Greek Mythos (updated 2/16/12)

First of all Chaos came-to-be; but then afterwards Broad-breasted earth, a secure dwelling place forever for all (the immortals who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and misty Tartara in the depths under the wide-wayed grounds and Eros who, handsomest among the deathless gods a looser of limbs, in all the gods and in all human beings overpowers in their breasts their intelligence and careful planning. And from Chaos came-to-be both Erebos and dark night, and from night, in turn, came-to-be both Aither and day, whom she conceived and bore after joining in love with Erebos. But earth first begat, as an equal to herself, starry sky, so that he might cover her on all sides, in order to be a secure dwelling place forever for all the blessed gods, and she begat the tall mountains, pleasing haunts of the goddess-nymphs who make their homes in the forested hills, and also she bore the barren main with its raging swell, the sea, all without any sweet act of love; but then next, having lain with sky, she bore deep-swirling ocean.[i]

The underworld, Hades, was bounded by five rivers: Acheron (the river of sorrow), Cocytus (the river of lamentation), Phlegethon (the river of fire), Lethe (the river of forgetfulness) and Styx (the river of hate). Lethe was the daughter of Eris (strife) and Nyx (night) , and the sister of Ponos (toil), Limos (starvation), the Algea (pains), the Hysminai (fightings), the Makhai (battles), the Phonoi (murders), the Androktasiai (man-slaughters), the Neikea (quarrels), the Pseudologoi (lies), the Amphilogiai (disputes), Dysnomia (lawlessness), Atë (ruin), and Horkos (oath).

Aletheia, often translated ‘truth’, is the alpha-privative of Lethe. In the Myth of Er, Plato tells us that after the departed choose the next life they would have to drink of the waters of Lethe, forgetfulness, before they could be re-born. Aletheia is the ‘not’ of forgetfulness, it is remembrance. A later rendition of the myth claims there was another river, Mnemosyne (memory), that the departed could drink from that resulted in a-Lethe, remembrance. Zeus and Mnemosyne slept together for nine nights and Mnemosyne gave birth to the nine muses. One of the muses, Erato (the lovely, the desired), was the muse of poetry and mimicry. Erato is from the same Greek root as Eros.

For Heidegger, Lethe was concealment and aletheia was unconcealment or uncovering. Lethe was oblivion (covering), perhaps the il ya (there is) of Blanchot. Oblivion is not nothing but chaos (without genealogy), absolute indeterminacy, the incessant buzz of anticorrelation – the ‘not’ of relation. The copula in ‘A is B’ relates ‘A as B’. The ‘isness’ of ‘A is B’ instantiates being through the relation ‘as’. The phonemes in ‘as’ signifies relation and connects the symbols (symbole) ‘A’ and ‘B’. Sign, the ‘as’ (phone) of ‘A as B’, hold together the symbols ‘A’ and ‘B’ in their separateness without conflating them. Sign signifies not only the relation with ‘A’ and ‘B’ but distinguishes a uniqueness between ‘A’ and ‘B’ that stands out. What ‘stands out’ from what? –Logos. At the same time that ‘A’ and ‘B’ relate they are also set apart from something else that is dissimilar. ‘A as B’ unconceals a relatedness but equiprimordially (equally primordial) also conceals the background from which the concealedness is possible.

The Greeks thought of this ‘background’ as logos. The simultaneous unconcealing and concealing is what Heidegger says that the Greeks called ‘aletheia’ and ‘lethe’. Aletheia is simply the negation of lethe. This is important because ‘truth’ as aletheia is rooted in concealment. There is no ‘truth’ that is pure or proper or holy that stands above, over and against, existence. Essential truth (A) is essential concealment (B). Heidegger notes three modes of concealment: error (Irre), the concealment of error and the mystery of no-thing.

The apprehension (noesis) of symbols (‘A’ and ‘B’, noemata) and the revealing as revelation of their relatedness also hides the as-a-whole, the logos that bind us to them. Every human being, the ‘there of being’ (Dasein), is bound to logos. Simultaneously, logos allows itself to be given over to the dissemination of speech. Logos giving itself over in passivity makes speech (language) possible. As humans we stand together in agreement in existence (ek-sistence, out-standing) for the openness of revelation. Logos given over and filled with the totality of history (world) is always already there in revelation but remains concealed in the act of speech; -this is the source for error. Speech as revelation must conceal much more than it unconceals; -this is error. The forgetting of error is the covering over of error; -Lethe. In apotheosis, the deification of revelation, what was not revealed in the act (i.e., of speech) becomes of no consequence for us, no-thing. No-thing is mystery. Mystery animates from behind the scenes because no-thing is not non-existent (as never has been or will be) but remains dormant, absolutely passive, in the face of the apotheosis of revelation, the error of lethe.

Sign then becomes the nexus formed by the triadic: Being, aletheia, logos of Heidegger; perhaps the real, imaginary, symbol of Lacan[ii]. The ‘as’, referent, unconceals from ‘worldhood’ for Heidegger. World is the history of Being, the ‘as-a-whole’ that can never be made visible. World is always and in every case (ontic, particular) declared in the copula ‘is’ as a pre-condition that gives the possibility for aletheia. The ‘as’ declares (apophantikos) and is only possible from the worlding given by logos:

The “as”-structure itself is the condition of the of the logos apophantikos. The “as” is not some property of the logos, stuck on or grafted onto it, but the reverse: the “as”-structure for its part is in general the condition of the possibility of this logos. (Heidegger, 315/458)

Unconcealedness makes existientiell truth possible. Every ontic ‘there’ of being (da-sein), human being, already speaks (logon) – uses phonemes that project the already-as-a-whole given by logos – the worlding of world. Every human being (ontic, particular) already has agreement of the whole in the sense of thrown into existence from worlding made possible by logos. When ‘A as B’ is said, the cohesion, adherence, relation of the ‘as’ can only ‘be’ from the thrown ‘there’ of beings projected as the openness logos.

“In projection there occurs the letting-prevail of the being of beings in the whole of their possible binding character in each case. In projection, world prevails” (365/530, Heidegger’s emphasis).

In each case of human being there is agreement (kata syntheses) that makes communication possible. Additionally, ‘A as B’ is not a mush of indeterminate-ability but unites (synthesis) the terms by holding them apart (diairesis). If ‘A as B’ is thought as false, it is still a negative modality of truth, aletheia, unconealedness. In this case, the truth is deemed as false. However, the concealed as-a-whole from logos is always already apprehended. If I say, “I am at my house” the ‘mine’ with feet planted on earth under the heavens in dwelling situated before the truths and falsities (gods) of worldhood – all and more are brought together in the simplicity of saying. Of course, the ‘all and more’ are not explicitly thought as they remain concealed, in the background. For Lacan, the background is the unconscious. The unconscious is structured like a language.

Lacan has been criticized by linguists that believe that his structure of language is outdated and inadequate. In other words, if the unconscious is structured like language then the structure of the unconscious must change as our understanding of linguistics changes. Actually, Lacan would have no problem with the idea that particular structures of the unconscious are malleable just as language can change but retain certain ‘deep structures’ as Chomsky noted. For Lacan, the symbolic lack of the primordial symbiosis with the mother can only be mediated by the present structures of a natural language. The significance of the other becomes the repetition of submerged symbol. The imagined ‘original’ symbiosis is retained in repetitive symbols that can only be given from the tools of a native language. In this way a kind of ‘double inscription’ between significance and speech occurs that mutually constrain each other. Speech is not hermetically sealed in some narcissistic monad. Speech is always directed towards the desire for the other that always lacks the originary, the arche, and can only be simulated and supplemented with symbolic representation. The symbol becomes phantasm that nevertheless maintains its essential tension, cognitive dissonance, from the ‘real’ that is impossible (primordial symbiosis) and the phantasm that seeks to replace it from linguistic constructs (all it has) – the symbol is metaphor and metonymy. Lacan said that the ‘unconscious is the discourse [dialectic] of the other’. Aristotle distinguishes human being as ‘zoon logon echon’, the animal having words, speech, logos.

Finally, the points at which the vector of desire and the signifying chain cross can be seen as instances of Freudian double inscription. The ‘conscious and unconscious’ significance of an act or utterance are one and the same, and each constrains the other.[iii]

For Lacan, an infant is first mirrored in the perfect union with the mother. Her facial gestures and motor abilities are the infants as well. However, as the infant begins to realize that he or she does not have motor control skills, the infant is frustrated and struggles to gain motor control. A visceral tension is generated when the infant perceives his or her reflection in the mirror. The reflection displaces the frustration of motor abilities as the reflected image of the baby gets substituted for the kinesthetic lack. The image provides a satisfaction that is lacking in affect. The infant imagines an idealized perfection in the image, the other, and attributes the pleasure of the image to the pleasure of self, the perfected self. Writing of the mirror stage Professor Steven Ross states,

The circularity and self-referentiality of this process is abundantly clear in Bowie’s articulation, as the ego both constructs an ideal version of itself on the basis of various imaginary features with which it would like to be identified, and then acts as though it unpremeditatedly “recognises” itself in objects that bear an imaginary correspondence to that ideal. Basically, the imaginary is the scene in which the ego undertakes the perpetual and paradoxical practice of seeking “wholeness, synthesis, autonomy, duality and, above all, similarity” through identification with external objects. Each such identification is necessarily illusory, however, as it is but a pale imitation of the originary wholeness that was sacrificed in the primal identification of the ego with its specular image in the mirror stage.[iv]

Studies of the brain and the unconscious are providing radical evidence that the ‘agent’ of control is imagined erroneously from disparate and unaware processes that take place in the background of consciousness, the unconscious.  In “The New Unconscious” studies have shown that the unconscious is capable of doing everything that we think should be the function of conscious.  The question that comes out of these studies is, “What is consciousness for?”  This is a rather long quote but it illustrates the point.  Consider these experiments on the principle of agency,

A person cannot possibly think about and be consciously aware of all of the individual muscle actions in compound and sequential movements-there are too many of them and they are too fast (see, e.g., Thach, 1996). Therefore they can occur only through some process that is automatic and subconscious. Empirical support for this conclusion comes from a study by Fourneret and Jeannerod (1998). Participants attempted to trace a line displayed on a computer monitor, but with their drawing hand hidden from them by a mirror. Thus they were not able to see how their hand actually moved in order to reproduce the drawing: they had to refer to a graphical representation of that movement on a computer monitor in front of them. However, unknown to the participants, substantial bias had been programmed into the translation of their actual movement into that which was displayed on the screen, so that the displayed line did not actually move in the same direction as had their drawing hand. Despite this, all participants felt and reported great confidence that their hand had indeed moved in the direction shown on the screen. This could only have occurred if normal participants have little or no direct conscious access to their actual hand movements.[v]

In a study of this principle [the principle of agency], Wegner and Wheatley (1999) presented people with thoughts (e.g., a tape-recorded mention of the word swan) relevant to their action (moving an onscreen cursor to select a picture of a swan). The movement the participants performed was actually not their own, as they shared the computer mouse with an experimental confederate who gently forced the action without the participants’ knowledge. (In yet other trials, the effect of the thought on the participant’s own action was found to be nil when the action was not forced.) Nevertheless, when the relevant thought was provided either 1 or 5 seconds before the action, participants reported feeling that they acted intentionally in making the movement. This experience of will followed the priority principle. This was clear because on other trials, thoughts of the swan were prompted 30 seconds before the forced action or I second afterward-and these prompts did not yield an inflated experience of will. Even when the thought of the action is wholly external-appearing as in this case over headphones-its timely appearance before the action leads to an enhanced experience of apparent mental causation.

The second key to apparent mental causation is the consistency principle, which describes the semantic connectedness of the thought and the action. Thoughts that are relevant to the action and consistent with it promote a greater experience of mental causation than thoughts that are not relevant or consistent. So, for example, having the thought of eating a salad (and only this thought) just before you find yourself ordering a plate of fries is likely to make the ordering of the fries feel foreign and unwilled (Where did these come from,). Thinking of fries and then ordering fries, in contrast, will prompt an experience of will. As another example. consider what happens when people with schizophrenia experience hearing voices. Although there is good evidence that these voices are self-produced, the typical response to such auditory hallucinations is to report that the voice belongs to someone else. Hoffman (1986) has suggested that the inconsistency of the utterance with the person’s prior thoughts leads to the inference that the utterance was not consciously willed-and so to the delusion that others’ voices are speaking “in one’s head.” Ordinarily, we know our actions in advance of their performance and experience the authorship of action because of the consistency of this preview with the action.

In a laboratory test of the consistency principle, Wegner, Sparrow, and Winerman (2004) arranged for each of several undergraduate participants to observe their mirror reflection as another person behind them, hidden from view, extended arms forward on each side of them. The person behind the participant then followed instructions delivered over headphones for a series of hand movements. This circumstance reproduced a standard pantomime sometimes called Helping Hands in which the other person’s hands look, at least in the mirror, as though they belong to the participant. This appearance did not lead participants to feel that they were controlling the hands if they only saw the hand movements. When participants could hear the instructions that the hand helper followed as the movements were occurring, though, they reported an enhanced feeling that they could control the other’s hands.

In another experiment on hand control, this effect was again found. In addition, the experience of willing the other’s movements was found to be accompanied by an empathic sensation of the other’s hands. Participants for this second study watched as one of the hands snapped a rubber band on the wrist of the other, once before the sequence of hand movements and once again afterward. All participants showed a skin conductance response (SCR) to the first snap-a surge in hand sweating that lasted for several seconds after the snap. The participants who had heard previews of the hand movements consistent with the hands’ actions showed a sizeable SCR to the second rubber band snap as well. In contrast, those with no previews, or who heard previews that were inconsistent with the action, showed a reduced SCR to the snap that was made after the movements. The experience of controlling the hand movements seems to induce a sort of emotional ownership of the hands. Although SCR dissipated after the movements in participants who did not hear previews, it was sustained in the consistent preview condition. The consistency of thought with action, in sum, can create a sense that one is controlling someone else’s hands and, furthermore, can yield a physiological entrainment that responds to apparent sensations in those hands. It makes sense in this light that consistency between thought and action might be a powerful source of the experience of conscious will we feel for our own actions as well.

The third principle of apparent mental causation is exclusivity, the perception that the link between one’s thought and action is free of other potential causes of the action. This principle explains why one feels little voluntariness for an action that was apparently caused by someone else. Perceptions of outside agency can undermine the experience of will in a variety of circumstances, but the most common case is obedience to the instructions given by another. Milgram (1974) suggested in this regard that the experience of obedience introduces “agentic shift”-a feeling that agency has been transferred away from oneself. More exotic instances of this effect occur in trance channeling, spirit possession, and glossolalia or “speaking in tongues,” when an imagined agent (such as a spirit, entity, or even the Holy Spirit) is understood to be influencing one’s actions, and so produces a decrement in the experience of conscious will (Wegner, 2002).

A further example of the operation of exclusivity is the phenomenon of facilitated communication (FC), which was introduced as a manual technique for helping autistic and other communication-impaired individuals to communicate without speaking. A facilitator would hold the client’s finger above a letter board or keyboard, ostensibly to brace and support the client’s pointing or key-pressing movements, but not to produce them. Clients who had never spoken in their lives were sometimes found to produce lengthy typed expressions this way, at a level of detail and grammatical precision that was miraculous. Studies of FC soon discovered, however, that when separate questions were addressed (over headphones) to the facilitator and the client, those heard only by the facilitator were the ones being answered. Facilitators commonly expressed no sense at all that they were producing the communications, and instead they attributed the messages to their clients. Their strong belief that FC would work, along with the conviction that the client was indeed a competent agent whose communications merely needed to be facilitated, led to a breakdown in their experience of conscious will for their own actions (Twachtman-Cullen, 1997: Wegner, Fuller, & Sparrow, 2003). Without a perception that one’s own thought is the exclusive cause of one’s action, it is possible to lose authorship entirely and attribute it even to an unlikely outside agent.

Another example of the exclusivity principle at work is provided in studies of the subliminal priming of agents (Dijksterhuis, Preston, Wegner, & Aarts, 2004). Participants in these experiments were asked to react to letter strings on a computer screen by judging them to be words or not-and to do this as quickly as possible in a race with the computer. On each trial in this lexical decision task, the screen showing the letters went blank either when the person pressed the response button, or automatically at a short interval (about 400-650 ms) after the presentation. This made it unclear whether the person had answered correctly and turned off the display or whether the computer did it, and on each trial the person was asked to guess who did it. In addition, however, and without participants’ prior knowledge, the word I or me or some other word was very briefly presented on each trial. This presentation lasted only 17 ms, and was both preceded and followed by random letter masks-such that participants reported no awareness of these presentations. The subliminal presentations influenced judgments of authorship. On trials with the subliminal priming of a first-person singular pronoun, participants more often judged that they had beaten the computer. They were influenced by the unconscious priming of self to attribute an ambiguous action to their own will. In a related study, participants were subliminally primed on some trials with the thought of an agent that was not the self-God. Among those participants who professed a personal belief in God, this prime reduced the causal attribution of the action to self. Apparently, the decision of whether self is the cause of an action is heavily influenced by the unconscious accessibility of self versus nonself agents. This suggests that the exclusivity of conscious thought as a cause of action can be influenced even by the unconscious accessibility of possible agents outside the self.

The theory of apparent mental causation, in sum, rests on the notion that our experience of conscious will is normally a construction. When the right timing, content, and context link our thought and our action, this construction yields a feeling of authorship of the action. It seems that we did it. However, this feeling is an inference we draw from the juxtaposition of our thought and action, not a direct perception of causal agency. Thus, the feeling can be wrong. Although the experience of will can become the basis of our guilt and our pride, and can signal to us whether we feel responsible for action in the moral sense as well, it is merely an estimate of the causal influence of our thoughts on our actions, not a direct readout of such influence. Apparent mental causation nevertheless is the basis of our feeling that we are controllers.[vi]

There is a baffling problem about what consciousness is for. It is equally baffling, moreover, that the function of consciousness should remain so baffling. It seems extraordinary that despite the pervasiveness and familiarity of consciousness in our lives, we are uncertain in what way (if at all) it is actually indispensable to us. (Frankfurt, 1988, p. 162) What is consciousness for, if perfectly unconscious, indeed subjectless, information processing is in principle capable of achieving all the ends for which conscious minds were supposed to exist? (Dennett, 1981, p. 13)[vii]

It appears that the meta-language of an agency of self is not some kind of self-evident ‘truth’ but is a kind of imagined self that gets surmised ex post facto and gets set up like symbols; the symbols of individualism, free will and self. These symbols, much like ‘A as B’, are substituted metaphorically as a condensation of a plurality of unconscious processes and get repeated metonymically over the course of a lifetime to reinforce their significance. The symbols are the signifiers and the signified, as place holders of other signifiers, of meaning, individualism, free will and self, are taken over from the as-a-whole, the worlding given from logos. The terms of speech uncover the meta-language of agency drawn from a vast pool, language. Language is not memorized word for word starting from infancy. It is intuited as world and made possible as the event of revelation (speech) in the openness of logos.

The impossible ‘real’ of Lacan interrupts symbol and imagination. The ‘real’ is not yet a symbolic and imagined ‘other’; as Lacan illustrates, “a knock on the door that interrupts a dream” or the absolute alterity of the other from Levinas that interrupts totality. The ‘real’ is ineffable, absolute indeterminacy, the incessant buzz of anticorrelation, the ‘not’ of relation – chaos. Only after do we mirror, represent, relate, situate as symbols not-present-at-hand but instrumentally given from linguistic phonemes and ‘understand’ meaning or lack thereof. However, the insufficiency of symbolic dissemination, difference and deterrence (differance) always requires a supplement. Desire as lack of primordial symbiosis is the basis for the uncanny.

‘Canny’ is from the Anglo-Saxon root ‘ken’ which means knowledge, understanding, cognizance, mental perception, one’s ken. Thus the uncanny is something outside one’s familiar knowledge or perceptions.

The Uncanny (Ger. Das Unheimliche – “the opposite of what is familiar”) is a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange or uncomfortably familiar.

Because the uncanny is familiar, yet strange, it often creates cognitive dissonance within the experiencing subject due to the paradoxical nature of being attracted to, yet repulsed by an object at the same time. This cognitive dissonance often leads to an outright rejection of the object, as one would rather reject than rationalize.

Freud draws on a wholly different element of the story, namely, “the idea of being robbed of one’s eyes,” as the “more striking instance of uncanniness” in the tale.

Freud goes on, for the remainder of the essay, to identify uncanny effects that result from instances of “repetition of the same thing,” including incidents wherein one becomes lost and accidentally retraces one’s steps, and instances wherein random numbers recur, seemingly meaningfully (here Freud may be said to be prefiguring the concept that Jung would later refer to as synchronicity). He also discusses the uncanny nature of Otto Rank’s concept of the “double.”

Basically, the Uncanny is what unconsciously reminds us of our own Id, our forbidden and thus repressed impulses perceived as a threatening force by our super-ego ridden with oedipal guilt as it fears symbolic castration by punishment for deviating from societal norms. Thus, the items and individuals that we project our own repressed impulses upon become a most uncanny threat to us, uncanny monsters and freaks akin to fairy-tale folk-devils, and subsequently often become scapegoats we blame for all sorts of perceived miseries, calamities, and maladies.[viii]

The uncanny, the familiar strange, endless dyads of is and isn’t are not quieted by fetish, the desire for the other represented as object, as absolute knowledge. The reflection in the mirror of self determining Spirit is thought in Zizek’s description of “The Most Sublime of Hysterics”

Lacan’s formula that Hegel is ‘the most sublime of hysterics’ should be interpreted along these lines: the hysteric, by his very questioning, ‘burrows a hole in the Other’; his desire is experienced precisely as the Other’s desire. Which is to say, the hysterical subject is fundamentally a subject who poses himself a question all the while presupposing that the Other has the key to the answer, that the Other knows the secret. But this question posed to the Other is in fact resolved, in the dialectical process, by a reflexive turn – namely, by regarding the question as its own answer.[ix]

Here, desire for the other has become absolute knowledge. The uncanny has become its own answer and thus, transformed, synthesized in the essence of its question. It is for this reason that the System was not finished by Hegel and never will be. The uncanny distends and distorts existentially, -ek-sisting. Semiosis can only defer and detain; the metaphysical desire for absolutes imagined, -in-sisting (distinguished from con-sisting) as language. The uncanny hides its concealment of error as mystery; as what does not show itself in showing, in aletheia. Only when the question of the ‘there’ of being can be heard as if for the first time, the ghost of logos, can the uncanny Other be heard in myth.

According to Hesiod, Eros is: “…the fairest of the deathless gods; he un­strings the limbs [makes the limbs go limp] and subdues both mind and sensible thought in the breasts of all gods and all men.” Hesiod tells us that Eros was one of the oldest deities, born from Chaos alongside Gaia (the Earth) and Tartarus (the Underworld).

Eros, the non-generative, without arche, parentless God from Hesiod is neither divine or mortal.

At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night (Nyx), Darkness (Erebus), and the Abyss (Tartarus). Earth, the Air and Heaven had no existence. Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Darkness, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Love (Eros) with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in the deep Abyss with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.[x]

Later Eros is spoken of as the child of night (Nyx). He is also spoken of as the son of Aphrodite,

[Hera addresses Athene :] We must have a word with Aphrodite. Let us go together and ask her to persuade her boy [Eros], if that is possible, to loose an arrow at Aeetes’ daughter, Medea of the many spells, and make her fall in love with Iason . . .[xi]

He [Eros] smites maids’ breasts with unknown heat, and bids the very gods leave heaven and dwell on earth in borrowed forms.[xii]

Once, when Venus’son [Cupid, aka Eros] was kissing her, his quiver dangling down, a jutting arrow, unbeknown, had grazed her breast. She pushed the boy away. In fact the wound was deeper than it seemed, though unperceived at first. [And she became] enraptured by the beauty of a man [Adonis].[xiii]

Eros drove Dionysos mad for the girl [Aura] with the delicious wound of his arrow, then curving his wings flew lightly to Olympos. And the god roamed over the hills scourged with a greater fire.[xiv]

Socrates tells us of Eros,

“What then is Love?” I asked; “Is he mortal?” “No.” “What then?” “As in the former instance, he is neither mortal nor immortal, but in a mean between the two.” “What is he, Diotima?” “He is a great spirit (daimon), and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal.” “And what,” I said, “is his power?” “He interprets,” she replied, “between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all, prophecy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love. all the intercourse, and converse of god with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on. The wisdom which understands this is spiritual; all other wisdom, such as that of arts and handicrafts, is mean and vulgar.

He is by nature neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reason of his father’s nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth; and, further, he is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge. The truth of the matter is this: No god is a philosopher. or seeker after wisdom, for he is wise already; nor does any man who is wise seek after wisdom. Neither do the ignorant seek after Wisdom. For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.” “But-who then, Diotima,” I said, “are the lovers of wisdom, if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?” “A child may answer that question,” she replied; “they are those who are in a mean between the two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher: or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant.[xv]

In the second century a story is told of Eros and Psyche,

The story tells of the struggle for love and trust between Eros and Psyche. Aphrodite was jealous of the beauty of mortal princess Psyche, as men were leaving her altars barren to worship a mere human woman instead, and so she commanded her son Eros, the god of love, to cause Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest creature on earth. But instead, Eros falls in love with Psyche himself and spirits her away to his home. Their fragile peace is ruined by a visit from Psyche’s jealous sisters, who cause Psyche to betray the trust of her husband. Wounded, Eros leaves his wife, and Psyche wanders the Earth, looking for her lost love. Eventually she approaches Aphrodite and asks for her help. Aphrodite imposes a series of difficult tasks on Psyche, which she is able to achieve by means of supernatural assistance.  After successfully completing these tasks, Aphrodite relents and Psyche becomes immortal to live alongside her husband Eros. Together they had a daughter, Voluptas or Hedone (meaning physical pleasure, bliss).

In Greek mythology, Psyche was the deification of the human soul. She was portrayed in ancient mosaics as a goddess with butterfly wings (because psyche was also the Ancient Greek word for ‘butterfly’). The Greek word psyche literally means “soul, spirit, breath, life or animating force”.[xvi]

[i] Hesiod, “Theogony”, Drew A. Hyland;John Panteleimon Manoussakis. Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretive Essays (Studies in Continental Thought) (p. 9). Kindle Edition.

[ii] William J. Richardson;Toward the Future of Truth, Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretive Essays (Studies in Continental Thought). Kindle Edition.


[iv] A Very Brief Introduction to Lacan, Prepared by Professor Stephen Ross,

[v] Ran R. Hassin;James S. Uleman;John A. Bargh. The New Unconscious (Oxford Series in Social Cognition and Social Neuroscience) (pp. 45-46). Kindle Edition.

[vi] Drew A. Hyland;John Panteleimon Manoussakis. Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretive Essays (Studies in Continental Thought) (p. 97). Kindle Edition.

[vii] Ran R. Hassin;James S. Uleman;John A. Bargh. The New Unconscious (Oxford Series in Social Cognition and Social Neuroscience) (p. 52). Kindle Edition.


[ix] The Most Sublime of Hysterics: Hegel with Lacan, Slavoj Zizek, translated by Rex Butler and Scott Stephens,

[x] Aristophanes, Birds, lines 690-699. (Translation by Eugene O’Neill, Jr., Perseus Digital Library; translation modified.)

[xi] Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3. 25 ff – a Greek epic of the 3rd century B.C.

[xii] Seneca, Phaedra 290 ff

[xiii] Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 525 ff

[xiv] Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 470 ff – a Greek epic of the 5th century AD

[xv] Symposium, Plato,


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