The spiritual Message of German Fairy tales

The Old Man and his Grandson

Tale of the Brothers Grimm translated by M. Hunt [1884]
Interpretation by Undine & Jens in green [2020]

There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at table, he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they bought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

They were once sitting thus, when the little grandson of four years old began to gather some bits of wood upon the ground. “What are you doing there?” asked the father. “I am making a little trough,” answered the child, “for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.”

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and hence- forth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.

A really sad fairy tale, but one that gives you a lot to think about, especially in these crazy times when an increasing splitting is running through our society, our families and our own minds. We too try to ban old age, illness and death from our lives and hide them behind walls of some kind so that they don’t bother us. In this way, a threatening egoism grows, which is even massively promoted with legal requirements. What is egoism? A consciousness of isolation and separation through the notion of “I” and “mine”. This mental separation is intensified by social distancing and deepens the rifts between people. Or, by playing hide and seek behind a mask to feel safe. Or, with a massive restriction of cultural diversity and a focus on one-sided information media. Or, when one sees potential enemies in all other people, even declares the whole of nature an enemy, stirs up the most terrible existential fears, prohibits reasonable questioning and reflection and engages in the meanest denunciation in order to make others responsible for one’s own problems.

So now, this year’s Christmas festival (2020) should also be under this dark shadow. The elderly are declared a dangerous risk group and banned from the family community. Why? Because we are terrified of illness, old age and death, in short, the fear of natural impermanence. This impermanence should be banished from our lives, from our society, our families and from people’s heads. We, too, are disgusted by it and don’t want impermanence to break our earthly possessions like the old grandfather shattered the little earthenware bowl. For this, we trust politics and science that promise us to solve the problem with lots of money, chemistry and technology and to finally conquer impermanence. In addition, we also like to lie to ourselves and believe in the promise of imperishable wealth, imperishable growth, imperishable health and imperishable possessions of imperishable people.

Is that possible? Yes and no! The way is the key. Humankind has been searching for imperishability and immortality since ancient times. All traditional religions know this topic. Science has also dealt with it and has long thought about a perpetuum mobile, only to finally determine that such a thing cannot exist. Why not? Any system that has an outside loses energy to the outside, and that losing is nothing but impermanence. So the question arises: Is there a system that has no outside? Yes, the universe, if everything is included in it. This “everything” or “all” has always been the great key to imperishability and thus also to immortality. Because nothing can get lost in this whole, only the forms change. Where should it go lost, or where should something come from, if there is no outside? But what stands in the way of recognizing this “one and all”? It is above all our separating ego-awareness, this imaginary “I-bubble” that wants to separate itself from the whole. For this “I-bubble” there will always be a physical outside, and thus the ego can never be a perpetuum mobile, and any physical possession must pass away. This is the physical impermanence in the eternal cycle of creation and decay in a constantly changing variety of forms. Each part is impermanent, only the whole is eternal. So why do we want to be just a part and not the whole? Why does our consciousness want to limit itself only to this fading body?

As long as you do not have
this: die and become!
You are just a gloomy guest
on a dark earth.
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Therefore, our fairy tale ends with a wonderful message from a child who does not yet think so much in the usual adult categories, but spontaneously presents a solution that reminds of the cycle of life and makes the parents aware, that their bodies are perishable, too. They are deeply shaken and touched by this simple message, their superficial mind is broken through, holistic reason awakens and with it an expanded consciousness that is no longer limited to one’s own body, so that the whole family reunites at one table and can accept impermanence as an essential principle of nature. Wonderful! The light of pure love and true compassion begins to shine, the goal of all great religions, attainable through holistic reason and wisdom.

Today, however, the parents might hate their child deeply for making them realize that they will personally grow old and die. Yes, not only because of a symbolic-verbal attack, they might even be afraid of being infected by their own child with a dangerous disease, and they might hate their child for taking the everyday mask off the face and hugging parents or grandparents or maybe even wanting to kiss them. How far can egoism drive us before tears flow and this delusion breaks?

Perhaps we should think more deeply about why there is physical impermanence in nature. Perhaps old age and illness have a deeper meaning, so that living beings should not only fertilize each other but also infect each other, because basically we are all a whole organism. For functioning and stabilizing this entire organism, it needs a variety of forms, such as children, adults and old people, gain and loss, emergence and decay, illness and healing, happiness and suffering. This diversity strengthens our immune system not only physically but also socially. If there is a lack of diversity, the whole system of nature, humanity and the social order becomes ill, and occasional diseases turn into epidemic plagues and common illnesses, as we can observe everywhere in the world today. For stable health, you need natural diversity. Limited forms like the modern monoculture in society, medicine and nature, the uniforms and marching in step, or the dictatorship of certain opinions and views are just the selfish desires of growing super-egos. However, it is precisely this ego-consciousness that binds us to impermanence and thus to old age, illness and death.

Beyond this egoism leads the way to imperishability and immortality with a consciousness that can recognize the “one in all”, so to speak, the “unity in diversity”. The “all” would then be the limitless variety of forms, and the “one” the spiritual unity in the soul. Only in this way, one can speak of a limitlessly free spirit that can take on all possible forms. Why don’t we understand? Nature needs the variety of forms, and the spirit the unity of the soul. The conservationists speak of biodiversity, and the religions of the knowledge of the true soul. Then everything would be fine and the earth could be a paradise in which one soul recognizes and loves itself in all forms. Spirit and nature, soul and body could live in harmony and we could be content, without quarrel, lust, hatred and illusion.

Only the ego foolishly strives for the opposite, namely for diverse separate souls and uniform physical forms that correspond to its ideals. It strives for the richness of egoistic individual souls and the monoculture in the outer nature, where only is allowed to survive what the ego considers pleasing. Accordingly, this striving is always associated with a lot of violence, be it chemical and machine violence in livestock and agriculture, military and police violence in uniform and in step, the propaganda violence of the fashion and media industry, the violence of political censorship and inquisition or also the fanatical dogmas of religions and sciences. This selfish resistance to the diverse essence of nature and to the holistic wisdom and reason of true compassion and pure love used to be called devilish or demonic. The evil devil was egoism itself, who separated himself from the good angels. Who followed this path of spiritual separation from wholeness left the harmonious paradise and went the way to hellish suffering. Because reality knows no greater suffering than separation...

So why don’t we desire a holistically perfect mind? For a perfect mind, all forms would also be perfect. On the other hand, an imperfect mind cannot long be satisfied with any form. Unfortunately, however, our spirit seeks its perfection in external forms and not within itself. This search within oneself can probably only begin when one becomes aware of the impermanence of forms, and old age, illness, disease and even death urge us to this awareness. Here one can see the true value of impermanence, which so disgusted the young people in the fairy tale that their old father was scarcely worth the food in the cheapest bowl. In truth, we should be grateful to old age, because here beckons the greatest gain in life, the famous wisdom of old age, when the physical forms become brittle and a whole new light appears through the cracks, the consciousness of all-encompassing love and wisdom.

We wish you a light-filled Christmas with the whole family! May this eternal light shine in all of us, which shines deep in the soul and can conquer the fading darkness. May we conquer fear and rise.

The circle of life

In conclusion, we would like to add a few thoughts on the cycle of life that we mentioned with regard to the child when, in the fairy tale, he was able to reunite the three generations at one table with his parable and overcome the disgust at impermanence. People have been observing ever since how everything in nature moves in waves and apparently turns in circles, like the circles of days and nights, the seasons or the stars in the sky. And as the sun rises in the east in the morning until noon and sets in the west in the evening, at some point in time our bodies are also born, grow and emerge to their full size, and after that strength and senses wane and pass away again, until the body eventually sinks and dies. Just as people used to wonder, where the sun in the east comes from and where it disappears to in the west and how it can reappear in the east, so people also wondered at that time how man comes into being at birth, where he goes in death and how he returns to birth. Well, today we know that the earth is not flat, but revolves around the sun as a sphere, so that the sun only appears to rise and set. In contrast, many people still believe that life is “flat” and exists only from birth to death. A return from death to birth seems impossible, as if a new sun is rising in the east every morning.

It sounds like a parody of fate that modern science, which formerly fought so vehemently against all superstition in natural things, now defends a similar superstition in spiritual things. Moreover, just as the Christian-political church used all means up to the inquisition and the most terrible religious wars, modern science today fights aggressively against every spiritual worldview for the dogmas of a materialistic worldview in the interests of economy and politics. But as courageous as Galileo used to be, we want to be courageous today and say: “Life goes in circles! No, life is not flat!”

Let’s try to think about it: How is a circle formed? The simplest circle is created mathematically from two waves. One is called a sine, which means “curvature” in Latin, and you can see in it the physical emergence and decay in the first half, because the wave rises, reaches a maximum and then falls again. The other wave is called the cosine, and that means “Complementi Sinus” in Latin, i.e. a “complete or filled up” sine. In this wave we can see the dimension of the spiritual development or unwinding of life, because the first half of the cosine starts at a maximum and then falls or unwinds further and further until a minimum is reached at the end of physical life, like the gas tank in a car becomes empty until the car stops. In the middle of physical life, when the material body is at its most powerful, this wave falls the fastest, as does the fuel level in the tank, when the car is running most powerfully. Thus, spiritual development is like a constant unwinding of something that must have been wound up beforehand, just as the car can only go when the tank has been filled. Correspondingly, in some old fairy tales one also finds the parable of a thread of life that unwinds in this progress like from a spool. And with that, the “wisdom and reason of old age” also grows as the involvement with the outer material world dwindles and physical attachment decreases. In the past one spoke here of a spiritual process of detachment, redemption or liberation.

Interestingly, we have only spoken of a semicircle so far, so to speak, the upper half of the circle, similar to a mountain, on the top of which one stands in the middle of life. If only this semicircle existed, it would really be like living on a flat earth, where a new sun rises every morning and sets again in the evening. We know, however, it is the same sun that only appears to rise and set. Therefore, we ask ourselves: where is the second half of the circle? Well, just as the sun shines on this side of the earth during the day and on the other side during the night, so people used to speak of a world on this side and a world on the other side, or in short, of this world and the next. Then the upper semicircle of life would be this world and the lower the hereafter. When one semicircle shines in the light of consciousness, the other lies in darkness. Therefore, one cannot see it, as one can see, for example, the fruiting bodies of mushrooms in the forest, but the creature itself lives hidden in the darkness of the earth. And that’s what makes things so difficult for us.

We can only believe in it, or at least think about it in theory. From a mathematical point of view, a kind of mirror world appears to us here with regard to the two waves in the afterlife, in which everything is upside down. One could also speak of a material and a spiritual world. From the perspective of the material world, the spiritual is in darkness, and from the perspective of the spiritual, the material world is full of darkness and shadows. For example, let us think of the ancient ideas such as the world of the ancestors, the eternal hunting grounds, the world of ghosts, goblins and elves, the realm of the dead, the underworld or heaven and hell. Apparently, one can only speak of this transcendent world in parables. With regard to the physical sine wave, one could then imagine a negative, non-material, subtle, etheric or even spiritual body. And with regard to the cosine wave, one could speak of a reverse spiritual development. What is processed or unwinded in this world, is built up and wound up in the hereafter.

As an example, one could think of a programmer who sets up a program in the hereafter or spiritual world that runs in the physical or material world, similar to the thread of life mentioned, which is wound up and unwound. This comparison is not far-fetched, because nowadays we often talk about the programming of genes, the programming of abilities or the reprogramming of unwanted tendencies. Moreover, there are many scientists, who believe that our entire life has been pre-programmed by the laws of nature, and that everything is therefore predetermined and predictable. That also sounds plausible, because we can only decide for this or that in life within a limited framework, just as there are only certain decision options in ordinary computer programs that have been set accordingly. This circle of life would thus resemble the usual development cycle of a computer program. According to certain wishes, a program is designed and programmed. Then it is started, operated, checked, ended and reprogrammed according to the experience gathered in a practical working process until the programmer and user are satisfied with it. Well, experience has shown that this can take a very long time...

In this way, one could first think about the cycle of life in a simplified form. In practice, of course, you need at least a third dimension in addition to the two hypothetical waves; otherwise this cycle would go on forever and seem relatively pointless. With the third wave, the circle may turn into a slight spiral, just as the sun rises in a slightly different place every day. In practice, there are countless waves of different lengths in nature, which overlap and interweave to form many large and small cycles of life to enable the limitless variety of forms. Just think of the daily cycle of sleeping and waking, the weekly work cycle, the cycle of the seasons, the cycles of social orders and geological ages, or even the cycles of the birth and death of entire stars, galaxies and the cosmos itself. In old traditions, one went even further and spoke of the life cycle of a Creator God, as one can read about Brahma in the Indian Puranas. Goethe also lets the spirit of the earth speak in [Faust I]:

In the tides of Life, in Action’s storm,
A fluctuant wave,
A shuttle free,
Birth and the Grave,
An eternal sea,
A weaving, flowing
Life, all-glowing,
Thus at Time’s humming loom ‘tis my hand prepares
The garment of Life which the Deity wears!

Finally, there is the big question: What actually turns in this cycle of life? Does mind revolve around nature, or does nature revolve around mind? Does the soul revolve around the body, or does the body revolve around the soul? Here, too, modern science has found that the earth revolves around the sun, although it appears otherwise to our eyes. However, when it comes to spirit and nature, many scientists still firmly believe that nature is central and our thoughts revolve around nature. Therefore, you can see how difficult it is to defeat illusion...

Nevertheless, this problem is extremely interesting because it also brings us to the great question of reincarnation. What is reborn in this cycle of life? The body or the soul? Well, whoever has recognized the unity of the soul will probably see the soul resting in the centre as an unformed or unprogrammed spirit and the variety of formed or programmed bodies revolving around this one soul. In this way, the question of the transmigration of souls from body to body can be solved in a simple way, which becomes extremely complicated as soon as one assumes separate souls. This also closes our circle on the question of the immortality of life, and in the end the “One and All” remains forever, Amen.

... Table of contents of all fairy tale interpretations ...
The Seven Swabians - (topic: Corona Hysteria, the essence of fear)
Thumbling - (topic: What is the soul? Is our worldview correct?)
The Crystal Ball / Castle of the Golden Sun - (topic: Egoism, defeating the inner beast)
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)

[1884] Grimm's Household Tales. Translated from the German and edited by Margaret Hunt. With an introduction by Andrew Lang, 1884, Vol. 1/2, London: George Bell and Sons
[Bibel] Luther Bibel, 1912
[2020] Text and Pictures by Undine & Jens /