Shopping Cart

No products in the cart.

Reply To: The Fires of Love-Death, with Mythologist Norland Téllez


    Thank you Stephen and Robert,

    Thank you for your kind words and your courage to engage in these dark matters. I’ll start in reverse order and answer Robert’s last question first and work my way back to Stephen’s probing contribution, which does a great job, by the way, in threading the general tenor of my mythblasts over the last few months.

    Is “Love” a western projection on these rituals? It certainly would be. But what Campbell attempts to formulate under the rubric of “Love-Death” in citing these rituals has nothing to do with Love or death taken separately in our sense of the word. In the same vein, Robert, all the wonderful interpretations you propose, which I do think fit the mark in some sense for us (the procession of boys as a reenactment of the generational procession of ancestors through the female, the heavy logs symbolic of vegetation fertility, the tree of life, etc..) would likewise be alien to the archaic context. For the very act of interpretation itself puts us squarely on the side of “Western projections,” which can be summed by the line of thought already developed in the 19th century, as I mentioned in my blast:

    “At the time Campbell wrote Primitive Mythology, there was no solid answer to this question. Campbell even seems content with the old 19th-century hypothesis of Leo Frobenius which essentially says that the existence of these rites ‘are but the renditions in act of a mythology inspired by the model of death and life in the plant world’ (Primitive Mythology 171).

    This speaks directly to Stephen’s last point concerning the work of art, where it seems unclear to him how the artist is supposed to bridge the gap between aesthetic creation and our conscious life.

    Campbell answered this question plainly when he said that if an artist wanted to insult his audience she would spell out what the work is supposed to mean for them. It is not the artist’s job to make this interpretive bridge for her audience; it is the job of the individual viewer or “consumer”—not to mention the professional critic— to build such a bridge if it is so desired. Most people are happy to be simply moved by the work of art in some mysterious way that escapes their conscious grasp. That is as it should be. Moreover, even if the artist had the best intentions to “facilitate” the enjoyment of meaning, it would be impossible for her to do it since the “other side” of the bridge is always different, highly individual and idiosyncratic, permeated as it is with deeply personal experience, and no one but the individual himself could provide a bridge to his “inside.” Otherwise, as Stephen correctly states, were the artist to attempt to make such a bridge for others she would end up, like the sad case of Ayn Rand, creating a glorified piece of state propaganda. Such is the fate of every form of didactic art.

    And this is again why the spiritual leadership of art (and myth) remains—and must remain— unconscious. It is typical for artists to say not only that they “know not what they do,” but that they must not know it. For if I knew what I was doing as an artist then there would be no reason for me to do it!