin in his high form still exists as a human, just one who has gained the wisdom born of experience.
Hence his representation in this form as an old man, having accrued and integrated the insights and lessons derived from his decades lived. Representations of this Odin as the high have also included brave and victorious warrior leaders.
We exist as humans most obviously and grossly on the physical level. So Odin the high presents the high standard of a developed, well-balanced man. A person of great deeds and great wisdom.
As an aside, I did not set out to use this presentation to comment on Marxism, but it occurred to me: perhaps an aspect of Marxism can be viewed as an abomination because it tries to only view life from the physical level, instead of addressing life holistically. More on this below.
To continue with Odin’s second form, the as high:
Tom uses the word “spirit” to describe this level/aspect the god represents, but in this context we can say “psyche” or “mind” as well.
Remember, metaphysical concepts are key, the words sometimes overlap depending on author or speaker.
The as high level is incorporeal, here indicating the energy of life, the inspiration behind art and poetry. Tom says the names of Odin here often translate to “fury,” “Mind,” “ecstasy.” I capitalize “Mind” here to denote that a broader understanding of that term that goes beyond solely intellectualizing.
“Ecstasy” translates from Greek into “standing outside oneself.” As such, we begin to realize that our consciousness makes us more than just biological machines, more than just ultra sophisticated apes.
The as high level expresses its nature through both inspired frenzy (battle, artistic creation) and the integrating experiences of true meditation.
Here we encounter the realm of dreams, the realm that mediates between our physical lives and that which we always try to grasp but seems just out of reach–the mysteries that invite us towards that zone lying just outside of our normal perception.
This layer of life that we exist in and interface with as Mind, psyche, inspirations and ideas is sometimes called the collective unconscious.
The word “spirit” in this context would connote the way that the life force moves through a particular individual, like the way an instantly recognizable personality comes through when a great musician plays his instrument.
This also begs the question: does this breath symbol relate to something beyond basic biological functions? Does it, in a deeper way, demonstrate these ancient cultures coming to grips with how they understood what we now call human consciousness?To return to our aside: for all of Marxism’s theorizing about physical life–the struggle for power, and how to fix it–Marxist thinking remains stuck in the intellectual realm, unable to translate its ideals into practice. Again, more on that below.The high and as high— physical and mental/emotional–need each other, play off one another, mix with each other.
The word “as” in as high indicates that these two levels stand on equal footing. Tom notes in his video that indeed the as high mental plane inspires the physical vessel of the human being to go beyond its base needs.
The third level of Odin is the most high, the supreme, King of Gods.
Here we find the transcendent plane, the Source and cause of all life.
There is nothing further it breaks down into, it is irreducible.
In this plane we find the polarities of life pulled up, meeting in the transcendent, absorbing into it, yet simultaneously being created by it.
Total being and total void.
We find the transcendent level represented in varying religions whenever we see God referred to in a way that indicates totality, the pure state of being beyond all form, yet including all form. Author Charles Upton was the first I’d heard relay that, “the unlimited cannot be limited even by its own limitlessness.”
Many religions contain distinctions between forms of God and God’s aspect as this transcendent, ground state of being.
We recognize when a particular experience gives us a glimpse of this transcendent, total reality; we may call such moments and experiences “holy” or “sacred.”
The sensitive atheist/materialist may label experiences that provide glimpses into the transcendent as those eliciting “awe” or “wonder,” such as when contemplating the grand symphony of the cosmos or the joy of a newborn infant.
As noted above, high (physical) and as high (mental/psyche) are the two points that form the base of the triangle. A developing person lets these two aspects mingle and strengthen one another.
But the real magic happens when you look to the apex–the most high, the transcendent–and let that take a hold of you.
To return one more time to the aside on Marxism:
Marxism’s dialectic is a conflict of ideas, but it misses the real, cosmic dialectic–how the physical plane and mind plane are fully united and harmonized in the transcendent plane.
Marxism is cut off and incomplete. It tries to treat issues regarding the physical, but starting from faulty premises that deny fundamentals, like property rights as a natural outgrowth of the rights of your own body and labor. In doing so Marxism ironically stays stuck in the realm of ideas.
It remains intellectual, not really connected to physical life.
Marxism’s attempts to shape physical life have necessarily been disastrous. Marxism also famously sees no transcendent aspect to life whatsoever. The denial of this plane means that the physical and mental cannot truly integrate and inform one another, sculpted by the higher callings of the transcendent.
As Albert Camus stated, “virtue cannot separate itself from reality without becoming a principle of evil.”
The Sacred Number 3
Tom of Survive the Jive demonstrates in his Odin video that the transcendent as apex completes and makes sense of the polarities of human life–in this case our twin physical and mental aspects.
Athletes and fighters engage in something extremely physical, yet will tell you of the tremendous mental aspect of what they do, and what can also be understood as a bodily intuition.
Artists engage in drawing down raw material from the plane of the psyche, yet must spend years disciplining themselves in physical techniques. This allows artists to manifest their inspirations and inclinations.
It’s indeed hard to tell sometimes where the physical ends and where the mental begins, and vice versa. These two aspects of us mingle, realize their potentials, and fully bear out by striving towards the transcendent plane.
The creation of the cosmos happens when the life force flows uninterrupted through all three planes. This is tantra.
Physical, mental, and transcendent meet in lovemaking, a quaint sounding term to some, but one that clearly points to what’s beyond animalistic sex (solely engaging with your physical dimension).
However, a fuller understanding reveals that even in a less conscious individual who has not developed these sensitivities, there’s still a hint, a glimpse, of the transcendent unity that we experience during the ecstasy of sex. This is why we’re so drawn to sex, beyond just the physical pleasure.
Sex is not just physical, because we are not just physical.
Male + female= new life. You are part of that equation of three by merely existing, and yet you continue that pattern whether you have children or not.
To create or manifest anything, activity and receptivity must meet within you.
You must move forward with drive, aim, and purpose, and yet remain open to inspiration and new information as it appears, remain flexible and allow the space for intuition. This is what a surfer enacts second by second as he rides a wave.
This process enables people to manifest great actions, great discoveries, great creations. Action and receptivity, masculine and feminine principles, meet in you and you birth something new, something that didn’t exist in the world before.
This is how we co-create with life, how we act as small “g” gods. Perhaps this is what is meant in the Christian theology which states we are “made in the image and likeness of God.” (Genesis 1:27)
Action, receptivity, new creation. The threefold pattern reveals itself everywhere.
People even will most often knock three times on a door. It’s in our rhythm. Three is a number of completion in life.
Sacrificing oneself to oneself.
Self-sacrifice involves yielding one’s limited individual perspective to the higher self– the individual’s way of both interfacing with and expressing higher cosmic law.
We find this theme of self-sacrifice enacted in the Rúnatal section of the Hávamál poem, where Odin hangs on a tree for nine nights to gain wisdom. He sacrifices his more earthly and temporally-bound form to something greater.
The tree Odin hangs on is understood as Yggdrasil, the world tree in Norse mythology.
Odin on his tree, Christ on the cross–in these we witness sacrifice on the world tree, the axis, which is the center, which is the truth.
Truth burns away, truth hurts.
Christ is quoted in the New Testament saying “I’ve come not to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
A devotion to truth and cutting away of lies actualizes and activates the individual. Body and mind refine one another, and both in turn yield to the transcendent, the holy, the awe-inspiring, higher wisdom.
Odin’s sacrifice for wisdom on the world tree models for us what we’re called to act out–to look into the abyss, then to integrate. To become a better version of yourself, and then share that truth.
Here we see the act of submitting to the Logos–a spiritual logic, natural law. Our base animal drives and the tricks of the mind both undergo a sculpting and cleansing in the Logos’ harsh fire and loving caress.
Therefore, not in a religiously syncretic way, not in an anthropological way, but in a metaphysical way– this shows certain characteristics shared by Christianity and European paganism (1).
This is not to say they are the same, as in depth comparisons may require a lifetime of study. But both must be contended with to understand the West, its current state, and its possible directions.
Remember too the, story of Jesus doesn’t end on cross. Those who sympathize with the pagan tradition will criticize and sometimes ridicule Christianity in this way. They’ll posit that Christianity’s god is weak, asking how he can provide an example since he was beaten and put to death.
I don’t write the following as a Christian apologist, but merely as someone who wants to discuss the full picture accurately.
The Gospel story ends (and in Christian theology really continues forever) with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to highest the plane, a gift made available to all.
The moral of the story?
Truth cannot be defeated by the machinations of the purely physical world, the world of power and politic.
To turn our attention to another strand of the West’s traditions, Tom said in the beginning of his video that Odin may have a progenitor in the Roman god, Mercury. We can hereby follow a fascinating link.
Mercury has a Greek equivalent in Hermes.
Hermes has ties to the Egyptian god, Thoth, who is often referred to by the name Hermes Trismegistus. This word, “Trismegistus,” means “thrice great.” Thoth is also referred to as “thrice born.”
Here we find ties to Egypt, land of pyramids, three dimensional triangles.
Hermes Trismegistus, or Thoth–a possible precursor to Odin according to Tom’s video–was born thrice.
I can only imagine this means born once physically, then again re-born mentally/psychically, and finally, “born” a third time by awakening to the highest transcendent plane.
Clearly this ties in to all of the themes above discussing Odin and the threefold nature of life. Do these old traditions contain blueprints and indications on how to live fully, how to activate all of your being?
This would be an appropriate juncture to mention that the old Norse tradition often depicts Odin with one eye. And of course, Jesus is quoted in the New Testament as saying,
The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.(Matthew 6:22)
At first reading this may sound limiting; why would someone want only one eye? Wouldn’t that be a handicap?
Here we see the triangle metaphor invoked once again.
When our regular human vision, when our left and right eyes/hemispheres of our brain/body integrate, they meet in that higher center, allowing us to see as the transcendent.
We hereby learn to “see” not just with the physical eye of predator/prey. Rather, we see through and behind the physical forms and passing ideas of normal perception.
When we “see with one eye,” we see all the planes of our existence brought together more fully, through one lens. We see, and experience, all three levels at once.
The acceptance of these notions enabled Odin and Jesus to see beyond their immediate physical suffering, toward the greater power and profundity behind the temporary pain of their sacrifices.
Thus, theirs were heroic acts.
Their acts call upon others to join them in rising to these heights of truth, full perception, big picture thinking, and the blessings these states confer.
In light of all of this, I can’t help but briefly mention Nikola Tesla’s statement that multiples of three–3, 6, 9–are “keys to perpetual energy, keys to universe.”
Odin’s threefold form reflects the Christian Trinity. Triune gods abound in old Celtic lore as well. The notion of the Trinity that Christians developed (never mentioned in the Bible, of course) found ready soil in the pagan European mind, as Tom mentions in his video. The details of this will be explored more later.
For now, let us leave off here with a commitment to continue mining the wisdom of our ancestors.
What do these traditions offer us now?
How we can understand and live out our threefold nature so as to remain centered in natural law, and be born to our highest potentials?
Tom published another video on this topic, focusing on reincarnarnation, for his Survive the Jive YouTube channel as I was preparing this Odin article and video.
*A version of this article appears in Mythic Dawn magazine, Issue 1, March 2018. Please see https://www.carolynemerick.com/ for more. As of this writing, digital copies can be viewed by donating to Carolyn’s Maker Support page, and hard copies of the magazine can be ordered through Amazon.
Top Image: Illustration from an 18th century edition of The Eddas.
Videos below are not readings of this article.
Part 1 Video:
Part 2 Video: