Thomas Carlyle's Hero


There is no more enduring theme in the truly Western body of literature, religion, and philosophy than that of the hero. From the Celtic history of Conn of the Hundred Battles to Heracles, Ulysses, Siegfried and Beowulf, it resounds. Not only does Western thought embrace the hero, as do all cultures, it, one could postulate, uniquely apotheosizes the hero and heroism. This practice is rooted in the heroic ages, where, as in the Iliad, the heroes of both sides have unique access to the Gods and Goddesses. In the Nordic Theology, we see Orvandel approximate a union with the Aesir, transcending his mortality through heroism. In the East are countless examples of immortals, such as the Taoists mention, or the Perfect Man of Shi-yo to whom Chuang Tzu refers, whereby immortality or god-like status was achieved through virtue. There are 'ascensions' to another plane by an Old Testament prophet in Jewish Mythology and there are even alleged to be immortals alive in the world and directing its events from behind the scenes in the paths of Sufism, Siddan-thom, and Toltec sorcery.

Where the West gets onto a different, Aryan experience, is that the hero is the man who transcends with dirt under his fingernails and the dust of battle in his throat. He transcends through the savage rough-and-tumble of Nature, not through some sort of imagined escape from or transcendence of Nature. Is this a contradiction? Not at all; he transcends his socially imposed and self imposed limitations, and the binding force of personal needs and wants but the hero is simply the best of Nature and is not thought to transcend Her. In the West, too, the hero is known not only for physical skill or bravery, but also for inculcation of mental qualities, for cultivation of a superior sense of insight, a Higher vision and comprehension.

Thomas Carlyle, the 19th Century C.E. Scottish philosopher and his recent interpreters, like Lehman, tried to define and discuss the role of the hero in Western thought and letters:

"Such a world, provided some men are aware of the inner Reality while other men move merely in the outward sphere of things, presents itself as a colossal irony. The true significance of a word or an act is not apparent to the ordinary man. Like a character in a play, he has a very partial comprehension or none at all of the full meaning of what is said or done. Thorough comprehension is for one who understands all, as the spectator outside the play perceives the dramatic irony, as Fate outside the train of events fully appreciates all the implications of each event. This thorough comprehension, this understanding of the 'Real' or 'True' significance of utterance and deed is reserved to the able man, whom Carlyle calls Hero. The Hero is in this sense the spectator of the 'show of existence', viewing it in the light of Divine Truth. When he interprets the 'show' to men in this light, it is as if a fully informed spectator should cry out warning to Duncan (ed-from Shakespeare's MACBETH), bound for Inverness, that a deeper meaning lay in that most ghastly

'He that's coming

Must be provided for.'

It is as if the Spirit Sinister in The Dynasts were to make his explanations to the crawling figures that infest the map of Europe. In the gigantic irony of the world, the Hero is he who comprehends- and speaks or acts. The ordinary man, enmeshed in the complicated semblance of the 'show' will speak and act, but without comprehension.

Comprehension is not Carlyle's word. He has several to designate the quality. His system is not perfectly formulated- its nomenclature not chosen- and he falls, first upon one word, then upon another, coming finally to conclude that no one word will do his service. Desperately, then, he equates all the words he has been using. And for us the result of all this will be that we shall have at first to seem over-elaborate in statement.

The Hero as Man of Letters is 'genuine', he has an 'inspired soul'. 'I say inspired; for what we call 'originality,' 'sincerity,' 'genius,' the heroic quality we have no good name for, signifies that.' From the equation of these terms, by ranging significant passages we should be able to proceed to define the 'heroic quality' which I have tentatively named "comprehension." In presenting the matter some repetition is inescapable, for repetition is Carlyle's method.

In the first lecture the following data toward such definition are to be found. The Great Man is 'the light which enlightens, which has enlightened the darkness of the world; and this not as a kindled lamp only, but rather as a natural luminary shining by the gift of heaven; a flowing light fountain, as I say, of native original insight, of manhood and heroic nobleness'. To save the time from ruin, a man must be 'great enough,...wise and good enough': have 'wisdom to discern what the Time wanted, valour to lead it on the right road tither,' Odin, 'the first Norse Man of genius,...the great Thinker came, the original man, the Seer; whose shaped spoken Thought awakes the slumbering capability of all into Thought. It is ever the way of the Thinker, the spiritual Hero.'

Or what if this man Odin, -since a great deep soul, with the afflatus and mysterious tide of vision and impulse rushing on him he knows not whence, is ever an enigma, a kind of terror and wonder to himself, -should have felt that perhaps he was divine; that he was some effluence fo the "Wuotan," "Movement.: Supreme Power and Divinity, of whom to his rapt vision all Nature was the awful Flame-image; that some effluence of Wuotan dwelt here in him... Valour is the fountain of Pity too;- of Truth, and all that is great and good in man. [ed.-Carlyle here participates in the practice of euhemerism, whereby he follows the lead of Christian monks who tried to explain away the Gods and Goddesses of our Folk as race-heroes who became legendary in order to dissuade Nordic converts from any sort of dual loyalties- he later corrects himself]

"The most precious gift that Heaven can give to the Earth: a man of 'genius' as we call it; the Soul of a Man actually sent down to us from the skies with a God's-Message to us.' [of course, we all know that Oðin often appears on the Earth in disguise, hence one of His names is Grimnir, the Masked One]

I should say sincerity, a deep, great, genuine sincerity, is the first characteristic of all men in any way heroic. Not the sincerity that calls itself sincere; ah no, that is a very poor matter indeed;--a shallow braggart conscious sincerity; oftenest self-conceit mainly. The Great Man's sincerity is of the kind he can not speak of, is not conscious of: nay, I suppose, he is conscious rather of insincerity; for what man can walk accurately by the law of Truth for one day? No, the Great Man does not boast himself sincere, far from that; perhaps does not depend on himself;; he cannot help being sincere! The great Fact of Existence is great to him. Fly as he will, he cannot get out of the awful presence of this Reality. His mind is so made; he is great by that, first of all. Fearful and wonderful, real as Life, real as Death, is this Universe to him. Though all men should forget its truth, and walk in a vain show, he cannot. At all moments the Flame-image glares in upon him; undeniable, there, there!-- I wish you to take this as my primary definition of a Great Man. . . .

Such a man is what we call an original man; he comes to us at first hand. A messenger he, sent from the Infinite Unknown [again, Carlyle is using Pagan constructs- the Infinite of the Semitic faiths is far from unknown and is set forth in painstaking detail- this is none other than Ginungagap] with tidings to us. We may call him Poet, Prophet, God;--in one way or other, we all feel that the words he utters are as no other man's words. Direct from the inner Fact of things;--he lives, and has to live, in daily communion with that. Hearsays cannot hide it from him; he is blind, hopeless, miserable, following hearsays; it glares in upon him. Really his utterances, are they not a kind of 'revelation';-- what we must call such for want of some other name? It is from the heart of the world that he comes; he is portion of the primal reality of things.'" (pp45-47)

"The hero is he who lives in the inward sphere of things in the True, Divine, and Eternal, which exists always, unseen to most, under the Temporary, Trivial.... The 'inward sphere of things,' implying a genuine reality under the apparent reality, is the condition of hero existence. Were there no world of semblances of the 'Temporary, Trivial' overlying a world of Fact, 'the True, Divine, and Eternal,' there would be no hero. " (p.41-42)

"The merit of originality is not novelty- it is sincerity." (p. 49)

"A Hero. . .has this first distinction,. . .that he looks through the show of things into things." (48)

[the above discussion is from Carlyle's Theory of the Hero by Benjamin H. Lehman]

Lehman does a credible job in highlighting Carlyle, who wrote in a more complex manner during an age when leisure was more assured. It is withal a very interesting book. Now, we shall hear more on the subject, and some very illuminating comments on our faith and the very God of Heroes from Carlyle himself. The edition confirms the wisdom of shopping library book sales. This slender, antique bound 375 page volume was a collection of Carlyle's essays with editing by John Chester Adams, Ph.D. in the Riverside College Classics, pub. 1907 Cambridge, titled, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History by Thomas Carlyle. The opulent era seemed to produce a number of men in the same mold, Nietzsche, Clemons, Shaw, Yeats, Mencken, and Ignatius Donnely, sharing many of the same philosophical interests, above all in the upward evolutionary potential of man.

This passage is a moving review of how Wotan is both a Force in the Multiverse and, at various times, a person possessed of that force. Here, Carlyle also provides some background for the name of the All-Father. As a very open-minded Christian, however, he misses the obvious other identity of the name, and that is the Divine Being, Whom any Aryan who opens his heart can know as a living Power.

"Grimm, the German Antiquary, goes so far as to deny that any man Odin ever existed. He proves it by etymology. The word Wuotan, which is the original form of Odin, a word spread, as name of their chief Divinity, all over the Teutonic Nations everywhere; this word, which connects itself, according to Grimm, with the Latin vadere, with the English wade and suchlike,-- means primarily Movement, Source of Movement, Power; and is the fit name of the highest God, not of any man. The word signifies Divinity, he says, among the old Saxon, German, and all Teutonic Nations; the adjectives formed from it all signify divine, supreme, or something pertaining to the chief God. Like enough! We must bow to Grimm in matters of etymology. Let us now consider it fixed that Wuotan means Wading, force of Movement. "

He now considers how a religious leader, a tribal priest of extraordinary evolution might have become one with the Wotan-force and become apotheosized by his own people. Carlyle must be forgiven for the imperfection of this exploration, having lived before Jung, who reminded us that Oðin is an ergrifter- a Seizer of Souls. Thence, it was and is the other way around. The God who Thought differentiated life into being can manifest Himself in some great soul, but it is not that the person so seized becomes Him. Throughout, he gives Odinism the highest respect, yet does not recognize the identity of his ideals and thoughts with it. This battle in people once christianized is a modern one, also, like the review that was sent in by a man struggling for truth, who avoids the obvious numinous reality of the Goðanum by deliberately adopting the occupier's language with such expressions as "mythology." Thus his analysis, a very reductionistic attempt to explain away the inspiration which the author experiences even at the name, fails in that, yet it stands as a lovely evocation of the person Seized:

"...what if this man Odin,-- since a great deep soul, with the afflatus and mysterious tide of vision and impulse rushing on him he knows not whence, is ever an enigma, a kind of terror and wonder to himself,-- should have felt that perhaps he was divine; that he was some effluence of the 'Wuotan,' 'Movement,' Supreme Power and Divinity, of whom to his rapt vision all Nature was the awful Flame-image; that some effluence of Wuotan dwelt here in him! He was not necessarily false; he was but mistaken, speaking the truest that he knew. A great soul, any sincere soul, knows not what he is,--alternates between the highest height and the lowest depth; can, of all things, the least measure--Himself! What others take him for, and what he guesses that he may be; these two items strangely act on one another, help to determine one another. With all men reverently admiring him; with his own wild soul full of noble ardours and affections, of whirlwind chaotic darkness and glorious new light; a divine Universe bursting all into godlike beauty round him, and no man to whom the like ever had befallen, what could he think himself to be? 'Wuotan?" All men answered, "Wuotan!"(34-35)

Later he observes, "Odinism was Valour; Christianism was Humility..."(168) and he goes on to find the common battle against degeneracy joined by great souls and Divine beings of many faiths. His final comment in this section is something which all in the White Survival Movement would do well to remember, "all genuine things are with us, not against us."

"Are not all true men . . .who ever lived, soldiers in that same army, enlisted under heaven's captaincy, to do battle against the same enemy, the empire of Darkness and Wrong? Why should we misknow one another, fight not against the enemy

but against ourselves, from mere difference of uniform? All uniforms shall be good, so they hold in them valiant men. All fashions of arms, the Arab turban and swift scimetar, Thor's strong hammer smiting down Jotuns, shall be welcome. Luther's battle-voice, Dante's march-melody, all genuine things are with us, not against us."

One of the most revealing changes to modern consciousness is the breadth of Carlyle's thinking. To him the hero is far beyond the modern archetype created by the sensationalist film industry, which represents heroism as a sybaritic libertine with rippling muscles. Carlyle's hero is that of National Socialism, a person of ideals who lives in transcendence. He recognizes in the book the hero as man of letters, poet, prophet, priest, and king. It far from being the province only of someone in the profession of war.

Had he been writing this today, perhaps Carlyle would have added another category- the hero as scientist. There was an interview with Georg Von Tiesenhausen, the last of the Penemeunde rocket scientists brought to the U.S. after the last fratricidal war to set up the American space program. He had worked with Wehrner Von Braun since the early days of the German ballistic missile program and was the last of those scientists to retire, in 1987. He related how in 1940 Dr. Von Braun had difficulty with the guidance systems on what was to become the V-1 guided missile. To learn where they were landing on a test range, he stood at ground zero with a pair of binoculars and watched!

It is there, the archetype of the hero, in the sagas, in the Eddas, an in the Seiðr, and we all must learn to see the hero not as something distant, a lonely man on an uneven terrain of battle, but as the parents struggling to maintain their children on an adequate diet while their earning power is eroded by skilled jobs being relocated to the Third World by capitalists. It is people with disabilities choosing to ignore the pain and be functional to the highest degree despite pain. Heroism is the Aryan who defies peer pressure to use drugs, to adopt Third World slang and lifestyles in his high school, who acts White even if that causes ostracism. In the broadest sense heroism is just that seizure by the Goðanum which takes one past the conventionally defined limits.

We look at the Hero through the priest, the litterateur, those who record the warrior's life. He strides, not self-consciously, toward a blazing sunset, the silver runes against his soiled black tunic, catching the orange-gold of the sky, his face weary, creased with the cares of the eternal battle, yet calm. We ask what, besides the willingness to face incredible danger, or even hopeless situations, like Cherkassy, it is that profiles him to us. All were transcenders, who sought a goal higher even than that of tribal survival, who sought in some wise to transcend the limitations of existence itself.

Even an animal can show remarkable ability to survive hardship. The hero is not the villager who merely holes up the winters of life and history merely to survive and feed his progeny- any fox or eagle would do as much. She will survive and go beyond survival, teaching the children a useful craft and heritage in a poorly lit cottage- the heroic person not only preserves the folk or progeny, but transforms them. No, it is the one, who, even under adversity, even under the threat of annihilation, with Loki's legions at the gates, still works for the Higher Life, the sharecropper who, bone-weary after a dawn-to-dusk day, makes time to help his son with reading, or to read on his own to be a better parent and farmer. (Such a man was once in Eastern Tennessee- he survived the Depression, put three sons through college, following his own example in self-education.) So, perhaps he instead wears faded overalls, but there is the same straight posture and proud bearing.

It is those who face great difficulty, even withering criticism, yet continue to be high-minded, to act with Aryan Bearing in the teeth of a world that asks us to be anything but noble. They have put the lower self, the instant gratifications far behind, and sublimated themselves to a higher purpose in a larger design. The hero has endured without complaining, has made do with what was and always sought to transform the baser materials of life into something grander. It is those, like Savitri Devi, who nurtured the seeds of higher life through savage repression. So, our hero or heroine stands in contrast to us, care-creased face, proud form against the rising light, so admirable and exceptional because she is so much like us. It is what any of us could be, if only we were lit from within, Seized by a tribal God for purposes and designs which may be a lifetime in unfolding which are worked through the hero, not necessarily with his comprehension. It is not mere resistance to adversity, nor the clinging to life- any rabid dog fights not to be caught, for that is instinct, not heroism. It is the location, not in denial of the self, but beyond the self of an inspired truth, of a catalyst which transforms not just the hero, but we who behold.



Carman, the Webmaster's, note:
Dedicated to the heroes of our Folk seen and unseen.
Over the centuries a secret order of warrior priest magicians have worked
with the Norse and other peoples as true unseen heroes.
Helping them protect their culture
and
evolve
in the face of great evils,
these noble men work tirelessly day and night
through the ages.



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