Tuesday 26 October 2010

The daimonic force of great myths and legends


From The Notion Club Papers by JRR Tolkien – in Sauron Defeated, Volume IX of the History of Middle Earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

Page 228, Ramer speaking:

“I don’t think you realize, I don’t think any of us realize, the force, the daimonic force that the great myths and legends have.

“From the profundity of the emotions and perceptions that begot them, and from the multiplication of them in many minds – and each mind, mark you, an engine of obscured but unmeasured energy.

“They are like an explosive: it may slowly yield a steady warmth to living minds, but if suddenly detonated, it might go off with a crash: yes, might produce a disturbance in the real primary world.”


This is surely a profound truth.

People do live by myths, or aspire to – and if they lack noble myths (as people mostly do at present), then they live by sordid myths.

And myths have daimonic force.


One current myth with daimonic force are the ‘trickster’ stories (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trickster) , which underlie much popular culture – myths concerning a protagonist who is amoral, un-idealistic, selfish, hedonistic. Someone who breaks the rules, not for higher or transcendent goals, but for their own benefit.

Thieves and fences, serial seducers, bon viveurs, escapists, bounty hunters, skivers and sturdy beggars, druggies and drunks, guns for hire, rock stars and rappers, wide boys, liars, blaggers and charm merchants.


This myth (or rather, the many myths and stories featuring this archetypal figure) has such force because these protagonists are (we imagine) living by id not super-ego, by instinct not training; and thereby in touch with ‘life’ –that connection so painfully missing in the world of the bureaucratic state which we inhabit.

Tricksters are also (supposedly, we would like to believe) indestructibly happy – utterly unconcerned by the future, able to evade all attempts to entrap them with duty, escaping again and again into living for the moment hedonism.

The trickster comes to the fore when other myths are not possible or cannot be conceived, when (in a world where pleasure is the only ‘real’ good) the choice seems between deadly dutiful planned conformity and impulsive parasitic selfishness.


Typically this myth is enacted unconsciously - but not always. There are those (especially among intellectuals) who deliberately take-upon themselves this role, and propagandize it.

There embrace of the daimonic then becomes literally demonic; inflated with pride they are sometimes rewarded with extra-ordinary, quasi-hypnotic powers of mind control and fascination.

They defend themselves with mockery, with promises of invulnerable pleasure to those who follow their teachings, and - if pressed - with the burning conviction that all good is pretense and hypocrisy and that they alone are the truth-tellers.

Although unable to construct or create, in our degenerate, weak, faddish society; such tricksters eild great influence; and the myths of tricksters divert any possibility of constructive dissatisfaction into chaotic predation and self-destruction.


Yes, myth does have daimonic force, easily powerful enough to destroy anything; and the only force which can restrain destructive myth is creative myth.


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