Tale of the Brothers Grimm translated by M. Hunt 
Interpretation by Undine & Jens in green 
There was once a poor peasant who sat in the evening by the hearth and poked the fire, and his wife sat and span. Then said he, “How sad it is that we have no children! With us all is so quiet, and in other houses it is noisy and lively.” “Yes,” replied the wife, and sighed, “even if we had only one, and it were quite small, and only as big as a thumb, I should be quite satisfied, and we would still love it with all our hearts.” Now it so happened that the woman fell ill, and after seven months, gave birth to a child, that was perfect in all its limbs, but no longer than a thumb. Then said they, “It is as we wished it to be, and it shall be our dear child;” and because of its size, they called it Thumbling. They did not let it want for food, but the child did not grow taller, but remained as it had been at the first, nevertheless it looked sensibly out of its eyes, and soon showed itself to be a wise and nimble creature, for everything it did turned out well.
A wonderful fairy tale that apparently deals with the big question of what actually a “living being” or the “essence of life” is, which was formerly also referred to as the soul. The comparison of the soul with a little man of the size of a thumb is a very old symbolism that we already find several times in the ancient Indian scriptures of the Upanishads, such as:
The spirit as an inner soul is as big (or thick) as a thumb and is in the heart (or essence) of people. One should clearly distinguish it from the body, as one separates the fibres from the Munja grass. It should be recognized as pure and immortal, truly pure and immortal. (Kathaka Upanishad 6.17)
Anyway, we could not find anything about the origin of this symbolism there. At least the thumb is a important part of the hand that is necessary for action. In addition, the “thumb” used to be a common basic unit of measurement that was later called inches, as we now also use the “meter” as a basic unit for length measurements or kilograms for weights. By dividing and multiplying the whole dynamic range of lengths and weights can be described. Similarly, the concept of the soul may have been used as an essential “basic unit” for every living being. In this regard, the ancient Indian scriptures also speak of the Valakhilyas as thumblings, who have reduced their bodies, so to speak, to the most essential thing, namely the soul, and who therefore have the full power of the spirit:
The Valakhilyas are ascetics who have achieved perfection through renunciation and who dwell in the solar disk... They are no bigger than a thumb... Their only desire is renunciation, and through their righteous behaviour, they achieve the highest merits. [MHB 13.141]
People in all cultures have thought a lot about this soul, which mystically brings the body to life. Obviously, this fairy tale also deals with it and begins with the usual duality of man and woman as well as three forces that lead to the birth of the soul. The first force is the fire that the man stirs up, the necessary energy, so to speak, which we know today as an essential basis for matter and life. The second power is the woman’s spinning, the twisting of fibres into a thread. This symbolism is also ancient and can already be found in Nordic mysticism in the form of the Norns, who spin the threads of fate or life at the root of the world tree. We also know spinning as the twisting of knowledge into endlessly long chains of thoughts, which are then woven into ideas and thought patterns of all kinds. Therefore, our thread of life consists primarily of knowledge, and even modern physics is slowly becoming aware of the importance of information. The third force is a deeply rooted desire for creation, diversity and design. We can best study the tremendous effects in our modern times. However, man has also known this wish for a long time, and already in the Upanishads it is set at the beginning just like in this fairy tale:
Only the self (= soul) was here at the beginning, and it was alone. It wished: “If I had a wife, then I would procreate, then I would be rich, then I would do works”. That was its wish. Despite all desires, one does not want to achieve more than that. That is why a single person now wishes: “If I had a wife, then I would procreate, then I would be rich, then I would do works.” (Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad 4.17)
Whatever goal he desires, whatever desire he demands, all of this arises from his will. He wins it and grows up. (Chandogya-Upanishad)
Here we find three amazing basic forces, namely energy, knowledge and will, which in the Middle Ages were known as the three soul forces of Memoria, Intellectus and Voluntas (memory, intelligence and will). Therefore, the wish comes true, and a child is born who, so to speak, fulfils the minimum requirements of the mother and embodies the essentials of a person, because the mother falls ill during pregnancy and gives birth to a premature baby, a little boy whose body does not develop as usual. Such ideas were possible at that time because the general view of the world saw the spirit as the basis of matter. The body grew on the basis of spirit or soul and not like today, the spirit on the basis of the body. Similarly, we find the idea of the spirit in the glass, which we have already examined in the fairy tale of the same name, or the medieval idea of homunculus, as described, for example, in Goethe’s [Faust II] as a being looking for a body:
He asks thy counsel, he desires to be.
He is, as I myself have heard him say,
(The thing’s a marvel!) only born half-way.
He has no lack of qualities ideal,
But far too much of palpable and real.
Till now the glass alone has given him weight,
And he would fain be soon incorporate.
One day the peasant was getting ready to go into the forest to cut wood, when he said as if to himself, “How I wish that there was any one who would bring the cart to me!” “Oh father,” cried Thumbling, “I will soon bring the cart, rely on that; it shall be in the forest at the appointed time.” The man smiled and said, “How can that be done, thou art far too small to lead the horse by the reins?” “That’s of no consequence, father, if my mother will only harness it, I will sit in the horse’s ear, and call out to him how he is to go.” “Well,” answered the man, “for once we will try it.” When the time came, the mother harnessed the horse, and placed Thumbling in its ear, and then the little creature cried “Gee up, gee up!” Then it went quite properly as if with its master, and the cart went the right way into the forest.
A similar symbolism of the body’s wagon is used, which is loaded with firewood, as we have already examined in the fairy tale of Doctor Knowall. Only no oxen are harnessed, but a horse that is led by the little man in the ear. Here one can again recognize symbolically the will that Mother Nature harnesses to the body carriage and which now listens to the commands of the soul. In this way, our body is moved like a cart and loaded with firewood, which we more or less accumulate in life. This includes everything personal, such as our life story, our ego, our possessions and all merits and sins, which is called “karma” in Indian. So you can well imagine how fully laden our body car is nowadays. And what do we do with it now?
The soul, know, is the driver of the chariot, the body is the chariot, reason is the charioteer and the thinking is the reins. The senses are called the horses, the sense objects their goal, and the wise call the soul “the savourer”, bound to senses and thoughts. Whoever does not have the right reason, does not use thinking as a rein, has, like a charioteer bad horses, his senses not in control. (Kathaka Upanishad 3.3)
It so happened that just as he was turning a corner, and the little one was crying “Gee up,” two strange men came towards him. “My word!” said one of them. “What is this? There is a cart coming, and a driver is calling to the horse, and still he is not to be seen!” “That can’t be right,” said the other, “we will follow the cart and see where it stops.” The cart, however, drove right into the forest, and exactly to the place where the wood had been cut. When Thumbling saw his father, he cried to him, “Seest thou, father, here I am with the cart; now take me down.” The father got hold of the horse with his left hand, and with the right took his little son out of the ear. Thumbling sat down quite merrily on a straw, but when the two strange men saw him, they did not know what to say for astonishment. Then one of them took the other aside and said, “Hark, the little fellow would make our fortune if we exhibited him in a large town, for money. We will buy him.” They went to the peasant and said, “Sell us the little man. He shall be well treated with us.” “No,” replied the father, “he is the apple of my eye, and all the money in the world cannot buy him from me.” Thumbling, however, when he heard of the bargain, had crept up the folds of his father’s coat, placed himself on his shoulder, and whispered in his ear, “Father, do give me away, I will soon come back again.” Then the father parted with him to the two men for a handsome bit of money. “Where wilt thou sit?” they said to him. “Oh, just set me on the rim of your hat, and then I can walk backwards and forwards and look at the country, and still not fall down.” They did as he wished, and when Thumbling had taken leave of his father, they went away with him. They walked until it was dusk, and then the little fellow said, “Do take me down, I want to come down.” The man took his hat off, and put the little fellow on the ground by the wayside, and he leapt and crept about a little between the sods, and then he suddenly slipped into a mouse-hole which he had sought out. “Good evening, gentlemen, just go home without me, (version of 1819: you have had me)” he cried to them, and mocked them. They ran thither and stuck their sticks into the mouse-hole, but it was all lost labour. Thumbling crept still farther in, and as it soon became quite dark, they were forced to go home with their vexation and their empty purses.
Well, the big problem is that you can’t see the soul itself. You can only recognize it indirectly through its effects, how the little man leads the horse in the ear. This makes it very difficult, especially for our scientific-objective thinking, which only approves objects that are tangible to the senses as real. And what does the karma-laden soul do? First, it lets itself be sold to the world, and with that begins its adventurous but symbolic journey through the world in this fairy tale. It separates from father and mother and tries its luck. Every experience in this fairy tale is obviously connected with an insight or a message. The first message could be phrased as follows: Whoever wants to use the soul to represent something, to enrich oneself and to adorn oneself with it externally, loses it in the material and ends up empty-handed.
If someone declares something other than the soul to be valuable, one says, “He will lose what is valuable to him!” It sure will happen. That is why one should revere the soul alone as valuable. Whoever worships the soul alone as valuable, his valuable is not perishable. (Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad 1.4.8)
When Thumbling saw that they were gone, he crept back out of the subterranean passage. “It is so dangerous to walk on the ground in the dark,” said he; “how easily a neck or a leg is broken!” Fortunately he knocked against an empty snail-shell. “Thank God!” said he. “In that I can pass the night in safety,” and got into it.
When it comes to losing our souls or our lives, the greatest fear is of course the idea of death, and we fear that our consciousness will sink into eternal darkness. But as we read, the soul pushes again and again to light. The lighter and bigger the material world becomes, the darker and smaller the spiritual world becomes, and the fearful soul crawls into a body that, like a snail shell, narrows with every turn. Here, in a spiritually dark and narrow world, the soul believes to be safe. This is a major problem in our twisted worldview, especially today, and is probably the cause of the increasing widespread disease of depression. Millions of people in Germany alone are now suffering from severe depression. What do you expect when the senses focus only on external things, the bright light is only sought in a material world and darkness and mountains of rubbish grow inside? Obviously, environmental disaster and inward disaster are closely related. So, how does it go on in spiritual darkness?
Not long afterwards, when he was just going to sleep, he heard two men go by, and one of them was saying, “How shall we contrive to get hold of the rich pastor’s silver and gold?” “I could tell thee that,” cried Thumbling, interrupting them. “What was that?” said one of the thieves in fright, “I heard some one speaking.” They stood still listening, and Thumbling spoke again, and said, “Take me with you, and I’ll help you.” “But where art thou?” “Just look on the ground, and observe from whence my voice comes,” he replied. There the thieves at length found him, and lifted him up. “Thou little imp, how wilt thou help us?” they said. “A great deal,” said he, “I will creep into the pastor’s room through the iron bars, and will reach out to you whatever you want to have.” “Come then,” they said, “and we will see what thou canst do.” When they got to the pastor’s house, Thumbling crept into the room, but instantly cried out with all his might, “Do you want to have everything that is here?” The thieves were alarmed, and said, “But do speak softly, so as not to waken any one!” Thumbling, however, behaved as if he had not understood this, and cried again, “What do you want? Do you want to have everything that is here?” The cook, who slept in the next room, heard this and sat up in bed, and listened. The thieves, however, had in their fright run some distance away, but at last they took courage, and thought, “The little rascal wants to mock us.” They came back and whispered to him, “Come, be serious, and reach something out to us.” Then Thumbling again cried as loudly as he could, “I really will give you everything, just put your hands in.” The maid who was listening, heard this quite distinctly, and jumped out of bed and rushed to the door. The thieves took flight, and ran as if the Wild Huntsman (version 1819: as if fire) were behind them.
When the soul is in the dark and the inner light of wisdom is absent, two thieves appear. What are thieves? They reach for what is not theirs. Why two of them? You can only grasp something in the world of opposites. Who is the pastor? Actually a clergyman who should preserve spiritual wealth. Church and Wealth is a very sensitive topic, which has unfortunately been overdone into the absurd and is nowadays hardly understandable. However, we want to think positively and say: Where there is spiritual wealth, worldly wealth can also flourish. The thieves are aiming only for worldly wealth, not spiritual, and for this, they are betrayed by the soul. That is a wonderful symbolism.
The soul calls out, “Do you want to have everything?” Why do we want to be something special in life when we could be everything? Why do we want only a small part when we could have everything together as a whole? Here we meet again the famous game of polarities or opposites, which the soul grabs in ignorant darkness by means of desire and hatred. That is why our fairy tale also speaks of two thieves, and the soul should help them, but keep silence so that the guardian of wealth does not wake up.
Who protects wealth? Nature itself, symbolized here in the form of a maid who serves the pastor. What chases the thieves away when nature awakens? At that time, there was talk of sin that persecutes us through life to hell in order to be cleansed. It was said that one cannot withhold this sin, perhaps still in worldly life, but not in the spiritual world, or as one said earlier, before God.
The second message could be formulated in this way: Whoever wants to use the soul to acquire worldly wealth without spiritual wealth will be betrayed by sin. In short, the problem of our time: we want to be rich but not reasonable and wise...
Indeed, wealth is not dear for the sake of wealth, but wealth is dear for the sake of the soul... Indeed, the universe is not dear for the sake of the universe, but the universe is dear for the sake of the soul. (Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad 4.5.6)
But as the maid could not see anything, she went to strike a light. When she came to the place with it, Thumbling, unperceived, betook himself to the granary (hayloft), and the maid, after she had examined every corner and found nothing, lay down in her bed again, and believed that, after all, she had only been dreaming with open eyes and ears.
When talking about the soul, which is also called the psyche or the self, the senses should of course also be mentioned, their connection with nature, so to speak. Here only the eyes and ears are specifically mentioned, but the soul cannot be recognized directly with the other sense organs, just as the thieves were not able to recognize it. Because it is above spiritual principles that one can see, feel and even hear in a spiritual way. This is why our modern science has a hard time with it. Only little can be measured and calculated on this subjective level of nature, and the level of the soul is largely ignored and excluded from our modern view of the world. That draws ever-wider circles. Because we all hear the voice of the soul, but banish it to the realm of superstition, fantasy or the dream world. In this way, above all, intuitive reason is lost, with many values and virtues that were self-evident for humankind. The little rest of reason then only extends as far as one can calculate and experience with the senses.
Thumbling had climbed up among the hay and found a beautiful place to sleep in; there he intended to rest until day, and then go home again to his parents. But he had other things to go through. Truly there is much affliction and misery in this world! When day dawned, the maid arose from her bed to feed the cows. Her first walk was into the barn, where she laid hold of an armful of hay, and precisely that very one in which poor Thumbling was lying asleep. He, however, was sleeping so soundly that he was aware of nothing, and did not awake until he was in the mouth of the cow, who had picked him up with the hay.
What is indirectly addressed here used to be a sensitive topic, especially in Christianity. Do animals and plants have souls like humans? Do they also feel suffering and happiness in the world as humans do? The tale talks about hay, dried life, so to speak, in which the soul sleeps. Wonderful symbolism! The ancient cultures knew that everything in this world is soulful - not only people, animals and plants, but also mountains, lakes, rivers and even the whole earth. By this, our soul comes with the food into the body of a cow:
“Ah, heavens!” cried he, “how have I got into the fulling mill?” but he soon discovered where he was. Then it was necessary to be careful not to let himself go between the teeth and be dismembered, but he was nevertheless forced to slip down into the stomach with the hay. “In this little room the windows are forgotten,” said he, “and no sun shines in, neither will a candle be brought. (version 1819: a light is not likely to be available either)”
The soul comes into the walk-mill of the world, into the cycle of birth, old age and death as well as between the teeth of happiness and suffering. In this way, it also comes into a body, where it must first experience darkness and becomes dependent on the sense organs. How is such a body created? From food, especially from the bodies of other living beings that we consider killed. It is said, that a person at the age of 80 has consumed an average of over 60,000 kg of food, of which 5,000 kg are potatoes and 7,000 kg are meat. In this process, almost all atoms in the body are completely exchanged in an average of seven years.
The creatures are born of food.
All as they are on earth.
They have their life through food.
They go into food at last.
(Taittiriya Upanishad 2.2)
His quarters were especially unpleasing to him, and the worst was, more and more hay was always coming in by the door, and the space grew less and less. Then, at length in his anguish, he cried as loud as he could, “Bring me no more fodder, bring me no more fodder (version 1819: no more new fodder).” The maid was just milking the cow, and when she heard some one speaking, and saw no one, and perceived that it was the same voice that she had heard in the night, she was so terrified that she slipped off her stool, and spilt the milk. She ran in the greatest haste to her master, and said, “Oh, heavens, pastor, the cow has been speaking!” “Thou art mad,” replied the pastor; but he went himself to the byre to see what was there. Hardly, however, had he set his foot inside than Thumbling again cried, “Bring me no more fodder, bring me no more fodder.” Then the pastor himself was alarmed, and thought that an evil spirit had gone into the cow, and ordered her to be killed.
Well, how does the soul feel in such a body? There is now a large collection of near-death experiences, of which many people report how terrible it was to have to return to the tight and dark body. That is astonishing, because our soul did not like it here either. The worst part was all the food. We have already talked about the wagonload of firewood. Similar symbolism can also be seen in the hay, which in the form of dried grass is also killed life and is used as food. On a spiritual level, this also includes the many dead terms, images, views, definitions, etc. that we are consuming in large quantities today. We usually don’t even have the time to digest this mass of food reasonably well, like a cow takes its time to ruminate. Then maybe our soul will call out at some point, “Don’t bring me any more food!” Anyone who suddenly hears this voice in his own body could be as frightened as the maid doing the milking. Then one could choke this voice, or perhaps think about chasing a little less through the world and serving consumption. Just come to rest and consciously slow down... How much does a person actually need to be happy?
Drinking water and eating hay,
Milked out and sterile!
Oh! This sacrifice here,
It leads to unhappy worlds.
(Kathaka Upanishad 1.3)
The pastor’s reaction in our fairy tale is probably ambiguous. The fact that he must demonize and kill this human impulse of a cow corresponds initially to the usual dogmatic in Christianity according to the motto: “What cannot be is not allowed to be.” No one would probably have been surprised about a talking cow in ancient India. Beyond that, however, it is also a judgment of the “spiritual father” in nature, and this is how the third message could be formulated: Whoever uses the soul to nourish himself on the dead, the soul brings death to him.
Now, of course, the big question is: How can you feed yourself without killing? Oh dear, that’s hard to answer with our worldview. However, already in the Bible there is the commandment “You shall not kill!” Which is probably closely related to the second commandment “You shall not make yourself a dead picture!” This is precisely where our modern machine world suffers the most, in which nature is degraded to dead matter.
All of you, as you are, understand this soul as if it were something separate from you, and so you eat the food. But whoever worships this thumb-sized soul as a living whole will eat food in all worlds, in all beings, in all souls. (Chandogya-Upanishad 5.18.1)
She was killed, but the stomach, in which Thumbling was, was thrown on the midden. Thumbling had great difficulty in working his way; however, he succeeded so far as to get some room, but just as he was going to thrust his head out, a new misfortune occurred. A hungry wolf ran thither, and swallowed the whole stomach at one gulp. Thumbling did not lose courage. “Perhaps,” thought he, “the wolf will listen to what I have got to say,” and he called to him from out of his stomach, “Dear wolf, I know of a magnificent feast for thee.” “Where is it to be had?” said the wolf. “In such and such a house; thou must creep into it through the kitchen-sink, and wilt find cakes, and bacon, and sausages, and as much of them as thou canst eat,” and he described to him exactly his father’s house.
It continues with the most excellent symbolism, which of course we would like to examine more closely. A cow actually has four stomachs. The first, and largest, is called the rumen, weighs up to 12 kg, and wasn’t usually thrown on the dung. Perhaps one of the smaller stomachs is meant here, presumably thrown away out of proud contempt that often goes hand in hand with growing wealth. At least the cow was often used as a symbol of prosperity. That our soul gets out of the cow into an insatiable and greedy wolf who can be tempted with cake, bacon and sausage is certainly no coincidence. The more wealth, the more desire. You don’t have to explain that to anyone nowadays, because it can be observed and experienced everywhere. How the soul uses the wolf’s hunger to come back home and still makes fun of him, is not just a bone that you can chew on for a long time, you can even rack your brain about it. But first things are moving forward with great hope:
The wolf did not require to be told this twice, squeezed himself in at night through the sink, and ate to his heart’s content in the larder. When he had eaten his fill, he wanted to go out again, but he had become so big that he could not go out by the same way. Thumbling had reckoned on this, and now began to make a violent noise in the wolf’s body, and raged and screamed as loudly as he could. “Wilt thou be quiet,” said the wolf, “thou wilt waken up the people!” “Eh, what,” replied the little fellow, “thou hast eaten thy fill, and I will make merry likewise,” and began once more to scream with all his strength. At last his father and mother were aroused by it, and ran to the room and looked in through the opening in the door. When they saw that a wolf was inside, they ran away, and the husband fetched his axe, and the wife the scythe. “Stay behind,” said the man, when they entered the room. “When I have given him a blow, if he is not killed by it, thou must cut him down and hew his body to pieces.”
We are normally not aware that desire is a path on which there is somewhere a point of no return. It makes sense, however, if we think of the persistent problems of alcohol and drug addiction. And it should also be clear that this path does not end happily for the greedy wolf. For father and mother, in which we can see again the ruling principles of spirit and nature, will receive him appropriately with their respective weapons. The father wields the often-mentioned axe of the spirit, which like the famous sword of knowledge can kill and at the same time bring to life. In principle, this refers to our thoughts, which can cut down endless living trees, split and collect firewood. But you can also rise to reason and cut down the tree of illusion with insatiable desire at the root. Nature carries the famous scythe of death, a symbol for the transience of all physical things, with which it cuts off the thread of life, so to speak, but also a symbol of the harvest of the fruits that one has accumulated in life. That means here, if Father Spirit cannot kill desire with reason, then Mother Nature will try it through physical suffering. People knew this before, and accordingly one imagined the torments of hell, where one would be adequately punished for one’s sins. And that included cutting up the body:
There is another great hell called Nikrintana. There, oh father, big wheels roll like pottery wheels. Attached to them, the beings ceaselessly revolve around their own axis and are cut from sole to crown with terrible cords, which the ambassadors of Yama hold in their hands. But these, oh first of the two-born, do not perish because their bodies, which have been cut into hundreds of slices, are constantly being re-formed. So sinners will be cut up for thousands of years until their sin is washed away. (Markandeya Purana Chapter 12)
This is how one could formulate the fourth message here: Whoever uses the soul for greedy purposes must experience corresponding suffering. (There is the most apt German word for passion, namely Leidenschaft; Leiden = suffering, schaffen =create). Sure, in today’s age of modern medicine, no one should be told that suffering has a higher meaning and may even be caused by our insatiable lust. Well, let’s be honest: are we ready to live properly without mental and physical suffering? Don’t we all still feel this animal desire in us, this insatiable hunger of the wolf and this terrible unfulfilment in life, with which we create so much suffering for ourselves and many other beings on this earth? Do we know Mother Nature’s intention? Do we know why we live? Do we hear the voice of our spiritual Father?
Then Thumbling heard his parents’ voices, and cried, “Dear father, I am here; I am in the wolf’s body.” Said the father, full of joy, “Thank God, our dear child has found us again,” and bade the woman take away her scythe, that Thumbling might not be hurt with it. After that he raised his arm, and struck the wolf such a blow on his head that he fell down dead, and then they got knives and scissors and cut his body open, and drew the little fellow (version 1819: their dear child) forth.
Wow, now something incredible is happening. Perhaps one could put it this way: When we become aware that we are in the body of a hungry wolf, recognize the intention of nature and hear the voice of the father, then the spirit rejoices and speaks to nature, “Put aside suffering and death!” Wonderful! Then the spirit smashes the hard ego head and frees the soul from the narrow, dark and hungry body. This is how people used to imagine liberation from death, which ends the omnipresent fear of losing life with the soul. That was the great goal of immortality.
When all passion fades
Which nests in the heart of man,
Then whoever is mortal, becomes immortal,
Already here he reaches eternity.
(Kathaka Upanishad 6.14)
“Ah,” said the father, “what sorrow we have gone through for thy sake.” “Yes, father, I have gone about the world a great deal. Thank heaven, I breathe fresh air again!” “Where hast thou been, then?” “Ah, father, I have been in a mouse’s hole, in a cow’s stomach, and then in a wolf’s; now I will stay with you.” “And we will not sell thee again, no, not for all the riches in the world,” said his parents, and they embraced and kissed their dear Thumbling. They gave him to eat and to drink, and had some new clothes made for him, for his own had been spoiled on his journey.
The happy end reminds of the return of the prodigal son, which is also described as a parable in the Bible. So, what has the soul learned on its long journey, which one could also call the transmigration of souls? We recognized four messages here:
1) Whoever uses the soul to represent something external, loses it in the material and goes away empty-handed in the end.
2) Whoever uses the soul to acquire worldly wealth without the spiritual wealth will be betrayed by the soul.
3) Whoever uses the soul to nourish himself on dead things, will meet death.
4) Whoever uses the soul for greedy purposes must experience corresponding suffering.
However, the greatest insight in this fairy tale is that the soul will never sell itself to the world again. Who has learned something? The soul or the parents? At the end, there is the famous unity of spirit, nature and soul, which have reunited in true love. Now one could anxiously ask: Is this the end of life? Our fairy tale says: No, because they give the soul new nourishment and new clothes because the old clothes have been used up. Just as a person sheds worn clothes and puts on new ones, so too was the soul imagined shedding worn bodies and putting on new ones.
In this way, the soul could wander through the world as a “living being” or “being of life”. In the Indian Chandogya Upanishad, two principal ways are described for this “transmigration of souls”. Interestingly, it is also mentioned here how the soul can get into an animal body via vegetable food:
The wise, who live in the forest, practice faith as asceticism, practice worship as asceticism, they enter the flame (of the corpse fire), from the flame into the day, from the day into the light, from the light into the Sun, from the sun into the moon and from the moon into the lightning. From there the pure spirit, which is not like a human being, leads you to the Brahman (the highest and imperishable). This is called the way of the gods.
On the other hand, those who live in the village and practice virtue, charity and generosity enter the smoke (of the corpse fire), from the smoke into the night, from the night into the darkness, from the darkness into the ancestral world, from the ancestral world into space and out of space into the moon, where they become the food of the gods. They live there until (their karma) is exhausted and return the same way they came: into space, out of space into the wind, from the wind into the smoke, from the smoke into the fog, from the mist into the cloud and from the cloud they rain down. Then they are born here as rice and barley, herbs and trees, sesame and beans. It is difficult to escape from this. Because only if one consumes them as food and pours them as seed (into a mother’s womb), they can develop from it. Those who have lived virtuously achieve a good birth as human beings among clergymen, kings or peasants. However, those who have lived sinfully go into the wombs of dogs, pigs, or outcasts. (This is called the path of the fathers or ancestors).
Beyond these two paths there are the tiny living beings who are hardly born and have to die again. That would be a third way. Therefore (through this die and become) this world does not become full. Therefore, one should restrain oneself (in life). There is also the verse:
The gold thief and the alcohol drinker, the murderer of the clergy and the molester of the teacher, all of these and whoever associates with them will fall.
However, those who know or associate with the five fires are not defiled by sin and remain virtuous in the world of the pure. (Chandogya-Upanishad 5.10)
People used to think at least as much about this essence of the soul as we do about money today. Certainly only a fraction of it has come down to us in historical texts and in our everyday thinking. The fact, that over the many millennia no completely clear idea of the soul has emerged, shows how subtle this problem is. Of course, there were plenty of ideological systems, that claimed to be perfect, but the boundaries were often very narrow and defined by dogmas. Anyone who dared to scratch on them became an ideological enemy and had to be killed somehow. The problem, of course, lies in our way of thinking, with which we can only perceive the world in opposites and have to make appropriate distinctions. The probably most fatal distinction is the conceptual separation between life and death. Not even the most modern medicine can find a clear line here. And on this shaky foundation stands our whole worldview with many other opposites such as spirit and matter, soul and body, mine and yours, with which the thoughts can turn endlessly in circles.
But how to explain the basis of life without contradicting terms? One used to look for terms that should be free from contradictions, such as “God” or “Universe”. Here the thinking machine should just stop and not keep going in circles. Accordingly, one did not need a name for the universe, because there was only one. The same should be true of God. In the Bible, the Hebrew word YHWH stands for it, which can be translated as “He is”. It is not a name like Paul or Max, that serves to differentiate. Nevertheless, here, too, people do not want to accept reasonable limits. As we now speak of multi-universes, religions argue about the name of God and who owns the true God. It doesn’t get any more absurd! The term “God” is sometimes so negatively charged with this delusion that today many people panic and immediately think of fanatical sects, violence and madness. You can’t blame them...
Well, since we have used so many quotations from the ancient Indian Upanishads with regard to the soul, we would like to finish our interpretation with a little closer look on this ancient Indian or Vedic view of the world. Here, too, something formless, shapeless and nameless is regarded as the basis of everything. It is called the unshaped or the “sea of causes”. It is said, the truth is without name and form. Names and forms emerge only through the knowing consciousness. This unformed sea of causes is the soul that is embodied in the waves that arise on this sea. Therefore, one cannot see or measure the soul. That is why there is only one soul that is embodied in many waves.
The teacher said, “Get me a fruit from the fig tree there.” - “Here it is, venerable one.” - “Split it.” - “It is split, venerable one.” - “What do you see in it?” - “I see here, oh venerable one, very small nuclei.” - “Split one of them.” - “It is split, venerable one.” - “What do you see in it?” - “Nothing at all, oh venerable one.” Then he said, “The delicacy that you do not perceive, oh dear one, from this delicacy, in fact, this great fig tree arose. Believe, oh dear one, what that delicacy is, that is what this whole universe consists of, that is the truth, that is the soul, that is you, oh Swetaketu!” (Chandogya-Upanishad 6.12)
The simplest system that we have found in this regard in the ancient Indian scriptures consists of seven principles, which are contained in each other, similar to a matryoshka. This can be illustrated schematically in the form of circles:
holistic and soulful view of the world (Vedic view of the world)
Let us now try to explain these seven natural principles, which we have already mentioned in other fairy tales, in our own words, the simplest way in the form of the usual creation story: The first principle that arises from the formless sea of causes is the great one or universal intelligence. This is roughly, what we consider to be higher reason, in which there is no ego madness. Perhaps one could also speak of pure consciousness or holistic knowledge that unites everything in the universe. Out of this arises the I-consciousness, so to speak the separating or opposing knowledge or thinking, which is mainly delimited by mine and yours. This then gives rise to the five great elements, which in principle encompass everything, that classical physics is concerned with. Because these elements are all permeated by intelligence and consciousness, the human senses are also assigned to these elements. The first thing that arises (from the I-consciousness) is the spatial element with the spatial separation and all the fields and waves that can spread in space, the “sound of the worlds” so to speak. This creates the wind element with the principle of movement, also “the storm of feelings” that moves us. This movement creates the heat of the friction and thus the fire element with the light and the visibility, so to speak “the view of things”. This creates the flowing water element with the taste when it cools down, what we call the “taste of life”. Finally, the water condenses into a solid earth element in the form of matter, and the scent arises, the “scent of transience”. With this, all seven principles are finally contained in the earth as well as all properties of the elements. One can also see clearly in this scheme that spirit and matter cannot be separated in principle. And this of course puts the distinction between life and death into perspective. (Source: Vayu-Purana 1.4 and 1.49, Vishnu Purana 2.7, Markandeya Purana 45 or Shiva Purana 10.19)
This worldview has a certain ingenuity. On the one hand, one recognizes the fundamental nature of the soul, which is expressed in a great sublimity, as it is also clear in our fairy tale. For the Thumbling does not grow, does not become entangled in the world, does not accumulate anything, and one cannot even claim that he learns anything on his wandering. As in a game, he says, “Just sell me! I’ll be back again.” We find a similar sublimity, for example, in the Krishna figure of the Indian stories, who plays in the world and fulfils his task without getting entangled in the world. So very different from the small, greedy and fearful ego that we know in people today.
On the other hand, it is no coincidence with this view of the world that physical beings exist like us humans, but a completely natural and consistent development. Because intelligence, self-consciousness and sense-consciousness are essential properties of every matter, which therefore always urges to organize and embody itself according to the conditions in sensitive organisms. That means that everything is soulful and that we are always connected with this soul, the formless sea of causes, from which everything arises and disappears again in it. Similar to how the waves on the sea are always connected to the sea, arise from the sea and disappear again in the sea. This has some advantages, of course, because it not only plausibly explains the origin of life but also the mental abilities, reason, thinking, memory, telepathy, near-death experiences, ghosts, placebo effects, homeopathy and similar practical experiences. With this worldview, one did not have to be afraid of disappearing into nothing. People were always connected to the sea of causes, and not a word, thought or deed was lost. So they thought about what they cause and accumulate with it during life and how they could escape this cycle between birth and death as well as happiness and suffering. Accordingly, there were different ways to liberation that we hardly think about today.
Because our worldview has changed decisively in this regard. The consciousness that used to be the basis has now somehow emerged from dead matter, and nobody really knows how this could happen by chance. Even the material world is based on a series of question marks, which scientists claim that no human can know what, for example, the space, the movement and all the energy in the Big Bang came from. It looks something like this schematically:
Accordingly, today we suffer from a growing fear of existence, despite all material prosperity. Because our consciousness is based on dead and perishable matter. The advantage is that we don’t have to think too much about liberation, because our consciousness ends up in dead matter anyway. Therefore, the battle cry rings out: “You only live once!” What you cannot grasp and enjoy in this life, you will never be able to grasp and enjoy again. That means, “Devil-may-care!” What does the world have to do with me after my death? So, what use is a soul that speaks to us inwardly in a dead universe?
The German physicist, astronomer and natural philosopher Harald Lesch in one of his videos on youtube:
There are, for example, “structural sciences” that deal with a phenomenon that we call, for example, “life”. Life is a real borderline phenomenon of matter. So most of the universe is all dead. You can write “99,” and then you can write as many “9” as you want after it (the comma), and (also write) a %, that is always true, no matter how many nines you write down, everything is dead. 99.999999999999999… percent everything is dead. This universe consists only in tiny parts of living beings. That life lives around us, thank God, otherwise we wouldn’t be there. But most of the universe is not alive.
There is a similar fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm on this subject with the title “Thumblings Wandering”. Here you can already perceive that we hardly hear the voice of the soul in our restless and noisy world. One recognizes this schematically even in the new worldview, where consciousness and hearing are far apart. So today, you don’t need to be surprised if nobody can hear the inner voice of the soul, for example when people say, “What lasts a long time doesn’t make any money!” or “Poisoning is better than ploughing!” Perhaps we should not think so much about technical or bureaucratic solutions in the face of the natural disaster named “humans”, but more about the causes in our worldview, which is the human basis for hearing, thinking and acting and has become a more and more primitive materialism in the last few centuries.
There has been a scientific quantum mechanics for almost a hundred years, which has meanwhile been conclusively proven and proven thousands of times, but which even among scientists has practically hardly had any influence on their view of the world. The philosophical consequences of this quantum mechanics are taught neither in schools nor in studies and are rarely spread in the public media either. Clearly proven knowledge is simply ignored in life. Even a brilliant scientist like Albert Einstein could never accept the philosophical consequences of quantum mechanics for a lifetime. One wonders with concern: What are the interests of science?
That has fatal consequences, of course: Today we work with the technologies of the 20th and 21st centuries, but use them with the worldview of the 19th century. This is surely an important reason why we are currently mentally incapable of using these powerful technologies responsibly. We want to control nature, but we cannot control ourselves. Compared to the scientific and technical development, our intellectual development has stopped at kindergarten level and we are like children who play with fire. Despite better knowledge, we blindly cling to the materialism of the 19th century, and that means, “To get things in a complete mess.”
However, there is still hope. Even among renowned scientists, one can now find attempts to put the material worldview on a spiritual basis again. It was not until 2014 that there was a manifest for a post-materialistic science, with which a number of renowned scientists around the world bravely opposed the materialistic dogma of today’s science, which leads to a life in a dead nature. One speaks meanwhile of a morphogenetic, matrix, information or psi field and even of a “sea of possibilities” in the context of a quantum philosophy. Here one slowly senses that the huge vacuum between the tiny elementary particles is not completely empty and that there are basically no “particles” at all. Hans-Peter-Dürr, a famous physicist who studied modern quantum physics in depth, even said in an interview:
“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...
The reality in the new physics is potentiality, a world of can-possibilities to embody oneself materially and energetically in different ways. That is why I no longer want to use the terms particle or atom and instead say “Wirks” or “Passierchen”. A Passierchen is a tiny little process.” (P.M. Magazin 05/2007)
Therefore, the potential or the unshaped in the sea of causes, from which these little effects (Wirks, Passierchen) happen, is again at the very bottom at the basis of a new physics with a world view that in many ways resembles the old Indian traditions. Or, as it was said in the Chandogya Upanishad above:
Believe, oh dear one, what that delicacy is (which you cannot see), that is what this whole universe consists of, that is the truth, that is the soul, that is you!
We hardly dare to believe it, but maybe even the ancient soul has a new chance again?
If you have now read our commentary on this wonderful fairy tale, you will perhaps ask: “Who should understand that?” Then you are very close to the truth, because the soul cannot be understood with ordinary thoughts in principle, because it is what understands. Therefore, one can really only speak of it in metaphors and mirror images. The same problem exists in modern quantum physics, by the way. These, too, can only be described with mathematical equations or with parables from our everyday experiences. The ancient fairy tales with their wonderful symbolism evidently arose from this plight of our conceptual thoughts, as well as the parables of the Bible, the many symbolic stories of the ancient Indian Puranas and many other mystical stories all over the world, in order to clarify something, which is actually unexplainable. Because what is at the bottom of our world - what holds the world together at its core - is an unformed potential, an information field or a sea of causes or possibilities. For this reason, the famous physicist Hans-Peter-Dürr also tried to talk about modern quantum physics primarily with images and parables. To conclude, we would like to refer to a wonderful lecture he gave in 2002 at Clausthal University with the title “We experience more than we understand”.
• ... Table of contents of all fairy tale interpretations ...
• 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)
• The Pea Trial / The Princess and the Pea - (topic: Natural sensitivity)
• The Seven Swabians - (topic: Corona Hysteria, the essence of fear)
• Thumbling (topic: What is the soul? Is our worldview correct?)
 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