Virgin Spring

Virgin Spring Poster

Virgin Spring is a 1960 film directed by Ingmar Bergman. Loosely based on a medieval Swedish legend, Bergman develops it into an examination of the relationship between the new Christian religion and the old Norse religion which it was supplanting. We are not interested in the many moralistic interpretations of this story, but rather in what it reveals about the struggle in the consciousness of the Western mind between two opposing world views or spiritual impulses. This struggle continues unresolved to this day and repeats itself in various formulations, often expressed polemically with a strong emotional element. Its partial resolution in the Western world unfortunately embodies the worst aspects of each impulse.

Tore was a prosperous landowner with an estate that supported his wife Mareta and beautiful daughter Karin, as well as Ingeri, a young woman under his care. Tore was a Catholic, of noble birth, strong character, with a commanding, yet paternal, presence. Karin was blonde, pretty, outgoing, devout and virginal. In short, they were the perfect family.

In contrast, Ingeri was private, dark, and bitter. She was pregnant with a bastard child and was resentful of Karin. Ingeri was a witch, using a frog to cast a spell on Karin. On the occasion of a feast day to the Virgin, Karin and Ingeri set out on a trip to the village church. Along the way, Ingeri met a practitioner of the pagan religion and joined him in a ritual. Karin continued alone. Passing by some goat herders, she offered them some of her food. They broke bread with her, then raped and murdered her. When the crime was discovered, Tore killed them all, in revenge.

Tore and his family exemplified what we would call “solarity”, that is, solar characteristics; nobility, strength, beauty, virtue. They represented the Christian consciousness.

On the other hand, the pagans were seen as unsophisticated country bumpkins, driven by resentment, lust and greed. In this story, the pagans represent the lunar element.

The obvious objection is that the legend was slanted by its Christian originators. But this makes no sense for three reasons:

  • It implies that the Christians understood solarity and consciously sought it.
  • The story would make absolutely no sense if the roles were reversed.
  • But the most damning is that the neo-pagans of today actually embrace the values of the pagans in the legend.
  • To be fair, the neo-christians of today would not see Tore in such a positive light. They would embrace the goat herders as the underclass needing assistance programs, and would reject the justice exacted by Tore.

Herein lies the criticisms of Evola against the neo-pagans: rather than embrace an authentic solar paganism, they adopt the Christian caricature of pagans. Their lustiness simply results in the unwed motherhood of Ingeri. Their intellectual isolation keeps them away from the centers of power, as was the case of the Odinist in the country hovel. The goat herders embodied an amoral “might makes right” policy that seems to be popular among neo-pagans. And the final irony is that the pagans — Ingeri and the goat herders — were drive by a resentment that a Nietzsche ascribes to Christians.

This perspective is obviously far from the best of the pagan past. Instead, we need to understand this as a battle for the soul of Western man, although its true nature has been obscured by many masks over the course of history.

In the Middle Ages, a balance was established, more or less, between the two tendencies. The pagan and Christian elements were kept in balance. In practice, this shows up in the Traditional conception of the doctrine of Two Powers: Spiritual authority and temporal power. Spiritual authority can be experienced in one of two ways:

  1. As a call to transcendence, to life on a higher and creative level
  2. As an obstacle to the complete fulfillment of animal appetite – sex, greed, lust and so on

Temporal power, therefore, must either adhere to or reject spiritual authority. Man is driven by three forces: the drive to the transcendent (nous), spiritedness (thumos), and appetite. Thus thumos can be the motive power to a transcendent life by sublimating the appetites. Or else, it can focus on the Sisyphean task of satisfying the appetites while forgetting the transcendent.

The Reformation was the rejection of the Medieval synthesis. Thinking it could purge the pagan element, it overemphasized the transcendent, making it effectively an unreal factor in the world. It brought back the uneasy tension of the ancient Gnostics: Either an unrestrained libertinism, since all sins are forgiven for the saved. Or else a rigid asceticism, that served to demonstrate one’s salvation rather than to serve as a means to it.

To the neo-christians (which includes Vatican II Catholics), we quote Tomberg: “Love your pagan past.” To the neo-pagans, we say “Honor your father and mother.” This is a task that requires integration, not a pitched battle. For example, despite his many references to and appreciation of the pagans, Carl Jung still claimed that a man’s task was the creation of a Self, an archetype that is represented by the Christ figure.

68 thoughts on “Virgin Spring

  1. Pingback: Prolegomena to Noble Philosophy | Gornahoor

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  3. Kadambari, I agree with all your points, especially regarding yoga. However, my point remains, in the context I used.

  4. Will,
    Re: “We have already discussed our differing opinions on the Tibetans, and I don’t wish to get into that with you again, but I think you have to at least give them credit for this.”

    I do not know where you get the idea that I do not give credit to Tibetans for anything. Tibetans are an oppressed minority flooded by Han Chinese in China. They are a refugee group in India. Of course, they preserved a lot when Buddhism was wiped out by Islam in its centers. However, being sympathetic to Tibetans which I am (there is not much to dislike about this group) is different from not being impressed by their religious leaders…I do not see them as the “future” of Buddhism, rather if if is to be revitalized they will be working in tandem with others, you need partronage for these kinds of things to grow, and that patronage would be a government in our part of the world which enourages the native religions in contrast to the deracinated current one which is opposed to the traditional culture of the land…I have mentioned several times that if a government on the right had taken power after indedpendence they would have done more to help and protect Tibet…

  5. 63.And if you examine the last line of the first printed book, the Diamond Sutra, it says, it ought to be given to whoever wishes to read it. Far from our petty conceptions of “copyrights” and “belonging” the writers of these sutras had a far loftier conception of knowledge. Those with their petty conceptions of religion and knowledge “belonging” to a group cannot comprehend such high minded noble thinking….

  6. And if you examine the last line of the first printed book, the Diamond Sutra, it says, it ought to be given to whoever wishes to read it. Far from our petty conceptions of “copyrights” and “belonging” the writers of these sutras had a far loftier conception of knowledge, than some with their petty conceptions of religion and knowledge “belonging” to a group cannot comprehend….

  7. My point is that the relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism is not comparable to Judiasm and Christianity. They have had a co-existence until the arrival of Islam destroying civilization and the classical culture. Buddhism is a part of Indic civilization, Christianity is not a part of Judiac civilization if there was such a thing. The fact that some people practice their own versions of Buddhism adapted to their culture and consider themselves Buddhists, has no bearing on what I am saying.
    I have found it interesting how some people in America plagiarize Hindu yoga and seek to patent it disassociating it from the original spiritual component, making it commerical, which is why yoga here is more gymnastics than anything. The greed and grasping of some folks knows no bounds…

  8. Well the only people who see Buddhism as distinct from Hinduism is people with an agenda. Certainly the Buddhist countries that practice it are different in culture. But this does not show that the “essence” of Buddhism is incompatible with a Hindu outlook, so it does belong to Hinduism. It does not really matter what Buddhists hold themselves to be, Buddhism without the Hindu background is quite meaningless, and the biggest contributors to it was the Hindu aristocracy, if you take out their contributions, there is nothing but copies and imitation. After Buddhism leaves India, all kinds of corruptions enter and it hardly resembles Buddhism. A lot of this has to do with the character of peoples who currently practice it, peoples who have never had free thinking in their culture, although they can be technically advanced. If you read the original Buddhist sutras which is Indian in component, there is not much else worth reading. So people can give themselves whatever airs they wish and think themselves separate, but Hindus just see it as another philosophical school arising from their civilization. Hinduism can absorb Buddhism, but the latter cannot absorb the former.

  9. Aha! Kadambari,your clarification makes sense to me.

    However:

    1. I am not clear how a Hindu analysis of what I said is merited. I am, I repeat, making an empirical observation of a demographic nature, though it implies a certain nod to commonly accepted definitions.

    2. What Hindus think of Buddhism, while interesting, is not relevant to my point. If my point was philosophical, then yes, you would be justified. But, like it or not, Buddhism is generally accepted, for demographic census and otherwise, as a seperate religion no longer connected to Hinduism. You are adding a dimension to my point that I was not trying to make. One need not take a philosophical stance on a statement of fact. For my purposes, it just is.

    3. Of course the analysis is shallow! I am not discussing Buddhism or Eastern philosophy. Your point, while interesting, is not related to the point I was making, and I have no need to incorporate your opinion to validate my observation. If I wanted a philosophical discussion on Buddhism in Eastern thought, I would have made one. A one sentence statement, by definition, must necessarily be shallow, and not exhaustive.

    4. I appreciate your emphasizing the point that Christianity and Judaism are miles apart, because ironically that DOES validate my point. One is not an extension of the other.

    5. For my point, it does matter that there are Mongolian peoples who practice Buddhism, because that is my point. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not is aside from the fact that it is so.

  10. It is not a true statement in that it equates Buddhism with Christianity as a religion and the comparison, while seemingly correct at first, cannot hold owing to the difference between Christianity and Buddhism. Hindus do not consider Buddhists to be different, there is a sense in which it is quite Hindu still in that Hindus identify it as their own (as a part of their larger religion), although it has spread and has impacted other people culturally. Again such comparisons are incredibly shallow and point out nothing, but merely show you do not understand the difference between the two religions. Whoever may practice Buddhism, the dividing line between Hinduism and Buddhism is not as stark as the dividing line between Judaism and Christianity. You said: “Just like Buddhism is hardly India’s now, Christianity certainly does not belong to Judaism…”
    Hindus consider the essential doctrines of Buddhism as a part of their larger religious outlook, does not matter if some Mongolian peoples practice a “Mongolian” form of Buddhism adapted to their nations…

  11. For the record, Kadambari, nowhere did you show where anything I said was innacurate based on what I actually said. Are you claiming Buddhism is now confined only to India, and that no one outside of India practices that faith? Are you saying no one outside of India write or offers praxis on Buddhism? If you are saying I am being inaccurate, that is what you are saying. My comparison is perefectly sound. I pointed out that people excercise Christianity now outside the nation of Judah, it’s original people and culture. Likewise, Buddhism is also now practiced outside of India and that culture. What is it I am saying here that is so woafully out of accord with the known facts? How is saying Christianity is not solely a religion of Jews anymore and Buddhism is no longer a religion solely of Indians not a true statement? This not an analysis of their doctrine, history, or background, but simply an analaysis of how broadly the religion is now practiced. Where did you find all these other ideas you claim I expounded?

    For the recorded, I never claimed I represent Western thought. I am simply giving my impression based on the tone and tenor of the posts I have seen you make here.

  12. Interesting point, Graham. We need to think in terms of triads, not binaries. Let’s assume eros is the feminine or passive part of the soul and Thumos is the masculine or active part. That would make the nous androgynous, or the neutralizing force that resolves and balances the other forces. Analogous to the yin, yang and tao.

    Or perhaps eros and thumos, as elements of the psyche, are both passive, and nous is active. I’m inclined toward this option, because they are both reactive and passionate. This seems counter-intuitive because we probably regard self-assertion as a masculine quality. On the other hand, eros and thumos don’t seem to have a relationship to each other that is analogous to yin and yang.

  13. I recognize that, and I know that Plato’s middle caste contains women as well as men. I’ve understood Thumos, or will, as the mediator between Eros, which is feminine, and Nous, which is masculine. My question is, are we to regard Thumos itself as metaphysically male or female, or as a mixture? I guess I answered my own question.

  14. Thumos is part of the human makeup. Why wouldn’t it apply to women, also?

  15. And Perennial I am ‘purposely’ not doing anything as you claim, but simply saying that you are making comparisons that indicate you do not understand that which you compare. And as for having an axe to grind with Western thought, I think its hilarious you think yourself representative of “Western” thought…

  16. It would appear you have an intellectual axe to grind with Western thought. I hope this is not true, otherwise, why would you be interested in this website?

    That was funny! You are the one who has an axe to grind with Eastern thought and make comparisons that are ill fitting, showing you do do not understand it one bit. Its best that types like you stick to your Christianity as you are unlikely to comprehend anything else! Anyway there are some very intelligent comments on this site. The only reason I was on it was I saw too many concepts plagiarized out of our culture and put to uses they are not meant for. Anyway, it is futile battling such things on the web. The more I read this sight, I realize how lucky we are to have had an unbroken tradition and how lucky we are to have the religion of our forefathers, even though that tradition is kept alive by a select few. Anyway, I think I have exhausted the use of this site for myself, for the question for us is not what is tradition, but how to preserve the memory of what we have preserved despite all odds through the centuries…

  17. Cologero,

    Is thumos to be considered masculine?

  18. Kadambari, you are purposely misunderstanding me, I do not know why. Buddhism is not restricted, either in population, or in practice, to India. No one has claimed you should disregard it’s Indian element, only that one should acknowledge Buddhism now exists outside of India. Why you insist on misreading this I have no comprehension. Also, the Old Testament, as we believe, is inspired by God, therefore it is not disregared, but turned to as a historical reference to the time which preceded Our Lord. But it’s Law, and it’s practices, are no longer normative.

    It would appear you have an intellectual axe to grind with Western thought. I hope this is not true, otherwise, why would you be interested in this website?

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