The Mysticism of Frozen II: Part 2, The Lullaby

The opening lullaby in Frozen II is replete with mystical symbolism of all kinds, which frames the rest of the film’s story.

(This is the continuation of a series of articles on the mysticism of the film Frozen II. See the first part here.)

After the opening bedtime myth is told by King Agnarr, the next part of the film is a bedtime lullaby sung by Queen Iduna, young Anna and Elsa’s mother. Here we are introduced to a mystical place/river called Ahtohallan, which legend says knows the secrets of the past, including hidden knowledge about a greater whole that they themselves are a part of. Iduna sings:

Where the Northwind meets the sea
There’s a river full of memory
Sleep, my darling, safe and sound
For in this river, all is found

In her waters, deep and true
Lie the answers and a path for you
Dive down deep into her sound
But not too far or you’ll be drowned

Yes, she will sing to those who hear
And in her song, all magic flows
But can you brave what you most fear?
Can you face what the river knows?

Until the rivers’ finally crossed
You’ll never feel the solid ground
You have to get a little lost
On your way to being found

Where the Northwind meets the sea
There’s a mother full of memory
Come, my darling, homeward bound
When all is lost, then all is found

-“All is Found,” lyrics, the fourth verse is not in the film, but is in the end credits version sung by Kacey Musgraves, and included at the end of this article

This song continues the mysticism of the opening myth, extending it to a place that is a kind of oracle or prophet, holding all the ultimate answers of what happened in the past when the division occurred, what caused the separation, the Fall, and the animosity between Arendelle and the Northuldra people, and if the enchanted forest will ever be awakened again (being re-enchanted).

Again, there is the theme of the “wind” spirit being near this oracular place, this secret place of divination, the meeting place of the knower of ultimate mysteries. It is in the “north,” a place often associated with the Divine, the guide to truth, as in the traditions surrounding the North Star. The sea or ocean is often used as an analogy for the “ultimate” in Eastern mysticism.

The idea of memory or remembering is present here, which also figures into many mystical traditions, the idea that these ultimate answers are not some new knowledge, but a recollection of something that we have already known, but have forgotten, something Plato dealt with in his philosophical concept of anamnesis, and which returns again in new forms in Christianity, referring to the Eucharist as a kind of mnemonic tool.

This place, this mystical river, is said to confer a peace and security, safety and soundness. It is the origin of peace, the prince of Peace, from which peace flows like a river, as a fountain of living waters. It confers this peace because it holds the secrets of such past disturbance, of animosity, contention, of suffering and division, of the reason for the Fall, and the key to awakening to an enchanted universe once again.

But these waters are deep, they go to the depths. They are not superficial, trivial, or for the faint of heart. The mystical always is said to be the deepest well of spiritual insight. You cannot go deeper. It also holds the truth, not merely a relative truth, a partial truth, a subjective truth, but the Whole Truth, the Absolute Truth, the Divine Truth. This Truth is the answer(s) that one is looking for, the solution to our deepest problems. The Path, the Way, is found there. Some scholars have noted that early Christianity and their Jewish Christian adherents were known simply as “the Way” (ἡ ὁδός). Similar “way” traditions exist in other mystical cultures, such as the Dō (Way) in Japanese culture, or “Tao” in Taoism, the Way or Path of the Dharma in Buddhism, or the Way of Shinto.

Diving deep into this “sound” and you will find it, its source, its essence, its ground, the rock, the foundation stone. I’ve written before about how sound is another great analogy for these mystical ideas, the musical vibration rising up from an essential stillness/silence. Again, this wisdom is not found to be superficial, but deep, deep down. I’m reminded of the poem by Alexander Pope about the Pierian Spring, in Greek mythology it was the source of great knowledge and inspiration, held sacred to the goddesses, the Muses:

A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir’d at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind;
But more advanc’d, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!
So pleas’d at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky,
Th’ eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
But, those attain’d, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthen’d way,
Th’ increasing prospects tire our wand’ring eyes,
Hills peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

-Alexander Pope, in “An Essay on Criticism” (1711)

When we learn things, we think we are wise and knowledgeable, but we often haven’t gone deeply enough. As we keep learning, we realize just how much we don’t know, which is a kind of paradox. This may lead to a kind of “learned ignorance,” or Cusa’s de docta ignorancia, that what we think we know is not actually true knowledge (gnosis), but more like relative knowledge (“knowledge” falsely so-called), practical knowledge, but not the Truth itself. It may be a kind of shadow on Plato’s cave wall, coming to know as Socrates that we don’t know, or that “I know nothing,” knowing Kant’s appearances or phenomena but not the noumenon or thing-in-itself. We may come to realize, as the mystics, that nothing that we can intellectually know in the finite mind is the absolute Truth. Our relative knowledge is endless, and so the Truth continues to beckon us, drawing us onward forever and ever.

Can we dive “too deep” into these waters? Can we drink too deeply of the Pierian Spring and drown? Possibly, in the sense that our ego cannot go there. This false self does actually drown in those depths. It dies, is annihilated, it is crucified, as Paul (Gal. 2:20). It’s the same reason, I think, that the Israelites could not go up on Mt. Sinai, or they would die. The ego can’t breathe there, it can’t exist, it cannot think it, it cannot know it, it cannot see it, it has no existence there, it cannot dwell in that Presence. The ego is the very veil which keeps us from knowing the true Self, the Absolute, this ultimate Answer, that gnosis, and so it must be left behind. We must put off that “natural man” (Mosiah 3:19). What you think of as “you,” your finite limited mortal self-identity, is drowned in those mystical depths. As Joseph Campbell said:

The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.

-Joseph Campbell. Carl Jung is also sometimes noted as saying something similar.

Only those “who hear” can hear the singing coming from those depths, which recalls Jesus’ “those with ears can hear” (Matthew 11:15). Not all can hear this mystical truth. To many it sounds merely like gibberish, mumbo jumbo, and they go on their way. But those who are true seekers, who have opened their ears to hear the Spirit, who have quieted their minds so that their consciousness is open to hear it, may hear it. They can hear the sound of silence, in that visionary darkness, and it is music to their ears of the most beautiful, Beauty full. All magic (true “magic,” aka the miraculous and mysterious), all beauty, all life and being flow from that mystical song.

But the ego “fears” it, because it knows it dies in those depths. The ego is fear itself. It is Joseph Campbell’s “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Theophanies in the scriptures often begin with the divine angel or God crying “Fear not!” The ego always fears it, because it cannot go there, and it must pay the sacrifice, a self-sacrifice. It must die to itself, give itself up, surrender itself, submit itself to Reality, give up its will as Jesus did, “not my will, but Thine be done!” The ego must let go of its own thoughts in the thought-filled mind, the monkey mind. It must let go of thinking it can know the ultimate Divine Truth, and that is a frightful thing. Only the mystical River knows that Truth, the Living Waters being its Source, and the ego cannot enter there. And so the ego must let itself go, we must let the ego go, recalling the hit song from the first Frozen “Let It Go.”

Until that mystical “river is crossed,” that dark cave is entered, that ego surrendered, we cannot know “solid ground,” the ground of Being, our essence, our center, our Source, our Rock, our foundation, our Life. We become lost on this journey. It can be tremendously disorienting. Our worldview can be shattered into a million pieces, as was mine several years ago. We can feel untethered, unstable, insecure, wandering, aimless, goalless, even as Jesus said that the “Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58), or as that “wind” of the “spirit” that I talked about in the last part, which we don’t know where it is coming or where it is going (John 3:8). But it is only by so untethering ourselves to what we think is right that we can find the true mystical Ground of God.

The lullaby ends saying that this mystical oracle is a kind of divine Mother figure, a Life-giver, the Source of all Life, which births Truth into the world. Such Divine Feminine symbols are scattered throughout antiquity and the mystical traditions. This Heavenly Mother Source holds the mystical memory that we want to recall, remember, recollect, re-cognize. And once we realize it, we are shocked and awed to find that it is “Home,” it is our true Beingness, our Essence (I once wrote about another mystical song called “Homeward Bound,” by Marta Keeta Thompson, that was deeply meaningful to me). It is the cosmic, ultimate, homecoming, back to our origin, back to the place where we started Life, back to our true Self.

As T.S. Eliot famously noted in his mystical poem Little Gidding,

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Yes, at the source of that longest river of Life, we realize our childlike innocence again, recognizing our Source, our true voice, our beginning.

“When all is lost, all is found.” The ultimate paradox. We think, as we sink into that abyss of darkness, that mystical “dark night of the soul,” that we will lose all, that we are dying, that we are coming to naught. And indeed, the “old creature” of the traditional thought-filled “self” identity does pass through an ego death, having to release its attachments to all things, all forms, all ideas, all knowledge (falsely so-called pseudonymos gnosis), all perceptions, all images, all identities, all persons, all manifest things, all understandings, all religions, all deities, all securities, all attachments, all beliefs, all possessions, all that which comforts or supports the ego in any way. It is all let go. Nothing is kept, held onto, grasped through the drowning of that dark night. All is let go.

Yes, all is lost.

And it is in that very instant of relinquishing all things that the ego dies and the mystical Truth is unveiled. The true Self, true Being, the All in All, the Light of Ultimate Reality itself, the Secret of all secrets, the Answer of all answers, the Absolute, God its Self. Letting go of all in all, paradoxically reveals the All in All.

The All is found.

And that All is recognized as your very own deepest nature, and the deepest nature of All things, the Source of the All, the Eternal One, the Singularity, the Divine. But I’m getting ahead of my Self. We will continue to explore these mystical themes in Frozen II in the next part of this review.

(Continue reading Part 3)

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