The Aquarian Archetype
Burroughs’ stories are always concerned with religion in one respect or another. He never stopped investigating religion or religions. When Swami Prahavananda brought Vedanta to LA from Portland, Oregon of all places Burroughs if not the first in line was not that far back. It’s no surprise that the novels of the first half of the thirties all reflect Vedanta or Hindu religion to some extent.
The Tarzan series was virtually founded on the avatar of sun worship, La of Opar. She appeared sporadically until 1930 when she was entombed in Opar and abandoned by Tarzan and Burroughs. Here she appears again in the form of the mundane normal rich girl, Sandra Pickerall, the Scottish beer heiress. A common place White Goddess.
One should always bear in mind the original White Goddess, She, of Rider Haggard. Thus one always compares Burroughs’ White Goddesses to the original. Apart from Greek mythology’s White Goddess, represented as the moon, I think the White Goddess reigning in a Black or off-tone population, was actually a Haggard original. Of course, La was a carbon of She. An aside- I’m discoverying that I’m using some outdated terms incomprehensible to younger people. Carbon copy is one of these. You get the blankest of stares. For any readers not familiar with carbon paper, in the days before printers turned out endless perfect copies of documents if one wanted a copy of a typed letter, typed in a typewriter, one inserted a piece of carbon paper between the original and the desired copy. One side was coated with carbon so that the stroke imprinted on the clean sheet. Those were the days, children, when we walked three miles to school through eight foot snow drifts. Life wasn’t so easy back then.
So, La was a carbon of She. Not quite; She was actually two thousand years old. Burroughs couldn’t figure out how to do that without being a carbon copy of Haggard so he made the priestess of the Flaming God part of a multi-thousand year tradition. Sandra was a one off with short duration. There was no mystique there; this is the common woman triumphant. Rand himself was a phony Tarzan who was also a phony rather ditso god.
While there was no real historical basis for She but a tenuous connection to Egypt’s influence on Sub-Saharan Africa that Haggard repeatedly invokes there was a historical basis for the Portuguese colony of Alemtejo in Ethiopia. A fairly remarkable one and one that Burroughs knew of. Possibly the story was gleaned from the pages of the National Geographic also bu there is a basis for it in Burroughs library
Let’s tackle the groundwork for Haggard’s White Goddess first. Obviously with Haggard and Burroughs we are dealing with men and writers of stupendous imagination. These men are able to build cities and civilizations from the merest scraps of evidence. And then in Haggard’s case, from his sojourn in South Africa he was familiar waith legends and archaeological evidences unknown except to the specialist and possibly not to them. Burroughs read many books of African history including J.W. Buel’s Heroes Of The Dark Continent. The book mentions legends and stories that Haggard heard but so fleetingly one wonders what impression they could have made on the forming mind of ERB. Buel himself took his early history from a fabulous Arab work called The Travels Of Ibn Batuta, sort of the Richard Burton of his culture.
The Renowned Arab Traveler- Mohammed Ibn Batuta
Writing in the fourteenth century Ibn Batuta had visited the East African coast trodding the soil of Kilwa Island on the southern border of Tanganyika, now Tanzania. Zanzibar replaced Kilwa as the Moslem trading entropot on the East Coast. Haggard apparently had done the same as he mentions ruins that dated back to before the tenth century. So, we have established commercial activity in Southern Africa before the arrival of the Shona people in Zimbabwe.
The ruins of Zimbabwe are, of course, famous but the builders are undetermined although the relics are claimed by the Shona which is impossible. There are additional stone ruins further South than the Shona ever penetrated. Therefore it follows that others than the Shona built them. The ruins and Zimbabwae turn up frequently in Haggard’s novels also.
I have always believed the ruins were Malagasy which is also Trader Horn’s position. I wasn’t clear on the arrival of the Malagasy but then ERB’s novel Jungle Girl showed me the way. Jungle Girl is concerned with the Khmer people and the ruins of Cambodia and Thailand. Few of us, I believe, have any idea of the history of this area and its connection to India.
According to some somewhat limited research on my partI find that the Balinese were a major naval power in the archipelago and the adjacent mainland. When the Khmer king threatened the Balinese king the King of Bali mounted a thousand ship expedition to the Mekong to punish the Khmer king. This would be a substantial flotilla if true and not legendary. If each ship transported twenty to fifty soldiers that would be an army of twenty to fifty thousand men. Logistically a superior achievement, especially just to punish one guy.
Bali today is 90% Hindu in religion so that the Hindus or Indians had made a religious conquest of Bali by the ninth century. One assumes that contact was continuous from, say, 800 to 1500 AD so that Balinese regularly sailed to India. The Balinese also have fabulous ruins such as the magnificent manmade mountain, Borobudur that date from the earlier period.
Now, the Malagasy of Madagascar are genetically linked to a Bornean people opposite Bali on inland sea. It is highly doubtful that the Borneans made any voyages to India. Let us assume however that those people of Borneo were troublesome to the Balinese, harassing their shipping and possibly raiding Bali. Now, there doesn’t appear to be continuous migration to Africa; the migration seems to have been a one time affair.
Let us suppose then that the Balinese knew of Africa from their excursions to India. After all, the Chinese admiral, Zheng He touched on Africa if not claiming it for his Emperor in the fifteenth century. There are Africans with Chinese DNA from sailors shipwrecked from that expedition. Kilwa was active from at least the ninth century when Persians established a colony leaving ruins behind. Pottery sherds found on Kilwa come from the whole of the East including China.
In an effort to solve their Bornean problem, then, let us assume the Balinese organized a flotilla and shipped the entire troublesome Bornean population to Africa in one shot. It could easily have been done by revictualing and rewatering at several points on the way to India or Ceylon at which point the monsoon could be used to aim for the African coast. Whether Madagascar was known or not the flotilla could easily have blundered on it. It was uninhabited at the time. The Bantus had not yet penetrated that far. Their presence was probably insignificant on the mainland- Mozambique and Zimbabwe. That was it- a people transported from Borneo in one consignment.
Finding the malarial coast uninhabited but unhealthy the Malagasy’s then moved up on the plateau where the air was more salubrious. The Shona may or may not have already been there. In any event the population would have been small. It is possible they began to filter in some time thereafter settling North of actual Zimbabwe. The ruins then were built by the Malagasies either as protection from wild beasts or as defensive forts. As the additional ruins are further South the Malagasies either prospered and expanded or unable to maintain themselves against the Bantu Shona kept retreating further South as did the Bushmen. On the other hand the kingdom of Monomotapa that existed in this area at approximately this period must have been founded by the Malagasies. That it was stamped flat by the Bantus would indicate that it was a culture alien to theirs much as the White culture now being exterminated by the Bantus. With the Whites gone and the ruins of the cities dotting the plains the Bantus could then claim their ancestors built them. An exact duplicate situation. Shoot, even Mugabe could claim he built Salisbury.
Now, there are a variety of complexions in Zimbabwe tending toward a red. That could only come about by the mixing of the Black Shona and the copper Malagasy. So, obviously the Malagasy were either killed or bred out of existence on the mainland although still existing on Madagascar.
The Shona having no use for the stone forts which were unfamiliar to them ignored them for their traditional grass hut villages.
The Malagasies mined for gold probably trading with Kilwa Island although that is some distance and there seems to be little refuse in Zimbabwe to suggest a trading period. Nevertheless the gold was mined and it isn’t there now.
Using whatever knowledge he had of the legends or history of Zimbabwe Haggard created his own magnificent legends of King Solomon’s Mines and the superb She. She was was placed somewhere on the coast between Zimbabwe and Kilwa Island.
For his shadow of the story of She Burroughs then moves the location of She up to Ethiopia also incorporating the story of the Portuguese expedition of the fifteenth century to that formerly mythical and fabulous country thought to be the home of the equally mythical and fabulous Prester John.
ERB combines two threads of history. On the one hand Vasco da Gama the explorer did send his brother Cristoforo da Gama on a military expediton to Ethiopia to aid the Queen of Ethiopia. Initially successful Cristoforo was untimately defeated although the Portuguese left the country rather than building ERB’s castle on the Mutia Escarpment. On the other hand the Galla people subsequently invaded Ethiopia where they existed against the Ethiopians in the sort of standoff that ERB depicts.
The faux Tarzan, Rand, then parachutes into the midst of the Portuguese castle of Alemtejo. In his descent the wind slams him against a turret causing the inevitable amnesia. Tarzan’s loss of memory that recurs periodically means that ERB is severely stressed. Tarzan’s losses of memory always occur at periods of extreme stress for ERB when he is facing difficult problems.
Rand had embarked on his expedition to prove he could rough it a la Tarzan for thirty days so his mind occupied by this illusion he believes he is Tarzan. As he descended from the sky the Portuguese, now a cholcolate brown, believe he must be God, not a god but the God. Even though God Rand takes orders pretty well. Da Gama orders him to find a goddess as God must have a goddess. After having had his Black candidates rejected Rand goes back to find a White Goddess.
At this point Rand, the faux Tarzan, finds the beer heiress Sandra Pickerall. Thus God and goddess are in reality ordinary folk, the common people. The descent has been from the immortal She to the mortal but still divine, La, who was the high priestess, to an ordinary girl dressed in ordinary clothes who knows nothing of the goddess mystique. ERB’s hopes had deflated quite considerably.
This was on the eve of ERB and Florence’s departure into exile from LA to Honolulu so there is a bewildered sadness to the story. It’s as though ERB were asking: Where did the dream go wrong?
There is a faint echo of The City Of God story from Tarzan And The Lion Man. In this case Tarzan/Rand/ERB is God and Sandra/Florence is his goddess but no longer the vision of his dreams he imagined in 1926. He’s pretty disappointed.
The religious scene is quite astounding, presenting aspects of the whole history of religion. ERBs’ life study of religion is here condensed into a few paragraphs and scatterings throughout the text.
Ruiz stood behind a low, stone altar which appeared to have been painted a rusty brown red.
For a long time Ruiz the high priest held the center of the stage. The rites where evidently of a religious nature that went on interminably. Three times Ruiz burned powder upon the altar. From the awful stench Sandra judged the powder must have consisted mostly of hair. The assemblage intoned a chant to the weird accompaniment of heathenish tom toms. The high priest occasionally made the sign of the cross, but it seemed obvious to Sandra that she had become the goddess of a bastard religion which bore no relationship to Christianity beyond the symbolism of the cross, which was evidently quite meaningless to the high priest and his followers.
She heard mentioned several times Kibuka, the war god; and Walumbe the god of death, was often supplicated, while Mizimo departed spirits, held a prominent place in the chant and the progress. It was evidently a very primitive form of heathenish worship from which voodooism is derived.
What reading, what study went into this religious scene isn’t clear but it is clear that ERB’s reading here led back to the religious practices of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, or perhaps it might better be said the lower Niger River. In what they call the Yoruba diaspora the people as slaves were dispersed throughout the Americas, South and North and the Caribbean.
Apparently deeply religious the Yoruba took their religion with them grafting it unto a semblance of Catholicism, bastard religion here in Burroughs. Perhaps that is what ERB means when he says the Alemtejos took the cross as a symbol but it had no meaning to them. The Yoruba religion took different names and forms from Brazil to New York. As ERB points out here the Yoruban religion in Haiti developed into Voodoo while in Cuba it became known as Santeria by which name it passes into the US. Chief centers are Atlanta and New York City.
While Burroughs merely says that Voodoo was derived from some ancient form implying lost in the mists of time he may very well have known that these new world religious impressions were derived from the Yoruba of Africa.
And then a little further on, Ballantine, p. 55, ERB goes on to describe a different religious ritual:
Looking up, she saw a dozen naked dancing girls enter the apartment, and behind them two soldiers dragging a screaming Negro girl of about thirteen. Now the audience was alert, necks craned and every eye centered upon the child. The tom-toms beat out a wild cadence. The dancers, leaping, bending, whirling, approached the altar; and while they danced the soldiers lifted the still screaming girl and held her face up, upon its stained brown surface.
The high priest made passes with his hands above the victim, the while he intoned some senseless gibberish. The child’s screams had been reduced to moaning sobs, as Ruiz drew a knife from beneath his robe. Sandra leaned forward in her throne-chair, clutching the arms, her wide eyes straining at the horrid sight below her.
A deathly stillness fell upon the room broken only by the choking sobs of the girl. Ruiz’s knife flashed for an instant above his victim; and then the point was punged into her heart. Quickly he cut the throat and dabbing his hands in the spurting blood sprinkled it upon the audience, which surged forward to receive it…
To consider this scene from several angles: I hope no one will be offended but put into current Hollywood cinematic terms this is the very purest of pornography. It there was a battle at this time to get James Joyce’s Ulysses through customs, Joyce is smirkingly smutty compared to Burroughs here.
I mean, a dozen naked dancing girls leading the procession, a child snuff scene; the dwelling on the flash of the knife, its point entering the body, the spurting blood from the child’s cut throat then the sprinkling of the surging, screaming crowd with the blood, truly they were washed in the blood of the lamb.
If the Voodoo harked back to an early period it was before this intermediate sacrificial period. On the one hand La of Opar seemed to flash back to to Aztec ceremonies in ERB’s mind. In that gory society the victims were indeed laid out face up beneath the Flaming God as the priest no only stabbed them but cut the heart out holding the still beating vessel aloft for the sun’s acceptance.
Here ERB seems to combine the Aztec practices with the Semitic practices of child murder from which the term ‘blood of the lamb’ must be derived. Blood purifications were common in the various Classical religious consensuses. With Mithraic worshippers of the bull god Mithras communicants were lowered into a pit while a bull was slaughtered on a slatted platform above them, the blood dripping down on the initiate then washed the communicant in the blood of the bull, or in another word, Mithras.
Among the Semites, Carthaginians of North Africa and the Jews of Palestine child murder was the chief offering to placate the gods or God. The Carthaginians had a huge statue of Baal with oustretched arms on which the child was placed to roll down into a flaming pit.
The Valley of Hinnon was the site of the Jewish sacrifice of the first born. While the practice was suspended in the story of Abraham and Isaac when the sheep or lamb was allowed to be substituted for the first born. While the practice was suspended in the story of Abraham and Isaac when the sheep was allowed to be substituted for the born the idea lived on in the imagination of the Jews.
Then commenced the eternal round of sacrificing in the temple when the priests stood before a large basin called the brazen ocean and sacrificed sheep from sun up to sun down. The blood collected in the brazen ocean was used for its special purposes. Think washed in the blood of the lamb and compare it with the Mithraic rite.
Even then before the Jews left Egypt they smeared their lintels with the blood of the lamb or first born to save themselves from God’s slaughter of the first born of Egypt. Thus the Jews were symbolically washed in the blood of the lamb. The slaughter of the innocents in Herod’s time will also come to mind. Jesus as the first born would have been sacrificed as the lamb if the slaughter had been successful.
Certainly if read properly it is easy to understand why Sandra fainted. Perhaps in 1940 ERB found his psychological situation unbearable reacting by creating this bit of sado-masochistic pornography.
Having completed this part of his survey of religious evolution ERB moves on to what might be described as the late Classical to Medieval phase, Ballantine p. 67:
“Well, what of it?’ demanded da Gama. “I am king. Do I not sit on a level with God and his goddess? I am as holy as they. I am a god as well as a king; and the gods can do no wrong.”
“Rubbish!” exclaime the high priest. “You know a well as I do that the man is not a god, and the woman no goddess. Fate sent the man down from the skies- I don’t know how; but I’m sure he’s as mortal as you or I; then you get the idea that by controlling him you could control the country. You were jealous of me that’s all; then you get the idea that by controlling him you could control the church, for you know that who controls the church controls the country. You were jealous of me that’s all; then you conceived the idea of having a goddess, too, which you thought might double your power. Well, you have them; but they’re going to be just as useful to me as they are to you. Already, the people believe in them, and if I should go to them and say that you had harmed the god, they would tear you to pieces…”
Here we have the cynical conception of priest craft that was still current when I was a kid. Religion as the opiate of the people. Priests and kings who are totally insincere in their beliefs, the divine right of kings, a potent belief in its time ridiculed in another.
This could be the stuff of a stand up comedy routine by Bob Newhart in 1960 or the Smothers Brothers with some modifications of the struggle between the English Tudors with the Catholic Church.
“…you don’t stand any too well with the people, Chris, anyway; and there are plenty of them who think da Serra would make a better king.”
“Sh-h-h,” cautioned da Gama. “Don’t talk so loud. Somebody may overhear you. But let’s not quarrel, Pedro. Our interests are identical. If Osorio da Serra becomes king of Alemtejo, Pedro Ruiz will die mysteriously; and Quesada the priest will become high priest. He might become high priest while I am king.”
That would have gotten a knowing laugh from ERB’s readers who would have felt they had been let in on a cosmic truth. And with the proper inflection and delivery you have some stand up.
Of course the spectre of Christianity is running through this. ERB then tosses in a Moslem bit to bring things up to time; Sandra has bneen captured by Rateng the hunter, a Moslem Galla, Ballantine, p. 132:
“What do you want of me?” she asked. “What are you going to do with me?”
“You should know,” he said. “You are a woman.”
“I am not a mortal woman. I am a goddess.” She grasped at a straw.
Rateng laughed at her. “There is no god but Allah.”
“If you harm me you will die.” she threatened.
“You are an infidel,” said Rateng, “and for every infidel I kill, I shall have greater honor in heaven.”
Thus we have the last testament of Edgar Rice Burroughs on religion. Having delivered this he got on the plane for Honolulu leaving LA. His epic struggle to free himself from 1911 to 1940 ended in defeat. Ironically he was on a salary of 250.00 a month in Honolulu which had been his salary at Sears, Roebuck before he began writing. Life is funny sometimes.
Recapitulation and Conclusion.
Thus ended the confrontation between Edgar Rice Burrughs and the Judaeo-Communists. Little did ERB realize that in 1919 when he excercized what he thought was his American Constitutional rights by opposing Communism that he was engaging in a life and death struggle for supremacy. Nor did he realize that when that survey sent to him by the American Jewish Committee that was fatally forwarded to in Hollywood from Chicago by the post office was coded so that he would indicate his acceptance or rejection of subservience to the Jews. Had he known he would still probably have rejected the yoke but he at least then would have known that he was in open warfare for supremacy.
The America he had been raised in and on which his thoughts had been centered had been slipping away with each boatload of immigrants that arrived. From a population of a few hundred thousand in 1890 the Jewish population had grown to several million. They now had the strength of numbers as well as an implacable will to recreate the new glittering Promised Land in their own image.
There was a short reaction led by Henry Ford before any resistance was scattered. In that brief period to 1924 ERB had aligned himself with Ford as my analysis of Marcia Of The Doorstep shows.
So in that brief period between 1919 and 1924 ERB’s fate was sealed. In Marcia he was making desperate efforts to placate the hollywood Jews who after all had control over much of his ability to earn income. His hostility to the Communists continued unabated. They weren’t protected by a charge of anti-Semitism as were the Jews. In 1926 he published his anti-Communist trilogy The Moon Maid. His defence was countered by the direction of no less than Josef Stalin himself and through his agent H.G. Wells. ERB’s resistance to both the Communists and the Jews in my estimation produced the sequence of his greatest Tarzan novels and in his other works.
Given his own shortcomings, which were fatal, he hadn’t the skill, although he may have had the resources, to resist the evil so that by 1934 and Tarzan And The Lion Man the war was all but over. The end came in 1940 when, I presume, it was politely suggested that he retire from LA. The stage of his youth had been replaced by the aeroplane so that ERB’s mode of departure was by plane and not on the stagecoach.
MGM disdainfully made another movie, Tarzan In New York, in which Tarzan as it were is led to New York with a rope around his neck. There in New York he is symbolically forced to submit to the Law . While in an American court it seems fairly clear that the Law is Talmudic Law rather than, to use the term loosely, American justice.
With the release of Tarzan In New York MGM essentially threw the character away giving Tarzan over to Sol Lesser to do as he pleased.
Apart from a spate of stories in 1940 and the war novel, Tarzan And The Foreign Legion, the voice that had thrilled a nation for nearly thirty years was silenced.
ERB’s dissidence was crushed. Nor was he the only author. While the pre-1919 publishers seem to have been all Liberals and Communist fellow travelers the authors were anti-Communist or, at least, apolitical in that sense, to a man. They all seem to have fared no better than ERB. Certainly, in my life experience the period from 1914 through the fifties is a virual literary block. The non-Communists writers of pre-1919 had their reputations obscured while after 1919 no writers but Communists were nurtured and allowed into print. Thus all the social realist third rate Communist garbage of the period has disappeared from genuine lack of interest. There are attempts to buck up the reputations of John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway with some success while there are also attempts to create some interest in failed Jewish writers of the period but that seems to be of no avail. They, like Philip Roth, are too culturally specific to hold the general interest.
One wonders why Burroughs didn’t publish Tarzan And The Mad Man. He locked the book in his safe and forgot about it. Certainly the novel is as good as any he wrote. Perhaps the admission of defeat it contains would have been too gratifying to his enemies or too painful to admit. I don’t know.
Perhaps the challenges life gave ERB were too strong. First his early childhood centered around high expectations was countered by John The Bully and ERB’s ceaseless movement from school to school orchestrated by his father who seemed to have a love-hate relationship with him; then the cruel bludgeon of fate that fell on him in Toronto which literally addled his brains for a decade if not for life perpetrated by a rival for the hand of Emma whose enmity never ceased and who plagued him in Chicago through 1919 and then the war with the Jews and Communists through the twenties and thirties.
Ah well, we all have to play the hand we’re dealt.