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Darkness In The Service Of Manifest Destiny As Portrayed By Cormac Mccarthy In Blood Meridian

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Now when this horrible Lucifer, as a tyrant and raging spoiler of all that is good, shewed himself thus terribly, as if he would kindle and destroy all, and bring all under his jurisdiction, then all the heavenly hosts and armies were against him, and he also against them all; there now the fight began, for all stood most terribly, one party against another.

Jacob Boehme, The Aurora, ... Or The Morning Rednesse In The Rising Of The Sun

On the surface Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian is an extremely violent narrative based on historical events, which aims at dispelling the stereotypes of heroic frontier mythology. Within it, however, we do not find too many traditional elements that normally constitute the mainstream perception of American Wild West history. Nonetheless, if we decide that Blood Meridian is nothing more than a rebellion against historical stereotype, we are bound to miss the layer that underlies and defines its fundamental idea. This layer is represented by McCarthy's consistent references to the mythological, theosophical and Hermetic symbols and archetypes. The mythological narrative in the novel echoes the eschatological battle between the good and evil resulting in the regeneration of the Cosmos. While it is very difficult to trace all the aspects and details of the mythological mystery play that saturate the novel, the hinge of the story is represented by a single character, Judge Holden. Despite the fact that formally the judge is not in charge of Glanton's gang, he sets its goals and directions as well as its ultimate fate. He is a representation of a multifaceted deity that is instrumental in the setting and defining of the border between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The borderland in the novel, which is effectively the world of death and chaos, has to be cleansed and renewed by destruction in order to be later incorporated into the world of the living, the order and civilization. The mission of the sculphunters is the battle in service of regeneration of the borderland in which they turn out to be confederates and instruments of the deity. Judge Holden's mission is accomplished when the borderland diminishes and the sculphunters, who do not have place in the world of the living, are physically destroyed by that world. Thus, both the world of the dead and Glanton's gang who cleansed it into oblivion, disappear from the physical plane of existence.

McCarthy links the myth that perpetrates the novel as well as its characters with the writings of Jacob Boehme, the sixteenth century German mystic, particularly with his seminal work, The Aurora. The language of the novel reflects that of Boehme's writings, even its subtitle, "The Evening Redness In The West" mirrors the subtitle of The Aurora, "The Morning Rednesse In The Rising Of The Sun" (Boehme, title page). A few words have to be said about Jacob Boehme's theosophy since certain crucial points in it have been used as the frame for the narrative in the Blood Meridian. Boehme's writings were strongly influenced by hermetic and alchemical traditions. One of the fundamental paradoxes of Boehme's views expressed in The Aurora is the combination of life-affirming concept of Creation and its suffusion with the Divine, on one hand, and on the other, of an extremely violent and uncompromising view of Cosmic dualism which results in the battle between the absolute good and absolute evil (Boehme 436). The kingdom of Wrath and the kingdom of Light are almost entirely symmetrical, being mirror images of one another and at a constant battle "where life is generated in the very centre or midst of death, and light in the midst of darkness" (Boehme 195). The fact that the dark and the light sides of the Cosmos are mirror images of each other brings the paradox of difficulty of distinguishing between the activities of good and evil. The profane ethic does not apply to Boehme's scheme - what in human terms seems good may easily be evil and vice versa. The dual nature of the Cosmos and humanity is, according to Boehme, inherent in reality since its creation and continues through its existence until the eschatological end. The fall of Lucifer, who in effect becomes the instrument of Wrath, occupies a very important place in Boehme's theosophy, because the hubris of Lucifer "stirred up therein the sharp birth [Wrath] of God, and opposed the light or bright heart of God" (Boehme 653) making the further creation of the world possible only due to it (Boehme 638-639). We see in the novel how the judge puts it: "War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner"(McCarthy 248). In the light of Boehme's dialectic the sculphunters, as the offspring of evil, are the necessary element in this elimination of dark chaos in the borderland and become, paradoxically, the very force that causes the final collapse of evil and the emergence of light.

One of the problems in establishing any border is that it has to be done first in the minds of those people who live around it. It was not enough for the American and Mexican governments to agree upon the new borders because a number of problems arose concerning the native population. Native people had lived there for centuries and they refused to be driven to the more desolate lands completely unsuitable for life. They were fighting back and terrorizing peaceful citizens on both sides of the border by their extreme cruelty in war: "There were goats and sheep slain in their pens and pigs dead in the mud ...hovels where people lay murdered in all attitudes of death in the doorways and the floors, naked and swollen and strange" (58). As a result the borderland became a realm of darkness, a dangerous and chaotic place that was impossible to live in. It is irrelevant whether this area of chaos and death was real or imaginary. It was real in the eyes of the world of the living - the civilized society both on the American and Mexican sides, and required elimination. Glanton's gang is the force that is most suitable for the work of the extermination of the natives and thus cleansing the land for further cultivation. Symbolically the sculphunters do not belong to the world of living as they are mostly criminals and would be imprisoned back in the States. Every one of them has no other life to return to, as the kid tells Toadvine about it: "It aint country you've run out of" (285). They do not have any moral or humanistic restraints whatsoever to stop them from completing the task assigned. John Glanton, who had "long forsworn all weighing of consequence" (243), and Judge Holden pick up their people carefully, making sure that they all are of the same kind.

From the first time that we meet



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