The spiritual Message of German Fairy tales

Spirit in the Bottle

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

There was once a poor woodcutter who toiled from early morning till late night. When at last he had laid by some money he said to his boy, “You are my only child, I will spend the money which I have earned with the sweat of my brow on your education; if you learn some honest trade you can support me in my old age, when my limbs have grown stiff and I am obliged to stay at home.”

This fairy tale deals in principle with the same topic as the previous one “Doctor Know-All”, but from a slightly different point of view that somehow seems “more modern” to us. Because the father is no longer the great goal and role model in life, but dissatisfied with himself and lives a life that he no longer wishes for his own son. That is strange. He does not try to change his life, like Doctor Know-All, but places his hope only in the son who will make him happy and feed and maintain him in old age. With this intention, he invests all his energy in money to buy his son worldly knowledge that is supposed to end the painful poverty.

The usual father symbolism changes from a positive pole, which previously attracted the son, to a negative pole, which repels the son. It’s really strange and interesting. How modern this reversal is can be seen today in many documentaries about some small villages or people somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where one can wait for the usual saying: “Our children have to go to the modern schools of the cities so that they can learn to lead a better and, above all, richer life. “They want to sacrifice their natural life, which has given them culture, wisdom and meaning over many hundreds or even thousands of years for an artificial life in the chaos of modern cities. This is a bizarre hope. Why can’t parents teach their children anything meaningful to earn a living from nowadays? What monopoly do city schools have on knowledge that must be bought? And what kind of special knowledge is that with which one can get “rich” in our modern world?

For that, the children separate from their parents, first mentally, because the parents are no longer role models, and then physically, because they leave their families and go to the cities to play the roles they have learned in modern schools. Accordingly, the documentaries mentioned usually end in great complaints that the old traditions are disappearing, a rich culture is extinguishing, and life in the old village becomes lonely and desolate.

Then the boy went to a High School and learned diligently so that his masters praised him, and he remained there a long time. When he had worked through two classes, but was still not yet perfect in everything, the little pittance which the father had earned was all spent, and the boy was obliged to return home to him. “Ah,” said the father, sorrowfully, “I can give you no more, and in these hard times I cannot earn a farthing more than will suffice for our daily bread.” “Dear father,” answered the son, “don’t trouble yourself about it, if it is God’s will, it will turn to my advantage I shall soon accustom myself to it.”

Well, luckily, there wasn’t enough money, and the son returned to his father once more. The tale does not much mention about the type of school. In view of the learned trust in God, one could think of a monastery school. That one has to do something for knowledge is an ancient and actually self-evident tradition. In the past, people “earned” their knowledge personally as servants, maidservants and apprentices. Only later, perhaps from the 13th century, were there schools where one could “acquire” knowledge for the parents’ money. And it was only with compulsory schooling around 1900 that school fees were abolished and financed through the state’s tax revenues. That was certainly a great social achievement, but since then there has been less talk of “earning” and “acquiring” but rather of compulsory “funnelling”. Accordingly, there are already visions of the future of how knowledge can be loaded electronically into the brain in order to save a lot of time and teachers. - But well, none of that existed in our fairy tale, and the son had to go back to his father at the end of the money.

When the father wanted to go into the forest to earn money by helping to pile and stack wood and also to chop it, the son said, “I will go with you and help you.” “Nay, my son,” said the father, “that would be hard for you; you are not accustomed to rough work, and will not be able to bear it, besides I have only one axe and no money left wherewith to buy another.” “Just go to the neighbour,” answered the son, “he will lend you his axe until I have earned one for myself.”

We already know the symbolism of firewood from Doctor Know-All. The memorable principle of firewood can also be found in all so-called fossil fuels such as coal, peat, natural gas and petroleum. In practical terms, it is energy, that plants and animals have accumulated in their bodies in the form of carbon compounds. That’s interesting, and it is said that our entire technological revolution was only possible with the development of fossil fuels. So, when we drive a car or heat our apartment today, we literally burn the corpses of living beings that have accumulated on this earth over millions of years. Moreover, if we continue like this, we will be able to burn off all this accumulated energy in a few years. Well somehow, nature doesn’t seem to be particularly happy about it on the whole.

The woodchopper goes even further, cutting down living trees to make firewood. He kills others to sustain himself. This is not unusual in this world. Behind this is a being that we call “I-consciousness”. And this I-consciousness needs the energy of “the other” in order to maintain itself mentally and physically. The firewood is also used as a symbol for the knowledge that is accumulated “personally” for this purpose. In Hinduism one speaks in this regard of karma and in Christianity of merit and sin. The more this I-consciousness hardens in a body, the more it becomes a selfish ego that only pursues its own interests. For such an ego, firewood consists primarily of passionate feelings. And certainly, such an ego is the poorest being in this world because it can never be satisfied. It is like the negative pole of a battery, which separates itself further and further from the positive pole with increasing voltage and thus becomes poorer and poorer.

Besides the ego, there is another intelligence in us, namely reason, which lives from learning and corresponding insight. Ego and reason are really a strange couple like father and son in this fairy tale. In a child, the ego awakens first, so its characteristics can most clearly be observed in children. Reason does not appear until many years later and develops very slowly through a long learning process. From this point of view, one could really say that the ego is the father of reason. And of course, the ego seeks to use reason for personal purposes throughout life. Therefore, the father sends his son to the school of the world and invests all his fortune so that he learns how to get rich.

There are two ways to do this: on the one hand, reason strengthens the ego, and on the other, reason weakens the ego. Therefore, in our fairy tale, too, reason, which has not yet finished learning, returns to the ego and also wants to become such an ego. However, because two negative poles naturally repel each other, there is initially a conflict, and the father is not enthusiastic about his son’s idea.

The father says there is only one axe in the house. That probably means: There can only be one king in this body, and reason is still far too weak for that. The axe is used as a symbol in many ways. Here it stands for the tool of the ego. It turns living trees into dead firewood. A symbol of violent separation. In doing so, it separates the tree trunk from the root, just as one uses the spiritual axe on the path of learning, in order to use the power of thought to endlessly split nature into rational terms that are practically dead without a root. In this, one recognizes the essence of I-consciousness, which is based on the natural principle of separation. Its tool is the divisive, rational or intellectual knowledge that one borrows in the form of learned knowledge (like the father should borrow the axe) in order to then possess it oneself. And reason earns it by serving the ego.

The father then borrowed an axe of the neighbour, and next morning at break of day they went out into the forest together. The son helped his father and was quite merry and brisk about it. But when the sun was right over their heads, the father said, “We will rest, and have our dinner, and then we shall work as well again.” The son took his bread in his hands, and said, “Just you rest, father, I am not tired; I will walk up and down a little in the forest, and look for birds’ nests.” “Oh, you fool,” said the father, “why should you want to run about there? Afterwards you will be tired, and no longer able to raise your arm; stay here, and sit down beside me.”

Well, the father is so poor that he cannot buy an axe for his only son. What kind of poverty is it, even though he is so strong and works hard? That is the ego’s big problem. The stronger it gets, the poorer it is. The more it works with the axe and splits firewood, the poorer it feels. It works mostly physically and little mentally. The father wants to leave the study to his son. And yet, life and learning always belong closely together, and learning may even be the higher meaning of our life.

The father or ego is dissatisfied and at the same time unable to learn. That is a terrible lot, and even more terrible is that many people share this lot today. We may feel that we learn a lot from the extensive use of television, newspapers, and other media. But that is deceptive, because the mass “funnelling” of knowledge is not yet learning. Learning is the processing of knowledge through mental movement. Nevertheless, where does mobility come from when the brain resembles a hopelessly overcrowded warehouse? How do you want to process something in this warehouse, which at some point resembles a garbage dump, when your senses and thoughts are constantly hyperactively directed outwards and deliver more and more knowledge? Just as the body becomes thicker and sluggish with overeating and poor digestion, so does our mind.

Even in Goethe’s time, completely without radio, television and internet, the doctor complained desperately in [Faust I]:

Ah, me! This dungeon still I see.
This drear, accursed masonry,
Where even the welcome daylight strains
But duskly through the painted panes.
Hemmed in by many a toppling heap
Of books worm-eaten, gray with dust,
Which to the vaulted ceiling creep,
Against the smoky paper thrust,
With glasses, boxes, round me stacked,
And instruments together hurled.
Ancestral lumber, stuffed and packed
Such is my world : and what a world !

Well what does learning mean? Wikipedia says about this term: “The ability to learn is a basic requirement for humans and animals to be able to adapt to the realities of life and the environment, to act sensibly and, if necessary, to change them in their own interest.”

Now let us think, for example, of our environmental problems that have been known for decades. Do we really want to claim that we modern people are particularly adaptive and mentally flexible? It is certainly normal for people to make mistakes, but the fact that they cannot and will not learn from them is a terrible fate. Accordingly, today we are extremely active physically and sensually, but mentally very sluggish and trapped in narrow paths, which means that we lack the necessary flexibility for learning.

So let us at least assume that the son in this fairy tale was still physically and mentally active. That might be a reason why he doesn’t want to rest at lunchtime, but instead wants to look for bird nests in the forest. What is meant by that? In times of hunger, the poor certainly ate everything, including wild birds with their eggs. But maybe it is about a different aspect. In the book “Die Spinnstube” from 1865 it is reported: “There used to be a teacher who instructed the boys in his school to make bird egg collections! - Terrible, thousands of nests had been destroyed for three years, because the birds’ eggs became a trade item among the boys, which made money because it was an ambition to have the most and rarest eggs. Finally, the ominous hustle and bustle was officially counteracted, but the wide area has been - poor of birds since then!”

Now one could assume that the son was in a similar school and had already learned the principles of the world from which the father promised himself the end of all poverty, namely to exploit and sell nature in order to enrich himself personally.

But we want to think positively, and so you can see in the symbol of the bird’s nest the “hatching” of knowledge that you have accumulated like colourful bird eggs. Then you sit down and use the knowledge to think. Ideally, of course, in such a way that the knowledge is “processed” and reduced to the essentials. The more one processes or digests of the burden of knowledge, the lighter one becomes until one can rise up like a bird with light wings.

The son, however, went into the forest, ate his bread, was very merry and peered in among the green branches to see if he could discover a bird’s nest anywhere. So he went up and down to see if he could find a bird’s nest until at last he came to a great dangerous-looking oak, which certainly was already many hundred years old, and which five men could not have spanned. He stood still and looked at it, and thought, “Many a bird must have built its nest in that.” Then all at once it seemed to him that he heard a voice. He listened and became aware that someone was crying in a very smothered voice, “Let me out, let me out!” He looked around, but could discover nothing; nevertheless, he fancied that the voice came out of the ground. Then he cried, “Where art thou?” The voice answered, “I am here down amongst the roots of the oak-tree. Let me out! Let me out!”

This reminds us of the old saying in the Bible: “He who seeks finds!” He is looking for colourful birds eggs in the branches of the trees and suddenly hears a voice from the root of a tree. The phenomenon that nature begins to speak to us is reminiscent of the intuitive knowledge that opens up to the student here. Mighty trees have always been a symbol of living nature. Let us think, for example, of the Germanic world tree Yggdrasil, where mystical sources lie underneath and Odin sacrificed an eye in order to acquire the secret knowledge at the roots. The tree is also called a knowledge tree. With this, we rediscover the great principle of learning, that processing knowledge is about getting to the roots and not getting lost in the branches. In this way, one can even approach the big question: “What is it that holds the world together at its core?”

The scholar began to loosen the earth under the tree, and search among the roots, until at last he found a glass bottle in a little hollow. He lifted it up and held it against the light, and then saw a creature shaped like a frog, springing up and down in it. “Let me out! Let me out!” it cried anew, and the scholar thinking no evil, drew the cork out of the bottle. Immediately a spirit ascended from it, and began to grow, and grew so fast that in a very few moments he stood before the scholar, a terrible fellow as big as half the tree by which he was standing. “Knowest thou,” he cried in an awful voice, “what thy wages are for having let me out?” “No,” replied the scholar fearlessly, “how should I know that?” “Then I will tell thee,” cried the spirit; “I must strangle thee for it.” “Thou shouldst have told me that sooner,” said the scholar, “for I should then have left thee shut up, but my head shall stand fast for all thou canst do; more persons than one must be consulted about that.” “More persons here, more persons there,” said the spirit. “Thou shalt have the wages thou hast earned. Dost thou think that I was shut up there for such a long time as a favour. No, it was a punishment for me. I am the mighty Mercurius. Whoso releases me, him must I strangle.”

Well, what can we find at the roots of nature? As modern science searched deeper and deeper a hundred years ago, they even penetrated into the atoms that were previously thought to be indivisible, and found the knowledge of vast amounts of energy. Obviously, they also heard the call: “Let me out!”, and the infamous atomic and nuclear weapons were developed. This resulted in an arms race between East and West, and it only took a few years before the voice could be heard: “If you release me, I’ll have to break your neck!” Wikipedia says: “Today, the development of the atomic bomb is considered by many to be the darkest chapter in the history of technology and science, and the atomic bomb has become the epitome of the curse of technology.” Evidently, our modern science has not found so much wisdom at the roots of nature. Why not? Well they found what they were looking for. And that was probably not the spirit of wisdom...

However, back to the fairy tale. Our student presumably uses his ax, goes deep to the roots and finds a glass, which he holds into the light of his consciousness and sees a living being in it, which moves and speaks to him. He opens this glass and a spirit comes out. Wow! “Spirit” is a very diverse term that has many meanings today. In order not to make it too complicated, we want to stick to the previous terms of knowledge and learning and say quite simply: Knowledge was locked in this glass bottle, so to speak, just like in our heads. Our body also resembles a glass bottle that is full of knowledge, enclosed by matter, but transparent in places, so that we can look outside with our sense organs. And when this knowledge begins to work or process, for example through thoughts, feelings or other reactions, one can speak of spirit. One could even postulate: When knowledge works, one speaks of spirit. When knowledge is processed, one speaks of learning. And on closer examination, even this difference disappears. In this sense, spirit meets spirit here in the fairy tale, and they talk to each other in a process of learning. All right, knowledge affects knowledge.

But who or what is Mercurius? This term was probably borrowed from alchemy, where there are different systems for it. In principle, Mercurius stands there as mercury for the liquid principle and is used for the spirit, mind or the soul. So, what happens when we open our body bottle and let the mind out? Then exactly happens what Mercurius announced, we lose our head, that is, our I-consciousness or ego. That is terrible and it means first of all: “I will lose my life!” But this sentence is worth thinking more deeply. Who is “I” and what is “life”? If the student had been terrified of it, the fairy tale would probably have been finished here. Similar to humanity if someone had lost his nerves during the Cold War and shot down the first atomic bomb. So we want to speak of great luck that humankind still exists, as well as our student, because now comes an extremely important experience, perhaps even the climax of the whole fairy tale:

“Gently,” answered the scholar, “not so fast. I must first know that thou really wert shut up in that little bottle, and that thou art the right spirit. If, indeed, thou canst get in again, I will believe, and then thou mayst do as thou wilt with me.” The spirit said haughtily, “That is a very trifling feat,” drew himself together, and made himself as small and slender as he had been at first, so that he crept through the same opening, and right through the neck of the bottle in again. Scarcely was he within than the scholar thrust the cork he had drawn back into the bottle, and threw it among the roots of the oak into its old place, and the spirit was betrayed.

How does the mind get into a bottle as tight as our body? Through arrogance and pride as aspects of our I-consciousness that hardens into an ego in the body. It locks itself up in this body, so to speak, as in a fortress made of matter, and tries to defend this “I”. Then we fight against illness, old age and loss and for health, property and success. Now we ask again, what is actually enclosed in this body bottle? Basically just knowledge: my name, my self-image, my worldview, my life story and everything I’ve learned in my life. The rest is matter and belongs to the elements of nature.

Interestingly enough, the fairy tale even gives an answer to the question why “I” am locked in this body bottle: “Do thou think that I was shut up there for such a long time as a favour? No, it was for my punishment.” Here, of course, we first think of an evil spirit who was locked up in this prison as punishment and buried in the earth. Since there is the famous story of Solomon, which probably also served as the basis of this fairy tale, who, as a powerful and wise king, could lock evil spirits in bottles and banish them with a mystical seal.

Nevertheless, maybe a spirit like you and me is meant here. At least the old religions speak of a debt that we have to settle here in the world. We have a certain task to accomplish, that obviously includes learning, and ultimately one speaks of a great liberation or redemption as achievement. Because no spirit wants to be locked in forever, and everything in nature seeks and pushes for freedom. So also our spirit in the bottle, who has now obviously recognized the power that captures him in the bottle and how he is “deceived” by the world. This also echoes what was known in ancient religions: This outer world works like an illusion that binds the spirit through attachment. But actually he is not betrayed by the world, but by the knowledge that he imagines about the world. The world even helps him to recognize and overcome his “proud self-deception” that has banished the spirit in the bottle.

And now the scholar was about to return to his father, but the spirit cried very piteously, “Ah, do let me out! Ah, do let me out!” “No,” answered the scholar, “not a second time! He who has once tried to take my life shall not be set free by me, now that I have caught him again.” “If thou wilt set me free,” said the spirit, “I will give thee so much that thou wilt have plenty all the days of thy life.” “No,” answered the scholar, “thou wouldst cheat me as thou didst the first time.” “Thou art playing away thy own good luck,” said the spirit; “I will do thee no harm, but will reward thee richly.”

As already said, everything somehow strives for freedom in nature. The worst imagination used to be to be trapped and tormented somewhere deep in the earth in a narrow hell from which there is no escape. The other pole was heaven with its almost limitless freedom and joy. In between lies our earthly world, where we sway between happiness and suffering, heaven and hell. So, of course, it was initially obvious to escape from this world into heaven. However, the wise men already thought a lot at that time and realized that in a plus-minus field you cannot grasp the plus pole alone. A positive pole is always connected to a negative pole, just as there is no single-pole battery. Therefore, they realized that true freedom consists in breaking the I-attachment to this field, the reason mentioned above why the spirit is bound in the bottle.

Certainly, this path requires an infinite amount of courage, which was previously referred to as “humility”, the courage to let go, the opposite of proud “arrogance”, the courage to hold on, which banishes the spirit in the bottle (the German words for courage - humility - arrogance are quite related: Mut - Demut - Hochmut). With this humility, one can even let go of familiar terms like “my life”. But the student shrinks back at first. Can you trust a spirit that wants to kill the ego? And yet the spirit beckons us and promises a life full of contentment where there is always enough. And that’s not a lie, because truly, an ego never has enough. However, the student still doubts and defends himself against it. This means “forfeiting happiness”, clinging to the transitory joys of the world and thus also to suffering. Only the promise “I will not harm you!” can engender confidence in the student to dare to try. This confidence is probably the greatest wealth that the ancient religions spoke of. Because, in contrast to the physical I-dependence of an ego, the true I or the always-being self cannot be killed because it was not born at all. That is, of course, an insight that maybe sounds here, but is difficult to achieve in life. Because that would mean that one could even overcome death.

The scholar thought, “I will venture it, perhaps he will keep his word, and anyhow he shall not get the better of me.” Then he took out the cork, and the spirit rose up from the bottle as he had done before, stretched himself out and became as big as a giant. “Now thou shalt have thy reward,” said he, and handed the scholar a little bag (rag, cloth) just like a plaster, and said, “If thou spreadest one end of this over a wound it will heal, and if thou rubbest steel or iron with the other end it will be changed into silver.” “I must just try that,” said t he scholar, and went to a tree, tore off the bark with his axe, and rubbed it with one end of the plaster. It immediately closed together and was healed. “Now, it is all right,” he said to the spirit, “and we can part.” The spirit thanked him for his release, and the scholar thanked the spirit for his present, and went back to his father.

He gets a rag as a present that works like a plaster. This term was used a little differently in the past than it is today. For example, one reads in a book from 1851: One of the best plasters is pure honey. Every flesh wound, whether it comes from a blow, stab or bruise, heals from it very quickly and happily. The procedure is as follows: First of all, wipe the wound clean with a soft linen cloth, but do not wash it with water or alcohol. Then you squeeze the wound together, and place a fourfold cloth generously coated with honey on it and a tight bandage around it...

Our fairy tale is probably mainly about the cloth, and because it was given by a spirit, we naturally think of a special knowledge. The cloth as a fabric was a common symbol for this, which Goethe also uses in [Faust I]:

Truly the fabric of mental fleece
Resembles a weaver’s masterpiece,
Where a thousand threads one treadle throws,
Where fly the shuttles hither and thither,
Unseen the threads are knit together,
And an infinite combination grows.
Then, the philosopher steps in
And shows, no otherwise it could have been:
The first was so, the second so,
Therefore the third and fourth are so;
Were not the first and second, then
The third and fourth had never been.
The scholars are everywhere believers,
But never succeed in being weavers.

What does it mean to become a weaver? That one becomes able to interweave knowledge and connect it with one another instead of becoming entangled in it. The Indian Sanskrit word “Tantra”, which can also be translated as “tissue” or “texture”, has a similar meaning. And so Tantra is a teaching that tries to connect with everything, not only in the sexual sense, as it is often sold today in the West, but comprehensively with nature, ancestors, people, gods, demons and all sorts of beings and creatures. The idea of unity is certainly behind it, with which you weave all knowledge into one cloth and find yourself in the whole. Philosophy is often accused of the opposite, that it entangles us more and more in knowledge, only to get stuck in a sticky web of concepts and views. That is probably also what Goethe meant in the above text.

There is also an ancient symbol for this web of knowledge, which is called Shrivatsa in India and adorns the breast of the god Vishnu. It is a so-called endless knot, which can be expanded endlessly as a fabric, and yet always consists of a single thread that has no beginning and no end. This fabric of the world also symbolizes Shri, the goddess of prosperity, who is close to Vishnu’s heart and, so to speak, his beloved wife:

Goethe also connected the fabric of the world with a spirit that can be found in earth or nature, and lets the earth spirit 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!

And why can such a spiritual tissue heal and refine iron into silver? Well, experience says there is knowledge that heals and there is knowledge that makes sick. In general, it is said: The separating knowledge makes dissatisfied and sick. The unifying knowledge makes you happy and healthy. In addition, the unifying knowledge leads to truth, refines the base iron into fine silver or even gold. In this fairy tale, these are probably the two sides of the interwoven knowledge: healing and ennobling.

Of course, the student immediately tries out his gift in nature. Incidentally, this is also a fundamental principle of our modern natural science. It even claims that only knowledge that can be confirmed in nature is true knowledge, and knowledge that cannot be confirmed in nature is false knowledge. This gave birth to experimental science, which objectively proves the truth of its knowledge, i.e. with visible objects. Wonderful! This finally did away with the superstitions of the old religions, which were often based only on a feeling, whether knowledge was good or bad, sin or merit, salutary or unwholesome. But now, science has appointed nature an incorruptible judge. And of course, nature obviously confirms the function of radio, television, computers and the Internet, but also the function of atomic bombs, poison weapons, pesticides, genetic engineering and so on, from which one concludes that natural science is true. However, what does nature confirm? It at least confirms that this knowledge has an effect. Does it also confirm whether it is good, wholesome and noble knowledge? It may be that these achievements are of great benefit to some people. But for nature as a whole? Doesn’t nature moan and complain about the effects of our science? Does it not cry out desperately: “Stop! Think about it! This is not a good way!”?

It is certainly important to try out every knowledge in nature. Perhaps it is even the purpose of our life here on earth. The old religions knew something similar. They spoke of a judgment that every person has to face in life and above all at the end of life. But what is the difference to the judgment faced by natural science? Well, in the ancient religions, nature was not dead, but the expression of a universal intelligence linked to a higher reason. It was “the living garment of the deity”. Therefore, nature was full of gods and goddesses, demons and spirits. All of this was done away with modern science. Science made nature a judge who, without reason, is only supposed to decide whether something works and no longer, whether it is also good and healing. And we act accordingly. One would even think that this was the great breakthrough in our technological age, the great achievement of mankind after 300,000 years of ignorant existence on this earth. Congratulations!

But well, our scholar was not quite that far in this fairy tale. First, he tests his gift on nature, inflicts a wound on it and heals it. With this he finds his knowledge confirmed as good and useful and separates himself from the liberated spirit. Why is he separating from it? Obviously, he still has a debt to settle in the world. At least he promised his father that he would earn the money for the axe. And, of course, he also feels responsible for his parents’ retirement provision. Therefore, he returns to his father, where after this excursion into the spirit realm the natural ticking-off lurks, which is supposed to bring us back to earth:

“Where hast thou been racing about?” said the father; “why hast thou forgotten thy work? I said at once that thou wouldst never get on with anything.” “Be easy, father, I will make it up.” “Make it up indeed,” said the father angrily, “there’s no art in that.” “Take care, father, I will soon hew that tree there, so that it will split.” Then he took his plaster, rubbed the axe with it, and dealt a mighty blow, but as the iron had changed into silver, the edge turned: “Hollo, father, just look what a bad axe you’ve given me, it has become quite crooked.” The father was shocked and said, “Ah, what hast thou done? Now I shall have to pay for that, and have not the wherewithal, and that is all the good I have got by thy work.” “Don’t get angry,” said the son, “I will soon pay for the axe.” “Oh, thou blockhead,” cried the father, “wherewith wilt thou pay for it? Thou hast nothing but what I give thee. These are students’ tricks that are sticking in thy head, but thou hast no idea of wood-cutting.”

Yes, nature drives us to activity, and especially our ego. Today, a certain hyperactivity is completely natural for many people, while some also fall into the opposite and live completely lethargic. This is also called “manic-depressive,” and such extremes are typical of a growing ego. In the past, too, this topic of activity or passivity on the spiritual path was often discussed. There is, for example, the famous story about Jesus: “There was a woman named Martha who took him into her house. And she had a sister, whose name was Maria; she sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his speech. Martha, however, was very busy serving him. And she came up and said, Lord, don’t you ask my sister to let me serve alone? Tell her that she’ll work too! But Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you have much trouble; but only one thing is necessary. Maria chose the good part; that shall not be taken from her.” [Bible, Luke 10:38]

Sometimes it is certainly good to just relax and listen to the divine voice. It’s not easy nowadays, the world is loud and full of unrest and worry. In fact, for many people it is terrible to calm down and look inward. Because we first encounter there a chaotic rubbish dump of everything we have poured into our heads, large mountains of firewood or even explosives that are just waiting for a spark. Certainly, there is also a lot of good news, but we process that relatively quickly because we like to remember it often. The rest is blocked out and accumulated. Who wants to clean up there? You can do that later...

Well, our student is willing to work on it and of course uses the great knowledge that has been given to him. In this spirit he refines the axe from iron to silver. Sure, a sharp iron axe that can injure others will not help much with cleaning up our mind, since our injuries and wounds have accumulated here. It says: love and forgiveness heals every wound and dulls every weapon. The soft triumphs over the hard; the weak over the strong, just as flowing water can conquer even the hardest rock. This is a great work of sanctification and ennoblement that everyone should begin in his mind. Of course, the ego is frightened by this and complains sadly to the son that he is of no help. That stands to reason, because the father lives from firewood, just as the ego lives from passion. And it also stands to reason, that the ego cannot imagine how the seemingly weak reason can pay the accumulated debts.

After a while the scholar said, “Father, I can really work no more, we had better take a holiday.” “Eh, what!” answered he, “Dost thou think I will sit with my hands lying in my lap like thee? I must go on working, but thou mayst take thyself off home.” “Father, I am here in this wood for the first time, I don’t know my way alone. Do go with me.” As his anger had now abated, the father at last let himself be persuaded and went home with him.

When reason awakens with holistic knowledge, one gets tired of dividing the world with the axe of the distinguishing intellect. The ego is of course not enthusiastic, and yet it cannot be left behind so easily. The ego also has its purpose in life, otherwise it would certainly not be there. How else could we go through life? Therefore, in our fairy tale it leads the son back home from the wild forest. Very good.

Then he said to the son, “Go and sell thy damaged axe, and see what thou canst get for it, and I must earn the difference, in order to pay the neighbour.” The son took the axe, and carried it into town to a goldsmith, who tested it, laid it in the scales, and said, “It is worth four hundred thalers, I have not so much as that by me.” The son said, “Give me what you have, I will lend you the rest.” The goldsmith gave him three hundred thalers, and remained a hundred in his debt. The son thereupon went home and said, “Father, I have got the money, go and ask the neighbour what he wants for the axe.” “I know that already,” answered the old man, “one thaler, six groschen.” “Then give him two thalers, twelve groschen, that is double and enough; see, I have money in plenty,” and he gave the father a hundred thalers, and said, “You shall never know want, live as comfortably as you like.” “Good heavens!” said the father, “how hast thou come by these riches?” The scholar then told how all had come to pass, and how he, trusting in his luck, had made such a good hit. But with the money that was left, he went back to the High School and went on learning more, and as he could heal all wounds with his plaster, he became the most famous doctor in the whole world.

The goldsmith appears to us here as a symbolic opposite pole to the poor father, so to speak as a positive pole, which gives wealth, but in the form of nature also checks knowledge whether it is really noble. And when is knowledge noble? When it no longer hurts, but heals. When it no longer separates, but unites. These two poles of minus and plus can be found in the self-consciousness. For example, people used to speak of the demonic I, which clings to physical possessions, and of the divine I to which nature as a whole belongs. From this, the symbols of devils and angels or demons and gods emerged, in whose field of tension this whole world unfolds. And just as the father formerly used to be the positive pole on the side of the gods, so in our fairy tale the father appears as the negative pole on the side of the demons and embodies what we usually call egoism.

The proposed solution of this fairy tale is also interesting. It is said, that out of 400 thalers, 100 should be sacrificed to the positive pole, 100 to the negative pole and 200 to the beneficial knowledge that leads us to higher knowledge beyond this polarity. How important this polarity of self-consciousness is for our development, Goethe, for example, demonstrated in the most splendid way in his Faust. Similarly, in past cultures there are plenty of stories that deal with this polarity, for example in the ancient Indian Puranas.

A first effect of this wholesome knowledge shows itself in the sensible generosity of the son, which tries to avoid the extremes of avarice and waste. That is probably the most important thing on the path to reason. The less nature forces us into narrow paths and the more physical freedom man gains in nature, the more reason must be developed. This wholesome knowledge, which was formerly also called holy knowledge or holy spirit, is probably the greatest wealth that we can gain in this world on the path of natural development. For insofar as this knowledge heals all wounds, it makes us healthy, insofar as it ennobles, unites and elevates us, and insofar as it does not injure and is non-violent, it makes us satisfied. And as we know: satisfaction is the greatest wealth and the greatest freedom. Only contentment can free us from the attachment of insatiable desire. Only in this way can you really fulfil all your wishes.

Well, even if it’s just a fairy tale, we want to hope that in the future more doctors will become famous again who can heal with holistic knowledge.

The ghost in the glass - is homeopathy a fraud?

Once upon a time, there was a man who dragged himself through the streets of the city on his way home with a heavy burden of worry on his back. The day went bad, an important funding project had been rejected, a thousand pages written for the wastepaper basket, plus the accusation from the big boss that he was threatening many jobs and the prosperity of their families. Even the weather was dark and gloomy, everything was covered with thick clouds. Suddenly he was standing in front of a shop with a colourful shop window and remembered a melody from days long past. It happened to be a store for CDs & records, he went into it, didn’t hesitate and bought a music CD, maybe Simon & Garfunkel’s “Like a bridge over troubled water...” or John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance” - I don’t remember exactly - the man wasn’t the youngest either. At least there was a secret anticipation on the way home, then he pushed the plastic disc into his music tower and enjoyed the wonderful memory. The thick clouds above him disappeared, the load on his back became lighter, and suddenly he saw another chance for his project, which had already ended up in the trash. At the same time he pulled the plastic disc out of the tower, grabbed a magnifying glass, looked through it long and thoughtful, put the disc back in its case and in no time was back in the same shop where he had bought it. There he gave a long lecture to the salesperson that he had been cheated because he could not find a musician or any musical instrument in the plastic disc, as clearly shown on the cover. - The seller was horrified, nothing like this had happened to him before. Fortunately, however, he remembered a court ruling he had recently read in a newspaper. So he took a deep breath and explained to the man in an official voice: “The sale of music CDs is permitted even if neither a musician nor a musical instrument are included in the packaging, as they were shown on the cover, because the people who buy such CDs are generally informed that neither musicians nor musical instruments are materially contained.” At this, the man was horrified and shouted: “How can that be? That is completely unscientific! I’ve examined the thing very carefully!” The seller replied: “But you heard the music...”- “That doesn’t prove anything!” protested the scientist and left the shop furiously...

A bad fairy tale... It could be told better, but it will always remain unsatisfying, because something like this really happens today with the alternative medicine of homeopathy, and even the court judgment is not invented (www.lto.de), as if the courts had nothing more useful to do. Scientists in particular are waging a merciless struggle against homeopathy today, reminiscent of the methods of the medieval inquisition. Back then, too, it was a matter of fanatically using a lot of force to maintain a worldview, which was no longer tenable. And what was called “inquisition” back then is what science calls “falsification” today, which means: “We cannot say what is true, but we can say exactly what is wrong!” That sounds crazy, but that’s the way today among other things against homeopathy. Many people feel the effect, many could be cured with it, many doctors work successfully with it, and especially sports medicine and top athletes like to use it (www.sportaerztezeitung.com). However, the effect cannot be explained with our materialistic worldview so far, and so one speaks of imagination only, placebo and finally even of fraud. A huge media hype was stoked, and even famous scientists like Harald Lesch apparently like to blow this horn (see e.g. video: Homoeopathy self-made by Mai Thi Ngujen-Kim in the Lesch & Co laboratory). Pity!

Now we do not want to list and discuss all the arguments for and against homeopathy here. The internet is full of it. Most discussions end with the understanding that you always need a material carrier for information, similar to the data on a music CD. The information here are pressed or burned into various materials, but with water or sugar globules, which are often used as homeopathic carriers, such a principle cannot be scientifically explained. And without a carrier, there is of course no information. This is where discussions usually end. But is that true?

Information without a carrier? Well, even Harald Lesch says (Video: Kosmologie-1 12:30):

“There is a form of effect that is independent of the wearer.”

Other famous physicists who have studied modern quantum physics in depth go even further. Hans-Peter-Dürr says (Potsdam Memorandum 2005):

“Matter is basically not matter at all, but a relationship structure, a kind of shape or, in a certain way, carrierless ‘information’...”

Moreover, in an interview at P.M. Magazine 05/2007 he says:

“The fields in quantum physics are not only immaterial, but also affect completely different, larger spaces that have nothing to do with our familiar three-dimensional space. It is a pure information field - like a kind of quantum code. It has nothing to do with mass and energy. This information field is not only within me, but extends over the entire universe. The cosmos is a whole because this quantum code has no limit. There is only one thing...”

Anton Zeilinger says:

“Ultimately, it turns out that information is an essential building block of the world. At some point, we will have to say goodbye to the naive realism according to which the world itself exists without our intervention and independent of our observation.”

Thomas Görnitz differentiates between three levels for information and carrier (Evolution of the spiritual from quantum information, page 77):

1) Information that should be “here and now” needs a material medium such as paper or a brain.
2) Information that should be “now”, but is not limited to “here”, needs an energetic carrier such as photons, TV programs or cell phone calls.
3) Information without a carrier is neither “here nor now”, but always and everywhere.

And Ulrich Warnke even says (Information and Energy 11:30):

“Information is the primary substance of the universe...”

There are many other examples that could be cited. So we know that information is not bound to a carrier and can exist without a carrier, because every carrier consists practically only of information. And if such top-class scientists, who can look back on a long and intense life in the modern world of science, speak of such views, then they are certainly not completely plucked out of the air, as some younger scientists want to explain to us. Interestingly, the views coincide with what people have known for many thousands of years, or at least what has been passed down from them. Only the terms have changed, because in the past people spoke of spirit, intelligence, knowledge and consciousness, which were regarded as the basis of the entire universe. Why should we assume today that people were much more stupid then and did not know the fundamental essence of nature with which they lived so intensely and closely? Perhaps they even had a much deeper understanding of it, which is hardly accessible in artificial laboratories and offices, Maybe therefore they did not succumb to the extreme materialism that causes so much damage everywhere in nature today.

Historical? The principles that are used in homeopathy today have long been known. People knew, for example, that water can be conjured and energetically charged. You can already find stories in the ancient Indian Puranas in which water was consecrated for certain purposes, e.g.:
“One night during a ceremony the wise men had placed a vessel of consecrated water on the altar and retired to sleep. And fate would have it that the king awoke around midnight and was extremely thirsty. Because he didn’t want to wake any of the wise men, he looked around for something to drink. In doing so, he discovered the vessel with water, which was sacred and charged with fertile power through sacred texts, and drank it. When the Munis rose and saw that the water was gone, they asked, “Who drank this powerful water? The queen of Yuvanaswa should drink it and give birth to a powerful and brave son...” (Vishnu Purana 4.2)

The whole thing was also possible with food, such as rice pudding:
“Your mother didn’t do you any good when she changed the plates for the rice pudding. You will bear a most warlike and restless son. On the other hand, your mother will give birth to a great ascetic who will master all the Vedas. Because through the power of my asceticism I have put all the knowledge of the Vedas into this rice.” (Harivamsha Purana 1.27)

In addition, the water served as a carrier to realize curses, because everything is connected to water, such as:
“Now also furious, King Saudasa scooped water with his hands and was about to curse Vasishta, when his queen stopped him and said: “Oh king, the famous and great ascetic Vasishta is our teacher and priest. You shouldn’t curse him.” After these words of his queen, Saudasa poured the powerful water over his own feet, which immediately turned dark. From that time on, King Saudasa was also known as Kalmashapada (spotted feet).” (Ramayana 7.78)

Similarly, it is said in Chinese Daoism:
“Chen favours practices that involve conjuring water (fushui) and burning talisman paper, which is to be mixed with the medicine and cooked, not only in the context of epidemics and poisoning. He also uses such Daoist-inspired practices in the case of mind obsession and enchantment.” (Circulating passion)

Divide and multiply? Here, too, we could find many more examples. Another problem is that today many scientists who have gone through the materialistic school cannot imagine how one can increase an effect by dividing and shaking. Of course, when you divide matter, experience has shown that it becomes less. However, we also know when information is shared and “shaken” in the world, it becomes more and can have a correspondingly greater effect. A YouTube video that has been viewed a million times will therefore not be less, but more.

There is the famous parable of the “feeding of the five thousand” in the Bible:
“How much bread do you have? Go and see! And when they had found out, they said, five and two fish. And he told them that they should all sit down, table by table, on the green grass. And they sat down in groups of one hundred and fifty. And he took the five loaves and two fish, looked up to heaven, and gave thanks, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people, and he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces, twelve baskets full, and of the fish. And those who ate there were five thousand men.” (Mark 6.38)

Yes, if you only share the food materially, it becomes less and less and everyone may only get a crumb. The message, however, of compassion and moderation, which is conveyed is becoming more and more effective, and this is our real nourishment, which can truly satiate us. That means: if people live contentedly and moderately, there is enough food for everyone. Similarly, in homeopathy you can multiply the message or information and thus increase the effect. Interestingly enough, this biblical parable even mentions the powers 50 and 100, which also play a major role in homeopathy. Coincidence? At least when it comes to passing on information, it is very important whether a teacher informs all students at the same time, or whether several teachers with small groups of students are formed in this way, which in turn produce new teachers. In addition, in the five loaves and two fish one can find the seven natural principles, which are reminiscent of the five elements with the senses and the two spirit principles that we have often spoken about. This biblical parable is not just about an outward instruction, but also about an inner process of development, that takes place in every human being.

Information? The term “information” in homeopathy could already explain a lot. But how is it that water or other substances can memorise information? Do they have a memory? Well, if information is the basis of the universe (as the physicists mentioned above suggest) then of course the whole universe would be a huge memory. That sounds crazy to us today, but people thousands of years ago already knew this too. If we believe today that we can get away with any sin, great or small, as long as no one finds out, then people used to know that God sees everything. Yes, it may sound trite to many because it was misused a lot, but in practice, this is about a universal memory. In order to avoid the term “God”, some scientists speak of the subtle, morphogenetic, information, matrix, zero point or psi field in this regard. In addition to the law of conservation of energy, there is also a law of conservation of information in science, which of course, like everything spiritual, cannot or may not be “scientifically” proven. That would mean that information could not be lost. It can change, but it is not lost. Therefore, when people in India speak of karma that one accumulates in life through thoughts, words and deeds, this also means this universal memory that persists even over many generations. Moreover, as one can read in the old Puranas, even the whole universe arises again and again from the information of what has previously dissolved. So the Big Bang is not a coincidence, like detonating a bomb and expecting it to become a house or even a person, but a development process based on accumulated information. The Bible probably means something similar when it says: “In the beginning was the word...”

Information transfer? This could explain a lot. While in classical homeopathy according to Hahnemann certain substances are still diluted and shaken, there are even experiences with a purely spiritual transfer of the information of the active ingredient to a carrier, as reported, for example, by a veterinarian using homeopathy known to us personally, whose name we keep confidential because of the impending inquisition. He mentally imagines the effect and potency of the medicine while inhaling and dispensing it into a bottle of distilled water while exhaling. Then the water is shaken, the label is stuck on and the “spirit in the glass” is ready. Incredible, but it works supposedly and underlines the ability that information can be transmitted independently of the carrier. It certainly takes a lot of practice, experience and talent. And interestingly, this method coincides with the above-mentioned traditions for consecrating or conjuring water, which not everyone was able to do at the time.

Hocus-pocus? How can this work? Here, too, the memory of the universe could be of help. As we may remember a beach vacation long ago, the water could also remember that it was already used as a homeopathic remedy. Now, one only has to think away the narrow limits of our little self-consciousness in this material body (which also consists for the most part of water), which usually believes that it would exist independently of everything. Then everything would be connected to the general memory of the universe, and this overarching memory between “spirit in man” and “spirit in glass” would at least be possible. That would mean that our consciousness is constantly having a more or less effect on all the things we concentrate on, such as the production, sale and consumption of food. We would then have to deal responsibly with our thoughts...

What is “memory” (in German: “Erinnerung”)? The word supposedly goes back to the Old High German “innaron”, which originally means: “Let someone internalise something or become aware of something.” This is a typical property of information. For example, the software for our computers, like the music on a CD, consists practically only of long rows of numbers, i.e. abstract patterns or formless information that can be transmitted via many different media. Each number reminds the hardware to do something specific. Software and hardware must harmonize with one another so that the computer can function properly. So information is capable of making a system work. The software reminds the system of its function, so to speak. This is how one says in homeopathy: “Similar things may be cured by similar things.” Of course, this assumes that a system has the ability to heal itself. It just needs to be remembered to activate the healing function. The human organism normally does this automatically, but you can certainly wake up or strengthen this memory, for example through appropriate food, medication, drugs, acupuncture, love, joy, music, singing, sleep, relaxation, prayer, autogenic training, hypnosis, meditation or homeopathic remedies. What is fraud about that?

How tall is an organism? When we speak of self-healing, one must of course also ask about the size of the organism that can sustain and heal itself. A human being usually represents such an organism, who has become an “independent” person with an official birth certificate, ID and name. But what does “my organism” include? My hands and feet? If I lose them, it is painful, but the function can be replaced and I live on. My internal organs? Even artificial machines can more or less replace them, over a certain period, just as all other organs only function for a certain period of time. My family or friends? Their loss is very painful, but they can be replaced. My house or car? If they break down, it’s painful, but they can be repaired or replaced. The air we breathe on earth? You lose a lot, but nowadays humans can even survive in artificial capsules for a few months in outer space. This list could go on for a long time, and it is certainly beneficial to think about how tall “I” actually am and what is connected with “my organism”.

How big is my consciousness? Few people are really fully aware of their true size. Most cannot even feel their heartbeat or internal organs until they become painfully ill. They only feel the widespread connection with their environment when the system is disturbed and sick. Why is that? Why do I think that my thoughts are limited to “my head”? Why do I believe in “mine” and “yours” at all? What kind of illusion is it that I only live for “myself”? This illusion is not tenable even from the material point of view, let alone from the spiritual point of view. - This mental illusion is called self-awareness and in the worst-case fanatical egoism. This power of illusion is very great and leads even to a state, where one cannot imagine that the water in the human body is connected to the water in the glass or that the spirit in the head is connected to the spirit in the glass. Even today many scientists still believe that they are completely independent observers of their experiments and that their consciousness has no influence - because on one side there is “I” and on the other side the world or nature. The television-famous physicist Harald Lesch certainly asks not unjustified: “What does the universe have to do with me?”

But well, we will not be able to explain the secrets of the spirit and homeopathy fundamentally here either. It will certainly take generations before our materialistic worldview of classical physics can open up again. Some scientists themselves speak of the fact that physics has been in a crisis for decades. And history teaches us: The more shaky a worldview becomes, the more aggressively and violently it is defended, which can be seen in the media these days.

Side effect? Finally, maybe a few thoughts on the effects of homeopathy. One often hears that homeopathy has no side effects. In principle, that makes little sense, because wherever there is an effect, there is also a side effect, because where there is a plus, there must always be a minus. We shouldn’t hope today that homeopathy can solve all of the problems we have with modern medicines, such as the antibiotic crisis. Anything you overdo will eventually have a negative impact. Ne quid nimis - nothing in excess! This certainly applies to homeopathy as well. For example, it is completely unclear what happens to the homeopathic rests that end up in sewage, in the soil or in the oceans. A similar extreme mass application, as with chemical drugs, can certainly not go without “side effects”. From this point of view, it is only to be welcomed, that health insurance companies do not pay for homeopathic remedies. This initially prevents extreme mass marketing and favours moderate use by experienced homeopaths, so that this ancient medicine can still bring many good things to people.

And our scientist? He spent a restless night, returned to the office the next morning, fished the funding application out of the wastepaper basket and tossed it restlessly back and forth. He saw all the formulas and long texts that were supposed to convince that crowd of bureaucrats in the department, but could not. Just why? The whole thing was scientifically proven... Then he remembered the magnifying glass in his pocket, took it out and looked at the paper. He looked for a long time, hours passed, and thoughtfully he sat in the office. Here, too, only small dots could be seen with which he wanted to apply for many millions of euros. Was that a fraud? He smiled in relief, gallantly slipped the stack of paper back into the small, round bin, looked out the window and was delighted with the green trees in the meadow opposite, where the birds jumped to and fro and chirped their songs. [2020]


... Table of contents of all fairy tale interpretations ...
Little Snow-White and the seven dwarfs - (topic: Ego and passion)
The Six Servants - (topic: Supernatural abilities)
The Poor Man and the Rich Man - (topic: the curse of wealth)
Gambling Hansel - (topic: Delicate game with the world and nature)
Clever Grethel - (topic: Uncontrollable passion)
The Wolf and The Seven Little Kids - (topic: desire)
The Valiant Little Tailor - (topic: a healing way)
The Wise Servant - (topic: Search for wisdom, Reformation)
Fundevogel - (topic: path to liberation, spiritual values)
Doctor Knowall - (topic: Science, Spirit)
Spirit in the Bottle (topic: Mind, School system, Homeopathy)

[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
[Faust I] Faust Part 1, translated by Bayard Taylor, 1870/71
[Faust II] Faust Part 2, translated by Bayard Taylor
[2020] Text and Pictures by Undine & Jens / www.pushpak.de