The Perennial Lure

Hieronymus Bosch — The Temptation of St Anthony

I’m sure i’m super late to the party, but have just been watching Joseph Campbell’s, The Power of Myth on ‘netflix’. It’s from the 80s and initially appears a bit dated, but the content is powerful stuff. In the first episode he talked about the hero’s journey. It really struck a chord when he explained one of the prime themes was resisting the temptation of the ‘dark side’, which he referred to as the system; The world of blind process and the intellect.

“Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system to the attainment of human purposes?”

― Joseph Campbell

‘The system’ is like a machine; Philip K Dick dubbed it ‘the empire’. It has its own priorities and cares not a wit about the individual’s happiness or peace of mind. It absorbs and assimilates like ‘the Borg.’

The choice; To live a humane life or be subsumed into the machine.

Of course, the system is super seductive or it wouldn’t be such a trial and temptation. It is the way to temporal power and ready answers. It is the direction the crowds seem to be heading. It is where the difficult decisions are made for you.

This is the theme that has been rattling around me for quite a time now. I recently wrote a couple of pieces on Murakami’s novel, ‘Kafka on the shore’. and this motif appeared to be the backbone of the book.

In the novel an enigmatic otherworldly figure seems to embody the concept of the ‘automated process’; A process that, once entrenched, can consume all. It leads to its own logical conclusion.

This idea is echoed when Kafka, the central character, reads about Adolf Eichmann in the cabin. The Nazi war criminal who designed the final solution for the Jews. Kafka reads that, at his trial, Eichmann couldnt work out why he was there. He was just a technician who’d found the most efficient solution to the problem assigned to him!

We might fare better, forgetting notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and instead, concentrating on the ‘real’ business at hand; Namely to encourage the blossoming of the creative impulse while simultaneously staving off the relentless onslaught of ‘process’

No. no. You are not thinking, you are just being logical.

– Niels Bohr

In ‘Far Journeys’, Robert Monroe wrote about a strange memory of another life in another world.

I am a Priest, and although it is hot, I am wearing my brown-hooded robe that reaches to my ankles. It is cool inside the church, yet I am loath to enter. The Ritual is about to begin, and I must attend and participate as part of the duties of my calling. I am sick in heart at what I must do. It is so different from that which I dreamed of , all those years ago.

The bell begins its tolling, and that is the signal that I must enter and join the others. I turn and pass through the smaller door to one side and into the Great Hall. I move slowly down the main aisle to the waiting group at the Altar. The High Priest stands in front of the Altar, wearing his white robe with the golden braided symbols across the front.

As I approach the Altar, I know what I will see upon it, and I am correct. A young girl attired in a flowing gown of bright red to hide the blood is lying upon its stone surface. Silken cords are attached to her ankles and wrists, then to large rings on the sides of the Altar. I know well the Ritual although I have never performed it.

Once I have completed the Sacred Act in the name of the Almighty, I will transcend that status of a lowly Priest and become an Alternate Keeper of the Realm. I will become one of the Seven. When the High Priest departs, one of the Seven will take his place and assume his Power and Glory as the direct Communicant with the Almighty. Perhaps I may be that one . . . but now I am not sure.

The dream of years past flickers within me and it is not this. If I do not perform the Ritual, I will be stripped of my robe, cast out into the street, where I will be stoned to death by the populace.

I move next to the Altar, and the High Priest hands me the Ritual blade, a slender, sharply pointed knife with a carved silver handle. I have been instructed carefully where to insert the Ritual knife at various spots on her body so as to keep from causing her death immediately.

. . . I raise the blade for the first swift insertion . . . and I stop, arm upraised. I am looking into the eyes of the girl. In them are fear, puzzlement, resignation . . . and beyond these, a knowing, a depth that carries me past the distortion of my dream and into what I was sure was always there . . . I lower my arm, turn, and drop the silver knife, only a knife, in front of the fat man who calls himself a High Priest.

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