There is an aphorism of the great Baltasar Gracian which I have been turning over in my mind a fair bit this week. Not least because, upon closer inspection there’s some *strongly* Indo-European [and, although Gracian could not possibly have known it, Shaivite – Shakta] subtext immanent within it. I shall not repeat it in full here, but the most directly relevant part goes like this:
“La muleta del tiempo es más obradora que la açerada claba de Hércules. El mismo Dios no castiga con bastón, sino con saçón. Gran dezir: «el Tiempo y yo, a otros dos». La misma Fortuna premia el esperar con la grandeza del galardón.”
The well-regarded Jacobs translation renders it thus:
“Time’s crutch effects more than the iron club of Hercules. God Himself chasteneth not with a rod but with time. He spake a great word who said, ‘Time and I against any two.’ Fortune herself rewards waiting with the first prize.”;
Yet the rendering of “muleta” as “crutch”, does not adequately capture the delicate shade of meaning going here. For while there is, indeed, some foundation for suggesting that a means, a mechanism of support such as a staff is relevant … a ‘muleta’ is more prominently, not simply a stick – but the rod to which the large red cloth of the bull-fighter is attached. You can see instantly how this fundamentally affects and even shifts significantly how we interpret Gracian’s metaphor!
Since Gracian chose to further elucidate his sentiment with the ‘wise words’ of King Philip II of Spain [the part around ‘Time and I’ being able to emerge victorious against any two], it seems somewhat fitting to do likewise for my own, via the words of Napoleon I Chakravartin: “Never interrupt your opponent when he is in the middle of making a mistake”. The bull’s own momentum carries it headlong to its doom.
Now, with that part covered, let’s get on with the comparative mythography.
The Club of Hercules is, as I pointed out in the ‘THUNDERSTRUCK’ piece from Thursday, the weapon of the Thunderer/Striker Deity of the Indo-European Pantheon. Often associated with *direct*, forceful action, and great strength and immediately mighty potency. There are further metallurgic resonances with such a weapon, as briefly noted in the aforementioned commentary, but we shall not get into that here.
On the *other* hand, however, the ‘Sky Father’ and ‘Wind Wanderer’ Indo-European deific more customarily bears a Staff – sometimes, it is a Spear, other times a more simple ‘rod’ or ‘wand’, even the Scythe of Kronus and of Saturn [with which God shall cut ye mighty foeman down] with the Caduceus being a further prominent example.
This device is very interesting, due to the complex symbolism which it quite naturally entails. In some instances, it *is* the Axis Mundi Itself [perhaps ‘Herself’ might be more accurate; I am thinking here of the Trishula of Mahadeva, and also, via interpolation, Gungnir of Odin – which is made from the Ash a the Heart of the World], which may very well stand at the center of the proverbial ‘wheel of time’ [and is therefore, in a certain sense, ‘fixed’, ‘unchanging’ – at least, supernally … its intersection with our universe is rather more vulnerable to onslaught and decay, especially when gnawed upon by ‘devourers’ of serpentine reference]. It is also, of course, a *weapon*. Both directly, as well as through its potent power of illusion and misdirection [‘maya’ – the ‘illusory’ fabric of ‘reality’ [ironic/oxymoronic phrasing there, but you get what I mean], radiates out affixed *to* said Axis Mundi, as well … in a manner, funnily enough, perhaps not unlike this ‘muleta’ of the Bullfighter].
Now, I have also covered in greater detail elsewhere, the ambit of the Sanskrit word “Kaal” – but suffice to say, it simultaneously means “Time”, “Death”, “Black”, and also can mean “Iron” … and is derived from a Proto-Indo-EUropean Particle – ‘Kel’ – which figuratively refers to a ‘veil’. Hence, you might say, a notion of ‘Death’ as ‘going beyond the veil’, to the land beyond mortal ken, that sort of thing. The future, as a certain Spear-Shaker may have observed, being that “undiscovered country”.
But “Kaal”, for us, and flowing from thence, MahaKaal, MahaKali, KaalAgniRudraya, and still further aspects besides, is regarded as the mightiest force within the universe. The supreme power against Whom none other can stand. The ultimate inevitability of Time; and depending upon which sources and interpretation we are running upon, potentially not simply the Ender of the World Entire … but also, per-chance, the ‘remainder’ Who shall outlast us all.
If you have ever heard the quotation of Oppenheimer at Trinity Sands, around becoming Death, the Destroyer of Worlds, despite the fact that this line is a rendition of Vaishnava scripture – the Bhagvad Gita – it is in much the same veneer, for the word Oppenheimer has translated is “Kaal”, and given the context of the verse in question, I do very much believe that “Time” is *also* an irreducible part of what is going on there. [‘Fate’ or ‘Doom’ – especially in the older Nordic sense – might somewhat get towards the meaning involved, but that is another matter.]
So, in terms of God chastening not with a ‘rod’ [the word used here also renders, once again, as ‘Staff’] but with Time, this is also somewhat true … as demonstrated most directly via those instances wherein Shiva sent KaalBhairavJI against the foe, or Devi Durga-Parvati-Shakti emanated/manifested as Kali or related Destroyer Forms.
While finally, this notion of ‘Fortune’ favouring those who move in accordance with Time, sees also resonance in the very name of ‘Shiva’ – the ‘Auspicious One’, ‘Luck’. ‘Bholenath’ and ‘Óski’ – the Bestower of Boons.
Now, I do not mean to imply that Gracian was aware of all or even much of this. At least, not directly (he was, after all, acquainted with various Classical mythology).
But it has often struck me with quite the sense of wonderment how these deeply embedded Indo-European elements, particularly as expressed through the Sanskrit Hindu perspectives upon them, turn up ‘resonating’ in all sorts of perhaps otherwise unexpected places.
Linkages which, as with so many other elements, only become more *truly* apparent … with the onrushing passage of Time.