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The past in our present

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Sir James Frazer's "The Golden Bough" and Jessie L. Weston's "From Ritual to Romance" on Col. Kurtz's table in "Apocalypse Now."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Very ritualistic for a country that isn’t ritualistic.”

That erroneous observation was made by MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews when I first turned my TV on this morning to see what was going on. It was as if I was meant to hear it at that moment.

Matthews, whom I met while covering the Iowa Caucuses in 2012, is obsessed and behaves in a ritualistic manner himself, particularly when it is topics of interest, like the late President John F. Kennedy. But that should not come as a surprise, really. We are ritualistic beings. We may just not realize it. 

And here we are, America, talking highly about the recently-deceased President George H.W. Bush, whose casket was departing the U.S. Capitol and heading to the Washington National Cathedral. This is in advance of Bush’s funeral, to be held soon afterward. It was during this procession, which included an American president who seems utterly devoid of any link or connection or interest in 

All the while, the funeral procession was passing by stone and marble structures that were all built by people who were clearly deeply ritualistic. They were in tune with the occult and were quite open about that fact, as evidenced by these structures - the aforementioned Washington Monument (Hermes/Trickster) obelisk. A product of the Enlightenment, which ultimately incorporated the "old rituals," as many of us recognize.

I could go one for pages about Bush’s own ritualistic behavior and statements he made while in the White House (1989-93), but I really wanted to talk about a few examples of myth and ritual recognized in literature that comes up in synchromystic research, at least for me.


Sir James Frazer, the anthropologist from the late 19th century, wrote The Golden Bough (which I discussed in various Dust Devil Dreams post over the past four years), believed that myth and religious doctrine ultimately came from ancient rituals.

As Frazer wrote in The Golden Bough (1922) "(M)yth changes while custom remains constant; men continue to do what their fathers did before them, though the reasons on which their fathers acted have been long forgotten. The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice."

And yet the old beliefs seemed to have held on, if not in new, modern-day clothing. Has much changed from ancient times? Yes and no, human beings being what they are.

As George P. Hansen notes in 2001's The Trickster and The Paranormal, "Frazer wrote during a time when the long war between science and religion was particularly intense in intellectual circles ... To the rationalists, magic was particularly vexing; it appeared entirely superstitious. However, it was not extinct in their own society, and the then-rising popularity of Theosophy, occultism, and spiritualism alarmed them. They viewed those movements as a dangerous throwback to the primitive past."

But the "primitive past" has always been with us. It may manifest in different forms or ideas or what-have-you. 

Speaking of Frazer, I noted The Golden Bough in connection with Jessie L. Weston, an English folklorist who wrote From Ritual to Romance is on a table - along with the Bible - in a key scene in Apocalypse Now (1979) where Marlon Brando's Col. Kurtz is finally found by Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) on a remote river in Cambodia during the craziest period of the Vietnam War (1969-70), where soldiers get word from home, via newspaper clippings, of the madness and horrific butchery of the Manson Family, when the Age of Aquarius curdled.

I wrote about this in a piece I wrote sync/linking Peter Weir's 1986 film The Mosquito Coast and Apocalypse Now. The piece, "Exploring myth and madness along 'The Mosquito Coast,'" 

Syncing with present day, the recently-deceased cult leader Charles Manson appears to be like the Saudi prince accused this autumn by the CIA of orchestrating the murder of dissident Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He did not get his hands dirty, he had others do it for him. And the Saudi prince is like Machiavelli's prince in The Prince, using immoral means in order to ensure his glory and survival. 

In fact, I was reminded of this while reading Carl G. Jung's Man and His Symbols over the Thanksgiving holiday (I note it extensively in my post "Crashing symbols"), I got to page 183, in the section written by M.L. von Franz, discussing the 18th book of the Koran where Moses meets Khidr ('the Green One' or 'first angel of God') in the desert. Von Franz writes: "They wander together, and Khidr expresses his fear that Moses will not be able to witness his deeds without indignation. If Moses cannot bear with him and trust him, Khidr wil leave." Khidr does use Machiavellian logic - ends justifying the means - when Moses witnesses Khidr killing several people for varying reasons. Moses was hasty to judge Khidr, but came to realize "Khidr's doings had seemed to be totally evil, but in fact they were not." 

Von Franz adds: "Looking at this story naively, one might asume that Khidr is lawless, capricious, evil shadow of pious, lawabiding Moses. But this is not the case. Khidr is much mre the personification of some secret creative actions of the Godhead." So, what von Franz asks, is that "when dark figures turn up in our dreams and seem to want something, we cannot be sure whether they personify merely a shadowy part of ourselves, or the Self, or both at the same time."

Back to my Apocalypse Now and The Mosquito Coast sync analysis:

Kurtz, meanwhile, keeps the Bible, The Golden Bough and From Ritual to Romance at his side, books that “explore the significance of rituals and myths in so-called ‘primitive’ societies.” Kurtz’s adversary, Willard, “ritually sacrifices” Kurtz, while the zealous Christian missionary Spellgood (in The Mosquito Coast), using fear and mind control on his seemingly hapless victims, shoots down his adversary – Allie Fox - without a second thought. 

Yes, Allie proceeds to burn down Spellgood’s chapel and Spellgood turns his rifle on Allie, snarling “Communists!” and shoots him down, paralyzing him. It would appear that his spine has been severed since he can’t move his body. One wonders if Theroux and/or Weir were referencing the primal energy force of Kundalini, at the base of the spine. Allie is now helpless as the family went back downstream – where people go to die – while telling Allie, as he died, that they were going upriver.

Like Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, Allie Fox had a vision. Kurtz was willing to sacrifice much in order to win the war. But the North Vietnamese were more committed to their cause and this frustrates and angers Kurtz, because – like today – war is a game for the generals to play. Kurtz and the others - Col. Lucas included - are mere pawns in a game they can't control."

Boy, does that seem like a comment that could be made today. Madness seems to be on the rise, spindly fingers finding its way into the gaping maw of intellectual dishonesty and ignorance. The contrast between the current "president" and the others present at the cathedral was dramatic. He was the easily-distracted child unaware or disinterested in the horrors that accompany the job of American president. It's ugly business. And all those living presidents could, potentially, be viewed as war criminals in some form or fashion. It's the telling of "the noble lie." Except in the case of Trump, there is nothing "noble" about the fountains of bullshit coming from his mouth.

Continuing: "You have no right to judge me," Kurtz tells Willard before Willard completes his mission in that horrific corner of the hellish jungle. Adds Kurtz: "Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies."


I have been saying for well over a year now that something was telling me that the year 2019 would be a year that would be unlike anything any of us have exeperienced. From my synchromystic research, my dreams of the past year and just a "gut feeling" have been subtly informing me to brace for this coming year. In what form it will take, I can't really say. Will it be a year of "horror and moral terror"? If the current year is any indication, than yes, most likely. But things could change. For instance, last month I had a dream where I was in a car that was hit by a car with an Illinois vanity plate reading WRECKD. And I thought, in the dream, "Oh, that bad driver is a real asshole." So, while driving to a court date downtown, I drove through an intersection and a car zoomed through the intersection, nearly colliding with me, and it had an Illinois license plate! A close call, right? But I did not have a wreck, even though my dream seemed to indicate it would happen. That's how I think about 2019. It could be really bad. But it doesn't have to be. It's not set in stone, as it were.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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