Underworld

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Frans Francken the Younger: Aeneas in the Underworld (c. 1600)

The underworld is generally defined as a part of the world "below" in the prevailing world view. Depending on the culture, the underworld has different aspects, but usually there is a ruler from a chthonic deity who presides over it. The underworld is often identified with the interior of the earth, as Dante Alighieri described it in his "Divine Comedy".

Mythologies of all cultures describe this world realm that lies outside the mortal world. This is where the dead or their souls are believed to be, which is why people often speak of the realm of the dead or the world of the dead. The term largely coincides with that of hell, whose name is derived from the underworld goddess Hel from Germanic mythology. The ancient Greeks called the underworld Hades (GreekἍιδης) after its ruler. Among the Hebrews the underworld is called Sheol (Hebrewשאול) and in Islam Jahannam (Arabic جهنم‎, DMG ǧahannam). In Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, the corresponding Sanskrit word is Naraka (Sanskritनरक) or Narakaloka. The lord of the underworld here is the god of the dead, Yama, which is why the term Yama loka is often used as an equivalent to Naraka.

The Realm of the Chthonic Gods

Those who entered the underworld through initiation into the chthonic mysteries were led into the realm of the chthonic gods. These included Demeter, Hecate, Dionysus and, of course, especially Hades. The initiate thereby became acquainted with the forces of the cosmos that work through the earth:

„For in Greek myth you are always told of a certain kind of initiation: The person concerned descended into the underworld. - Of certain Greek heroes you can always know that he experiences initiation when it is said of him that he descended into the underworld. That is to say, he has come to know those forces of the cosmos which work through the earth, he has come to know the chthonic forces.“ (Lit.:GA 214, p. 186f)

The underworld is the sinister, dark abode of the death and underworld deities. This is where the deceased, usually guided by soul guides or ferges, reach via the boundary waters. In the west, beyond the ocean, where the sun sets, is believed to be the entrance to the underworld. Guarded by demonic beings, entry is only allowed to the dead and forbidden to the living.

In some cultures, the underworld is a barren and dark, yet morally unvalued place to stay, while in others it is a hell full of horror and torment and the abode of evil.

According to the Hollow Earth theory, the underworld is not a metaphysical speculation, but simply the interior of the earth. It is populated by an intelligent race and all kinds of animals and is illuminated by a central sun.

Literature

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References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: verlag@steinerverlag.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - books, lectures and articles by Rudolf Steiner online (Jim Stewart).
Steiner Online Library - Spiritual Science for Human Evolution (Karin & Christopher Wietrzykowski)
Rudolf Steiner's Lecture Cycles in English Translation (Hristo Vatev)
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold
steinerbooks.org - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.