What was the Golden Age?

... myth is neither irresponsible fantasy, nor the object of weighty psychology, or any such thing.  It is “wholly other,: and requires to be looked at with open eyes.”  Hamlet’s Mill, p. 328.

Over 300 myths and stories from around the world are known to scholars that tell of a time known today as the Golden Age. It was the time of a primordial human race that enjoyed a transcendent spiritual consciousness that is almost entirely unknown to us today, save in brief moments when we feel connected each other and to all of creation. We call these sudden bursts of conscious expansion spiritual, or something similar, to indicate they are beyond the mundane world of our ordinary senses. This expanded awareness connected those humans alive during the Golden Age not only to each other, but to something greater, something beyond the physical world we experience. We can call this another ontological level of existence—a real existence—even though most of us can’t usually experience it; it is beyond the ordinary sensory world.

When we read what others have written about this time, these Days of Yore, we must keep in mind that we don’t really understand what it was like, because we don’t experience reality in the same way the people alive then did; modern consciousness is much narrower. It is centered almost exclusively on our physical bodies and our immediate physical environs. Yet we can get some idea of those Days, at least as observers.

There was no disease and one did not grow old as we do; people lived as long as they chose to. There was no hatred, no vanity, fear, greed or evil desire or thought. There was no sorrow, no pain. There was no guilt and no crime, for all that was truly desired was available or could be created. There was no selfishness, for there was no isolated self as we understand that word. There was no loneliness; instead there was constant connection to a spiritual presence and level of being to which all belonged. It is difficult for us to appreciate the feeling this connection brings unless we have experienced it ourselves. Many in modern times, who have experienced this connection, even if fleetingly, have said they would give anything they have for more of it. The feeling is inexpressible in words; it is beyond all usual experience and far greater. If we obtain a bit of it by some inexplicable grace—even for only a moment—we weep when it leaves us as we would for a close one who has died, for that’s what has happened: a vast, divine family of which we are a part has died to our awareness.

Participation in such wholeness is love, sharing, grace, kindness, giving, selfishness, joy. It is coming home and realizing this is where everyone belongs. It is the state where everything really is perfect, where nothing need be healed, nothing need be feared.

Above all, it is the state in which we can fulfill our purpose for being here on Earth in the first place.

The Golden Race

The term “Golden Age” referred to the time of the “golden race.” This race was regarded as divine or “god-like.” They were in constant contact with realms that were higher than or superior to our own, which made them fundamentally different from us. We have tended to see this difference as being so great (or told it was so great) that there is an uncrossable, existential divide between us and them. But, as we will see when we look at how this Age was lost, it may rather be that we are in such a diminished state now the differences only seem impossibly large. If a divine force inhered in this golden race as a constant presence, and awareness of this presence was cut off, the differences disappear, as this is the state we find ourselves in today.

Note, though, that something is not necessarily gone just because we can’t find it or are cut off from it at the moment. If humans experienced a Golden Age once, we can do it again. We just need to use the right tools and techniques to do it, for it is our state of consciousness that determines our perception of reality. If our awareness only includes what our physical senses receive, that defines our perceived reality. But if we learn to apprehend our more subtle inner senses, reality can change in dramatic ways. It is achieving this expansion of awareness that the Fool’s Journey is concerned with.

Where Is Paradise?

Among the many myths and stories of the Golden Age are the Garden of Eden, Hy-Breasail, Hyperborea, Tir nan Og, Avalon, Shangri-la, Shambhala, Valhalla and many others. Where are these places? They were said to be in the far North (Hyperborea, for example, means beyond the north wind), or in the far West—even on an unreachable, hidden island as was the Isle of Avalon in the Arthurian stories. But were any of these real places? After all, there is no physical evidence any of them ever existed, no pottery shards, no skeletons, no nothing. They are on no modern map, nor does there seem to be any place they could have been or could still be.

Yet what would finding such a place accomplish? We would still be stuck in the same conscious reality, and any artifacts we might find would be mere curiosities. They would not help us regain what we have lost. Instead we need to travel inward and seek ways of re-expanding our consciousness; this is the only way we can return to Paradise.

But is it real?

Were or are any of these places real? Since their reality depends on the consciousness trying to apprehend them, the answer is both yes and no. If we can develop our consciousness, the answer will be yes. If we cannot, and if we insist on only looking at maps and traveling with picks and shovels to the dig of some archeological site, the answer will be no.

Still, we wish to know if such places did exist in the past, and the myths about them were not merely made up to create psychological hope and comfort for ourselves amid the  sorrows and trials of our world. After looking at this question in detail, Richard Heinberg, in Memories and Visions of Paradise, concludes:

Sometimes the simplest and most straightforward approach to a problem is the best one, and yet sometimes it is the last one we see. In this case, surely the most direct approach to the universal story of the Golden Age would be to ask, What if the Paradise myth simply means what it says—that there was a time when human beings shared a state of being in which they knew union with all life and wielded magical creative abilities, and that this state of being was somehow tragically lost? [Emphasis in the original.](p. 200)

How did that state of being become lost to us? We'll look at that next in The Catastrophe.