Our identities as individual or as group are shaped by our heroes. Likewise our enemies (villains) define what we are not, or refuse to be ( Shadow in a Jungian sense). Postmodern philosopher pointed out, however, that the romantic attitude toward heroes made fascism possible and is also contra to Kant’s enlightenment and rationality. His dream of everlasting peace seemed to have succeeded in today’s post-heroic society, which has no desire for war nor heroes. Post-heroic societies are characterized in replacing passion, sacrifice and honor, by prosperity, temporal pleasures and personal happiness as guiding principles. This essay wants to explore the current interpretation of peace and hero myth, which symbolizes a personality formation which occurs only through struggle, suffering, and sacrifice. Does that mean the Jungian Hero myth died? How does a world without heroes look like? As it will shown, the discarded hero creeps back as two imperfect warrior archetypes (the weak and the cruel) as defined in my article: King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine.
Jung developed an understanding of archetypes as being “ancient or archaic images that derive from the collective unconscious”. There are many different archetypes, and Jung has stated they are limitless, but basic archetypes (here functional complexes) in every person include the ‘persona’, the ‘shadow’, the ‘anima’, the ‘animus’, and the Self. Four more archetypes “per se” are prominently mentioned by C.G. Jung; ‘great mother’, the ‘trickster’ , the archetype of transformation and the ‘hero”. It is interesting that the wolf can represent them all.
The hero myth – basic plot of the hero’s journey.
Inwardly, the whole history of the human race, back to the most primitive times, lives on in us and myths reflect the archetypes of the collective unconscious, universal themes which run through all human life. A strong element is the line between good and evil, right and wrong, is crystal clear; it is absolute, like in Chinese wuaxi stories one can see the Archetypes of the shadow, animus and anima of the personal unconsciousness. The Chinese wuxia stories can be contrasted with martial codes from other countries, such as the Japanese samurai’s bushido tradition, the chivalry of medieval European knights and America’s Western but moral and laws of physics may not apply in this grene. But all hero myths contains a dangerous hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell recognized a basic pattern in many of those narratives and has named those necessary stages of such a journey:
- Separation and departure from the safe haven of home or childhood,
- The fight or the underworld,
- Return and reintegration.
To accomplish his quest, the hero will need to call on his own strengths. These qualities are represented as companions with different qualities. The hero archetype and the warrior archetype are not the same although warriors per definition strive to be heroic. Heroes, however, are almost always the most unlikely person possible. The hero myth is also a symbol for transformation and a hero’s journey represents the Jungian individuation in the search of oneself and transcendence.
In response to the call the hero undertakes a journey, usually a dangerous journey to an unknown region full of both promise and danger. Often the journey is a descent. Sometimes, as with Horus, Christ, and Psyche, it is a descent into the depths — the sea, the Egyptian underworld, or Hades itself. Always there is a perilous crossing. Sometimes the faintheartedness of the hero is balanced by the appearance of guardians.
Or the hero fights a dragon, wolf or other beast. The dragon is one of the most easily recognized mythical beasts. It is also a pervasive symbol in a variety of cultures, giving rise to many interpretations about exactly what a dragon is, what it represents, and how it behaves. It can be associated with good luck, fortune and wisdom, or with bad luck, elemental evil and heresy. Carl Jung would have called the dragon a symbol of the universal unconscious, since so many cultures have myths associated with a dragon, or dragon like beasts. The winged dragon represents personal obstacles that must be overcome to insure a more-perfect being; thus, leading to the saying: “You conquer the dragon or he will conquer you.” Similar, people from many cultures and traditions have interpreted the wolf or the dragon as representing the untamed (unconscious). The word wolf is widely common in the Indo-European roots of language and often not only stands for the animal but describes in the old Germanic languages the bandit, murderer, slayer, defied criminal, evil ghost or supernatural beast. So where are todays dragons or wolves?
The post-heroic society
The post-heroic society is the socio-political foundation on which the dominant European idea of lasting peace rests . It is characterized by three factors:
- Open aggression is no option more – nobody wants to slay wolves or dragons anymore.
- Then there is the demographic decline in reproductive rate – instead of princesses and heaven the only goal is a status quo with the end in sight.
- The place of the hero has been taken over by the victim.
Finally, and in this attribute is mostly explored in this essay, post-heroic societies are cultural and spiritual cooled societies, whereby the central mobilizer for the sacrifice and endurance of hardship is missing. The contemporary French philosopher Pascal Bruckner called this “The sickness of modernity: I suffer so I am”. For a while religions had been substituted by extreme nationalism and political ideologies. Ideologies became, as Jung observed, particularly with person cults quasi-religions and led to disastrous results. With the erosion of the hero myths and its substitutes there is no socially accepted creation of meaning for neither heroes not even for victims.
The long war
Post-heroic societies pretend to pacify on their margins and peripheries, some say even marginalize male virtues within its area of influence (education, media) and seem to avoid open confrontation for as long as possible. Their sword has been exchanged by a dagger and poison – drones and financial warfare. There are no accepted archetypes anymore, when their mercenaries or soldiers come home they will be neglected. We speak of them as victims when their right to compensation is contested. Internal repression and external aggression become interchangeable. One speaks of humanitarian interventions, of a “responsibility to protect” and so on. Under these circumstances, the eternal peace remains a project in the nascent state, a dream always slipping out of reach, or one, of which one is always rudely awakened. Of course such peaceful societies still must alway have their villains and are constantly in war.
The lost Self
The post-heroic society never sets out for a quest and subsequently never returns home. Without separation and departure, the post-heroes never go through an initiation, instead stay as children, victims, consumer and entitlement receivers. The individual never encounters his(her Self. Furthermore, as we can clearly see, the World Society as a whole is not post-heroic. The problem with this development is, that the post-heroic societies are surrounded by pre-heroic archaic societies and heroic warrior societies. You have to resist the threats emanating from them and intervene again and again to keep the challenges of peripheral control. As a result, post-heroic societies develop theorems, where aggression (war) is transformed into a model of a repression (police action), and outsourced aggression. Highly interesting is that also the opposite transformation happens, as post-heroic societies become destabilized not only by demographic problems but intrinsic contradictions.
The post-heroic society and transcendence
Post-heroic societies pretend generally strive for heaven on earth. To many it seems, they create more hell on earth, but surely they have no concept of transcendence nor a desire for a hero’s quest. The Jungian shadow of the Western suppressed aggressions are the international brigades of jihadism, which as it is said again and again, deny our universal values, political structures and social orders. A culture of death challenges the West on the preservation of the status quo. The emergence of armed agents of change point to the main problem of worldly eternal peace: that it is based on the preservation of the status quo and resists any dynamic change to destroy that peace. The everlasting peace is ultra rigid and sterile, and its hollow void is its Achilles heel. Post-heroic are dead societies, spiritual deaf and ironically those are not peaceful societies. The heroic, or presumptuous, stretch for transcendence of religions, is simply beyond the imaginative reach of this post-heroic personage. It is a Freudian world, success is measured in money and sex where fear of death cannot by mitigated by spirituality and individuation. Why is that? Because the West is doomed to rationality by giving up intuition and and emotions. This changing view of emotions in philosophy is consistent with an emerging interest in emotion among moral psychologists, who suggest that emotions are related to or mediate various forms of ethical or unethical behavior. All emotions are responses to perceived changes, threats, or opportunities in the world, but in most cases it is the self whose interests are directly affected by these events. In contrast, moral emotions are connected to social events that often do not directly affect self-interest.
The post-heroic society and peace
In the modern Western world media has tended to engage in forms of evangelism and apologetics that emphasize rational argumentation in order to defend the accepted worldview and as a means of communicating images and symbols. Therefore there is a significance of myths in popular culture, particularly for various new movements, how popular culture and these religious movements often draw upon mythic archetypes and symbols. Myths have long provided people and their cultures with narratives to live by. In the modern scientific age we are used to thinking of myths as unhistorical and false, but there are a variety of ways in which to think of myths and scholars define them variously. Myth have been defined as as “a story with culturally formative power” . The western symbol of peace is of course the paradise. Contrary to the Biblical story of paradise as a place of eternal peace, which had been destroyed by people under the influence of evil, is the worldly peace, historically considered to be achieved through political and cultural power of the people. Recent work on the history of violence claim that archaic societies must have been much more violent than modern societies even considering the terrible wars in the first half of the 20th century. The argument goes, violence seems to have been a constant companion of life in archaic societies. However, the same is true today today: peace is just a pause in the long violence caused by the competition for scarce goods.
We have not become increasingly peaceful in the course of our recent history, neither not in a continuous, nor in a development with setbacks. Extrapolating this trend into the future, the expectation that of war as organized violence will finally disappear, is completely absurd.
The dream of everlasting peace is old. This expectation is not new, but we find it already with the prophet Isaiah, with some writers in the context of the Emperor Augustus, especially Virgil, later in the philosopher Kant. The dream of everlasting peace has been spelled out in quite different ways to make the hoped or expected transition from the dream of the real state plausible. It is the counter blueprint of St. Augustine “City of God”. In Isaiah, it is an eschatological peace: God himself intervenes, destroying the bad and transforming nature in such a way that all living beings can live together peacefully. There is peace not only between people, but also among animals. This is on the other end of the contemporary hero myth, that of the lone hero who rescues and regenerates society through violence.
The post-heroic society and war
By the dawn of the Middle Ages, successful states gradually managed to gain monopoly over the means of (legitimate) violence. Today even military violence tends to be hidden or dressed as video game. The hero’s death is a particular kind of mortality. This category imposed itself in a specific historical and cultural context. In the domain of military death, it is not uncommon to meet expressions such as:‘‘hero,’’ ‘‘sacrifice not done in vain,’’ ‘‘patriotism,’’ ‘‘price to pay in the defense of liberty,’’ and so on. However, death is not a virtue in the current Western armed forces. Two experiences led us to this post-heroic stage: the monstrous sacrifice of mass heroism in World War I, and the misuse of the terms “honour” and “sacrifice” driven by totalitarian regimes in World War II. There is also demographic development. One-child families have a very different relationship to the loss of sons in the service of a nation than families with six or more children and a high child mortality rate.
The post-heroic weak warrior
The new post-heroic warrior might be a drone operator as shown left, an oligarch, a bankster or a corporate mercenary. Post-heroism rests on the assumption, that war today is no longer fuelled by heroic motivations, and does not produce any popular public heroes, particularly in “modern” societies. Willingness to kill or die for the cause of one’s socio-political community appears to be either a phenomenon of an historical stage that such states have long left behind, or an indicator of nationalistic or religious fanaticism. This is what has been described as the ‘post-heroic condition’ of societies. According to this view, demographic and cultural changes in the west have severely decreased the tolerance for any hardship. Today’s everlasting peace rapes the earth. This peace is at war with the creation. The peace within ourselves is put down as dream, on which all later peace ideas are based but because it exceeds the possibilities of human action, it must remain a dream.
This dream of a peaceful time, connected into the Golden Age, with the mythical motif of the birth of a child, a peaceful hero is dismissed, only seen as mythological and literary exaggeration of an imperium, in which the competition of powers has been replaced by an unitlateral power. The West claims that God is dead and religious promise and political reality have converged today. Their guiding ideology would be the reign of Emperor Augustus, and its justification for the dissolution of the Republic as political ideal, against which all todays regulatory structures must be measured, because Augustus peace is an indicative measure of good government. In short, this view of peace throws spirituality and freedom together in the trash bin. The Iliad by Homer depicts the events of the Trojan War, with Achilles being the central character. The Greeks gathered all of their forces to attack the city of Troy led by Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus. Achilles initially declined the summons to war. but then fought fearlessly at Troy and distinguished himself as the best of the Greek warriors. When Achilles did not fight for the Greeks, the Trojans prevailed in battle. Not fully immortal, Achilles had one weak spot, his heel. The Achilles heel reflects not only individual’s weakness but the weakness of all heroes.
The post-heroic cruel warrior (villain)
History repeats itself. Eight hundred years ago, the Assassins a fanatical sect of Shi’ite Muslims, who had broken away in the late eleventh century from the Fatimids, the main Shi’ite regime, set themselves up in the Elburz mountains in northern Persia and later in the mountains of the Lebanon; their leader became known to the Franks as ‘the Old Man of the Mountains’. In 1173, the King of Jerusalem, Amalric I (1162–74), attempted to negotiate an alliance with the Assassins, as Amalric was given to believe that the Old Man of the Mountains was about to convert to Christianity, as the Old Man had, just a few years earlier, abrogated the law of the Prophet and proclaimed the Millennium, thus making himself and the rest of the sect heretical. Traditional Islam was declared heresy. The Qiyama heresy was promulgated in Syria by the charismatic Assassin leader Sinan. He was a contemporary and sometime ally of both Saladin and Richard Lion-heart. The Syrian Assassins were the channel by which the Ismaili Gnostic current entered the Knights Templar Order which had uneasy and shifting relations with the Assassins.The medieval assassin, who was once the typical representative of asymmetric weakness, is now the terrorist, in particular the suicide bomber.
Today, the Internet is the most popular means for recruiting from post-heroic societies, leading, and training terrorists. Guerrilla war was defensive, the war of terror is offensive. It takes place on the enemy’s territory. Like its enemy, the state, the terrorist, does not need the support of the population. It uses the vulnerable infrastructure of the enemy. The medieval assassins targeted individuals, politicians, business leaders, and law enforcement agencies; instead today the target is public opinion, the Jungian archetypes structure of society.
Symbols like landmark buildings, mobility carrier, public space, consume: the randomness of the victim selection is intended to spread worldwide fear and terror (hence “terrorism”) with the help of the sensation-obsessed media, create uncertainty, destroy confidence in the future. The murdered people are not the target, rather the survivors are, every one of us.
With pictures like convoy of stolen vehicles – and also with the horrible video of murder – the new dragons target the people through the possibilities of modern communication. The asymmetrically weak person, the terrorist, has a very different relationship with time and space than the opponent, who is looking for a defined territory to dominate (Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon), and is in a hurry. The costs of war are enormous for the opponent, the patience of his own population is limited; without rapid victory, the legitimacy of political and military leaders quickly fades. The asymmetrically fighting weak person knows no defined territory. He is omnipresent, virtual and global. They know, victory depends not on tactical and operational successes, but instead on taking over the space of symbols to instill archetypal fear. The act of beheading is preferred because it is gruesome and intimate. It’s painful and excruciating to the victim and takes time as opposed to simply being shot. Crude methods of execution are intended to serve as torture and intimidation. Note the arrangement of the four Alawites victims heads. Even crucifixions are being performed.
The sacred whore is back
The Whore of Babylon is the epitome of self deception. To understand the mystery of the whore and her evil city, we must familiarize ourselves with the culture of the architects that laid Babylon’s foundation; Semiramis and her son Nimrod. As a child, she listened Semiramis her Grandfather recite the sad history which led up to the great flood. Noah and his three sons had personally witnessed an entire civilization degrade into moral chaos. Although a dark chapter of man’s history came to an abrupt end, God predicted that mankind’s rebellion would continue.
Volumes of books have been written about Mystery Babylon. The word “Babylon” represents confusion. This means the place and origin of language confusion or where having different speech that causes confusion began. Confusion or Babylon additionally meant not able to decide, determine, or think and understand according to one language or interpretation. There was then a division between the mystery of Babylon and the revelation that came down to Abraham. With a new religious interpretation manufactured by Nimrod and his wife Simeramus, this new mystic gnostic system was behind the building of the tower of Babel. Mystery Babylon then represents all the present gates to hell. Her religious perversion bring chaos, division, and confusion upon the minds and lives of her devotees. Jerusalem is called a city of *confusion* in Isaiah 24:10. Because of the mixture of gnosticism and mysticism many chose to seek sin, pleasure, wealth, cult practices, and philosophy.
Much later, Immanuel Kant design of a comprehensive legalization of international relations reasoned on a largely deterministic evolution of society in peace. In this society in which no violence, but work distribution of goods and life. Instead divine action or the uncontrollable course of history the political reason or social development ruled. For a short while the criticism of the idea of perpetual peace became more vocal: It was no longer enough to dismiss it as a dream or a utopia, but to maintain the functionality of the war for the ordering of society and the development of humanity. Human race developed from a heteronomous creature to take fate in its own hand to the post-heroic society of today. The Whore of Babylon again rides the Seven-Headed Dragon. Like in John’s day the Whore represented the emperor, and the Dragon the Empire. She rides the Dragon side-saddle, like the Great Lady she is, or pretends to be, riding in a rich red and purple robe, a Venetian-style dress like those worn by the most expensive whores of that city. In her right hand she holds a “golden cup”.
Our peaceful post-heroic societies are not peaceful at all and even extremely vulnerable and easy to manipulate. Wolves using mere symbols of violence, the imago of a pre-heroic “executions” exert pressure on post-heroic societies, which can exploited. The emergence of a totalitarian trans-national government seem likely. A not so secretive power elite with a globalist agenda will eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government from a castle. No heroes are needed, roaming of wolves under the sheep are not objected. Todays numerous historical and current events can be seen as steps in an on-going plot to strive for financial powers and manipulated decision-making processes. Pope Francis urged the world on September,13th 2014, to shed its apathy in the face of what he characterizes as a third world war, intoning “war is madness”, The pope said “even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction.” Pope Francis said also these wars are driven by “interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms.”
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science. Nietzsche’s influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism and postmodernism, the gateway to today’s state of society. His key ideas include the death of God, perspectivism, the Übermensch, the eternal recurrence, and the will to power.
I have written about the archetype of the Warrior, the Magician and the Hero.They are all in trouble today. What we are witnessing at the moment in which negative archetypes produce deceiving mirages – symbols so false that they are the lever for the self-destruction when a long peace is a disguise for war. The hero had been deconstructed long ago. God is dead said Nietzsche. The ultimate epic, Homer’s Iliad, along with its companion-piece, the Odyssey, was venerated by the ancient Greeks themselves as the cornerstone of their civilization.The ancient Greek concept of hero (the English word is descended from the Greek), going beyond the word’s ordinary levels of meaning. In ancient Greek myth, heroes were humans, male or female, of the remote past, endowed with superhuman abilities and descended from the immortal gods themselves. In some stories, only gods miraculously restored the hero’s to life after death – a life of immortality. The story of Herakles, is perhaps the most celebrated instance. But even in such a case, the hero has to die first. In short, without heroes and religion we are what we are – wolves or sheep.
The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact (2005), by Jean Baudrillard
Mythology Comte, 1988
Der Mensch und seine Symbole, C.G. Jung, Jaffe Olten 1968
Richard Wagner, Ring des Nibelungen und seine Symbole, Donnington (Transl)
Wes Nisker, 1990 Crazy Wisdom
C.G. Jung Four Archetypes (Routledge Classics)
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