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Part 2:
The Double Gyre

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     The party of gods flew on the wind, which soon became stronger and began to whirl in a broad circle, as if they were in a hurricane. “Everyone hold tight,” said Wotan, and all linked hands as the whirlwind condensed itself into a tornado. After being spun around frantically for several harrowing moments, they emerged out the bottom of the funnel and gently floated to the ground at the gate of a great castle. A tree of enormous proportions grew out of the top of it, and its mighty roots were visible at its base, as if the castle had been built around this tree and somehow continued to grow organically just as the tree did.
     Jesus marvelled at the immensity of it. “It reminds me of the Tree of Life,” he said.
     “It should,” said Wotan. “It is the World Tree. We call it Yggdrasil. I once hung upon it, as you did on the Cross.”
     “Indeed!” said Jesus, casting a very respectful look on the Allfather. “Our mysteries are more similar than I had thought.”
     “In what land are we?” said Hitler, “and whose remarkable fortress is this?”
     “We are at the Crux of Time,” said Wotan. “The whirlwind through which we travelled is created by the confluence of past, present, and future around the structure. For this is the Castle of the Norns.”
     The drawbridge lay open before them, and standing on the far end of it was a beauteous young maiden, who said, “Why, Allfather! What a pleasant surprise. And a whole company of gods! My sisters and I are honored.”
     “Hello, Urdur,” said Wotan, “the pleasure is mine.” The company advanced across the drawbridge, and Wotan embraced the girl in greeting. “I believe you know everyone present,” he said, “except for these two worthies; so let me introduce the Stark von Odin, Adolf Hitler by name; and Jesus Christ, the Lord of Heaven and of various regions on the Earth. Gentlemen, this is Urdur, the Norn of the Past.”
     The Norn curtsied, and said, “Oh, noble sirs, I am very familiar with your exploits from my work on the looms of fate. It is a great honor and pleasure to now meet you both in person!”

     Christ and Hitler bowed and offered pleasantries in return, and then Urdur invited the whole company inside.
     She escorted them into a room that would have accomodated a tribe of Cyclopes. In the center of the vast space, going up into the high vaulted reaches of the edifice, was a sight that made the two newcomers stare at it agog, and even elicited awe from those who had seen it many times before. “What is that incredible contrivance?” said Hitler when he found his voice. “The lights, the colors, the size of it ~ I’m dazzled, I have to admit it!”
      “It’s the Double Gyre,” said Wotan, and even his grave voice had an undertone of wonder. “It’s the actual fabric of fate and destiny. In its warp and weft, it holds the pattern of everything that has ever been, is now, and ever can be.”
      “And everything that might have been, Milord,” added Nanna. “That is also very important.”
     “Indeed,” said Wotan, “yes, indeed.” And a spark appeared in the eye of the Stark von Odin.

     The remarkable object confronting the visitors was indeed a double gyre: two great cones, one pointing up and the other down, intersecting at the exact midpoint of both. The cones were made of light ~ subtle little lasers of multiple colors and infinite numbers, being spun out from the points of the two cones by one loom below here on the floor, and a second loom above, high in the ceiling-recess. The only discernible difference in the appearance of the two cones was that the upright one, being spun down from above, glowed with brilliant white light, whereas the colors in the inverted cone were much darker and more somber. There was a woman seated at each loom, her fingers working artfully at blinding speed. She above could barely be seen by the party of gods below; but the woman at the bottom loom was of handsome middle-age, wearing a blue robe.

     Urdur said, “Forgive my sisters for not arising at once to greet you. They are aware of your presence, and are even now preparing the looms to work automatically for the short interval in which this is possible, so that they may take the time to speak with you.”

     “I see,” said Jesus. “And what would happen if the looms were to be neglected beyond this interval?”

      “The unthinkable. The fabric of reality would unravel. It would be the end of everything. But it will never happen. We are the Norns, and we see to that.”

      “I am impressed,” said the Stark von Odin. “I admire such loyalty to duty, such competent fulfilling of responsibility. . . and such power.”

     “And our power is never abused,” said Urdur. “It is not

within us to do that."  Hitler bowed. “That is truly the most impressive thing of all.”

     Shortly the handsome woman at the lower loom arose from her seat and walked toward them. She was within the base of the cone of light being spun from the loom above, and as she passed through it, electricity sparkled as an aura around her in the shape of her body, in every color of the rainbow. She stroled up to Odin and proferred her hand. He took it in his and kissed it, bowing low. “Greetings, Milady,” he said.
     “It’s been too long since you last saw us, Milord,” said the lady.
     “Alas, I beg thy pardon, fair one!” Then, turning to Jesus and Hitler, he said: “Gentlemen, I present Verdandi, the Norn of the Present. She knows who you are, for she knows all that is happening in the Now. And it’s my opinion that, since the Now is all that ever is, she is the most powerful of the Norns.”
     Verdandi laughed delightfully, and said, “you flatter me, Allfather. In truth, we Norns work as a unit. The potency of one is inconceivable without the work of the others. In sooth, there can be no present without a future and past.”
     “Ah, Milady, I stand corrected,” said Wotan with perhaps a shade of sarcasm.
     There was a sound from above like the buzz of hummingbird wings. Everyone looked up and saw the third woman descending from the upper loom in a seat. Hitler looked for ropes or wires or pulleys attached to it, but there were none; it evidently worked by some form of magic. The seat stopped its descent the moment the woman’s feet touched the floor; she alighted, and it fluttered then to the floor itself, like a large autumn leaf.
     The woman walked the few steps to where the visitors were gathered. Hitler was surprised that her step was firm, for she was a very old woman. She was draped in a black cowled robe, and only when she had drawn near could they see the wrinkled hollows of her face, making her eyes seem extraordinarily large in their sockets. And those eyes! They were blue like lucid pools of infinite depth, gleaming with intelligence and brimming over with fathomless knowldge.
     All the goddesses curtsied to her, and the gods bowed. Wotan said, “Jesus Christ, Adolf Hitler, this is Skuld, the Norn of the Future.”
     “We are well met,” she said, and the Führer marvelled that her voice vied with Christ’s in its undertone of compassion. If he were actually the Son of God, she could well be God’s Mother. Yet, as with Jesus, there was a detectable hard edge to the softness.
     There was a bit of talk, and then Skuld said, “I know why you have come. In fact, I have been expecting you.”
     “How so?” said Hitler.
     “It is fated. But if you really wish to see the ‘how’, o Führer, perhaps you would like to examine the Gyres.”
     “Yes, indeed ~ I would like nothing better.”
     “And me,” said Jesus. “It is a most fascinating spectacle.”
     “Very well,” said Skuld, sweeping her arm toward the incredible mechanism. “You see the Inverted Gyre being spun out upwards from the loom before us. Come, let us examine it more closely. Those of you who have never entered the Gyres before, fear not ~ no harm will come as we pass through the base of the Upright Gyre.” So saying, she walked through the conical veil of light, and her body was circumferenced again by sparkling colors. Wotan, Jesus, and Hitler followed suit, and then the rest of the company.
     “I feel as though I were in another world,” said the Führer. “In fact, I feel as I did at our mass rallies in Nuremburg. Everything is more real, life itself is majestic. The very air is electrified with a sense of destiny.”
     Skuld nodded at him, saying: “You stand at the source of destiny itself.”
     Urdur touched Hitler’s arm and said, “Would you like to see Nuremburg in the Gyre? I mean, at the moment you spoke of?”
      The Führer was astonished. “Is it possible?”
     “It’s easy. Everything that ever was is in the light-weave of the Gyres.”
     “Then by all means, my dear maiden, let us look!”
     Skuld gestured at her magical seat lying limp on the floor. “I do not have seats for everyone,” she said, “but if the Allfather would join me in a small spell of levitation, I believe we can accomodate us all.”
     “In a trice,” said Wotan. He lifted his spear at the same moment that Skuld raised slightly her hand, and the whole gathering of souls began to float gently up from the ground.
      Skuld crooked a finger, and they all found themselves arrayed around a lower perimeter of the Inverted Gyre, as if standing upon an invisible platform. Now they could peer at it closely. “It has a warp and a weft indeed,” said Jesus. “I am astonished at its subtlety. The entire form is actually woven of tiny filaments of light!”

     “It is also very beautiful,” said Adolf Hitler, appraising it with an artist’s keen eye. “The interplay of colors is magnificent. But now please explain, o Norns, how what we see before us relates to events in the real world of gods and mortal men.”

     “Here we are far in the past,” said Urdur, and softly, softly touched the forefinger of her left hand to a point on the electromagnetic fabric of the Gyre. “Allfather,” she said to Wotan who stood, or rather floated, on her left, “please put your hand on my shoulder, then all join hands around the Gyre. And you, Milord Führer, please take my right hand in yours. In this way, you all may see it.”

     “What are we going to see?” said Hitler, just before his hand touched hers.

     “What is happening on Earth at the time of this weft.”A moment later, all the beings in the circle had made contact, and they all saw what Urdur saw, transmitted through her touch on the Gyre.

     “Dragons!” said Baldur, who was suspended next to Verdandi halfway around the Gyre. “Forsooth, Midgard is full of dragons! And there is not a man nor a god anywhere, nor even a giant.”

     “Yes,” said Urdur, “there was such a time on Earth.”

     “Behold,” said Tyr, “that two-legged dragon is

especially fierce.”

     “Yes, the moderns call him ‘Tyrant King’. No other dragon was his equal in all the long ages when these creatures ruled the Earth.”

     “In sooth,” said Thor, “for look, he attacks a much larger dragon, and is victorious, and now devours the slain!”
     “That is a brontosaurus,” said Jesus. “He could not defend himself, for he was only an herbivore.”
     “Begging the Lord’s pardon,” said Hitler, “but this is not a universal fact of evolution. Some plant-eaters are heavily armed and very formidable.”
      Christ looked at him for a moment in perplexity. Then there was a spark in his eyes, as if he had made a connection; and then he and the Führer laughed heartily together, to the wonderment of those who were not aware of the inside joke.
     At length Urdur pulled back her finger from the strand of light, and the visions of the past ceased. “What a marvel!” said Freya. “No matter how many times I look into the Gyres, I am still astounded.”
     Hitler said, “Fair Urdur, can you please tell us the nature of what we saw? Was it an actual look into a past which somehow still has a real existence somewhere in the Universe, or was it a mere record of dead images, like unto a moving picture show?”
     The youthful-looking but very ancient Norn said, “Here in the House of the Gyres we are outside of time. The Gyres are not a mere symbol nor representation, but the actual essence of the times and beings they contain ~ and they contain everything: every event and every being, sentient and otherwise, who ever lived, lives now, or will ever live. Those dragons, or dinosaurs as you moderns call them, are as much alive as any human being on the Planet Earth at the time you consider to be the present, namely the turning of the Third Millennium, as measured from the birth of our honored guest, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
     “I see,” said Hitler.
     “Indeed,” said Jesus, with a small bow to acknowledge the honor paid him by her remark. “Verily,” he continued, “since we have before us such a powerful instrument of knowledge and destiny, perhaps we should proceed to that critical moment of the present ~ or our present, at any rate ~ and see what we can learn.”
     “I agree,” said Hitler to Urdur, “as long as we can stop at Nuremburg along the way, as you promised.”
     Urdur laughed delightfully. “Jahwohl, Mein Führer!” she said, and the whole company began to float upward along the contour of the cone.
     They stopped just below the very equator of the whole form, where the upward- and downward-pointing Gyres intersected. The Norn reached out her hand and once again placed her finger upon the Gyre. All joined hands again, and the company beheld another moment in the history of Planet Earth.
     It was a starry night in Nuremburg. Then suddenly the stars above vanished in the brilliance of a great star on the ground. It was a light sculpture, and the fascinating play of its rays illuminated a spectacle of monumental proportions. Hundreds of thousands of people were gathered in ranks on a vast field. The air was filled with music and chants and cheers. Flags so large they could have fallen from Asgard itself draped a towering monolith, atop which perched a great bronze eagle astride a swastika. A man ascended a platform at the base of the monolith. He looked very small in the midst of the gargantuan tableau, but in the eyes of the rapturous throng he towered higher than it all. They roared their approval and joy at his appearance, and it was as the sound of one mighty voice from one throat that the crowd shouted, “Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler!”, over and over again.
     When they had at last quieted, their Führer spoke to them, weaving images in the air with words, giving them visions of Germany’s greatness and the astonishing future which awaited them if they were brave. There came a moment when he said, “People in other countries do not understand. They wonder at how thousands of us can come together. They think it must be ordered by the state. But the truth is that the state does not order us ~ we order the state!” And the entire assemblage exploded in applause and wild choruses of “Heil Hitler!”
     Then it all vanished. Urdur had taken her finger from the Gyre. She looked at Hitler and saw tears rolling down his cheeks, though his visage was as stern as always. “All those Germans,” he said. “Most of them must have been killed in the war.” He closed his eyes, and after a few moments got himself under control.
     Verdandi, the Norn of the present, broke the silence, saying: “With the Führer’s permission, I thought I might explain for the benefit of our new guests the overall structure and operation of the Double Gyre.”
     “Yes,” said Hitler, “that’s fine. In fact, it’s exactly what I was going to ask for next.”
     Verdandi bowed, and began. “Time as mortals know it runs in a straight line from the point of the Gyre here at the bottom, to its “base”, which as you see is actually at the top ~ that is, where the rays of light make a circle on the ceiling of our house.”
     “You mean,” said the Führer, “that the point where the loom begins spinning out this darker cone is the beginning of time?”
     “Yes. It is the first day of creation.”
     “And therefore, the base of the cone on the ceiling is. . . the end of time?”
     “That is exactly and literally true. However, the mortal concept of time is very limited ~ it has only one dimension. This, too, is literal: the straight line of time is one-dimensional in a geometrical sense.”
     “I see,” said Hitler. “But with a geometric analogy, wouldn’t the surface of the cone be described as a curved plain, and therefore have two dimensions?”
      “Excellent, Mein Führer!” said Verdandi. “You have made a very quick leap of insight. The surface of the Gyre is indeed the second dimension of time. And if these dimensions of time are added to the three of space, you can see that we are speaking of the fourth and fifth dimensions.”
     Baldur, who had not heard this explained before, said, “Begging the Norn’s pardon, but wasn’t this notion of time as a fourth dimension invented in Midgard by a man with whom the Führer was at odds?”
      “He took the credit falsely,” said Hitler. “It was first conceived years earlier by an Aryan, an enlightened Russian mathematician.”
      Verdandi said, “However that may be, the fact is that those mortals were merely awakening to eternal knowledge, and explaining it to their fellows in new and useful ways. As I said, the Double Gyre exists outside of time. From the point of view of temporal events, it has always been. Even the form in which you see it now is not absolute, but rather a composite of its true nature and your own understanding.”
     The face of Jesus, meanwhile, was rapt as he examined the Gyre. “This is starting to make sense to me,” he said, “from certain phenomena I first saw on the Cross.”
     “Ah,” said Verdandi. “Can you tell us what you divine?”
     “Not just yet ~ perhaps in a little while it will become clear in my mind. But for now, I would hazard that a single thread in the warp of the Gyre ~ which is here a beam of light finer than the thinnest fibre ~ is the history of an entire world, is it not? From its creation at the point of the cone to its final demise at the base?”
     “Yes, Milord Jesus.”
     “What?!?” said Baldur. “If all the world from beginning to end is only a single strand, what are all the other strands? Are they other worlds?”
     “Yes,” said the Norn. “Each is a different world ~ and yet they are all the same world.”
     “I do not understand,” said the god.
     “I do,” said Jesus. “I follow events on Earth very closely, and certain of the people there have lately come up with a term for this marvel. They call the phenomenon ‘parallel worlds’.”
     “Exactly,” said Verdandi. “All the warp lines of the Gyre, running from the point to the base, are parallel worlds, every one a complete Planet Earth from its creation to its destruction billions of years hence. Each parallel world is slightly different from the ones near it, and extremely different from the ones farther away.”
     “This is astounding,” said Hitler. “There is evidently a vast number of these parallel worlds, since the strands of the warp are so thin.”
     “The number is more than vast,” said the Norn, “it is infinite. For in sooth the strands of light are one-dimensional. Their width is a mere illusion caused by the glow of their light; in reality, they have only length. And therefore there is a literally infinite number of them going around the Gyre.
     “In practical terms, this means that, given the persons and events we are familiar with in human history, every conceivable permutation of those events, and every potential set of actions by those persons, has a real existence on a real Planet Earth somewhere on the weft of the Gyre.”
     Hitler appeared startled. For a moment he looked raptly at the Gyre. Then, in a voice charged with awe and wonderment, he said: “This means that there must be a world in which Germany won the war!”
     “There are a number of them, Mein Führer,” said the Norn.
     The man’s eyes were fairly ablaze. He said, “Let us go to one of these worlds!”
     “I will be glad to show it to you, Milord,” said Verdandi, “but I feel its unveiling will only profit the company if you first understand how it fits into the larger pattern of destiny.”
     For an instant, anger flashed in the Führer’s eyes. Then he collected himself and said, “Yes. Yes, I would like to fully understand this remarkable mystery we are here confronted with. So please, Milady, explain it as you see fit.”
     “Thank you for your patience, Milord,” said the Norn.
     “I am grateful too,” said Jesus, “for I understand your urge to experience your apotheosis. A victorious Reich would be for you what my Resurrection was for me. But in fathoming the Gyres, I see that each weft-strand forms a circle going around the circumference of the cone. The circles are smaller near the points of the two Gyres, and larger near the two bases. And there must be some pattern of development to this second dimension of time, running perpendicular to the first.”
     “Yes,” said Hitler, “how would this fifth dimension of the space-time continuum actually be experienced by a human being living in the world?”
     “An excellent question,” said Verdandi. “May we use your own life on Earth to illustrate?”
     “By all means!”
     “So be it. Urdur, would you please do the honor, since the past is your province?”
     “Gladly, Sister.” The Norn of youthful countenance for the third time put her finger delicately upon the Gyre. A scene unfolded before the company, and Urdur said, “O Führer, would you like to tell us what is happening here?”
     “Incredible!” said Hitler, his voice filled with emotion. “I’m giving my first speech before the German Workers’ Party.”
     The Norn said, “Please allow yourself to merge with the figure of your past self, so that you may feel the same things and think the same thoughts all over again.”
     “I will,” said Hitler, and became silent.
     After several breathless moments he said, “Something’s wrong. I didn’t feel like that. And in fact, I didn’t speak like that. Listen: my voice is cracking, I’m hesitating on what to say next. . . and now the crowd is booing! Fair Norn, it did not happen this way. This is a false past!”
     Urdur took her finger from the Gyre, and the vision vanished. “Not false,” she said, “but different.” She pointed to the warp-strand again but this time without touching it. It began to glow brightly so that the company could distinguish it. “This is the strand I showed you,” she said, then moved her finger a few inches to the right along the Gyre, saying: “. . . and the strand containing the life you actually lived is here.” This strand also began to glow brighter.
     Hitler looked from one to the other. His face was filled with wonderment as he said, “So in the lifetime embodied in the first strand, I failed. I did not become an effective speaker, and so the Party did not give birth to National Socialism. There was no national-scale Movement, and no victory in 1933. . . .”
     “No Second War,” said the Norn.
     “No resurgent Germany,” said the Führer. “It is inconceivable!”
     “Yet that is what happened in this parallel world. Shall I show you more of it?”
     “No! That’s enough. I accept the reality of it.” Hitler furrowed his brow in intense concentration, staring at the warp and the weft of the Gyre. Then he said, “So between the first and the second highlighted strands was a series of lives in which I developed and evolved. I perfected my powers of oratory, which was the key to the destiny in which I became the Führer.”
     “And your soul also developed and evolved, o Stark von Odin. You became worthy of the mantle of worship which your people laid upon you. At least, that is, to the extent you carried it in the life that you have lately lived.”
     “And there are further lives ~ in which the Reich was victorious?”
     “Yes. Would you like to see one now?”
     “More than anything in the world, o Norn.”
     “Very well. Take my hand.”
     The circle of people made contact again around the Gyre. Urdur now placed her finger on a point several inches to the right of the warp-line indicating Hitler’s actual last incarnation.
     A series of images opened to the eyes of the company. There were scenes as if viewed from the air, glances at maps as if seen through the eyes of people in the tableau, and a series of events and actions that moved swiftly by as if on fast forward. Hitler guessed that the Norn was controlling how they witnessed these images.
     After digesting what he had seen this far, he said: “1940! So in this world I, or my Doppelganger, went all out and sued for peace in 1940.”
     “Yes, Milord,” said Urdur. “You can see that you restored the independence of the countries you had conquered: France, Holland, Belgium. . . .”
     “Even Poland! The Reich ended up with only Austria, the Sudentenlands, and the Polish Corridor as additions. This is a tragedy!”
     Wotan said, “O Stark von Odin, I ask you to imagine which is the worse tragedy: this, or the one you actually lived through?”
     Hitler sucked in his breath. He said, “Let us see more. What happened after this peace, which I can only regard as ignoble?”
     “Behold,” said Urdur, “you see the Soviet Union forced to retreat from its positions, because, under your policy in this realm, it was unable to make the alliance with the Western powers. Likewise, your deadliest enemies in those Western countries were unable to carry through their schemes for the destruction of Germany, as they did in your own life. They, too, were forced to accept the peace initiative of your alternate self, and thus the war came to an end. So it is that in this world, the Third Reich continues to exist in peace and prosperity, and the remarkable collective entity you created from the soul of the German people continues to thrive.”
     “But for how long?” said Hitler. “Without Liebensraum, there will be no room for our population growth, and ultimately the Reich must weaken and collapse.”
     “No, for look at the images: communism collapses first, just as you predicted it would, in your life. And in this world, with your triumph in the war, fascism becomes the dominant model of social-political organization, instead of Western-style democracy. A number of fascist parties arise in Russia and the other Soviet republics, and when the collapse comes, it is a fascist government which replaces Stalin in the early 1960s, just before the death of your alternate self at a ripe old age, the most esteemed and heralded man in the world. Thus the new Russia allies with the Reich, and in the decades that follow, Germans essentially colonize large areas of the eastern lands you so coveted, at the invitation of the Russians ~ under the aegis of peace instead of conquest.”
     “Astounding!” said Hitler. “I admit I am amazed. Yet there it is before us, and the logic of it makes sense. The only thing I don’t understand is how I could ever have come to abandon the war in 1940. Given my perspective at the time, it is inconceivable!”
      Urdur removed her finger from the Gyre, and the visions vanished. Then she spanned the distance between the two warp lines with the thumb and small finger of her right hand. She said, “O Führer, in these few inches of the weft, you lived a thousand lifetimes. Your perspective changed, as did your soul.”
      Hitler looked at the short length of weft. Then he said, “On how many other strands of fate do I have an entire life as myself from birth to death?”
     “Ah,” said Verdandi, “you have grasped the essence.”
     “So Nietzsche was right!” said Hitler. “It’s eternal recurrence!”
     “He was right indeed. In fact it was this terrible knowledge, vouchsafed to few mortals, that finally unbalanced his mind. But to answer your question, Mein Führer, the journey of the soul of Adolf Hitler through the width of time goes from here. . . to here.” The Norn moved her finger a distance of several feet around the Gyre.
     “And how many lifetimes does this represent?” said Hitler.
Verdandi answered, “As we said, any distance on the Gyre is potentially infinite because of the one-dimensionality of the strands. But in practical terms, this is approximately one hundred and eigthy-eight thousand lifetimes ~ give or take a few thousand.”
     “Thousand. . .!” repeated Hitler in astonishment. The Norns and everyone else were silent. Finally he continued: “You mean there are 188,000 Adolf Hitlers in as many parallel worlds?”
     “Yes. But in another sense there is only one, going through infinite variations of his life. Or I should say: of your life, Milord. For here you are.”
     Hitler’s face assumed the stern look of ironclad intensity familiar to his millions of followers in the Reich. After staring at the Gyre for several moments he said, “Now show me the pattern to this multiplicity. It is not all just haphazard and random.”
     “Correct,” said Verdandi. “In each incarnation your soul develops further, and your destiny consequently reaches a greater stage. Here at the beginning. . .” ~ her finger went to the far left of the line of lives ~ “you died in childbirth. Then your life got progressively longer, and your soul more mature. From here to here. . .” ~ her finger indicated a stretch of some two and a half inches ~ “is a string of lives in which you were killed as a soldier in the Great War.”
     Hitler sucked in his breath. “It almost happened so many times in the life I actually lived! So this explains the miracles by which I survived.”
     “Yes. You had overcome the fate of all those dangers by actually dying in each incident in a past life. You had earned each miracle by pain and blood and courage in those forgotten existences beforehand.”
     “Incredible! I am shaken to my depths.”
     “I, too, am amazed,” said Jesus. “Yet I feel that the unveiling of this profound truth is the culmination of many inklings and suspicions I’ve had, yet never quite grasped how they fit together. For indeed, even a god would be hard put to guess the full extent of what you have just shown us, o Norns.”
     The Norns bowed. “And now,” said Skuld, “I believe that all of you had a specific purpose in mind in paying us this visit.”
     “Ah!” said Hitler. “I was so overwhelmed by the revelation of the gyre that I had all but forgotten.”
     “We wished to ask a question about the fate of the human race,” said Jesus. “But from what we have learned so far, I can begin to see why divining the future is such a complex matter.”
     “Forsooth!” said Freya. “If there is not merely one future, but an infinite number, how can we chart a course to the one that is closest to our heart’s desire?”
     “Your question is well phrased,” said Verdandi. “You know that we are bound by our oaths to reveal only so much of the mysteries of fate, and no more; but by asking precisely the right questions, you may learn almost everything you wish to know.”
     “Yes,” said Urdur, “and to answer your question, dear goddess, it’s possible to move to the warp that contains the future you wish by modifying your course of action in the present. The secret, of course, is the foresight to understand what the real effects of your actions will be. Mortals, and even gods, always do what they think will lead to the fulfillment of their will and their desire; and the outcome is almost always quite different from what they imagined.”
     Adolf Hitler closed his eyes tightly at these words, and bowed his head, as if he were dealing with a sudden rush of feeling. Then in a nonce he was alert again to the conversation.
     Jesus said, “Dealing with the vast collective life of humanity would appear to be even more complicated and subject to folly; but perhaps there is a broad underlying pattern or process which you can lawfully reveal to us.”
     “There is,” said Skuld. “The form of the Double Gyre itself can tell you much.”
     All the company stared thoughtfully at the Gyre for a long moment. At length Jesus said, “if the emanation of the darker Gyre from the bottom loom is the creation of the universe, then the shining forth of the brighter Gyre from the loom at the top must also be a creation. And my guess is that they are but two aspects of one creation, namely of the nobler and baser elements of all existence.”
     “Your guess is correct,” said Verdandi. “What else do you divine, my Lord?”
     “You’ve shown us that life as we know it has risen up the warp of the Dark Gyre from the bottom, and has thereby been encompassed by the surrounding cone of the Gyre of Light. Therefore our lives, and those of all beings, must be a product of the interplay of light and darkness.” The Norns nodded. “But now,” continued Christ, “the weft-circle of parallel worlds that is the present appears to be immediately below the equator of the gyres, the exact midpoint where they intersect. And this must herald a change in the nature of life.”
     “Yes,” said Hitler, “I see it. As we proceed through time up the Dark Gyre, it will pass out of its area of overlap with the Gyre of Light. What can this mean, o Norns, for we who live within the weave of the looms of fate?”
     “It means,” said Verdandi, “that all true progress and evolution ceases, and the beings in every warp are henceforth bound within a pattern of ineluctable decay and degeneration.”
     Hitler gasped, as well as many of the other spirits present in the chamber. Jesus, too, was surprised and distressed. He said to the Norns, “This was the purpose of my quest to Asgard: I feared exactly such an outcome to the human experiment, and wished to know how to avert it. Herr Hitler did not have the answer, so now I put the question to you. Is there not a way to redirect our course and refocus the human soul upon the heights, and inspire it to move toward the light?”
     “You have almost answered the question yourself,” said Urdur. “Look within the Gyre.”
     Jesus looked, as did all the spirits. After a moment of study, he said: “I presume it would be the course of nature and inertia to simply continue to spin around and spiral up into the outer extremities of the Gyre of Darkness. But by a conscious act of will, and perhaps a miracle of transformation, we may be able to move instead onto the surface of the Gyre of Light, and thence pursue our way upward to the bright point of light at its apex.”
     “Yes!” said the Norns with one voice. “Verily, you have fathomed the mystery.”
     “You see,” said Skuld, “if life and matter continue along the outer half of the Dark Gyre, it will gradually dissipate its substance, both spiritually and physically. Everything will become more atomized and tenuous, until ultimately it all fades out into utter nonbeing.”
     “The only hope and only chance,” said Verdandi, “is that when created beings reach the equator of the Gyre, they turn instead onto the upward inner cone, as you have said, o Lord Jesus. In your present era on Earth, the priests of the new religion of science have fathomed the principle in terms of the base matter in which they believe. They see that the universe must reach a certain critical point of equilibrium, from which it must either continue to expand forever into nothingness, or begin to reconverge back into the nexus-point from whence it sprang. Their error is to think that this will only happen far in the future on the grandest cosmic scale, when in actual fact such turning-points happen frequently on many levels.”

     “And the human race has reached its crossroads now?” asked Jesus.

     “Yes,” said the Norns.

     There was a pregnant silence as the company of gods collectively drew in its breath. Then Wotan spoke: “So the mystery that still confronts us is what must be done to carry ourselves and the mortal species across the equator and mount the surface of the other gyre.”     “Exactly,” said Skuld.

     “We might puzzle forever on this,” said Freya. “Please, o gracious Norns, can you give us a clue? Mayhap even a tricky little riddle to stimulate our minds in a likely direction?”

     Urdur laughed delightedly. “How can we refuse such an ingenuous request?”

     “I’ve got one,” said Verdandi. “The answer is within you, but it is misconstrued, just like the Kingdom of Heaven.”

     The whole company seemed struck dumb in puzzlement, but after a moment Jesus chuckled and said, “Ah, dear Norn, could it be that you refer to the mistranslation in the Gospel, leading people to believe that I said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you,” whereas in truth I said to my disciples: “The Kingdom of Heaven is in the midst of you”?

     “Why, I didn’t know that!” said Hitler.

“And it’s remarkable. This passage was one of the pillars of modern-day liberal individualism. But now your correction shows that it actually referred to the collective spirit of the people.”

     “Yes ~ to my mystical body.”

     “Ah,” said Freya, “it’s so clear once you see it. The human race needs a new mystical body unifying it and redirecting it from its present sub-human state of fractional materialism and selfishness, back to a focus on the exalted spiritual heights, from whence issues the white light.”
     “Well spoken once again,” said Skuld.
     “Hold a moment,” said Hitler. “This plan would be noble if it were all in your province to enact, Milady Freya, for you would do so with all the sincerity and veracity with which you put it forth. But the fact is that the same notions are spoken as a lie by the scurrilous throng of manipulators who are now driving the world toward the very perdition we wish to avoid.”
     Freya blushed. “You’re right,” she said. “I acknowledge that this is so. It’s just as the Norns warned us: if we proceed on nothing more than good intentions, we will only mire ourselves and the people in tragedy.”
     “Yes,” said Hitler; “and who should know this better than I?” Freya looked at him with compassion. He said to her gently, “I must also point out that if we attempt to unify humanity into one spiritual body without first purifying it of its degenerate and regressive elements, the resulting tragedy would be too horrible to contemplate.”
     Many of the Asgardians nodded in vigorous agreement with this statement, but Christ looked troubled. He said, “With due respect, o Führer, I fear that you are still inclined to the vices that led to your own tragedy. If given another chance by fate, you would again indulge your drive for the indiscriminate murder of millions of innocent people.”
     Hitler was clearly offended. He said, “Even if the charge were true, would it be any worse than the indiscriminate merger of millions of unkindred people, so that the last vestige of their genetic identity were lost? How can a collective spirit be formed on any basis save that of ancestral heritage?”
     Jesus, too, was now visibly angry. “My Church,” he said, “was built by taking the diverse legacies of several peoples and uniting them on a basis of the supernal realities which encompass all of us and override our differences.”
     “Ha!” mocked Hitler. “It’s yet another case of good intentions gone awry. The result is that they have all been reduced to their least common denominator, and will soon sink into the mud from which the species first arose.” Then his eyes narrowed suspiciously and he added, “Assuming the intentions truly were good in the first place.”
     The face of Jesus registered the shock of this deadly insult. Wotan moved to step between Christ and Hitler as he had done before, but Thor held him back. Perhaps he feared that this time the argument had gone too far, and could not be so readily defused.
     Indeed, there seemed to arise in Christ a force that could spew forth thunderbolts or rip mountains from the earth and cast them into the sea. But then he seemed to seize control of himself, and instead the force could be apperceived rising up through the top of his head and ascending as if to Heaven. A moment later it cascaded down on everyone like a gentle umbrella of white light, sparkling with little drops of angel dust. Now in a compassionate tone he reached out his hand to Hitler and said, “Though you spoke a fearful lie in anger, I forgive you.”
     Not everyone sensed the undercurrent of what was happening, but Hitler did. He saw that if he allowed Christ’s hand to fall upon his shoulder in an apparent benediction, his will would be sapped and his soul opened to the ecstatic but ensnaring current now streaming down through Jesus. Furthermore, Hitler would be accepting the characterization of his statement as a “lie”. In short, Christ’s action was a covert military maneuver.
     Hitler slapped away Christ’s hand an instant before it made contact, and followed it with a blow that knocked the surprised Jesus slightly backwards. As spirits, the martial movements of their plasmic bodies had the effect of sending out blasts of energy at the opponent.
     An onlooker who could only see the overt dimension of the event would conclude that Hitler was the unmitigated aggressor, having callously thrust aside a friendly gesture and answered it with an unprovoked attack. The reality was that Hitler had reacted in primal self-defense against the subtle attack of Jesus -- and the insidiousness of Christ’s strategem included the fact that it was designed to trick neutral observers into siding with the perpetrator against the victim.
     Except for the Norns, however, there were no neutral observers on the scene. Having now been openly attacked, Christ responded in kind. A sword suddenly appeared in his hand, crackling with the electric potency of mystic power. He brandished it at Hitler, and the warrior-lords of Asgard immediately sprang to the defense of the Stark von Odin. In the next instant the castle was invaded by legions of angels, streaming forth from invisible breaches in the air itself. They engaged the gods in battle on behalf of their Lord Jesus, and a full-scale spiritual war now raged around the Double Gyre.
     Fighting was furious, with all manner of metaphysical weapons being employed. Terrible damage was wreaked upon the trappings and battlements of the castle, but the Gyre itself was unscathed, for the Norns had cast a plasmic shield around it which deflected all the missiles and flying bodies of the combatants. Now they opened a scrying window which showed an image of the Earth, and thus the Norns discovered that apocalyptic cataclysms had broken out there: nuclear and biological warfare, as well as mighty upheavals of the Earth itself -- quakes and floods and tidal waves, and even meteoric fire from the skies. The cause, of course, was the battle now unfolding here at the Crux of Time. Every minute that passed in the Norn Castle was as a year on the physical Earth, and every blow of god or angel was magnified a millionfold in that lower realm.
     The fiercest struggle of all was the personal combat being waged one-on-one between Christ and Hitler. Weapon after weapon was materialized, only to be countered by a quickly-conjured defense. At last the two laid their bare hands on each other, and this had an astounding effect. There was the sound of a muffled explosion, and a strange field radiated from the points of contact, sizzling with a weird black plasma, which destroyed everything it touched. As the opponents roled about through the air they fell against the protective shield, and breached it. And now they hurtled headlong toward the Gyre.
     “Stop them!” shouted Urdur. “They will disrupt the very warp of fate!”
     Skuld reached up her hand to cast a restraining spell, crying: “This has never happened before!” But Verdandi, the Norn of the Present, held her back. “Yes, it has,” she said. “Neither of you remember, but I do.”
     The next instant Christ and Hitler fell into the Gyre, at the last weft-strand exactly below its equator. There was a tremendous metaphysical discharge which fissioned out and filled the entire castle, shocking all the combatants into stunned quiescence. For a vertiginous split-second, everything turned black; but then the natural light of the Gyre reappeared.
     Christ and Hitler were gone. No trace of them could be seen anywhere in the vast chamber. The members of both hosts stared about them in puzzled wonderment.
     “They will return,” said Verdandi.
     “When?” said Wotan.
     “It will be a very long time for them, but very short for us. In fact, it will be no time at all.”

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