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(Article First Published: 07 July 2017 | Last Updated: 30 June 2020)
In a nutshell, Martinus Cosmology refers to the account of the origin and nature of the universe and everything it consists of, as given by the Danish writer and thinker known as Martinus (1890 to 1981). Anton Jarrod, who has a specialist research interest in the works of Martinus and who is the author of an introductory book on Martinus Cosmology, provides here a short, clear answer to the question: ‘what is Martinus Cosmology?’.
One meaning of the word ‘cosmology’ is that it is the science or theory of the universe as an ordered whole, and of the general laws which govern it (Oxford English Dictionary, second edition). Historically, accounts of the origin and nature of the universe have been associated with religious or philosophical systems. With the development of contemporary astronomy and physics, cosmology has also taken on a more narrow sense, where it is understood to deal with such phenomena as the Big Bang and black holes.
Martinus bases his account of the universe or ‘cosmology’ on his own insight and ‘cosmic consciousness’, which he also accounts for in a large body of work consisting of more than 40 books, 100 symbols with written explanations, and many more articles and lectures.
Who is Martinus
Martinus (born Martinus Thomsen, though widely referred to only as Martinus), was a visionary writer and thinker, born 11 August 1890. He died aged 91 on 08 March 1981. He grew up in rural Denmark and had a relatively simple education and upbringing. In March 1921, now in his 30th year, Martinus had a series of spiritual experiences that he later referred to as the ‘golden baptism of fire’ (Martinus, 2013). According to his own account, these experiences left him with permanent changes in his awareness:
I never wholly returned to the physical world. My being had undergone a change. I was born in a new world, had become conscious in a new body. And from that moment, the world beyond all physical phenomena was permanently incorporated in my day-consciousness. The golden light had left me in a condition of conscious immortality (Martinus, 2013, Chapter 18)
Throughout his works, Martinus referred to the resulting state as a new form of consciousness: ‘cosmic consciousness’. It was on the basis of the effects of this consciousness that Martinus claimed authority for his subsequent writings and presentation of his ‘cosmology’:
Of paramount importance to the reader is not my spiritual experiences as such, but the effects they have had… These effects constitute my collected manifestations: the creation of a real, mathematical analysis of the world, an absolutely incontestable spiritual science and the beginnings of the emergence of a new mentality, a new culture resting on this spiritual science, in which a genuine understanding of life, its distinctive loving principles and culminating logic may be summarised by the words “Everything is very good” (Martinus, 2013, Chapter 20. Emphasis in Original)
Martinus went on to present the mentioned ‘analysis of the world’ throughout his writings from 1932 onwards, a collected body of work published over 50 years that consists of more than 40 works, 100 symbols and hundreds of lectures.
Key Features of Martinus Cosmology
Martinus describes the universe as an eternally existing, living, hierarchical structure. It is essentially composed of living beings, who themselves are composed of living beings, who are again composed of living beings, and so on. This idea would draw to mind for many people interested in spirituality or philosophy the idea of the Great Chain of Being, an idea found in ancient Greek philosophy and advanced by the Neoplatonists Plotinus and Proclus in the third century CE. In this regard, the human being is composed of living beings at different hierarchies i.e. at the organ level, the molecular level, the atomic level. Similarly, human beings themselves form a level of life for living beings further up the hierarchy i.e. at the planetary level, the level of the solar system, the galaxy and so on. This scale of life is never-ending according to Martinus.
The life of this universe or living being accords to certain fundamental principles, laws and processes, which in turn determine the life and experience of all other living beings, including human beings. Again, the old and very familiar hermetic adage ‘as above, so below’ would seem to capture this idea in a simpler form. Yet Martinus goes to great lengths to describe and explain in detail what these principles and process are and how they function to give rise to phenomena we are familiar with in the physical and social world.
Some of the more prominent principles, laws and principles Martinus describes are referred to as the cycle principle, the principle of contrast, the divine creative principle and the principle of reincarnation. These principles are presented as being behind all physical and spiritual realities that can be experienced or sensed, including the evolution of species from lesser to greater developed forms. Concepts we know as ‘good’ and ‘evil’, birth and death, suffering and higher consciousness all result from these principles interacting.
The universe itself and all living beings are constituted as ‘triune principles’, consisting of an eternal, transcendent ‘I’ or source of being, a creative faculty and an energy of manifestation, which itself can be analysed as consisting of six basic energies. It is these energies that are behind all physical forms of the living being, whether they manifest as animal and human beings, or natural phenomena.
Expounded throughout Martinus’s writings is a version of human history explained by these principles, which gives an account of the current situation of humanity and its imminent progress or evolution. In this narrative, human beings are progressing on a journey towards a higher form of existence and consciousness, according to natural processes, educated by learning from the experience of suffering. To aid human evolution, various teachings on moral instruction have arisen in the past, giving rise to religions. Since for many people living today religions have lost their inspiration, Martinus states that new teachings are needed. These teachings arise due to spiritual impulses from the universe itself. Their aim is to guide humanity forward towards the evolution of cosmic consciousness. Martinus frames his own teachings and writings as forming a part of that impulse.
Many of the principles and processes described by Martinus, such as karma, reincarnation, higher consciousness and energies, would have by now a very familiar ring to people in the 21st century. Yet they would arguably have seemed familiar also to Martinus’s first audiences, due to the popularity of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophy and Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy. When Martinus published his first book in 1932, Livets Bog (The Book of Life) volume 1, Blavatsky had been dead for 40 years and the Anthroposophical Society of Rudolf Steiner (who died in 1925) had been established twenty years before in 1912. Whilst the similarity of Martinus’s ideas to other ideas of the time serves as a point of contention in the academic literature on the subject (Hammer, 2009), Martinus himself strongly asserted that he did not base his writings on those of others (Martinus, 1932: Volume 1). In any case, he does not quote any source other than the Bible in any of his works.
There is as yet only a small secondary literature on Martinus and his work in English. Two key articles, by Olav Hammer and Helle Bertelsen, draw attention to some of the prominent features of Martinus Cosmology as they appear it in a comparative context. This context is composed of the Theosophical and Anthroposophical literature and currents of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Olav Hammer views Martinus work as a ‘complex cosmology and anthropology’, which demonstrates ‘signs of combining a variety of elements current in the cultural repertoire of the early 20th century’ (Hammer, 2009), including from theosophical and Christian traditions. Hammer also draws parallels with early twentieth century positivistic philosophy and abstract art movements, due to the way that Martinus Cosmology is framed as a ‘spiritual science’ and due to the presentation Martinus made of various ideas in symbolic form. For Hammer, Martinus Cosmology represents ‘a kind of partial or truncated religion’ (ibid.) from an analytical perspective, whilst acknowledging that people interested in Martinus Cosmology themselves may not identify with that analysis.
Helle Bertelsen draws attention to the ‘mission’ that Martinus saw his writings as forming a pivotal part of. According to Martinus, through the universal impulses as mentioned above this mission is ‘to pass on the message of a new redemption of the world, consisting of a newly formulated doctrine of wisdom and love’ (Bertelsen, 2016). Bertelsen writes how ‘Martinus’ books are meant to provide a systematic exposition of the structure of the universe, focusing on the principles and laws that, according to his view, operate in the cosmos’ (ibid).
Broadly, Martinus is currently viewed in the academic context as part of the Western Esoteric tradition. In Henrik Bogdan and Olav Hammer’s Western Esotericism in Scandinavia (2016), in which the article quoting Bertelsen is found, Martinus is given his own chapter because ‘his particular form of esotericism is difficult to place into one of the existing categories’ in the book. His place in that tradition is therefore perhaps somewhat atypical, but it remains to be seen how scholarship on Martinus and his works and ideas, and their place in relation to other ideas from the twentieth century, develops in the coming years.
Martinus’s Original Contribution
Despite the similarities to a number of twentieth century new religious traditions, as well as more ancient ideas from systems of philosophy and religion, Martinus does provide an original contribution to the field of modern spirituality that is highly significant and noteworthy. I provide a few suggestions here, but only a full, comparative study of the field as a whole would really satisfy academic tastes.
First, Martinus creates and deploys a consistent set of descriptors for the various principles and realities he describes. Adopting a more analytical tone than, say, Rudolf Steiner or the Theosophists, Martinus provides his readers with a way of using his ideas and teachings in ways that rely less on mythological and religious language. For example, where Steiner talks of ‘Ahrimanic forces of a cosmic nature’ (Steiner, 1919), Martinus may speak of the ‘contrast principle’ (Martinus, 1932). A key benefit of this approach is that helps foster a sense of what might be called ‘message consistency’ across what could easily seem an unwieldy body of work covering 50 years of publication history. Furthermore, by not referring to wider esoteric religious or spiritual literatures, Martinus makes it easier for his readers to grasp the inner logic of his work without the need to make extensive references to other systems of thinking.
Second, Martinus’s symbology or collection of 100 symbols provides a unique and highly creative compliment to what Hammer refers to as Martinus’ ‘scholastic style’, which can possibly make ‘few concessions to the more casual reader’ (Hammer, 2015). No other writer of the twentieth-century has depicted their ideas in such a visual way with the aim to make them accessible. Whereas his written work could give an impression that it is meant for only very intellectual people, his symbolic presentations demonstrate an interest in making even his most complex ideas comprehensible by as many people as possible.
Finally, the scope of Martinus’s writings is in itself remarkable. Whilst, as Hammer points out (Hammer, 2009), it is common for writers on esoteric subjects to produce volumes of work, Martinus consistently links and connects the various ideas and topics he discusses to the basic principles and conceptual frameworks outlined in his main works. Furthermore, he remains consistent in this approach throughout his lifetime, whether he is speaking in a lecture or writing in an article. This allows his readers to test the validity of his assertions in the given area for themselves. What is particularly noteworthy is how, for someone who clearly did not attend university or receive specific academic training, the ball is not dropped. Yet, only a careful reading and analysis of his works would reveal the extent to which this is true.
Whatever readers end up believing or affirming on the issue of the source of Martinus’s knowledge, the body of work that results still stands as remarkable given the humble background of its author. The real test of its value, however, must surely be in whether it helps to bring about the changes it describes and whether it becomes useful, when put to the test, in making an account of the realities we face as human beings. And in many ways that can only be assessed after a very long time.
Jarrod, A. (2017) Martinus Cosmology and Spiritual Evolution: The essential ideas and teachings, as applied to the Gospels. London: Light Pillar Press.
This book provides a complete overview and introduction to Martinus’s extensive spiritual teachings in a single volume.
Martinus Cosmology Podcast:
In this podcast, Mary McGovern interviews Anton Jarrod about what he considers is Martinus’s unique contribution to modern spirituality.
YouTube Martinus Q&A Playlist
For some quick and easy to follow Q&A on Martinus Cosmology, check out these videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkiAE__Hhtj15jmq0Wl9LPugdA3XzvzZV
Bertelsen, H. (2016) ‘Chapter 32: Martinus Cosmology’, in Bogdan, H. and Hammer, O. (eds) Western Esotericism in Scandinavia. Boston: BRILL, pp. 254–263.
Hammer, O. (2009) Danish Esotericism in the 20th Century: The Case of Martinus, Hermes in the Academy: Ten Years’ Study of Western Esotericism at the University of Amsterdam. Edited by W. Hanegraaff and J. Pijnenburg. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Hammer, O. (2015) ‘Martinus Cosmology’, in Handbook of Nordic New Religions. Leiden, The Netherlands: BRILL, pp. 58–61.
Martinus, [Martinus Thomsen] (1932) Livets Bog (The Book of Life). Copenhagen: The Martinus Institute (Editions. 1932-1960).
Martinus, [Martinus Thomsen] (2013) On The Birth of My Mission. Copenhagen: The Martinus Institute
Steiner, R. (1919) ‘The Ahrimanic Deception’. Zurich: Rudolf Steiner Archive.