Thursday, 19 June 2014

In praise of metal detecting. 4. Internecine struggles


Les dovze clefs de philosophie
de frere Basile Valentin
1st French ed. 1624, p. 179

A thousand kinds of men, each differing in desire:

Each has his own intent, each burns with different fire.

Persius, Satires, V.52-3

I was unsure of what I was going to write about this morning, but in looking through various blogs of the day I saw the following quote from an American archaeologist:
"...the reduction of artifacts to a monetary value or conversation pieces deteriorating on fireplace mantles wastes a non-renewable resource.  Unless done as part of a professional study and under the supervision of trained archaeologists, it deprives the many of their past for the benefit of the few. It steals our history, robbing our citizens of that which inherently belongs to all; our cultural heritage."
 Preferring to attack the idea rather than the man, I will leave it uncited.

Joseph Campbell noted an important change in religious practices when the priest, instead of facing the altar, turned around and faced the congregation. Previously, the priest exhibited a characteristic of the Greek mystery cults where everything of importance took place, literally, in the inner sanctum, and very little was ever seen by the public outside. The priest was the intermediary between man and the divine and everything had to be interpreted for the masses. Many people do not know that in past times it was actually illegal, in Ireland, for the public to own a Bible.  Prior to the mysteries, the Greek religion was much like many other more primitive religions in that it was propitiatory ― people made sacrifices in order to gain favor from their deities. Alan Knight, in Primitive Christianity in Crisis, p. 4, says:
"Pythagoreans and Orphics saw the material world and religion in a radically new light. For them, the purpose of religion was not so much to gain material blessings in this world. They believed in the immortality of the human soul and its repeated reincarnation in the human body. Spirituality no longer centered on material issues. Instead, man should control the material passions in order to focus on the spiritual development of the inner spirit. Thereby the soul will escape from the cycle of rebirth and ascend to eternal rest in the heavens."
While giving other reasons to the public, the Roman Imperial authorities first suppressed, or demoted, mystery religions as they saw that their leaders were having an adverse effect on the power of the state. Later, when one of these mystery religions became dominant (Christianity), it was both the propitiatory pagan religions and also the earlier Greek mysteries which were suppressed. In the early sixteenth century, Martin Luther (and Henry VIII of England, in a rather different manner) worked to separate Church and State which would bring things back, in a manner, to the mutual participatory nature of primitive religion. This gave rise to further internecine conflicts which have lasted to this very day.

In reading what the archaeologist had to say, I was reminded of many similar attitudes coming from atheist archaeologists. Now, I have no idea what religious beliefs, if any, are held by this archaeologist. The situation is not a simple one when looked at from  Jungian perspective. Affecting the core psychology, we also have to be aware that memes can impart a conflicting attitude by being taken up through epidemic means which lack intellectual judgement. So I will have to shelf the meme idea because of my lack of knowledge of the specifics and just concentrate on the Jungian aspects, assuming that these ideas are generated by the individual's psyche and not the collective consciousness or a group mind.

Let's start with the sliding scale of Mythos to Logos which I see as being comparable to the Jungian sliding scale (respectively) of Introversion to Extraversion. States along this scale are expressed as differing strengths, but each individual has a certain dominance to one or the other. Perhaps we will evolve (if we survive as a species long enough) to find an equilibrium, a patina of sorts that will mark the end of conflict. More likely, I think, is that as individuals, we will still retain that dichotomy but each side will be expressed far less strongly with one being respectful and tolerant of the other. This would seem to be the recipe for world peace.

My lead graphic is an illustration of Azaroth from an alchemical work. Instead of explaining it all here, I would recommend that you read The AZaroth ritual. It was the fourth stage ― the conjunction. which was the basis of Jung's psychology and his Mysterium Coniunctionis is considered to be his seminal work. It is here where the reconciliation of opposites starts.

In the archaeologist's statement, we see Mythos suppressed in favor of Logos, but the natural outcome of such is that Mythos starts to be expressed as the shadow. He criticizes the monetary aspects of artifacts and in the next breath says that such things should be "part of a  professional study". In other words, only undertaken if paid. When you see excuses given for inaction by many archaeologists it is invariably because of "lack of funding" which is the passive voice of "I am not being paid". The passivity is the conscious expression of the unconscious drive which is being suppressed. Furthermore, he includes "under the supervision of trained archaeologists", which puts the latter (unconsciously again) in the role of the priesthood.

No scholar today, thanks to Jung's extensive work in decoding alchemy, thinks that alchemy was a primitive sort of chemistry or an attempt to just turn lead into gold. The latter was the way in which the alchemist could get his own funding from the prince, but he knew that the process was really not the transmutation of the metal, but the transmutation of the alchemist himself. The goal was the Philosopher's Stone in its Hermetic sense. In Jungian terminology and technique this is individuation.

Around the middle of the nineteenth century, the great scholars were independent to a very great degree. Think of Darwin, who came into wealth, or Sir John Evans who was a businessman. Their advances were mainly due to their lack of confining associations, but had their circumstances been different, we must wonder if they would have achieved much of anything. After this time, it was the university environment which supported the scholar, but we see far less action taking place and advances are more cumulative than expressed in single individuals. The need for money requires a certain subservience and this impacted negatively on the scholar and his passion and fervor waned. There can be little discovery in the absence of passion.

That sort of archaeologist has become out of tune with today's democratic and humanist leanings. Sitting in his tenured tower, or hoping to occupy one, he suppresses his need and whenever he sees trade and profit, the shadow comes out of its kennel, barking and snapping at all who pass. In such a democratic and humanist society we no longer have the Roman emperor who can arrange for an appointment with the lions in the arena, all we can do is to write about it and try to defend ourselves from the dogma that threatens to consume us and bring an end to any independent thought. That which is said to "belong to all" is not actually expressed by any single human being in the world. It is nothing but a projection.


  1. The notion that "true" scholars must steward our common heritage is almost as obnoxious as listening to politicians promise change.

  2. Those who cannot do, teach, and the ones who cannot even teach try to stop those who actually "do". It's disgusting. I suppose the only good thing about those politicians is that their ineptness is helping to weed out, through cut-backs, the less productive archaeologists -- you know, the ones with the loudest voices.