Gods and Humans in Greek Myths
When I was first introduced to Greek Myth, it
was always presented as the realm of "mythology", a concept which was very
unclear to me back then. As as kid, I would ask "Why are the gods of these people
mythology and ours isnt?" and I would get responses that varied from "Because
they believed in many gods and that's wrong" or "because they were more
primitive" or "because what we believe is true and shut up!". This
separation was further confused in my mind because when I read these stories, the Gods in
them were not "abstract" or "hard to pin down". They would freely
interact with humans, they would appear in the middle of battles, they would wait for
travellers in lonely roads, they would have sex and procreate with humans and they would
struggle with problems of their own. Again, all the explanations that would surface of
these strange phenomena were: "These people were very primitive and supersticious and
so they believed in these things which are not true..." I was still fascinated with
all these stories and legends, even if they were lies, simply because there was a certain
smell to them, a feel, a taste that made me suspect that there was more here than meets
Later I found a completely different approach to
reading these myths, specially in the Illyad. When the gods appear it is never specified
where they appear from, or how they make their appearance. In fact, many times it takes a
while for the "humans" to realize that there is a God among them... even as
they're fighting alongside with this God! How can this be? Unless the God has taken a
shape that is familiar to them and which they think is their best friend? their fellow
soldier? their platoon leader?
Were the ancient Greeks imagining Gods falling
freely from the skies and appearing before them in physical form... or were they aware of
the tuning of their radios and they had given names to the various channels?
This kind of talk may or may not be a projection
from our present understanding into the past. From one end it can be seen as superimposing
a new vision onto an older simpler and more supersticious environment. But on the other
hand, the assumption that always underlies our present way of looking at the past is that
"we now know better". But what if we don't? Maybe we do know more about certain
things but what if there are other elements that we have forgotten? Is it possible
that knowledge doesn't always travel in a straight line from past to future but makes
detours, runs down dark paths and sometimes hits dead ends and is left behind?
There is hardly any way for us to truly know
this. But we can experiment with the vision and see if it holds the taste of truth through
active testing, rather than through research. How do we go about doing this?
* * *
Experiment : Minerva
"But Diomed stayed where he was,
thinking what other daring deed he might accomplish. He was doubting
whether to take the chariot in which the king's armour was lying, and
draw it out by the pole, or to lift the armour out and carry it off; or
whether again, he should not kill some more Thracians. While he was thus
hesitating Minerva came up to him and said, "Get back, Diomed, to
the ships or you may be driven thither, should some other god rouse the
Diomed knew that it was the goddess, and at once sprang upon the horses.
Ulysses beat them with his bow and they flew onward to the ships of the
From The Iliad, Book X
"Diomed knew it was the goddess" which
can be interpreted to say "Diomed could see that this unknown person talking to him
was in fact an incarnation or an temporary invocant of the goddess Minerva". Don't
worry about whether this is the "correct" interpretation of the story. Instead
let's take this on as an experiment.
Minerva is the goddess of wisdom, loosely
defined as deep understanding and knowledge, beyond "facts and figures" and
reasoning. Does Minerva speak to you during the day? Through people that you know and that
you don't know? Through strangers? Through the TV? Through advertisements!?!
Pick a day when you will be specially receptive
to these messages. Start the day by invoking her presence with a simple sentence which you
can say to yourself several times. "I will listen closely to Minerva today."
Now go about your regular day and stay in touch
with that invocation. Repeat in your mind or outloud when necessary and/or possible. And
carefully taste the quality of the messages that come to you from the world. When is
Write down her messages (the messages that you
determine that come from her). As always (but we will say it over and over), DO NOT worry
about you being "right" or "wrong". Simply write the messages as they
come and as you taste them or smell them. If it tastes like Minerva, write it down. If it
smells like Minerva, write it down. If it feels like Minerva, write it down. If it sounds
like Minerva, write it down.
Save these messages. They may come in handy in
the near future...possibly the next time you find yourself "hesitating"...