June 10, 2006

Seven Eyes, Seven Horns

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The swastika carved into the middle of Charles Manson’s forehead is a fearsome sign. It is the same swastika found on the brow of the seven gods: The Cretan Adonis; the Egyptian Osiris; the Babylonian Tammuz; the Hittite Attis; the Iranian Mithra; the Hellenic Dionysus; and the Aztec Quetzalcoatl. These are the gods of “mystery” explains Dmitri Merejkowski, the “baptized” gods, they appear from out of some original cataclysm, by all accounts a great flood. They are the dead gods who pre-date the immortal gods of “mythology”. The Catholic Church reconceived their emblems as the signs of the devil. Manson’s choice of the swastika is an equally convoluted misrepresentation of these signs as demonic. It is not uncommon to find the ancient symbols, so powerful in our consciousness, reemerge from out of pre-history as emblems of terror. Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, as recent example, has inexplicably become a perennial favorite soundtrack for the violence of war even though it is one of the most beautiful expressions of orgiastic Dionysian sensual bliss ever composed. Likewise, and even more odd, for example, is the mythography of the four-sided axe of the German military machine. Merejkowski also traces this symbol back to the seven gods. It is one of the oldest icons known to us. Far from warlike it is a double of the two-sided axe. In mythology it harkens back to the story of Adam, the first person. So the story goes, before there was Eve, there was only Adam, the ideal entity, both man and woman in perfect harmony, an androgyne. In the Kabbalah the four-sided axe is the doubling of the androgyne, the love between two androgynes, in other words, the perfect love. Sad as it is, history is replete with these reversals of peaceful signs towards hateful ends. Another of the more devastating examples is Michelangelo’s depiction of a horned Moses. There was sound mytho-historic basis for representing Moses with horns. It is true that Moses is said to have descended from the mountain after his interview with God wearing a bull’s mask. The church chose to reinterpret the horns of Moses as the devil’s horns in order to demonize the Jews. But nothing could have been farther from the truth. Moses’ inspiration to wear the horns after communing with God, according to Merejkowski, is traced back to the seven gods of the anti-deluvian paradise. Atlantis/Europe: The Secret of the West was written by Merejkowski between the World Wars. His incredible tome is dedicated to the mysteries that underlie Western mythology. Merejkowski is the rarest of rare intellects with three of his literary works still in wide circulation almost a century after they were first published. Besides Atlantis/Europe his great works include Death of the Gods and The Romance of Leonardo Da Vinci. Integral to all three is the impulse of rising major ideologies to lay waste to and demonize everything that has come before them, selectively integrating and deforming the more indissoluble elements into their own world view. The Romance alternatively titled The White She-Devil, for example, takes as its backdrop the geo-politics of a world awaking from the Dark Ages of Christian xenophobia. It is a depiction of a world that is shaking off the extreme repression of strict Catholic rule. Merejkowski imagines how crazy it must have been to exist at a time defined by the return of the repressed, how strange ancient knowledge must have seemed at the onset of the Renaissance. His major anecdote is the discovery of the Venus de Milo, buried by Evangelical Christians to erase all evidence of past glories that contradicted the primacy and supremacy of their ideology. Lacking all knowledge of classical antiquity she was initially dubbed by the peasants who dug her up as the edifice of the “white she-devil”. Merejkowski was definitely familiar with James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. The author specifically refers to him in Atlantis/Europe. There’s little doubt that the book was a great inspiration to Robert Graves’ The White Goddess. The title alone would also seem to directly indebt him to Merejkowski’s The White She-Devil. Graves’ mythographic opus, self-described as “queer”, takes as its point of departure the mysteries of originary Anglo/Saxon mythology. Nevertheless, there exist many similarities to the way Graves approaches his subject only a few years after Merejkowski’s work is published. There’s a sense in which they both sleuth through material like conspiracy theorists. Graves, like Merejkowski, recognizes that his subject is obscured by history. His effort at restoring the record, at getting to the truth, is guided by an insistence on fighting through the impediments of historical misinterpretation. Basic to both Merejkowski and Graves is the double-edged disaster of Christian ideology. There is, on the one hand, the idea that Christianity was able to unify Europe by providing a singular, universal ideology to the warring tribes of a continent by which the notion of a singular occident could emerge, but there is also the mythographic problem unique to such a globalizing and homogenizing effort: No single ideology is capable of wiping out such vast differences. In the end, at least from a strictly mythographic point of view, the dominant ideology is forced to attempt, however awkwardly, to integrate those characteristics that it set out to erase into its own belief system. From the point of view of the mythographer that means that traces of previous cultures are always already present in any ideology. No matter how distorted, there is always the basis for an investigation. There is always the possibility of reassembling the pieces of everything that ideology has been hell-bent to eradicate, always the possibility that its original meaning can be rediscovered. While Graves is forced to characterize his endeavor, as incredibly insightful and revelatory as it is, as “queer”, Merejkowski’s effort was from the onset in Atlantis/Europe clearly mytho-poetic which gives him a certain amount of leeway not usually afforded to someone like Graves, who feels much more indebted to a purely rationalist approach to his subject. Merejkowski was, for example, clearly familiar with Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. Much of his source material is indebted to Donnelly's research. The difference is that Donnelly cannot divorce fact from fiction. Conjecture and evidence become blurred. Donnelly is most famous for three of his theories that have experience an almost inexplicable after-life: Francis Bacon is not only the real author of Shakespeare, but of too many other canons of Western literature to take seriously; the celestial birth of the planet Venus from out of Mars was the cause of the great deluge; and, most pertinent to the present inquiry, Atlantis factually and literally existed. Merejkowski is, for the most part, smart enough to never deal with the subject as anything but mythological. Resorting to it between the World Wars, his intent is to call on it as a metaphor for his own present-day dire political situation: that of a civilization incapable of satiating its primal blood-lust. Merejkowski takes up the subject of Atlantis from where Plato leaves off with his description: Atlantis is the original example of an innocent pre-historic world founded on peace that degenerates into apocalyptic violence and ultimately destroys itself. The fact that Plato invokes the example of Atlantis, fact or fiction, is enough to entrench it as a staple of the Western Canon. Merejkowski’s intention is to keep it alive. It doesn’t really matter if it is as nothing more than a metaphoric example of what can happen if an ideology based on good intentions is perverted into an emblem for war. Plato’s recourse to Atlantis as the example of the first attempt at ideal civilization, as the prime example of a perfectly harmonious communist civilization, and Christianity’s evocation of the end of such a civilization as Apocalypse, perfectly embodies the kind of cautionary tale Merejkowski wants to make in Atlantis/Europe about the imminent advent of the second, and maybe last, World War. It is a warning. The fact that we were able to absorb the insanity of destruction that WW II visited upon us is no reason to dismiss this work. Skeptics might find comfort in the fact that it is published by Rudolf Steiner’s occult press, as if it’s mytho-poetic approach to history might somehow disqualify it from revealing what is otherwise obvious about human nature. The fact is that our power to destroy has only grown that much greater and more inhuman since the book was first conceived. Merejkowski perceived of a great cataclysm to end all cataclysms. It is now clear that the rabid War Dogs have figured out how to parse the apocalypse out over an extended period of time in order to maximize their own profit and make quasi-permanent our state of grief and despair. That is, of course, no reason not to take up the book for yourself.

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