The spiritual Message of German Fairy tales

The Okerlo (I-Man)

Tale of the Brothers Grimm [1812] translated by Undine
Interpretation by Undine & Jens in green [2023]

A queen placed her child in a golden cradle on the sea and let it swim away. It didn’t sink, but swam to an island where a lot of man-eaters lived. As the cradle came swimming, the man-eater’s wife was standing on the seashore, and when she saw the child, which was a beautiful girl, she decided to raise her for her son, who would one day have her as his wife. But she had great difficulty in carefully hiding the child from her husband, old Okerlo, because if he had seen her, he would have eaten her bones and all.

Here we have another fairy tale that is overall short and sweet and yet full of the deepest symbolism. So, let’s try to think about a possible interpretation, perhaps to encourage further meditation: The Queen reminds us of the highest soul or of pure nature and eternal mother, who gives birth to everything. And her child would then be the human soul, born as a surging wave of consciousness on the sea of life and released in a golden cradle or wave, that is, carried and moved by the gold of truth, by pure consciousness. As an eternal consciousness, the soul can of course never “sink” on this sea, otherwise it would not be truth, but it comes from eternity to an island of transience, to a separate and narrowly limited consciousness, which embodies itself as a human ego or “I-man”. Through the separation of “I” and “others” this small island is created, and with it the ego-man also becomes a “man-eater” as an Okerlo or ogre or fiend, because he practically feeds on the “others” in the game of opposites and couldn’t exist without them. The woman or soul of Okerlo now finds within herself on the shore of the sea of life or causes a much more beautiful soul than the greedy and insatiable ego consciousness, namely a purer consciousness, but must hide it from the ego-man. Because on this spiritual level of greedy self-consciousness there is only the conceptual mind, which wants to eat up or “incorporate” everything spiritual “with bones and all” into physicality, just as our modern natural science eats up everything mental or spiritual with the conceptual mind and merges it into material corporeality. And how the pure soul hides herself from this greedy ego-man and ultimately saves herself is what this fairy tale tells us.

When the girl grew up, she was to be married to the young Okerlo. But she didn’t like him at all and cried all day. Once as she was sitting on the shore, a young, handsome prince came swimming, she liked him, and he liked her too, and they made promises to each other. But the old ogress came and became very angry when she found the prince with her son’s bride and immediately grabbed him: “Wait now, you are to be roasted at my son’s wedding!”

This pure soul, which had now “grown up” and had obviously grown to a greater consciousness than the limited self-consciousness, naturally did not want to and could not marry herself to the egoistic physicality of a growing Okerlo or ego-man as a cannibal. To do this, she found a different physicality on the shore of the sea of life or causes or possibilities, that was more compatible with the wisdom of a higher reason than with that egoism of the conceptual understanding. Of course, this does not please the greedy self-consciousness, which wants to marry the beautiful human soul with the ego-man, and with this marriage the embodiment of higher reason is to be killed and eaten up. Well, we also know this from our modern worldly ego-men in which reason has such a hard time that hardly anyone knows what “reason” actually means. Or as Goethe already put it in [Faust I]:

Life somewhat better might content him,
But for the gleam of heavenly light which Thou has lent him:
He calls it Reason thence his power’s increased,
To be far beastlier than any beast.

The young prince, the girl and Okerlo’s three children all slept together in one room. As night fell, old Okerlo got a craving for human flesh and said: “Woman, I don’t want to wait until the wedding, just give me the prince right away!” But the girl heard everything through the wall and quickly got up, took from one of Okerlo’s children the golden crown that he wore on his head and placed it on the prince’s head. The old ogress came, and because it was dark, she felt the heads, and brought the one that was not wearing a crown to the man, who immediately ate it.

So now the human soul sleeps with various spiritual powers for embodiment in a space of consciousness in the dream of the world and has two ways to embody herself. Either she marries with pure love the holistic reason of wisdom on the path to eternity or with selfish love the Prince of Okerlo, the narrow conceptual mind of ignorance with his two siblings on the path of transience. The two Okerlo siblings remind us here of desire and hatred, because the three spiritual forces of desire, hate and ignorance are generally the driving forces for the embodiment of self-consciousness in this transient world, as can also be found at the centre of the Buddhist wheel of life. And it is precisely this desire of the old ego-man that now pushes him to make a decision in this “night” of ignorance, so that the reasonable soul acts and puts the golden crown on the head of reason. Accordingly, the old self-consciousness reaches again for the conceptual mind of ignorance, because that is the food for the embodiment of her “man”, the Okerlo or ego-man.

Meanwhile the girl was scared to death and thought: “When the day comes, everything will come out and things will go badly for us.” Then she secretly got up and fetched a mile boot, a dowsing rod and a cake with a bean, which could answer everything.

The “fear for heaven” is certainly appropriate and reasonable here, because it can now be expected that the ego consciousness will recognize its deception or ignorance and want to reach for reason. But not in order to become reasonable, but in order to eat up reason and “incorporate” it into the conceptual understanding, because ego consciousness neither can nor wants to rise to reason. For ego consciousness is a separating consciousness as a conceptual mind, while reason is a holistic consciousness or an awareness of the truth. This is how the mind can “eat up” reason, and that is why nowadays hardly anyone on the island of ego-people knows the essential difference between mind and reason and certainly not between ego and self. So now the pure soul, as a wave of consciousness on the sea of possibilities with reason as its force for embodiment, must flee from the limited and voracious ego-consciousness that lives on its personally embodied island. To do this, the consciousness becomes aware of its natural abilities and greatest powers: the mile boots as the power of mobility, the dowsing rod as the power of transformation and the bean in the cake as the power of omniscience, which serves as food for the consciousness.

Now she went away with the prince. They had the mile boot on, and with every step they made a mile. Sometimes they asked the bean: “Bean, are you there?” “Yes,” said the bean, “I am here, but hurry up, because the old ogress is coming in the other mile-boot that stayed there!”

That is, the ego consciousness has essentially the same power of mobility as the holistic consciousness of the soul, but it is very limited in the power of transformation and omniscience, namely through attachment to wilful forms due to its ignorance. The saying “Bean, are you there?”, which is repeated like a mantra throughout the fairy tale with the answer “Yes, I am here!”, is a wonderful access to the pure “existence” of a deep consciousness as an intuitive source of life, just as the bean as a seed is a source of life. Remembering this pure consciousness or awareness at the root breaks through the limitations of self-consciousness and conceptual mind to a holistic consciousness of a higher reason. Then the “I am” leaves the narrow person in time and space and reminds us of what Christ means in the Bible when he says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. (John 8.58)” Or: “You are from below, I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8.23)” Or: “I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14.6)” And we can now also find this mystical path of Christ consciousness or holistic reason in the fairy tale.

Then the girl took the dowsing rod and turned herself into a swan and the prince into a pond, where the swan swam. The ogress came and lured the swan to the shore, but she didn’t succeed and went home annoyed.

Does consciousness, as an active spirit, have the power to transform itself into external things at will? Opinions and especially scientists are divided on this question today, because this idea seriously shakes the foundations of modern materialism. But people used to know that it is the power of consciousness to, so to speak, mirror itself and thereby embody itself, so that subject and object arise, namely on the one hand a spiritual swan being and on the other hand a material swan body with its natural environment of a pond that face each other as if in a mirror. And thus, the spiritual soul hides herself in the external forms, so that the ego consciousness with the conceptual understanding can no longer recognize the soul as a pure wave of consciousness in embodiment. For now, an external object appears that the greedy, ego-like mind wants to grasp and becomes annoyed if it cannot do so because it can no longer recognize itself in it. And with this annoyance of ignorance, the ego-mind retreats back to its narrow island of self-consciousness.

The girl and the prince continued on their way: “Bean, are you there?” “Yes,” said the bean, “here I am, but the old woman is coming back, the ogre told her how she was misled.” Then the girl took the rod and turned herself and the prince into a cloud of dust, which Mrs Okerlo could not penetrate, so she turned back without having achieved anything, and the others continued on their way.

But ego consciousness cannot give up so easily, because the search for its origin lies in the nature of consciousness itself, and it is precisely embodiment that constantly pushes us to search, as if in a mirror world. Now consciousness transforms into the essence of the wind and the dust of the earth. And the conceptual mind cannot see through this dark cloud either; it only recognizes the external and not the essential, the physical and not the spiritual. Accordingly, the wind used to serve as a symbol of the active spirit, as we also find in the Bible: “The wind blows where it wants, and you can hear its sound; but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3.8)” Well, the Okerlos were probably not yet born of the spirit, but of the flesh, because: “Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. (John 3.6)

“Bean, are you there?” “Yes, I am here, but I see Mrs Okerlo coming again and she is taking giant steps.” The girl took the dowsing rod for the third time and turned into a rose bush and the prince into a bee, then the old ogress came, didn’t recognize them in this transformation and went home again.

So now Mrs I-man has to stay on her ego island with her own husband or body as a cannibal who feeds on “others”, because she cannot recognize and find the pure soul for the third time. This now raises the big question: Why does the pure soul flee from self-consciousness and hide behind the external forms of embodiment? This is obviously a fundamental principle of nature and also its greatest blessing: truth is hidden in illusion, light in shadow, spirit in matter, unity in diversity and eternity in the perishable. So, the ego consciousness becomes the cause of embodiment, but also the search for truth, because everything hidden stimulates the consciousness to search. As the Bible also says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. (Matt. 7.7)” This is probably the great way of human reason to find our true “self” again after we have lost ourselves in the illusionary “I” in the world of forms on our ego islands in the sea of life.

But now the two of them could not assume their human form again because the last time the girl had thrown her magic rod too far away in fear.

Why has consciousness lost the power of transformation into human or reasonable form? Maybe because two separate living beings suddenly emerged, a plant and an animal. Has this broken the magic rod of omnipotence? Are there now two separate souls? Or do plants and animals have no soul at all, as many vegetarians believe about their food, while others kill animals without hesitation. At least with this “too wide” separation into two living beings, the power of transformation and omniscience seems to have been gone, because the bean or spiritual source has now also been forgotten. Because as soon as consciousness loses its wholeness or deity, it loses its omniscience and omnipotence, gets stuck in a limited form through ignorance and, like the Okerlos, has to live on a small ego island like in a bubble of ego consciousness.

But they had already gone so far that the rose bush stood in a garden that belonged to the girl’s mother. The bee sat on the rose and stung with its stinger whoever tried to break it.

How far must one go to reach Mother Nature’s Garden, which belongs to the Supreme Soul? This is probably more of a spiritual journey until one becomes aware that every embodiment or transformation takes place in this garden of the great mother and queen. And whoever grabs the rose here and wants to break off the beautiful and desirable flower from its root - that is, the part from the whole, the good from God, the spirit from nature, the object from the subject, the fruit from the tree, the self from the others or the body from the soul - will of course have to suffer from embodiment and will be stung by the sting of the “others”. On the one hand, the bee stings because its food is taken away, and on the other hand, the rose stings because its fruit is broken off.

Once it happened that the queen herself went into her garden and saw the beautiful flower, which amazed her so much that she wanted to break it off. But little bee came and stung her on the hand so badly that she had to let go of the rose. But she had already torn it down a little. Then she saw that blood was oozing from the stem and sent for a fairy to disenchant the flower.

Anyone who can free themselves from the separated self-consciousness will also recognize the wholeness or deity in nature, how the spiritual unity of consciousness is embodied in the diversity of forms and how the highest soul lives in this diversity like a queen and can make the practical experience possible through happiness and suffering, so that we are often stung when we reach for the beautiful flowers or sweet fruits. And it is precisely these practical or physical experiences that can lead to recognizing one’s own daughter as a human soul in the blood or juice of life force and to demystify her embodiment with the help of a pure spirit, that is, to recognize pure consciousness through the illusion of ignorance what is also called “self-knowledge”. And it is said that this highest knowledge is pure joy and perfect love.

Then the queen recognized her daughter and was very happy. A big wedding was planned, a lot of guests were invited, they came in splendid dresses, a thousand lights flickered in the hall, and people played and danced until broad daylight.

At the end of this fairy tale there is also the famous mystical wedding between soul and body or spirit and nature, which are no longer connected in a transitory life, but are completely united in an eternal life, so that there can no longer be any separating self-consciousness. Death disappears and eternal life remains, a pure “existence”. For separation means death, separable union means fading life, and inseparable union means eternal life. This is the sacred “wedding” or timeless eternity, when the diversity of the thousands of lights in the play and dance of nature becomes a bright day of unity in the pure light of divine consciousness.

Then you will finally be asked within yourself as a bean and source of life, that is, not as a limited self-consciousness on an island, but as a holistic consciousness or pure awareness:

“Did you go to the wedding, too?” - “Yes, I was there:
My headdress was made of butter when I came into the sun and it melted off;
My garment was made of spider webs, and I came through thorns and they tore it off;
My slippers were made of glass, so I stepped on a stone and they broke in two.”

No ego person who has to live as a “man-eater” from “others” comes to this wedding. As we also find in the biblical parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins (Matt. 25.1): Anyone who has to borrow the oil for the light of consciousness from “others” will not come to this wedding. But anyone who was able to successfully escape ego consciousness on his island receives this mystical answer within at the wedding and achieves the great goal in life: the illusionary ego-crown melts in the light-fire of the Holy Spirit. The body’s garment, spun together by the conceptual mind, tears at the thorns of suffering. And the material physicality that wanders through the world and seemes so solid and reliable breaks down against the imperishable stone of the philosophers, the pure Christ consciousness, which now becomes the foundation for “I am here!” in eternal life.

A wonderful fairy tale!

... Table of contents of all fairy tale interpretations ...
The emperor's new clothes - (topic: MONEY-MAKES-BLIND - Memorial 2020)
Rat King Birlibi - (topic: Money, Enmity, Addiction, Poverty)
The Ditmarsh Tale of Wonders - (topic: Lies, Thoughts and Reason)
The Robber Bridegroom - (topic: dead soul, spiritual murder)
The Poor Boy in the Grave - (topic: Education, Ego, Fear and Reason)
Simeli Mountain - (topic: material and spiritual world)
Strong Hans - (topic: Ego, robbers and ultimate gain)
The Old Man and his Grandson - (topic: social division, disgusting impermanence)
Allerleirauh - (All-kinds-of-Fur) (topic: sick mind, dying nature and healing)
The Origin of Stories - (topic: material and spiritual world)
The Okerlo "I-Man" (topic: soul, body and ego)

[1812] Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm: Kinder- und Hausmärchen, 1. Auflage, 1812
[2023] Text and Pictures by Undine & Jens /