MYTHS, LEGENDS AND SPIRITUAL SURVIVAL by Betty Luks October 2007
I recently came upon a copy of Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop’s “War Diaries” published forty years after WWII. Sir Edward was one of Australia’s great heroes. In the foreword British officer, Colonel Sir Laurens van der Post wrote of his brief experiences with the American and Australian soldiers of war, along with the British, in the early days of the Japanese internment and he described prison life as “the war within the War”.
For the first three months and under the inspired leadership of (then) Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Dunlop, an all out effort was made to not only invest the resources available to them for “the physical well being” of the men, and to unite them as of the British-Commonwealth, but a “vast educational system was set up” to cater for their mental and spiritual well being. To aid in their “physical survival and spiritual sanity”, the officers set up schools, classes and lectures, even a microcosm of a *Commonwealth parliament in prison.
Col. Sir Laurens wrote: “They felt that there should be some over-riding political institution to express this profound sense of identity and purpose which they recognised as the greatest gift from Britain’s imperial past. This prison parliament was as great and therapeutic an attraction as the rest of the prison educational and cultural activities and it did a great deal to maintain the feeling of continuity with some worthwhile purpose pitched far beyond prison walls which the act of imprisonment daily tried to refute.” The ‘college of art’ even published its own newspaper. But along with this huge effort on the part of the officers, “the prison camp had to field large working parties for the Japanese every day.”
One of Van der Post’s most moving recollections was of the insatiable need the men had for “myth, legend, story and art” which administered to their sanity and helped secure their “spiritual survival”. The Australians, in particular, were interested in the stories of ancient Greece, the Iliad and the Odyssey, and saw themselves as having something akin to those ancient Greek expeditionary forces fighting on that great plain of Troy for that ancient Greek Commonwealth.
They were, he said, “a contemporary version of the same immemorial and constantly recurring pattern and in the authentic line of succession of all men who had ever left their homes to fight for a cause greater than themselves.” The Odyssey as expounded to them by a (former) Cambridge professor seemed to draw them even more than the Iliad. “Like Odysseus and his men, they knew they also had a long and perilous journey through time and circumstance before the lucky few among them would come home again to their own version of Penelope.”
But I believe there was a stronger link for those Australians of British stock to those Greek soldiers of long ago Troy. Philologist Owen Barfield, in “History in English Words,” traces the links back through the study of languages, Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit - the ancient sacred language of the Hindoos - reaching back into the mists of time to the language of the inhabitants of the land of Sumer (modern Iraq). At one stage it was thought Sanskrit itself was the parent language, but with the more accurate methods of analysis which philology had acquired, it became clearer there was a still older language, and it was called the Aryan or the Indo-European parent-language. Scholars’ attention was then drawn to the character, civilisation, and whereabouts in space and time of the people who spoke the lost Indo-European or ‘Aryan’ parent-language.
By collating the results of comparative philology with those of anthropology, ethnology, comparative mythology, etc., it was possible for scholars to reconstruct from the combined data something of the past history, of not only the Aryan race, but that of other races and cultures. Philologists had asked: “Who are the Aryans? Where did they come from?”
It would seem this ‘race-type’ emerged into the pages of history from the vast plains stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, down into India and Persia, north to the Baltic, west over all Europe and on to the New World.
WAS IT THEIR ‘RACE MEMORY’?
It would seem to me those British-Australian prisoners of war were stirred by something very deep within their sub-conscious. Was it their ‘race memory’? After all, that great writer J.R.R. Tolkien drew upon that old, old, tradition of storytelling, i.e., mythology, for his masterpiece, * “The Lord of the Rings” the film of which begins with the prologue:
“And thus the Third Age of Middle Earth began. History became legend, legend became myth - and some things that should not have been forgotten … were lost.”
L.A. Waddell, LL.D., C.B., C.I.E., Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society and Professor of Tibetan at London University in “Makers of Civilisation in Race and History,” (1929) claimed:
“The remarkable Modern-ness of Civilization when it first appears on the stage of the world’s history, on the advent of the Sumerians or Early Aryans, over 5000 years ago, is astonishing. It shows how comparatively small has been the really solid advance in general Civilization since then beyond developments in details, new mechanical inventions and widespread material luxury tending towards a mechanized and “hygienic paradise” of physical comfort in our much boasted present-day “modern” civilization…”
Be that as it may, Stratford Caldecott, Director of the Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture in Oxford, wrote of Tolkien in “Secret Fire”: “He was retrieving the art of mythological or mythopoeic (e.g., creative imagination) thinking, which is as old as mankind himself, and deeply entwined with our religious sense. The book appeals to universal constants that are reflected in traditional mythology and folklore the world over. Mythological thinking does not provide an ‘escape’ from reality so much as an ‘intensification’ of it, as another fantasy writer once rightly said. Tolkien used fantasy to explore profound moral and spiritual themes…His stories deal with the way the world is made and the way the self is made.”
Tolkien, a professor of Anglo-Saxon, found the mystique of Northern Europe (which he sometimes called ‘Northerness’) appealing to him. He felt akin to the spirit in the Norse or Icelandic sagas. He believed that the mythology of his own land of England had been lost or destroyed (or overlaid by Celtic and French influences), and he sought to recover that which had been lost, writing parables for this age and for his own people.
THE THIRD ‘WAY’
Social crediters will be interested to discover Tolkien’s social philosophy placed him within a tradition of Catholic social thought known as Distributism. Distributists saw the family as the only solid basis for civil society and of any sustainable civilisation. They believed in a society of households, and were suspicious of top-down government. Power, they held, should be devolved to the lowest level compatible with a reasonable degree of order (the principle of ‘subsidiarity’). Social order flows from the natural bonds of friendship, co-operation and family loyalty, within the context of a local culture possessing a strong sense of right and wrong. It cannot be imposed by force, and indeed force should never be employed except as a last resort and in self-defence.
In the opinion of the Distributists, the problem with modern Capitalism, was that there were not enough capitalists around: property and wealth had become concentrated in the hands of a few, reducing other people to the state of wage slaves (hence the title of Hilaire Belloc’s book on the subject, “The Servile State”). Ninety years ago, the result of modern Capitalism in Britain had been a pseudo-democracy which was really a disguised plutocracy - actual power lay with the employers and the managers, and political gurus were largely manipulated by these for their own ends, public opinion being handled by allied interests in the media. The situation is much worse today and the Distributists and Social Crediters of a hundred years ago have been proved right. They well understood the nature of the problem and what was needed to rectify it.
DISTRIBUTISM IS A POLITICAL THEORY
The term ‘The Third Way’ was originally coined by the Distributist League, in the 1920s and Anthony Cooney records Chesterton’s outline of Distributism in his booklet “Social Credit: Aspects”:
“Distributism presents a social idea which nine men out of ten would in normal circumstances regard as normal. Distributism is not merely a moderate form of Socialism; it is not merely a humane sort of Capitalism. Its two primary principles may be stated thus:
1. That the only way to preserve liberty is to preserve property so that the individual and the family may in some degree be independent of oppressive systems, whether unofficial or official.
2. That the only way to preserve property is to distribute it much more equally among citizens so that all, or approximately all, may understand and defend it. This can only be done by breaking up the plutocratic concentrations of our time.”
The Hobbitts’ Shire of Tolkien’s great parable fits neatly into the Distributists’ tradition of social thought, and I for one was most disappointed that the film version of “Lord of the Rings” did not finish with the battle for the Shire. The Shire represents an agricultural, largely self-sufficient way of life, cut off from the rest of the world and happy to remain so. It was a way of life founded on local tradition which G.K. Chesterton once called ‘the democracy of the dead’ - one shaped by one’s ancestors, not just by those who happened to be walking around.
The tradition within which men such as Cooney works and thinks, and before him, Belloc and Chesterton and Douglas is that of Christendom or western civilisation - and their roots went down deep.
Anthony Cooney wrote of the Distributists in his Social Credit series, all of which are available from our Book Services.
He saw that C.H. Douglas’ proposals form an important part of the Methods necessary to achieve the Distributist Objectives and have long been recognised as the Economics of the Third Way.
In “Clifford Hugh Douglas” Cooney noted that in 1956 when the Ford Company opened its first fully automated car plant in Detroit, Walter Reuther, the automobile workers’ leader was invited to the ceremony and a tour of inspection. One ‘smart-ass’ junior executive asked him: “How yoo goin’ to collect doos of these machines Mr. Reuther?” To which Reuther responded: “Sonny. How are you goin’ to sell automobiles to these machines?”
And that is the brain-teaser:
Mankind must find the answer to that question if it is to live with the machine on terms of human satisfaction, or this civilisation will continue to disintegrate. In fact, not only Reuther’s question but also its answer was formulated over eighty years ago by Douglas. The answer, for the science of economics turned out to be as novel and as radical as the Copernican** theory had been for the science of astronomy.
To pick up the threads of our British-Commonwealth soldiers and their story, ‘Weary’ Dunlop disclosed that he shrunk from publishing the diaries for over forty years mainly because they might add further suffering “to those bereaved, and add to controversy and hatred.”
He also asks: “Surely some increased understanding should emerge from a tragic conflict in which when all is said and done, Japanese losses vastly exceeded our own. If not, I reflect with Macbeth as to what is life:
It is a tale
Told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury
He thought there was much to admire in Japanese courage and deadly earnestness of purpose. He noted the sensitivity and creativity in modern Japan, having, in later years observed it at first hand, but he sensed the single-minded loyalty “gives the system some of the defects of an insect society, with a pattern of blind unswerving acceptance of leadership whether towards good or evil.” This ‘blind unswerving acceptance’ was noted in the Germanic brooding madness of the Götterdämmerung…”
Not for us to accept blindly what our present leaders and their financial backers would foist upon us as they follow the instructions of the House of the New World Order.. We must drink once more from the well of our own people’s culture and history and regain that spirit of freedom and independence and insist we will not live as slaves in our own land.
*Poet and writer Dewi Hopkins explained in “The Literature of Social Credit & the Social Credit of Literature”:
By traditionalist I mean one who is in a tradition: not one who seeks novelty for its own sake in order to stand out from past and present as an innovator, but one who, seeing truth and goodness, holds to it and even enriches it with his own contribution. As has been often pointed out, it is such a person that is a real ‘original’ or, as (C.S.) Lewis and Tolkien put it, a subcreator…
If the money power is ever to be defeated it will be by a people that knows itself, with a confident and integrated knowledge… It is useless to conceive of a culture as a thing separate from both ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture.”
** In “An Introduction to Social Credit,” Bryan Monahan underlined:
“It is a matter of great importance to understand to what an extent progress in any subject depends on a correct positing of the problem. A classic example is the problem of Achilles and the tortoise. In its classical form, with the classical pre-suppositions, the problem is insoluble… the problem, or paradox as it is usually known, runs:
‘Give that reptile ever so small an advance and the swift runner Achilles can never overtake him, much less get ahead of him; for as space and time are infinitely divisible (as our intellects tell us they are), by the time Achilles reaches the tortoise’s starting point, the tortoise has already got ahead of that starting point, and so on ad infinitum, the interval between the pursuer and the pursued growing endlessly minuter, but never becoming wholly obliterated.”
The modern mind can “see through” this problem at once - because we are the possessors of new points of view to encompass such paradoxes; the problem has in fact vanished, and we can concern ourselves with the more practical problem:
‘Given that the tortoise and Achilles have such and such speeds, and start with such and such a distance between them, how long will it take Achilles to overtake the tortoise?’ The technique of algebra brings the solution within the competence of a child.”
And so, Monahan suggested that just as the solution of Zeno’s problem was found through the application of algebra, we may approach the greater subject of Social Credit through the well-known paradox of "poverty amidst plenty.”