Saint, hero, and poet are all inspired; the difference is that saint and hero work in their “… own flesh and blood and not in paper or parchment…” (PASL, 333). Their very lives are works of art, because they have permanently found the anti-self, and so, live in an inspired ecstasy. The poet lives in the tension between inspiration and the workaday world. According to this theory, the ecstatic state of mind, immersion in the anti-self, allows the daimon to inspire the artist.
Somewhere I Have Never Travelled: The Hero’s Journey by Thomas Van Nortwick, a 1996 paperback from Oxford University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“Exploring the hero’s journey as a metaphor for spiritual evolution, this book combines literary, psychological, and spiritual insights to examine three ancient epics: The Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer’s Iliad, and Virgil’s Aeneid. Van Nortwick focuses on the relationship of the hero to one or more ‘second selves,’ or alter egos. Through these second selves the poems address central and enduring truths about human life: that heroism in pursuit of glory can lead to alienation from one’s self; and that spiritual wholeness can only be achieved through what appears, at first, to be the negation of the self. The discussion also serves as an introduction to the central themes and historical evolution of ancient epic.” — back cover
Arjuna in the Mahabharata: Where Krishna Is, There Is Victory by Ruth Cecily Katz, a 1989 hardcover in the Studies in Comparative Religion series edited by Frederick M Denny from University of South Carolina Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“This book is a thorough study of the great Indian hero, the Achilles of India, Arjuna, as portayed in the epic poem Mahabharata, including its world famous subsection, the Bhagavadgita. Attempting to portray Arjuna as ‘a Hindu, involved in Hindu culture, might see or have seen him on the basis of the epic as passed down through the centuries more or less in its current form,’ the discussion focuses in turn on three ‘levels’ of Arjuna’s character, tracing their ebb and flow throughout the text: Arjuna’s semi-divine heroism; his humanization in the face of debilitating dilemmas; and his transcendence of the human condition by way of devotion to the god Krishna. In consideration of earlier and contemporary scholarship regarding the Indian epic tradition, in particular the respective works Georges Dumézil and Madeleine Biardeau, this study locates the Mahabharata, and Arjuna with it, in the context of two thousand years of Indian religious texts, from the Vedas to the Puranas. More broadly, Arjuna is compared with Indo-European/Semitic heroes from outside the Indian tradition, such as Achilles himself, Gilgamesh, Rustam, Cuchulainn and, finally, Jesus. The complete Mahabharata story is retold for the reader’s convenience as the discussion proceeds. An appendix on the names (epithets) of Arjuna concludes the study.” — back cover