Soul and Body
A chapter from Patrick Harpur's remarkable book Daimonic Reality
Soul and spirit
The Heraclean ego
A note on Technology
Siegfried's loss of soul
St. Paul mentions an ecstatic experience in which he was "caught up even to the third heaven", but, as he says, "whether in the body, I know not, or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth." And this is the dilemma confronting many otherworld journeyers.
It is, I think, too easy to dismiss the conviction of many of them that they were physically lifted into another realm, such as an alien spacecraft. This, after all, is what it felt like; and it is a conviction shared by all members of traditional cultures - although, as we shall see, with an important difference in viewpoint. Thus, although I do not share the conviction, I want to stress that it is ancient and respectable and, I think, nearer to the truth of the matter than not to believe in any kind of otherworld journey at all. However, using the model of daimonic reality ... it is possible to make otherworld journeys intelligible, without recourse to a belief in an actual, physical experience. To do this, I will briefly consider the relationship between soul and body, beginning with a few elementary remarks about different kinds of daimonic states.
In order to journey into the daimonic realm, the shaman goes into a trance or semi-trance in which he is either unconscious of the ordinary world or only dimly conscious of it, respectively. In other words, in the state of trance (or ecstasy) the Otherworld constitutes his only reality; in the semi-trance he retains one foot in this world, enabling him to relay his otherworld itinerary to an audience. His procedure is analogous both to that of modern mediums, who either allow spirits to possess them fully or who act as intermediaries between spirits and audience, passing messages between them; and to that of hypnotic subjects who are either fully "asleep," in which case, like the trance medium, they have no memory of what they have said or what was said through them, or only partially "asleep" - in which case they are able to describe, and remember, what they (or some part of themselves) are experiencing. It is a measure of the shaman's superior control over his journey, that he is able to remember all that befell him while in a full trance, that is, while he is dead to this world. However, all these states are more or less controlled, if only (in the medium's case) by his or her "spirit guide" or personal daimon; or in the case of the hypnotized, by the hypnotist who, like a guide, sets the agenda for the session and intervenes if the daimons grow too importunate.
Spontaneous , involuntary and uncontrolled journeys into the Otherworld can be highly successful. They can result, for example, in mystical revelations which enhance the lives of the recipients. But they can also be highly perilous, resulting in one of two undesirable conditions which used to be called "loss of soul" and "possession by spirits". The first, analogous to what we now call neurosis, occurs when we lose touch with the Otherworld; the second, analogous to psychosis, occurs when we are too much in touch with the Otherworld, becoming overwhelmed by it. (The nature of both these conditions will become clearer in the course of this chapter).
The use of the word "soul," as in "loss of soul", is rather different from the way I have been using the word. Hitherto, I have taken "soul" to refer to two distinct, but unrelated, images. Firstly, soul is synonymous with the daimonic realm itself, the realm of Imagination, and is really an abbreviation for the collective Anima Mundi, or World-Soul. Secondly, soul refers to whatever images the World-Soul itself uses to represent itself. Archetypally, this image is usually feminine and appears, for example, as a female daimon or goddess who, as Jung would say, "personifies the collective unconscious." Now the third use of "soul" refers to the image by which we, as individuals, are represented in the World-Soul.
Traditional views of human nature have always allowed for (at least) two "souls" of the latter kind. In ancient Egypt, for instance, they were known as the ka and the ba; in China, hun and p'o. One of these souls inhabits the body and is the equivalent of what, faute de mieux, we call the ego. I will call it the rational ego to distinguish it from the second soul, variously called, in other cultures, the shadow-soul, ghost-soul, death-soul, image-soul and dream-soul, for which our culture has either the word "soul" or else no word, because it is not generally believed to exist. However, it does exist and can be thought of as an ego, in the sense that it confers identity and individuality. It enables us, that is - like the rational ego - to say "I." But it is an ego, not of consciousness, but of the unconscious; not a waking, but a dream ego; not a rational ego, but an irrational ego. I will call it the daimonic ego. Like the rational ego, it has a body - not a physical one but a dream-body, a "subtle" body such as daimons are imagined as having, an "astral" body as some esoteric doctrines say: in short, a daimonic body.
The combination of rational ego and physical body is not directly analogous to the daimonic ego and daimonic body because the latter are not, strictly speaking, experienced as separate. The daimonic body immediately reflects the daimonic ego, and vice versa. It is an imaginative body, an image, as we know from dreams, when it can wear whatever clothes it wishes and can even change its shape altogether. Suddenly it can shift from a position of observing someone to becoming that person - that is, it embodies the way in which the daimonic ego shifts its point of view, looking out of the eyes of a person whom the moment before it was watching, or feeling the emotions of someone in whom it was previously inducing those emotions.
Thus it is this daimonic ego-body, so to speak, which is the "soul" that can be "lost," the soul that, in the shaman, makes otherworld journeys. It is this which leaves the physical body in the "out-of-the-body" experiences or in fashionable "near-death experiences" when, typically, we "die" on the operating table, only to find that we are floating above our bodies, able to observe what is going on and to hear what the surgeons are saying (they are startled to have their words repeated to them later, when we recover). It is this soul, too, which can be seen by us, or others, in those cases of "bilocation" when our doppelgängers (doubles) appear mysteriously. It is this soul which, in Christian mystics, ascends towards the Godhead, sparking the debate as to whether it remains intact during mystical union (as a sense of identity) or whether it is, finally, dissolved in, or subsumed by, God.
The daimonic and rational egos are not as separate as, for the sake of convenience, I have made them out to be. They constantly flow into each other, just as our waking lives and dream lives influence each other. The daimonic ego can at any time dispossess consciousness of its rational ego as, for instance, when we are absorbed in some imaginative activity or when we are seized by a visionary experience. Conversely, the rational ego can traduce the daimonic, carrying over into dreams and visions those "daylight" attitudes which are wholly inappropriate to the twilight world of the daimons. Naturally, the rational ego is often frightened by the irrational images it encounters there. It tries to run away or lash out - only to find that it cannot move, because such literal muscular actions have no power to move the daimonic body.
Similarly, when we wake in the night, as abductees so often do, to find "aliens" in the room, we cannot move because our physical bodies are asleep and only the rational ego has woken. Actually, I ought to say that it is the daimonic ego which "wakes;" but since we do not recognize or understand it, we imagine that it is the rational ego - the latter is so robust, so adamant, that it imposes its rational viewpoint on the daimonic ego so that we come to believe that the nocturnal events are literally occurring. The fact that we seem to wake in our bedrooms is a metaphor for this literalizing activity of the rational ego; for, in fact, we wake up in the daimonic realm on which the image of our familiar, daylight, "rational" bedroom has been imposed. When the aliens, intruding into this image from the daimonic side, "float" our bodies up into their "spacecraft," this is not only the daimonic body leaving the physical body, but also the daimonic ego leaving the image of the literal bedroom and entering daimonic space proper, where it is increasingly pressurized to give up its rational, literalizing standpoint. But this, precisely, is initiation: the threatening and, finally, dismantling of the rational standpoint by the alien daimonic world in order to instate its own, daimonic ego.
It should now become apparent that the division I have made between the two kinds of ego is only a manner of speaking. In reality, there is only a single ego, but with two perspectives: the waking, conscious, rational, literalizing ego is simply another aspect of the dreaming, unconscious, irrational, daimonic ego, as if they were two sides of a single coin. But the shape-shifting daimonic ego can assume any number of different perspectives, all more or less daimonic, all members of the same family as it were, like the heroes of Greek mythology. Only the rational ego promotes its own single, literalistic perspective as the only perspective, while simultaneously denying - demonizing - all others.
BodiesOne of the things a study of otherworld journeys teaches us is that we cannot imagine life without a body. We cannot exist as bare discarnate egos, even in the "life to come." "It is sown a natural body;" wrote St. Paul, "it is raised a spiritual body." And we cannot help but envisage this spiritual body as something like the "subtle" - the daimonic - body which can separate from, and survive the physical.
Paul was writing, of course, long before the Church Council of 869, which officially decided that we humans are divided into two parts - a body and a spirit (thus losing the category of "soul"). He still conceived of life, including spiritual life, as bodily; and the word he uses for "body,"whether "natural" or "spiritual," is soma. He contrasts this in his Epistles with another kind of body, for which he uses another Greek word, sarx. Sometimes translated as "flesh" (as in "the sins of the flesh"), sarx referred exclusively to the evil possibilities of bodily life. Soma, on the other hand, referred to all the possibilities of bodily life, good or evil. The key point here is that neither word referred exclusively to the physical body. Rather, soma referred to all perspectives on bodily life, of which the physical was only one; sarx referred soley to the literal perspective that would reduce all bodily life to the physical, to mere flesh.
In my scheme of things, the daimonic body (soma) is no more separate from the physical body (sarx) than their two kinds of ego - they are simply two different perspectives. And this confronts us with a disconcerting idea: that our physical bodies are not necessarily literal... The sense that our bodies are literally real is a construct of the rational ego which, while it does not identify itself with the body (it sees the body as its vehicle), nevertheless allies itself so closely with the body as to impose its perspective on the body. It makes our physical reality the only reality - makes of our physical reality a literal reality. This leads to the erroneous belief that, with physical death, we cease to exist. But our physical death releases the daimonic body. Moreover, if we undergo initiatory death, which destroys the rational ego's literal perspective, the physical body is deliteralized, freed from its single perspective, released from sarx, as it were. It becomes, in fact, daimonic. If this is the case, we might expect the physical body, now daimonized, to be able to contravene what we call physical laws.
It can, of course. We think immediately of fakirs who can bury themselves for days at a time in the earth, or of Zen Buddhist monks who are able, like Jesus, to walk on water. The spiritual training necessary for such feats has fallen into desuetude in our culture, but in monastic times they were common enough for men like St. John of the Cross to warn of the danger of confusing them with sanctity. A famous example of daimonic activity in a physical body (it was even suspected of being demonic, the work of the Devil) was repeated levitations of St. Teresa of Avila. She experienced "raptures," not unlike the shaman's celestial journey, in which "...the Lord catches up the soul ... and carries it right out of itself ... and begins to show it features of the Kingdom He has prepared for it." The raptures were sometimes so violent that she not only felt her soul being swept up by God, but was also lifted bodily off the ground so that her sisters had to hold her down. (This is not all that exceptional - more than 100 Catholic saints were said to have levitated.)
We might say that, unlike the abductees whose rational egos were floated up in their daimonic bodies, St. Teresa's daimonic ego remained in the physical body, which was sufficiently deliteralized as to simulate the celestial ascent of its daimonic counterpart. She was aware, however, that her levitations were not in good taste - she would shout, "Put me down, God!" - nor a sign of spiritual advencement (we remember that the well-known psychic, but otherwise ordinary man, D.D. Home, could float into the air at will). It is as if she knew that her celestial ascent should really - like the shaman's - be taking place less ostentatiously, in the daimonic body alone and without any accompanying physical flights. It was as if, in other words, she had an inkling of the literalizing influence of Christian dogma which, by polarizing man into either a spirit or a body, abolished the daimonic "both-and" perspective and so literalized spiritual ascent as physical "flight." (Analogously, Christian dogma literalizes spiritual rebirth as a "resurrection of the body.")
Christian or post-Christian cultures can only view the physical body in a literal way. For example, the UFO's light-beam paralyses its victims before they are snatched into the Otherworld. Because the experience seems "real" to these abductees, they assume that it must be literal - and therefore that their physical bodies have been taken into "spacecraft." Non-Christian, traditional cultures also seem to view the physical body in a literal way. For instance, as Lady Wilde writes, describing fairy abductions among the Irish: "The evil influence of the fairy glance [like the UFO's light-beam] does not kill, but it throws the object into a death-like trance, in which the real body is carried off to some fairy mansion, while a log of wood, or some ugly deformed creature is left in its place, clothed with the shadow of the stolen form..." But what on the surface seems like literalism on the part of fairy lore - the "real body" is taken - is actually the reverse: the physical body is imagined in the first instance as daimonic. The "real body" is the daimonic body which, once taken to the Otherworld, leaves behind (as Lady Gregory puts it) "a body in its likeness or the likeness of a body." This expression attempts to describe the physical body when it is deprived of its daimonic ego-body - when it has "lost its soul." It becomes inanimate like a block of wood; an empty, ugly husk, barely recognizable as the "stolen" person. This, metaphorically, is how the physical body appears when, deprived of its daimonic counterpart, it becomes only physical - becomes literal.
The belief that the body left behind is actually a replacement (i.e. that an exchange has been made) expresses the reluctance on the part of traditional cultures to separate body and soul. They implicitly recognize that the physical and daimonic bodies are only two aspects of, two perspectives on, the same thing, as if the body were only the physical manifestation of soul, and soul the spiritual manifestation of body. They recognize, that is, that we humans are simultaneously quasi-physical, quasi-spiritual. We, too, are daimonic.
Soul and spiritI have said that ego-consciousness has many perspectives, all of them more or less daimonic, except one - the rational and, above all, literalizing ego. But they can only be regarded as daimonic in relation to the rational ego. In relation to daimonic reality itself - to Anima Mundi and its personification anima, soul - they are not daimonic. To put it another way, the daimonic ego is a soul in relation to rational ego, but in relation to soul (world-soul, anima) it is spirit.
From time to time I have made a distinction between soul and spirit about which I ought now to be more explicit, since soul and spirit reflect a fundamental tension in human life. For example, the drive towards integration, individuality and unity is essentially a spiritual drive, as monotheism in general (and Christianity in particular) is a spiritual religion. Soul, on the other hand, emphasizes disintegration, collectivity and multiplicity. What we often call "major" religions are usually spiritual religions which barely recognize religions of the soul as religions at all - they are called animism or polytheism - because they have no single, "major," transcendent, divine principle, but rather stress the equality of many "minor" immanent daimonic images. As a kind of short-hand guide to spirit and soul, therefore, it may be helpful to draw up two lists of analogous concepts, attributes and images which have been enduringly associated with them.Thus, Spirit: God, monotheism, unity, the One, ego; Heaven, transcendence, above, heights, ascent, "superior;" masculine, consciousness, rationality, light, fire, sun.Spirit and soul, it must be remembered, are not like two substances. They are symbols, like yang and yin, representing two slants on life, two perspectives. It is as though spirit were a white light diffracted into many colors by soul's prism, or as though soul's colors were concentrated into one white light by the prism of spirit. From the perspective of soul, spirit is many perspectives - all contained within soul itself and yet always trying to break free and impose one or other of its perspectives on soul as it were from outside. From spirit's point of view, soul is one perspective - outside spirit and yet always somehow attached to it, entangling it, distracting spirit's rationalism with emotions, contradicting spirit's abstract concepts with concrete images, as it were from within.
Soul: daimons, polytheism, multiplicity, the Many, anima; Earth, immanence, below, depths, descent, "inferior;" feminine, the unconscious, imagination, dark, water, moon.
Spirit and soul are reflections of each other. Thus my lists of their attributes are not meant to be seen as oppositional - opposition is only one way in which the tension between spirit and soul can be viewed. Other ways are best expressed in the way the personifications of myth relate to each other: as sons to mothers, or husbands to wives; as antagonists or companions, enemies or lovers, and so on. For, as soon as spirit defines soul in one way, we find that this way of defining is already defined by soul according to whatever pairing spirit is in. Soul and spirit predetermine each other's perspective, defining each other simultaneously (except that "define" is spirit's word, not soul's). We cannot imagine outside these pairings, cannot stand outside these reciprocal perspectives - we can only view one from the other. (Spirit's attempt to stand outside its pairings with soul, and its belief that it has done so, is precisely the rational ego, as I will shortly show.)
An example of the interaction between soul and spirit is the interpretation of myths. As products of Imagination, myths are the archetypal stories of soul. But modern mythographers (anthropologists and the like) come at them with scientific explainations and definitions. This is spirit at work. It wishes to find single underlying principles or unifying theories. But soul resists this process (there are always myths which escape the net of any one theory). It - I should perhaps say "she" - wants to be reflected, but not by any one concept or theory. She recognizes the defining perspectives of spirit, but agrees to none, as if she were the sum total of all the theories that could be held about her. There is no end to theorizing which - it dawns on us - is only mythologizing in another garb, another set of stories. Concepts, speculations, theories are continuous with the images, legends, myths they set out to explain. Even while they strike objective postures, as if they would stand out side myth, they are unwittingly determined by myth's own imaginative categories. Like Helen of Troy - always a cause of strife - soul looks on with amusement and despair as theories compete acrimoniously for the right to be the only theory, the "true" story.
And it is not only within "disciplines" - a real spirit word - that strife erupts. It also breaks out between disciplines, as long as each lays exclusive claim to the truth. Like the religious schisms of old, new schools of thought break away from the old and even form new disciplines, such as anthropology, psychology, sociology and so on, which were almost unheard of 100 years ago. But the proliferation of disciplines is only the expression of further spirit perspectives, further attempts to imagine unimaginable Imagination.
This book, incidentally, is no exception. As a work of spirit, it has tried to elucidate soul, which I have been calling daimonic reality. But this is only one perspective on soul. It has also tried to draw attention to other perspectives - the collective unconscious, Anima Mundi, Imagination and the Otherworld. Each of these seeks to approach soul from a slightly different angle (the term - or symbol - "soul" is itself only another metaphor). The common ground of these perspectives is that they are not imagined in an Apollonic, "scientific" spirit, which claims finally to define and explain soul; rather, they are imagined in a Hermetic spirit which allows soul in large measure to define itself. Thus, although they are unifying concepts, as spirit demands, they also take account of the many images which compose them.
By the modern criteria of "serious" scientific academic disciplines, this book can only apear inconsistent and unsystematic. It fails to classify and explain. But rigorous classification and explaination, admirable in themselves, will always tend to do violence to daimonic reality, either by forcing it into the straightjacket of a single perspective or, worse, by denying it altogether (scientism) or demonizing it (official Christendom). To force daimonic reality into a single perspective is to make soul an imitation of spirit. And this tells us more about ourselves and our own spirit-oriented culture than it does about daimonic reality. If "perspective" primarily means "seeing through," then this book also aims to see through itself, aware that its perspective is also partial and incomplete. It would rather fail to describe reality, which is by nature daimonic, mysterious and indescribable, than succeed in describing a false reality.
We are now in a better position to understand the sadness that sometimes hangs about the daimons, for instance in Irish myths and their elaboration in the early poems of W.B. Yeats. It is as if the daimons sorrowed for the sorrow of men, which they cannot know. Ruled only by shadowy Necessity, they run the course of their lives in endless cycles, dying only to live and die again. There's a touch of ennui about the daimons. What they sorrow for, even hunger for, is that spirit whereby they may be discriminated, defined, made concrete; for, without spirit, soul can know "neither truth, nor law, nor cause." By means of spirit soul knows itself.
At its best, a spiritual perspective regards the daimons, not as literal, but as if they were literal, just as traditional cultures recount their myths as if they were history. The daimons themselves insist on this as-if literalness, as we have seen from their traces, such as UFO landing marks and crop circles. Reciprocally, spirit needs soul whose many daimons not only subvert, but also soften with their beauty, spirit's drive towards absolute unitary truth. As the hero searches for his princess, so spirit seeks to make connections with soul, perhaps through the diverse images of Art and Nature. Spirit needs soul to make the world personal, palliating its remote God with a personal Christ, human saints and a human Virgin Mary. The dismembering of the shaman is the disintegrating of the ego, ruled by one of spirit's perspectives, into many perspectives; the forging of the "new body" is the construction of a new daimonic ego-body which can take on any of spirit's perspectives at will, moving freely through the Otherworld of soul.
We are daimonic - but we are not daimons. Like animals, daimons are sufficient unto themselves. We are both farther from divinity than they, and nearer, because the tension in us between spirit and soul engenders that of self-reflection, that capacity for self-transformation, which they cannot know alone. Yet, through us, they can - and wish to - know; for our self-reflection is a reflection of them, their transformation our self-transformation.
The Heraclean egoEvery perspective of spirit which seeks to stand outside soul in the form of an ego can be represented by a god or goddess, but, above all - as we have seen - by a mythological hero. Each hero has a different style of approaching the Otherworld; each is paired - that is, both determining and determined by - a different aspect of soul, anima, like mutually reflecting mirrors. Aeneas has his Dido, for example, Odysseus his Circe, Calypso and Penelope; Orpheus his Eurydice, Perseus his Andromeda, and so on. Thus we may ask: is there a hero analogous to that special, singular perspective of spirit I have called the rational ego? The answer is yes, and his name is Heracles (Hercules) who, above all, represents the pattern of heroic ego that predominates in modern Western culture.
What is Heracles' attitude toward soul, to daimonic reality, to the Underworld? It is eccentric, to say the least. He visits the Underworld of Hades in the course of his twelfth (and last) labour - which is to capture the guardian of Hades itself, Cerberos, the three-headed dog. Where other heroes go to be initiated or instructed, Heracles goes solely to take. Club in hand, he bludgeons his way in, intimidating Charon to carry him across the river Styx. The shades of the dead flee from him in terror, just as daimons run from our own hard-nosed rationalism. Throughout his visit, he treats the shades (the images, the daimons) as literal. Confronted by the shade of Meleager, he aims an arrow at him and has to be told that there is nothing to fear. Faced with the shade of Medusa the Gorgon, he draws his sword, before Hermes (who has of course accompanied him down) reassures him that she is only a phantom. Here, Heracles commits two crass errors: he not only mistakes the image of the Gorgon for the real Gorgon, but he also thinks that the real Gorgon can be vanquished head-on - in fact, brute force is useless against her because she turns all who look on her face to stone. (We shall be meeting the Gorgon again). And so it goes on: Heracles muscles his way through the Underworld, wrestling Hades' herdsmen, slaughtering their cattle in order to feed the shades with blood - as if to literalize them back into life - and, finally, choking and chaining Cerberos before dragging him up into the daylight land of the living. In short, Heracles behaves just as the waking rational ego behaves in dreams, when it usurps the imaginative perspective of the daimonic ego. He seems, in fact, incapable of imagining. Rather than die metaphorically, as initiation demands, he kills literally, even attacking death itself (he wounds Hades in the shoulder). He embodies that myth within mythology itself which denies myth, just as our rational egos, grounded in soul, deny soul.
Because of the difficulty and danger of his last labour, the capture of Cerberos, Heracles asked if he might partake of the Eleusinian Mysteries before undertaking it. This, of course, would have initiated him into the secrets of death and rebirth, enabling his smooth passage into the Underworld. But he was either refused permission or, as other variants of the myth claim, permitted only to partake of the Lesser Mysteries (which were especially founded on his account). This lack of initiation implies exactly what I have been maintaining - that our rational egos remain uninitiated and thus ignorant of, and inimical to, the nature of daimonic reality. The consequence of this is dire: Heracles, alone of all the heroes, goes mad (and kills his sons). "The initiation of the heroic ego ... is not only a "psychological problem" ... It is cultural, and it is vast and crucial. The culture hero Heracles, as well as all our mini-herculean egos mimetic to that Man-God, is a killer among images. The image makes it mad, or rather evokes its madness, because heroic sanity insists on a reality it can grapple with ... or bash with a club. Real equals corporeal. So it attacks the image, driving death from his throne, as if recognition of the image implies death for the ego. (For "image," we can, of course, read "daimon.")
Too much of our recent history has been soul-slaughter, imagining the past as merely primitive and, muscle-bound with technology, bulldozing the sacred places, hunting the daimonic animals with high-velocity rifles, dispatching the jets to shoot down the UFOs, violating the moon-goddess with phallic rockets, and so on. Having severed all connection with the gods and daimons, we reckon we are getting away with it. But we aren't. The victory over the daimons is hollow; we simply make a hell of our world. And, as we drive out the daimons before us, they creep back in from behind, from within. We compel them to seize and possess and madden us. If we want to know our own fate, we would do well, perhaps, to look at the fate of Heracles. He neglected his wife, his soul, who, in order to rekindle his attention, sent him a shirt soaked in what she had been told was a love potion. But the potion was a poison that coursed over his body, corroding his too-solid flesh. The more he tore at the shirt, the more he tore himself to pieces. He was glad to find death on a burning pyre. (His wife killed herself out of remorse.)
This is a warning of what happens to spirit when it becomes divorced from its soul pairing, when it ceases to find its reflection in soul - and loses it. It becomes the solitary heroic rational ego which deludes itself into believing that there is no soul. It creates a correspondingly delusional world for itself which, deprived of its connection with a personal and personified counterpart, opens on to the soul's depths, as abysmal as deep space and as impersonal as the subatomic realm.
A note on TechnologyAlthough there are many spirits, and many kinds of spirit, more and more the notion of "spirit" has come to be carried by the Apollonic archetype, the sublimations of higher and abstract disciplines, the intellectual mind, refinements, and purifications.
If, then, the Apollonic archetype represents the spirit of the age, and especially of science, the Heraclean archetype might be described as its instrument and will - its strong right arm - and hence the archetype of technology. Under the aegis of Apollo, we see the literalization of spirit's metaphors: upwards and onwards are science's watchwords; the "ascent of man;" Progress. In this respect, science is a secular version of the medieval mystic's ascent to "God who is on high" - which, in turn, is a spiritualized Christian version of the shaman"s 'celestial journey." (The latter, however, was preceded or at least balanced, we remember, by a corresponding descent to the subterranean, daimonic realm.) It is not therefore too far-fetched, I think, to see the invention of flight - often called an "age-old dream" - as a literalization of the shaman's journey, under the aegis of the Heraclean ego. We not only build aircraft, literalizing spiritual flight into physical, "muscular" flight, we also strive to fly higher and faster, finally initiating space programs whose first objective is to discredit the moon. She is no goddess, says Heracles; she has no power to madden or enchant - she's just dust.
Modern disquiet at the ascendancy of scientism has been signalled by a "return to Earth," notably in ecological movements which seek to combat scientism's detachment from (and hence oppression of) Nature. But these movements stand little chance of permanent success if they cast themselves in the same mould as scientism, advancing solutions from the same literal perspective as caused the problems. They must embrace a change in perspective, a change of heart, so that they re-imagine Earth as the embodiment of a world-soul. the violation of which is also a violation of their own souls.
However, I do not want to strike a facile anti-technological pose. I have named Heracles as the archetypal background to technology, but really I ought to say that his perspective entails the abuse of technology. The archetypal figure behind technology proper, and its correct use, is Daedalus, who invented the potter's wheel, the compass and the saw. He also built a machine resembling a cow in which Pasiphae could be hidden and so receive the sexual favors of Poseidon in the form of a bull. Thus technology, too, can mediate between humans and the gods! The offspring of this union was the Minotaur, half man and half bull(-god) - a daimonic creature, in other words. Daedalus built an intricate maze, the famous labyrinth, to house the Minotaur. The labyrinth is an image of soul. It is both an imaginative and technical structure, built like a shrine to accommodate a daimon. In addition, Pasiphae's husband, King Minos, was also said to have hidden there. Since Minos was appointed by Hades to judge the dead, we also see in the labyrinth a recognition of the soul's connection with death. Thus technology can embody soul and not necessarily oppose it.
We should not be surprised therefore of Daedalus expresses the right attitude to technology, as evidenced by his famous escape from Crete. He invented flight, fabricating the first pair of wings - and so becoming the first person to literalize the shaman's celestial journey. However, it was his son, Icarus, who abused the technology by flying too high on his wings towards the Apollonic sun. This is the hubris of technology which transcends its own limits - with the result we are all familiar with: the wax which held Icarus' wings together melted and he plunged to his death in the sea. Daedalus, on the other hand, using his new technology moderately, flew safely to Cumae, near Naples, where he dedicated his wings to Apollo and built him a temple, as if recognizing that the god was the scientific inspiration behind his technical innovation.
Siegfried's loss of soulI ought here to touch on another myth whose hero, though very different from Heracles, has some telling characteristics in common. It is the Germanic myth of Siegfried, "the great hero of German people." I do not relish "translating" such myths into languages other than their own; but I want to show that the Siegfried myth may well be as important as the Heraclean in understanding the modern rational ego. Specifically, the myth of Siegfried seems to provide much of the archetypal background for that singular perspective of spirit we might call the northern Protestant ego, from which the rational ego in large measure derives. (It is worth remembering here that it was the Mediterranean, Catholic form of Christianity which tended to Christianize the daimons - ... - while its Puritan, iconoclastic form, separated out at the Reformation as northern Protestantism, tended to demonize them.)
It may seem eccentric to cite a pagan myth as underlying a Christian development; but we will remember how thinly Christianity sometimes veils paganism, especially when we consider the dramatic resurgence of Germanic myth (notably Siegfried's) under Hitler's regime. At any rate, Siegfried and the northern Protestant ego share an important feature: they both suffer from loss of soul.... The best-known version of the Siegfried myth is Wagner's operatic treatment of it in the Ring cycle. However, the version to which I will refer is the Norse one, where Siegfried is known as Sigurd, and Brunhilde as Brynhild.
The parts of the plot which concern us are briefly as follows: Sigurd's first major heroic task is to kill the dragon Fafnir. He bathes in the dragon's blood and thereby becomes invulnerable, except for a small spot on his back. To be invulnerable is a dubious distinction; it implies that one is armored, intransigent, unwilling to let anything through. Here is the beginning of a spirit perspective rigidifying into a single-minded rational ego. Its soul counterpart in this case is personified by Brynhild. But she is not the usual princess; she is a Valkyr, one of Odin's warrior-maidens, cast out of the Otherworld for disobedience. There is no one like her in Greek mythology, except perhaps the Amazons, or else great Artemis, the cold huntress and moon-goddess. As a pair, Sigurd and Brynhild, ego and soul, both determine and reflect each other - and, splendid as they are, they are also hard and ruthless and martial.
Sigurd finds Brynhild on a mountain peak, in a tower surrounded by a wall of flame which only he can breach on his magical horse (reminiscent of the shaman's "spirit horse"). They fall in love. He then leaves her in order to perform more deeds of derring-do, so that he can be worthy of her hand in marriage. Actually he at once falls in with a king called Gunnar, to whom he becomes a blood-brother. In other words, they become different aspects of the same person. Gunnar is like the rational ego, which splits off from spirit and denies its connection with soul; or, vice versa, loss of connection with soul causes the rational ego to split off from spirit. At any rate, that the connection is lost is represented by the fact that Sigurd forgets all about Brynhild. It does not much matter that the cause of this untoward forgetfulness is attributed to an enchantment laid on Sigurd by Gunnar's mother, in order that Sigurd will fall in love with Gudrun, her daughter (and Gunnar's sister). The enchantment is like that waking daylight consciousness which banishes the dream images and returns us to this mundane world. Thus Sigurd forgets his true soul, Brynhild, in her otherworldly tower and marries Gudrun, the charming but shallow hausfrau.
Meanwhile, Gunnar has heard of Brynhild and determines to win her. Sigurd offers to help. But, arriving at the flame-encircled tower, Gunnar cannot traverse the fire, even when Sigurd lends him the magical horse. However, remembering one of his mother's spells, Gunnar decides to change shape with Sigurd. In other words, the rational ego imposes its perspective on the daimonic ego. Thus, in the guise of Gunnar - that is, identified entirely now with the rational ego - Sigurd breaches the wall of fire for the second time and wins Brynhild, who reckons herself (correctly) forgotten by Sigurd. She does not see Sigurd resuming his own appearance, nor does she know of his marriage to Gudrun until the latter informs her. Then her cold and mirthless attitude, so alien to the worldly household, grows more icy, remote and incomprehensible to Gunnar and Gudrun.
As soon as he sees Brynhild at her wedding feast, Sigurd remembers everything - but can say nothing for the sake of Gunnar, his blood-brother, and Gudrun, his wife. It is only when, after a year, Brynhild discovers from Gudrun that it was Sigurd, not Gunnar, who won her, that she confronts Sigurd, enabling him to explain what happened, that he was enchanted, etc. Brynhild begs him to leave with her at once so that they may live together as originally planned. But Sigurd will still not betray Gunnar and Gudrun.
Here, Sigurd gives up his second chance to become re-connected to the Otherworld of the Valkyr, as if he had become too contaminated with this world. What he had lost the first time through forgetfulness, he now willfully denies. It is precisely this willful denial of soul and of daimonic reality which is the hallmark of the rational ego and its close kin, the iconoclastic northern Protestant ego (which also, like Sigurd, emphasizes the priority of the ethical perspective over the erotic). And so the previous, temporary identification of Sigurd with Gunnar, of spirit with rational ego, is now made permanent. Sigurd can only merge with Gunnar or leave the stage. And so he does: the spurred Brynhild vengefully tells Gunnar that Sigurd really loves her and wishes him, Gunnar, dead (which is, from soul's point of view, no more than the truth). Whereupon Gunnar, to whom Sirgurd has confided the place of his vulnerability, persuades his younger brother to kill Sigurd with a sword-thrust between the shoulder blades. Arrayed as if for a marriage feast, Brynhild takes her own life. Gunnar, as rational ego, is left in charge of a world devoid of both soul and of any other heroic perspective.
- Also by Patrick Harpur
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