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Monday, 13 December 2010

Lonely Planet...

I was listening to Susan Hill on the radio this morning, talking about her dislike of Wagner with a man who loved the music of Wagner. He touched on the subject Stephen Fry was so perplexed by, namely how can one love the work of someone whose attitudes and opinions are repellent.

I rarely find myself so conflicted, I don't need people to be *good* but on the other hand, listening to, or reading poorly understood Darwinian theories about the superiority of certain races...or even the idea of races, is immensely trying (from my place of safety).

I've no idea what I think about Wagner save that Ride of the Valkyries worked well in Apocalypse Now. I do not see myself saving up for a ticket to get into the Bayreuth festival. I'm seriously confused by why people want to believe that they belong to a Superior race, though in the case of Sir Arthur Evans perhaps Adler had a point!

Why am I troubled by Sir Arthur Evans?

Well in effect Sir Arthur Evans created Knossos, this act of taking myth out of the purely liminal and into into real world is in itself fascinating, but it means that I need to read about him, and I don't find him pleasant company.

The desire to find archaeological sites mentioned in ancient texts started in earnest with Heinrich Schliemann who believed that he had uncovered Troy. Now and then you will see people on BBC 4 tv programmes striding about the ruins of Hisarlik and calling it Troy.

Well it may be Troy as stormed by Achilles and Odysseus. Troy where the towers of Ilium burned and Astyanax was thrown.

Only one thing alone is true, it is now Troy.

I subscribe to the theory that Troy was the archetypal war, an amalgam of all wars, a record of war and that Troy never happened and always will...

The why is what makes the cross over from myth to reality important.

As I read I can't help contrasting the application of myth by Evans with Dr R F Paget, and Mike Parker Pearson. Dr RF Paget (don't forget Keith!) comes out of it very well actually, because in the end it doesn't matter at all that he believed in Orpheus as a real man, and knew without a shadow of a doubt that Homer was a blind poet rather than possibly 'Mills and Boon' a generic term for types of work.

Dr Paget always shows his workings out and keeps a clear record of what he finds and so his beliefs are immaterial.

Mike Parker Pearson represents a newish trend in the use of myth; this is the importation of a non-indigenous myth applied to similar structures thousands of miles away. A researcher invites someone to look at say Stonehenge because his country has standing stones that are still used or were used within living memory. The researcher asks about the meanings given to the rituals used and then apply those meanings to the structure and landscape in this country.

In some ways this reminds me very much of W. Y. Evans-Wentz's 'Naturalistic approach' as described in his book: The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries (1911):
...the Naturalistic Theory, which is, that in ancient and in modern times man's belief in gods, spirits, or fairies has been the direct result of his attempts to explain or to rationalize natural phenomena. Of this theory we accept as true that the belief in fairies often anthropomorphically reflects the natural environment as well as the social condition of the people who hold the belief. For example, amid the beautiful low-lying green hills and gentle dells of Connemara (Ireland), the 'good people' are just as beautiful, just as gentle, and just as happy as their environment; while amid the dark-rising mountains and in the mysterious cloud-shadowed lakes of the Scotch Highlands there are fiercer kinds of fairies and terrible water-kelpies, and in the Western Hebrides there is the much-dreaded 'spirit-host' moving through the air at night.

The Naturalistic Theory shows accurately enough that natural phenomena and environment have given direction to the anthropomorphosing of gods, spirits, or fairies, but after explaining this external aspect of the Fairy-Faith it cannot logically go any further.

In the internal aspects of the Fairy-Faith the fundamental fact seems clearly to be that there must have been in the minds of prehistoric men, as there is now in the minds of modern men, a germ idea of a fairy for environment to act upon and shape. Without an object to act upon, environment can accomplish nothing. This is evident. The Naturalistic Theory examines only the environment and its effects, and forgets altogether the germ idea of a fairy to be acted upon; but the Psychological Theory remembers and attempts to explain the germ idea of a fairy and the effect of nature upon it.
I really do not like the word fairy. I have more of a problem with the word Celt. The turn of the last century was a weird time and each time I turn a Crowley card (Book of Thoth) and read him wittering on about The New Aeon, I want to spit!

W Y Evans Wentz was an excellent travel writer, here is his description of the Highlands of Scotland:
In the moorlands between Trossachs and Aberfoyle, a region made famous by Scott's Rob Roy, I have seen atmospheric changes so sudden and so contrasted as to appear marvellous. What shifting of vapours and clouds, what flashes of bright sun-gleams, then twilight at midday! Across the landscape, shadows of black dense fog-banks rush like shadows of flocks of great birds which darken all the earth. Palpitating fog-banks wrap themselves around the mountain-tops and then come down like living things to move across the valleys, sometimes only a few yards above the traveller's head. And in that country live terrible water-kelpies. When black clouds discharge their watery burden it is in wind-driven vertical water-sheets through which the world appears as through an ice-filmed window-pane. Perhaps in a single day there may be the bluest of heavens and the clearest air, the densest clouds and the darkest shadows, the calm of the morning and the wind of the tempest. At night in Aberfoyle after such a day, I witnessed a clear sunset and a fair evening sky; in the morning when I arose, the lowlands along the river were inundated and a thousand cascades, large and small, were leaping down the mountain-highlands, and rain was falling in heavy masses. Within an hour afterwards, as I travelled on towards Stirling, the rain and wind ceased, and there settled down over all the land cloud-masses so inky-black that they seemed like the fancies of some horrible dream. Then like massed armies they began to move to their mountain-strongholds, and stood there; while from the east came perfect weather and a flood of brilliant sunshine.

And in the Highlands from Stirling to Inverness what magic, what changing colours and shadows there were on the age-worn treeless hills, and in the valleys with their clear, pure streams receiving tribute from unnumbered little rills and springs, some dropping water drop by drop as though it were fairy-distilled; and everywhere the heather giving to the mountain-landscape a hue of rich purplish-brown, and to the air an odour of aromatic fragrance.

On to the north-west beyond Inverness there is the same kind of a treeless highland country; and then after a few hours of travel one looks out across the water from Kyle and beholds Skye, where Cuchulainn is by some believed to have passed his young manhood learning feats of arms from fairy women,--Skye, dark, mountainous, majestic, with its waterfalls turning to white spray as they tumble from cliff to cliff into the sound, from out the clouds that hide their mountain-summit sources...

W Y went on to write out a translation made by Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup of 'The Tibetan Book of The Dead' which is in effect a Lonely Planet travel guide for the bardo thodol.

Jung wrote in the introduction just about all that can be said about W Y's work:
The Bardo Thödol began by being a 'closed' book, and so it has remained, no matter what kind of commentaries may be written upon it. For it is a book that will only open itself to spiritual understanding, and this is a capacity which no man is born with, but which he can only acquire through special training and special experience. It is good that such to all intents and purposes 'useless' books exist. They are meant for those 'queer folk' who no longer set much store by the uses, aims, and meaning of present-day 'civilisation'.
— Carl Jung.
How all this relates to me is, I need to value my sense of disconnection and turn it into a gift. Being an insider isn't useful because the ordinary and the familiar fade out of consciousness like the ticking of a clock, or the hush of my computer.

To see I need to increase my disconnection -so that's good then!?

Also I'm grateful to W Y Evans Wentz's explanation of 'The Naturalistic theory'.

It has helped me to clarify what I'm working with..W Y writes:
In the internal aspects of the Fairy-Faith the fundamental fact seems clearly to be that there must have been in the minds of prehistoric men, as there is now in the minds of modern men, a germ idea of a fairy for environment to act upon and shape.
I am saying that there is a germ idea that makes the theme of the lost girl reoccur again and again -germ is an odd way to think of it, seed is much better- a seed idea. This seed idea has grown into this world in many forms, and where it appears its roots remain firmly in that Otherworld of the human mind...