Athena is a goddess who presents us with a vision of calm majesty with an investigative mind -- the domination of intelligence over passion. Her political astuteness shows in her capacity for wise rulership or administration. She embodies a wide range of activities which revolve mainly around the practicalities of city-life in its organizational aspects.
She teaches us respect for authority and leadership, learning to act in a kingly manner. She is thus the spirit of civic pride and cultural awareness. She is an ambitious executive, familiar with power. Embodying both spirit and intelligence, she also presides over the domain of higher education, universities or academia. On an even higher arc, she represents the inspiring power of divine wisdom, or Sophia.
From the historical perspective of ancient Greece, Athena was originally a patroness of the fortress-palaces of the Minoan and Mycaenean cultures. From these she derived her traits as protector of the household, and teacher of handicrafts including weaving and spinning.
She may have originally been a variation of the Mediterranean mother-goddess whose virginity was periodically renewed. Eventually she became a symbol for perpetual maidenhood, reserving herself for almost exclusively mental pursuits. She shares virgin-goddess status with Artemis and Hestia. When the Greeks came to the Mediterranean, they probably brought their Valkyrie-like martial maiden goddess with them. She was promptly amalgamated with the local goddess into a composite figure.
In unstable times the protector of the household needed to be practical on the lines of defense. Her role as palace goddess did not stress her mothering qualities, but rather her practical skills including all household arts and crafts as well as wisdom or intuition. She could be a wily strategist or tactician when the need arose, directing the defense of her domain.
The physical representation of Athena is community life, in general -- civilization, the polis, community action. She is also the competitive spirit. She fosters the reflection that aims at certain victory. She is the spirit of achievement, competence, and action in the world. Strength, courage and worldly wisdom are not exclusively masculine attributes. She gets us out there to win and gives us the heart to do so, and the wit. She is a teacher, not in the sense of guru or wise woman, but of mentor or helpful guide in the arts and crafts which civilize human life.
In her most tangible aspects, Athena is an extremely practical goddess. She has organizational capability and teaches skills as well as wisdom and philosophy. She is a"worker" in one of her aspects, but she is a trained worker in particular. Her teaching develops experts, from the expert tradesman to the expert thinker or philosopher. She is the patroness of everyone who is good at their job. Her talent is lent to the jeweler, weaver, shoemaker, and seamstress. She inspires the mason, the miller, the carpenter, and the domestic worker. She also bolsters the instructor, politician, soldier, and tactician. As divine patroness of all city-dwellers, she manages the affairs of a prosperous proletariat in an orderly fashion.
Masculine skills, such as shipbuilding and engineering, and new technologies like information processing are her special interests. The skills of persuasiveness through public speaking are her forte. She values skill in word and deed. In almost all cases her clear-eyed sagacity is intelligently directed toward practical, concrete goals. She says, "Let's get it done," whether it is urban renewal or economic development.
On the psychological level she is the prototype of the artistically creative woman -- soul made manifest in artistic realization. She represents the anima in both men and women -- feminine creative power. She is The Feminine as both spirit and soul. Her loving contains no trace of sexual jealousy, so it is not possessive. You may find her in your dreams when you are exploring uncharted territory alone.
She is the One in us who struggles against all odds, or risks adventure in foreign environments. She is the assertive goddess, who does not let femininity stand in the way of what she wants to accomplish or explore. She supports heroic striving or upward mobility; she is defensive and even militant about it. She handles practical affairs in a clever way, to assure competence, achievement, and victory. She is the power to confront the problems of the "real world." She provides bright ideas, strategies, building plans, and wise counsel.
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Athena was the Kore, or archetypal maiden of the Athenians. Her symbol was the new moon. She was typically pictured in this aspect as a girl of about 12 years of age. Since Athena was the patroness of the city, girls of this age could bring great honor to their families by serving in her temple, so they received abundant, loving devotion from their fathers as well as mothers. Aren't we all proud parents when our children do well at school or college?
The Athenian personality has a feminine content which is oriented toward the masculine, or father-principle. She embodies the projection of a positive transformation in the character of Zeus, her father: inspiration. She is extremely helpful to the masculine. She develops mentor relationships with strong men with mutual interests. This is partly because it is in her nature to mediate for the masculine and partly because of a need to defend herself against the enormous power exerted upon her by the pressures of her father-complex.
Athena is one of the few goddesses (including Hestia and Artemis) who is immune to the enchantments of Aphrodite. Therefore her love-life is virtually non-existent. She is a companion and advisor to man, but usually without erotic involvement. She can help man relate to the depths of his unconscious in a profound and inclusive way. Her functions include building conceptual bridges which help men understand their feelings. They can relate to her because she understands the thought patterns of logic so well. An Athena-ruled woman generally has a good relationship with her biological father.
However, she is so identified with him that it may interfere with her ability to give herself to her human lovers. She is sisterly, understanding, sympathetic and supportive, to be sure. But a good portion of psychic energy will be reserved for "pleasing Daddy." This is why Athena promotes the perpetuation of city-life, culture, and various crafts. This ensures the continued dominion of Zeus. In terms of time perception, Athena sees time as linear: the past gives rise to the present which then gives birth to the future, in an orderly succession. Proper evolution of events is ensured by the continual reevaluation of development patterns.
In general, she places paramount importance on the orderly flow of events, and the systematic application of clear principles of behavior. She has a high ethical standard which is maintained consistently. This fantasy of control, taken to the extreme, can be excessive. Athena possesses the drive of a militant or political activist, but all this heroic striving and ego-building may be over-reactive to a fear of being reabsorbed by the father. By defending the patriarchal order, she imitates her father's spirit. This is her shadow-self -- the co-opted woman in the service of patriarchy in deep denial. Denial leads to a pervasive feeling of ambivalence.
Freed up, this energy tied up in the shadow-self is transformative. When this energy flows, it is creativity, inspiration, empowerment. Too much of this identification is a threat to her womanhood. The father may not really control Athena, yet she fantasizes that he does and creates her reality. Do we live our authentic anima nature or our father's fantasy of the anima archetype? She can become independent of him. She needs to realize that strength, courage, and worldly wisdom aren't only masculine attributes.
There is feminine wisdom, strength, and confidence, too, as well as intuition. On the psychological level, Athena is the prototype of the artistically creative woman -- the soul made manifest in artistic realization. For men and women, she is the spirit of achievement, competence, and action in the world. Athena represents the Anima in both men and women -- feminine creative power -- feminine as both spirit and soul. There is nothing possessive in her love, including no sexual jealousy. Athena is strong in the woman who feels like she determines her own path.
Even her dreams depict her as an adventurer, explorer, and seeker. She struggles through unfamiliar terrain, asserting herself against obstacles and actively overcoming them. It sounds heroic, yet is an inherently feminine Way of being. The only story of romance for Athena is with her companion, or co-worker, Hephaistos. It is no true marriage, because her nature is to remain free of entanglements. He wanted to marry her, figuring that they could be united by their common interests, their work, and their pride of craftsmanship. He asked Zeus for her hand, and Zeus agreed, since they were workmates.
But Hephaistos could not overcome Athena's natural repulsion toward his boorish clumsiness. In other words, they were sexually incompatible--not one another's type. Yet something strange occurred in the meantime. When Athena repulsed Hephaistos in an attempt to rape her, his seed fell to the earth. The earth became fertile with this seed and an infant son was born called Erichthionis. He was reared by nurses for a while, then Athena took him for her own to raise.
Athena is thus like an independent working woman of today whose deepest desire is to have a child. If she is unwed (or even if married), she may conceived via technology. But not wanting the trouble of a young child to dominate their lives, they are left to daycare or private nurses. Her ability to feel may be impaired; she simply "does not have time for such things." This may cramp her full expression as either Virgin or Mother. So her overprotectiveness may seek to protect the core of her femininity. But when she transforms the archaic elements of the masculine spirit, civilized life flourishes. She protects against its ravaging impulses.
Athena, as the basis for a civilized state, or symbol of empire, has been perpetuated through history in the figures of other goddesses of the motherland, "Roma", "Britannia", Columbia, and the Stature of Liberty. On a more daily level, she helps us "get it all together" when facing the outside world, whether we are weaving our life story, passing final exams, or preparing a manuscript for publication, etc. She protects our civilization from the eternal threat of passions and the consuming fires of the spirit. She makes sure we don't turn into sexual maniacs at work, or walk off the job to follow a religious calling. She provides the boundaries within which culture thrives. She inspires us with wisdom, but keeps practical concerns in view. She is the motivation of those with their "feet on the ground, and heads in the clouds." Integration is her ideal.
Because she is extroverted in her creativity, she fosters deep friendships. Athens is the bedrock of modern society; they gave us democracy. Athenians were also among the first to purge their emotions in the theatre. They wanted to be a model for how to live. Historians say the greatest Athenian contribution to literature was the rise of drama. In modern life, theatre and film still help us understand the zeigeist of our times. They help us define who we are, and to define and re-define our history as a people. Certain films act as cultural milestones, and help us understand emotional situations beyond our personal experience.
Greek drama was a product of the worship of the god Dionysus. By the fifth century B.C., a drama festival to honor this god had become traditional. How did religious ritual evolve into Greek theatre? The theatre of Ancient Greece evolved from religious rites which date back to at least 1200 BC. The Cult of Dionysus, which probably originated in Asia Minor, practised ritual celebrations which may have included alcoholic intoxication, orgies, human and animal sacrifices, and perhaps even hysterical rampages by women called maenads.
The cult's most controversial practice involved, it is believed, uninhibited dancing and emotional displays that created an altered mental state. This altered state was known as 'ecstasis', from which the word ecstasy is derived. Dionysiac, hysteria and 'catharsis' also derive from Greek words for emotional release or purification. Ecstasy was an important religious concept to the Greeks, who would come to see theatre as a way of releasing powerful emotions through its ritual power.
Over time, the rites of Dionysus became mainstream, more formalised and symbolic. The death of a tragic hero was offered up to god and man rather than the sacrifice of say, a goat. By 600 BC Greece was divided into city-states, separate nations centred in major cities and regions. The most prominent city-state was Athens, where at least 150,000 people lived. It was here that the Rites of Dionysus evolved into what we know today as theatre. Thespis of Attica added an actor who interacted with the chorus. This actor was called the protagonist, from which the modern word protagonist is derived, meaning the main character of a drama. Introduce a second speaker and one moves from one art, that of choric chant, to another, theatre.
Thespis is said to have performed in Athens about 534 BC. and his name has achieved immortality in theatrical jargon - 'actors' and 'Thespians' are synonymous. In 534 BC, the ruler of Athens, Pisistratus, changed the Dionysian Festivals and instituted drama competitions. Thespis is said to have won the first competition and in the ensuing 50 years, the competitions became popular annual events. A government authority called the archon would choose the competitors and the choregos, wealthy patrons who financed the productions.
Even in ancient Greece, the funding of the arts was a way of tax avoidance. In return for funding a production, the choregos would pay no taxes that year. During this time, major theatres were constructed, notably the theatre at Delphi, the Attic Theatre and the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens. The Theatre of Dionysus, built at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, could seat 17,000 people. During their heyday, the competitions drew as many as 30,000 spectators. The words theatre and amphitheatre derive from the Greek word theatron, which referred to the wooden spectator stands erected on those hillsides.
Similarly, the word orchestra is derived from the Greek word for a platform between the raised stage and the audience on which the chorus was situated. Plays were performed in the daytime. The annual drama competitions in Athens were spread over several, entire days. Actors probably wore little or no makeup. Instead, they carried masks with exaggerated facial expressions. They also wore cothornos, or buskins, which were leather boots laced up to the knees. There was little or no scenery. Initially, most of the action took place in the orchestra. Later, as the importance shifted from the chorus to the characters, the action moved to the stage. Between 600 and 500 BC, the dithyramb had evolved into new forms, most notably the tragedy and the ‘satyr’ play.
Tragedy, derived from the Greek words tragos (goat) and ode (song), told a story that was intended to teach religious lessons. Much like Biblical parables, tragedies were designed to show the right and wrong paths in life. Tragedies were not simply plays with bad endings, nor were they simply spectacles devised to ‘make 'em laugh and make 'em cry.’ Tragedy was viewed as a form of ritual purification, Aristotle's catharsis, which gives rise to pathos, another Greek word, meaning 'instructive suffering'. They depicted the life voyages of people who steered themselves or who were steered by fate on collision courses with society, life's rules, or simply fate.
The tragic protagonist is one who refuses out of either weakness or strength to acquiesce to fate: what for us now might better be described as the objective realities of life. Most often, the protagonist's main fault is hubris, a Greek, and English word meaning false or overweening arrogance. It could be the arrogance of not accepting ones destiny (Oedipus Rex), the arrogance of assuming the right to kill (Agamemnon), or the arrogance of assuming the right to seek vengeance (Orestes). Whatever the root cause, the protagonist's ultimate collision with fate, reality, or society is inevitable and irrevocable.
Tragedy did not develop in a vacuum. It was an outgrowth of what was happening at the time in Athens. One hand, Greek religion had dictated how people should behave and think for centuries. On the other, there was a birth of free thought and intellectual inquiry. Athens in the fourth and fifth centuries BC was bustling with radical ideas like democracy, philosophy, mathematics, science and art. It boasted philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Democritus. There were the first known historians Thucydides and Herodotus. The scientists and mathematicians like Thales, Hippocrates, Archimedes, and later Euclid (euclidean geometry), Pythagoras (the Pythagorean theorem), Eratosthenes, Hero (the steam engine!), Hipparchus and Ptolemy. In these respects -- a blossoming of free thought after years of religious dicta -- ancient Athens resembled Renaissance England, which not coincidentally spawned the next great era in theatre.
In essence, the ancient Athenians had begun to question how nature worked, how society should work, and what man's role was in the scheme of things. Tragedy was the poets' answer to some of these questions -- How should one behave? How can one accept the injustices of life? What is the price of hubris? Read a soliloquy from a Greek tragedy, or from Hamlet or Macbeth, and what you will hear is these questions being asked. Greek mythology is the legends and stories behind the Greek gods. The earliest Greek dramas, especially those by Aeschylus (525-456 BC), drew their plots and characters from these myths.
The Tragic Hero or Heroine is someone who has achieved, or who has the ability to achieve, greatness but who through a weakness, or tragic flaw in his character, falls into the depths of misery and often to his death. Audiences seeing this happen are supposed to feel a purifying of the spirit as they feel pity for the character because of the terrible woes he has suffered, and fear because of their increased awareness of forces in the world powerful enough to topple even the most mighty and most admirable of men. Caught up in events of great magnitude, spectators are imaginatively liberated from all that is dull, petty and mean in life around them-they are stirred by the spectacle of human greatness, of man daring to reach out beyond reasonable limits in quest of some glorious ideal. Even when he fails, as fail he must, there is still, for the audience, the satisfaction of having viewed nobility in action.
The original sin of the Greek tragic hero is hubris, believing that one is god-like. Nobody can be tempted into hubris except one who is exceptionally fortunate. Sometimes he can manifest his hubris directly, but this does not change his character in any way, only he is punished for it by being made by the gods to sin unwittingly or involuntarily. In Greek tragedy suffering is a visitation from heaven, a punishment imposed upon the hero from without. Through enduring it he expiates his sins and ends reconciled to the law, though it is for the gods not him to decide when his expiation is complete. In modern tragedy, on the other hand, this exterior kind of suffering which humbles the great and erring and leads them to repent is not tragic.
The truly tragic kind of suffering is the kind produced and defiantly insisted upon by the hero himself so that, instead of making him better, it makes him worse and when he dies he is not reconciled to the law but defiant, that is, damned. Lear is not a tragic hero. Othello is. One of the things which become clear when one reads the poets or dramatists of ancient Greece is that the world and Gods they deal with are for them immensely real and living.
The gods, the supernatural beings that so frequently appear and direct man's life and thought, were not for them, as they may be for us, mere figments of the imagination, poetic invention and so on. They are living, dynamic forces, terrible and terrifying realities. They are revealing and expressing the inner movement and operation of cosmic powers. And the sense of the activity of such powers seems to pervade the whole of life. The expression of this god-haunted, god-tormented universe in which they lived by poets and dramatists meant that there was an immediate, urgent, and vital connection between literature and life. It is expressed in three key terms.
HAMARTIA: - An error of judgement. Hamartia, derived from a Greek word meaning fault is sometimes known as the tragic flaw because it represents a fatal weakness that causes the downfall of a protagonist in tragedy. This hamartia may be caused by inherited weakness, by faulty character traits, or by poor judgement; whatever the cause, the result is action or inaction, that leads to destruction or death.
HUBRIS: -Arrogance; excessive self-pride and self-confidence. Hubris, a Greek term for insolence, referred to the emotions in Greek tragic heroes that led them ignore warnings from the gods and thus invite catastrophe. Hubris is that form of hamartia that stems from overbearing pride and self-assumed superiority.
CATHARSIS: -This term is from a Greek word, kathairein, meaning to clean or to purify. Catharsis refers to any emotional discharge that brings about an emotional or spiritual renewal or welcome relief from tension and anxiety. The primary idea is that an audience, any audience, filled with confusion and unhealthy emotions, such as pity and fear, comes to see a play developing make-believe actions that would be harmful if occurring in real life. The audience participates emotionally in the dramatic action and goes away psychologically cleansed, purged of injurious feelings and sensations. Literary critics have never agreed whether catharsis means that members of an audience thus learn to avoid the evil and destructive emotions of a tragic hero or that their inner conflicts are quieted by an opportunity to expend pity and fear upon such a protagonist.
In the play "Prometheus Bound", Terzopoulos is trying to release the human energy, hidden in the body, through stillness and immobility. The play exposes the conflict between the new and the old values in life: in the old Prometheus scale, Man needs to be united with Nature, God and the Polis, while in the new order God is the Superior Being and all creatures must obey to Him. Prometheus, as a symbol of freedom, is the one that brings to light the power of LAW, which frightens man and god, he seeks the secret key of balance between logic and instinct, between the order and the chaos but he will never find it, even when he will get liberated by Hercules.
Many words associated with theatre have roots in Greek. Theatre comes for the word theatron meaning "seeing place"; drama comes form the word dran meaning "to do". Ancient Greek theatre was a "... mixture of myth, legend, philosophy, social commentary, poetry, dance, music, public participation, and visual splendor." Narration of a story or legend, was only a means by which the author might explore the nature of mankind. In doing so, the tragedian turned firmly away from realistic depictions of Athenian citizens to a higher, ideal level of heroic men and women. Even the gods themselves might make an appearance.
However great, the human beings in a tragedy had flaws which led them to ruin. The playwrights sought to illuminate both the greatness and defects of mankind. Much has been written about the Golden Age of Greece, a time when the words of playwrights, poets, and philosophers found a wide audience. Scholars today still study their creations.
Gustav Klimt, "Pallas Athene", Historical Museum of the city, Vienna.
Athena is the archetype of the Goddess of Wisdom. She develops strategies; she is the consummate problem-solver. She has a strongly developed capacity for logical or linear thinking which serves her well in the practical world. She also has the capacity for facilitating or mediating disputes and conflicts. Athena has her own agenda, her own priorities, and her own feminine style of rationality. As Jean Bolen has pointed out, "The Athena archetype thrives in the business, academic, scientific, military, or political arenas."
Economics or financial matters is her forte. Yet, she needs to balance business with her private life, or risk one-sided development and emotional stunting. She can't live only in her head without connecting with emotions and fully inhabiting the body. One natural balance for Athena is through crafts such as weaving, sewing, or pottery. She can be a diplomat, but her shadow-side is a manipulator, rival, and competitor. To steel herself against the onslaught of life, she armors herself in a physical sense. Holding in and tensing muscles chronically leads to body armor which distorts the free flow of energy in the body. It leads to the concretization of physical traits in the body, much like we find personality traits "solidified" as the ego in the psyche.
Her main health complaints are likely to come from stress disorders. Athena is fairly conservative in lifestyle and persona. Other than the father-complex, she is generally in good mental and physical health, if she has realized the value of regular exercise. She seeks out others to help her maintain both, readily accepting the expertise of other professionals. She can readily be either teacher or student. When we are in school, or living the student life in a university town, we are in touch with Athena. Some of us are eternal students, always looking for something new to learn. When we go to a library, seminar, or symposium, Athena is there. She also participates in every "think tank."
An 'Atheneum' is named after the temple of Athena at Athens and now means various things including a place where writers and scholars meet. It may mean an amphitheater lecture hall, or a literary or scientific club. It is also applied to a library or reading room. Whenever we return to school for continuing education, be it in handicrafts, the arts, communication, and especially to trade or technical school, it is from the prompting of Athena. She is the prime motivator. In her service we seek to become more learned individuals and function more effectively within the community. Her temple has become the halls of academia, our halls of higher learning. Athena's ideology is Gnosticism and Sophia is her Gnostic form.
Gnosticism is the teaching based on Gnosis, the knowledge of transcendence arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means. Although Gnosticism thus rests on personal religious experience, it is a mistake to assume all such experience results in Gnostic recognitions. It is nearer the truth to say that Gnosticism expresses a specific religious experience, an experience that does not lend itself to the language of theology or philosophy, but which is instead closely affinitized to, and expresses itself through, the medium of myth. Indeed, one finds that most Gnostic scriptures take the forms of myths. The term “myth” should not here be taken to mean “stories that are not true”, but rather, that the truths embodied in these myths are of a different order from the dogmas of theology or the statements of philosophy.
All religious traditions acknowledge that the world is imperfect. Where they differ is in the explanations which they offer to account for this imperfection and in what they suggest might be done about it. Gnostics have their own -- perhaps quite startling -- view of these matters: they hold that the world is flawed because it was created in a flawed manner. Like Buddhism, Gnosticism begins with the fundamental recognition that earthly life is filled with suffering. Human beings, with their complex physiology and psychology, are aware not only of these painful features of earthly existence. They also suffer from the frequent recognition that they are strangers living in a world that is flawed and absurd.
The ancient Greeks, especially the Platonists, advised people to look to the harmony of the universe, so that by venerating its grandeur they might forget heir immediate afflictions. But since this harmony still contains the cruel flaws, forlornness and alienation of existence, this advice is considered of little value by Gnostics. Nor is the Eastern idea of Karma regarded by Gnostics as an adequate explanation of creation’s imperfection and suffering. Karma at best can only explain how the chain of suffering and imperfection works. It does not inform us in the first place why such a sorrowful and malign system should exist. The Gnostic God concept is more subtle than that of most religions. In its way, it unites and reconciles the recognitions of Monotheism and Polytheism, as well as of Theism, Deism and Pantheism.
In the Gnostic view, there is a true, ultimate and transcendent God, who is beyond all created universes and who never created anything in the sense in which the word “create” is ordinarily understood. While this True God did not fashion or create anything, He (or, It) “emanated” or brought forth from within Himself the substance of all there is in all the worlds, visible and invisible. In a certain sense, it may therefore be true to say that all is God, for all consists of the substance of God. By the same token, it must also be recognized that many portions of the original divine essence have been projected so far from their source that they underwent unwholesome changes in the process. To worship the cosmos, or nature, or embodied creatures is thus tantamount to worshipping alienated and corrupt portions of the emanated divine essence.
The basic Gnostic myth has many variations, but all of these refer to Aeons, intermediate deific beings who exist between the ultimate, True God and ourselves. They, together with the True God, comprise the realm of Fullness (Pleroma) wherein the potency of divinity operates fully. The Fullness stands in contrast to our existential state, which in comparison may be called emptiness.
One of the aeonial beings who bears the name Sophia (“Wisdom”) is of great importance to the Gnostic world view. In the course of her journeys, Sophia came to emanate from her own being a flawed consciousness, a being who became the creator of the material and psychic cosmos, all of which he created in the image of his own flaw. This being, unaware of his origins, imagined himself to be the ultimate and absolute God. Since he took the already existing divine essence and fashioned it into various forms, he is also called the Demiurgos or “half-maker” There is an authentic half, a true deific component within creation, but it is not recognized by the half-maker and by his cosmic minions, the Archons or “rulers”.
Human nature mirrors the duality found in the world: in part it was made by the false creator God and in part it consists of the light of the True God. Humankind contains a perishable physical and psychic component, as well as a spiritual component which is a fragment of the divine essence. This latter part is often symbolically referred to as the “divine spark”.
The recognition of this dual nature of the world and of the human being has earned the Gnostic tradition the epithet of “dualist”. Humans are generally ignorant of the divine spark resident within them. This ignorance is fostered in human nature by the influence of the false creator and his Archons, who together are intent upon keeping men and women ignorant of their true nature and destiny. Anything that causes us to remain attached to earthly things serves to keep us in enslavement to these lower cosmic rulers.
Death releases the divine spark from its lowly prison, but if there has not been a substantial work of Gnosis undertaken by the soul prior to death, it becomes likely that the divine spark will be hurled back into, and then re-embodied within, the pangs and slavery of the physical world. Not all humans are spiritual (pneumatics) and thus ready for Gnosis and liberation. Some are earthbound and materialistic beings (hyletics), who recognize only the physical reality. Others live largely in their psyche (psychics). Such people usually mistake the Demiurge for the True God and have little or no awareness of the spiritual world beyond matter and mind. In the course of history, humans progress from materialistic sensate slavery, by way of ethical religiosity, to spiritual freedom and liberating Gnosis.
Evolutionary forces alone are insufficient, however, to bring about spiritual freedom. Humans are caught in a predicament consisting of physical existence combined with ignorance of their true origins, their essential nature and their ultimate destiny. To be liberated from this predicament, human beings require help, although they must also contribute their own efforts. Gnostics do not look to salvation from sin (original or other), but rather from the ignorance of which sin is a consequence.
Ignorance -- whereby is meant ignorance of spiritual realities -- is dispelled only by Gnosis, and the decisive revelation of Gnosis is brought by the Messengers of Light, especially by Christ, the Logos of the True God. It is not by His suffering and death but by His life of teaching and His establishing of mysteries that Christ has performed His work of salvation. On the one hand, Gnostic salvation may easily be mistaken for an unmediated individual experience, a sort of spiritual do-it-yourself project. Gnostics hold that the potential for Gnosis, and thus, of salvation is present in every man and woman, and that salvation is not vicarious but individual.
One needs also remember that knowledge of our true nature -- as well as other associated realizations -- are withheld from us by our very condition of earthly existence. The True God of transcendence is unknown in this world, in fact He is often called the Unknown Father. It is thus obvious that revelation from on High is needed to bring about salvation. The indwelling spark must be awakened from its terrestrial slumber by the saving knowledge that comes “from without”. The present period of Western culture perhaps resembles in more ways that of second and third century Alexandria. It seems therefore appropriate that Gnostics in our age adopt the attitudes of classical Alexandrian Gnosticism, wherein matters of conduct were largely left to the insight of the individual.
Gnosticism embraces numerous general attitudes toward life: it encourages non-attachment and non-conformity to the world, a “being in the world, but not of the world”; a lack of egotism; and a respect for the freedom and dignity of other beings. Nonetheless, it appertains to the intuition and wisdom of every individual “Gnostic” to distill from these principles individual guidelines for their personal application. Death does not automatically bring about liberation from bondage in the realms of the Demiurge.Those who have not attained to a liberating Gnosis while they were in embodiment may become trapped in existence once more. It is quite likely that this might occur by way of the cycle of rebirths.
Gnosticism does not emphasize the doctrine of reincarnation prominently, but it is implicitly understood in most Gnostic teachings that those who have not made effective contact with their transcendental origins while they were in embodiment would have to return into the sorrowful condition of earthly life. In regard to salvation, or the fate of the spirit and soul after death, one needs to be aware that help is available. Valentinus, the greatest of Gnostic teachers, taught that Christ and Sophia await the spiritual man -- the pneumatic Gnostic -- at the entrance of the Pleroma, and help him to enter the bridechamber of final reunion. Gnosticism helped to clarify, the nature of Jungian spiritual therapy." In the light of such recognitions one may ask: "Is Gnosticism a religion or a psychology?"
The answer is that it may very-well be both. Most mythologems found in Gnostic scriptures possess psychological relevance and applicability. For instance the myth of Sophia resembles closely the story of the human psyche that loses its connection with the collective unconscious and needs to be rescued by the Self. Many esoteric teachings have proclaimed, "As it is above, so it is below." Our psychological nature (the microcosm) mirrors metaphysical nature (the macrocosm), thus Gnosticism may possess both a psychological and a religious authenticity. Gnostic psychology and Gnostic religion need not be exclusive of one another but may complement each other within an implicit order of wholeness.
Gnostics have always held that divinity is immanent within the human spirit, although it is not limited to it. The convergence of Gnostic religious teaching with psychological insight is thus quite understandable in terms of time-honored Gnostic principles. Theology has been called an intellectual wrapping around the spiritual kernel of a religion. If this is true, then it is also true that most religions are being strangled and stifled by their wrappings. Gnosticism does not run this danger, because its world view is stated in myth rather than in theology.
Myths, including the Gnostic myths, may be interpreted in diverse ways. Transcendence, numinosity, as well as psychological archetypes along with other elements, play a role in such interpretation. Still, such mythic statements tell of profound truths that will not be denied. Stephan A. Hoeller (Tau Stephanus, Gnostic Bishop). The birth of Athena, or Wise Reflection, begins with a curious story. It seems Zeus got a colossal migraine when he found out that his wife Hera had born a son through a Virgin birth. This son was Hephaistos.
Not to be outdone even by Hera with feminine self-sufficiency, Zeus produced Athena directly from his cerebral cortex or forebrain. She is the queenly daughter of Light, his "brainchild," so to speak. This mystic birth of wisdom means that what was formerly unconscious is now conscious, and in the daylight world. Hephaistos split open the head of Zeus with an axe to liberate her and relieve Zeus. She emerged fully armed and majestic from the beginning. Athena is the divine embodiment of God's wisdom. God manifests along geometrical principles when the divine begins to manifest, crossing the threshold of matter from matrix patterns to crystallizing matter. She therefore rules the alchemical quest of extracting the soul or spirit imprisoned in matter. She is the goddess of natural philosophy or physics. The medieval quest goes on today in physics and other sciences which seek to discover the hidden spirit, or "how things work."
Athena gives up her secrets, her intuitions, her tricks of the trade, slowly but surely. This quest is accomplished by quenching the fires of desirousness (i.e. Aphrodite). This doesn't mean all scientists must give up their sex lives! Rather, it implies that research is a long and tedious process, and one must not "lust for results." Success will come through persistence and the "inspiration" of technological breakthroughs, the gifts of Athena. Sophia is the Gnostic version of Athena, which was later co-opted by the Orthodox Church and identified with the celestial qualities of Virgin Mary, mother of the spirit. For the Gnostic, she is the indwelling direct mystical experience of God -- an inspiring manifestation of divine force. This upwelling energy was depicted in eastern religion as the Kundalini serpent-energy rising into the brain. This is the introverted experience of Sophia. In an extroverted expression, disengaging Sophia-Athena, the feminine personification of spirit, from the embrace of Physis means to make her give up her secrets.
Sophia is considered to be the sum of archetypal images in the mind of God. She is the living, breathing imagery of the Divine imagination. These prototypical patterns or ideas are like the Platonic solids which lie at the base of phenomenal manifestation. They are geometries -- the invisible building blocks of matter. Thomas Aquinas inadvertently described the quality of Athena when he said, "...divine wisdom devised the order of the universe residing in the distinction of things, and therefore we must say that in the divine wisdom are the models of all things, which we have called ideas -- i.e. exemplary forms existing in the divine mind." On the psychological level of soul, James Hillman speaks of Athena as meaning psychological reflection. The energy directed toward inner integration is the goddess "who grants topos, judging where each event belongs in relation to all other events."
Further reading on Athena is found in,
THE GODDESS, Christine Dowing, 1983 GODDESSES IN EVERY WOMAN, Jean Shinoda Bolen THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME, Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D. THE MEANING OF APHRODITE, Paul Friedrich ATHENE, VIRGIN MOTHER, Murray Stein FACING THE GODS, James Hillman, Ed. THE MOON AND THE VIRGIN, Nor Hall
SPIRITUAL MYTH: Concerned with policies and political issues, one of Athena's spiritual cries for our generation is "globalization." The history of globalization is rooted in the marriage of religion, trade, armies, industry, technology, agriculture and banking. Long before 1492, people began to link together disparate locations on the globe into extensive systems of communication, migration, and interconnections. This formation of systems of interaction between the global and the local has been a central driving force in world history.
Global means the expansive interconnectivity of localities -- spanning local sites of everyday social, economic, cultural, and political life -- a phenomenon but also a spatial attribute -- so a global space or geography is a domain of connectivity spanning distances and linking localities to one another, which can be portrayed on maps by lines indicating routes of movement, migration, translation, communication, exchange, etc. Globalization is the physical expansion of the geographical domain of the global -- that is, the increase in the scale and volume of global flows -- and the increasing impact of global forces of all kinds on local life. Moments and forces of expansion mark the major turning points and landmarks in the history of globalization
The globalization debate has rightly been called the grand ideological battle of the 21st century. It has pitted student activists against corporate heads, union members against environmentalists, Mexican peasants against officials of the International Monetary Fund. Their main concern: the lack of citizen participation in decisions of international economics and trade policy. Their main enemy: institutions and corporations that work outside of the purview of democratically elected governments. In essence, globalization is redrawing the old ideological lines of the cold war. No longer do people debate the merits of capitalism and communism. Rather, issues such as international trade, corporate power, national economic sovereignty, human rights and the transformation of indigenous cultures have moved to the center of the debate. And if there is new geopolitical line to be drawn it cuts not the East from the West but the North from the South.
What is "globalization" and why should anyone care about it? There are a lot of different answers to this question, depending on whom you ask. The dominant view among people who write and speak about the issue is that globalization is an inevitable, technologically driven process that is increasing commercial and political relations between people of different countries. For them, it is not only a natural phenomenon, but primarily good for the world, although it is recognized that the process produces both "winners and losers." There is a much deeper skepticism about the process among the general population. For example, a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 58% of Americans believed that trade had reduced U.S. jobs and wages, a view that is almost never expressed by commentators or those who shape public opinion.
This widening gap between elite and public opinion is striking, because it is not difficult to imagine how economic globalization might lower living standards for the majority of people in the United States. For example, the idea that increasing competition from low-wage imports would drive U.S. wages downward seems only logical. And there is now a wealth of evidence, even from prominent economists who strongly favor free trade, that this has happened over the last two decades. The fact that the real wage of the typical American worker has actually fallen over the past 25 years, as the economy had become increasingly globalized, is also an indicator that something is wrong with the process of globalization. According to traditional economic theory, wage and salary earners gain from more open trade, because they get cheaper consumer goods. But it is clear, according to universally accepted measures of wages and salaries in the United States, that for most employees these gains from trade have been more than canceled out by other forces that have pushed their pay downward.
Debate within the economics profession has yet to influence the agenda of the major policy makers or corporations, who continue to strive for increasing globalization. Who gains and who loses from this process? We can define globalization as an increase in trade and capital flows across national boundaries. What does the balance of payments include? It is divided into two parts: the balance of trade, and what economists call the current account, because it includes more than just trade—things like foreign interest payments and transfers. While "current account" is the proper term, many people use "trade balance" and "current account balance" interchangeably, since trade is the biggest item in the current account. The second part of the balance of payments is called the capital account. This measures the purchase and sale of assets across national boundaries.
A simple way to distinguish between the two accounts of the balance of payments is that the capital account measures international investing, borrowing, and lending—whereas the current account measures just about everything else. The international balance of payments accounting is very similar. If we import more than we export, we must either borrow or sell assets internationally, in order to finance that trade deficit. That means we are adding to our foreign debt. (This is not to be confused with our national debt, which is owed mainly to people and institutions here).
Horrific, unsustainable debt burdens raise the question of whether some countries might be better off just defaulting on their debt—that is, refusing to pay it—even if they were punished by international banks and investors. The answer to this question depends partly on how one evaluates the gains that they get from international trade and investment—i.e., increasing globalization. Is globalization progress? Nearly all of the experts and journalists who write about this subject would answer at least a qualified "yes" to this question.
For some, there is a natural progression from the medieval fiefdoms of Europe to the nation-state, to the increasing importance of international institutions such as the UN or the IMF. Others are in less of a hurry to build the institutions of world government, but nonetheless see the increase in trade and commercial relations between countries as a step forward for humanity. And almost everyone views the process of globalization as inevitable in any case, flowing naturally from advances in communications, transportation, and other technological changes.
It is certainly possible to imagine a world in which globalization could raise the standard of living for the majority of the world’s people. It could increase the size of markets and the efficiency of production, allow countries who are short on capital to borrow from those who have a surplus, and even break down some of the barriers and prejudices that have contributed to military conflicts in the past. But it also has perils.
But the historical record of the current era of globalization is quite another story. As noted above, the typical wage earner in the United States has suffered a decline in real wages since 1973. It is important to recognize that this decline is at least partly a result of a choice to pursue a particular form of globalization. Our political leaders have chosen to negotiate, over a period of decades, a set of rules that has thrown U.S. workers into increasing competition with much lower-paid counterparts throughout the world. This has had the effect, not surprisingly, of lowering wages for most Americans. The latter set of problems has been recognized, to varying degrees, by pro-globalization economists and policy-makers.
However, these people tend to emphasize the benefits or potential benefits of globalization. For trade, they rely on a simple but abstract economic theory: the principle of comparative advantage. This theory asserts that all countries are made better off by moving toward freer trade. The idea is that different countries are relatively more efficient at producing different things. On this basis it is easy to demonstrate that the world can benefit if each country specializes in the production of those goods that it can produce most efficiently and trades with other countries who do likewise. There are a number of problems with this theory when it is applied to the real economy. First of all, even the theory itself does not assert that everyone in each country is made better off through trade. There are "winners and losers," and the theory only predicts that for the entire country the gains outweigh the losses.In other words, there is a profound bias against any kind of national economic development strategy.
The obvious problem with this application of the theory of comparative advantage is that it rules out most of the strategies that the developed countries of the world have used in order to attain the standard of living that they enjoy today. The extreme case can be seen in Russia, where industry has been practically dismantled under IMF supervision since the demise of the Soviet Union. The country now produces almost nothing but energy. In the process, Russia’s economy has shrunk by more than half in just a few years, and they have suffered an increase in poverty and declines in life expectancy that are historically unprecedented, in the absence of war or natural disaster. Indeed, critics of globalization would argue that the experience of the last two decades—in which the architects of the global economy have increasingly re-crafted the economies of most of the world towards their ideal of unified international markets—has been a failure by almost any measure of economic performance. And there is no reason to assume that institutions that are controlled by a small group of people from one or a handful of high income countries would adequately represent the interests of the world’s poor and working people.
For the most prominent policy makers and writers on this topic, "reform" is synonymous with the opening of markets, privatization, and reducing the role of government in the economy. Indeed this has become the standard definition of reform in the media. For most of these people, the recent economic turmoil is just a bump in the road toward a more integrated world economy and the social progress that it promises. They generally favor increased regulation for "emerging market" banking and financial systems, as well as greater "transparency"—that is, better information for investors. In the United States, whose government has been the most powerful advocate of the current form of globalization, measures to ameliorate the worst excesses of the global economy—either here or abroad—will most likely not be warmly received. If history is any guide, proponents of such changes throughout the world will be dismissed as "trying to turn the clock back," "protectionists," and worse. And, as often happens in the real world, some of their leaders or followers—as in Malaysia or Russia today—will have right-wing or authoritarian ideologies attached to them. But this does not mean that their pro-national, regional, or local economic development policies are misguided. Or that the men who have been working overtime to "write the constitution of a single, global economy" are right.
Restructuring of global politics and economics that may prove as historically significant as any event since the Industrial Revolution. This restructuring is happening at tremendous speed, with little public disclosure of the profound consequences affecting democracy, human welfare, local economies, and the natural world. So far, globalization policies have contributed to increased poverty, increased inequality between and within nations, increased hunger, human displacement, increased corporate concentration, decreased social services and decreased power of labor viz-a-viz global corporations. It looks like Zeus, (the ruling economic geopolitical power), will continue to have a huge headache, until the wisdom of Athena can be born or spring forth. It seems unlikely to be found in the current form of New World Order. If the mytheme prevails, some form of Hephaestus, some technology, will split the whole situation wide open for a new truth to emerge. Could it be cyber-culture?
CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLE In the 1980s, actress Melina Mercouri, became an excellent example of the Goddess in a modern Athenian woman. Beloved for her passionate portrayal of the Greek spirit in the movie, "Never on Sunday," she was appointed Greece's Minister of Culture. She took up the work with great enthusiasm. This divine obsession frequently led her to work up to 18 hours per day as she became workaholic. Her projects included the return to Greece of national treasures currently housed abroad. Even though her personal life probably suffered under such a workload, she seemed to thrive. The Greek people adore her, and her reciprocation of their love is quite genuine. She had a love affair with the state. She willingly complied with the collective demand for her services and inspiration. Other examples of Athena women include Senator Hillary Clinton, political pioneers like Geraldine Ferraro, Diane Feinstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir and many more. An older example is Queen Isabella, warrior queen of Spain. The Barbra Striesand movie YENTL has a song with the line, "Papa, can you hear me?" which exemplifies the Athenian connection to the father.
KEYWORDS Current events, cosmopolitan, compulsive overachiever, urbane, polished, classy, sophisticated, commraderie, articulate, careerwoman, working mother, brainchild, brainy, skill, intellectual, publicity, focused, competence, social worker, defensive, strategy.
DIALOGUE WITH ATHENA Springing from the forebrain of Zeus, Athena is intellectual in nature. Emerging from the male spirit indicates that she identifies most strongly with her father. Hence her father-complex, based to a certain extent on both the archetypal image of "Father" or "Father-God" and our personal experiences. But not all fathers embody the authority principle of Zeus. Some fathers are irresponsible overgrown adolescents, while others might be spineless jellyfish, or blue-collar rather than white-collar types. Ask Athena about the subconscious aspects of your relationship with your father. Athena unites the virginal father's daughter and the encouraging mother of the spirit. Athena has to do with the father's anima and his daughter's embodiment of that feminine spirit. It reflects in our religious notions about God, the Father, and our soul's yearning for that source of acceptance. Athena is the embodiment of the father's spiritual nature. Is she conservative and compulsive within him, or realize the loving, forgiving God. You can ask Athena about the issues of the day in your dialogues. Topics might include foreign policy, social mores, values, politics and the arts. You may know your own conscious viewpoint on these issues very well, but subconsciously this part of you may feel differently. Also, when you inquire about issues and morals, be sure just who is replying from the inner cast of characters. For example, on the issue of abortion: Demeter might consider any anti-life notion or action an abomination, while Artemis or Athena probably consider it a simple expediency. Identification with these different archetypes unconsciously causes our attitudes and thought patterns to correspond with their typical patterns. Thus our decisions, or crossroads in life may depend on which archetypal voice our ego chooses to identify with most. When you have any outer life decisions to make in regard to your integrity, ethics, morals, job position, justice, etc., it is wise to seek Athena's counsel. Her sage advice may be able to help you make some sense of the conflicting inner voices commenting on the issue. She may even be the mediator for a divine round-table discussion. She can even bring some logic to the subjective emotionalism of other gods and goddesses, such as Aphrodite, Demeter, or Hera. Seek her when you need to study for that big exam, job advancement or entry into a new field of exploration. By calling up her image, you connect with her powers and abilities consciously. She can keep you afloat in the deepest of academic waters by stimulating your innate intelligence. Ask her for help. If your difficult learning area is mathematics, she might require aid from Apollo. For psychology, Hermes' aid is useful. When acquiring technical skills, the smith-magician, Hephaistos may add his talent to her efforts.
ATHENA IN YOUR LIFE
1. How have you felt about learning as a young child and now that you are older -- eager or reluctant? Formal or casual about learning?
2. Do you maintain an interest in politics or current events? Have you ever been involved in a political campaign? Do you have any background in social science?
3. Have you ever known a woman who functioned as a wise counselor or mentor to you? How did she embody Athena's qualities? Did she, for example, work at a college or university?
4. If you have ever been a working mother, did you work from economic necessity or the drive to compete, better yourself, deal with the public, or achieve financial autonomy?
5. Have you ever returned to school or trade school to learn new skills for job advancement, or just for self-development?
6. Are you capable at public speaking? Have you ever participated in a formal debate? Call on Athena to help you if you aren't practiced in this area.
7. What do you like about city life? What are its drawbacks for you? Are you at home in a cosmopolitan or urban environment?
8. Have you ever participated in your community as a public servant or volunteer?
9. Briefly describe your father's role as your mentor, counselor, teacher, or philosopher. What type of relationship did (do) you have with him? How have you inherited his spiritual qualities?
10. Do you strategize your life or choreograph your upward mobility? In other words, are you making and following a definite game plan for your future, either financially or otherwise? Briefly outline this plan.
11. Has a co-worker ever tried to force his/her attentions on you--or you force yourself on them? Did you seek relief from harassment through official channels as Athena might?
12. Have you ever felt your career should take precedence over your relationships or social life?
13. Do you consider yourself a practical person or not? If you "sometimes are" and "sometimes aren't" what other gods make you impractical, or non-linear? For example, Zeus, spendthrift and gambler; Aphrodite, frivolous, seductive or flirtatious; Artemis, "spacey"; Ares, argumentative, etc.
14. Do many or most of your friends or acquaintances come from your workplace, or perhaps craft fairs or classes, or maybe a shared interest in fine or performance arts or philosophy?
15. Are you motivated by your own priorities like the Virgin Goddess? Can you develop winning strategies and practical solutions? Do you enjoy being in the midst of action and power? Can you skillfully avoid emotional or sexual entanglements with those you work with? If you are male, how does your anima life influence your emotional responses at work?
16. Are you involved in any craft which is both useful and aesthetically pleasing, like weaving, for example? Athena's craft requires foresight, planning, mastery, and patience.
17. Describe how you may be emotionally armored, like Athena, against hostility or deception, in your private and public life.
18. Where do your ambitions lie? What are you organizing, building, doing? What kind of Emperor are you--energetic and imaginative, or rigid and unreceptive? Who is establishing guidelines, parameters and structures in your life? Who has the power and authority, and how is it being used?