Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. 9. The return of the hero

Chart based on Joseph Campbell's concept of the hero's journey
"Having done something with my life, I am content to go back"

T. E. Shaw talking about his return to England from Miranshah, India. Quoted by B. V. Jones and published in this series for the first time.

The above quote which might seem insignificant to many reveals the presence of two hero's journeys: the first by T. E. Lawrence and the second, and more important, by Lawrence transformed into T. E. Shaw. Neither were to be completed — not due to any fault by Lawrence/Shaw, but due to a society that, itself, was expressing, and still is, the puer aeternus neurosis.

We can easily track the stages of these journeys: his initial desire to do the things that fate made a reality:
"I asked how he happened to do what he did in Arabia. He said 'I meant to do it from the beginning'. 'How could you? you were neither soldier nor man of action.' He said, 'True. But I felt it as something already done and therefore unavoidable. I felt on sure ground'. ..." 
 Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Heyward Isham, C.B.E. 1890-1955. T. E. Lawrence by his Friends, Ed. A. W. Lawrence, Jonathan Cape, London, 1937, pp. 296-7.
Here we see the call to adventure and the "the supernatural aid" (being an expression of Lawrence's introverted intuition which can not only contact and stimulate a part of the unconscious but see that realized, acausally, in the world (synchronicity).

Then comes all of the adventures as described in Seven Pillars of Wisdom where you can find innumerable mentors and helpers.

Next comes the revelation with the abyss and the transformation:
"When we were away, we were worth more than other men by our conviction that she was the greatest, straightest and best of all the countries in the world, and we would die before knowing that a page of her history had been blotted by defeat. Here, in Arabia, in the war's need, I was selling my honesty for her sustenance, unquestionably." 
T. E. Lawrence, The Complete 1922 Seven Pillars of Wisdom: The 'Oxford' Text, J. and N. Wilson, Castle Hill Press Editions, third edition with amendments, 2014, Volume II, Chapter 113, p. 651f. 
After this stage he should have made the return and the atonement (with the father) where he would become initiated into the company of elders who were already in possession of this same revelation. Instead, he returned to a society whose elders were still living the lie he had realized and the cycle could not be completed. Churchill played the role of the elder, even though part of that lie: he wanted Lawrence to give advice based on his experiences of the Middle East, bringing him into the company of elders. Had Lawrence not had his revelation, but a different one that expressed the society as it was; if his intentions had been solely victory over and control  of those lands, then he could have looked forward to a very lucrative career and later accomplishments might well have lessened his role as hero by transforming him into statesman. as it was, his society fixed him, forever, as the hero, and to him, the hero of a lie. This was intolerable to him, and once again, he set out on a hero-quest: his own transformation into T. E. Shaw.

There was a split in the road at that point: to Churchill, and to the general public, the hero would return to consolidate the victories and further the aims of the culture, the motherland (The gift of the goddess). But Lawrence could not become the Master of Two Worlds (inner and outer), because that would require that the essences of both be the same. I do  not know if "Lawrence of Arabia" served as a model for the societal puer aeternus, or was just another expression of it, but I am sure that the world we now have had its birth at around that point in our history.

Tomorrow, we will look a little deeper into Campbell's perception of our current, and incomplete, perception of the hero, and how and why our world has moulded it so.

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