Illustrations by Patricia Bermiller.

Gurdjieff International Review

The Disenchantment
of the Dragon

by Martha Heyneman

Myths are not distorted records of historical events. They are not periphrastic descriptions of natural phenomena or 'explanations' of them; so far from that, events are demonstrations of the myths.1

For a long time in the Western World, the predominant form of the eternal fairy-tale has been the one wherein the Hero, in order to rescue the Princess and win the Kingdom, must slay the Dragon. This pattern is engraved upon the very substance of our psyche. It is re-enacted nightly on the screen in the costumes of the old west, the modern city or the fantasized future in outer space. In recent years, reflecting the revolution of the 1960's, the roles are often reversed: he who formerly played the Dragon (the 'bad guy') may take the role of the Hero. But the pattern remains the same. The Dragon, which in ancient China was the splendid embodiment of the energies of Nature, and held in its claws the Pearl of Great Price, became in Christian folklore, the Old Dragon, the Devil, the Enemy; and in our innumerable wars, the enemy, whoever he happened to be, became, for the moment, the Devil. Ascetic monk and puritan assumed the same militant posture toward their own lower natures, and Victorian character-building consisted of subduing the natural appetites and impulses by force—which is how 'will power' was, and still is, understood. The portrait of the Hero which is woven into the tapestry of our collective unconscious is never far from the red threads of the blood of the dying Dragon. Mastery to us means murder.

But the Dragon in ourselves is not slain. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but only transformed. Having lost the secret of its transformation, we do the Dragon's will whether we know it or not. When we suppose we have slain or conquered it, we have only pushed it out of our own sight, repressed it into the unconscious. Thus a part of our energy becomes inaccessible, and we are left sweet and ineffectual, or dry and rigid; or the Dragon in its underground prison takes on poisonous forms, making us physically ill, or enslaving us in irrational, repetitive patterns of action; or it erupts periodically in violent revolutions; or its image is projected upon our supposed external enemies. We have the choice of neurosis or psychosis.…

[The complete text is available in the printed copy of this issue.]
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