Coffee & Wisdom 02.54: Dancing in the Chapel Perilous Part 5
David Breeden is speaking all week about the psychological images that become embedded in talking about how the mind works..
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Hello, I’m David Breeden, I’m the senior minister at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, a historically humanist congregation. And this is Coffee and wisdom. This week we’ve been looking at dancing in the chapel, perilous at an old literary trope that has taken on all kinds of meanings. As we have discovered, it all begins, at least in the English language and as far as we know, because there may be some lost French texts that preceded this, but it all begins in fourteen eighty five with Lamport Dorotka by Thomas Mallery. A Night in Prison in London and the title of one chapter, Chapter 15, is How Sir Lancelot Came into the Chapel Perilous and Gachet there of a dead corpse, a piece of cloth and a sword. And I did share early in the week how this is written. It’s very flat. Not a lot of excitement going on in the in the text, but that is where it all starts in the English language. Nowadays, however, through an odd but traceable as we’ve done this week, a series of events, the Chapel Palace has become a meme tied to the hero’s journey, conspiracy theories, the occult and neo shamanism, and to the point that someone nowadays can ask for a lecture. Is society itself now trapped in chapel perilous? One of the things that I should point out about Chapel Perilous is that it is like that because that’s the way romance languages work.
The adjective is nearly always after the noun. So chapel peerless in contemporary English, it would be peerless chapel. But that just doesn’t sound as cool, does it? And so it retains the romance language construction there. I went through Joseph Campbell very quickly, a constructivist from the midnight twentieth century, the hero with a thousand faces. His book from the nineteen fifties is very famous and still used as a textbook for teaching plot, not for a specifically spiritual, actual spiritual journeys, but for the idea of how to construct a plot. Joseph Campbell says this in that book, The Journey of the Hero is about the courage to seek the depths, the image of creative rebirth, the eternal cycle of change within us, the uncanny discovery that the seeker is the mystery which the seeker seeks to know. The hero journey is a symbol that binds in the original sense of the word to distant ideas. The spiritual quest of the ancients with the modern search for identity always the one shapeshifting, yet marvelously constant story that we find. So you see here that Campbell is conflating several ideas. The hero journey. But the hero journey, in his estimation any way, also is a spiritual journey. And this becomes part of the chapel. Perilous story, one of the works of art that comes directly out of the hero with a thousand faces.
Joseph Campbell was a consultant on the film, was the original trilogy of the Star Wars cycle. And specifically, we can see this in the Planet Digable Sequence in which Luke goes down into a very, very scary cave, fights with Darth Vader and kills Darth Vader, only to find that he has decapitated himself in a single combat. That, of course, is very much part of the chapel. Perilous story that you had, that your real fears are what you create in your own mind. And so very it looks perhaps strange to people who don’t understand or haven’t read about the Chapel Palace motif, but it makes perfect sense for those who know how this works. I should mention the Dego about a cave snake, the plans for this down at the bottom. Right. It looks a lot like a medieval dragon. The only thing it’s lacking there and from medieval dragon illustrations is legs. So it’s it’s a dragon with that left, but definitely trying to create the idea that this is very medieval. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a union analyst at American Union analyst Robert Johnson, who lived from nineteen twenty one to twenty eighteen. He published one. Called the Fisher King and the handle’s maiden, understanding the wounded feeling function in masculine and feminine psychology, this is a description, publishers’ description of the book. It is very dangerous when a wound is so common in a culture that hardly anyone knows there is a problem.
Such is the case right now with our wounded feeling function, our inability to find joy, words and meaning in life. Robert Johnson, the celebrated author of He, She and We. That’s three separate books, by the way, revisits to medieval tales that illustrates how this feeling function has become a casualty of our modern times. The Fisher King is part of the Theory and Legends cycle with special reference to the Holy Grail and the peerless chapel. This goes on. Johnson tells the story of the wounded Fisher King from the Grail myth to illustrate the anxiety and loneliness that plague men from the folktale of the endless maiden. He explains the very different frustrations of women and describes how these disparities in the way we suffer. Account for much of the tension and miscommunication between men and women. His insightful analysis shows that these two stories created centuries ago are even more relevant today. Well, yeah, that’s a little bit obtuse. Their book blurb writer, because we know that that’s exactly what union psychology is all about, is finding the archetypes, the ancient mythologies that inform the way the human mind works. So the Fisher King and the handle’s made. You may know that in the early 90s there was a movie called The Fisher King starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges. We have spent some time on an entire parody religion that develops out of Jeff Bridges at his work and a little bit later, film The Fisher King and the ads for the movie.
You can see that we do have the Grail prominently featured there as a kind of subliminal message to how this is going to shake out and what he’s actually doing. He is Robin Williams is the Fisher King homeless guy who must really reacquaint himself with himself in order to get out of this endless cycle. And that is, of course, the case of the Fisher King story as well. The tale of the Hamlet’s maiden is not part of the theory and legends. It is part of Grimm’s fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm published this particular tale in 1812. This is a story for another day, because, as we know, if you keep up with American popular culture, the Brothers Grimm have become quite the hot topic these days. They aren’t getting any royalties anymore. Both of them are long gone. But they’re the collections that they did are still very much with us because, again, they appear to have to be accessing mental archetypes or if they’re not, if union psychology doesn’t quite get it right. At least people very much resonate with these ideas. Here’s a book, a recent book, Disability, Deformity and Disease in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. And prominently on the front is the handlers made the story of the Hamlet’s maiden to be very quick about it is that her father is a Miller or the miller is going broke and his family is starving.
And so he makes a deal with the devil. The devil says, sure, I can make your meal work and everyone will be bringing you grain and you will get rich. All I will ask is one gift in return a little bit later, very much as the usual devil deals go in mythology and indeed the business takes off. The miller is, well, fabulously wealthy and his family. But the devil demands the hands of the oldest daughter, so she becomes the handler’s maiden. And it is a meditation on the worth of women in patriarchal culture. And this is where it’s taken in by union psychologists in books such as disability, deformity and disease in the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. So what Robert Johnson is doing is going to the theory and legend for men saying that men exist in a place of position in our society. And when that position is lost, men are lost. And the idea that women are necessarily made into infantile people in our society and that women must realize that they are handlers within American patriarchal society and must figure out how then to be agents within American society. To give you a very brief overview of how that particular motif shakes out.
I have mentioned several times Robert Anton Wilson, who deals with this quite a bit. The idea and one of his books is called Cosmic Trigger. There’s one, two and three. Again, those of you who know the Perati religions know that the little running pyramid there is the symbol of the Belgian Illuminati, an invented group of of super evil, controlling conspiracy people. It is the final vision of the Illuminati that he’s talking about. And this is the chapel perilous. And Wilson says this and researching occult conspiracies. One eventually faces a crossroad of mythic proportions called chapbook perilous. In the trade. You come out the other side either stoned, paranoid or agnostic. There is no third way. I came out agnostic. So his idea is that the that the chapel, pyrolysis, some kind of psychological journey, that a crisis that occurs, very unioned in that way. Young thought that all psychological crises are about either staying the same, going down or going up the psychological mental ladder there. Wilson goes on to say, Everything you fear is waiting with slavering jazz in chapel perilous. But if you are armed with the wand of intuition, the cup of sympathy, the sort of reason and the pentacle of valor you will find there, the legend say the medicine of metals, the elixir of life, the philosopher’s stone, true wisdom and perfect happiness. Well, yes, we know these symbols, don’t we? There is the good old English OK wand of Merlin that figures prominently then in the Harry Potter tales.
It isn’t this fancy thing with emeralds and gold. Nope, it’s just a nice little carved stick of English. OK, and yes, that goes back to the theory and tales. Here we have the Holy Grail from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a takeoff on this. But yes, very much a part of the story, the cup of sympathy. And then armed with the sword of reason and the pentacle of valor, the pentacle being the symbol both of good and evil, according to which way it’s pointed in this one, we have the one point up and therefore this is good. It’s white magic instead of satanic magic. Which turns it upside down so that the two pinnacles go up and which is the symbol of the goat or of Satan. So here we have good symbols that are going to lead to this series of good things, which are mostly out of alchemical ideas of the Middle Ages, which we also have talked about before in coffee and wisdom. Wilson goes on to say, That’s what the legend always says. The language of myth is poetically precise. For instance, if you go into the realm without the sort of reason, you will lose your mind. But at the same time, if you take only the sort of reason without the cup of sympathy, you will lose your heart.
Even more remarkably, if you approach without the wand of intuition, you can stand at the door for decades, never realizing you have arrived. You might think you are just waiting for a bus or wandering from room to room, looking for your cigarets, watching a TV show, or reading a cryptic and ambiguous book. Chappell Perilous is tricky that way. Wilson pointing out that this is a psychological journey toward illumination or not. It can also be a journey to further confusion and paranoia. That’s his idea here. And as we discussed yesterday, Que Sharman’s New Age radical right blend hints at the blurring of seemingly disparate categories. Wilson, who did die back in thousand seven, would, if he were alive, say yes. This guy went into chapel petrolist and didn’t come out as an agnostic. Rather, he came out stoned, paranoid, as Wilson would have phrased it, and as we saw yesterday, a jumble of of ancient symbols that don’t add up to what the Kuhnen shaman think. They add up to an old symbol for those on the graves of those who were killed in battle that they had gone to Warhola now used, unfortunately, as a racist symbol, the hammer of Thor. This is the black son that was co-opted by the Nazis, especially the South, and then see the world tree with runes on it, because Odin, the great God of the Norse mythologies, was hanged on it, much like a crucifixion.
And when he someone poked a spear into his side, he bled the fouth arc, the the ruins, the holy runes that were used only for sacred writings. But again, a very confused way of using ancient Scandinavian and Germanic symbols that don’t mean what people tend to think they mean these days. They’ve taken on some much more sinister meanings and hateful meanings in our own time. Well, what’s going to happen next? We have properness and you, who you can follow on Twitter if you’re a Twitter person proper, not invest as an investigative hip hop phenomenologists. What’s that? Well, if you’ve been following along with coffee and wisdom, you know that phenomenology. It was a early 20th century philosophical movement. Edmund, who was a German philosopher, that this idea goes into Heidegger and then into EUPOL day and infringes existentialism and becomes quite a thing in Continental philosophy, doesn’t really across the pond over to the US, but now it has sort of investigative hip hop phenomenologists. Author of Chappell Perilous The Life and Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson, the first official biography of the late counterculture philosopher. This book, so far as I could find, is not out yet, but there are lots and lots of fun interviews with prominent, he says. Kuhnen hopelessly lost in the participation mystique of the collective unconscious, lazy projection Prabhupada and taking responsibility for a direct confrontation with the collective unconscious with drawing projection.
So there you have it. The next step in the chapel. Perilous story on yes, lost in what Wilson calls is a stone paranoia at propagation, taking instead going into the chapel perilous with that sword of reason and the cup of sympathy, taking responsibility for a direct confrontation with the collective unconscious that would be of the United States and withdrawing the projections and saying this is what is actually here. It’s not so scary after all. By golly, it’s just all in our imaginations. Well, that is a look at what’s going on with these things. And I hope you have learned something and got something to think about this week by dancing. Around in the chapel, perilous this coming Sunday, we will be celebrating our spring equinox, that is a seasonal celebration at First Unitarian Society since we are a humanist congregation. We do celebrate the seasons, not the old European Christian holidays. I will be speaking about seed corn and tomorrow, that’s about being a little bit more careful with our natural resources. So that’s 10, 30 a.m. Central Standard Time on Sunday. And I’ll be seeing you then or next week when we’ll be talking about that wobbly wall, the separation of church and state. Thank you.