The Myth of the Hanged Man

“A curious aspect of the dying-god myth is that of the Hanged man. The most important example of this peculiar conception is found in the Odinic rituals where Odin hangs himself for nine nights from the branches of the world tree … Esoterically, the Hanged Man is the human spirit which is suspended from heaven by a single thread. Wisdom, not death, is the reward for this voluntary sacrifice during which the human soul, suspended above the world of illusion, and meditating upon it’s unreality, is rewarded by the achievement of self-realization. … The secret import of this world tragedy and the Universal Martyr must be rediscovered if Christianity is to reach the heights attained by the pagans in the days of their philosophical supremacy.” ~Manly P. Hall

The_Sacrifice_of_Odin_by_Frølich
The Sacrifice of Odin by Frolich

The idea of a god dying really makes no sense at all so it should be seen as allegory. A god can’t really die, so something else must be happening in these tales of gods that are hung on a tree or a cross, especially the tales of gods who hang themselves. They are not being suicidal, at least not in the sense that we generally think of it.

Mr. Hall says this hanging god as symbolic of the human spirit or soul suspended by a spiritual thread above the world of matter and that is true as far as it goes. In the legend regarding Odin, he hangs himself from the world tree for nine days. I would have to assume that the number of days is not random but carefully chosen as it matches the number of dimension in the true universe that includes the spiritual dimensions as well as the material ones. So this hanging is also symbolic of traveling through those dimensions back to the source of our souls. Hall tells us that when the spirit is suspended above the material world, it meditates upon it’s unreality. It is not that the material world doesn’t exist, but rather that, much like the show of a stage magician, what appears to be and what really is are not the same.

Some might interpret the tale of the Hanged Man as illustrating the need to kill the ego. While there is something to that, it is not entirely true. First, the complete destruction of the ego may be impossible, and second, it is not really desirable. Destruction of the ego would turn us into mindless sheep, which might make governments happy, but would not really benefit us. We need the ego because of it’s drive and desire to improve, but we also need to suppress its’ desire to avoid anything spiritual because it simply cannot understand the non-material, so it fears it. Any good spiritual school is going to teach it’s students how to keep the ego under control, but without destroying it.

Hall says Christianity must rediscover this true meaning of the Universal Martyr and that is certainly true. It isn’t just Christians, though, who need this lesson. All of us can benefit by learning the truths hidden in ancient myths and fables and taking steps to develop our own spiritual faculties. We do not need to hang ourselves to do that, we just need to quiet our more materialistic self so the spiritual can assert itself and we need to take in the light of the spiritual sun to nourish and strengthen our spirits and souls.

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