There be dragons!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Natural

Perhaps its just my current idea fixee but I'm beginning to see the Amun Ra story in everything of Western Culture. How deeply this myth influenced us even down to our understanding of what a dragon is. In the East the dragon was a force of nature, sometimes wild and dangerous, sometimes beneficent. For us the dragon is that many headed, coiling terror that threatens to devour all that is good in man - despair - darkness - the horror that we have to face at some point in our lives. It is Smaug and Leviathan, it is Python and Jörmungandr around the world tree, Ygdrassil. And it is Apep, the dragon met at the end of the journey through the underworld, or Duat, by the sun god, Amun Ra.
Egyptians believed that the sun ran its living course during the day, died at sunset, and during the night sailed through the treacherous waters of the underworld accompanied by his sargeants and generals. At the end of this journey they meet Apep who threatens to devour Amun as Jörmungandr threatens to devour the world tree in Ragnarok. The battle is joined, Apep is destroyed, even as Apollo destroys Python, and the sun god rises again to glorious newbirth or resurrection with the sunrise.

Watching again the Natural I'm seeing just that. It is an underdog story about a man, Roy Hobbs, who has suffered a crippling defeat that takes him away from his dream of baseball. Yet he returns to the game and triumphs over the forces of darkness that threaten to consume him. I don't think that Redford consciously meant to mimic the Amun-Ra story, but the use of colors, shadows, name imagery, all indicate a retelling of that sun story. When Roy blasts the lights into fireworks and they fall past the window of the defeated judge we see again the triumph over those forces that seek to assert the inevitable and hopeless success of greed, power, and mediocrity over glory and nobility. Even the last scene that shifts from darkness to light and Roy playing ball in the field of wheat with his son while Iris stands watching with the blue sky behind her, is itself a resurrection scene - a sign that hope exists and we can triumph over our own darkness and demons.

I'm amazed that at the persistence of this story: more than 6000 years if my history is correct. Why would it last so very long in Western culture? Even the Christ story, regardless of historical accuracy, is itself a retelling wherein the mob and Caiaphas are the Apep and Christ rises with the sun on the third day (rather than the full count of baseball). What then are we saying? Does man have spem in alium? Is there hope in things unseen? Is it just a pretty fairy tale we repeat to each other in order to overcome the dark? I don't know - but the fruit of this story has had remarkable yield in all that the West has accomplished; freedom, government, art, courtesy, belief in the importance of the individual, sense of greatness and dignity, and the perpetual positivism even in the grim jaw of defeat.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
- Hebrews 12:1

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Clothing makes the man

An excellent article by Jeffrey A. Tucker at suggests that clothing and appearance may once again become the hallmark of the gentleman. Tucker says,

Right now, with unemployment moving into the double digits, it is becoming a dog-eat-dog world in labor markets. You must stand out. You must find ways to show that you are not expendable, that tossing you out would do more harm to the company than good. You must show that the company will risk losing more revenue by sending you away than by keeping you.
Clothing reflects this.

YAHOO! If that's the only change we actually get out of this entire freakin' mess then Mr. Obama will have presided over an auspicious era.

Here's the best line of the article at the very end:

The way you dress can make all the difference. If it doesn't work to boost your professional life, you can always count on looking fantastic when you march on the White House and protest against its occupants for robbing you blind in the name of saving you.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Harmony of Apollo

I found this article on line finally. Great text on esoteric geometry.

Odyssey as Ra Story

It seems clear that the Homeric epic The Odyssey is a retelling of the Amun-Ra story of the journey into the Duat, or underworld. As both Nanno Marinatos in his article "Cosmic Journey of Odysseus" and John A. Scott in the article "Odysseus as a Sun God" note, the imagery of the sun, the dawn passages, the significance of Helios, the 24 book cycle corresponding to the hours of the day, the struggles and trials & the cleansing of the many-headed mob of suitors correspondent to the struggles in the Duat and the defeat of the dragon Apep, all amount to a remarkably strong case in favor of Odysseus as a sun hero.
Additionally Scott B. Noegel in his excellent article "Apollonius' Argonautika and Egyptian Solar Mythology" argues that a similar retelling of this Egyptian myth exists in the Ptolemaic era story of Jason and the Argonauts. In this article Noegel suggests that Apollonius' work was crafted during an era in which the new Greek rulers of Egypt were attempting to synthesize Greek & Egyptian culture, perhaps in an attempt to legitimize their own reign. Noegel states that

Indeed, the Ptolemies put extraordinary means into locating and creating national gods that could be jointly worshiped by Egyptians and Greeks.

The work of Apollonius', then, reflects this attempt at synthetic mythopoesis. Noegel, quoting S.A.Stephens, states that the reader

...must see Apollonius as having "written a poem of and for the new hybrid political state, by retrojecting into the epic past elements of both worlds and by creating an epic template for new beginnings that partakes of both."

This rings very true. Artists, to quote a lowbrow source in Bono's lyrics, "are cannibals, every poet is a thief." Art rarely consists of something sprung, fully armed, from the head of the artist but rather is a recrafting of existing myths; retelling the old images and stories in a new way. Artists reconstitute the most significant myths of human culture for their own times. Apollonius did it; Vergil did it; Dante did it; Tolkien did it. Each artist took the prior myths and recrafted them in an original way.

This leads to the question of whether a similar political synthesis was occurring during the era of Homer's poem. If the work of Apollonius echoes the attempt on the part of the Ptolemies in 305BC to make a "national epic" out of Egypt and Greek heritage would sun imagery in the Odyssey reveal a similar cultural fusion between the Ionian coast and the Egyptian culture in the 9th century BC? Or was Homer simply using an accepted myth upon which to base his great poem?