Saturday, November 12, 2016

Gustaf Fröding and the Esoteric Tradition

On October 8, 2016 my wife Margaretha and I attended a very interesting and inspiring lecture, Konsten, poesin och sanningen (Art, Poetry and Truth) at Kristinehamn Public Library. An excellent exposition of how ideas from the Esoteric Tradition inspired the famous Swedish poet and writer Gustaf Fröding. The lecturer, engineer (M.Sc.) and writer, Rolf Solheim has spent several years investigating och documenting the worldview of Gustaf Fröding. A pioneering research effort that will add a whole new dimension to our national poet.

Rolf Solheim

In several blog entries I have mentioned that Värmland is the Swedish province par excellence of poets, authors, artists, mystics and esotericists. A province also rich in folklore on nature spirits, paranormal sites and phenomena, including many UFO encounters. Therefore it comes as no surprise to find that Rolf Solheim and his wife Anne have their home at Arvika, Värmland. From the same magical province comes Gustaf Fröding, world famous author Selma Lagerlöf and artist Gustaf Fjaestad, all of them inspired by the Esoteric Tradition.

Gustaf Fröding

A summary of Solheim´s research on Fröding was recently published in the yearbook 2016 of Gustaf Fröding-sällskapet (Gustaf Fröding Society): Kanhända jag tror att jag vet (Maybe I believe that I know). Solheim writes that he was surprised to find that hardly any academic scholar has made a study of or understood how Fröding´s esoteric worldview was reflected in his writings. Gustaf Fröding had in 1898 privately published a small booklet, Om lifsmonader. Ett lifsförklaringsförsök (On lifemonads. An attempt to explain life). In his 1916 biography on Fröding, Swedish literary scholar and professor of Pedagogy and Psychology John Landquist regarded this booklet as "a curiosity, caused by Fröding´s mental illness", implying "reduced capacity for reasoning power", and "a low point in Fröding´s production". This assessment is ample evidence that John Landquist, like most contemporary academic scholars are esoteric illiterates, with very little knowledge of esotericism as the third pillar in cultural history, along with science and religion.

Fröding´s booklet Om lifsmonader is a remarkable document on esoteric philosophy, especially when we know that it was written by a man who spent a large part of his life in various hospitals because of mental illness and alcoholism. The life of Fröding was an endless journey of sickness, pain and loneliness and still he could write the most beautiful and inspiring poetry, a timeless gift to new generations of readers.

Accomplished esotericists reading Om lifsmonader will immediately recognize reflections of the Ageless Wisdom. With the hypothesis on världsharmoni (World Harmony) presented in his booklet Fröding aimed at creating "a bridge between the materialistic worldview and the trancendental". He envision a cosmic evolution in a multiverse of seen and unseen worlds where the smallest units are named monads, in constant movement and development of consciousness, leading to higher forms of life, above man. At the end of the booklet Fröding acknowledge Theosophy as one of his sources of inspiration.

Om lifsmonader was published in 1898 but Rolf Solheim relates how Fröding already in an article from 1892 had formulated his worldview: "The religion of love and freedom is the oldest of all religions and has inspired the noblest and best of men as long as there are historical records... its main features are always the same, the service to give unto others of the best you wish for yourself and the knowledge that this is the only way to happiness together with the drive to search for the highest truth and beauty... and the courage to proclaim and work for the ideas you have found..."

The literature on Fröding is immense and many studies have been made of his life, poetry and mental illness by various authors, among them several psychiatrists. With the renaissance of academic interest in "Western Esotericism" we will hopefully see more studies on how the Esoteric Tradition influenced Fröding. As to mainstream psychiatry Rolf Solheim has little hope: "Unfortunately Swedish psychiatry still lack open mindedness when it comes to transpersonal or metaphysical man or a psychology and therapy that can accept that Plato´s world of ideas is in fact a reality."

Rolf Solheim

Academic scholars have for several years been studying the esoteric influences in the writings of Selma Lagerlöf. Next in line for this type of research is Gustaf Fröding and Gustaf Fjaestad. Here the pioneering research of Rolf Solheim will be of great help and value.