The Origin of the Gods: A Psychoanalytic Study of Greek Theogonic Myth

The Origin of the Gods: A Psychoanalytic Study of Greek Theogonic Myth

The Origin of the Gods: A Psychoanalytic Study of Greek Theogonic Myth

The Origin of the Gods: A Psychoanalytic Study of Greek Theogonic Myth

Synopsis

This innovative study posits that myths in general, and Greek theogonic myth in particular, have a latent meaning that is responsible both for the emotional energy inherent in myths, and for the special attraction they have even to those who no longer believe in their literal meaning. Caldwell describes, in clear and comprehensible language, aspects of psychoanalytic theory relevant to the understanding of Greek myth, implementing a psychoanalytic methodology to interpret the Greek myth of origin and succession, particularly as stated in Hesiod's Theogony. In reassessing this work, which tells the story of the world's beginning from unbounded Chaos to the defeat of the Titans, Caldwell addresses several unexplained problems-- why does the world begin with the spontaneous emergence of four uncaused entities, and why in this particular order? Why does Ouranos prevent his children from being born by confining them in their mother's body? Why is Ouranos castrated by his son, and why is Aphrodite born from the severed genitals? Why is it always the youngest son who overthrows his father, the sky-god, and what is the logic of the steps taken by Zeus to prevent the same thing happening to him? Presenting a new definition and analyses of the psychological functions in myth, this new study should appeal to a wide range of classicists, teachers and students of mythology, psychoanalysts, and those interested in the application of psychoanalytic methods to literature.

Excerpt

This book is about the psychological, or emotional, aspect of Greek myth. Its theoretical premises are simple and can be stated briefly in regard to both mythic function and mythic form. The generally accepted view that myths are multifunctional is certainly correct, but the meaning of multiple function and the systematic relationship between functions should be clarified. Multiple function should mean not only that different myths may have different functions, but also that any individual myth typically includes several functions. In the case of psychological functioning, I would argue that myths have three purposes in addition to whatever nonpsychological functions they may fulfill: these are (1) to allow the expression of unconscious, usually repressed, ideas in a conventional and socially sanctioned form; (2) to use the emotional content attached to these ideas to energize the nonemotional function of myth; and (3) to provide a societal response to psychological needs, whether universal or culture-specific, shared by the individuals who make up the society.

Since these psychological functions seems to be present in all (or nearly all) myths, the relationship between psychological and nonpsychological functions is reciprocal: the former provide emotional energy for the latter, and the latter provide an opportunity for the emergence of the former. Since it is unlikely or impossible that either type of function could exist, at least in mythic form, without the other, this reciprocity is virtually symbiotic.

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