Friday, October 27, 2006


In dreams

The beastly and savage part (of the mind) ... endeavors to sally forth and satisfy its own natural instincts.., there is nothing it will not venture to undertake as being released from all sense of shame and all reason. It does not shrink from attempting to have intercourse with one's mother, or with any man, god, or animal. It is ready for any foul deed of blood... and falls short of no extreme of mindlessness and shamelessness... there is in every one of us, even those who seem to be most moderate, a type of desires that is terrible, wild and lawless.

While one might confidently assume that the preceding passage was written by Freud, it is startling to discover that it was composed by Plato two and a half millennia ago and appears in his masterpiece The Republic ( 1). Freud paid Plato appropriate homage by calling him "divine," but interestingly asserted that his knowledge of Plato was fragmentary. Bergmann,( n1) however, has demonstrated that Gomperz's Greek Thinkers, with its extensive sections of Socrates and Plato, was cited by Freud as one of his favorite books. Further, Freud translated into German, John Stuart Mill's 1866, 67-page article on Plato. Freud, like many original thinkers, is not alone in denying intellectual ancestors and as a final convincing piece of evidence of the link between Plato and Freud, Bergmann juxtaposes a quotation from Plato with one from Freud. In Phaedrus ( 2) Plato states:

I divided each soul into three--two horses and a charioteer; and one of the horses was good and the other bad:... the right-hand horse is upright and cleanly made; he has a lofty neck and an aquiline nose; his color is white; his eyes dark; he is a lover of honor and modesty and temperance; and the follower of true glory; he needs no touch of the whip, but is guided by words and admonition only. The other is a crooked lumbering animal.... he has a short thick neck; he is flat-faced and of dark color; with gray eyes and blood-red complexion; the mate of insolence and pride, shaggered and deaf, hardly yielding to whip and spur. Now when the charioteer beholds the vision of love, and has his whole soul warmed through sense, and is full of the pricking and tickling of desire, the obedient steed, then as always under the government of shame, refrains from leaping on the beloved; but the other, heedless of the pricks and blows of the whip plunges and runs away, giving all manner of trouble to his companion and the charioteer. (pp. 253-254)

In The Ego and the Id ( 3), Freud wrote:

In its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse: with the difference that the rider tries to do so with his own strength while the ego uses borrowed forces. The analogy may be carried a little further. Often a rider if he is not to be parted from his horse, is obliged to guide it where it wants to go; so the same way the ego is in the habit of transforming the id's will into action as if it were its own. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains passions. All this falls in line with the popular distinction which we are all familiar with.... (p. 25)

Bergmann suggests that Freud's term, popular distinction, can be used as a denial of the Platonic origins of this metaphor. Notwithstanding Freud's abjuration of any debt to Plato, it is clear that this ancient Greek philosopher anticipated the creator of modern psychodynamic theory when he articulated in The Republic a conflict model of the psyche in which instinctual drives represent a constant threat to rational behavior.

Some years ago, Simon ( 4) demonstrated the presence of three main models of mind in ancient Greece, elements of which remain with us in contemporary psychotherapeutic and psychiatric practice. The first of these conceptual models Simon labeled the poetic (mainly Homeric). In the Homeric model there is no clear idea of mental structure, and, as in many preliterate societies, mental illness is viewed as something "sent" by wrathful gods from outside the individual. To some extent this would correspond with our contemporary sociocultural model of mental illness originating in external pathogenic forces impinging on the individual. It is also one, shorn of its animistic elements, that is used by contemporary family therapists, among others, in their therapeutic endeavors.

The second model found in classical Greece is the Hippocratic, the comparatively unmodified ancestor of our current biomedical model. A classic example of this ancient Greek biological model of mental illness occurs in Hippocrates' discourse on epilepsy:

It is thus with regard to the disease called Sacred; it appears to me to be nowise more divine nor more sacred than other diseases, but has a natural cause from which it originated like other afflictions. Men regard its nature and cause as divine from ignorance and wonder, because it is not at all like other diseases. And this notation of its divinity is kept up by their inability to comprehend it. ( 5,pp. 334-335)

In the Corpus Hippocraticum, the brain was recognized to be the source of the emotions:

And men ought to know that from nothing else but thence come joys, delights, laughter and sports and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us, some by night, and some by day, and dreams and untimely wanderings, and cares that are not suitable, and ignorance of present circumstances, desuetude and unskillfulness. All these things we endure from the brain when it is not healthy. ( 5,344)

The third ancient Greek model of the mind and the one germane to this essay is the Platonic or philosophical model. Simon observes that "It is fair to say that much of Plato's philosophical activity was involved in the task of defining and characterizing the nature of the psuche (mind)." And further "we can look at Plato as the one who defined the abstract and the rational as equivalent to the moral good. He equated self-knowledge with self-restraint, and proclaimed that knowledge is virtue.... Lack of knowledge and the irrational, were equated with moral evil, and then, with madness." Plato divided the psuche into three parts, the rational, affective, and appetitive and again Simon observes that "here conflict is conceptualized as a struggle between the rational and the appetitive portions with each trying to enlist the affective portion on its side." Thus we have an early tripartite view of the mind that echoes Freud's later structural model of ego, id, and superego. Plato saw mental illness as a consequence of an imbalance whereby the unbridled instinctual part gains the upper hand. Treatment is through the Platonic dialogue, a precursor of the psychoanalytic dialogue that brings the conflicting parts of the mind into harmony and reasserts control over the irrational part of the psuche. The philosophical dialogue, however, differs radically from the psychoanalytic dialogue, by attempting to discard the emotions, whereas in the analytic dialogue emotions are at the center of the treatment.

Jonathan Lear, a philosopher and a psychoanalyst, has drawn parallels between philosophy and psychoanalysis in his book Open Minded: Working out the logic of the soul (a title that is itself derived from Plato). Lear states ( 6):

Psychoanalysis, Freud said, is an impossible profession. So is philosophy. This is not a metaphor or a poetically paradoxical turn of phrase. It is literally true. And the impossibility is ultimately a matter of logic. For the very idea of a profession is that of a defensive structure, and it is part of the very idea of philosophy and psychoanalysis to be activities which undo such defenses. It is part of the logic of psychoanalysis and philosophy that they are forms of life committed to living openly--with truth, beauty, envy and hate, wonder, awe and dread. The idea of a profession of psychoanalysis or a profession of philosophy is thus a contradiction in terms. Or to put it bluntly, there is no such idea. (p. 5)

He further comments:

It is only to say that a certain activity which Plato called "giving a logos of the psyche" has all but disappeared. An everyday way of rendering the Greek is "working out the logic of the soul." In the twentieth century it has become difficult to understand this phrase because the remarkable advances in formal logic since 1879 have so colored our understanding of what logic is. We lose sight of Plato's project, laid out so beautifully in the Republic, of giving a nonformal but rigorous, not-quite-empirical yet not nonempirical account of what it is to be human. Plato, one might say, is working out the very idea of what it is to be minded as we are. And he does this in the light of Socrates' exemplification--a life spent showing--that one of the most important truths about us is that we have the capacity to be open minded: the capacity to live nondefensively with the question of how to live. (p. 8)

Lear notes that in The Republic, Plato invents psyche-analysis though he posits that Plato is more concerned with the vicissitudes of narcissism than Freud ever was. Lear also suggests, rather extravagantly in my opinion, that Plato invents object-relations theory: he

understood that the human psyche is in dynamic interaction with the cultural-political environment, and that both are fundamentally shaped by the movement of meanings from polis to psyche and back again. He works out one of the most insightful accounts of psychosocial degeneration ever formulated. Contemporary object-relations theorists, if they go back to Plato, will study his account of psychopathology with awe. For Plato, the influence of polls on psyche or of psyche on polis is largely unconscious. And human life is, for the most part, lived in the midst of illusion. In Plato's famous image of the cave, we are, unbeknownst to ourselves, strapped to a wall and forced to watch the projections of images onto the opposite wall which we mistake not only for reality, but for ourselves. We are, on this account, strangers to ourselves. But for Plato as for Freud, there is therapeutic potential in pushing hard at contradictions inherent in the illusions themselves. Every image is a shadow, a distortion of something bearing more reality than it. In focusing on the distortion we can painfully and slowly work our way toward what the distortion is a distortion of. Once again Plato plants the hope of avoiding despair. ( 6,p. 10)

It should be noted that Simon ( 4) has a highly original interpretation of Plato's cave and its shadows:

If we review [Plato's] lists of the characteristics of the baser and higher parts of mind and now consider the last proposition--Plato's denigration of sexual differences and intercourse as a method of begetting and creating--a rather simple but remarkable construction occurs. Consider the items in the list; flux; sleep and dreaming; conflict; begetting, being born, and perishing; and heterosexuality--do these add up to any one simple unifying construct? I propose that they do, and that we can best see that unity by thinking in terms of a particular childhood experience and its fantasy concomitants--a primal scene fantasy... "one of the central allegories in (the Republic), the myth of the cave, is, of course, built around the contrast between shadowy darkness and bright light... [I]nterwoven with the imagery of night and the imagery and theme of sexuality." (pp. 171, 172, 176)

In Plato's proposal that children must not know their biological parents, that the state regulate intercourse and conception, Simon feels that "here we have the most dramatic kind of confirmation of an unconscious primal scene fantasy 'ordered regulated intercourse,' not 'in the dark' is the aim and, as far as possible, intercourse should be dissociated from biological and social parenthood" (p. 177). Finally, Simon concludes that the allegory of the cave with its contrast between light and darkness, the plight of the prisoners when they enter the world of sunlight and realize they had been living in a world of illusion, has its parallel in the child's experience of "the darkness of the bedroom, seeing the shadows and hearing the echoes of parental intercourse."

In Socrates' famous dictum "the unexamined life is not worth living" and with the development of the Socratic method, Lear ( 6) feels we have the ancestor of the psychoanalytic method:

After all, he fashioned a method of cross-examination, designed to elicit conflicts which had hitherto remained unconscious inside the interlocutor. Like the cathartic method, this inquiry was meant to be therapeutic. His was not a abstract inquiry into, say the nature of piety, but a practical attempt to help the "analysand" live a better life. For Socrates, "How shall I live?" is the fundamental question confronting each person; his peculiar form of examination was intended to help a person to answer it well. That is why Socrates had his own fundamental rule: state only what you believe. The "analysand" was not allowed to try out a debating position, but had to bring his own commitments to the inquiry. If the inquiry led to contradiction, it was not reductio of an abstract position with no putative owner, but of the "analysand's" own commitments. That is also why Socrates, like a contemporary psychoanalyst, disavowed knowledge of how the "analysand" should answer the fundamental question. The point of Socratic examination was to help people to be able to ask and answer the question for themselves. (p. 56-57)

Lear observes that the dictum was among the last words Socrates voiced at his trial for both heresy and corrupting youth. Since he was found guilty and sentenced to death, Lear, somewhat mordantly, suggests that in this instance the Socratic method was "a psychotherapeutic disaster." As Lear notes, Socrates' "cross-examination was meant to make people better, but it provoked the demon to act out its murderous impulses." This is the crucial point of departure for the psychoanalytic method and the Socratic dialogue. In psychoanalysis, the emotions and their primeval instinctual roots are at the center of the dialogue, especially in the cauldron of the transference, whereas in the Socratic dialogue there exists an ill-founded belief that rational thought will transcend the irrational. Perhaps this countervailing belief in rationality arose because of the ubiquity of the irrational in Greek culture (see Dodds below). In his ideal republic, Plato would abolish those visceral esthetic elements that pander, in his opinion, to irrational emotionality, such as music and poetry, but, as we unfortunately well know from the horrific history of the 20th century, the primitive irrational elements of the individual and collective psyche are always ready to erupt into action. Only through acknowledging and addressing their omnipresence can we have any hope of containing them. This understanding is the great contribution of psychoanalysis to the human condition.

There always exists the reductionistic danger of making an isomorphic connection between the thought of ancient Greece and that of our own day. This is parallel to the adultomorphic fallacy in psychoanalysis--that of assuming we understand the childhood world of a patient based on our knowledge of their adult thoughts and fantasies or that the mental life of the child can be reconstructed from our analysis of an adult and the residues of his or her infantile neurosis. The mental world of 5th to 3rd century B.C.E. Greece was radically different, even alien, from ours as the great scholar E.R. Dodds has brilliantly demonstrated in his work The Greeks and the Irrational ( 7). He shows that Euripides' horrifying description in The Bacchae wherein Pentheus is torn apart by the maenads who are in a state of ecstatic exaltation is "not to be accounted for in terms of "the imagination alone"; that inscriptional evidence reveals a closer relationship with actual cult than Victorian scholars realized; and that the maenad however mythical certain of her acts, is not in essence a mythological character, but an observed human type" (p. 278). Dodds quotes Diodorus: "... in many Greek states congregations of women assemble every second year and the unmarried girls are allowed to carry the thyrsus and share the transports of the elders." Thus Dodds concludes "this strange rite described in The Bacchae and practiced by womens' societies at Delphi was certainly practiced elsewhere also." And further: "there must have been a time when the maenads really became for a few hours or days what their name implies--wild women whose human personality has been temporarily replaced by another" (p. 271) and "that there once existed a more potent, because more dreadful form of this sacrament, viz., the rending and perhaps the eating of food in the shape of men; and that the story of Pentheus is in part a reflection of that act" (p. 278). This speaks to an important aspect of ancient Greek society that has parallels not with the religious practices of the modern West, but with esoteric religious practices that are the domain of the cultural anthropologist, e.g., Vooduun in Haiti and Santeria and its equivalents in the Caribbean and Bahia.

Dodds examines Homeric thought and concludes: "To ask whether Homer's people are determinists or libertarians is a fantastic anachronism: the question has never occurred to them, and if it were put to them it would be very difficult to make them understand what it meant" (p. 7). Dodds notes, with regard to "a people so civilized, clear-headed and rational as the Ionians (Homer's Greeks)" that "I doubt if the early literature of any other European people--even my own superstitious countrymen, the Irish--postulates supernatural interference in human behavior with such frequency or over so wide a field" (p. 13). Socrates in Phaedrus states that "our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness." He went on, as Dodds observes, to distinguish four types of "divine madness" which are produced "by a divinely wrought change in our customary social norms." Dionysian madness of the ecstatic bacchanal was "to satisfy and relieve the impulse to reject responsibility" an essentially cathartic phenomenon whereby repressed irrational conflicts could be relieved in a ritual outlet. Dodd's remarkable analysis of Greek culture through a close reading of its extant literature and his own sophisticated cultural anthropological understanding demonstrates quite clearly that classical Greek society was far removed from ours. Nonetheless the anlage of many of our most cherished "rationalist" ideas are to be found in this antique world so permeated with magical and "irrational" beliefs.

The truly original Greek ancestor of the psychoanalytic enterprise was to be found well before Socrates and Plato. It was the inscription on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the home of the Pythia, the prestigious divine oracle who became possessed by the god and spoke his words directly. (Another example, as Dodds points out, of the power of the irrational in ancient Greek society). The inscription read "Know Thyself" Socrates advanced this admonition with his declaration: "Knowledge is virtue." The radical revolution of 18th century Romanticism, as Berlin ( 8) has explicated, undermined this central pillar of western culture: "It seems to me, first, that certain among the romantics cut the deepest of all the roots of the classical outlook... namely, the belief that values, the answers to questions of action and choice, could be discovered at all... and maintained there were no answers to some of these questions, either subjective empirical or a priori." And further: "Thirdly, my thesis is that by their positive doctrine the romantics introduced a new set of values, not reconcilable with the old, and that most Europeans are today the heirs of both opposing traditions. We accept both outlooks, and shift from one foot to the other in a fashion that we cannot avoid if we are honest with ourselves, but which is not intellectually coherent" (p. 175).

As I have suggested elsewhere ( 10), this Romantic thesis provided the forum for object relations theory in psychoanalysis through its emphasis on individual subjectivity, the centrality of emotional experience and the potential transmuting power of the relationship between self and object. Object relations theory has its intellectual roots in Romanticism and not, as Lear would suggest, in Plato's delineation of the individual psyche's relation to the polis. Nonetheless, the classical ego-psychological model of psychoanalysis, like so much of our intellectual worldview has its origins in the extraordinary innovations and advances in human thought that the ancient Greeks wrought. The therapeutic power of psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy based on the healing power of both the word and the therapeutic relationship was eloquently anticipated in Plato's Charmides (11):

If the head and body are to be well, you must begin by curing the soul--that is the first essential thing. And the cure of the soul, my dear youth, has to be effected by the use of certain charms, and these charms are fair words, and by them temperance is implanted in the soul, and where temperance comes and stays, then health is speedily imparted, not only to the head but to the whole body. (p. 181)

( n1) A psychoanalytic reading of Socrates and a Socratic reading of psychoanalysis. Presented at the 5th Delphi Symposium, Greece, July 2000.

(1.) Plato. The republic, Book IX, pp. 334-335, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1987; B. Simon (Transl.) in Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 8, 43, 1972.

(2.) Plato. Phaedrus, Vol. 1, pp. 233-285, B. Jowett (Transl.). New York: Random House, 1937.

(3.) Freud S (1923). The ego and the id. Standard Edition, Vol. 19. London: Hogarth Press, 1961.

(4.) Simon B (1978). Mind and madness in ancient Greece. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press.

(5.) Hippocrates. The sacred disease. In F. Adams (Ed.). The genuine works of Hippocrates. New York: William Wood, 1929.

(6.) Lear J (1998). Open minded. Working out the logic of the soul. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.

(7.) Dodds ER (1971). The Greeks and the irrational. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

(8.) Berlin I (1997). The sense of reality. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

(9.) Buckley P (1997). Psychoanalysis and its romantic rebellion. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45, 577-587.

(10.) Plato. Charmides. In D. Watt (Transl.). Early Socratic dialogues. London, New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

By Peter Buckley, M.D.

Professor of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Training and Supervising Analyst, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. Mailing address: 336 Central Park West, New York, NY 10025.Copyright of American Journal of Psychotherapy is the property of Association for the Advancement of Psychotherapy. The copyright in an individual article may be maintained by the author in certain cases. Content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.

Source: American Journal of Psychotherapy, Fall2001, Vol. 55 Issue 4, p451, 9p


Thursday, October 26, 2006

More on Paganism in Iceland

Among pagans

Winter is here. On Saturday pagans in Iceland celebrated the first day of winter with the traditional ceremony of Haustblót (“autumn sacrifice”). IR Web Editor Eygló S. Arnarsdóttir observed.

Steam rose from the dinner on the table, the autumn sacrifice. The guests waited patiently for their horse meat, blood pudding and liver sausage to be blessed before they could start feasting upon it.

Most of them were modernly dressed, but others looked as if they had jumped right out of the Viking era. The traditionally dressed men wore plain shirts or sweaters nit with Icelandic wool. Some sported long hair and a beard.

The women wore long white dresses with colorful aprons on top, decorated with jewelry. The most popular necklace motive with both sexes was the hammer of Thor in gold or made out of reindeer horn.

The high chieftain and two of his assistants stood behind the altar. The priest held a horn in his hand decorated with runes. He blessed the gods, the assembly and the food, drank some of the beer in the horn and poured some over the altar.

A stuffed raven perched on the bar. It overlooked a circular altar filled with candles. The whole room was illuminated by candles, giving it a mythical air.

“Heill Ódni,” the head priest said (“Odin – the leader of gods – is holy”). The guests repeated. “Heill Freyju,” he continued (“Freyja – the goddess of love – is holy”). The room echoed. “May the feast begin,” the priest announced.

Haustblót is one of five yearly celebrations. Pagans celebrate the first day of winter and the first day of summer, winter and summer solstice and Thorrablót, a midwinter feast.

The Pagan Society (Ásatrúarfélagið) was founded in the early 1970s, but the religion, based on Norse mythology, goes back hundreds of years. Ásatrú is the religion the Vikings practiced.

“Don’t call it a religion, it’s a lifestyle,” says society member Anna Bergsteinsdóttir. “It is about coming together and having a good time.” Bergsteinsdóttir used to be Christian but converted to Ásatrú four years ago.

Member Jóhannes Levy believes Icelanders are pagans at heart, although they might be Christian on the outside. Christianity became state religion in year 1000, but pagan values have been kept alive in Iceland to this day.

High Priest Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson explains that being a pagan means taking responsibility and being tolerant towards others. They welcome every new member, and the numbers are increasing, but do not want to force Ásatrú upon anyone.

Getting married the pagan way is becoming increasingly popular, among Icelanders and tourists alike. It is not required that the couple is pagan, they can belong to any religious group.

Soon pagans in Iceland will have a temple of their own for their feasts and holy ceremonies. It will be built in Öskjuhlíd in Reykjavík, near the restaurant Perlan.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Η νέα Ανατολή των Εθνικών

Η "Μονοθεϊστική" Εποχή των ανεξελέγκτων δογμάτων, του συμπαγούς σκοταδιού, των "κυρίαρχων" ιδεών και των αυτοκλήτων κοινωνικών και πολιτιστικών αυθεντιών, έχει ήδη προ πολλού τελειώσει. Ο καταγέλαστος τεχνοβαρβαρισμός των συγχρόνων κοινωνιών αποτελεί την τελευταία του αιμόπτυση, γαρνιρισμένη από τοξικά δηλητήρια, παραλογισμό, κοινωνικό και πολιτικό φασισμό, αμορφωσιά και προκατάληψη, κρίση αξιών, μίσος, μοναξιά εκφυλιστικές θανατηφόρες αρρώστειες, μισαλλοδοξία, πλατειά οικονομική και οικολογική κατάρρευση και πλήρη θάνατο κάθε πολιτιστικής ιδεολογίας και κάθε θρησκευτικού δόγματος.

Όχι. Μάλλον μάταια θ' αναζητήσεις, ίσως, αγαπητέ αναγνώστη κάποια...κρυμμένη κοσμοϊστορική επιδίωξη πίσω από την έκδοση του παρόντος εντύπου. Δεν έχουμε μέσα στο μυαλό μας την παραμικρή αυταπάτη, και πέρα από αυτό δεν επιθυμούμε καν, να παίξουμε κι εμείς τον χιλιογελοιοποιημένο εκείνο ρολίσκο του διαφωτιστού, του μύστου ή του σωτήρος. Όσοι προσπαθούν απεγνωσμένα να ενοικιάσουν σωσίβιο, μπορούν να το κάνουν πολύ εύκολα απευθυνόμενοι στον παπά της γειτονιάς τους, στον New Age γκουρού της πόλεώς τους ή στον περισσότερα υποσχόμενο πολιτευτή της εκλογικής τους περιφερείας. Όλοι τους, προσφέρονται εν αφθονία.. Τι διάβολο λοιπόν θέλουμε με αυτό το περιοδικό εμείς οι περίεργοι; Εφ' όσον έχουν προ πολλού αποδοθεί "τα του Καίσαρος τω Καίσαρι" και εφ' όσον ο καθένας έχει επιλέξει ήδη το μονοπάτι που ακολουθεί, όντας απόλυτα υπεύθυνος μάλιστα για την επιλογή του αυτή.

Θέλουμε απλώς με τούτο το περιοδικό, να επισημάνουμε, ότι τουλάχιστον εμείς, δεν έχουμε την παραμικρή πρόθεση να επιστρέψουμε στο μέλλον από τύχη και μόνο, σε "Εκείνο που προϋπήρχε και θα συνεχίσει να υπάρχει και μετά". Να επισημάνουμε, ότι εκείνο που πρόκειται να έλθει μετά από το τελειωτικό σάρωμα -είτε μέσα από την αυτοκαταστροφή, είτε μέσα από το πέρασμα σε Άλλες Συνειδήσεις- του "μονοθεϊστικού" τεχνοβαρβαρικού κονιορτού, θα είναι κάτι πολύ πολύ γνώριμο και οικείο μας. Ότι ο φασιστικός πολιτιστικός οδοστρωτήρας των δύο τελευταίων σκοτεινών χιλιετηρίδων, δεν κατώρθωσε τελικώς τίποτα περισσότερο από το ν' αποδειχθεί κι αυτός - όπως όλοι οι υπόλοιποι φασισμοί, τους οποίους την ατυχία να γνωρίσει ο πλανήτης- ολοκληρωτικά ανίκανος να κάνει πράξη την μεγαλύτερή του φαντασίωση: να εξαφανίσει από την Μνήμη τού Αύριο, κάθε ίχνος κι απομεινάρι των Ετεροδοξιών που ετόλμησαν να του αντιπαρατεθούν.

Ναι, έχουμε εμπρός μας να μας περιμένει μία Νέα Εποχή. Ωστόσο θα αποφύγουμε συνειδητά να χρησιμοποιήσουμε τον κακοποιημένο "διεθνή" όρο New Age. Όρο που ηθελημένα ή όχι, έχει προ πολλού καταντήσει να σημαίνει τίποτα περισσότερο από χονδρεμπορική πώληση- είτε για οικονομικά κέρδη, είτε για ικανοποίηση αρχηγίστικων και καταξιωτικών συνδρόμων αυτοκλήτων γκουρού- ενός αντιφατικού αχταρμά από εσωτερίστικες δοξασίες, δίχως καμμία συνοχή μεταξύ τους, μέσα στις, σε αποσύνθεση μεν, αλλά συγκριτικά ακόμα, πλούσιες "Δυτικές" κοινωνίες.

Βλέπουμε μία κάποια ελπίδα κι ένα κάποιο φως, μέσα στον κοινωνικό και πολιτιστικό χώρο, που στις ημέρες μας αυτοχαρακτηρίζεται "παγανιστικός", ωστόσο αρνούμεθα να αποδεχθούμε μία τέτοια ονομασία καθώς η λέξη είναι ουσιαστικά υβριστική και ελάχιστη συγγένεια έχει, με τις ιδέες και τα πιστεύω μας.
Ο όρος pagani εχρησιμοποιήθη από τους εκχριστιανισμένους Ρωμαίους για να περιγράψει τους αγράμματους "εθνικούς" αγρότες, που προσκολλημένοι, από σεβασμό και μόνο, στα πάτρια και στις παραδόσεις τους αμύνθηκαν μέχρι τέλους, ενατίον των μαυροφορεμένων ένοπλων "προσηλυτιστών" των απαρχών του χριστιανοκρατούμενου Μεσαίωνος.

Εμείς, αναγνωρίζουμε την οφθαλμοφανέστατη πολιτιστική ανωτερότητα του Αρχαίου Κόσμου, ή των μέχρι πρότινος παγανιστών "ιθαγενών λαών" -Ινδιάνων, Αυστραλών κ.λ.π.- που απεδείχθη ότι ελάχιστα γνωρίζουν την λέξη Μισαλλοδοξία και αναγνωρίζουμε επιπλέον την επίσης οφθαλμοφανέστατη πολιτιστική ανωτερότητα του Αρχαιοελληνικού Κόσμου μέσα σε όλους αυτούς τους εξοντωμένους πολιτισμούς. Μήπως άραγε είμαστε ειδωλολάτρες; Όχι βέβαια... ούτε και οι αρχαίοι Έλληνες ήσαν..! Τα περί ειδωλοπροσκυνήσεως ψέμματα, αποτελούν ένα από τα πιο γνήσια υποπροϊόντα παραχαράξεως της ιστορικής αλήθειας από τους μεταχριστιανικούς απατεώνες που έδρασαν ασύστολα για αιώνες, κάτω από τις ιδιότητες του παπά, του καλογέρου, του "διανοουμένου" και του "ιστορικού". Οι Έλληνες απετέλεσαν τον μοναδικό λαό ο οποίος επέρασε επάνω από αυτόν τον πλανήτη και είχε την Φιλο-Σοφία και την Μυθοπλάστρα Ποίηση, στην θέση της θρησκείας που ως λέξη δεν την είχε χρησιμοποιήσει ποτέ. Το πιο βασικό μήνυμα που το αρχαιοελληνικό Πάνθεο, μία σειρά από φωτισμένες επικλήσεις προς τις απειράριθμες πλευρές του Ενιαίου Θείου, εχάρισε στην ανθρωπότητα, είναι το εφικτό της Θεώσεως της Ανθρωπίνης Φύσεως, ως γνήσιο και ομοούσιο κομμάτι της μεγάλης και μοναδικής Θεάς, της Φύσεως του Σύμπαντος, που μέσα του αιώνια ζούμε. Της -ακόμα ανεξερεύνητης - Ανθρώπινης Φύσεως, που τόσο απροκάλυπτα μισούν όλες οι παραλλαγές των απειράριθμων και ποικιλώνυμων διάκων του Ιεχωβά. Της θεογενούς Ανθρώπινης Φύσεως που τόσο μανιασμένα αυτοί επολέμησαν, πολεμούν και θα συνεχίσουν να πολεμούν.

Λέγοντας τα παραπάνω και τυγχάνοντας παράλληλα Έλληνες, ίσως κάποιοι σπεύσουν απερίσκεπτα να μας κατηγορήσουν για... Εθνικισμό. Ωστόσο ο τελευταίος αποτελεί μία από τις πιο αηδιαστικές πολιτιστικές και κοινωνικές διαστροφές στην ιστορία της Ανθρωπότητος, παρέα με τον Ρατσισμό και την Εξουσιολατρία και αποδεδειγμένως δεν είναι κάτι που μας αφορά. Αναπαράγονται και αντλούν ζωή από ιστορικές απάτες, ιδεολογήματα και υπεραυθαίρετες αφαιρέσεις. Είναι τα εργαλεία των παραχαρακτών της αλήθειας και των απατεώνων. Εκείνων δηλαδή που στέκουν απέναντί μας στην παλαίστρα. Οι Έλληνες Εθνικιστές έχουν μία πολύ βαθειά ακροδεξιά και φασιστική παράδοση: είναι τόσο πολύ αμοραλιστές, που από την μία ομιλούν για Απόλλωνα, για Δελφούς και για Ορφικούς (όσοι βέβαια έχουν κάποια στοιχειώδη μόρφωση) και από την άλλη συνεχίζουν με τις συνήθεις αηδίες περί..Βυζαντίου που απετέλεσε τάχα συνέχεια του Ελληνισμού, περί των Κόκκινων Μηλιών, περί.. "ελληνοχριστιανισμού" και όλων των συναφών. Όσοι εξακολουθούν να ακούν αδιαμαρτύρητα τα εν λόγω κακόγουστα ρεκάσματα των παραχαρακτών της Ιστορίας, είναι αρκετά φασιστικά πολιτικά μαγαζιά που προσφάτως "φυτρώνουν" σαν μανιτάρια πάνω στον σάπιο κορμό της νεοελληνικής κοινωνίας. Από την μία ρεκάζουν...οι "Ελληνόψυχοι" (sic) για "πρωτεύουσα Κωνσταντινούπολη" και από την άλλη, οι με μυστικιστικές προδιαγραφές οπαδοί του γνωστού αυστριακού μπογιατζή, έρχονται να μας πληροφορήσουν με αφορμή τις -θετικόστροφες δυστυχώς γι αυτούς- σβάστικες επάνω στα αρχαιοελληνικά αγγεία, πως η... "πατροπαράδοτη ιδεολογία" (sic) των Ελλήνων είναι ο ... Εθνικοσοσιαλισμός!
Η γελοιότητα στο έπακρο. Τόσο χονδροκομμένη, που μάλλον όλοι εκείνοι που κάνουν γαργάρες με αυτήν, θα συνεχίσουν να το κάνουν εσαεί. Δεν νομίζουμε να υπάρχει γι' αυτούς ουσιαστική ελπίδα θεραπείας.

Εμείς μιλάμε μόνο για την Αρχαία Ψυχή. Για το πολιτιστικό μήνυμα που επέρασε στην δική μας ανθρωπότητα, από πάρα πολύ προγενέστερους πολιτισμούς και ευαγγελίζετο τον Πνευματικό κι Ανίκητο Ήλιο, το καθάριο Απολλώνιο Φώς που δεν γνωρίζει θλιβερούς δυϊσμούς και "επιστημονικές" επεξηγήσεις. Για το πολιτιστικό μήνυμα που έρχεται να διακηρύξει απερίφραστα, την Θεϊκή καταγωγή και εκτοπισμένη φύση του Ανθρώπου, αυτού του συναρπαστικού κι αντιφατικού, όπως και αυτή η ίδια η Φύση άλλωστε, Θεού με αμνησία.
Για τις μεγάλες Συμπαντικές Αλήθειες, που τόσο πολύ είχε προσεγγίσει η διαπεραστική σκέψη των Ελλήνων προσωκρατικών. Για εκείνα που εδίδαξε ο μεγάλος Ακραγαντίνος Φιλόσοφος και Κοσμικός Μάγος Εμπεδοκλής, για εκείνα που εκπροσωπούσαν κάποια "μυθικά" πρόσωπα -όπως θέλουν σήμερα να μας λένε αυτοί που κατευθύνουν τα μυαλά μας- ωσάν τον ένθεο Υπερβόρειο Άβαδη, τον πεφωτισμένο Ορφέα, τον αντιεξουσιαστή Προμηθέα και τον Μύστη-Μαχητή Ηρακλή. Όποιος κατάλαβε τι εννούμε, κατάλαβε. Δεν έχουμε από την πλευρά μας τίποτα περισσότερο να δώσουμε, γιατί "Τίποτα Δεν Πουλάμε". Δεν έχουμε ωραία λόγια-κομπολόγια για να γαργαλήσουμε αποτελεσματικά τις φοβίες τού μαζικού ατόμου και για να του υποσχεθούμε "σωτηρίες" επίγειες, επουράνιες, εσωτερικές και δεν συμμαζεύεται. Η Αρχαία Ψυχή είναι εδώ, όπως άλλωστε πάντοτε ήταν, κι απομένει στον καθένα μας προσωπικά ν' ανοίξει τα μάτια και να την αντικρύσει, ν' ανοίξει τα φράγματά του και να ενωθεί μαζί της.

Ένας απλός διαλογισμός σ' έναν οποιονδήποτε χώρο που φιλοξενεί αρχαίους ναούς, μπορεί να το αποδείξει καλύτερα από εκατομμύρια συντεταγμένες λέξεις κι εκατομμύρια σελίδες τυπωμένου χαρτιού.Είναι τα γκρεμισμένα από χέρια βαρβάρων, μάρμαρα, η αιώνια κατοικία της και ο παντοτινός Ναός της.
Είναι όλες οι κορυφές των ελληνικών βουνών, που για πολλές χιλιάδες χρόνια εφιλοξενούσαν τους Ιερούς βωμούς των Ελλήνων, είναι τα δεκάδες Σπήλαια -Ιερά Άντρα, είναι τα δεκάδες ιερά ρυάκια που αυλακώνουν την επιφάνεια της ανθρωπογεννήτρας Μάνας Γης. Αιώνιοι Ναοί που κανείς αλλόθρησκος βλάκας δεν θα μπορέσει ποτέ του να βεβηλώσει. Διότι καμμία δύναμη δεν μπορεί να τα βάλει, χωρίς να συντριβεί παραδειγματικά, με την Απέραντη και Απαραβίαστη Φύση, με τους απαράβατους Συμπαντικούς Νόμους, κοντολογίς με κείνο που "οι άλλοι" ονομάζουν Μόνο Θεό, και δυστυχώς μέσα στην δεισιδαιμονία και την στενοκεφαλιά τους, μπορούν να τον αντιληφθούν μόνο με την μορφή του γνωστού δύστροπου και δικτατορικού Υπερήλικος, του εβραιοφτιαγμένου Ουρανού.

Θα παραμείνουμε για πάντα τα Όμορφα παιδιά Σου, ώ Αρχαία Ψυχή !

Στο εδώ και το Τώρα και τους Αιώνες που έρχονται...

Δημοσιεύθηκε στο περιοδικό Διιπετές, τεύχος 1, Φθινόπωρο του «1991»


Monday, October 23, 2006

Where the Ancient Gods of China Are Remembered

Tucked between a bodega and a fish market on Broome Street sits Fulai Temple, one of Chinatown’s many storefront temples displaying large golden buddhas shrouded in mysterious chants and clouds of incense. Unknown to most people are the dreams and desires in these buildings, along with the gold statues, golden paper and rainbow colors.

Looking for love, marriage, happiness? Fertility? Those precious things are promised in large red Chinese characters over traditional imperial yellow on plastic awnings, much like those over the front of a deli or a cellphone store. Open to the public, the temples provide a gateway to answers, but negotiating the terrain can be difficult.

That is why Isabel Chang, 31, a Web designer, decided to demystify the experience. Ms. Chang spent the last year studying these houses of worship, intent on showing how they place ancient Chinese beliefs in the contemporary landscape.

Her work has been turned into a public Web project that was opened yesterday on the Web (http: //, sponsored by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where Ms. Chang is the digital artist in residence.

Her project, called Gods of Chinatown, consists of a map and visual tour of the temples. Ms. Chang, who lives in an apartment building on Essex Street with two storefront temples, sees them as “windows of insight into the hopes, dreams and longings of immigrant lives.”

They are often a first stop for Chinese immigrants seeking spiritual guidance and practical advice. Ms. Chang, who graduated from Cornell and holds a master’s degree in digital media from Columbia, was born in Taiwan, immigrated with her parents to Bolivia, then Florida, Texas and finally New York, where she has lived for a decade.

For her temple project, Ms. Chang’s own urban quest provided an added eccentric, romantic element. “At the time I was working at an ad agency and wanted to know if I should quit my job,” she said. “I was looking for a boyfriend with an XBox and a rice cooker.”

Ms. Chang is a petite woman with long black hair and a Brussels Griffon dog named Chewie. She took him with her when she interviewed, in Mandarin or Cantonese, the women in the temples who tell fortunes as they burn ceremonial money and cast the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of divination.

Ms. Chang described 10 Taoist and Buddhist temples in her project and recently toured some of them. First stop, one of her favorites, the Temple of the Great Yellow Immortal, at the corner of Bowery and Pell Streets. She said that Chinese gods have their own personalities and that they were often people who had made significant contributions while alive and were deified after death. “He was a famous doctor 2,000 years ago,” she said of the deity honored by this temple. “He is known for being very accurate.”

Temples are both impersonal and communal. As Ms. Chang visited this one, a passing woman paused outside, put down her plastic grocery bags in the doorway, bowed several times with her hands in a prayer pose without entering, and then walked on.

Inside, beyond a large goldfish tank, two women were chatting. The one who worked there kept a watchful eye on the donation box. She politely declined to give her name or have her picture taken, and Ms. Chang said that was her experience with many temple workers and that some said they feared that Ms. Chang worked for the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“They were surprised I was interested in this type of worship,” she said of the mostly older women who volunteer several hours of their day to watch over the temples, with the intense gaze of a Parisian concierge. “Young Chinese are not interested.”

Successful temples show their gratitude to patrons with red strips of paper that display the names of donors and the amount they give. For sale are plastic bottles of canola oil stacked in yellow pyramids.

The central focus of the room is the shrine. In the middle is the statue of the temple’s deity flanked by symbolic offerings of plentitude — stacked oranges, green curlicues of bamboo, fragrant lilies, fake shocking-pink petals, gold coins shaped into a pineapple and red-tasseled paintings of gods.

Protocol varies from temple to temple, but the basic practice involves putting several dollars in a donation box for a few sticks of incense. These are lighted before the deity from small candles floating in bowls of canola oil and then placed in an urn, like a miniature sandbox. “With your left hand!” Ms. Chang admonishes.

Then it is time to pick up the moonstones, two wooden croissant-shaped objects that are tossed like dice on the floor until the right combination appears, one facing up and one facing down. A fortune stick is selected from a canister followed by a visit to the woman of the temple, who provides a pink divination slip with writing that matches the writing on the stick. For a few extra dollars in the donation box, she may interpret the slip, which is in traditional poetry, and the fortune can be, Ms. Chang explained, “good, bad, really good or medium.”

Some temples are oriented exclusively toward women. The Temple of Zheng Fourteen Mother Saint at 100 Eldridge Street honors a famous folklore goddess. As Ms. Chang entered, she was sprayed with drops of water by a woman who said it was to make her fertile. The woman lived in back of the temple, her bed fitted into a closet-size space near a makeshift kitchen.

Unexpectedly, in the course of her temple hunting, many of Ms. Chang’s own soul-searching questions were answered. She quit that earlier job, postponing her freelance work in order to pursue her artistic projects. A photographer whom she found to take pictures for her Web map of Chinatown temples became her boyfriend (with an XBox and a rice cooker, too).

Above all, she began to better understand and appreciate her role in the neighborhood. The temple workers now ask her to translate their English mail.

The New York Times


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pagan Resurrection, by David Barrett

Norse mythology and its (dubious) links with modern-day extremists

Odinism has had a greater influence on modern Western thought than has Christianity. That's the provocative thesis of Pagan Resurrection by the anthropologist and broadcaster Richard Rudgley - but his book just doesn't make the case. Rudgley begins with the psychoanalyst Jung linking Nazism with the Norse/Germanic god Odin/Wotan, and arguing that Odin's archetype is still very powerful.

After briefly looking at the myth of Odin and the development of the runes, he discusses the interest of various proto-Nazis in this mythology, and the Nazis' co-option of some runic symbolism. Nothing too controversial so far. But then the author starts examining ultra-right-wing groups in America, from the Ku Klux Klan onwards, and claiming that they too spring from Odin's archetypal loins.

This simply ignores reality. Today's American far right are white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Such racist groups as Christian Identity are characterised as having a gun in one hand and a Bible, not the Eddas, in the other. Is the killing of 168 people by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma in 1995 really one of the "horrors" generated by "the unconscious manifestation of the Odinic archetype"? Of course not. But it's here, along with several other American right-wing incidents.

Nowhere does Rudgley show any awareness that archetypes, like Tarot cards and the gods in most pantheons, hold within them contradictions and opposites. The strong, benevolent leader and the tyrant are flipsides of each other. Throughout the book he concentrates on the dark side of Odin. Even here he is committing the ultimate sin of any anthropologist or historian, back-projecting from highly selective examples of unpleasantness today and photo-fitting them to a distorted image from the mythological past.

Only in the final 45 pages does he make any attempt to look at the positive side, the living religion of Odinism, Asatru or the Northern Tradition today. Even then, he spends almost no time on the beliefs and practices of thousands who prefer to be called Heathens, though he calls them Pagans. Rudgley starts his book by calling it "the biography of a god", and ends by claiming it as "an ethnography... an exploration of the cultural history of the myths of the northern European mind". It is neither, but a catalogue of racist individuals and organisations whose only connection with Odin, through very dubious links, is by assertion rather than argument.