The Vision of the Three Visitors
73 Woelflin gives the following report of this important vision which, I believe, is a variation on the appearance of the nobleman on horseback, despite the fact Klaus at first thought him to be the devil and, now in this vision, believes him to be God:1
74 “Three distinguished-looking men who, by their dress and bearing, seemed to be of noble rank, appeared to him [Klaus] while he was occupied with his household duties.
The first one to speak said: (Niklaus, will you surrender to our power with your body and soul?’, to which Klaus immediately replied, (I submit to no one but almighty God whose servant I long to be with body and soul: Upon hearing his reply, the three men turned away from Klaus and burst out laughing
(in hi la rem protuberant risum).
And, again, the first one turned to Klaus and said, (If you have dedicated yourself exclusively to God’s eternal service, then I promise you that in your seventieth year, God, in His mercy, will look upon your deeds with compassion and will relieve you of all your burdens.
Therefore, in the meantime, I admonish you to endure steadfastly and, in eternal life, I will give you the bear’s
claw ( ursinam ungulam) and the flag of the victorious army (validi exercitus vexillum).
But the cross that is to remind you of us I shall leave behind for you to carry: Whereupon the noblemen left.
Thus, Brother Klaus realised that if he were able to bravely overcome the torment of many temptations,
a mighty army would accompany him into eternal glory:’
At first, this vision appears to be self-explanatory, and it seems that the three men represent the Holy Trinity.
But when we take a closer look, we notice some curious points: firstly, the fact that when they first appear, Klaus himself is not sure whether the three men are not demonic tempters; secondly, the absurd laughter of the visitors;
thirdly, the fact that the first of the three men refers to God in the third person, as if he were not God himself, and yet he then speaks in the first person, as if he were God; and finally, the peculiar symbol of the bear’s claw and the flag of the mighty army in the Beyond, which the three men offer him.
According to the rules of dream interpretation, motifs must first be taken for what they are.
This would mean accepting that while these three noblemen remind us of the Christian Trinity, nevertheless they do not exactly correspond to the Trinitarian dogma.
Rather, they are the spontaneous appearance of a triadic image of God, an archetype which, as C. G. Jung has shown, was generally widespread long before the idea of the Christian Trinity took hold.2
The unchristian elements of these three figures once again seem to point towards older Germanic ideas, as in the vision of the lily and the horse we spoke of earlier, but here they point more towards Wotan, especially the reference to the bear’s claw which Niklaus will receive in the Beyond as a sign, or “totem” -his own individual symbol.
76 The great Germanic god Donar is often referred to as Bjorn (Bear), and Wotan sometimes called himself Bjorn or Bjarki (Little Bear), but also especially Hrammi (Bear’s Paw).3
Even today, in the central part of Switzerland, you can find a bear’s paw nailed to house doors as a talisman.4 Indeed, the paws symbolise pars pro toto the power a bear has, so that the motif actually expresses the fact that
Brother Klaus will find he has the strength and the power of a bear in the Beyond.
But perhaps it also means that this aspect of his being can only be truly realised after his death.
In Revelations,5 it is written:
“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth if’ Thus, Brother Klaus’s new and secret name in the Beyond would be “Hrammi” (Bear’s Paw)-one of Wotan’s names.6
77 Benoit Lavaud, who has compiled all the biblical amplifications of the symbol of the bear,7 came to the paradoxical conclusion that sometimes the bear represents the wicked ruler8 ( e.g., the “beast” of the Revelation has the feet of a bear),9 but that it is also an image of Yahweh, though in his “dark” manifestations.
Thus, in Lamentations,10 it says about God, “He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. He has turned aside my ways … ” Here, the bear represents the dark side of God whose ‘terrifying countenance, will later be revealed to Brother Klaus more clearly.
But apparently, in the Beyond, Brother Klaus will be the herald of this dark side of God’s image which, although it can be destructive for anyone who is possessed by it, within his soul it will be transformed into a healing power. Incidentally, it should be noted that, right up to the present time, the bear is one of the most widespread protective spirits of the Nordic shamans.11
In earlier times, for many peoples of eastern and northern Europe, the bear was so sacred that its name was not to be spoken out loud.
Instead, one referred to him indirectly as “He;’ “the House-£a t he r,” “L1′ tt1 e Grand £a t h er,” “F at he r,” “Mother,” ”Clever Fa t he r,” “The Old One;’ “The Holy Man;’ “The Holy Woman;’ “The Honeyeater;’ or “Gold-foot:’
In Greece, the bear was sacred to Artemis and the Mother-Goddess. In addition, the female spirit who follows a hero, the Fylgia of the Germanic people, is often a bear.
Bear claws were thought to be a talisman against the evil eye, and in Prussia, a bear’s paw was put into the tombs of the dead so that they could climb the “Mountain of the Beyond:’
In Christian times, the bear was sometimes seen as being one form in which the devil chose to appear, and at other times as being the animal of the Mother of God.12
7s Because Brother Klaus does not understand all of this and cannot understand it, the three divine visitors tell him that they will leave him the cross-the Christian symbol of wholeness-to bear during his lifetime that, however, feels like a dead weight to the person who has to carry it and makes the suffering and torture that Christ underwent in bearing His own cross an inner reality for the bearer.
This is an indication of the next developmental step that is required, namely, to follow the path of inner alignment with Christ and to become one with that god who has the “bear’s paw” as his distinctive sign, and in whom the power and effectiveness of animal nature will be redeemed and integrated.
Seen from a psychological standpoint, the cross means the “torment of becoming conscious, of moral conflict and the uncertainty of one’s own thoughts:’13
Accordingly, it would mean that Klaus can only obtain the “prize” of the bear’s paw by suffering what the cross means.
79 Responding to Klaus’s answer that he would submit himself to God alone, the three men turn away and burst out laughing.14
There seems to me to be a similarity here to Klaus’s cloud vision in which Klaus asked God for a “life of devotion;’ and God scolded him and told him he should submit himself to His will.
Indeed, the laughter of the visitors points to a similar incongruence, namely, to the fact that once again Brother Klaus’s idea of God differs from the reality of God that is staring him in the face.
The most striking difference here is the Wotan like characteristics which God, as he now appears, unexpectedly has.
In fact, Wotan often walked about on earth in the company of two companions, for example, with Honir and Lodur at the time when he gave life to the first people, Askr and Embla.15
And on other occasions, he often travelled incognito around the country with Honir and Loki, and together, they paid an unexpected visit to someone.16
In Saxony, Odin joins with Saxnot (Tyr) and Thuner (Thor) to form a supreme divine trinity, which finds an echo in the sequence of “Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday:’ 17
The same triad latently still exists in many local legends: Three men sleep in Zobtenberg, as well as in a mountain crevice near the Lake of Lucerne.
Similarly, three men who live in the Dominiloch on the mountain of Pilatus will, at some point, free the country in a time of need.18
The three summits of the hill of God ( Gotteshiigel) in AltUpsala are to this day associated with Odin, Thor and Frey.19
Otherwise, Wotan often appears with his brothers Wili and We, or with the two ravens Hugin and Munin, or with the wolves Geri and Freki, or with the dogs Wil and Wal.
In the sixteenth century, he was still said to be eerily moving around the region of Lucerne as the three-legged Tiirsthund (Thurse: giant),20 and his horse is often similarly depicted as being three-legged.21
Especially in Sachseln, where Brother Klaus lived, Wotan was believed to haunt the place as the so-called “Dancing Dog of the Arbour” (Tanzlaubenhund) with only one eye, the size of a plate, on his forehead, and he was once seen by Niklaus’s own daughter.22
On rune stones, a triadic figure is the sign for Wotan.23
The powerful, that is, victorious (valid us), army with which Brother Klaus will enter into the Beyond calls to mind the army of the slain (Einherjer) who serve Wotan.24
The servitude which the three visitors ask of Brother Klaus seems to be something like a demand for allegiance.25
Wotan’s retinue bore, among other things, the honorary title of “Victorious Bears” (Sige-beorni). 26
In the folklore of circa 1600 in the area around Lucerne, Wotan’s army of the dead was still thought of in a positive way, whereas almost everywhere else it was thought of as being an evil, wild ghost-hunt.27
Their leader, God himself, appears as a “great and powerful lord;’ and to belong to His army was considered a privilege rather than a curse.
The army was called “the raging army” (Wuott ins Heer),28 “God’s army” ( Guottisheer)29 or, more commonly, “the blessed ones” (die saligen Liitt), and the latter, it was said, were ((even friendly and charming” to the living.
It was also believed that some people lived in close companionship with ((the blessed ones” and that, now and then, they strolled around with them, which was considered to be a great honour, and people who did this were thought of as being more pious, more reverent and more fortunate than others, even ((almost saintly:’30
Thus, it becomes clearer what the posthumous union of Brother Klaus with this ((powerful army:’ which the three noble wanderers augured, could mean.
s1 As a motif, the flag with the bear’s paw fits in this connection for, as Ninck emphasises, the flag always represents being under Wotan’s protection.31
If it flutters, it promises victory; if it droops, it is a bad omen. 32
Priests carried such animal symbols not only among the troops on the battlefields, but also through fields as a magical means of making the soil fertile.33
Apparently, Brother Klaus is elected to be such a priest.
It is altogether quite striking how Brother Klaus’s later role in the Ranft brings to mind the role of priests in old Germanic times, as well as the role of the shamans of the north.
In old Germanic times, priests were simply noblemen, heads of families or men and women with natural authority.34
The priests were called ewart or esago, and they were the guardians and spokesmen of “rights” (e, that is, religio). 35
Apparently, they had long hair and wore a long robe with a stolelike belt.36
The famous seeress Weleda of the Westphalian Bructere lived in a tower37 from where she announced her prophecies.
If one reads about the many political consultations and other dealings for which Brother Klaus’s opinion was asked, which are recorded in Duerrer’s source book, it would seem Klaus really was such an ewart, a guardian of the e ( the divine order).
There is one strange motif, however, that unexpectedly connects this vision that seems to be so transparently pagan to Christianity, namely, the cross which is left behind and which Brother Klaus should bear for the rest of his life as a reminder of the three visitors.
This makes it impossible to view the vision as a simple regression into paganism.
Rather, this motif points towards the “Christification of the individual through the Holy Ghost;’ which Jung describes in his paper ”Answer to Job:’38
83 The Imitatio Christi, which is clearly expressed in the motif of the carrying of the cross, shows that the three visitors wanted Brother Klaus to realise a spiritual development which does not reject, or run counter to, what is Christian, but rather reveals new aspects of it and demands the integration of further archetypal contents.
84 As Jung states in Psychology and Religion,39 the Christian cross, psychologically speaking, symbolises a step in becoming conscious in which man becomes aware of his ethical conflict and of his responsibility.
Within the Trinity, the cross is essentially a part of the hypostasis of God the Son.
But in relation to the Holy Ghost, it symbolises a step in spiritual development in which the ego voluntarily submits itself to a more comprehensive inner wholeness: the Self.
The effect that the Self has upon the psyche is known in Christian terms as the “Holy Ghost;’ that is, as the breath that heals and makes whole and establishes the integrity of the personality, which, in these circumstances, is highly appropriate.
For the last two thousand years, history has known of the figure of the primeval Cosmic: Man, the Anthropos, “whose image has merged with that of Yahweh and also of Christ. Similarly, the saints who received the stigmata became Christ-figures in a visible and concrete sense, and thus carriers of the Anthropos-image.
They symbolize the working of the Holy Ghost among men:’40 We need hardly emphasise how true this is of Brother Klaus.
Jung goes on to say41 that there are many symbols of the Self which take a nonhuman form, for example, the sphere, circle, square, and octagon; or chemical-physical forms, such as the stone, ruby, diamond, quicksilver, gold, water, fire, spirit, etc.
Thus, these symbols express the nonhuman character of the Self of wholeness.
Seen within the context of what Jung has said, we could understand Brother Klaus’s vision to mean that it was presaged for him to become a Christlike person and “carrier of the Anthropos-image:’ thus making him a living harbinger of a spirit that manifests theriomorphically as a bear.
But we may not overlook the fact that in his vision Brother Klaus is not given a bear.
Rather, he is given only a flag with the image, that is, the symbol, of a bear’s paw.
This hints that the dark side of God’s spirit is not to be experienced in the form of an archaic state of possession as it was, for example, in old Germanic times when there was a custom of people going berserk.
Rather, it should be integrated on a symbolic level.
The path to achieve this will lead him to his alignment with Christ.
Because this last motif is presented more clearly in a later vision, I want to postpone any further interpretation of this point.
Instead, I would like to pursue the strange motif of the wandering divine visitor for this motif is of central importance in the first of several visions recently found in Lucerne. ~Marie Louise von Franz, Niklaus von Flue and Saint Perpetua, Page 57-65