The spiritual qualities of the Mongols

What distinguishes the Old Mongols is their devotion to and love of Nature, the far-reaching scope of their spiritual awareness, unending mental curiosity and nearly limitless endurance and quest for excellence in every endeavor. Since Chingis Khan is the Founder of the Mongol nation, we use his name as a starting point, and see where we get if we try to compare the qualities of water with those of the Chingis-Khanite Mongols. Afterwards we shall look more closely on their thoughts and beliefs.

The meaning of "Chingis" is something like "large body of water," "ocean," or "huge quantities of water." Considering what we know about the symbolism and spiritual universe of the Old Mongols, it seems probable that Temuchin chose to call himself by that name on the ground that the water is the strongest; the only unconquerable, but at the same time the most changeable and also the softest of all substances. Its peaceful, harmonic, imperturbable stillness can in a moment change into a frenzied daemon of waves shattering to pieces everything standing in its way, this is characteristically accomplished by the water's utilizing the forces existing in its environment.

The water is also capable of showing unyielding hardness; even the strongest person will be beaten to death by a single blow when falling onto the surface of water from a height of 15 meters. In the next second it shows a new quality: if one grabs a sword or an axe to beat the water, it will softly, easily and graciously withdraw; the water cannot be beaten. Immediately when the sword is removed, the water is unscathed. You can burn water, then it will only temporarily evaporate, and thereupon infallibly return. If one tries to push away or shut out the water, it will soon find a new path and there break every resistance with multiplied force. The water can withdraw, evade, disappear, but always, indefatigably, it returns again and again.

Nobody and nothing can for long shut out or hinder the water; with fleeting irresistibleness it circumvents the difficult areas, then it ingeniously, imperceptibly, penetrates even the minutest openings. Thereupon its changeability and flexibility enables it to utilize fluctuations in temperature to change its form and even molecular density, and thus break up and shatter everything that tries to oppose it. Water dripping down on the hardest rock will in the course of millennia relentlessly hollow out and pierce it. Through endlessly slow but mercilessly patient to catalyze corrosion it penetrates and dissolves even the strongest steel. Water, different from all other substances, cannot be locked in but is itself able to surround and envelop, it cannot be beaten but can retaliate with deadly blows. If the water swallows you, death is unavoidable.

The water is thus invulnerable and ubiquitous, it unites within itself all opposing qualities, hence it is not limited by any of them. In this way it possesses incomparable flexibility, softness and hardness without rigidity, it can therefore anywhere, anytime, adapt itself to any new circumstance, then in a split-second completely unexpected take on a new quality. Chances are that Chingis called himself "chingis" for the very reason that he wanted himself and his people to adopt and use the unique qualities of water in their actions.

And the people of Temuchin did indeed combine them all in a way hitherto unknown. In the battlefield they did not meet hard force with rigid resistance; when Western armies fought the Mongols, they never answered the attack with rigid force, instead they yielded softly, like the smooth, fleeting and dancing movements of a wave, precisely in a "watery" way. The Western ideal of manfulness with forced courage, outer demonstrations of rigid but ephemeral and false strength was not shared by the people of Chingis Khan, they let their opponents deplete their energy in futile show-offs and fierce, disorganized charges while the Mongols with an almost playful ease followed their opponents' movements in every detail, intuitively they without fail knew in advance what their opponent was going to do next, they absorbed and evaded every attempt of attack with a nimbleness and surefootedness bordering on the impossible. Ordinary human limitations did not apply to the Mongols. When time was right, they would envelop their doomed prey, exhaust him and "drown" him. Exactly in the same way as the water would envelop and slowly obliterate what it has trapped, the Mongols operated in the same manner.

This extraordinary intuitive adaptability, flexibility and eerie perspicacity permeated their whole nature, all their thought and actions. All this tells us what water represents; simultaneous strength and softness, and it possesses indefatigable, invincible strength because it possesses its sensitive, adaptable softness. The insight in this is a main constituent of the secret of the Mongols.

Their spiritual world

Regarding their religious beliefs: The Old Mongols have a distinct cosmology, which will here be outlined from their own point of view. It is up to us whether or not to actually accept their outlook, the point is that it merits inclusion here, since it was all-important in their spiritual universe.

According to Old Mongol philosophy, the Universe only apparently consists of separate entities functionally independent of all other parts. Interdependence and interconnectedness were a tangible matter of fact for the Mongols. This perception is perhaps not too original, but the Mongols went further: They knew that Cosmos is built upon principles that in turn are the fundaments of their countless manifestations. Every part of the Cosmos is therefore a microcosmos in an indefinite series, meaning that every component carries within it a blueprint of all other constituents of an intrinsically inseparable whole, as a consequence they together constitute an interconnected web resembling a giant hologram. Because of this hologrammatic organization, the uninhibited, intuitive mind has the opportunity to derive limitless knowledge from careful observation of a small number of phenomena, as every segment or facet informs simultaneously about all of them.

Herein is found the source of the fundamental dictum of the mystic, saying that all possible answers we carry within ourselves. "Know thyself." To endeavor to perceive and interpret this information accessible to us is to develop consciousness and comprehension on a Cosmic scale. We now spot an important clue to the secret of the Mongols, as they possessed an ability to tap into hidden powers in Universe by way of utilization of esoteric wisdom largely unacknowledged in the monotheistic West.

Interestingly, the Mongols at the time of Chingis Khan did not believe in any personal God endowed with human characteristics. But they believed in destiny or fate, and were convinced that Universe is governed by an omnipresent, all-pervading reality that necessarily constitutes the ultimate prerequisite to the existence of observable as well as non-observable phenomena. It is often asserted that their concept of Koeke Moengke Tengri (The Eternal Blue Heaven) was a deity resembling the personified Western God-idea. It was not so. Eternal Blue Heaven is at one and the same time a conscious entity and a representation of the eternity of Universe itself, and as such is a pantheistic symbol of the all-encompassing nature of the ultimate Cosmic laws and forces, which constitute the Mongolian concept of God. However, this idea is quite different from a belief in One God. For the Mongols, the One-God concept is an incorrect one, and rightfully so.

The Universe is filled with countless lesser and greater spirits, each with their own area of "jurisdiction." As so-called dead things are not dead, but have their spiritual energy, and energy is life, a lake, a forest, a river, a mountain and Earth herself has a spirit. The corollary of this is of course that the All, or the Ultimate Cosmos, if our mind can grasp such a thing, must have a ruling spirit, too, which like in monotheistic religions is seen as the source of everything. This is significantly different from monotheism, since the supreme spirit is only the Ultimate in a limitless series of forces, each with its own purpose and principle.

The origin of these forces are various. Bearing in mind that our habitual differentiation between non-living and living is artificial and fictitious, we should perceive the presence of life principle in everything, albeit not necessarily in the shell of a physical manifestation. People (and animals) who have lived on the physical plane do not disappear after their death, they only lose their physical shell. Their consciousness, intelligence and presence is still a reality. Likewise, albeit less obvious to may is the fact that beings and places in nature, like a tree or lake have their sustaining spirits. The Mongols were pantheists; Pantheism is correct, the Universe is Pantheistic in its very nature, filled with spirits. Because of the lack of ordinary physical contact, it is however not easy to establish communication with these forces. That requires the practice of Shamanistic techniques and procedures.

Shamanism is an integral part of the religious universe of the Mongols. Shamans, with their ritual activities, are intermediaries between the forces/gods/spirits and us, they interpret their messages to people, and are healers in many respects. It has often been stated that Shamanism represents a less advanced way of orientation towards existence. Such is not the case. A society in which Shamanic activities are common, is also a society that acknowledges the fact that we are living in a living world, where countless unseen but present and influential forces exist together with us. Shamanism is the cultural expression of the insight in this. In the Mongolian world-view, it is up to those so inclined to seek this insight, and cooperate with the very real forces that co-exist with us.

Reincarnation was and is a matter of course to the Mongols, and crucial to the Mongolian spiritual universe. The principle of transmigration of the soul is a further confirmation that we are the sole responsible creators of our destiny, on the collective as well as the individual level. This principle is something Monotheism wants to deny, because the mature insight that we create our own destiny and rebuilds our Path during every second removes the human psychological conditions that have given rise to monotheistic ideas. Instead we win faith in our capacity to harmonize with the workings of Universe and truly create our own destiny.

Monotheism, then, is in reality the least advanced worldview. By its sterile philosophical reductionism it prevents its adherents from becoming conscious of the much more complex principles at work in Cosmos. In Monotheism, the axiom dictates that "God" created Man in his picture. It is not so, it is the other way around. There is however no difficulty in understanding how monotheistic beliefs have come to exert their great appeal. A patriarchal, caring and protecting Father "up there" is a comforting thought, but very deceptive. We should free ourselves from the chains of that psychological fixation, and instead realize that we, with every reason and right, must take our destiny in our own hands, and cooperate with the living spirits that live among and with us. If we do so, great power is available to us. The Mongol people is a prime example of this.

It was not until the advent of Chingis Khan that the Mongols collectively drew together their combined human, that is their physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual resources to establish the largest world empire the world has ever seen, and accomplished the great task to realize the potentials of contact between the parts of the world the Mongol Empire, stretching from the Pacific to the Baltic and including the great Moslem states of Asia, comprised. It is possible to discern in the life work of Temuchin and his Mongols the undertaking of knitting the worlds of East and West together, which means establishing and broadening human contact, dialogue, fraternization and ultimately the establishment of the conscious brotherhood of all people, a unity in the diversity which the Great Mongol always honored and encouraged. The history of the Mongols is a prime example of the principle that as long as our actions are in harmony with the larger forces, they will be endorsed by Eternal Heaven, as Chingis Khan himself would have put it.

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Last Updated May 3, 2000 by Per Inge Oestmoen