My impatient fate
On the air.
It approaches me quietly,
It comes from
The remote area.
And I feel
That in no time,
With its burning fingers
The sacred, the whitest
Door of mine.
“Original Sin is accounted for by the sin in the Originals. Humans are made in the images of the gods, and our abnormalities image the original abnormalities of the gods which come before ours, making possible ours. We can only do in time what gods do in eternity. Our infirmities will therefore have to have their ground in primordial infirmity, and their infirmities are enacted in our psychopathologies.” James Hillman
For James Hillman, revisiting our pre-Judeo-Christian past, returns us to a polytheistic world in which the gods were both many and varied in their power and influence. Taking us back in time, prior to the modern scientific view where reason now denigrates ancient cosmologies as anthropomorphic fantasies with little or no value, Hillman recalls for us what is lost in limiting divinity to the one God.
The Abrahamic God, psychologically speaking, condenses all divine power into one transcendent power, with admission left for only one Adversary down below; the Devil. This condensing forces an entire pantheon of ideas underground – for the gods personify archetypal ideas, images and powers – absorbing them into Abrahamic religions as either friend of the Devil, or friend of God. An entire pantheon reduced to two primordial powers forever at war with each other, battling over ownership and fate of us mere mortals.
My purpose here is not so much to bring more conflict to the competition of beliefs or ideas, but to turn to the Greeks, ironically because we do not share their beliefs, but for an understanding that imagining through myth and story are primary; before belief. Seen through the lens of fantasy, Greek mythology, as the Neo-Platonist writers of the not too distant past understood, portrays affliction and suffering as belonging, necessary and creative in ways we moderns may have lost sight of.
For the Greeks and other pre-Judeo-Christian polytheistic worldviews, each god personified a distinct nature or image, and through story displayed their characteristics and interactions with each other in a world alive, moving and fierce, and yet, divine, universal, unchanging.
But what does a polytheistic view do for us that a monotheistic one does not? For Hillman, polytheism offers us an articulated view of our nature through images and stories, and especially pathologies, of where we suffer. Sin then is not only, as some Christian theology understands it, an absence of the presence of the divine, but by necessity, a compelling or exaggerated influence of one of many gods, shaping the style, character and fate that befalls us. Evil here can then be attributed to a compulsion, habit or addiction to one aspect of any one of the gods, and not only to that of the Evil One. It’s as if the early Judeo-Christian consciousness rounded up all the gods, condensed and split them into opposing forces, leaving us with the simplistic opposition of Good vs. Evil, an unbearable tension in need of its own redemption – for nothing is purely good or evil.
Perhaps the absorption of polytheism by monotheism, when imagined as a shift in consciousness rather than a deliberate man-made manipulation, can itself be seen as an aspect of the goddess Ananke; as a necessary shift. The shift towards a monotheistic style of consciousness has brought us the gift of rationalism, and objectivism, both of which have led us to the ideas and discoveries of science and technology. Although we might argue the merits of different styles of consciousness, that argument is itself a display of the objectivity of a monotheistic style of consciousness. We cannot, I believe, undo a style of consciousness through an awareness of it only, but we might gain an understanding of the nature and value of imagination inherent in the mythologizing that remains present in us, regardless of belief.
A polytheistic style of consciousness is perhaps a more deeply immersed and subjective experience of the world as animated and alive. The shift away from that state allows us to amplify and abstract the sense of ourselves as separate from the environment, and to imagine the world as things unto themselves, with being and function independent of us and each other. The nuance of each god that gets lost in the monotheistic experience can be regained when we look to the specific images and relationships of the gods, recognizing in them primary, or archetypal influence upon our human nature – both as the source of all bounty and affliction, ever bringing us gifts through the limitations we are bound by, and especially through the infirmities we suffer.
“Man is as much in the image of the gods and goddesses when he is ludicrous, enraged, or tortured, as when he smiles. Since the gods themselves show infirmitas, one path of the imitatio dei is through infirmity. Furthermore, it is this infirmitas of the archetype that can be nurse to our wounds and extremities, providing a style, a justification, and a sense of significance for ours.”
In one version of the Greek myth of creation, the two primordial gods, Kronos (Time) and Ananke (Necessity), were entwined together, and “circled the primal world egg in their coils and split it apart to form the ordered universe of earth, sea and sky.” Wiki
The first movement, or cause within the cosmos, is this embrace of time and necessity. Hillman sees these archetypal figures with their influence on us as that which engage us through an unseen background of archetypal structures, or gods. Hence they are Necessity Herself, primary to all we are and become:
“Necessity in Greek mythical thought is spoken of and experienced in pathologized modes.”
What is meant by the word Necessity, who is Ananke? Hillman provides a list of semitic roots from the works of Heinz Schreckenberg: narrowing, throat, surrounding, embracing, strangling, to wind tightly around the neck as the neck-band of a slave, a necklace or yoke.
In a variation of the myth, The Moirai were described as ugly old women, sometimes lame. They were severe, inflexible and stern. Clotho carries a spindle or a roll (the book of fate), Lachesis a staff with which she points to the horoscope on a globe, and Atropos (Aisa) a scroll, a wax tablet, a sundial, a pair of scales, or a cutting instrument. At other times the three were shown with staffs or sceptres, the symbols of dominion, and sometimes even with crowns. At the birth of each man they appeared spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of life. Shown here in a Flemish tapestry, Triumph over Death, ca 1520, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Ananke is that unseen binding, or placing of limits, through her entanglement with Kronos, or time, that creates the world: the Heavens, Ge, the earth, all the gods, mortals, plants and animals. Necessity then, is experienced in by the very nature of our environment, the place of our being, and throughout the relations of family, community, with the imposition of obligations, servitude, each of which, as Hillman says, “governs our being.”
She also has associations to the Underworld, operating as an invisible psychic force. She herself is imageless, which Hillman suggests accounts for her compelling force leading us into our afflicted states. She is blind necessity underlying all images that capture and compel us into mythological states experienced as reality.
“To use the word “reality” implies an ontological condition that cannot be otherwise. Therefore there must be something unalterably necessary about images so that psychic reality, which first of all consists in images, cannot be mere afterimages of sense impressions. Images are primordial, archetypal, in themselves ultimate reals, the only direct reality that the psyche experiences. As such they are the shaped presences of necessity.”
Ananke’s constraints that lead to our afflictions are the theme of Hillman’s essay titled, Athene, Ananke, and the Necessity of Abnormal Psychology, which moves from a general discussion of Ananke, into a deeper discussion on the relationship between necessity and affliction. Taking his cue from Plato, Freud and Jung, Hillman sees the constrictions of necessity as a first cause, that which leads us to Nous, or reason, through persuasion for the presence of “creating principles.” Hopefully, more reflections to come in a later post. Here’s a quote in closing:
“You may have noticed that I continue to call pathologizing a creating activity. Plato presents ananke in a similar manner. He assumes it to be an arche, a first principle not derivative of anything else. It is also a creating principle entering into the formation of the universe. And it is necessarily always there, not gradually overcome through the extension of the rule of reason. As the demiurge never wholly reduces chaos to order, so reason never wholly persuades necessity. Both are present as creating principles, always. “In the whole and in every part, Nous and Ananke cooperate; the world is a mixture resulting from this combination.”
Except as noted, all quotes from Hillman, James (2012-11-24). Mythic Figures (Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman). Spring Publications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
33 thoughts on “Primordial Necessity”
Hi Debra!. Stunning post … Interesting and very well penned… I loved the way you featured Ananke and truly enjoyed the reading regarding her… Fate would be a synonym of her name maybe?…
Regarding the first part of the post I mostly agree with you when you mentioned the existing link between Christianity and Guilt to say it that way…
I believe that polytheism gave ancient cultures a more natural approach to things, natural phenomena, feelings and all sort of facts.
Your analysis of James Hillman’s thoughts is ready witted indeed.
Thank you very much for sharing and best wishes to you, Aquileana 😛
Hillman is one of my all time favorites!
He was a gem, yes?
Thanks for visiting here. I’m enjoying reading your dream posts.
Your post has been like a motor boat passing through a shallow section of grassy waters: all sorts of ideas and thoughts have been churned up.
Having read your posts for a while now, I believe I understand, appreciate and agree with what I perceive as the feelings and understandings associated with the sentiment that polytheism allows for a richer, more deeply immersed and subjective experience of the world, and with your thoughts above about the power of ideas. I’m just not sure that I can relate to the suggestion that monotheism is the culprit in the distancing we see taking place between ourselves and the world. I can absolutely see and feel the basis for such a statement, and think it is relevant on a particular level but not perhaps on the only level that is available.
I think in a sense that pure monotheism and pure polytheism are probably both flawed when taken as views of “how things really work”. And if we take off that awful reality word, then it is the myth and story built around the starting point of monotheism or polytheism that is the key, no? Living in a world governed by a pantheon of warring, competing, or afflicted gods is in my mind not a superior starting point for experiencing one’s place in the world than envisioning, say, a singular Presence of Love, expressed in and through a multiplicity of forms. To put it simply, and you have written of this before, there is a certain oneness and manyness that are paradoxically dance partners. I do agree that to throw out the manyness tends to result in losing too much of the experience this world is offering…
Regarding the intended topic of your post, I was truly touched by the relationship of necessity and “binding”. I think there is a “binding” to this world that is necessary to yield such a powerful medium for the generation of experience, and that binding necessarily incurs a certain degree of affliction and suffering when compared to the freedom of an unbounded being. So, these afflictions are perhaps points of interface with the unbounded possibility, and the bound point of experience in this world. It struck me as a beautiful thought.
Looking forward to reading the follow-up another two or three times!
Thank you for leaving such a rich response to this post. You inspire me to consider the ideas on many different levels and I am grateful for that.
“I think in a sense that pure monotheism and pure polytheism are probably both flawed when taken as views of “how things really work”.”
Yes, agreed. My aim here is not to pit ideas against each other and suggest that we choose one over the other (as if we had that much freedom).
I see the styling of cultures as phenomena which tell us something about the human experience and particularly the nature of our awareness, none of which are consciously chosen. How we make sense of the world within distinct cultural environments through the ages, shown within the cosmologies themselves, reflect a way of seeing that comes before choice.
It’s fascinating that polytheism and animism preceded monotheism and I think that says something about the relationship we have with each other and with the world.
Yes, both have their failings, and to my knowledge there is very little evidence for any culture who were peaceful, especially as technology produces more ways for human and cultural interaction.
A return to the past is never possible and our take on the past is also limited by the prejudice of our faculties as they are now.
What I see in polytheism that is attractive is not so much that polytheistic cultures were/are superior, or more moral, but that they reflect something in the psyche that is primary to our experience.
We dream and experience through particulating and personification. We make sense of the world by distinguishing one thing from another. I think we need to do more of this differentiating to gain insight and understanding of the nature of the world.
I sense that the human experience suffers from a sense of ourselves as tourists, or pure vessels of consciousness thrown into a world as aliens. I worry that by not feeling a deep sense of belonging that we have difficulty feeling love or loving this very strange experience called “life.”
What I think polytheism shows us is that we are not who we think we are. There are forces underlying our experience, call them gods, call them brain chemistry, call them what you will, but they act upon us and we’re caught by powers that we pretend to understand, but fail to spend much time reflecting upon.
The ancient gods of the Greeks are just one of many ways to psychologically differentiate these forces and to see them working on and through us. Understanding oneself and others as a multitude of forces acting through us alleviates the need to be so identified with oneself as a separate, undivided whole.
Love at the source is a creative force, I think. It drives us into being through desire and necessity. But through necessary afflictions, it’s easy to lose sight of love’s embrace.
Will the world ever be at peace? I don’t know, but I think by looking at our experience for insight and focusing less on outcomes helps us to understand the dilemma and predicament of the fragile human/world experience.
I see monotheism as an assault on polytheism that is not coming deliberately and consciously from cultural structures, but it the result of competition between a variety of cultures whose territories have expanded through technology and having bumped into each other have not (yet?) found the means to integrate their presuppositions and perspectives. Each culture with their style of consciousness, their ideas and beliefs when facing each other coagulates into a monotheistic style of thinking that works both on individuals and within the culture.
Comparing cultures loosens the stranglehold we from our own culture. Recognizing that polytheism and monotheism are both styles of consciousness, even though they seem to choose us and not the other way around, allows us to gain a very important insight I think.
Thanks as always for asking the harder and more challenging questions Michael. These conversations are very fruitful for me and I hope for you too.
Great stuff Debra, read with interest. Twice.
Thank you Hariod! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it.
I’ve been out of town for business and look forward this weekend to making the rounds here on WP.
Missed my WP friends!
I meant just your response today to Michael of course Debra, as I threw in my two penn’oth on the main article before as you may recall. (see below) H ❤
Yes Hariod, understood.
Thank you for such a full and thoughtful response, Debra. These conversations are definitely fruitful for me, as they invite me to see the world differently and to answer questions I might not otherwise have asked.
There is much here I don’t feel I understand sufficiently to make a clear response, but I think we share the experience and sentiment you describe here: “I sense that the human experience suffers from a sense of ourselves as tourists, or pure vessels of consciousness thrown into a world as aliens. I worry that by not feeling a deep sense of belonging that we have difficulty feeling love or loving this very strange experience called ‘life.’ ”
I also agree wholeheartedly in the importance of comparing cultures as a way of loosening our fixed worldview.
I think where I have difficulty following you is probably the result of my own myopia, wherein the inner feelings and connotations of what you are describing when you use the words polytheism and monotheism are probably in many ways different from my own. I daresay neither one of us would fully endorse the textbook definitions offered, and these meanings come alive within the hearts and minds of people, where they take root.
I see monotheism and polytheism as integral, and unable to be separated, but in doing so I posit the existence of a singular wholeness, of which all forces, beings and images represent differentiated expressions. It is difficult for me to be excited about forces, gods or cosmic inclinations living through me, if the starting point is not the recognition that such forces are inherent within and to the fundamental nature of that which I am.
Gods acting out of their own self-interest, pushing human lives around the board like pawns, living through them to satisfy their own desires, holds little attraction. And while I don’t wish to suggest this is the type of experience or meaning you are in any way pointing towards, it is part of that inner context of feeling and emotion that arise for me when I read them. You may have quite a different experience from reading or saying that one word! And so that is part of the differing inner context that I think it is fruitful to attempt to bridge.
I once had great fear about participating in Native American ceremony, for I wasn’t at all sure that the spirits and ancestors and forces therein would take me as one of their own, but I soon came to realize the universality and unity of that which works in every realm or culture to ennoble, empower, enlighten, and succor.
Part of why I struggle to understand distinction between monotheism and polytheism, is that it is hard for me to envision a polytheism that can be taken up in the hearts of human beings that does not possess an underlying unity at its core. And likewise, it is hard for me to envision a monotheism that can be taken up in the hearts of human beings that does not contain a limitless array of differentiated expressions– (e.g. angels, saints, guides, lineages of beings who extend loving compassion, etc.). It is a bit like looking at two sides of the same coin for me.
At any rate, please understand I seek to understand, not to take exception. I know what a treasure it is to discover a way of experiencing oneself in relation to the world, and in relationship with the array of forces aligned within and without, in a manner that infuses life with meaning and fosters viable engagement with an inner life and the world in which we find ourselves. To find access to a means of experiencing oneself within the world, not alien to it, in a manner that makes sense of and utilizes the hardship and difficulty we face as vehicles for deepening compassion, love, and meaning, is beautiful. Wherever this is accomplished, in any aggregation or circumstance, I sense it is valid, regardless of how we might describe it.
In perceiving this beauty, I seek to know more about it, and to understand how one inner world might bridge into another. Ultimately, I think you would agree with this desire, for it is the very effort of endeavoring to understand one another’s “inner cultures” that expand and enrich our own sense of being and relatedness.
“Gods acting out of their own self interest,” ironically, might be taking the gods a bit too literally. That there are invisible forces acting upon us is a given. Who can say they consciously beat their own heart or know where thought comes from? We may choose to imagine them as brain chemistry giving them all material explanations, or we may seek other ways to understand the life experiences we have as moods, emotions, personality and character work through us. The point in looking at them mythologically is to see the specific nature of the underlying power of forces that do act upon us through the beliefs of our ancestors. It takes first, the imagination, to have any idea of the world, yes? Beliefs are found wherever there are humans. In looking at the mythology of other cultures we can see more clearly a psychology and cosmology, or how other people make sense of the world.
I am not advocating a move to return to a belief in polytheism, but, rather to gather insight from the well-differentiated perspectives each of the mythological gods displays. The variety of perspectives helps us to expand our modern, sometimes anemic conceptual ideas that we have about ourselves and the nature of the world. The gods display in story form very specific and particulated natures and distinguishable attitudes which are aspects of the whole. Through the relationships between the gods and their interactions with humans we can see something about our nature that could return us to the ideas themselves. I believe that we moderns are too often convinced that we don’t believe, we know. That was just as true of the Greeks or any culture. It’s less a matter of sorting through a menu of all possible belief systems, picking out the truest one, than it is of seeing through to that we are imagining the world all the time. We are all bound by sense, language, culture and environment, no?
I do see monotheism as a subset of polytheism, both historically and psychologically. Monotheistic cultures are birthed within the bedrock of polytheistic cultures. It seems to me that this development reflects a change in consciousness perhaps spurred by an increase of cultural exchange. The competition between cultures is reflected in the competition between the gods which in turn led to a belief in one TRUE God. This makes sense to me because monotheism also brought with it the sense of a more transcendent creator god. The gods of everyday life became unnecessary as a way to understand the nature of the world as technology advanced to explain the mysteries of the material world. God had no where to go but up. This is how I imagine the world. 🙂
The beauty for us moderns, or perhaps post-moderns is the opportunity to gain an insight into the psychological nature of how we perceive by looking more deeply into what we perceive. Not to abandon or purify perception, for that is not possible, but to not take ourselves and our own cultural prejudices and ideas so literally. This is very freeing for me anyway. Thinking, imagining and living take on a playful nature and seek to understand meaning phenomenally rather than truthfully.
Underlying the nature of the world may be a unity and wholeness (I believe so), but the way we perceive and live our unique lives in time, in which history, language, ideas are givens (even when we refuse or deny their power), the unity and wholeness are difficult to get at. I am suggesting that we can get at them by understanding the nature of perceived separation and differentiation.
I hope this helps.
Michael said: ‘It is difficult for me to be excited about forces, gods or cosmic inclinations living through me, if the starting point is not the recognition that such forces are inherent within and to the fundamental nature of that which I am.’
Well said that man!
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Such an in-depth post Debra.. I had to read some paragraphs several times to allow my poor ill educated brain to grapple with the Myths.. As I do when I do when something just doesn’t sink in straight away..
I was intrigued though with what you said in this paragraph..
“Perhaps the absorption of polytheism by monotheism, when imagined as a shift in consciousness rather than a deliberate man-made manipulation, can itself be seen as an aspect of the goddess Ananke, a necessary shift.
I do not know much about Greek Mythology and to be honest never gave any of it much thought until I started to read Aquileana’s Posts .. But the more I read the more I see how many of the stories are similar entwined in theme’s ..
One thing about them is that they are drawing upon Sin.. is that Woman seems to be the culprit.. 😉 Now that would be the case being as Man is writing and recording such Myths.. 😀
Sin is a matter of perspective too.. Do we not choose to experience this realm which is dual in nature of both properties of Light and Dark.. and if it were not for the Dark would we then not discover the Light?..
Consciousness is about the awareness of seeing and experiencing the whole.. Looking at the image of the coiled serpent, have we not bound ourselves to ‘necessity’ within the realm of our experience of this reality?.. We then fail to free ourselves and so thus become bound to our fate.. Instead we should be aware we are the creators of our fate.. But then are we separate? or is our collective Consciousness binding us all in the story of our Primordial Beginnings?
I know I am waffling now, as I air my thoughts which are not the best today in my muddled thinking! 🙂 So I will quit while I know I am two steps behind everyone else’s intelligent thoughts hehe.. 🙂
Thank you for reading my long-winded attempts to verbalize my own understandings.
One of the things that draws me to Greek mythology is that sin or what I prefer to call error, is possible for any of the gods or godesses. This allows us to understand error, or errancy (an even better word), to be inherent in all ideas, all people and all perspectives.
As a woman, I am sensitive to what power and brute strength have wrought throughout the ages, but even men succomb to these forces as most humans do not end up with positions of power. Men have been enslaved by other men just as often as women have been brutalized my men.
Perhaps the heart of the matter transcends all categories of people and into the realm of understanding, love and vision, where fear, although still with us, no longer dominates us. When we are not dominated by fear, because we are better related vertically, to both the powers that create and destroy, fear can be transformed into compassion and love.
I think we are in agreement and may only being using different terms. As you say, we need to be aware of the power of necessity and fate, recognizing its forcefulness in our lives. Freeing, for me is to see the relatedness of the dark to the light (as you point out).
I love the direction of your thoughts here and hope to write soon about the next part of Hillman’s essay which he brings in Athene and her powers of persuasion and how they are related to Ananke.
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Wow… Thank you Debra, I loved that in-depth reply, and you explained it in a way I was fully able to grasp LOL.. Even at 4:15 am.. I was unable to sleep so thought I would catch up on WP for an hour 🙂 Many thanks again.. you are right about both sex’s being ruled and abused.. And I so hope that many more can transform their fear into Compassion and Love, very soon.. For it is really needed right now in the world we are creating.. Love and Light to you Debra..
The connection with Kronos is an important symbolic point — great read.
Thank you Chris, I agree!
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Great post, Debra. I loved the following quote: “Evil here can then be attributed to a compulsion, habit or addiction to one aspect of any one of the gods, not only to that of the Evil One.” It reminds me of a quote from Hamlet: “There is no good or evil, but thinking makes it so.” It is a myopic obsession over something that lures one down the rabbit hole of evil. Thanks for the post. Cheers!
Thank you Jeff! I am glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, myopic obsession, I know her well. 🙂
‘Everything in the Universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.’
Thank you for this most engaging and eloquent article Debra. This is not my terrain at all, and so I can offer nothing by way of a contribution I’m afraid. I was, however, struck by the following passage from Hillman which you quoted:
“To use the word ‘reality’ implies an ontological condition that cannot be otherwise. Therefore there must be something unalterably necessary about images so that psychic reality, which first of all consists in images, cannot be mere afterimages of sense impressions. Images are primordial, archetypal, in themselves ultimate reals, the only direct reality that the psyche experiences. As such they are the shaped presences of necessity.”
I accept readily the premises here, but not so readily the conclusion. Why must psychical images be ‘primordial, archetypal’? Cannot what is ‘unalterably necessary’ simply be a matter of evolutionary imperative – why this appeal to the gods and the beginning of time?
With very many thanks for providing such a rich stimulus to the morning’s reading Debra.
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Thanks for weighing in here and leaving a challenging question. I’m not sure that I can answer in a satisfying way, but want to make an attempt.
I think that personifying ideas as gods enlivens the ideas, breathes life into them. Ideas that live carry meaning and can deepen over time, just as our relationship with each other does.
Science might agree with you and does strive to remove the subjective element from speech, research and experiments, but even a scientific theory must first be imagined before doing anything else with it. Of course, obejective thinking dislikes this and so, that might be why science has become so very mathematical. Math is good for determining measurement, keeping the bridges from falling down, but math doesn’t envision the bridge, math doesn’t need or love the bridge or anything else. A mathemetician, however does so much more than math.
For myself, personifying ideas, seeing them as gods, brings them to life in a way that dry, objective, depersonalized language does not. Removing the subjective perspective deadens the world around us, as science often does, explaining away things like beauty and love as brain chemistry.
Whatever the perspective, underlying it there is always first a fantasy coming through us from the particular ways we imagine the world. Archetypal ideas are universals, who knows where they come from? But, they do have a long history and are personified in story and poem and in you and me.
You imagine, along with others, a world of evolutionary imperative, I prefer to call it Necessity. It’s not a matter of proposing a metaphysical reality, but living a psychological reality.
Ideas are powers, powerful, and have power over us. They compel us into war, love, meaning, worship, separation, addiction, healing, unity, poetry, nothing exists outside of ideas, fantasy and imagination, so yes, I see image as primary, prelingual essence of our perception.
Each mode of questioning, why, how, what or when, leads us into a particular style of imagining the world.
Maybe I am not able to say why because I am not as interested in the answer. I like to ask “what,” because that calls us into imagination that builds the bridge from me to you, deeper into the possibilities of you, me and all of life.
Much respect for your question Hariod. I do enjoy you challenging me as you have.
Many thanks for your most considered response Debra; I greatly appreciate it. And certainly, I agree with your first point (para. 2) that myth serves a powerful purpose in its capacity to enrich meaning, and as a consequence, the absorption of that same meaning.
You go on to say that even a scientific theory must first be imagined, which of course it must, as a hypothesis, and that the mathematician does so much more than merely calculate. There is a fascinating book by a Frenchman by the name of Jacques Hadamard called ‘The Mathematician’s Mind’ [Princeton Uni. Press] and which is an analysis of the psychology of invention – both in mathematics and elsewhere. In it, Hadamard interviews many great figures of his time about how they came to make their discoveries. In essence, the common theme is that there is a process of unconscious ‘incubation’ in which the problem itself is set aside from discursive thought and, in a sense, is left to find its own solution. Here then, perhaps lies sufficient proof that there are dimensions to our apparent ‘reason’ that remain forever hidden from consciousness, and we must each take a view on what is their genesis – the gods, timeless imprints of intelligence such as your archetypes, or perhaps something more mundane.
‘You imagine, along with others, a world of evolutionary imperative, I prefer to call it Necessity.’ I think the two are the closely interrelated Debra, and that is why I quoted Democritus – ‘Everything in the Universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.’ Jacques Monod’s magisterial work ‘Chance and Necessity’ is, as you may know, a study of genetic and biological evolution. Whilst I greatly disincline to a pure Scientism myself, there is nonetheless something going on there in what we perceive as the physical world; and I am equally disinclined to the polar opposite – what might be called ‘Transcendental Idealism’, the idea that only consciousness or God exist. So I think you are correct to use the term ‘imagine’ when referring to our various hypotheses about the big picture. These imaginings can be very useful templates for experience, though I personally feel it is a step too far to take them as actualities.
In concluding on this then, I am in agreement with you Debra that attempting to fix upon this or that ‘answer’ is something of a folly, a Sisyphean task. Most such answers that we come across in life, just like most scientific paradigms, have a habit of devolving to redundancy with the passage of time.
Many thanks for the discussion Debra; I have much to learn from such exchanges!
The book on the mathematicians sounds great! Thanks for mentioning it.
“Whilst I greatly disincline to a pure Scientism myself, there is nonetheless something going on there in what we perceive as the physical world; and I am equally disinclined to the polar opposite – what might be called ‘Transcendental Idealism’, the idea that only consciousness or God exist.”
Indeed, I very much agree and would add that my understanding of soul, which comes from not only Hillman and Jung, but Plato and much pagan thinking and mythology, is that it is the mediator between a purely material and purely transcendent spiritual view. Soul is the bridge between these two perspectives, one which claims that all we are can be reduced and determined to particles and the forces acting upon them, and the other which claims all material is an illusion and only the spirit matters.
For Hillman, both of these ideas are part of the palette of the soul’s fantasies, which it must have.
In this sense image is primary, as we experience imaginings first, before language, as we do in dreams, both waking and those that come through sleep. There is life breathed into the world through our imaginings.
Image here meaning not necessarily, or only a picture, but the phenomena of consciousness itself, what presents itself to us before we interpret it with words, art, music and story, before we quantify or qualify it.
It makes sense to me that what feels present to the ancients were known as gods, for the powers and forces of the world bring with them their own intelligence and suggest to us an otherness.
It’s only in modern times that we believe the world to be some sort of blank slate that we are standing outside of and imposing ideas and belief upon. We have, perhaps, lost the immediacy of experience and gained an interpreter.
As Jung aptly put it,”The gods now live in our diseases.”
And as Hillman noted, the psyche loves to pathologize, and must have its afflictions. The Buddha says, life is suffering.
Thank you for taking the time for these lovely exchanges.
This is such a rich and intriguing post, Debra. It opens so many doors in my mind and encourages me to explore further.
Starting with wikipedia, this really caught my attention:
“There is reference to Ananke early in John Banville’s novel The Infinities. In explaining how the gods fashioned humans so that they would procreate, the narrator (Hermes) says that the gods gave humans lust, “Eros and Ananke working hand in hand”. Norbert Wiener, in his book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, presents Ananke as the personification of scientific determinism, contrasted with Tyche as the personification of quantum indeterminacy, in the often-quoted sentence: “The chance of the quantum theoretician is not the ethical freedom of the Augustinian, and Tyche is as relentless a mistress as Ananke.”
Banville is one of my favourite novelists, so I think I will start there.
Thank you for continually providing inspiration with your nous permeated posts.
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Aha! I read the Wiki page too and wanted to include it here, but I so worry about how long some my posts have been lately! I’m so glad you looked it up anyway.
You might agree that half the fun of writing is doing the research as you write. There are wonderful resources on the net for nearly everything.
I am quite excited by Ananke as a primordial god, as the condition of life. The essay the post was inspired by moves into a great discussion of Athene as the one who persuades us when we experience overwhelming compulsion. I cannot wait to write about Athene!
Banville? Can you recommend a novel?
Thanks so much for sharing your enthusiasm here!
Perhaps Athena by Banville? It is hard to make a recommendation – it is such an individual thing, the literary tastes.
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So much knowledge has been suppressed and buried Debra for eons s away to “create order.” However, I think ( and have read in several texts) that universal truths are expressed all over the planet is multiple societies simultaneously. And this was way way before the internet , lol! My point is that nothing can be disregarded or cast side, even on this physical realm. So we have monotheism and multi theism existing side by side, along with every possible permutation. Astrology for me has been a way to live with this duality rather comfortably. I don’t see the gods and goddesses literally, more metaphorically. Hey there is not much I do see literally since I continue to accept more and more the fact that what our senses reveal is only a small part of the whole picture. I enjoyed your argument Debra! well done!
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Thank you Linda!
Yes, I agree that knowledge and wisdom are hard-won. Suppression, oppression, lack of technology, the hardness of the world, all these challenges throughout the ages, just to stay alive.
Too much order usually leads to leaky buckets, yes? For all of the attempts to order nature around, whether our own, others or the things of the world, there is always a rebellion or a breakdown, some little chink in the armor that lets Chaos back in the room, lol!
Yes, I am not interested in a metaphysic when it comes to the gods. I like to think of the powers to be as personified notions because it’s a way to breathe life into the ideas. The more I think about astrology in the same way, the more sense it makes to me. Mercury = Hermes, etc., now that I can understand!
Thanks for the note my dear friend! I hope that the equinox is kind to you.
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This is the essence to me, to quote a segment, “As the demiurge never wholly reduces chaos to order, so reason never wholly persuades necessity. Both are present as creating principles, always. “In the whole and in every part, Nous and Ananke cooperate; the world is a mixture resulting from this combination.” This all has me very excited to read.
I am intrigued by this subject -especially Necessity – as Ananke is the embodiment of this principle, “destiny, necessity, and fate.” And, according to Wikipedia, she is depicted as holding a spindle. I see that as a creation aspect, for sure; she’s a weaver. (Grandmother spider, perhaps 😉 )
I don’t see reason (nous) and necessity to ever be at odds; and yet, doesn’t it appear to be so, from time to time? Is it possible that eternity could reveal the inevitable cooperation? I enjoy your “speaking up” for duality, and even monotheism as the “with god or against god” fulcrum point. This led to scientific thought, electricity, and Yi Jing. I’m sure there’s more. Black/white, On/off, are necessary placements for “moving forward” with inquiry. Do you think?
Wow, I love your continued line of inquiry. I have to watch myself, or I’d just be writing comments on WP all day. It that necessary? lol….. sorry. I was thinking out loud. I probably shouldn’t do that. What if I come to a conclusion?
Much Love, xoxo
Thanks so much for your wonderful insights and for the support.
I think you nailed the gist or is it grist by pointing out that necessity and reason are not at odds, although in the short term it might seem that way. To think of each step, each breath, each generation as part of the weaving of a way bigger picture than we can see, helps to make sense of so much that doesn’t make sense. Necessity isn’t trying to justify suffering or evil, but can show us that we are part of some bigger cosmological play.
More importantly, it can help us understand what compels us, or even that we are compelled by forces and situations bigger than us. Like a hurricane or wind storm, or a river, we come to respect the strength of these Invisibles and not claim them as our own.
Hugs to you!
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“To think of each step, each breath, each generation as part of the weaving of a way bigger picture than we can see, helps to make sense of so much that doesn’t make sense.”
🙂 Your words here provide a kernel of thought. I am happy to support you here.
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