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


In“MythBlast: Lions and Tigers and Athena, Oh My!” by Mark C. E. Peterson, Professor Peterson deduces that the Gorgon Medusa on Athena’s shield is a metaphor that one approaching wisdom is turned to stone, that is, unable to proceed until certain steps are taken. I feel his analysis and insight is brilliant and urge anyone reading this note to stop and read Peterson first.

Unfortunately the rest of his lecture, in my opinion, misses the deeper meaning. Peterson’s explanation focuses on the experience of frustration everyone has when stymied by a new problem and their need of reflection to resolve the issue. It seems to me there is a much more profound application of this metaphor.

Often when working on my own most personal issues I run into a block as solid as stone itself. It occurs like this: I become troubled by something seemingly incongruous. The tension appears to lie deeper than the immediate annoyance, leading me to question whether there is some unconscious content manifesting in otherwise innocuous events. Some brief introspection leads to a tantalizing connection that in turn brings a brief but sharp realization.

Here is where outcomes vary depending upon whether I have assistance similar to that from Athena enjoyed by Perseus in facing the Gorgon.

In the absence of outside encouragement to stay on track the defense mechanisms of my psyche kick in to stonewall my progress. I most often am led astray to some banality or another, missing the opportunity for integration.

However, if I am working through this process out loud with a qualified analyst, I am kept on track. No matter how I deflect the process the Jungian analyst challenges me to continue on the original track. In the best result unanticipated understanding was ripped from my throat as if cried out by another, more primordial creature. The catharsis was so profound it changed the direction of my life, quite literally.

Since then, the most profound epiphanies have resulted, in my own experience, from recognizing the mechanism of avoidance and deflection and pushing through these brick-wall barriers. The metaphor of Medusa turning to stone those who seek inner wisdom is, in my opinion, both valid and universal.