Friday 12 January 2024

Winston Churchill - a recent example illustrative of the spirituality versus materiality of national mythic archetypes

Yesterday I was discussing the Spiritual Church versus the institutional materiality of any particular (self-identified) Christian church. Much the same arguments I used there, also apply to the mythic archetypes that are so vital to our sense of belonging and participation. 

These mythic archetypes operate primarily at the spiritual level (sometimes for better, sometimes harmfully) - but it is at best misleading, and replete with significant hazards, when the physical/ material manifestation of an archetypal myth is given primacy over that myth. 

To regard the factual as the really-real destroys magic as such; and reduces it to the mundane: at worse it can corrupt, or destroy, any and all spiritual myths

An example relevant to England is Winston Churchill. There seems little doubt that in the summer of 1940, from Dunkirk through the Battle of Britain, Churchill was transformed into a national mythic archetype, which retains very considerable power even to this day. 

Churchill became like a representative character from history (King Alfred the Great, or Elizabeth I perhaps), or like a heroic character from literature (Shakespeare's Henry V) - like these in some respects, but also something new and unique. 

This Churchill archetype was crystallized in that time and place by some combination of particular national circumstances and perceived personal attributes; but once it had formed, then it became independent of Churchill "the man": independent in its reality, hence its value

However; because we moderns habitually regard the physical, material, factual, evidential as primary; this confusion or combination of Churchill the archetypal myth with Churchill the mundane person, has led to many and various problems. 

On the one hand; the material person of Churchill has been elevated and airbrushed in some minds to a dishonest degree, as if "the man" really was the myth; such that the too-old, too-ill, and barely competent, person of Churchill was elected Prime Minister in 1951.

On the other hand; a vast amount of material historical "evidence" concerning Churchill the man, has been amassed to discredit Churchill the spiritual archetype.  

Much the same degradation of magical to mundane, the material reduction of the spiritual; has happened to other archetypal mythic figures such as Sir Francis Drake, or Scott of the Antarctic; and nowadays is being incrementally extended to essentially every significant or admired figure from the nation's history on the basis of some or another asserted personal flaw, attitude, or association - or by virtue of their race, sex, class, job - or other personal classification. 

Although most often and most successfully done by "the atheistic Left", because they currently rule the West; the so-called "Right"* are also guilty of attempting exactly this reductionist tactic against the mythic archetypal heroes and heroines of socialism, feminism, antiracism etc.  

(*The "Right" are thus revealed to be in actuality merely a variant of The Left - since such arguments assume the primacy of left-atheist-materialist assumptions.) 

My point is not that mythic archetypes should never be criticized; but that they ought to be criticized for what they actually are - which is entities operating at the spiritual level. 

Therefore; to critique the national archetype of Churchill (for instance - or indeed any other mythic personage) should be done by a consideration of what that archetype really represents to the nation - and not by pretending that the historical personality is more important than the myth: which is implying that the material-physical-reduction is really-real but that the archetypal myth is merely derivative or a delusion. 

If Christians wish validly to challenge a mythic archetype of the left or any other evil spiritual entity; then that ought not be attempted by pointing-out the inevitable - because human, but strictly irrelevant - flaws of the material man or woman around-whom that spiritual archetype crystallized. 

But instead be done by a consideration of the spiritual evils intrinsic to that myth; and perhaps by suggesting better national archetypes, of which there are many. 


Mia said...

This post perfectly explains what I dislike about both biographies and the type of person who likes (standard) biographies.

Stephen Macdonald said...

The concept of mundane person yielding up a spiritual archetype that in some cases crystallizes into legend suddenly crystalized for me thanks to this post.

Suddenly the relentless corrosive attacks on all such legendary figures in my own country of Canada have snapped into clear focus.

Geir said...

Chesterton has become such a spiritual archetype to quite many people, to the degree that the most intense followers even take up his vices. Which is rather sad.