Planetary catastrophes have had a far greater impact on the evolution
of the solar system, the history of our earth, and the evolution of human
consciousness than science has acknowledged. - David Talbott
THEOMACHY IN THE THEATER:
on the Fringes of the Collective Amnesia
1975 by John V. Myers and Lewis M. Greeberg Summer 1975
No one who critically examines mythic texts with Velikovskian eyes can fail to be impressed by the tenacity
with which clues to the true nature of a transmuted cataclysm survive the
ingenious workings of the collective amnesia. (1)
So far as we are aware, no Japanese studio has yet produced a film dealing explicitly with
either the atomic destruction of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki or the equally devastating firebombing of Tokyo. This fact is,
in itself, interesting enough, but we have something else in mind.
Within a few years of these events (less than a decade to be exact), a steady stream of monster movies
began to pour from the Land of the Rising Sun.(2) In their scripts, the
scene is frequently (though not always) Tokyo, and the names of Hiroshima[*]
and Nagasaki are never mentioned. World War II and fire bombs are never
mentioned. There is no specific reference to the atomic bomb in a martial
context although casual and rare allusions are sometimes made to
radioactivity and H-Bomb tests.(3) There is even one isolated instance of an
atomic heat-cannon being ineffectually employed against a moth of monstrous
size.(4) But for all that, there is a definite repression of the use
or mention of atomic weaponry despite the fact that Japanese monster
movies explore the most advanced realms of science-fiction.
The overwhelming havoc which inevitably occurs in these movies is directed principally at physical
installations; consequently, considerable human life is lost in the process
as well. Destruction appears to be indiscriminate and its modus operandi
totally haphazard and irrational. The primary agents of this destruction
are invariably huge and monstrous saurians (two notable exceptions are a
giant moth—Mothra—and a resurrected King Kong).
The first and foremost of the great primordial saurians to appear on the scene (or, if one prefers, the
silver screen) bears, appropriately enough, the Anglicized theophoric name
Godzilla.(5) "The monster, shaken from its long slumber by American A-bomb
[in reality H-bomb] tests at Bikini Atoll, and given by the bomb a fiery,
radioactive halitosis, ravage[s] Tokyo several times before being brought to
Godzilla's "death" at the hands of a modern-styled Japanese St. George— Dr.
Serizawa— "a self-sacrificing Japanese scientist, who dissolves
the monster and himself in Tokyo Bay"(7) is only temporary.
however. The Pandora's Box of monsters, once opened, is not so
easily closed. Like the unstoppable broom of Walt Disney's
Fantasia or the nightmarish monsters released in the art of the
Swiss-born painter Fuseli(8) and the Spanish artist Goya,(9)
Godzilla returns again and again often accompanied by an entirely
new array of monsters each uniquely bizarre, potent, and terrifying
in its own right. In fact, the hapless Japanese are forced to
cinematically relive their horrifying experiences in a never ending
cycle of doom as each new movie relentlessly repeats an unvarying
scenario of death and disaster. In the meantime, the viewer can
only wonder at the spectacle of repetitious self-punishment which
the Japanese inflict upon themselves as though undergoing a ritual
of masochistic penitence.
With reference to the above discussion, it is instructively worthwhile to momentarily
digress and compare the twentieth century Japanese cinematic
canvases, replete with assorted monsters, to the work of the
eighteenth century master Fuseli. "A German acquaintance of [the
1770s] described him as 'extreme in everything—Shakespeare's
painter.' Shakespeare and Michelangelo were indeed his twin gods;
he even visualized a Sistine chapel with Michelangelo's figures
transformed into Shakespearean characters, where the Sublime would
be the common denominator for 'classic' and 'Gothic' Romanticism."(10)
. . . Fuseli's most impressive picture—famous ever since its
appearance in 1782—is the Nightmare (Detroit, Inst. of Arts), and
since he said that 'one of the least explored regions of art is that
of dreams,' he has been acclaimed as the painter of dreams and the
subconscious. Moreover, since in him Michelangelesque anatomy is
combined with the violent and unrestrained gestures of the
Shakespearian theatre as represented in London at the time of his
visit, the expressionists have hailed him as a forerunner. Such
indeed he was, for his heroes were already animated by the Titanism
of the superman. The violent action of his stories inspired by
Nordic myths or the Homeric(11) poems, or by the supernatural world
of Milton, seems to evolve in an amorphous and cataclysmic world, a
magical world. His heroes and heroines wear strange improbable
robes and towering coiffures, looking like sea anemones or the wing
cases of beetles. (Fuseli was a coiffure fetishist). His fury and
his pomp seem aimless, as in a dream. For all these reasons
surrealists have been fascinated by the intensity of the passion
that invests his haunting, possessed creatures. This painter of
nightmares and satanic women . . . is a contemporary of the
Caprichos [Goya]; but he is also contemporary with the authors
of the 'black romances' and with De Sade, with their atmosphere of
outlaws, prisons, and tyrannical and fatal deeds. . . .
With Fuseli, and still more with Goya, the sense of the demonic
becomes more subtle and diffused: they no longer present specific
scenes of temptations or witchcraft, as in the [case of other
artists]. The theme is still sometimes vaguely cruel and sinister,
with something of the nature of nightmare and obsession. The Devil
is no longer a clear and well-defined personage: he pervades the
whole atmosphere, and the sense of his presence emanates from the
total effect of the picture. . . .
The quality of symmetry, which throughout Dante's Inferno constitutes a
lasting reminder of the divine order, is absent from the visions of
Goya, which surface like flotsam in a slimy whirlpool. The faces
are terrifying in their very anonymity, or because they look like
the withered trophies of headhunters. Even the evil is not made
individual: it is the impersonal creation of the crowd, the mass,
the band of witches and sorcerers who adore the Great Goat . . . .
In the Disparates, the last series of Goya engravings,
everything is counterfeit, topsy-turvy, chaotic: the disintegration
of regular forms and the combination of the most antithetical
conceptions produce a universal and monstrous disorder which proves
that the demon of stupidity has been installed as ruler of the
world. This is described at the close of Pope's Dunciad in a
passage (Book IV, 1. 649ff.) that might serve here as comment: 'Nor
human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!/ Lo! thy dread empire,
Chaos! is restor'd,/ Light dies before thy uncreating word:/ Thy
hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall,/ And universal darkness
Long before the advent of the Japanese monster movies, demonology had already been an
integral part of its culture. But, what is particularly fascinating
is the fact that the Japanese theater was partially
responsible for the absorption of age-old demoniacal imagery.
The classical Japanese No drama has placed upon the stage many of those
wicked and malevolent spirits which swarm unseen, seeking to harm
mankind, as well as persons so deformed by sinful passions as to
have all traces of human feeling effaced and to be transformed
gradually into demoniacal beings. Thus, through the masks intended
to portray them, dramatic art has fixed the characteristics or the
passions of both these classes of creatures. A special type of
mask, such as the 0-akujo with the studied monstrosity of its
aspect, represents an interior perversion. Still more fearful in
form and spirit are the tengu, which are assigned the mask called
Ko-beshimi in the No theatre. Also considered demoniacal are
the spirits of men who have died in various ways]. The origins of
these spirits or demons are very remote; but legends have
subsequently endowed them with vitality, and the vicissitudes of
religious experience have given them new and more complex
qualities. These more palpable images have since been assimilated
by popular tradition, the theater, and local cults. They are
thus the expression of a forlorn primordial humanity, vainly
searching for that poise and serenity reflected in images of the
gods or teachers of the more advanced and cultivated religions.(13)
Thus, the atomic tragedy of World War II served to revitalize the dormant yet
inherent cultural demonology of Japan by bringing to the forefront
of Japanese film theater a whole new parade of all-powerful
primeval monsters. This archetypal legacy was incidentally observed
by the eminent psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. "Ancient mythological
beings are now curiosities in museums. But the archetypes they
expressed have not lost their power to affect men's minds. Perhaps
the monsters of modern 'horror' films [Godzilla] are distorted
versions of archetypes that will no longer be repressed."(14)
A contemporary movie critic, in commenting on Japan's contribution to the "disaster
genre" in film making has also made an oblique reference to the
atomic bomb and its residual psycho-physical effect on the Japanese
people. "The Japanese monster films have been a reaction to, and
metaphor for, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In their
films, a monster comes out of the sea or the earth, towering above
the buildings, and threatens the society. Scientists are baffled
and compensate by talking faster. The populace is torn between
cringing back in horror and pressing forward to get a view of the
horrifying spectacle." (15)
Actually, the above critic is not entirely correct. A good many and some of the most
threatening of the Japanese spawned monsters are capable of
flight. One such creature is Rodan, a gigantic prehistoric
pterodactyl with a wingspan of 500 feet and a weight of 100 tons
whose size and speed destroy cities with supersonic shock
blasts.(16) Rodan first appears in 1957 and ravages the island of
Kyushu before being "temporarily killed."(17) Interestingly enough,
the port city of Kokura on the island of Kyushu was the original
primary target for the second atomic bomb which, owing to
unfavorable weather conditions, was dropped on Nagasaki instead.(18)
Perhaps the most awesome of the flying saurians is Ghidrah,
a threeheaded fire-breathing behemoth "born in Outer
Space when a fireball exploded."(19) Like a
modern Hydra, (20) the multi-headed Ghidrah (whose debut occurs in
1965) descends upon the Earth hellbent upon inflicting massive
destruction. "Arriving on Earth, the gigantic triple-threat" is
confronted by "a trio of powerful enemies"—the 2 million ton, 400
foot high Godzilla; the giant 800 foot wing-spanned Mothra, and the
"jet-propelled" Rodan. Ghidrah is bound "into a straight-jacket-like
web by mighty Mothra" and hurled over a cliff by the moth's allies.
Humiliated but not undaunted, Ghidrah retreats into outer space
awaiting the time when he can again sweep down and menace the Earth
(which he does).(21)
The helpful turnabout of Godzilla, et. al., against the extra-terrestrial threat of
Ghidrah is not the only example of a beneficent/maleficent dualism
found in Japanese monsters. We shall return to this theme a bit
later on. What is of immediate interest is the form of the monster
Ghidrah itself and the prototypical phenomena which may have
contributed to its creation.
Ghidrah's celestial origin, serpentine anatomical features, and firebreathing
bellicosity immediately suggest a zoomorphic aspect of past physical
cosmic forces whose nature was catastrophic and traumatic for
Mankind. In seeking Ghidrah's archetype, therefore, one must
seriously consider the relevance of both Japanese cultural beliefs
and, in addition, the universal historical cosmic catastrophes
postulated by Velikovsky in Worlds in Collision.(22) For,
while one cannot deny the atomic factor in considering Ghidrah's
cinematic birth, there is also a strong possibility that nuclear
disaster merely rekindled a suppressed subconscious Japanese image
of previous cosmic horror.(23)
As it happens, the cult of the serpent was indeed an integral part of the primeval
mythos of Japanese culture.
Regarded as a menace by primeval man, snakes gave rise to a principally propitiatory
Serpent-Cult in the early history of Japan. "The serpent-Kami
[deified forces of Nature] were [originally considered] maleficent
deities, whose influence" had to be nullified by incantation or
destruction; or placated by worship or sacrifice. With the passage
of time, however, serpent-veneration engendered a beneficent
character to these creatures. As a result of this
maleficent/beneficent conversion, "there is no province of the
[Japanese] archipelago [today] in which it is not counted unlucky to
kill one, be it harmless or venomous, and tales of catastrophe
following harm done to the species are legion."(24) As a matter of
fact, "one pronunciation of the character for snake (mi) also means
fruit: therefore the year of the serpent in the Japanese cycle is
traditionally a lucky and fruitful year."(25)
P. Wheeler, an authority on folklore, prefers "to regard the winged serpent as a
universal possession, linking back, it may well be, with a remote
time of tenacious racial memory, of which geology has given us
pregnant suggestions;"(26) and in Japan, once, it is told that the
Great-Land-Master appeared to the Emperor Yuriaku "as a huge serpent
from whose eyes [came] thunder and flame."(27)
As an aside, in the wake of the Hiroshima bombing, charcoal braziers readied for
breakfast additionally ignited the tinderbox rubble of the decimated
city. This created "thousands of small fires [which] were whipped
into fury by a cyclonic wind that was sucked in toward the
hypocenter with such force that large trees were uprooted.
Blasts of flame—they could have come from monster
blowtorches—erratically ripped off corrugated roofs as if they
were cardboard, blasted houses apart and twisted metal bridges.
Telephone poles ignited explosively."(28)
In the flash of nuclear doom, Hiroshima was transformed into a primeval world of
chaos and its survivors were left, as though transported in time, to
face the reality of that world until rescued therefrom. Yet, fiery
affliction was nothing new to the Japanese who "since very distant
antiquity . . . have dreaded fire. Twice a year an imperial
service, Ho-shizume-no-matsuri, was held to appease and soothe
fire." The goddess "Izanami died in giving birth to the God of Fire,
burned up by her last son. He
was called Kagutsuchi, but in the ritual prayers he is always
invoked under the name of Homusubi, 'he who starts fire'." (29)
Of further interest and pertinence to our general discussion is the eye-witness account
of the Nagasaki atomic bombing described by correspondent William
Laurence. From his position in the B-29, Laurence "watched a fiery
column shoot two miles into the sky, He began scribbling frantically
as the pillar of fire became 'a living thing, a new species of
being, born right before incredulous eyes'. A giant mushroom
billowed at the top, even more alive than the towering
pillar. It seethed and boiled in white fury like a thousand
geysers. In seconds it broke free from the stem and a
smaller mushroom took its place.
It was, Laurence thought, like a decapitated monster growing a new head."(30)
A Japanese seaplane pilot, on an unauthorized investigation of Nagasaki, broke through
nearby clouds at 10,000 feet "and was confronted by a huge column of
black smoke. At the top, 'like the head of a monster,' was a
massive, swelling ball changing colors kaleidoscopically." (31)
The constant resuscitation and resurrection of the same monsters in Japanese
filmdom reveals something other than mere commercial exploitation.
First, the Japanese are made to suffer repeatedly at the hands of
their own creations. Then, after sufficient sufferance and
self-pitying martyrdom, the Japanese turn their monsters loose on
the outside world as a cathartic act which only superficially masks
Japan's latent hostility and desire for honorable revenge on her
former key military adversaries and conquerors.
In Destroy All Monsters (1968)(32)
Rodan demolishes Moscow; Mothra devastates Peking; Manda obliterates
London; Godzilla smashes New York. Russia, China, England, and
America are all now made to vicariously pay for their earlier
triumphs at the expense of the Japanese. Yet, the latter, in one
final feat of expiation, are rendered blameless since the real
culprits behind the monster rampage are extraterrestrial aliens
based on the Moon who have gained temporary control of the nightmarish creatures.
This control is effectively broken, however, through the combined efforts of Earth
scientists who then order the monsters to attack the aliens (known
as Kilaaks) instead. A terrifying climactic struggle now unfolds
for all to witness.
. . . in a last ditch measure of desperation, in an attempt to win, the
. . . Kilaaks summon no less than the triple-threat monster, the
creature with 3 heads: King Ghidrah!..... In addition to the
beast-of-beasts, the Kilaaks direct a flaming flying saucer from
outer space toward an atomically armed Earth ship and then the
very Earth monsters themselves in an insane effort to defeat the defiant Earthmen.
The world shakes as the most frightening battle of monsters ever
imagined by the mind of man ensues.
The ground quakes and cracks.
Mountains crumble into avalanches.
Glaciers break and rumble into shards of crystal and swords of ice.
Skyscrapers crash and bridges splash.
Will the Earth itself split asunder?
But the Earth monsters, once mankind's greatest menace, band
together against the invaders and, led by the invincible Godzilla,
the evil KiIaaks are at last killed to the last alien and, as a new
day dawns, Earth licks its wounds, binds its broken bones [starts to
rebuild] its rubbled destruction and thanks its lucky
stars for the aid of the newly benevolent monsters . . . (33)
Throughout the Japanese monster films, two elements stand out above all others and
are ever-present. The agent of destruction is primarily reptilian.
He can either breathe fire or he can fly, or he can do
both. In other words, the prototypical disasters visited upon
the Japanese had been by flame, and they had come from the
sky! And while the prototypes were being converted into mythic
imagery by transmutation and attenuation, the Japanese people
remained perfectly aware— intellectually— of their true natures!
In one of the most fascinating of these films, Gamera
vs. Monster X, (1970), we are treated to a reenactment of the
ancient drama of the sacrificial death of the Light-God at the hands
of the Fiery Serpent, and his eventual resurrection. The two
reptiles—like dual aspects of the same divinity—engage in mortal
combat, while the people watch. One, a giant flying turtle, is
good. The other, a saurian, is evil. The friendly
Gamera (a giant flying turtle who exudes jets of flame and is
round like the nucleus of the Venus-Comet) enters into conflict with
Monster X (a fiery flying reptile who could easily pass as a
replica of the dragonlike tail of the Venus-Comet) in a titanic
struggle to save the great city of Tokyo from destruction.
By striking Gamera with a giant needle, like a parody of the great thunderbolts
exchanged between the head and tail of the Venus-Comet, Monster X
wounds the turtle unto death and begins his systematic destruction
of the city. Gamera, however, revives, reengages the monster
in battle, and emerges victorious to receive the plaudits of his grateful admirers.
From all this, it would also seem that we are viewing a reenactment of the ancient
struggle between Ormazd and Ahriman, Zeus and Typhon, Quetzalcoatl
and Texcatlipoca, Michael and the Dragon. As though imitating the
Angel of the Apocalypse when he bound the Dragon in chains, the good
turtle defeats his opponent by wrapping him up in strands of
hardened saliva. And the people adore their new god, and thank him
for saving them from the evil one.
The interpretation of the events described above acquires relevant support from a most
unusual quarter. In a recent publication (1974) dealing with the
mystical origins of Nazism, Jean-Michel Angebert made the following
Man's suffering is explained essentially by the fact of his not
knowing his beginning (in the metaphysical sense of the term) and his becoming.
The major religions, vying for men's loyalties, try, with more or less
skill, to reply to this fundamental questioning. 'Two theories meet
head on in this spiritual battle: The first, turning principally on
the Judeo-Christian tradition, sees in the Creator a Good God,
author of the world and of matter according to a plan which is
explained in the biblical Genesis. God being good and creator of
matter, the latter must necessarily be good by its very nature. All
further questioning becomes irrelevant.
This conception of things, which ensures peace of mind, has been
able to satisfy the masses, but has never won the support of the
elite, for it avoids in its simplicity the problem of conflict,
which is at the center of all human activity. Whether the
combat is between good and evil, fire and ice, or lightness and
darkness, man is at grips with a world which he must 'transmute'
if he wishes to realize fully his destiny. Challenging
spiritual monism, there stands, ever fought against and always
rising up again, the dualist cosmogony, full of energy, which
conceives of life as an unending fight between diverse elements. We
inhabit a world which is not congealed or static, but quite alive
and in full evolution.(34)
In this sense, then, "the horror film . . . is an extension of the beast which inhabits
not only our cities, homes, and hearths, but will live in our hearts
as long as men are born to die and feel the need to vent twin cries
of celebration and warnings: 'Look at me, I am lovely!' we shout.
'Look at me, I destroy!' is the whisper behind the smile. 'Look at
me!' says Dr. Jekyll. 'No, me!' says Mr. Hyde."(35)
With the dualistic parallelisms of cinematic action and ancient myth
duly noted, there is still one intriguing question yet to be
answered. What was it that provoked the destructive anger of
Monster X in the first place? Evidently, the answer is to be
found in the behavior of the directors of Expo '70.
Disregarding the warnings of a prophet, they remove an ancient and
mysterious statue from the monster's home—Wester Island in order to put it on display.
Thus, time and time again, we see that the collective has brought the disaster upon
itself through sin
— that is, by displeasing the deity, the personification of the
brutal and capricious forces of the cosmos.
Interestingly, it is from the very preciseness of our observed parallels that the most
useful piece of information can be derived. Mark how the
scriptwriters have seemingly drawn upon ancient archetypal
images, laid down in the collective unconscious by the Great
Cataclysm of C. 1500 B.C.
Apparently, then, the atomic and firebomb destruction of Japan—as horrible as it
undoubtedly was—did not traumatize the inhabitants sufficiently
to deposit a fresh layer of transmuted cataclysmic imagery. If
these martial disasters produced no intrinsically new archetypal
images while those disasters of C. 1500 B.C. produced images that
are still far from being effaced by the erosion of time, we must
conclude that the advent of the Venus-Comet was the most
shatteringly traumatic event in the history of mankind since the
Assuming our analogies to be valid, we can make the following observations concerning the
collective amnesia: One, it goes to work promptly. It was
only a few years after the war that the monster movies began to
appear. Two, it works rapidly. In less than the span of a
generation, it attenuated the catastrophe, transformed the agent
into a dragon, and—as in several of the world's religions—split
him down the middle into a god of good, and a god of evil.
Three, since it is a process which enables the conscious mind to
forget, it goes to work without waiting for the conscious mind to have forgotten.
1. I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (Garden City, 1950), "A
2. See Famous Monsters of Filmland, #114 (Warren Pub. Co.: N. Y.,
March 1975), pp. 24-25.
3. Ibid., P. 16.
4. Ibid., P. 66
in Japanese. The movie Godzilla appeared in 1954. "Japanese
critics, though criticizing the picture's exploitation of the
atom-bomb scare, praised [it] for an 'intellectual content usually
lacking in foreign pictures of the same genre'."— See J. I.
Anderson and D. Richie, The Japanese Film: art and industry
(Grove Press: N. Y.), pp. 262-263.
6. M. Jahn,
"They don't stay up till 3 a.m. for just another pretty face,"
Gallery (June, 1974).
7. Anderson and Richie, op. cit., P. 263; Famous Monsters, op. cit., P. 20.
8. See R. James, "Fuseli," Encyclopedia of World Art, V (N.Y., 1961),
9. See E. Crispolti, "Goya," EWA, VI (N.Y., 1962), pp. 660-663 and
plate 402 where "Reason's slumber brings forth monsters."
10. H. W. Janson, History of Art, rev. ed. (N.Y., 1970), P. 467; In a
Symposium dealing with "Velikovsky and Cultural Amnesia" held at the
Univ. of Lethbridge in early May 1974, Dr. Irving Wolfe (Dept. of
English Studies, Univ. of Montreal) presented a paper on
"Shakespeare and Velikovsky: Catastrophic Theory and Springs of
Art." Dr. Wolfe attempted to trace the Shakespearean patterns of
encounters between lovers baczed and allegorized in Greco-Roman
mythology . . . Wolfe acknowledged that the sources of Shakespeare's
inspiration in manipulating these themes were unclear. At one
level it is arguable that acquaintance with ancient authors (such
as Ovid) who showed marked predilection for catastrophic myths
would be sufficient stimulus to the imagination of the Elizabethan
poet; on another it is just possible to think of such stimulus as
activating unconscious memory of the events transmitted
biologically."— See Pensee (Winter 1974-75), P. 47 (emphasis added).
11. It is
especially significant in this instance to note a statement by J. L.
Henderson in C.G. Jung, Man and his Symbols (Garden City,
1964), P. 107— "In wartime. . . . one finds increased interest in
the works of Homer, Shakespeare, or Tolstoi, and we read with a new
understanding those passages that give war its enduring (or
'archetypal') meaning. They evoke a response from us that is much
more profound than it could be from someone who has never known the
intense emotional experience of war . . .the great writers are able
to transcend the difference of time and place and express themes
that are universal. We respond because these themes are
fundamentally symbolic." (emphasis added)
12. M. Paz,
"Demonology," EWA, V (N. Y., 1961). pp. 331-333
13. G. Tucci, "Demonology." Ibid., p. 319 (emphasis added).
14. Man and
his Symbols, op. cit., p. 92 and illustrations on p. 93.
When 'cultural symbols, "are repressed or neglected, their specific
energy disappears into the unconscious with unaccountable
consequences. The psychic energy that appears to have been
lost in this way in fact serves to revive and intensify whatever is
uppermost in the unconscious-tendencies, perhaps, that have
hitherto had no chance to express themselves or at least have not
been allowed an uninhibited existence in our consciousness.
Such tendencies form an ever-present and potentially destructive
'shadow' to our conscious mind. Even tendencies that might in
some circumstances be able to exert a beneficial influence are
transformed into demons when they are repressed. This is why many
well-meaning people are understandably afraid of the unconscious,
and incidentally of psychology. Our times have demonstrated what it
means for the gates of the underworld to be opened. Things whose
enormity nobody could have imagined in the idyllic harmlessness of
the first decade of our century have happened and have turned our
world upside down. Ever since, the world has remained in a state of
schizophrenia. Not only has civilized Germany disgorged its
terrible primitivity, but Russia is also ruled by it, and Africa has
been set on fire. No wonder that the Western world feels uneasy.
Modern man does not understand how much his 'rationalism' (which has
destroyed his capacity to respond to numinous symbols and ideas) has
put him at the mercy of the psychic 'underworld'." - Ibid., pp.
93-94 (emphasis added). Also see the article "Schizophrenia and the
Fear of World Destruction" in KRONOS, Vol. I, no. 1 (Spring 1975).
- the Ed.
15. E. Schier,
"The Critic's Chair," The Phila. Sunday Bulletin (Nov. 24,
1974), Section 5, p. 3 (emphasis added).
16. Famous Monsters, op. cit., p. 32; Also see Science News, Vol.
107, No. 11, March 15, 1975, p. 166, "The largest flying creature."
17. Anderson and Richie, op. cit., p. 263.
18. J. Toland, The Rising Sun (N.Y.. 1970), p. 991.
Monsters, op. cit., p. 68 (emphasis added). The name Ghidrah
almost sounds, in an Anglicized way, like God-Pa.
20. See The
New Century Classical Handbook, ed. by Catherine Avery (N.Y.,
1962), p. 577. "In Greek mythology, a monstrous dragon of the
Lernaean Spring, in Argolis, represented as having nine heads, each
of which being cut off [by the Greek hero Hercules], was immediately
succeeded by two new ones unless the wound was cauterized." Also "an
ancient southern constellation, representing a sea-serpent. It is
of Babylonian origin . . ." According to the Larousse
Encyclopedia of Mythology (N.Y., 1960), p. 195—The Lernaean
Hydra "born of Typhon and Echidna, was an enormous serpent with nine
heads. Its den was a marsh near Lerna in the Peloponnese. It would
issue forth to ravage the herds and crops; its breath moreover was
so poisonous that whoever felt it fell dead." Also in the LEM,
pp. 417-418, we read of the exploits of the Japanese god Susanoo (a
kind of Jekyll and Hyde deity) who slays an eight-headed serpent.
Susanoo was a god of Thunder, Storm, and Rain.
21. Famous Monsters, op. cit., pp. 68-71 and 32. Mothra's initial
appearance occurs in 1962.
op. cit., pp. 78-82 ,306; also see I. Donnelly, Ragnarok:
The Age of Fire and Gravel (Steiner Books: N.Y. ,1971), p. 429.
23. See C.
Sutherland, "China's Dragon," Pensee (Winter 1973-74), pp.
47-50; M. Oldfleld Howey, The Encircled Serpent (N. Y.,
1955), pp. 263-273; L. Spence, An Encyclopedia of Occultism
(New Hyde Park ,N. Y., 1960), "Dragon," p. 130.
24. P. Wheeler,
The Sacred Scriptures of the Japanese (N. Y., 1952), pp. 406 and 404.
p. 406. One is reminded of the catastrophic and benign dualism of
the proto-planet Venus during the days of the Exodus when it brought
both death, in the form of serpents, and life-giving food, manna,
to the wanderers of the desert.
26. Ibid., p. 555, n. 34.
27. Ibid.. p. 403.
28. Toland, op. cit., p. 974 (emphasis added).
29. S. Eliseev,
"The Mythology of Japan," Asiatic Mythology (N.Y., 1963), p. 408.
30. Toland, op. cit., p. 996 (emphasis added).
p. 997 (emphasis added). The same effect can be seen in the
Japanese movie The Mysterians (1959).
Famous Monsters, op. cit., pp. 75-78. In King Kong vs. Godzilla
(1963), two different endings were filmed. When shown in the
Oriental sector of the world, Godzilla wins. On the other hand,
King Kong emerges victorious before the eyes of Occidental film
devotees. - See Ibid., pp. 62-63. (Curiously, Manda was a
Near Eastern name for Saturn.)
33. Ibid., p. 81 (emphasis added)
34. Jean-Michel Angebert, The Occult and the Third Reich (N.Y., 1974), p, 67.
35. R. Bradbury,
"Boris, Bela, and Me," Argosy (Dec. 1974). P. 22. "The
horror film is a school for all of us then, it seems. We simply
must attend. Without them we graduate into a world that will be
worse than the nightmares we see in films that could, if we allowed,
instruct our dreams. When I was a boy, a very handsome friend of
mine who ran fast and won all the races, stepped on a nail and had
to have his foot amputated. The gorilla-ape in me danced with joy
at the news. Some day, if I can take this terrible truth about
myself and that boy and turn it into a metaphor I can cleanse
myself, and others. For now, that reality is still so raw in my
memory that it destroys (emphasis added)."
36. One should
also take into account the additional re-enforcement of the Martian
catastrophe which occurred in the eighth and seventh centuries B.
In contrast to the outpouring of Japanese Monster movies in the years immediately
following World War II, American film-making was crowned by the "Epic Age"
whose major constituent was the Biblical Blockbuster. it was not
until the box-office triumph of the war, violence, crime, and
disaster movies—beginning in the late sixties—that Religious
Spectaculars capitulated and virtually disappeared from the
repertoire of American cinema.(1) Here is an interesting
psychological phenomenon indeed, for while American movies have
always been well represented by the horror, monster,
science-fiction, war, crime, violence, and disaster genre, it was
the Religio-heroic theme of the post-War years which
captured (until now) the largest audiences and made the most
money.(2) The movie theater became a quasi-temple as Americans
immersed themselves in a vicarious religion of cinematic spiritual fantasy.
Between 1949 and 1965, a veritable spate of Epics appeared on the American theater screen,
possibly peaking in 1959 with the unparalleled Academy Award and
monetary success of Ben-Hur.(3) By 1963, however, reality
caught up with Americans. The brutal assassination of their
President, followed by other acts of violence, general societal
unrest, and deepening martial commitments in Southeast Asia
eventually conspired to break the redemptive trance and swept
Americans beyond the pale of religious cinematic escapism. The
enormous weight of global responsibility, initially placed upon
American shoulders following the end of world hostilities, also
failed to decrease thereby contributing an additional cumulative
Our society still quivers today under the pressures of that global responsibility
first assumed so long ago and we are quite removed from returning to
that land of make-believe with its "cast of thousands."
Here now is a fairly representative sampling of those epics and religious films which
gained particular American prominence. They are arranged in nearly
exact chronological order. (4)
Samson and Delilah
Joan of Arc
David and Bathsheba
Demetrius & the Gladiators
Land of the Pharaohs
Helen of Troy
Alexander the Great
The Silver Chalice
A Man Called Peter
The Ten Commandments
St. Francis of Assisi
The Story of Ruth
The Diary of Ann Frank
The Nun's Story
The Big Fisherman
Solomon and Sheba
King of Kings
Constantine and the Cross
Joseph and His Brethren
Sodom and Gomorrah
Esther and the King
The Fall of the Roman Empire
The Greatest Story Ever Told
A Man for All Seasons
To the above list of
movies, one could also add Julius Caesar, Ulysses, War and
Peace, Macbeth, and Hamlet, all of which appeared between 1953 and
1964. This group, along with the previously cited Helen of Troy,
constitutes a significant compendium of the literary work of
Shakespeare, Homer, and Tolstoi, translated to the film media.
The possible psychological
importance of these three authors in wartime or in a war-filled
atmosphere has already been mentioned in footnote #11 of the preceding article.
1. In 1973,
Paramount Pictures released the sensitive motion picture Brother Sun,
Sister Moon—a story of St. Francis of Assisi. Its death
was almost instantaneous. It could be argued that the movie was a poor
one which was the reason for its failure. Having been one of the rare
few who saw the film, this writer can honestly say that it was not the
quality of the movie but rather its anachronistic content which was most
likely responsible for its quick demise. Personally, I found it to be
well-done and satisfying and can remember a time when it would have
packed the houses.
2. One has merely
to check the all-time "box-office champs" in Variety with their
dates and monetary figures to verify the truth of this statement.
3. Ben-Hur received 11 Academy Awards—the most ever for a single film—and, at
the time, was one of the top three money-makers ever. The other two
were Gone with the Wind and The Ten Commandments. Figures
may be checked in Variety along with the dates.
4. The present listing is based again upon information obtained from Variety.
Medieval epics have not been included though many, because of their
religious theme, qualify for inclusion on this list; e.g., Knights of the Round Table.
A slight variant exception is to be found in the movie
Frankenstein Conquers the World (1966), where Hiroshima is
referred to but simply used as an excuse for the advent of a
mutated Frankenstein monster.
See M. Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return (Bollingen
Paperback: Princeton, 1971). p. 40 and n. 70.
One of the Japanese monster movies was actually titled Attack
of the Mushroom People (1963).
Gamera first appears in 1966 as Gammera the Invincible—
the original double-m gave it more the appearance of gamma-ray.
The authors intend to develop this subject in a much larger work
devoted to the psychology of religion and catastrophism.
It would appear that Americans resorted to the claser to sublimate the psychological
effects of the War years; film became the perfect medium. See
"Cosmology and Psychology," KRONOS 1, No. I (Spring,
1975), the section "The Fountain of Forgetfulness."