Dragon's Death" is, writes Basil de Selincourt, "the price of men's joy and of their peace together." Surely this is a most intuitive and arresting thought!
Swiftly it unfurls visions of the dragon in art and literature — the great gold and crimson dragon of Chinese temple and festival, the dragon of the Nibelungenlied, and our own St. Michael and the dragon — each and everyone of these representing some aspect of a universally recognised symbol. What does the dragon symbolize, and how and why is its death "the price of men's joy and of their peace together?"
The dragon is the personified individuality in man, a stalwart step-son of the gods and the lusty product of the material sphere of evolution, as distinct from its elder brother, the universal individuality, the pilgrim of the ages which the dragon-slayer or St. Michael represents.
This personified egoity is the fertile source of human ignorance and illusion, for from it exude the manifold disruptive influences of life the ancients collectively termed the "heresy of separateness." The dragon would have man imagine himself a plaything of the gods pitted against the Universe, its laws and its forces; and competing with man and beast for a meager existence on Earth.
This the dragon-slayer knows to be a fraud and a delusion that he must destroy by using the strength and intrepidity possessed by the dragon, to divert its energies, now disruptively directed, into the constructive channels of evolution, of universal progress. Knowing himself a potential Universe, one with its very heart — a son of Sun, Stars and Earth, now participating with all the kingdoms of Nature, in the life of this planet — St. Michael can by the power inherent in his divine kinship thus slay the dragon.
With the death of the dragon, the psychological distortions causing enmity and discord, fear and disease, will become amenable to the disciplined will of the dragon-slayer and learn to conform gladly to the good of the whole. The dragon's death means bringing the loved ideal into creation in the world of men instead of building a world man can no longer rejoice in.
Is this too heavy a price to pay for man's joy in his fellow-men of all nations and races and for the peace wherein to fulfill his joy? The dragon would take all, and when all else had been consumed — consume itself: St. Michael gives royally of what is worthy, retaining for himself but the right to transcend his own limitations, to garner from that experience yet greater treasures for the giving.
The advent of Justice, Altruism, and Compassion — the death of the dragon, antagonism — verily this is "the price of man's joy and of their peace together."