Darkness in the Service of Manifest Destiny as Portrayed by Cormac Mccarthy in Blood Meridian

Topics: Hermeticism, Hermes Trismegistus, Blood Meridian Pages: 7 (2747 words) Published: April 11, 2007
Now when this horrible Lucifer, as a tyrant and raging spoiler of all that is good, shewed himself thus terribly, as if he would kindle and destroy all, and bring all under his jurisdiction, then all the heavenly hosts and armies were against him, and he also against them all; there now the fight began, for all stood most terribly, one party against another. Jacob Boehme, The Aurora, … Or The Morning Rednesse In The Rising Of The Sun

On the surface Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is an extremely violent narrative based on historical events, which aims at dispelling the stereotypes of heroic frontier mythology. Within it, however, we do not find too many traditional elements that normally constitute the mainstream perception of American Wild West history. Nonetheless, if we decide that Blood Meridian is nothing more than a rebellion against historical stereotype, we are bound to miss the layer that underlies and defines its fundamental idea. This layer is represented by McCarthy's consistent references to the mythological, theosophical and Hermetic symbols and archetypes. The mythological narrative in the novel echoes the eschatological battle between the good and evil resulting in the regeneration of the Cosmos. While it is very difficult to trace all the aspects and details of the mythological mystery play that saturate the novel, the hinge of the story is represented by a single character, Judge Holden. Despite the fact that formally the judge is not in charge of Glanton's gang, he sets its goals and directions as well as its ultimate fate. He is a representation of a multifaceted deity that is instrumental in the setting and defining of the border between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The borderland in the novel, which is effectively the world of death and chaos, has to be cleansed and renewed by destruction in order to be later incorporated into the world of the living, the order and civilization. The mission of the sculphunters is the battle in service of regeneration of the borderland in which they turn out to be confederates and instruments of the deity. Judge Holden's mission is accomplished when the borderland diminishes and the sculphunters, who do not have place in the world of the living, are physically destroyed by that world. Thus, both the world of the dead and Glanton's gang who cleansed it into oblivion, disappear from the physical plane of existence. McCarthy links the myth that perpetrates the novel as well as its characters with the writings of Jacob Boehme, the sixteenth century German mystic, particularly with his seminal work, The Aurora. The language of the novel reflects that of Boehme's writings, even its subtitle, "The Evening Redness In The West" mirrors the subtitle of The Aurora, "The Morning Rednesse In The Rising Of The Sun" (Boehme, title page). A few words have to be said about Jacob Boehme's theosophy since certain crucial points in it have been used as the frame for the narrative in the Blood Meridian. Boehme's writings were strongly influenced by hermetic and alchemical traditions. One of the fundamental paradoxes of Boehme's views expressed in The Aurora is the combination of life-affirming concept of Creation and its suffusion with the Divine, on one hand, and on the other, of an extremely violent and uncompromising view of Cosmic dualism which results in the battle between the absolute good and absolute evil (Boehme 436). The kingdom of Wrath and the kingdom of Light are almost entirely symmetrical, being mirror images of one another and at a constant battle "where life is generated in the very centre or midst of death, and light in the midst of darkness" (Boehme 195). The fact that the dark and the light sides of the Cosmos are mirror images of each other brings the paradox of difficulty of distinguishing between the activities of good and evil. The profane ethic does not apply to Boehme's scheme – what in human terms seems good may easily be evil and vice...

Cited: Copenhaver, Brian P. (trans.). Hermetica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Boehme, Jacob. The Aurora. London: Watkins, 1960.
"Hermes." (trans. mine) Encyclopaedia Of World Mythology. Vol. 1. Moscow: Russia 's Encyclopaedia, 1994. 292-294.
Hoeller, Stephan A. "On The Trail Of The Winged God. Hermes And Hermeticism Throughout The Ages." The Gnosis Archive. First appeared in Gnosis: A Journal Of Western Inner Traditions, Vol. 40, Summer 1996
McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian. New York: Vintage International, 1992.
"Odin" (trans. mine). Encyclopaedia Of World Mythology.Vol. 2. Moscow: Russia 's Encyclopaedia, 1994. 241.
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