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Page 8

INTRODUCTION BY RICHARD ALDINGTON

New Mexico and old Mexico. He had rightly or wrongly come to the conclusion that it was quite useless to preach to them the religion of Jesus, of love and compassion and so forth. After four centuries they still failed to grasp its first elements. In New Mexico, for instance, the old rites of blood-sacrifice still continued under the colour of Christianity in the self-flagellation practices of the so-called Penitentes. And in old Mexico he discovered that the Virgin Goddess was believed to bring forth, not the Saviour of the world, but an awful obsidian knife such as was used to cut the heart from the living victim as an offering to the Mexican Sun-god.
Lawrence, who through all his transformations and 'battlings' with himself remained as English as a wet Sunday in Hull, was considerably rattled by all this - and, incidentally, the reader of The Plumed Serpent can see for himself how the Englishman Lawrence constantly recoils in dissenting horror from the very things he is supposed to be preaching. But one English trait he had not got - he never tried to persuade himself that what he saw was other than it really was. So he said to himself: Very well, these people need religion, and the religion they need - the only religion they can understand, in fact - is the ancient religion of their forefathers, and not this alien religion which four centuries of effort have failed to impose on them.
It is a very plausible line of argument, especially for one who, like Lawrence, never thought of Religion as the Absolute, an unchanging objective Truth nothing can alter, but as an expression of Man's psychological needs. And so his Mexican general, who is a projection of himself, sets about recalling these long-banished gods of the ancient Aztecs-ITZPAPALOTL and HUITZILOPOCHTLI and QUETZALCOATL- conceptions of the divinity as weird and repellent to us of the ancient world as their unpronounceable names. How Lawrence imagined they could be invoked, what effect he thought the revival would have in Mexico, how he became so caught-up in his own vivid incantations that he began to plume himself on being a `natural aristocrat' and even a new avatar of the Snake-Bird-god, may be read at length from Chapter XI onwards.
The opening of the book is on a totally different level of ideas, though most skilfully adapted as the entrance upon the

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