The Road, the film based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, is very powerful. Its potency lies in its simple clarity around one central theme — the father’s commandment to his son to “carry the fire” as he himself is being swallowed by the post-Apocalyptic darkness, by barbarism, and of a world gone totally mad in a “war of all against all”. That theme of “carry the fire” is simple and yet profound. It’s not about the future. Rather, it’s about our own post-Enlightenment times — T.S. Eliot’s “Wasteland” and the “abomination of desolation”. The Road is not about what may be. It’s really about what is.
Some of you probably know of the Greek term omphalos. It means “navel”. As such, it is considered a sacred place, the site where the divine creative or sustaining energy, or inspiration, inflows into the cosmos to sustain it. The omphalos is the source and root, the site of origination or even Genesis. For the ancient Greeks, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi was not only erected over what was believed to be the omphalos, but which continued to function as the omphalos itself. The Greeks continued to make pilgrimages to the Delphic Oracle to learn wisdom or the divine will.
This omphalos corresponds to what we call “the vital centre”, the heart of the cosmos. In some ways, this ancient conception of the “navel” as point of the influx of divine energy into the cosmos has been now also been assigned to “black holes” or “white holes” in astrophysics.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Aristotle, much like Castaneda’s teacher don Juan, once made a distinction between what he called the megalopsychos and the mikropsychos, and he associated the former with youth and the latter with old age, not necessarily in physical terms so much as in energetic terms. The megalopsychos we might translate as the “Great Souled” or “big hearted”, and mikropsychos as the “Small Souled”, or the “petty-minded” and mean-spirited. In those respects, we can call the former “inspired” and the latter “expired”.
I am going to take the liberty of re-interpreting Aristotle’s meaning in energetic terms, in terms of expansion and contraction, and in light of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “Cross of Reality” as we’ve explored that over the last few postings.
My earlier random and sometimes casual commentaries on the Flammarion engraving entitled “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the City and to the World”) draw a fair amount of traffic to The Chrysalis (thanks to Google). Perhaps, then, I should flesh out what I see as its significance in more detail. It’s a curious thing that the three most frequent search terms that regularly draw the curious to the pages of The Chrysalis are for the meaning of the Flammarion woodcut, the meaning of the Prodigal Son, and for the meaning of Heraclitus’ ethos anthropos damon (usually translated as “character is fate”).
They are connected, in some ways. (Maybe someone’s trying to tell me something?). So, for the curious seeker and Google pilgrim, here it is again.
You probably all know the saying from the New Testament that runs: “the wages of sin is death”, and you may wonder what that really means, since it seems so contrary to the evidence of your experience. Likewise “those who live by the sword, perish by the sword” may seem untrue by the evidence of your own eyes, since the rewards of imperialism, violence, and warfare often seem great compared to the actual or potential punishments. I even once heard a song by the songwriter Randy Newman that expressed his dismay and disappointment at seeing how the unjust and criminal often seem to thrive by their activities, while the innocent seem to suffer the consequences.