As we already said, Tarzan-the Prince passes three obstacles to enter the Xanadu where his Soul is prisoner of the passions (the Evil Triad of BG), surrounded by the instincts and impulses (the Blacks), and tormented by false/unruly concepts (the Whites). He encounters his two friends, the White and the Black, and he becomes "brother in arms" with them. Meaning he makes peace with the good instincts, impulses and concepts and enlists them to his aid. (After all, whatís opposed is also complementary. Think Yin-Yang. With the Waz-Ho acting as the dots of opposite color within each.)
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Tarzan in Pal-ul-Don:
a symbolist analysis
By Cristian Sildan
Continued from Part I: ERBzine 7477
Now that weíve set the main lines of the story in Part I, letís analyze it:
Together they climb the "Father of Mountains". Heavy stuff here as well: for exactly as Jane has 2 alter-egos and is in fact a triad, so is Tarzan here, as I just hinted above. His two companions are not just the matches for the other 2 girls, but they are matches for the aspects of his personality exactly as the girls are for Janeís. And since the boys and the girls each form a triangle, and since they are mates to each-other, what do two triangles form when they intersect? A hexagram, of course! And what is the meaning of the hexagram? Well, itís the Male and the Female principles, in harmonious embrace, creating the world together. With the intrigue advancing, we see another triad, the malefic one also named above, forming as well: the king, the priest and the false god (Obergatz). Now in fairytales, the BG often has two brothers, or three heads, or three lifesÖ They all hate the hero, and whether itís because they want his girl or they fear for their power is really immaterial: itís in fact the same thing, for their world is in reality the interior world of the soul, and they are the sins wanting to devour the soul. They are the soulless routine of sin (human sacrifice) that fights against the solar hero/the volition that breaks the routine and saves the soul/the girl.
Together, the three companions first go to a cave and then they climb "the father of mountains". The cave is the place of death and rebirth, descend into oneís own interiority to get initiated and obtain there the energy of the non-manifested darkness of the origins to be able to climb after that towards the light. And this is what they do by climbing the mountain. The drawings and proto-script Tarzan sees in the cave is not just a useless detail: this is the sacred initiatic writing disguised as primitive art. The climbing that follows is heavily emphasized to impart worthiness to the ones doing it because itís also the next stage of initiation. Once youíve gone into yourself (the cave) you must elevate well above yourself and go beyond your old limits before you can see the world of the soul (the valley of Jad-ben-Otho) and contemplate its allure (A-lur) without being swayed. Besides, the one who wants to elevate oneself must climb the world-axis to ascend into the superior dimensions, and the cave, the mountain and the tree are all axial symbols. (Trees are many in this story, and very important as shelter usually, and as the place where the ego and the soul finally reunite.)
So, what are he and his friends doing next?
Well, he helps his friends to defeat the rival tribe (he fights the bad instincts in his mind using the good ones, once the latter are put in order Ė the killing of the bad Gund), he saves Pan-at-lee (the animalic part of his Soul) by killing the two Tor-o-dons (the bad animal passions, but who teach him to tame and ride the Dragon (to defeat the call of the abyss and continue his Elevation). Thatís a bit like the Ancient Mariner of Coleridge who is lost on the sea and sees the monsters, but begins to find the way home once he sees their beautyÖ
And then he rides straight into A-lur. Which is to say, he dives into his inner dimension, once his instincts are purified and the animal side of his Soul is secured. But he only dives in it upon the dragon, meaning having put his spirit on an upper level so that the bad side of the search for purity (the Whites) canít harm him. Itís a bit like fighting the PhariseesÖ by proclaiming himself son of Jad-ben-Otho. But is he really joking when doing that? Well, once one has ridden the dragon, he sort of really becomes it, for the dragon, although ambiguous and chaotic, is a very celestial and elevated symbol. It is abyss yes, but also Thunder, by its association with rain... He who rides it really IS "above" the other mortals.
Yes, Tarzan is ironic with the local religion. But is it just irony? What if he is more like the "Trickster" or the Jester? Ömeaning the apparent clown who is in fact the only one who says the truth, disguised in fun? Yes he makes fun of them but also tells them big truths. Itís more like the Trickster because the Jester is usually less of an active factor in fairytales and mythologies, heís more like a restorer/ conserver. The Trickster is more the creative destroyer we see Tarzan to be. Anyway, the Trickster is a very well known figure in many mythologies, and a "creative destructionist" as I just said. For good or for bad, he turns the old ways upside down. Here itís for the good. And, when the Old Paradigm must die, many times the New one comes first disguised in humble or even ridiculous clothes. Sacrality likes to do this. So, maybe Tarzan really IS founding a new religion. Maybe even without realizing it. Sometimes, the actor doesnít know what he started. Trancendence does things like that, tooÖ
He meets the first two incarnation of the Evil Triad, meaning the King and the Priest. Now, they are rivals but that doesnít stop them from being part of the same Evil Entity: after all, isnít Evil at war with itself, most time, except when fighting Good? Donít evil people generally hate each other and even themselves? Now, speaking of their conflict, weíve already touched the aspect of the crisis in which the society of Pal-ul-don finds itself with the inflation of sacrifice and everything, and the hope of both priest and king to revive their paradigm by bringing a new "goddess" into the equation. The crisis is there, itís systemic, and they know it, although it is not so said and it just seems to be a fight between two egos. Well, maybe it is mostly, but subconsciously at least they know itís more serious than about their libido.
Speaking of crisis, thereís also the hatred of the Throne for the Temple and the desire of the Temple to control the Throne, which clearly shows also an institutional confusion. Itís not surprising that people are ready to accept new concepts like "Dor-ul-Otho". They all feel the system is rotten and needs change. Anyway, symbolically the Priest should be Polar, meaning Axial, linking Earth with Heaven, and the King should be Solar, giving energy and light/inspiration to his subjects. Here, the roles are muddled but it is normal, the paradigm is a dying one.
Tarzan also sees the riches and the pyramid of power in the throne room. The riches in fairytales are the "gold embryo", the potential for spiritual growth. Yes, you can find motivation to grow in the very midst of the "allure" of the world temptation that enslave the SoulÖ As for the pyramid, one wonders how many steps it has. Iím ready to bet they are seven, like the number of White cities. Now, the Was-Ho (half-breeds) must be numbered among both Whites and Blacks. So the Blacks as we said are 12+1, and the Whites are 7+1. These are the 7 planets of the old astrology plus the Black Sun. The seven metals of Alchemy plus the Arsenic. The Octagon. The octagon, symbolically, is something between the square and the circle. The circle is the sky and the square is the Earth. So the octagon is the intermediate between the Earth and the Sky. You may think Iím making all this up, building castles in the sky and going slightly nuts. Iím not, and hereís the proof.
The throne room is square, it has a dome above and a pyramid in the middle. So you see, the square and the circle are really and well there. See why the levels of the pyramid must be 7 and the White tribes must be 7+1? This throne room is the Cosmos in miniature. The pyramid is the Axis, of course. The Ray upon which the Becoming takes place. Itís also the Angular Stone upon which the whole building is based and around which the whole building is structured. And since the building is the royal palace, we can say the whole kingdom is based around it. So, Tarzan enters the Cosmos and sits right at the top of the Axis, unifying Earth and Sky. Heís the Cosmic Man, as any respectable candidate to spiritual elevation must be. There are even holes at the top of the dome. Thatís the Eye of the World, or the Eye of the needle. It symbolizes the Fontanelles, orifices present in babies and atrophied/sutured in adults, by which divine inspiration comes and the soul comes and departs. The gate of communication with the superior dimensions. The soul also must pass the seven spheres of the lesser planets to reach the real sky of the Divine, another reason why the steps of the pyramid MUST be 7. Every detail here points to a transition zone between human and divine. Tarzan really IS the Dor-ul-Otho here.
This is all a metaphor for the Small Mysteries, that Tarzan officiates under the guise of having fun with monkey men. In reality he does the first stage of liberating his soul, by climbing the seven steps of the Axis within his self, the throne room having both a cosmic and a cranial symbolism as we just saw, and placing himself at its top just under the sacred window of the soul, while taming the impulses of power and false piety (the king and the priest). He is helped in that by the impulse of Righteousness, embodied by Ja-don.
But does this scene have other symbols in it? You bet: the throne room being square and having a dome above, rings any bells? Itís not just the Earth and Sky. Itís also "squaring the circle", integrating the sphere and the cube, attempting the impossible. But itís not impossible anymore once youíve climbed the 7 steps/passed the 7 spheresÖ to the spiritual one everything becomes possible. Oh, and the pyramid is also linked to the sacrificial stone but that, weíll touch towards the end. Just to open your appetite, "to sacrifice" means "to make sacred" in Latin.
Afterwards, we see the Hero laying the first bricks of the New Revelation that is going to renew Pal-ul-don. We talked about that above. Weíll get back to this later.
Then we see the Ho-don elite acting like pigs, and their swine-like behavior being specifically named as such. This is no random stuff. Itís not just to make the BG look bad. Itís a staple trait of the BGs in fairytales. I told you above about many BGs making the captive Princess cook industrial quantities of food for them. That symbolizes their nature as Eaters, not just of food but of souls and energies as well. And they want Janeís energy. Later, Obergatz will repeatedly be described in a swinish symbolism as well, to emphasize the common nature of the corrupted king and priest and of their false god. Their massive human sacrifice is also an orgy of feeding, their false/degenerate divinity eating lives.
Then Tarzan is unmasked as a pretender and escapes without much effort.
Then he goes into the labyrinth, kills a priest and masquerades as him. Now, about the Gryf masks the priests wear: in symbolism, the mask is the real you, the "deep you". So, if the priests wear monstrous masks, that means they ARE monsters, they are the tendency toward the Absolute turned mad, in their routine of death. Extreme Pharisees I would say. They replaced spirituality with industrial scale death. Also, they DO worship the Gryf as the supreme force of destruction, meaning they see mostly the destructive side of Nature, as I said above.
Tarzan meets the two alter-egos of Jane twice, in the same garden Ė the inner world of the soul as I said many times. If Pal-ul-don is Xanadu, the garden is the Xanadu at smaller scale, meaning a deeper level of self-searching Ė and before meeting Jane herself. That too is accurate symbolically, for before the Volition being reunited with its Soul, it must make peace with the impulses and instincts (Pan-at-lee) and the untutored spiritual desires (O-lo-a). The revelation he gives them is only apparently a hoax, in fact he really Ďíreorders/clarifiesíí them and their relationship, not only with him, but also with their beloveds and among themselves. Later, they give him information about her, which is also logical symbolically, you are directed to your soul by first meeting your lesser states. Later they meet Jane and they clarify their position towards her also. But the meeting in the garden has another meaning: the Soul meets his lower components in a VEGETATIVE state, for the Ego/Volition is not with them.
During all this time, Korak comes as well into the story and does exactly what Tarzan did. But we wonít analyze him until the final.
Later, Tarzan manages to discover Jane in the stone Gryf. We talked a bit about that one above, but now is the moment to analyze it a bit more in depth, for itís important. First the fact of the omnipresence of the stone and skin in the description of Pal-ul-don (not many metals and no woven stuff) is also a symbol for the Primordial Matter, the Universal Virgin, the Pure Potential at the basis of all living. The Personality is building itself and it still contends with its wild and untamed/untutored tendencies and evil impulses. Itís still in its rough phase, like the stone and skin for the primitive peoplesÖ
Then the Gryf-like shape of the building. Its entry is by its mouth, which is a bit like the monster of Tao Tie on the sacred vases and also on the doors of pre-modern Chinese. It symbolizes the "Terrible Entity that devours", but like many symbols it has a double deeper meaning: itís Time the Destroyer but also the Liberator. You see, itís all about the MOMENT. The moment when you choose your path towards life or death, towards elevation or decay. Itís no coincidence that Jane faces the Priest in it, and that Tarzan is at risk of dyingÖ by a real dragon, a real devourer, the Gryf that cannot be tamed here. They are both at two inches from passing through the mouth of the monster, (like the damned souls of the Egyptians through the jaws of Ammit), her by being raped by the BG in his monster of stone, he by being literally swallowed by the gryf, the alter-ego of Lu-don.
They both escape. The monster has been benign this time, and the moment has been favorable. Tarzan through the small aperture, Jane escapes by isolating the Priest using his own devices. She meets Ja-don. That symbolizes the Divine Inspiration towards Righteousness in its initial/raw state. Ja-don is the LION-MAN, and the lion is the Sun, the primal inspiration and the gate of the soul towards the gods. The lion is the symbol of the rightful ruler. We said already that the Ho-don are the untutored spiritual urges. So, both the Volition and the Soul escape the BG under his both guises, gryf and priest, one by pure strength and will, the other by putting itself under the protection of raw but righteous inspiration. Jane regains hope "like a phoenix". Very telling. Nothing is left without a symbol hereÖ
Some of you might wonder about the symbolism of the Sun as gate of souls. Itís in the old traditions, IíM NOT MAKING UP ANYTHING. The Sun is the local expression of the Energy of the Cosmos, which is like the heart for the body. And the heart is universally considered as the seat of the soul, of love etc. This is the parallel between the Sun and the soul.
About Tarzan wearing the Gryf mask and Jane the local (queenly, itís clearly specified) outfit, thatís also no useless detail: they ARE monarchs and gods of their inner world, but for now they are the ones who wear the trappings of the false sacrality for they must compose with it, they havenít yet put the things in order.
Tarzan is not only brave and strong and smart and daring, heís also very lucky. About that, his legendary luck is not a coincidence either, nor just a plot prop, itís quite frequent in fairytales. But does it signify something? Yes. It means "Destiny/divinity" uses the Hero as a tool for the eradication of an old reality whose time has come to end. It brings and puts this tool where he is needed, at the right moment.
Then Tarzan goes in the labyrinth. Now, he has many encounters with caves and labyrinths in this story, and each may well not just be a motive for adventure and thrills, but also to signify a step of the Ego in the sense of initiation and purification.
But I think itís the right time to elaborate on that a bit. You see, the labyrinth in symbolism is the multitude of states and modalities through which Existence manifests itself. Wandering through it means the journey of life itself among the said states and modalities, with the scope of reaching the center, which is in fact your own center -- the fact of structuring your soul right. Thatís it for now, but weíll come back to the labyrinth, like Tarzan and Jane.
Jane is kidnapped by the new king who is just a new face of the same Archetype of the evil king, but worse. Then both her and Tarzan go upon rivers and lakes. After the caves and dungeons, itís only natural that their journey becomes a navigation. Many initiations are timed like that. (Being imprisoned into stone is also the "trial of the earth", while navigating is the "trial of the water". Later, taming and riding the gryf is the "trial of air", since the dragon is a celestial /aerial symbol. Itís about vanquishing inertia, then dissolution, then scattering, all in your soul.)
Jane becomes Diana of the jungle, which means the Soul making peace with her wild tendencies and controlling them.
The passing through the waters has a wealth of symbolism itself: baptism, purification, regression to the womb, rebirthÖ Water is the fertile potential for a new beginning, and the departure point of individuation, as symbols go. Also, water is Life, Woman, primordiality, abyssality (not sure this term exists in English, but you get what I mean), attraction, sexuality, mysteryÖ all linked to the concept of Heart. Itís no coincidence that Tarzan calls Jane "Heart of my heart". The principle of generation is also the principle of love and is symbolized by the heart of course. Very rigorous symbolism. Going down the river means searching for Paradise, in our case the reunion of our two heroes, Ego and Soul. Them going afterwards towards Ja-lur is going up the river, which means towards the Source and Essence of things, not at all coincidentally put under the sign of the Lion (Ja-don) and by riding the Gryf together. Now that the Ego and Soul are reunited, they do great things, they ride the dragon together, they receive the essence and the solar inspiration together by joining Righteousness (Ja-don)Ö
(I must put this as a parenthesis, because it cuts the narrative but I canít help it, this is the place to talk about it: Obergatz reappears and quickly defines himself as the degenerated Ė that is to say the very fit Ė incarnation of the sick god of Pal-ul-don. Then Jane rejects him, the Soul has rejected both the false glory offered by the king, the false concepts offered by the bad priest, and now she rejects the false mysticism. But although he seems about to die, he is instated as god by the bad priest and both are joined by the bad king. The Evil Trinity forms almost naturally, organically. Itís not surprising, itís the logical outcome of a totally rotten system.)
But it doesnít end here. As we well know, Jane is captured again, and so will be Tarzan.
But why? Well, the individuality may well be united at last, and empowered, and inspired, but it still has to face the final test together, ego and soul. After the trials that purify its components, the individuality must face a final one united. Also, why do Tarzan and Ja-don fall into prison as well? Well, if the goddess/Soul gets caught by the bad tendencies, both Ego and Righteousness see their energy and power decrease a lot.
When Tarzan and Jane are together in the labyrinth, itís not just a metaphor for the Ego and the Soul fighting together the monster-priests of bad passions, bad instincts and false concepts. Itís also about a new stage in the maturation of oneís individuality. The gestation of the new reality in the darkness of the earth-womb, and the wandering in the Limbo while advancing toward redemption. You see, Theseus and Ariadne also wander the labyrinth to fight the Minotaur but they have the famous thread of Ariadne to direct them. But what is this thread exactly? Itís what the Hindus call the Sutratma, the "chain of the worlds", the "sense of everything". The subtle thing that gives sense to the whole universe, and to each individuality. Itís the thread that keeps the entire universe sewn together. Not at all coincidentally, the Sutratma has TWELVE knots (the 12 constellations of astrology/destiny) and, according to some traditions, surroundsÖ SEVEN sacred animals (the spiritual steps of elevation). It also links the 7 chakras. Rings any bells? You see why the numbers 7 and 12 are important and must be in any good story? This thread means the frame that insures stability, integrity and structure to a certain space, be that the Cosmos at Macro level or the soul at micro level. Here, we talk about the interior universe, the Xanadu, of course. Itís the link that binds the modes of manifestation among themselves, and all of them to the Original Principle. The knots are at the same time states, structural aggregates and force lines. All of them structuring and defining this inner world of the soul.
Our heroes donít apparently have any thread, except the one that apparently makes Tarzan prisoner. But itís just a superficial impression, like all symbols. In fact itís the thread that elevates him and passes him through the apex of the dome, which means the passage of the soul through the fontanelle of the skull, towards superior dimensions. The binding also means attachment, it is ambivalent, like A-lur. Itís what structures you at a certain moment, and binds you to a state of existence, but also keeps you there, stopping you from advancing towards a better state. Yes, the thread is there, disguised as the weapon of the enemy, but which ultimately also leads to salvation and elevation to a superior state. So, Tarzan being elevated by it through the small aperture at the top of the dome is the "passing through the eye of the needle", through the Solar Gate, the rising from the lower world caught in the chain of death but without letting her get you, so that you can ascend to the superior state. This episode is the symbol of the final initiation before the ritual death.
We remember Tarzan has been a prisoner several times, but while being overpowered only twice, once in the Waz-don caves (the times in the Gryf temple is not one, he escapes almost immediately and is not properly overpowered, and the time in Tu-lur is not a very serious threat either) and once in the labyrinth / the sacrificial enclosure. Both signify two deaths of the Ego: once he dies to the "vile self", to the instincts, the second time he dies to the inner cosmos, to the false concepts. We can put the times in the Gryf temple and in the palace of Mo-sar as the Ego refusing the lust for power and for anger.
And now the moment of the sacrifice.
We can admire the masterful handling by ERB of the concept of eucatastrophe, which is the story so built that it seems all will end in a total catastrophe but all of the sudden everything turns for the good. The destruction of the One Ring comes to mind. Here we see the demise of the whole Evil Trinity and their system, through the "magical thunder" of Korak. Very well built climax. But that aspect is secondary here.
Now, in a more traditional fairytale, the hero would have really died and then would have been resurrected, probably by the thunder god. In a modern, more realistic story, we canít have that, so the hero is just about to die and saved at the last moment. But you see, I didnít forget the idea from a few lines above, of the sacrifice as being the metaphor of the final elevation of the soul. I already told you the throne and the sacrificial stone have in common essence: both signify the vehicle meant to elevate the soul. To rule over people in one case, to fly for the gods in the other. Both stones, throne and altar, are similar to the Philosophical Stone of the Alchemists. In many old languages such as Sanskrit, words like throne, axis, diamond, altar and thunder have common roots. All have to do with transmutation and elevation. In some old cultures, the king was elected among the prisoners to be sacrificed, and reigned for a short whileÖ in some cultures, the sacrificial animal is kept for a while as a family member. All that, to show you how complex these things are. The sacrificed are not just collaterals of a religious hoax as the Marxists would have it, nor just food for the gods, but the embodiment of deep mass fears that must be alleviated by sending representatives or redeemers to the gods in order to make peace with them. And these representatives are very close to the ones that rule, as symbols go. They used to be interchangeable in many cultures. They both stem from the same mass subconscious fears and have similar functions, although obviously with very different outcomes. But here in this story, itís really all the same since Pal-ul-don is a Xanadu-like allegory. Tarzan really IS the god-king of his inner world, and his new self saves him from his own bad passions, who want to kill his ego/self and rape his soul. The sacrificial stone, like the throne, are supposed to be the places where the terrestrial order is restored/ maintained and the relation with the gods preserved. We know how it usually fared in the real world, but here we are in the inner world of the soul. Here the Hero defeats the bad tendencies with his purer/ newer self, and order and unity are restored.
And since we got here, we must talk about Korak. I already said above I was going to come back to him and here I do exactly that. The final gesture that saves the day belongs to him, and it is normal, since heís the "new man", who puts into practice and finishes what his sires have begun. By doing that he also saves the old man, the self from before the maturation. Korak is more like the "newer twin" of Tarzan. Heís the alter ego of the unified individuality John/Jane Ė Janus/Jana (after all he really is their combination) that quits the pacified and ordered inner world for good.
Tarzan to a degree IS the throne, the axis/the pyramid, the sacrificial stone. They are part of him since they are the inner tools that elevate his self and soul. Korak is the thunder and the word.
The killing of the Evil Trinity is a bit unorthodox, in the sense that usually the Hero kills them personally, in close and rightful combat. Here, Korak kills them from afar. But itís not as unorthodox as it seems: we said above Korak is in fact the New Tarzan that comes out of the trials and triumphs over adversity and saves his old self. Besides, in fairytales the defeat of the BG is not always decided by rightful fight: letís remember the troll with no heart, heís manipulated by the girl to reveal his weakness and is killed from distance. Sometimes, itís a friend of the Hero who does it.
Anyway, Tarzan is saved by the thunder of Korak while he is upon the sacrificial stone. Hercules really dies and goes to Zeus once he burns his human side on the mount Oeta and becomes a god. According to some myths itís Zeus himself who lightens the pyre with his thunderbolt. In a modern tale which is not of the high-fantasy type, we cannot have that, so the apotheosis must be implied, and the hero must continue to live his mortal life. And the thunder comes from a gun.
The new religion is very masculine since it is centered on the very manly Dor-ul Otho and his solar couple with the blonde Jane, and their thunderous son. But it is officiated by women as an equilibrium. Tarzan said during his first "preaching" that the treasures must be put upon the altars instead of the victims. Now that the cult has been changed, they can do it. As I said above, the treasures mean the unused potential for spiritual elevation. Now they can use them.
The new order comes with the peace between Waz and Hos, meaning between instincts and elevated impulses, and Ja-don, the lion and the light of revelation and righteousness, becomes king. The new dynasty the "godsíí install on the throne is also very solar, the lion being a very solar symbol as well.
The Ďídivineíí family departs the inner world of the soul by riding the dragon together and passing together the marshes of the vile tendencies, this time effortlessly. What was scattered has been reunited, says the riddle of the symbolists. Purusha/Adam Kadmon has been put together again and has full force and full energy and full virtue and full self-awareness and full affectivity, nothing is lacking anymore. The Hero has saved his ego/individuality, his soul, has pacified his instincts and killed the bad ones, has renewed his spiritual concepts and killed the bad ones, has put rightful ones in charge of his inner world, has become a new man and has tamed the abyss and the vileness.
Some more reflections about our heroes and their relation to the bigger picture: so, in this story we have all the typical characters that a good fairy tale has, only rearranged for modern sensibilities. Just as in traditional fairytales, the author has the freedom to improvise as long as he respects the Archetypes.
But then, we have to address the apparent problems with the traditional schema. Letís see what do I mean:
What about the lack of "secondary magic actor"? You know, like the magic horse, the golden fish etc. Well, maybe this is all replaced byÖ Luck. As weíve seen, luck is insanely present in the life of the main characters in the Burroughs Universe. Maybe in their case, luck comes to them directly instead of acting through encounters with magic beings. As for luck, we discussed it, itís the secret help of the destiny/ divinity(es) who use the Hero to change reality. In this particular story, there would be the Gryfs that are ridden, but they are not so much magical helpers as tamed forces of chaos.
What about the lack of "macho end"? Itís not Tarzan who kills the BGs. Usually, the Hero decimates all the BGs of the fairyland. Yeah, but Korak does it. And Korak, as we explained above, is the younger alter ego of TarzanÖ As for the fact of the BGs not dying in fair fight, well, that also doesnít always happen in the fairytales as I already said, and besides they were never fair themselvesÖ Plus, itís better for public edification when politico-religious evil dies with a bang, very literally speaking hereÖ
What about the difference of temper between the traditional fairytale heroes and the Burroughsian ones? I mean, the latter are much less docile than the first. That is not to say there are no ballsy and original characters in the fairytales, but generally speaking, the heroes of old just seem to follow the dictates of destiny according to a quite strict program, and the secondary actors tutor them, sometimes a lot. Burroughsian heroes, they too are helped by destiny but they donít act like it. They are more freelance, more Nietzschean, a bitÖ also, the old heroes are usually not that original, whereas the Burroughsian heroes are much more individualized and also more ironic, more full of gumption. Thatís the modern influence on the storyline. We talked about the Trickster aspect of them, how they share the Shadow with the BG, a bit, and how interesting it is.
What about the lack of magical helping objects, like no magic sword or such? Oh, but there is one, the gun of Korak. Itís not magic by itself, but the story makes it so: remember how specially is it treated and handled? As if we were warned from its apparition that it was going to be crucialÖ And there are others: the mace of the pal-ul-donians that Tarzan uses at times against them. I talked above how the fairytale Hero often uses the mace of the BG against him, and how "dick-measuring -contest-like" it isÖ Tarzanís rope could be the incarnation of the magic whipÖ
I talked above about the hexagram-like structure of the heroes and heroines and their relations. Against them comes the double arrow of the BGs: priest-king-false god, plus gryf-bad blacks-Pan-sat. But here I want to talk a bit more about this six-pointed structure. Its symbolism is richer than what I said above.
It also means the Reflection/Analogy, the projection of the Archetype into the material world: the Ďías above so below encountered in Gnosticism. Itís also the expressions of the two natures of Man, material and divine.
The hexagram is reducible to the tridimensional cross, which expresses the three dimensions of space. Or the World Tree with its roots (principles) and branches (manifestations of the principles). It can also be the Stickman, or Squatter man, very present in petroglyphs and which symbolize the Celestial Man, the archetype of the material one. The same symbol means energy, it is used to symbolize the thunderbolt of the gods in many traditions. You may think Iím rambling but the whole story has to do with spiritual elevation from a more animalic, brutal and disorganized state toward a more structured and divine state. And there are signs that show this thing to be quite fundamental to the story, like the gun of Korak being fired only to conclude the whole thing and being associated with the Thunder of the god and to the confirmation of the divinity of our heroes.
And about the lakes of Pal-ul-don: to be honest I couldnít find as much symbolism in these as I had hoped. I already said water bodies have a profoundly feminine symbolic significance. And they have the function of symbolizing phases of the evolution of the Soul, of course, since the soul is Jane/the goddess. (Remember, the soul is always female when in relation with the Divine, the Church as Bride of Christ and all, itís a quite universal view of things in fact, Hindus also say all souls are the women of Krishna). The dark lake is the regression in the original Matrix. Jane plunges in the lake of Gold which is a way of saying that she finds herself, she being golden as well. She evades vile lust (Mo-sar) and baptizes herself into her own "goldness" in order to become Diana.
But thatís about it. I had hoped each lake symbolizes one of the girls for example and that I could find relations between them. I didnít. The lakes are four according to the very map drawn by ERB himself. One is unnamed, one is dark and one is golden, that was promising, but the fourth lake is just "great" and repeatedly described as blue. So, if there is a match with some symbols, itís too subtle for meÖ
There are in this story two levels of symbolism: the ones that are zodiacal/solar, which are cosmic. And then there are the ones having to do with the Pole, which are supra-cosmic. This is why the meaning of the story is both self-searching and mystical, a bit. Itís both about searching oneself and searching for the absolute. Tarzan searching for Jane is the first, the religious problems in Pal-ul-don being the other.
Since the first is more important in the story, we may conclude that the said story is chiefly about the Small Mysteries, which is the terrestrial love used as a bit of a metaphor for the mystical love. Itís about the Man that elevates himself from mundane to spiritual. It is NOT about the Great Mysteries, meaning the elevation from Spiritual to Mystical.
Now, since we talked so much Gnostic and Theosophic stuff like Sophia and her shadows, or the Sutratma, we can ask ourselves: was ERB a Gnostic/Theosophist? Well, Iíd say only partially: he takes a lot from Gnostic symbolism and he builds a spirit-world to symbolize the inner workings of the soul, but this is not only a story about the main entity, which is to say "Tarzan" and his components. At the end we see the whole humanity of this inner world getting a redemption, and it is well emphasized. Usually the inner worlds are abandoned and forgotten once they fulfilled the purpose to mature the soul for one stage of its evolution. The Xanadu of Kubla Khan is abandoned for Mount Abora, although with regret. The ship of the Ancient Mariner sinks. Not here, here the spirit world is redeemed. Itís not just pure imagination and personal stuff, they have their own existence. This is only marginally gnostic/ theosophic. On the whole, ERB seems to be more inspired than initiated.
One more thing I wonder, and linked to the question above, was ERB a "conscious" real author, a semi-conscious, or an unconscious one? What I mean is, was he deliberately and methodically using symbols and archetypes like Dante or Jung, was he surprised when inspired but afterwards owning it and working with it, like Coleridge, or was he accidentally inspired and not even realizing it? I think in his case itís something between the second and third situation. He appears to have a certain awareness about being inspired but also sort of being dismissive and ironic about it. Was he a bit scared, unconscious of what was happening to him or was it just his "jester/trickster" side that was playing then? We donít know but I suspect something like that: he was a bit conscious without fully owning it and sometimes denying it. Which doesnít stop his Opus to be Inspired, for True Authors are more like vessels and resonance boxes of the Archetypes. They can be weavers of stories but compared to the archetypal side, itís secondary. This is why most of us remember Tarzan not Burroughs. This is why Tarzan can live on and fascinate the public even when his adventures are almost entirely separated from the original frame and storyline. One can be Inspired without (fully) realizing it and even without taking it too seriously.
Therefore, I donít think he was covertly advertising Gnosticism. Not consciously anyway. I think his irony towards religion(s) supersedes the sympathies he might have had towards any of them. After all, most readers fail to see this aspect of him. They just love how he gives literary flesh to the archetypes.
The fact that ERB was writing mostly juvenalia and pulp doesnít stop him at all from being a True Author. Many true writers have disguised profound creations under the guise of silliness. In fact to proceed like this would even be a mark of this hidden greatness.
Yes his symbolism is not always precise because ERB was after all a man of his time, which is to say an ironic rational scientific American of the early 20th century. In a world obsessed with logical and pragmatic things, he recreates a myth, by using old archetypes but putting them into modern frames of reference. I think not only was he only half conscious of what his inspiration was making him do, but he was somewhat fighting it, not wanting to wax too mystical/poetic/whatever wasnít fitting to his zeitgeist. Nevertheless, he succeeded, especially here, to write a very good symbolist piece, one of the best in all literature I think.
And since ERB used so many symbols in many of his stories and in this story in particular, we become aware that he draws from many traditions and philosophies not all of which have unanimous approval among us. Some philosophies and doctrines are pleasing to us, others not so. And it depends upon the reader, it they fit his or not. But me, Iím not here to debate if I approve his Gnosticism or not, or if I find all of his encoded ideas fitting with my own convictions. Not all are fitting. I donít subscribe to Gnosticism in general. Some of the symbols are not to my taste. And even though I frequently bring Rene Guenon into discussion, for he is the one who made me discover the symbolism in literature and mythology, Iím not a faithful disciple of his, for I donít subscribe to his general idea that all sacred traditions are equivalent and compatible. Many concepts are incompatible from one dogma to another. As for the Archetypes, they are true, but their interpretation not always.
So, my objective hasnít been to advertise Gnosticism or to preach the universal value of all spiritual symbols. My objective here has just been to prove that ERB did a great work of symbolism under the disguise of juvenalia, and that is mission accomplished.
I donít want any confusion here: I must make very clear that by doing the analysis above, Iíve been dead serious. I didnít make anything up. I analyzed the story according to all that I could master out of the science of sacred symbols and archetypes. If I made something up I specified that these were hypotheses or suppositions. I had fun doing it, but it has been fun WITH them, NOT AT THEM.
I hope you enjoyed it too.
CRISTIAN SILDAN ARTICLES IN ERBzine
MEET CRISTIAN SILDAN
Tarzan in Pal-ul-Don: A symbolist analysis I
Tarzan in Pal-ul-Don: A symbolist analysis II
Interpretation of ERB: Bold Barsoom Questions I
Interpretation of ERB: Bold Barsoom Questions II
Interpretation of ERB: Bold Barsoom Questions III
Interesting Survivability Rates
Tarzan and Nemone of the City of Gold
Barsoom Analysis Part I: Demography, Polity, Society and Economy
Barsoomian Analysis II: Sociology and Morality
Barsoomian Analysis III: Girl, Reconstructed
More Barsoomologist and Amtorianist Musings
The Religion of Manator: Cristian Sildan and Den Valdron
OTHER PAL-UL-DON REFERENCES IN ERBzine
ERB C.H.A.S.E.R: Tarzan the Terrible
Monkey Men of Pal-ul-Don by Den Valdron
Tarzan the Terrible Compendium
Jane in Pal-ul-Don: Russ Manning Series
Tarzan Returns fo Pal-ul-Don: Russ Manning Series
Tarzan's Pal-ul-Don Adventure Continues: Russ Manning Series
Maltheusian Decimation in Pal-ul-Don by Rick Johnson
A REVOLUTIONARY INTERPRETATION OFTHE WORK OF ERB I
A Revolutionary Interpretation of the Work of ERB I
A Revolutionary Interpretation of the Work of ERB II
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