[Türkçe çevirisi için yorum bölümüne bkz.]
‘As Dawn prepared to spread her saffron mantle over the land, Zeus the Thunderer gathered the gods to the highest peak of many-ridged Olympus, and spoke to them while all listened: ‘Hear me, gods and goddesses, while I say what my heart prompts. Let none of you try to defy me: all must assent, so I may swiftly achieve my aim. Whomever I find inclined to help the Greeks or Trojans, shall suffer the lightning stroke and be sent back ignominiously to Olympus, or be seized and hurled into dark Tartarus, into the furthest, deepest gulf beneath the earth, with iron gates and threshold of bronze, as far below Hades as earth is from heaven. Then you will see how much mightier I am than you immortals. Go on: attempt it, and see. If you tied a chain of gold to the sky, and all of you, gods and goddesses, took hold, you could not drag Zeus the High Counsellor to earth with all your efforts. But if I determined to pull with a will, I could haul up land and sea then loop the chain round a peak of Olympus, and leave them dangling in space. By that much am I greater than gods and men.’
‘Roberto Callasso observes, in Greek the word ‘theos, or god, ‘has no vocative case’, but rather predicates, for it designates ‘something that happens’. This, ‘recognizing the beloved is god’. Theos is an event, and when an event is recognized as theos, it is only one more step to say it belongs to Zeus, ‘the most vast and all inclusive of gods, the god who is the background noise of the divine.’ What we experienced was the sacred as sacred presence-the place itself, this ancient primordial sanctuary of the unknown gods, the gods of the unknown, is the sacred revealing itself as this place.’
‘For it is the incongruous element in myths that guides us to the truth. I mean that the more paradoxical and prodigious the riddle is the more it seems to warn us not to believe simply the bare words but rather to study diligently the hidden truth, and not to relax our efforts until under the guidance of the gods those hidden things become plain, and so initiate or rather perfect our intelligence or whatever we possess that is more sublime than the intelligence, I mean that small particle of the One and the Good which contains the whole indivisibly, the complement of the soul, and in the One and the Good comprehends the whole of soul itself.’
‘We may well inquire, then, why the ancients forsook these doctrines and made use of myths. There is this first benefit from myths, that we have to search and do not have our minds idle.
That the myths are divine can be seen from those who have used them. Myths have been used by inspired poets, by the best of philosophers, by those who established the mysteries, and by the Gods themselves in oracles. But why the myths are divine it is the duty of philosophy to inquire. Since all existing things rejoice in that which is like them and reject that which is unlike, the stories about the Gods ought to be like the Gods, so that they may both be worthy of the divine essence and make the Gods well disposed to those who speak of them: which could only be done by means of myths.
Now the myths represent the Gods themselves and the goodness of the Gods – subject always to the distinction of the speakable and the unspeakable, the revealed and the unrevealed, that which is clear and that which is hidden: since, just as the Gods have made the goods of sense common to all, but those of intellect only to the wise, so the myths state the existence of Gods to all, but who and what they are only to those who can understand.
They also represent the activities of the Gods. For one may call the world a myth, in which bodies and things are visible, but souls and minds hidden. Besides, to wish to teach the whole truth about the Gods to all produces contempt in the foolish, because they cannot understand, and lack of zeal in the good, whereas to conceal the truth by myths prevents the contempt of the foolish, and compels the good to practice philosophy.
But why have they put in the myths stories of adultery, robbery, father-binding, and all the other absurdity? Is not that perhaps a thing worthy of admiration, done so that by means of the visible absurdity the soul may immediately feel that the words are veils and believe the truth to be a mystery?’
‘Of myths some are theological, some physical, some psychic, and again some material, and some mixed from these last two.
The theological are those myths which use no bodily form but contemplate the very essence of the Gods: e.g., Kronos swallowing his children. Since god is intellectual, and all intellect returns into itself, this myth expresses in allegory the essence of god.
Myths may be regarded physically when they express the activities of the Gods in the world: e.g., people before now have regarded Kronos as time, and calling the divisions of time his sons say that the sons are swallowed by the father.
The psychic way is to regard the activities of the soul itself; the soul’s acts of thought, though they pass on to other objects, nevertheless remain inside their begetters.
The material and last is that which the Egyptians have mostly used, owing to their ignorance, believing material objects actually to be Gods, and so calling them: e.g., they call the earth Isis, moisture Osiris, heat Typhon, or again, water Kronos, the fruits of the earth Adonis, and wine Dionysus.
To say that these objects are sacred to the Gods, like various herbs and stones and animals, is possible to sensible men, but to say that they are Gods is the notion of madmen – except, perhaps, in the sense in which both the orb of the sun and the ray which comes from the orb are colloquially called ‘the sun’.
The mixed kind of myth may be seen in many instances: for example they say that in a banquet of the Gods Discord threw down a golden apple; the Goddesses contended for it, and were sent by Zeus to Paris to be judged. Paris saw Aphrodite to be beautiful and gave her the apple. Here the banquet signifies the hypercosmic powers of the Gods; that is why they are all together. The golden apple is the world, which being formed out of opposites, is naturally said to be ‘thrown by Discord’. The different Gods bestow different gifts upon the world, and are thus said to ‘contend for the apple’. And the soul which lives according to sense – for that is what Paris is – not seeing the other powers in the world but only beauty, declares that the apple belongs to Aphrodite.
Theological myths suit philosophers, physical and psychic suit poets, mixed suit religious initiations, since every initiation aims at uniting us with the world and the Gods.
To take another myth, they say that the Mother of the Gods seeing Attis lying by the river Gallus fell in love with him, took him, crowned him with her cap of stars, and thereafter kept him with her. He fell in love with a nymph and left the Mother to live with her. For this the Mother of the Gods made Attis go mad and cut off his genital organs and leave them with the nymph, and then return and dwell with her.
Now the Mother of the Gods is the principle that generates life; that is why she is called Mother. Attis is the creator of all things which are born and die; that is why he is said to have been found by the river Gallus. For Gallus signifies the Galaxy, or Milky Way, the point at which body subject to passion begins. Now as the primary gods make perfect the secondary, the Mother loves Attis and gives him celestial powers. That is what the cap means. Attis loves a nymph: the nymphs preside over generation, since all that is generated is fluid. But since the process of generation must be stopped somewhere, and not allowed to generate something worse than the worst, the creator who makes these things casts away his generative powers into the creation and is joined to the Gods again. Now these things never happened, but always are. And mind sees all things at once, but reason (or speech) expresses some first and others after. Thus, as the myth is in accord with the cosmos, we for that reason keep a festival imitating the cosmos, for how could we attain higher order?
And at first we ourselves, having fallen from heaven and living with the nymph, are in despondency, and abstain from corn and all rich and unclean food, for both are hostile to the soul. Then comes the cutting of the tree and the fast, as though we also were cutting off the further process of generation. After that the feeding on milk, as though we were being born again; after which come rejoicings and garlands and, as it were, a return up to the Gods.
The season of the ritual is evidence to the truth of these explanations. The rites are performed about the Vernal equinox, when the fruits of the earth are ceasing to be produced, and day is becoming longer than night, which applies well to spirits rising higher. (At least, the other equinox is in mythology the time of the rape of Kore, which is the descent of the souls.)
May these explanations of the myths find favour in the eyes of the Gods themselves and the souls of those who wrote the myths.’
‘As for me, I am full of apprehension in front of the difficulties of the analogy’.
Prelude: Homer, ‘Illiad’, opening of chapter VIII.
Translation by A. S. Kline.
First Meditation: Arthur Versluis, ‘ Entering the mysteries’, page 19.
Second Meditation: Emperor Julien, ‘The works of Emperor Julien’, ‘Against Heraclius’, paragraph 10. Translation by Wilmer Cave Wright.
Third Meditation: Salustius the Philosopher, ‘On the Gods and the World’, Chapter III.
Translation by Roy George.
Fourth Meditation: Salustius the Philosopher, ‘On the Gods and the World’, Chapter IV.
Translation by Roy George.
Postlude: Michel Pselos, ‘Aurea Catena Homeri’.
In Pierre Leveque, ‘Une Etude sur l’allegorie Grecque’. 1959.