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Reply To: Lions, and Tigers, Athena, oh my!” with Professor Mark C.E. Peterson”


    Mark; what a great metaphor of Helios’s horses and Phaeton’s inability to control them because of his unawareness of how powerful they were. And as you suggest this is much like our understanding of the forces that lie within us and our ability to realize not only what they are but if unidentified how they can wreck havoc within our lives. Indeed much of both Freudian and Jungian analysis has to do with identifying these things and how learning to understand their influences can help to unravel many of the problems we experience and to lead more harmonious and meaningful lives.

    This calls to light something I was hesitant in bringing up because I wasn’t quite sure how this topic was going to unfold so I’ll lay some things out that I think have relevance. Indeed the Greeks gave us so much in the way we think about myth; not to mention other areas of human culture; but concerning my query I want to focus in on how we approach the gods as representative of something that lies within us instead of outside us; and so much of the terminology that we use verifies this. And given that understanding one of the things that might be interesting to bring in to this discussion is the importance of (complexes and archetypes); and how these various constellations are formed in our life affect not only our behavior but go so much deeper into our individual experiences and begin surfacing in later life from repression.

    Myth and symbol in human culture has so much to do with how we as human beings see the world around us and our place in it; especially the way we draw meaning from it and our relationship to life. And as Joseph Campbell has shown us throughout his work over the grand landscape of human history our myths help us to navigate our lives in a way that succeeding generations can draw wisdom from if interpreted properly.

    As in your metaphor of Athena’s shield with the Medusa’s head as gateway for reflection; indeed the human psyche contains within it emotions that if left unattended can lead to disaster as in Phaeton’s lack of judgement. But we also know that identifying the root causes that produce much this inability to understand our inner landscape can also lead to healing as in the story of Pandora’s box with “hope” being the last thing to emerge out of the box from the unleashing of the troubles that plague mankind.

    There are so many stories the Greek’s gave us that have been used throughout the centuries as metaphoric references to mankind’s timeless replays of human struggles to understand who we are. And as a philosopher deeply immersed in this background I was wondering if you might share some of your thoughts on this. For instance; the difference between an archetype and an archetypal image would be interesting for starters for we know that a “complex” is a grouping of related images held together by a common emotional tone. But we also know that often these things are sometimes confused because Archetypes themselves which are not necessarily observable have more to do with the way a complex and archetypal images are structured; and that each individual has certain innate tendencies they are born with that illustrate their own particular uniqueness. (Referenced from pages 9-12: James A. Hall’s – Jungian Dream Interpretation; very brief description mine. There is of course so very much more to this topic but I’ll use these and the next few sentences for an opener.)

    So now we have the this Jungian cosmology of the psyche and all these archetypal influences that are constantly bridging and influencing our experience of reality. The objective psyche; or collective unconscious and consciousness of the outer world; and the personal unconscious and consciousness of the inner world; in constant interplay filtering our experiences through (the ego, shadow, persona, and anima/animus) where we encounter these timeless themes which bring up these various complexes we have to assimilate. So we now must (re)interpret experiences from our childhood which fire up our emotions; (which often blind us to what is going on downstairs in the unconscious); and like Phaeton or Pooh is not quite sure what is going on.

    I often think about what these Greek images have to tell us about ourselves; as many others that Joseph mentions throughout his work. And being able to bring this wisdom into a modern context; as with Jung and all the other people working in this field I think has never been more important. One only has to look at their newsfeed to see all the emotional chaos in constant collision during a time when a horrific virus pandemic is in play. One would like to think the approaching ecological issues would bring people together; but I think we may have to first figure out how to talk to each other before we can actually get there; (and this is where the Archetypes live).

    Your posts have been a joy to read; and I hope my request is not too convoluted to fit here and something you might enjoy responding to.