Monday, September 26, 2016

TFBT: Ferry, Three, Four and Half-way through Five

This reflects further reading in “The Wisdom of the Myths”, Luc Ferry. 
Continuing his primary message 

“Heroism – the quest for great deeds that might earn eternal glory for those who accomplish them – occupies a central place in the mental universe of the Greeks.    

“…the temptation of hubris, the tendency to immoderation and pride that makes us all believe that we can elevate ourselves to the ranks of the gods with out in any deserving it.  And as we shall see in a moment, in the world of the Greeks, this flaw is never forgiven.”  Christian authors of an earlier age called this temptation to hubris the goddess Ate.  

Know Thyself…At is origin, in Archaic Greek culture, this injunction possessed an obvious significance, even for the humblest citizens; we must stay in our allotted place, not get above ourselves.”  But, what is my alloted place?  Menelaus was promised the Isle of Blest in the Odyssey.  In the Iliad , Achilles' mother offered him two options.   

The human individual is thus defined, above all else as he who can go too far…And it is also this freedom that exposes man to the risk of defying the gods, to the point of even threatening the entire cosmic settlement….hubris always risks overturning the beautiful and just order of things established so painfully by Zeus in his war against the forces of chaos….gods punish hubris: quite simply, they are trying to preserve universal harmony against the madness of men.      The implication here is that we (Heroic Age and Iron Age humanity) are capable of over-throwing the universe.  
Random observations

“They suddenly understand the reason for the tameness of the lions and wolves who crossed their path earlier: these, too, were clearly humans whom Circe has transformed into animals” Ferry fails to mention that Odysseus ate one such fellow disguised as a stag.   

Nausicaä had him (Odysseus) washed, decently clothed and anointed with olive oil, all of which makes him recognizably human…” Hmm, not too long before, in their own way, Ino and Calypso did the same thing.   

“Everyone obeys Hermes, because everyone know that he is the personal messenger of Zeus and speaks in his name.”  Hmm.  I will have to keep this in mind.  In the Iliad Poseidon back talks Iris when she serves as Zeus messenger.  (She invokes the Erinyes and that’s the end of the argument.) 

Ferry, points out that Persephone in eating the pomegranate seeds, ate “something” other than nectar and ambrosia.  So that she like us eaters of bread is “linked irrevocably and forever after to the underworld.”  

“Achelous possesses, moreover, a strange characteristic, no doubt deriving from his fluidity: he is able to metamorphose into different beings.”  Hence the nephele (cloud-nymphs) could take on the shape of Hera and Helen. 

Ferry quotes Hesiod in regards to the birth of Heracles, “The father of men and gods was forming another scheme in his heart: to beget one who would defend against destruction both gods and men.”  He goes on to explain this quote in terms of Heracles destruction of the brood of Echidna.  Most mythologist would explain it in terms of his assistance with the Gigantomachy.  Ferry does not discuss this at all.  He credits the gods giving Heracles bow, quiver, arrows breastplate and cloak to prepare him for his adventures.  In fact is was the self-acquired hide of the Nemean Lion, olive branch club and arrows dipped in the Hydra’s blood that prepared him for his labors and battles with the monsters.  Ferry plays down the place of the gods in nourishing these monsters. 









  1. I have mentioned before this tendency of some authors of Christian heritage to conflate the Greek pantheon with the Christian Trinity and to think that it was Greek ideal to humbly serve Zeus and other Olympians. As for "the beautiful and just order of things established so painfully by Zeus in his war against the forces of chaos"... what is this based on? The Iliad XXIV? The Cypria? The Five Ages myth? The Prometheus-Pandora myth? The Epigoni? As reviewers in my craft have the habit to say, the conclusions are not warranted by the data.

  2. Maya,

    As a mythologist I am reading Ferry with an open-mind in hopes of new insights and perspectives. But it is getting harder and harder as he continues to ignore more and more aspects of the characters he discusses.

    As a Christian I am trying to relate to the humility stuff. But the Old Testament prophet and the Achilles in me ain't buying it.


  3. Maya,

    I just looked at Wikipedia for a quick biography on Luc Ferry. He is a "Secular Humanist"; politically correct speak for "atheist". Hence his continued disavowing of any mortal making it to Olympus or the Isle of the Blest.

    Thanks for the nudge.


  4. This is why I wrote "of Christian heritage". Even if one is not a Christian himself, if he belongs to a traditionally Christian culture, he is influenced by it even if he does not realize it - I'd say, especially if he does not realize it.
    "Secular humanist" is a funny expression; it is to signal that, even though we do not believe in God(s), we are still good people.