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Category: & An Essay on Pan

Magicians Were Poets, and Poets Were Magicians

” … The numerous incantations which were inscribed on clay tablets and treasured in libraries, do not throw much light on the progress of medical knowledge, for the genuine folk cures were regarded as of secondary importance, and were not as a rule recorded.

But these metrical compositions are of special interest, in so far as they indicate how poetry originated and achieved widespread popularity among ancient peoples. Like the religious dance, the earliest poems were used for magical purposes.

They were composed in the first place by men and women who were supposed to be inspired in the literal sense; that is, possessed by spirits. Primitive man associated “spirit” with “breath,” which was the “air of life,” and identical with wind.

The poetical magician drew in a “spirit,” and thus received inspiration, as he stood on some sacred spot on the mountain summit, amidst forest solitudes, beside a’ whispering stream, or on the sounding shore. …

Or, perhaps, the bard received inspiration by drinking magic water from the fountain called Hippocrene, or the skaldic mead which dripped from the moon.

The ancient poet did not sing for the mere love of singing: he knew nothing about “Art for Art’s sake.” His object in singing appears to have been intensely practical. The world was inhabited by countless hordes of spirits, which were believed to be ever exercising themselves to influence mankind.

The spirits caused suffering; they slew victims; they brought misfortune; they were also the source of good or “luck.” Man regarded spirits emotionally; he conjured them with emotion; he warded off their attacks with emotion; and his emotions were given rhythmical expression by means of metrical magical charms.

Poetic imagery had originally a magical significance; if the ocean was compared to a dragon, it was because it was supposed to be inhabited by a storm-causing dragon; the wind whispered because a spirit whispered in it.

Love lyrics were charms to compel the love god to wound or possess a maiden’s heart–to fill it, as an Indian charm sets forth, with “the yearning of the Apsaras (fairies);” satires conjured up evil spirits to injure a victim; and heroic narratives chanted at graves were statements made to the god of battle, so that he might award the mighty dead by transporting him to the Valhal of Odin or Swarga of Indra.

Similarly, music had magical origin as an imitation of the voices of spirits–of the piping birds who were “Fates,” of the wind high and low, of the thunder roll, of the bellowing sea. So the god Pan piped on his reed bird-like notes, Indra blew his thunder horn, Thor used his hammer like a drumstick, Neptune imitated on his “wreathed horn” the voice of the deep, the Celtic oak god Dagda twanged his windy wooden harp, and Angus, the Celtic god of spring and love, came through budding forest ways with a silvern harp which had strings of gold, echoing the tuneful birds, the purling streams, the whispering winds, and the rustling of scented fir and blossoming thorn.

Modern-day poets and singers, who voice their moods and cast the spell of their moods over readers and audiences, are the representatives of ancient magicians who believed that moods were caused by the spirits which possessed them–the rhythmical wind spirits, those harpers of the forest and songsters of ocean.”

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915.

On Fear, Anxiety, Angst, and Mythology

“Fear is to be met and managed by the hero on his path to manhood, and an encounter with fear plays a major part in initiation ceremonies.”

[…]

Simply, there are two faces to panic: lived out in relation to a stimulus and called fear; held in with no known stimulus and called anxiety. Fear has an object; anxiety has none.  There can be panicky fear, a stampede, say; there can be panicky anxiety in a dream. In either condition, death can result. Psychoanalytic and psychosomatic case reports, as well as dream research and anthropological studies (for instance, on Voodoo death) provide instances of the fatal consequences of anxiety.

The anxiety dream can be distinguished from the nightmare in the classical sense. The classical nightmare is a dreadful visitation by a demon who forcibly oppresses the dreamer into paralysis, cuts off his breath, and release comes through movement. The anxiety dream is less precise, in that there is no demon, no dyspnea, but there is the same inhibition of movement. (A collection of these dreams is given by M. Weidhorn, “The Anxiety Dream in Literature from Homer to Milton,” Studies in Philology 64, pp. 65-82, Univ. of NC., 1967). A literary prototype of the anxiety dream, emphasizing an inhibited peculiarity of movement, occurs in the Iliad xxii, 199-201 (Achilles in pursuit of Hector):

“As in a dream a man is not able to follow one
who runs from him, nor can the runner escape,
nor the other pursue him, so he could not run
him down in his speed, nor the other get clear.”

[…]

Contemporary existential philosophy gives to anxiety, dread or Angst a more intentional, a more fulsome interpretation. Angst reveals man’s fundamental ontological situation, his connections with not-being, so that all fear is not just dread of death, but of the nothing on which all being is based. Fear thus becomes the reflection in consciousness of a universal reality.

Buddhism goes yet further: fear is more than a subjective, human phenomenon. All the world is in fear: trees, stones, everything. And the Buddha is the redeemer of the world from fear. Hence the significance of the mudra (hand gesture) of fear-not, which is not merely a sign of comfort but of total redemption of the world from its “fear and trembling,” its thralldom to Angst. Buddha’s perfect love, in the words of the Gospels, “driveth out fear.”

“…to further mix the contexts: let us say that the world of nature, Pan’s world, is in a continual state of subliminal panic just as it is in a continual state of subliminal sexual excitation. As the world is made by Eros, held together by that cosmogonic force and charged with the libidinal desire that is Pan, an archetypal vision most recently presented by Wilhelm Reich–so its other side, panic, recognized by the Buddha belongs to the same constellation. Again, we come back to Pan and the two extremes of instinct.

Brinkman has already pointed to the bankruptcy of all theories of panic that attempt to deal with it sociologically, psychologically or historically and not on its own terms. The right terms, Brinkman says, are mythological. We must follow the path cleared by Nietzsche whose investigation of kinds of consciousness and behavior through Apollo and Dionysos can be extended to Pan. Then panic will no longer be regarded as a physiological defense mechanism or an inadequate reaction or an abaissment du niveau mental, but will be seen as the right response to the numinous.”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. xxvi-xxviii. (James Hillman, “An Essay on Pan.”)

Animism, Pantheism, Pagan Sexuality

“The imaginal is never more vivid than when we are connected with it instinctually. The world alive is of course animism; that this living world is divine and imaged by different Gods with attributes and characteristics is polytheistic pantheism. That fear, dread, horror are natural is wisdom. In Whitehead’s term “nature alive” means Pan, and panic flings open a door into this reality.

Roscher’s article on Pan in the Lexicon states that Pan invented masturbation. Roscher refers to Ovid’s Amores 1, 3, 1 and 26 and to Catullus 32, 3; 61, 114. But the principal source is Dio Chrysostomus (ca. 40-112 AD), who in his sixth oration refers to Diogenes for witness. (Diogenes was the Greek Cynic philosopher who supposedly masturbated in public).”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. xxxi-xxxii. (James Hillman, “An Essay on Pan.”)

The Schism Between Fantasy and Behavior

“Clearly the issue remains insoluble as long as we insist that behavior and fantasy are two different realms. This schism produces all the others: between secular and sacred, between “in here” and “out there,” between mythology and pathology. Therefore the first step toward resolving the particular problem of rape is to recognize the larger mistake behind it. This mistake can be rectified by remembering that behavior is also fantasy and fantasy is also behavior, and always.

This means, first, that fantasy is also physical; it is a mode of being in the world. We cannot be in the physical world without at the same time and all the time demonstrating an archetypal structure. We cannot move or feel without enacting a fantasy. Our fantasies are not only in the mind; we are behaving them.

Second, the union of fantasy and behavior means that there is no pure, no objective behavior as such. Behavior may never be taken on its own level, literally. It is always guided by imaginal processes and expresses them. Behavior is always metaphorical and requires a hermeneutic approach as much as does the most fantastic reverie of mystical vision.”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. xxxix. (James Hillman, “An Essay on Pan.”)

The Origin of Witches

“Plutarch placed his story about the death of Pan in a discussion about why the oracles had become defunct in the late antique world so pervaded by Christianity. With the death of Pan, the maidens who spoke out the natural truths were no more either, for the death of Pan means as well the death of the nymphs. And, as Pan turned into a Christian devil, so the nymphs became witches and prophecy, sorcery. Pan’s messages in the body became calls from the devil, and any nymph who evoked such calls could be nothing but a witch.”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. li. (James Hillman, “An Essay on Pan.”)

On the Nymphs

“But the nymph continues to operate in our psyches. When we make magic of nature, believe in natural health cures and become nebulously sentimental about pollution and conservation, attach ourselves to special trees, nooks and scenes, listen for meanings in the wind and turn to oracles for comfort–then the nymph is doing her thing.”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. lii. (James Hillman, “An Essay on Pan.”)

On Panic

“It was believed that Pan himself was in a panic when the animals ran, and that this vision of Pan’s panic set the world in terror. It is as if Pan was himself a victim of nightmares, epileptoid convulsions, and the horror that he brings. The God is what he does; his appearance is his essence. In one and the same nature is both the power of nature and the fear of that power.”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. liii. (James Hillman, “An Essay on Pan.”)

When Time Stands Still

“Pan’s hour was always Noon. At this moment he would appear in the blaze and shimmer of midday, startling man and animal into blind terror. This seems to have little to do with the nightmare.

Perhaps we need to regard high Noon, the zenith of the day, as the highest point of natural strength, which constellates both the life force and its opposite, the necessary fall from this height. It is the uncanny moment when I and my shadow are one.

Noon like midnight is a moment of transition and, like midnight, daybreak and sunset, a radix of primordial orientation for what might be called the symbolic clock. These are the moments when time stands still, when the orderly procession of moments disrupts.

So must certain things be accomplished before the cock’s crow at dawn, or the stroke of midnight, or before night falls. At these moments time is broken through by something extraordinary, something beyond the usual order.”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. lvi. (James Hillman, “An Essay on Pan.”)

Pan & Synchronicity vs. Causality, Space and Time

“Jung worked both systematically and hermeneutically upon chance events in connection with the problems of synchronicity. This term refers to meaningful coincidences of psychic and physical events for which no satisfactory account can be given through the usual categories of causality, space and time. Jung considered synchronicity to be a principle equal to the other three and, like them, a part of nature. He found that synchronistic events happen mainly when instinctual (emotional, archetypal, symbolic) levels of the psyche are engaged.

[…]

“If the principle of synchronicity is another way of speaking about Pan, then we may also begin to understand why anyone occupied with this field of spontaneity, called parapsychology, becomes a renegade from the civilized order of rational men. As synchronicity is the devilish fourth principle, so Pan is the devilish shadow of our dominant archetypal Trinity. The integration of parapsychology into respectable science and psychology would then require a revaluation of Pan and a view of instinct and nature from his perspective. Until then parapsychology will tend to be cast in his shadow, a field of sentimentalities and natural religion, something at once comic, untrustworthy, obscure and lunatic.”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. lviii-lix. (James Hillman, “An Essay on Pan.”)

Numbers 7, 9 and 40, and the Omphalos.

“Later he became fascinated with more abstract topics: numbers in Greek medicine, the numbers seven, nine and forty, and the concept of an imaginary middle point, the omphalos or world-navel, a recurrent theme in Greek, Roman and Semitic mythology.”

–W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp., pg. v.

The Scientific Study of Myth and Symbol.

 “…and he too was a pioneer investigator and indefatigable assembler of data in the nineteenth-century style. It is only now that we can see his achievements in scholarship as equalling those of his contemporaries in the natural sciences. He more than any other classicist is responsible for having collected into one place the mythical and religious material of the ancient world, providing the ground for the scientific study of myth and symbol.”

 –W.H. Roscher, Pan and the Nightmare: Ephialtes–A Pathological-Mythological Treatise on the Nightmare in Classical Antiquity, & An Essay on Pan by James Hillman, 1972. Pp. iii. 

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