Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Week of June 24, 2018

Excerpts from a Bill Moyers interview of Joseph Campbell back in the mid-eighties seemed timely. I took this excerpt from the book The Power of Myth:

Campbell: ...I carry a copy of the Great Seal in my pocket in the form of a dollar bill. Here is the statement of the ideals that brought about the formation of the United States. Look at this dollar bill. Now here is the Great Seal of the United States. Look at the pyramid on the left. A pyramid has four sides. These are the four points of the compass. There is somebody at this point, there's somebody at that point, and there's somebody at this point. When you're down on the lower levels of this pyramid, you will be either on one side or on the other. But when you get up to the top, the points all come together, and there the eye of God opens.

Moyers: And to them it was the god of reason.

Campbell: Yes. This is the first nation in the world that was ever established on the basis of reason instead of simple warfare. These were eighteenth-century deists, these gentlemen. Over here we read, "In God We Trust." But that is not the god of the Bible. These men did not believe in a Fall. They did not think the mind of man was cut off from God. The mind of man, cleansed of secondary and merely temporal concerns, beholds with the radiance of a cleansed mirror a reflection of the rational mind of God. Reason puts you in touch with God. Consequently, for these men, there is no special revelation anywhere, and none is needed, because the mind of man cleared of its fallibilities is sufficiently capable of the knowledge of God. All people in the world are thus capable because all people in the world are capable of reason.
All men are capable of reason. That is the fundamental principle of democracy. Because everybody's mind is capable of true knowledge, you don't have to have special authority, or a special revelation telling you that this is the way things should be.
...Now back to the Great Seal. When you count the number of ranges on this pyramid, you find there are thirteen. And when you come to the bottom, there is an inscription in Roman numerals. It is, of course, 1776. Then, when you add one and seven and seven and six, you get twenty-one, which is the age of reason, is it not? It was in 1776 that the thirteen states declared independence. The number thirteen is the number of transformation and rebirth. At the Last Supper there were twelve apostles and one Christ, who was going to die and be reborn. Thirteen is the number of getting out of the field of the bounds of twelve into the transcendent. You have the twelve signs of the zodiac and the sun. These men were very conscious of the number thirteen as the number of resurrection and rebirth and new life, and they played it up here all the way through.

Moyers: But, as a practical matter, there were thirteen states.

Campbell: Yes, but wasn't that symbolic? That is not simply coincidental. This is the thirteen states as themselves symbolic of what they were.

Moyers: That would explain the other inscription down there, "Novus Ordo Seclorum."

Campbell: "A new order of the world." This is a new order of the world. And the saying above, "Annuit Coeptis," means "He has smiled on our accomplishments" or "our activities."

Moyers: He--

Campbell: He, the eye, what is represented by the eye. Reason. In Latin you wouldn't have to say "he," it could be "it" or "she" or "he." But the divine power has smiled on our doings. And so this new world order has been built in the sense of God's original creation, and the reflection of God's original creation, through reason, has brought this about.
If you look behind that pyramid, you see a desert. If you look before it, you see plants growing. The desert, the tumult in Europe, wars and wars and wars--we have pulled ourselves out of it and created a state in the name of reason, not in the name of power, and out of that will come flowerings of the new life. That's the sense of that part of the pyramid.
Now look at the right side of the dollar bill. Here's the eagle, the bird of Zeus. The eagle is the downcoming of the god into the field of time. The bird is the incarnation principle of the deity. This is the bald eagle, the American eagle. This is the American counterpart of the eagle of the highest god, Zeus.
He comes down, descending into the world of the pairs of opposites, the field of action. One mode of action is war and the other is peace. So in one of his feet the eagle holds thirteen arrows--that's the principle of war. In the other he holds a laurel leaf with thirteen leaves--that is the principle of peaceful conversation. The eagle is looking in the direction of the laurel. That is the way these idealists who founded our country would wish us to be looking--diplomatic relationships and so forth. But thank God he's got the arrows in the other foot, in case this doesn't work.
Now, what does the eagle represent? He represents what is indicated in this radiant sign above his head...and...nine feathers in his tail. Nine is the number of the descent of the divine power into the world. When the Angelus rings, it rings nine times.
Now, over on the eagle's head are thirteen stars arranged in the form of a Star of David.

Moyers: This used to be Solomon's Seal.

Campbell: Yes. Do you know why it's called Solomon's Seal?

Moyers: No.

Campbell: Solomon used to seal monsters and giants and things into jars. You remember in the Arabian Nights when they'd open the jar and out would come the genie? I noticed the Solomon's Seal here, composed of thirteen stars, and then I saw that each of the triangles was a Pythagorean tetrakys.

Moyers: The tetrakys being?

Campbell: This is a triangle composed of ten points, one point in the middle and four points to each side, adding up to nine: one, two, three, four/five, six, seven/eight, nine. This is just the primary symbol of Pythagorean philosophy, susceptible of a number of interrelated mythological, cosmological, psychological, and sociological interpretations, one of which is the dot at the apex as representing the creative center out of which the universe and all things have come.

Moyers: The center of energy, then?

Campbell: Yes. The initial sound (a Christian might say, the creative Word), out of which the whole world was precipitated, the big bang, the pouring of the transcendent energy into and expanding through the field of time. As soon as it enters the field of time, it breaks into pairs of opposites, the one becomes two. Now, when you have two, there are just three ways in which they can relate to one another: one way is of this one dominant over that; another way is of that one dominant over this; and a third way is of the two in balanced accord. It is then, finally, out of these three manners of relationship that all things within the four quarters of space derive.
There is a verse in Lao-Tzu's Tao-te Ching which states that out of the Tao, out of the transcendent, comes the One. Out of the One come Two; out of the Two come Three; and out of the Three come all things.
So what I suddenly realized when I recognized that in the Great Seal of the United States there were two of these symbolic triangles interlocked was that we now had thirteen points, for our thirteen original states, and that there were now, furthermore, no less than six apexes, one above, one below, and four (so to say) to the four quarters. The sense of this, it seemed to me, might be that from above or below, or from any point of the compass, the creative Word might be heard, which is the great thesis of democracy. Democracy assumes that anybody from any quarter can speak, and speak truth, because his mind is not cut off from the truth. All he has to do is clear out his passions and then speak.
So what you have here on the dollar bill is the eagle representing this wonderful image of the way in which the transcendent manifests itself in the world. That's what the United States is founded on. If you're going to govern properly, you've got to govern from the apex of the triangle, in the sense of the world eye at the top.
Now, when I was a boy, we were given George Washington's farewell address and told to outline the whole thing, every single statement in relation to every other one. So I remember it absolutely. Washington said, "As a result of our revolution, we have disengaged ourselves from involvement in the chaos of Europe." His last word was that we not engage in foreign alliances. Well, we held on to his word until the First World War. And then we canceled the Declaration of Independence and rejoined the British conquest of the planet. And so we are now on one side of the pyramid. We've moved from one to two. We are politically, historically, now a member of one side of an argument. We do not represent that principle of the eye up there. And all of our concerns have to do with economics and politics and not with the voice and sound of reason.

I share all this, again, due to it's timeliness. It seems as though the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to say a few things:

  • ALL people are capable of reason
  • Peaceful dialogue is the way
  • When CLEARED OF PASSIONS, anybody is capable of truth. Therefore, there's democracy.

In Campbells on words from above,
So what you have here on the dollar bill is the eagle representing this wonderful image of the way in which the transcendent manifests itself in the world. That's what the United States is founded on. If you're going to govern properly, you've got to govern from the apex of the triangle, in the sense of the world eye at the top.

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