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The 'Herod Syndrome' PDF Print E-mail
Psychology - Soul

MordredFear of the future is common to all of us. Daily and social life is determined by our attitude towards fear in the face of time.
The positive and negative characters in history and the trends of thought are shaped by the manner in which they react to this.
For those who have surrendered to fear, all the spiritual, intellectual, and biological 'children' of evolution constitute a threat.
Surrender to the pressure of fear in the face of time produces what the writer calls the 'Herod Syndrome'. This attitude to fear in the face of time is behind every closed society.

As an antidote to this, there is that redemptive stance which regards the sense of mortal fragility as an opportunity for becoming conscious of the fact of imperfection. The consequence of this is enormous: imperfection ceases to control, leaving room for love and real life. (Solon editorial team)

The 'Herod Syndrome'
Fear in the face of time is fear in the face of creation and evolution; it is the fear which we feel in the face of nature as a generative power; it is fear in the face of the principle of the fertility which can lead us to our evolution as individuals and as a species. This fear has its place in world mythology. Our myths speak of the competitive fear experienced even by the 'gods' towards their children. By way of indication, we could mention:

1. The myth which represents Cronus as eating his children.

2. The myth which represents Zeus as avoiding having relations with Thetis - whom he so much desired - after the prophecy of Themis that the son of Thetis would become stronger than his father. For this reason, Zeus chose a mortal husband for her.

3. A third kind of myth depicts the fear which prevents us from recognising the asymmetrical or non-linear, incompatible transcendences which surround us and which may take a miniature form. It is also depicted in the tragic, fateful hunts which serve as starting-points in the epics. Examples of this are the hunt of King Pandu in the Indian Mahabharata epic and Agamemnon's hunt in the Iliad. This dynamic is recognised in a more transcendental form in the Hindu Mahabharata myth, with has Vishnu appearing as an infant to Markandeya.

The same dynamic of the being as a presence of transcendental otherness and spiritual strangeness is shown in the appearances of Brahma to Indra, to Agni, to Vayu, and to Varouna, according to the Kena Upanishad. There the most sublime makes its appearance in accordance with convention, in prosaic form, yet it is not possible for those who have the divine power itself to influence it. This is the reason why even non-action can be used as spiritual leverage, as divine indifference towards the mania of desire, pursuit of the result, and of fixation with form. To sum up: surrender to fear in the face of time leads to treating time as an object of conquest as a substitute for abstraction and transcendence.

Our fear of nature, in the genesis of the species and of the gender our fear of 'children', could be termed the Herod Syndrome.

The two patterns of 'children of evolution'
As regards the 'products' of creation, 'children', these can be represented by two patterns:

1. That of Achilles, who is the pattern of the great embodiers of divinity, and the pattern of sacrificial incarnations;[i]

2. That of Mordred, the rapacious, treacherous, and merciless man whose chief characteristic is cruelty.[ii]

This pattern can be divided into two differing and substantive aspects:

(i) That which is marked by diffused jealousy and competitive fear.

(ii) That which is marked by idolising totalitarianism. We are speaking of the fear experienced by any idolising dominance of the possibility at some point of being taken by surprise and collapsing. It is that mistaken response to fear which triggers never-ending death, repugnant lust, and depraved arrogance as an aspect of evil.

We are describing that state of fear which characterises the being which has been 'fallen' ontologically. It is the state of 'idolising entrapment' of the being in an perpetual theatre of hazard and a tragic vicious circle. This is because the fear of Mordred or the fear of the 'tenant', as it could be called, is at the same time the fear of the entrapment of the soul in the mask. It is the fear of the portrait of Dorian Grey or the fear of the 'career' of Faust, just as it is the fear of patronage by a Mephistophelean otherness.

The danger of patronage by a Mephistophelean otherness is a constant one at the personal and at the socio-systemic level, through:

1. our personal entrapments of idolisation and everyday or personal, psychological, intellectual, or behavioural entrapments;

2. systemic collectivised play-acting in which the economy clearly occupies a central role.

The redemptive attitude towards imperfection
The 'Herod Syndrome' is sparked off by a mistaken reaction towards the sense of vulnerability. However, the sense of weakness and vulnerability could be redemptive. The sense of vulnerability can be used redemptively as that imperfection which is attracted to the surface so that evil should not be in control. From one point of view, it also acts as a making transcendent of the divine within, so that this should not be turned into an idol, so that it should not enter a field of divisive dualism. This is the significance of the emphasis which St Paul puts on 'Christ dwelling within us', on the experience of the internalising of the divine and its incarnation.

This was, in any event, also the logic of the rejection of monophysitism and monotheism, the concentration, in the end, on a relationship of assistance between God and the world, which, however, developed, unfortunately - under the influence of a guilt-ridden distortion and replacement of the higher and the spiritual - through the syndrome of the super ego and of idolised power. This is the reason why all religions have failed in the matter of the divinity of man: man has failed to persuade himself as to his divinity and to be assured of the inner magnitude of his entity, of that magnitude of the soul which can be greater than the magnitude of the universe, as Meister Eckhart would have put it, as a cornerstone of his teaching.

Love and truth as an answer to fear
The problem of fear of 'children' - in the deeper meaning which we have explained above - brings out the issue of the purpose and the motivation behind creativity in all its aspects, from the biological to the social and spiritual.

Speaking in Christian terms, we could say that the absence of love as a motivation in creation has the natural result of our exclusion from the kingdom of heaven, since "whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it".[iii] If we do not become children, as Christ said, not only will they equal us, they will overtake us, because we shall have chosen in the end a counterfeit relation with spiritual reality.

St John in his First Epistle states that "In love there is no room for fear; indeed perfect love banishes fear".[iv]

We could, therefore, say that every human being is afflicted with a double fear:

(a) the fear of the tree of life, which can generate transcendence; fear of the inner 'Amazonia', or the inner forest as nature;

(b) fear of the spirit and of abstraction.

We must heal this double fear with love and truth. This is, in any event, what Christ recommends to us. The correct response to the tribulation of fear is that reality should rule each of our thoughts, and that truth should be lord of our life.


Ioannis Zisis, Writer

This text forms part of the essay 'Fear in the face of Time or fear in the face of Creation and Evolution'.



[iii] Mark 10:15.

[iv] I John 4:18.


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