"As never before perhaps, we are all in the grips of the LUNAR EXPERIENCE, and there simply does not seem to be much we can do about it, except perhaps to take refuge in fantasy (myth's poor relation, or substitute). Fantasies about ideal societies and technological paradises." Jani Christou
The Lunar Experience
'For countless generations the renewal of vital processes has been experienced according to a common basic pattern of: generation - growth - destruction - cessation, repeated on and on. The pattern of renewal. In the depths of man's prehistory it was the moon's monthly performance that originally drew attention to this pattern. So lunar mythology suggests.
So a large luminous object in a dark sky, visibly waxing and waning, and disappearing altogether - to reappear only days after, for a repeat performance - must have made a point thousands of years before man could ever have had the opportunity of recognising the pattern at work in vegetation.
For originally he was a hunter, and an incredibly long stretch of time had to pass before he could settle down to agriculture, upon which his survival was eventually to depend. But the moon was there always. And there is this suggestion too: that there was an epoch, sometime within the range of human experience, when the moon was closer to the earth that it is now. Perhaps much closer. If so, its enormous appearance must gave dominated the night-sky, overwhelmingly, and its luminosity may have rivalled that of the sun itself.
Even if the moon did not provide man with his first experience of the pattern of renewal, it must have have certainly given him one if his first awe-inspiring experiences of this pattern. Not only because of its nocturnal setting in the sky, and of the night-dark that follows the extinction of its light; and of the way with which man reacts to darkness, relating with what cannot be known - or with what may be lurking in the dark; therefore relating darkness with fear, sometimes with wonder, or both. But also because it is not hard to imagine the state of alarm provoked by the spectacle of giant moon decaying into total extinction, and the anguished stirrings screaming for expression in minds still not separated from a hostile nature.
Nor is it hard to picture what the response of those minds could have been to the moon's most spectacular performances of all: its eclipse. For early man, with nothing even remotely resembling as sense of primitive astronomy, this was an IRREGULARITY and it could have caused much terror, even panic.
While the threat of yet another eclipse must have hung like some dread prospect in the firmament of man's dawning consciousness, a constant menace of sudden doom, impossible to tell when it would strike next. There seems to be a good case for selecting the lunar eclipse as the archetypal image of some calamity which one fears, and fears the more because there is no telling when it may break out. A root image for the feeling of impending doom on a giant scale.
If the normal succession of the moon's phases can serve as the image of the general phenomenon of the regular renewal of bio-cosmic processes, then the term LUNAR PATTERN may be used to describe this phenomenon, i.e. the pattern of renewal: generation followed by growth followed by destruction followed by cessation, repeated endlessly. Or in lunar imagery:
the nascent moon becoming the
full moon becoming the dying moon swallowed up by dark,
in regular succession, on and on.
We may have come along way since man's prehistory, having travelled down paths of the spirit and down paths of the mind to get to where we are today, but there are times when all our achievements really do seem to add up to so much litter along our journey through history, monumental irrelevancies, because most of the indications are that maybe we have not been travelling down at all; or perhaps, yes, a round trip, back to square one, looking up again at the moon in a dark sky, wondering whether it will be renewed after being swallowed up by the dark, and all the time afraid of that constant menace - very real now - a sudden and total eclipse.
As never before perhaps, we are all in the grips of the LUNAR EXPERIENCE, and there simply does not seem to be much we can do about it, except perhaps to take refuge in fantasy (myth's poor relation, or substitute). Fantasies about ideal societies and technological paradises. Fantasies about controlling the course of our political evolution, and fantasies about controlling our environment through science.
But occasionally some of us may be allowed to retaliate, by attempting to recreate something of the climate of effective myth. Not a mere descriptive activity involving the invocation of fossilised myths, but activity itself, with its energy, like the energy released by those deeper dreams which somehow do not need to be explained rationally in order to be understood.
Because effective mythic activity is man's spontaneous response to the numbing terror of his lunar experience: nature's way of coming to terms with nature's terrors - or man's terrors. And what lies at the root of his natural response of nature at work in man is his natural capacity for soul. One could say that soul formation and myth formation are aspects of the same thing, the same process, both emerging out of man's deepest experiences acquired through his confrontation with the facts living and the facts of dying throughout countless thousands of years. The capacity for souls means the capacity to experience these facts in depth, to feel the weight of humanity's compounded experience bearing down on one's own individual experience. And these are the indelible impressions which stamp man's soul with the substance of myth.'
Jani Christou - from The Lunar Experience. June 1968