“Carry the Fire!”

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.

It’s not about literal “fire”, but the light. You could probably write a whole book about the theme of “carry the fire” and the symbolism of fire and still not exhaust its meaning.

It is said, for example, that the real task of a properly functioning media is the “hold the government’s feet to the fire”. That doesn’t mean necessarily torturing the hell out of government and the politicians so much as bringing light into the darkness. It’s certainly not the proper function of a journalist to aid and abet the darkness, and yet many actually do that, either from cowardice, cupidity, or perhaps owing to the fact that they themselves no longer understand the fire, let alone “carry the fire” as their own imperative. I can certainly name you some journalists, here in Canada and elsewhere, who don’t practice “carrying the fire”, and who I consider to be involved in malpractice. And I can certainly also name you some who do, who take their craft seriously, and who respect their obligations to the public as sacrosanct.

Arrayed against them are “the powers of Darkness”, and I’m not kidding. One of the prophets of the Darkness, the late and controversial Harvard political scientist and old neo-conservative cold warrior, Samuel Huntington (he of the “New World Order” and “The Clash of Civilisations” fame) once put it this way,

“The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen. Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.” — cited in Chomsky, “Security and State Power

That’s not just true for “architects of power in the United States” either. I believe Canada’s Mr. Harper probably learned quite a bit from reading Mr. Huntington, judging from the appalling expose by Mark Bourrie, Kill The Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know.  Mr. Harper’s rhetoric about “transparency and accountability” certainly clashes with the actual reality behind the “principled” rhetoric. That’s duplicity, and duplicity is double-talk, double-think, double-standard, and finally double-bind.

And you know what? Those — our own “four riders of the apocalypse” as I’ve called them — actually map to the cross of reality too. They all assault one or another of the four fronts of consciousness and the social order, depicted as the cross of reality.

So, what is “the fire”? It’s the cross of reality. The rays of the cross of reality are the light of consciousness as that consciousness penetrates backwards into the past, forwards into the future, inwards into the soul and outwards into the cosmos. That’s the image of fire. That’s what it means to “carry the fire”.

Rosenstock-Huessy's "cross of reality"

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”

And against that light, we have to contend with those who would throw obstacles in the way of penetrating insight, foresight, hindsight, or general clarity, which is the meaning of the “dia-bolic” (as opposed to the “symbolic”). Duplicity is that attack on clarity in its four directions, which is why duplicity is also fourfold — as double-talk, double-think, double-standard, and double-bind. In essence, they are attacks on consciousness itself, because they also attack one or another of the functions of consciousness with the intent of perverting or disabling them. That’s what “perception management” is. An assault,

Jung's four psychological functions

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, believed that “fire” was the archon, the first element and eldest of the four elements. The other elements of Earth, Air, Water he believed to be derived from fire. Some interpreters believe that by “fire” Heraclitus meant “energy”, and they are most likely right. But fire is also light, and so Heraclitus most probably believed that light is the true archon. “Let there be light!” is followed by “carry the fire!”

The image of the Sacred Hoop, or Medicine Wheel as it is sometimes called, is also the image of the fire. To speak from the centre of the Sacred Hoop is to speak “from the centre of the voice”, and that is the Voice of Fire. That is to say, the enlightening voice. (In fact, someone once said that listening to Rosenstock-Huessy speak was like listening to “lightning” speak!). When the four functions of consciousness are integrated and articulated in sincere speech — thinking, feeling, willing, sensing are all involved — the Sacred Hoop is healed and mended. The world is made whole again.

That’s what it means “to speak from the centre of the voice” — the vital centre. That’s what it means when Rosenstock-Huessy says “God is the power that makes us speak”. That is the “voice of fire”. That’s what it means to say that “fire is the archon“. The “cross of reality” is the image of that fire. To “carry the fire”, you need to be that fire.

Now, perhaps, we are ready to address the strange double-nature or polarity of the “four enemies of the man of knowledge”, those being “fear, clarity, power, and old age”, for as we will see, they too map to the cross of reality and the Sacred Hoop, and correspond in their meaning to Jung’s “consciousness functions”, so that what it means to be a “man of knowledge” (or woman of knowledge for that matter) is achieved only when all four are in perfect, harmonious balance. And that’s what it means to be “impeccable”.

It is not unintelligible when Castaneda’s don Juan speaks of “burning with the fire from within”.



3 responses to ““Carry the Fire!””

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    A wonderfully insightful essay about remembrance and recollection. Remembering that we, as a species, especially those of us who live in and are part of the rat race in the cities, have forsaken that fire within.

    As time goes by, I’m becoming more and more convinced of the truthfulness of the statement that “God is the power that makes us speak.” Not only ALL THAT IS is the power that makes men speak, it seems to me, if men have not been corrupted by their own “Will,” it is the power that makes mankind say what ought to be said.

    If dogs can smell fear, then our consciousness, through thoughts, actions and speech, and emotions sends signals of its imprint into the unknown world that are then surveyed by those guides of the unknown. If those thoughts, actions and speech, and emotions emanate with pure intentions of good, guides descend on us and save us by the things they teach us. But if the imprint left behind by our thoughts, actions and speech, and emotions are not pure, then no guide from the unknown will come to our aid and we are always lost.

    That’s what I understand from an “impeccable” state of being. It is a state of being that has met the criterion for sending out an invitation to the guides of the unknown. These guides will visit us more often if we speak from the centre of voice. And with each visit, they bring us knowledge. Knowledge which will then help us find the path of the man (or woman) of knowledge.

    To “carry the fire!” is really to help ourselves find our way out of egoistic nature.

    • Scott Preston says :

      “Carry the fire!” was the most wonderful theme about the movie (I have the book, but I haven’t read it yet for comparison). It used the symbolism of fire to maximum effect. “Fire”, of course, has links to the Promethean spirit as well, for it is Prometheus who steals fire from the gods to give to humans, and ends up chained to a rock to have his liver eaten out daily by Zeus’ eagles as punishment.
      There’s a lot of profound mystery in the symbolism of the myth and figure of Prometheus, including that of his brother Epimetheus. They are figures of two aspects of consciousness — The name “Prometheus” means “forethought” and the name Epimetheus means “afterthought” — or foresight and hindsight. Prometheus resembles the serpent in Eden, but also Jesus on the cross. Both brought “knowledge” in one form or another. Epimetheus and Pandora very closely resemble the myth of Adam and Eve.
      In past posts I’ve compared the beginnings of a civilisation to the “bookends” of Prometheus and Epimetheus, it begins with the promethean spirit and ends in the epimethean — as reversal. So “faustian” modernism ends in the deconstruction of post-modern hindsight and epimetheanism.
      Likewise, the high middle ages begins with the fool who becomes a knight (Parsifal) and ends in the knight who becomes a fool once more (Don Quixote).
      That’s the rhythm of the Promethean and Epimethean “brothers”.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Very fascinating. The connection between ancient mythology and the unconscious is both illuminating and enlightening. To be sure, those ancient men and women had a far less obstructed vision into the unconscious than most of humanity, today.

        I’ve watched most of Charlize Theron’s movies, but I had not even heard of “The Road.” The trailer looks awesome, too. I shall watch it the first chance I get.

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