The Return Of Myth To Raffles Girls’ School – A Spontaneous Singaporean Resurgence Of Athenian Piety … Opposed By School Authorities

This is .. well, it’s a few things. One of which is infuriating.

The statue above is from Raffles Girls School in Singapore. It is a pretty prestigious academic institution. Hence, in part, why it has a statue of Athena on school grounds.

Now, perhaps understandably, some students at said school, during a high-stress exam period, did the logical thing of … carrying out acts of worship toward the Goddess in question, presumably to ask for aid.

This has landed them in hot water with the school’s administration – who declared the actions in question to be “unprincipled”, in violation of the school’s values, and “sacrilegious”. They are demanding all the students involved write letters of apology and “explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against you.”

[source]

Except here is the thing.

Those “School Values”.

The School Song – surely an expression of ‘School Values’ as clear as any – begins, and I quote:

“From High Olympus flows to us the glory,
On us the sacred fire descends.”

If we examine the Classical textual corpus, we find that yes … yes Athena does bestow what we might term ‘divine inspiration’ and empowerment to devotees. Frequently (as we see viz. the situations of Diomedes and Achilles in the Iliad), this manifests in a ‘fiery’ sense.

So, evidently the administration considers these direct invocations to ‘High Olympus’ wherein divine inspiration is beseeched to be sent down and invested into the supplicants in question (the school’s student body, funnily enough … ) to be merely symbolic in nature.

In fact, I am not sure it is even ‘symbolic’, as they are evidently so offended via even the notion of Hellenic divinity and worshipful engagement – that they declare it axiomatically “sacrilegious” if ever actually engaged with.

One wonders if it is still “sacrilegious” if some of the girls enrolled at the school are genuine adherents of a Hellenic reconstructionism. Probably, in the eyes of this school administration, they would be – I get the sense that it might be a case of “only THESE religions are allowed, everything else you’re just making up”.

In which case, one hopes that any Hindu students caught up in this (and it is not entirely unlikely – one in twenty Singaporeans is a Hindu) retort to the “sacrilegious” charge by observing that they were singing Bhajans to Ma Saraswati.

But while I find this “infuriating” – I also find it “intriguing” as well.

For it demonstrates once more something that we have often written about. The case of ‘Mythic Recurrence’, ‘Mythic Resonance’.

To briefly expound upon this point: Many (ok, not that many) are aware of what Eliade termed the principle of ‘Eternal Return’ – namely, the way in which Ritual acted to re-enact elements of Myth and therefore re-immanentize some components of them out into this Sidereal world of ours.

To use a very simplistic example – in the Myth, the Demon-Dragon may be holding up the water-cycle, causing drought; the slaying of said Demon-Dragon by a God therefore enabling ending of drought. And therefore, in the Ritual … there is a re-enaction of parts of this narrative, a symbolic dragon is symbolically killed … which helps with rainfall out here in the sidereal. [Again, oversimplification – it’s a lot more .. nuanced / subtle than that in various Vedic rites I am thinking of offhand, particularly with regard to intended objectives accomplished through the pious performativity of same]

Except that’s a case of humans bringing together the elements, the symbolic points of resonancy for the ritual – and then deliberately, intentionally undertaking the ritualistic actions which consciously and conspicuously ‘draw down’ here amongst us some ‘resonancy’ for the mythic occurrences and outcomes in question.

Our interest here is in another typology – namely, that wherein the whole thing happens without this intentional awareness.

A good exemplar for this is the case of the Cybele statue in Madrid. We have covered this earlier at far grander length – but suffice to say, what was designed and installed as a nice piece of art for a private garden … wound up with the city re-arranging itself around Her, both physically and culturally (dare we say – spiritually?); to the point that in the 20th century, She wound up effectively ‘becoming’ pretty much that which She would have been amidst the ancient world.

Of course, there are some differences of ‘expression’ –

Instead of a vivacious parade through the streets of crazed devotees, you have soccer fans; and instead of the trophies won from the bloody defeat of rival nations upon the field of war, She is presented with the trophies won in football tournaments, whilst being bedecked with the colours of the city in a pointed civic fete.

And one can certainly argue that various people involve are not taking it as ‘seriously’ as somebody two thousand years aforehand might have.

Yet nevertheless – the Myth has ‘reasserted itself’.

Symbolic elements have been placed by perhaps unintentional, perhaps unthinking hands .. and then ‘inside’ this arrangement, that Supernal essence has been Called Down, and begun to reshape our reality in fairly direct consequence.

It is subtle, it is not so strong as if somebody had done so intentionally and as if persons had consciously chosen to directly engage with Divinity in such a manner. Yet it is, perhaps, more ‘pervasive’ precisely because its ‘wavelength’ is so less overtly intense.

The parallels with this occurrence in Singapore are instructive:

There, you have young people beseechingly invoking the following:

“From High Olympus flows to us the glory,
On us the sacred fire descends.”

You have a statue of Athena, and other pointedly Hellenic elements on-campus as well.

You put the girls in question through a stressful academic situation – and they do what is natural. They pray to a Goddess of Learning.

You tell them to call upon ‘High Olympus’ for inspiration and insight – and it should appear … ‘High Olympus’ has indeed answered.

And that is precisely why one should have a care when choosing to engage with the ‘Symbolism’ of Myth.

For it has an interior logic, an interior life that is decidedly its own.

And it is not merely ‘Symbolism’.

I hope that the girls involved in this do indeed learn an important lesson. Namely, the one that we find so eloquently expressed in the Hindu maxim:

‘Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha’.

Or, to slightly liberally translate for illustrative purposes:

‘Piety Protected, Protects.’

Jai Mata Di !

One thought on “The Return Of Myth To Raffles Girls’ School – A Spontaneous Singaporean Resurgence Of Athenian Piety … Opposed By School Authorities

  1. Pingback: The Return Of Myth To Raffles Girls’ School – A Spontaneous Singaporean Resurgence Of Athenian Piety … Opposed By School Authorities – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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