Tragedy and Myth in Ancient Europe and Modern Politics

Tom Sunic


 

“Saturn (Kronos) Devouring His Son”, by Francisco de Goya, 1821

“Saturn (Kronos) Devouring His Son”, by Francisco de Goya, 1821

The following is an abridged version of my speech given at the London Forum, February 1, 2014, London, UK. The video of the whole speech is available here.

When discussing myths we must first agree on the meaning of words and expressions we intend to employ.  We must also certify that we assign to those words an appropriate meaning regardless of our own individual approach to this subject. The word ‘myth’ has a very specific meaning when we deal with the ancient Greek tragedies, or when we study the early Greek theogony or cosmogony.  By contrast, the fashionable expression today, ‘political mythology’ has a very subjective meaning, often laden with strong value judgments and derisory interpretations. A verbal construct such as the ‘myth of modernity’ may be interpreted by many of us as something legitimate when denouncing political and historical lies of the System we live in. Yet to a modern self-proclaimed supporter of the System, enamored with system-supporting myths of permanent economic progress and the like, speaking of the “myth of economic progress” or the “myth of democracy” is an egregious political insult. It is viewed as a sign of someone’s undemocratic behavior — a word used by an undemocratic opponent not worthy of residing in the modern democratic system.  How does one dare mention such a sacrilegious locution as “the myth of modern democracy,” or “the myth of contemporary historiography,” or the myth of progress” without being punished??!  Modern political mythology is usually enforced against free thinkers by means of social ostracism at the best, or penal codes and imprisonment at the worst.

In hindsight when we study the ancient Greek myths with their surreal settings and hyperreal creatures, few of us will accord them any historical veracity or any empirical or scientific value. However, few of us will reject those ancient European myths as an outright lie. Why is that?  In fact, most of us enjoy reading those ancient European myths because most of us are aware not just of their strong symbolic nature, but also of their didactic message. This is the main reason why the ancient myths and sagas are still so popular among White Europeans. Those ancient myths of ours thrive in timelessness; they are meant to go beyond the historical timeframe; they defy any historicity. They are open to anybody’s “historical revisionism” or interpretation.  Hence the reason that ancient European myths or sagas can never be dogmatic; they never require the intervention of the thought police or a politically correct enforcer in order to make themselves readable or credible.

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The prose of Homer or Hesiod represents not just a part of our European cultural heritage but is also the prime focus of our subconscious. In fact we could describe our ancient myths as primal allegories where every stone, every creature, every god or demigod, let alone each monster, acted as a role model, or represented a symbol of good or evil. When we were young boys Hercules, a demigod, was our hero. Whether Hercules historically existed or not, is beside the point. He still lives in our memory.  He was the real symbol, the real role model for all of us young White males. Moreover, who among us did not dream about making love to the goddess Aphrodite? Or at least make some furtive passes at Daphne?  Apollo, a god with a sense of moderation and beauty was also our hero as was the pesky Titan Prometheus, always trying to surpass himself with his boundless intellectual curiosity.  Prometheus unbound is the prime symbol of the White man’s irresistible drive toward the unknown, toward the truth, irrespective of the name he carries in ancient sagas, modern novels, or political treatises.  The English and the German poets of the early nineteenth century, the so-called Romanticists, frequently invoked the Greek gods and especially the Titan Prometheus. I do not think, however, the expression Romanticism is appropriate for that literary time period in Europe because there was nothing romantic about that epoch or for that matter about the prose of authors such as Coleridge or Byron, or Friedrich Schiller, who often referred to the ancient deities:

WHILST the smiling earth ye governed still,
And with rapture’s soft and guiding hand
Led the happy nations at your will,
Beauteous beings from the fable-land!
Whilst your blissful worship smiled around,
Ah! how different was it in that day!
When the people still thy temples crowned,
Venus Amathusia!

(Translated by E. A. Bowring) Die Götter Griechenlandes. (“The Gods of Greece”)

Most Romanticists were political realists and not daydreamers, as modern schoolbooks try to tell us, and all of them had a fine foreboding of the coming Dark Ages. Most of them can be described as thinkers of the tragic.  Many of them ended their lives tragically. Many, who wanted to arrest the merciless flow of time, ended up on drugs. A poetic drug of choice in the early nineteenth-century England was opium and its derivative, the sleeping beauty laudanum. (See my essay “The Party is Over”, TOO, November 2009.)

Modern Religions and Bewitched Hoaxes

Myth and religion are not synonymous, although they are often used synonymously, depending again on the mood of the modern storyteller, the interpreter, or the word abuser. There is a difference between religion and myth—a difference, as stated above, depending more on the interpreter and less on the etymological differences between these two words.  Some of us will disparagingly argue that the miracles performed by Jesus Christ were a series of Levantine myths, a kind of Oriental hocus pocus designated to fool the rootless, homeless, raceless, Orientalized, multicultural masses in the dying days of Rome. Some among us, who are Christians, will of course reject such statements.  If such anti-Christian remarks were uttered loudly today in front of a big church congregation, or in front of devout Christians, it may lead to public rebuke.  How dare one say that Christianity is a myth! In this context Christianity must be rather called a religion, with no pun intended.

However, in a given context even the word ‘religion’ can have a blasphemous effect, even if not intended. The word ‘religion’ derives from the Latin word ‘religare’, which means to bind together or to tie together. Thus many of us use the expression the “religion of the Holocaust” without necessarily assigning to the noun ‘religion’ any pejorative or abusive meaning. However, the expression “the religion of the Holocaust” will definitely raise some eyebrows among the scribes of the System given that the Holocaust officially does not enter the realm of religious or mythical transcendence, let alone an ahistorical story-telling. Instead, the Holocaust remembrance, in the modern liberal vernacular, represents today an important portion of factual historiography.

However, the memory of the Holocaust has by now attained quasi-transcendental features going well beyond a simple historical narrative. It claims to have a didactic message stretching well beyond a given historical time period, thus escaping any time frame and any scientific measurement. Therefore, the Holocaust qualifies just as well as a religion, regardless whether a person espouses this religion or not.  Just like any other religion the Holocaust is designated to bind together lots of people, if not the whole of mankind. This is quite typical of all monotheistic religions which are hardly in need of historical proof, let alone of forensic or material documentation in order to assert themselves as universally credible beliefs. Our ancestors, the old Greeks, were never tempted to export their gods abroad to distant foreign lands. By contrast, Judeo-Christianity, or Islam have a universal message, just like their secular modalities liberalism and communism. Failure to accept either those old beliefs or modern universal monotheistic religions and myths may result in a heretic’s persecution or banishment.

There is, however, a difference between ‘myth’ and ‘religion’ although often these words coincide and are used synonymously. Religion is history bound; it has it historical beginning and it projects its goals into the distant future. After all we measure our time since the real or the alleged birth of Jesus Christ and we are now well into the celebration of 2014th anniversary of his birthday.  We no longer measure our time flow since the fall of Troy, or ab urbem condita, as our ancestors the ancient Romans did. The same Jesus-Christ bound timeframe of measurement is true not just for the Catholic Vatican, or the European Union, but also for atheist North Korea. Muslims also count their time differently, since Hegira (i.e. the flight of Muhammad from Mecca), and they seem to still dwell now in the fifteenth century. We can observe that all religions, unlike myths, are located in history, with well-marked beginnings and with projections of historical end-times. For contemporary dedicated liberals, freedom and modernity started in 1776, with the day of the American Declaration of Independence, whereas for the Bolsheviks real history started in 1917. For all of them, all historical events prior to those fateful years are “the dark ages.”

Religions are much closer to utopianism than myths are. A myth can always sneak out of the time flow. There is no ageing in myths; there is no death that cannot be repaired even for those dwelling in the underworld. Myths mean the eternal return.

What myth and religion do have in common is that they both rest on powerful symbolism, on allegories, on proverbs, on rituals, on initiating labors, such as the ones Hercules endured, or the riddles Jason had to solve with his Argonauts in his search for the Golden Fleece. Likewise the modern ideology of liberalism, being also a secular religion, consists of a whole set and subsets of myths. Undoubtedly modern liberals reject the expression “the liberal myth,” or “the liberal cult.” Instead they gleefully use the expression “the fascist myth” or “the communist myth,” but they never refer to their own beliefs as myths.  As with the religion of the Holocaust, the religion of liberalism possesses its own canons, its own sets of rituals and incantations that need to be observed by the believers, particularly when it comes to using an appropriate verbiage.

Myths are generally thought to be able to thrive only in primitive society, but we have seen, based on the above, that this is not true. Ancient Greece had a fully enveloped language of mythology, yet on the spiritual level, but also on the scientific level it was a highly advanced society. The ancient Greek mythology has nothing in common with the mythology of today’s Polynesia whose inhabitants also cherish their own myths, but whose level of philosophical or scientific inquiry is not on par with that of our ancient Greek ancestors.  Did Socrates or Plato or Aristotle believe in the existence of harpies, Cyclops, giants or titans? This is hard to say, but we can say with certainty that the symbolism of the myths in ancient Greece had an entirely different significance for  ancient Greeks than it has for ourselves. The main reason lies in our desperate effort to rationally explain away the mythical world of our ancestors. This ultrarational drive for the comprehension of the unknown is largely due to our monolinear, monotheist mindset inherited from Judaism and from its offshoot, Christianity. In the same vein our belief in the myth of progress, as Georges Sorel wrote long ago, is just a secular transposition of the Biblical paradise, accompanied by our abandonment of the sense of the tragic: “The theory of progress was adopted as a dogma at the time when the bourgeoisie was the conquering class; thus one must see it as a bourgeois doctrine” (Les Illusions du progrès, pp. 5-6.

Some very intelligent people in the West sincerely believe in the myth of perpetual progress, or to put it crudely, they believe that their purchasing power must grow indefinitely. They are wrong.  Such a Bible-inspired linear mindset prevents us from gaining insight into the mental world of our ancestors and robs us of the ability to conceive of possible other versions of ourselves.  Undoubtedly, we have been deeply contaminated by Judaism and its offshoot, Christianity, to the extent that we can hardly comprehend other truths and other levels of knowledge.

The Titans and the Tragic

We must turn to the tragic, a unique character trait of our White heritage, but which obviously, due to the onslaught of the modern myth of progress, has fallen into oblivion, or is viewed as a social aberration among individuals professing skepticism about the future. In fact all of our ancient myths have a component of the tragic. Nothing remains static in the notion of the tragic. The sheer delight of a hero can lead a minute later to his demise. The tragic is best visible in the Sophocles tragedy Oedipus Rex where Oedipus knows he is doomed for having unknowingly killed his father and for unknowingly having an incestuous relationship with his mother. Yet he struggles to the very end to escape his destiny. But to no avail.

There are thousands of other examples of the tragic. One very explicit case is the refrain from the chorus from Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus: [1225]

Not to be born is, beyond all estimation, best; but when a man has seen the light of day, this is next best by far, that with utmost speed he should go back from where he came.

The tragic person knows that the cosmic odds are never in his favor. Yet he continues to fight although he knows that he is doomed. In a way we can use this tragic rule in our own fight. Our chances of success in turning back the liberal end times are slim, yet we must continue to fight. Our struggle, as of now a cultural one, gives us at least some chance of success and a slim opportunity that the odds may turn to our advantage.

Without poets there are no myths, just like without the Titans there are no Gods. And without the Titans there is no tragic. It was the twelve Titans who gave birth to the Gods and not the other way around. It was Kronos who gave birth to Zeus, and then, after being dethroned by his son Zeus he must dwell with his fellow Titans in the underworld. But we cannot rule out that the resurrection of the head Titan Kronos, along with other Titans, may occur one day, perhaps in an upcoming eon, and their takeover of the world can start again. After all Prometheus was himself a Titan, although as a dissident Titan, he had sided up with the gods and helped them win the cosmic battle against his fellow Titans. As Friedrich George Jünger, the brother of Ernst Jünger wrote in his book The Titans and the Gods:  “Water, Earth and Heavens have been penetrated by their energy, not only during the Grecian times but today too, and for centuries and centuries to come.”

Nothing remains new for the imprisoned Titans: they know everything. They are the central feature in the cosmic eternal return. The Titans are not the creators of Chaos, although they dwell much closer to Chaos than Gods. At this stage they can be called telluric deities and it remains to be seen whether they will this time around side up with other chtonic monsters such as those described by H.P. Lovecraft in his “The Thing on the Doorstep.” The Titans are the necessary element in the cosmic balance.  The Titans who are now imprisoned in Tartarus are the mirror image of the Olympian Gods. They are are the center of the will to power and each of us who demonstrates this will has a good ingredient of the Titanic spirit. Today, in our disenchanted world from which gods have departed, the Titans remain for all of us an option in our struggle. Titans and Titanic individuals are known to be outspoken about their supreme independence, their aversion to cutting deals, their uncompromising attitude, and their lack of repentance.

The Titans were defeated, but they could not be annihilated. They are immortal just like gods. They could not be brainwashed into political correctness. They wait for their times. And the times will soon come when the Titans will be back in town.

Dr. T. Sunic is the author of books in French and English (www.tomsunic.com). He is also a Board member of the American Freedom Party.

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