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November 2017 Seminar Series. A Month with the Gods

submitted by Kytherian Cultural Exchange on 31.10.2017


A Month with the Gods: A Journey into the Life-World of Hellenic Myth

 

Topics pertaining to Ancient Greek mythology are very trendy nowadays. There seems to be something in the myths of the ancient Hellenes that keeps on fascinating people after so many centuries. However, many a time approaches to the Hellenic gods and heroes give the impression that they are driven by the exotic, the romantic or even the fanciful.

The present seminar series is based on my scholarly research and teaching experience and at the same time involves an experiential engagement with what it means to be a Hellene. It is my conviction that one can enter the life-world of Hellenic myth only if they manage to critically appreciate its otherness and subsequently find a way to connect to it personally. 

Two are the basic questions of this seminar series: What is a myth and how did the Hellenes envisage the Divine? Throughout you will have the opportunity to reflect on the historical, philosophical and psychological aspects of Ancient Greek religion; aspects that have had a tremendous impact on Western civilisation, culture and thought.

The seminar series will last for 4 consecutive weeks and will comprise 8 hours (each time taking up 2 hours of your Sunday late afternoons on the dates below). No prior knowledge is required.

 

The venue is the Kythera House, Suite 1, 24 King Street, Rockdale, at 4:00pm – 6:00pm, and the participation cost $10 per meeting. For further information call +61 431262823 or  email, George Poulos

 

 

Outline

1. (05/11) Divine Generations: Ubiquity and Excellence in Hesiod’s Theogony

Hesiod’s Theogony is usually described as the Hellenic version of Creation, but in effect the Hellenes had no notion of Creation –at least not what we understand by the term in a Christian sense. Theogony reflects a synthesis of the indigenous land-based experience of immanence and the Hellenic sky-based experience of transcendence. The resulting picture is one of divine ubiquity transforming itself into divine excellence (that is, a movement from Gaia to Zeus).       

 

2. (12/11) In the Image and Likeness of Gods: Presence and Absence in Homer’s Iliad

It is more or less a truism that Homer’s Iliad has been worked out thanks to an anthropomorphic conception of the Divine. The evidence, however, seems to point towards the opposite direction, namely, that the human reflects but does not define the Divine! This means that the Homeric Hellenic envisages the Divine more in terms of equivalence than in terms of equation. But then isn’t there something of the Divine missing in the human, precisely when the latter embodies the former?   

 

3. (19/11) The God that Irrupts: Otherness in the Cult of Dionysus

Dionysus stands for the most conspicuous case of otherness in the life-world of the Hellenic gods: the dialectics of ubiquity – excellence, on the one hand, and the dialectics of presence – absence, on the other, were intensified due to a hierophanic difference unknown previously. The cult of Dionysus –an old god that was experienced in an entirely new manner– reinvigorated the religious experience of the Hellenes taking it into a state of enhanced integration.      

 

4. (26/11) Eleusinian Mysteries and Orphic Religion: Perpetuity and Retribution

The old and the new, the immanent and the transcendent, were worked out in the religious experience of the Hellenes independently and to an extent in opposition to the mainstream civic religion of the Olympian pantheon. In both cases what emerged was a select and elitist religiosity that favoured the afterlife either in the guise of perpetuity (the Eleusinian Mysteries) or retribution (Orphic religion).

 

Facilitator

Dr Vassilis Adrahtas holds a PhD in Sociology of Religion from Panteion University and a PhD in Studies in Religion from the University of Sydney. He has been teaching at universities in Greece and Australia for the last fifteen years. He is the author of five books.                

 

submitted by
George Poulos
on 09.11.2017

The First Seminar in the Month with the Gods series, held at Kythera House, Rockdale was excellent.   <b>DO MAKE A POINT OF ATTENDING THE SUBSEQUENT SEMINARS</b>.   Dr Vassilis Adrahtas summary of the first seminar follows:   Divine Generations: Ubiquity and Excellence in Hesiod’s Theogony Summary   The 1st meeting of the seminar series on Hellenic myth was about the enterprise involved in Hesiod’s epic poem Theogony. The meeting had two parts: the first referred to introductory and contextual information on Hesiod and his poem, and the second ventured into presenting and interpreting Hesiod’s experience of the Sacred. The first part focused on the following: the synthesis between the indigenous pre-Hellenic earth-based religiosity and the non-indigenous proto-Hellenic sky-oriented religiosity; the traits of an incipient philosophical mindset with regards to religious matters; and the struggle to achieve a distinct Hellenic identity out of the turmoil period of the so-called Dark Ages (1200-800 BCE). The second part explored four core structural units within Theogony: the primeval gods (verses 116-153), the Uranus – Cronus clash (154-210), the goddess Hecate (411-452), and the Cronus – Zeus clash (453-506) leading to Zeus’ ultimate victory and reign. The interpretation attempted was basically a combination of historical, philosophical and psychoanalytical considerations.   Hesiod’s Theogony was approached as a drama in four acts: dynamism – instability – ubiquity – excellence. Dynamism stands for the primeval divine generations that come out of Chaos (the mythic name for sheer potentiality), whereby everything reaches a sort of breaking point due to the uncontrolled transformations of Uranus (the mythic name for the perceived cosmic reality). Instability is what comes after, when Cronus (the mythic name for relentless temporality) releases everything from their tension but at the same time brings in the predicament of impermanence and lack of purpose. Ubiquity constitutes the realm of Hecate (the mythic name for the all-encompassing and binding earthliness), a female deity that signifies the transformation of impermanence into the rhythmic regularity of nature. Lastly, excellence emerges as the exquisite developmental moment of the eternally-becoming divine turned now into order, a condition embodied mythically in the figure of Zeus. Schematically speaking, Hesiod presents a circle-base spiraling upwards by integrating itself through ever-more compact circular forms and ending with an apex-point that stands as the gist, the thrust and the culmination of the whole process.   The mythical complex one finds in Theogony is not about a Christian-like creation of the world; on the contrary, it is about the self-generation of divine reality. For Hesiod there is only one ‘thing’ which is thoroughly divine whatever the differentiations it presents here and there might be. In this respect, although his theological enterprise gives the impression of some kind of monotheism, in effect what he espouses is what could be dubbed ‘theomonism’: a unified experience of life infused throughout by one and the same sacred quality. It all becomes fully conscious of itself as Zeus-the-Mindful-One, who is indeed a father figure, not in the sense of a caring and affectionate agent –according to the Christian worldview– but in the sense of an orderly controlling principle. Furthermore, the past, the present and the future are all fused within heightened human experience as the reflection of Zeus’ reign: an end that is always here-and-now in the guise of the beginning –and this is what the Hesiodic version of eschatology is all about.

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