Mythological Allegories of the Power of Speech, Writing, Propaganda and Rhetoric: Ogmios, Hercules, Hermes, Thoth, Superman and Thulsa Doom

Speech is a powerful lord, which by means of the finest and most invisible body effects the divinest works: it can stop fear and banish grief and create joy and nurture pity. “

Encomium of Helen by Gorgias

As our civilization becomes more complex and technologically advance, we also see a push for more centralization of power and control. A lot of centralization can be achieved by brute force, but there are always certain moments when more refined methods are required. The more refined methods are required if you want to conquer the minds of your subjects, not just their bodies.

The architects of this trend of centralization are the invisible government mentioned by Edward Bernays in his book Propaganda. To achieve their higher level of control, they had to perfect the art of speech, persuasion, rhetoric and propaganda.

In the future I may dedicate some posts making speculations about this “invisible government” (the elites, globalists, oligarchical families or whatever other name we may give them) and its use of propaganda. However, in this post I want to discuss a few mythological and fictional characters that seem to embody the power of speech, persuasion or propaganda.

Ogmios/Ogma

Ogmios was the Celtic god that was equivalent to Hercules. What is very interesting, is that Lucian of Samosata ( 2nd century AD) wrote an essay about Ogmios (or Ogmius) being the embodiment of eloquence. The essay is actually titled “Heracles” is here [1]. Some important passages:

“This ancient Heracles drags after him a vast crowd of men, all of whom are fastened by the ears with thin chains composed of gold and amber, and looking more like beautiful necklaces than anything else. From this flimsy bondage they make no attempt to escape, though escape must be easy. There is not the slightest show of resistance: instead of planting their heels in the ground and dragging back, they follow with joyful alacrity, singing their captor’s praises the while; and from the eagerness with which they hurry after him to prevent the chains from tightening, one would say that release is the last thing they desire. Nor will I conceal from you what struck me as the most curious circumstance of all. Heracles’s right hand is occupied with the club, and his left with the bow: how is he to hold the ends of the chains? The painter solves the difficulty by boring a hole in the tip of the God’s tongue, and making that the means of attachment; his head is turned round, and he regards his followers with a smiling countenance.”

“We Gauls connect eloquence not with Hermes, as you do, but with the mightier Heracles. Nor need it surprise you to see him represented as an old man. It is the prerogative of eloquence, that it reaches perfection in old age”

“Hence, if you will consider the relation that exists between tongue and ear, you will find nothing more natural than the way in which our Heracles, who is Eloquence personified, draws men along with their ears tied to his tongue. Nor is any slight intended by the hole bored through that member: I recollect a passage in one of your comic poets in which we are told that There is a hole in every glib tongue’s tip.”

“Indeed, we refer the achievements of the original Heracles, from first to last, to his wisdom and persuasive eloquence. His shafts, as I take it, are no other than his words; swift, keen-pointed, true-aimed to do deadly execution on the soul.”

Ogma is an Irish god that is most likely related to the older Ogmios. Ogma is the inventor of the Ogham script. Thus, he is the equivalent of the ancient Egyptian god Thoth. Besides being associated with the invention of writing, Ogma was also associated with poetry and speech.

Hercules/Heracles

The Greco-Roman Hercules/Heracles is usually not associated with eloquence as in the essay by Lucian of Samosata. Modern people that know a little bit of mythology probably imagine Hercules as a grunt who smashes things with his club. However, we have to remember that Hercules was trained in many arts and sciences by the centaur Chiron (who trained many other heroes).

An instance where Hercules uses the power of speech to trick somebody is when he has to deal with Atlas. He managed to trick Atlas to take again his burden of holding the heavens on his shoulders (see the summary of the story here).

The encounter with Atlas is interesting for another reason, since it may refer to the fact that both Atlas and Hercules were learned in the science of astronomy. Atlas or Hercules holding the heavens can be a metaphorical or allegorical description of men that know the science of astronomy or navigation by stars. For proof, we see that Plato uses the words “stone of Heracles” or “Heraclean lodestone” for the magnet [2].

Superman

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that Clark Kent (one of the identities of Superman) is a journalist. His love interest Lois Lane is usually portrayed as a top level journalist. So, I think that there is a case to be made that Superman also embodies the power of the written word or propaganda.

Superman was actually use a little bit for overt propaganda purposes. The short animated movie “Japoteurs” from 1942, is an example of propaganda against the Japanese (the 8 minutes cartoon can be watched on archive.org). Of course, this was during WW2.

Like many of the mythological heroes, Superman also seems to be a solar hero. One big clue is the fact that his strength is activated by the yellow sunlight of our Sun (red sunlight weakens him). It’s also interesting that in many versions, there are seven original heroes that create the Justice League. This can be connected to the seven ancient planets.

The alien name of Superman is Kal El and he is from the House of El. The name “El” is interesting, since the word means “God” in Hebrew. In fact, the name Kal El resemble the Hebrew words קל-אל that can be translated as the “voice of God” [3]. This is probably not a coincidence, since the creators of Superman were Jewish. Superman being the “voice of God”, again points in the direction of him being the embodiment of the power of propaganda, speech or writing.

The Wikipedia page of Superman has other interesting literary analyses themes that are tied to Superman.

Thulsa Doom

One of my favorite scenes from the movie “Conan The Barbarian” (1982), is when Thulsa Doom demonstrates to Conan the power of flesh over the steel.

Thulsa Doom tells Conan that “Steel isn’t strong boy, flesh is stronger” than he tells the young girl to jump from the cliff. After the girl jumps to her death, Doom says “that is strength boy, that is power”.

In the scene, Thulsa Doom talks about the power of the flesh, but the scene really shows the power of speech, propaganda and indoctrination. The girl that jumped to her death was an acolyte of Thulsa Doom and his serpent cult. Of course, that behind the propaganda there is always the flesh of the elites that control the cult.

Conclusion

I was always intrigued by the essay of Lucian that connects Hercules/Ogmios to the power of speech. It’s also interesting to see that even more modern fictional characters also seem to embody the power of persuasion in its various forms.

In the future I may discuss the power of music. Music is especially powerful when couple with powerful lyrics. For some clues about the power of music think about the Sirens encountered by Odysseus and his men in the Odyssey. The power of the music is also described very well in the poem “Alexander’s Fest” by John Dryden (Handel made a musical composition based on the poem).

The magicians know that the greatest power is derived when you combine speech, music and visual imagery. In ancient times it was the theater, and now we have movie theaters, TVs, PCs, tablets and smart phones. A lot of people think that these devices and the internet liberated us. However, to me it seems that these black monolith devices are powerful tools of control (there is the irony of me condemning these tools, while I use these tools to write this post on the internet).

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