Heroism, as traditionally presented in drama, might be thought to have no connection with anything akin to a fairy-tale, as the existentialism of the former is nothing like the magic of the latter. But there is a vital connection between the existential and the magical in the story of heroism. This is particularly clear in Celtic myths, legends, fairy tales, both Shamanic and Christian. It seems to be the special genius of the Celts to have discerned this peculiar connection.
There is an existential side to the fairy tale ending, alluded to by Andy Harmon= ‘against all the odds, the hero comes through– if he pays the price’; and that price is always sacrifice of some kind, on some level. God helps people where they are, and so whatever a person can do, much or little, that is their ‘all.’ For the heart making it, sacrifice is always beyond measure.
However, there is a more magical secret to the fairy tale ending. This is hinted at in the legends that reveal the origins of the fey realm. The hint can only be repeated= there came a point in time when the gods and goddesses fought the humans, and the humans won, inaugurating the age of the heroes. The gods and goddesses had to retreat; they became ‘small’, reduced in power and influence, yet went on living in the wild forest glades, and in the human psyche. The psyche in humans is in touch with a psychic substratum in everything. This secret became the fey domain.
In Celtic stories, there are not two but three roads in this existence.  There is the heroic road, the so-called straight and narrow, the hard road, walked by a relative few.  There is the road to perdition, the so-called crooked and broad road, the easy road, walked by a relative many.  There is a third road, mysterious and magical, that does not partake of the harsh clash between love and evil, or truth and the lie, but leads to the fey realm. This is often accessed by a strange path that goes beneath a mound into the underworld; it can be accessed through lakes, or caves, or other underground entry points. The fey realm is always ‘underneath’ the everyday world of humans, though fey experiences also suddenly intrude at the ‘boundaries’ of ordinary human convention and comprehension. Fey can certainly invade the human world.
The Celtic fey realm is an aspect of the older Shamanic ‘Spirit World’, but it is a special aspect not previously disclosed.
The Spirit World has an aspect of Static Quality, because its ‘space’ is the intersection point of Uncreated and created, and as such is both ‘exalted’ and ‘vast’ in its cosmic extent. Cosmic space is Infinity in the finite, Unity in diversity, like the Oriental mandala. However, maybe before but certainly from the Celts onward, the Spirit World also manifests another aspect which is more geared to Dynamic Quality. The fey realm is not simply the cosmic space of the Great Wheel; it is a hidden part of that space which pertains more to time, the promise of the future lost in the past, the riddle of what will be in the forgotten what once was..
The fey realm is not the stability and continuity of Static Quality, which both transcends and has constancy through time. Rather, it is time frozen in its forward thrust, but waiting for the ‘enchanted moment’ when time will be liberated to move again. The story of the gods losing to the human heroes is nothing to do with spirituality being replaced by any kind of humanism; rather, it is a postponing to a later time of what the gods offer humanity, until humanity has stood on our own two feet. The age of the gods, when they mentored and were the ideal of humans, must go. This means the humans doing without godly charismas and potencies, in order to take on something very different, and much harder= the pressing necessity is now for humans to become a hero of the heart, a hero of passion, and relying only on the Daemonic God to do this.
In this transition, the gods are not destroyed, but ‘put on ice’, shelved for a time, made ‘smaller’ in prominence and role, thus becoming the ‘little people.’ What they become, and the realm they live in, are both no longer as the gods once were, in being exemplary figures looked up to above the human, on some Mount Olympus high in the sky, almost touching heaven; they are now reduced in size, yet thereby changed in function. Both what they are, and the realm they live in, are ‘fey’, which means magical. This magicalness belongs more to time than space, it is a mystery of the Daemonic, though it also has roots in Eros. The fey govern nature’s growing, its fertility. But they hold out another more mysterious and magical quality.
The fey realm is like a time stopped in its tracks, almost frozen in aspic, a kind of weird ‘longevity’ or ‘elasticity’ of time, a time yet a time not passing, an odd time. We sense this time especially at dawn and twilight. It is liminal time, a boundary between two worlds, ordinary clock time and magical time. In magical time, no time passes, or it passes so slowly that a human traveller who ‘goes under the hill’ might find they have been away for seven human years, yet it felt like only seconds, minutes, hours, in the fey time.
Not surprisingly, the Celtic peoples who used to keenly feel the nearness of this odd spiritual domain tended to interpret it as Paradise, the Blessed Isles in the West, and similar ‘Garden of Eden’ themes. But the fey realm is not the primal paradise of Eros. It holds dangers that are unique to its odd role in the story of redemption. Thus people who descend into the realm of fey must be careful not to insult its inexplicable rationale. It is a storehouse of psychic wisdom, and gifts, yet its role is not just to dispense any of this ‘buried riches.’ It is doing something more obscure, and in doing this, it requires its human visitors to be heroic in the world process of existential time; the fey spirits do not welcome hippies, treasure seekers, spiritual joy riders, Luciferian souls lusting after spiritual power, the psychotic seeking an ‘inner’ source of identity as an alternative to the ‘outer’ source of identity they reject. Though the fey road is not as obviously rigorous as the heroic road, it does require heroic rigour as a precondition of a fruitful entry. Those on the road of perdition will try to exploit the fey realm, to their own wrong motives and bad objectives, and so the fey road will prove for them only an ‘enhancement’ that ensnares them more profoundly in evil’s deception. As for the merely idly curious, the day trippers, real dangers await; like the sorcerer’s apprentice, they will get more than they bargained for.
There is much to say on this, yet it is best left with a veil covering most of it. All that needs to be said is that, though the stories involving the fey people and their realm can end very badly for the unwary and the disrespectful, and the false of intent, for the true in heart the encounter with the magic of fey creates unexpected ‘happy endings’ where things come to fruition, where all manner of things end well. Some of Shakespeare’s later plays move in this direction; it is tempting to believe that the bard had actual first-hand experience of fey, or his final plays would not have been possible in their odd mixture of tragedy and comedy, of distress and happiness. Shakespeare over a long lifetime of writing works through the ‘good fight’, and human tragedy, to a new place in the heart beyond their exactions and sorrows, and this place is most certainly redemptive, yet as a result, it also becomes magical.
What is going on in this progression, this change process in time?
It is captured in the phrase applied to Arthur, ‘the once and future king.’ Heroism, as it passes through the good fight, and into redemption, comes to a crowning end provided by the magicalness of fey. This magic is ‘added’ unexpectedly to the story of heroism. Two things are happening. A kingship defeated in time comes back in time, renewed. The pre redemptive king hits a wall, the post redemptive king blasts through that wall. The king denuded of the gods is finally gifted by them again, but their gift is not to him so much as to everything he has sweated, cried, and bled, for. His sacrifice becomes the seed that goes into the ground, and unlocks something magical that will change the land, and change the world process. The redemptive seed not only frees the captives from hell, it frees something else= fey is the power to transform the land, and the world process, in time. The king’s sacrifice is like the kiss that awakens the sleeping beauty; the sleeping beauty is the natural and historical world, everything governed by time, under a kind of curse, unable to be sparked into the change that will bring it all to a creative ending, a final celebration of the investment of God come good over the long run.
Fey is the aspect of nature and the world that is never stuck, but fluid like water in full flow. Without fey, everything is stuck, ticking over in clock time, and blocking out fluidity with a hard shell. Fey melts that hard shell that stops things moving.
‘Transformation’ is the secret of the fey; the fey is that watery kingdom at the bottom of all things, and linked to the human psyche, that can get things moving again, as they always were meant to move. The heroic deed frees and unlocks this ‘time to go’, ‘time to move’, ‘time to change’; and once this weird time between past and future is dynamised, it touches ordinary time and radically changes it. This is not Eternity in the Now; it is a promise given to time, lost and preserved in a liminal time, brought back to ordinary time again in order to wholly recreate it. Clock time becomes not only the time of existential action, and the time of redemption, but the time of possibilities only held in magical time, and distant from real time, becoming realised ‘at last.’ We waited for the magic for a long time, sensed it, intuited it, imagined it, sang and told stories about it, but knew it was not real; then the magic caught us out, it came for real, and in that precise sense, ‘our dream came true.’ Ordinary existence suddenly seems the insubstantial dream, and the magic more real. Magical things happen, for real, in the end, to transform everything and everyone.
This is the stupendous meaning of ‘they lived happily ever after.’ The parallel between this Celtic intimation of time delivering magical transformation in reality is strongly parallel to the promise of Christ’s resurrection for all of nature and all of the world. The entire creation is resurrected, becoming the Heavenly Earth, and the New Jerusalem.
None the less, we can have no certainty that redemption will even win through, and thus the magic of transformation, when a spiritual water will flow through the hard crust of things and melt it away, is still far off– or very near. With the fey, you never know what is up and what is down. Their ‘world in reverse’ reflects a hidden link to the Reversal of the Cross. Thus as redemption moves ahead, so the fey time beyond time re-enters time, to work a certain magic. Arthur is returning, yet also returning is that transformational power in the creation itself, in the earth, in the world of history.
It can all change, in a twinkling.
As the fairy tales say..
Drama has been linked to Dynamic Quality, and Dynamic Quality linked to the Daemonic.
God spurring on the heart and passion in its heroic and redemptive battle with the world, for the world.
A hard conclusion needs to be pointed at.
Drama shows us that most of the time, we have no heart. This is why we are bored with the time we spend in this world, and why we complain that time is statically immoveable, such that nothing deep ever changes. No wonder people flock to Static Quality with its Stable Pattern of Duration, and eschew the Dynamic Quality that can change things dramatically, but when it is non-operative, leaves everything stuck, as far as heroism is concerned; the world only ever seems to be shifted by evil and the lie. The world keeps going to hell, like a heavy rock sliding down hill, and only the wicked seem to have the muscle to help it roll downward faster and farther.
Drama tells us this situation can change, but only ‘if’.. You know the if, as do I. Knowing it means nothing unless we ‘do’ it.
To change the world requires our sacrifice. This is the sticking point.
The heart pays the price, and this is why there is no other word than ‘passion’ for the life and action of the heart in and towards the world. Emotion is no use, feeling is no use, to refer to what the heart ‘does.’
No heart action= no words concerning the heart can be spoken.
Drama provides a language of storytelling, of narrative, by which we can try to avoid falsifying the heart and its passion, but remain true to its action. A successful dramatic story pre-empts any commentary on drama, and the commentary only reminds us of what we already know, but forget. We are not confused about why drama affects us so deeply, both hurting our conscience and encouraging us at once.
Consequently, any account of the heart passion that contests the world’s destiny has to be prophetic; it has to be calling people to a change of heart, and helping them navigate the heart’s many and twisted paths. For those who are sharing this journey and battle, there is opportunity for much brotherly exchange. These are exchanges of ‘notes in the life’, what it is like for you, what it is like for me, in the common human fate. We can help each other keep going. On this road, there is no expert, no guru, no master, only brothers, some elder, some younger, but all up against it, all out of their depth, all suffering and all fighting. Though the Daemonic blow forces each of us to step out of the Great Round, and stand on our own feet over an abyss personal to our uniqueness, nevertheless the Daemonic wound also forges the brotherhood of heroes standing together, like the Knights and Arthur in Camelot.
The heart is not easily searched out. To a large extent, people either get it when the heart is spoken of, or they do not. Many people, perhaps most people, have no clue what the heart is from their own experience, and thus resent it being spoken of– as if someone were trying to have a laugh at their expense, or put something over on them, even trick them. This is foolish though understandable.
It is hard to search out the heart. Entry to the heart has to be earned by acting from the heart. Even then, that is just an entry, and the deeper searching out remains very hard on all human beings. Almost nothing is harder, except the most passionate heart action itself. People lie about the heart, and avoid any searching of it, day in, day out, year in, year out. Children start with an innocent heart, an unformed and untried heart, yet a heart willing to have a go, but it is soon kicked out of them by parents, and indeed all the adults they meet. In the fallen world, in the process of ‘worldliness’, everything is organised, set up, systematised, to block out heart, in the name of the right procedure, the correct protocol, the best practice. It is all an elaborate architecture of nuances added to evasions added to lies, and it is fiercely defended by people as the proper way to do things. No heart allowed, because we have all this other apparatus instead.
Getting to the heart, and coming from the heart, are thus rare and so difficult it is almost beyond recall.
The heart is only searched out with insurmountable difficulty. It helps to get closer to the ground, for only if we are close to the ground can we search the depths.
The depth plunges down, in the end, into an abyss. This is the unfathomable and groundless ground which alone can give the raw ground of existence, upon which we spill our sweat, tears, and blood, its solidity. Then the killing ground becomes the common ground, and what divided us deeply becomes what we are reconciled to, and gather round. In the end, there is only one heart, one passion, that upholds all, and allows all to stand together.