Discussing the Purpose of Ancient Greek Myth and Explaining Myth Acceptance in Modern Day Culture

Offered this inspiring example by Delacroix, habitual late-nineteenth-century purveyors of barbaric carnage such as George Rochegrosse clearly felt called upon to increase the body count. In “The Death of Babylon” of 1891, for instance, he brought the aesthetic of violence to its apotheosis. While the epic of war rages within the portals of iniquity and sin, the painter has taken time off to dwell upon the exhaustion of the flesh which — and he was clearly pleased to be able to emphasize this fact — was the true cause of the fall of Babylon. But in this painting morality hatched a voyeuristic egg. Virtually the entire foreground is taken up by lovingly depicted collapsed and exhausted naked female slaves, most suffering from severe cases of the Cabanel curve. Women were thus depicted at the end of the nineteenth century as property whose place it was to give sole pleasure to their male counterparts.

The purpose of this writing is to focus the reader’s attention to look at the purpose of ancient Greek myth formation and how modern-day myth acceptance applies to aspects of criminal deviance in the phenomenon of gang stalking, electronic targeted assaults, and psychotronic torture.

Myth is disguised philosophy or theology, concealing its deep secrets from those who do not understand its allegories. This myth was used in ancient times to legitimize homosexual assaults on young adolescent boys by their property owners. If we consider the myth of Zeus and Ganymede, Zeus famously selected the young mortal Ganymede to serve as his cup-bearer on Mount Olympus. The relationship provided the foundation of the custom of pederasty, the practice of Greek men at the time maintaining erotic sexual relationships with adolescent young boys. Zeus is depicted with Ganymede in the artwork by an unknown artist (pictured below).

The myth is regarded as a sort of dream of its author. This runs into the difficulty that the force of myth obviously lies in its preservation and value from person to person and time to time. Finally, we reach a tenable position: psychoanalytic interpretation of myth can only work if it reveals prevalent, or even universal, deep concerns of a larger cultural group of human beings. Freud called it “ethnic imagination.” The implication here is the very likelihood that it does not just belong to an ethnic imaginary, that of the ancient Greeks, but that these myths may express and expose deep unconscious anxieties that are related to modern-day culture in very real and tangible ways that express itself in various forms from one culture to another. Here we can connect similarities in aspects of group psychology with a “whole collective unconscious” that is shared and transmitted within individual groups and ethnicities. As to say, “a shared single mind” is also to say, “shared in a single ideology.”

The most that may be achieved, if there is any validity to psychoanalytic theory, is that we recognize just how fundamental and deep-seated the images that surface in myth really are. That is all that is left of Freud’s revelation of the real processes of the human mind. But it is perhaps philosophically sounder that we have no language in which we can think what lies behind unconscious thought. This is the unconscious language that is expressed in dreams and in myth from a time before language began in the human psyche. That is, during our neonatal experience and when we were early toddlers). It is also the same mechanism (unconscious language) that lies behind gang stalking, electronic targeted assaults, and psychotronic torture because what drives it cannot be readily known without some form of analysis.

Myth is a sort of language that allowed cultural problems to be raised and then alleviated with explanation and action. The myth is assembled in all its versions — whoever told them, wherever or whenever. It is then broken down into its elements (motifs). The elements stand in some relation to each other, and by this structure suggest issues, in particular social issues. The myth proceeds as structuralist myths tend to, by antithesis, by the presentation of opposite poles (‘binary opposition’). In the end, the presentation of opposites leads to and allows for, some sense of resolution. In psychoanalysis, it is the unconscious that helps one be led to and allows for, some sense of resolution revolving around various unconscious anxieties and fears. In their most ‘scientific’ form, structuralist discussions involving myths can easily be identified by the construction of diagrams reminiscent of algebra or formal logic in order to represent the intersection of different pairs of opposites (‘logical quadrangles’).

In the Oedipus myth, ‘Oedipus marries his mother’, like ‘Antigone buries her brother contrary to Creon’s edict’, shows the over-rating of blood relationships; whereas, ‘Oedipus kills his father’ and ‘Eteokles slaughters his brother Polyneikes’ it depicts actions that are antithetical to social family bonds and love relationships. It is, for this reason, feminists have come to understand Freud’s formulation of ‘Oedipus’ in the psychoanalytic of psychosexual development to be the psychotic text of Western culture because it gives us a template with which to analyze perverse outcomes as well as the formation of deviant sexual perversions that have come to be accepted as socially antithetical to normal, traditional psychosexual development.

What’s more, the ambiances and tensions expressed in myth and the ability to construct a picture piece by piece provide concise reasoning for why the myth is tied to the human unconscious. Vidal Naquet’s analysis of myth concluded a content narrative of themes of lameness, tyranny, and incest in the Oedipus mythology and in the stories about the tyrants of Corinth, Kypselos and Periander:

“Despising the rules which preside over the ordering of the social fabric and which, through the regular inter-crossing of sons, determine the positions of each in relation to the others — or, as Plato puts it more crudely, ready to kill his father, sleep with his mother, eat the flesh of his own children — the tyrant, at once equal to the god and equal to a ferocious beast, incarnates in his ambivalence the mythic figure of the lame man, with his two opposing aspects: a gait beyond the human because in rolling, faster and more agile in all directions at once, he transgresses the limitations to which walking straight must submit; but also this side of the normal mode of locomotion because mutilated, unbalanced, vacillating, he advances limping in his singular fashion all the better to fall in the end.” (Vernant 1982:34)

“Woman was given to man so that she could give him children. She is, therefore, his property, just as a fruit tree is the property of the gardener.”

The above quote is an example of modern myth acceptance. We can turn to the various forms of modern myth acceptance expressed today. These modern myths include themes of hate against gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, and religious groups. Some myth acceptance involved the belief that certain people “deserve to die” or that certain women “deserved to be raped.” The ideology that certain people “deserve to die” can be understood through the movement of the Holocaust and various human genocides that have reoccurred throughout history as well as the hatred and fear directed as homosexuals and transgender people, the movement of “Black Lives Matter” and historical forms of Asian hatred aimed at Asian Americans during various times in American political history.

At the end of the 19th century, women were primarily seen as “property” like black slaves. During this time, in the developing war of science and philosophy against the shortcomings of women, many ordinary housewives as well were falling victim to a form of domestic violence, ambush zealously advocated by some of the period’s leading medical authorities. This new medical science offered a practice called “Therapeutic Rape” in which men believed this form of “aggressive discipline,” which was nothing short of sexual assault, could “tame” and subdue a woman who would not be listening to her husband. In response to declining birthrates among the middle classes, the very backbone of developing civilization, these authorities called upon husbands everywhere to assert their masculinity behind the drawn curtains of their dignified homes, and to do so by force if necessary. For the newly popular theories of human evolution held that in women signs of evolutionary progress were accompanied by a diminished sexual drive: “The sexual instinct in the civilized woman is, I believe, tending to atrophy,” declared Harry Campbell, a prominent London pathologist, in his book Differences in the Nervous Organization of Man and Woman (1891). The nymph with the broken back depicted in statue relief during the late nineteenth century was the most graphic casualty of the concept of therapeutic rape. Men were expected to take control of their wives and wives were expected to obey their husbands as “children” subdue to their parents. Since men were the ones who earned income, they went out to work while women were expected to assume their roles as non-wage earners, providing a service in the care of their husbands and children, attending to their needs, health, and well-being. If the domestic violence was brutal enough to leave marks and scars, the woman, if she was lucky, might be awarded a divorce. But where was she to go? If she was lucky enough, she’d have some friends who would take her in and help her establish some mode of independence, but most women stayed with their abusive husbands, a problematic that still resonates into modern-day as well, perhaps not as persistent because of new legal remedies to this social issue.

Right around this time, as the woman’s movement began to gain momentum (the late 1800s), women began to be depicted in art and literature as “primal beasts” which makes one suspect if this was not due to the tensions and anxieties toward the movement. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) is a very carefully constructed cautionary tale directed to men of the modern temper, warning them not to yield to the bloodlust of the feminist, she who bears the degenerative stamp of the “new woman” and to take every precaution in protecting himself by securing the purity of his bloodline. All this outpouring of angst resulting from “a battle between the sexes.” Prior to the women’s rights movement, gender roles had pretty much remained the same as they did in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece.

Similar to the ancient women of Athens in the 5th century BC, “the glory of women was to have no glory.” Human history is a history of wars and political decisions in which women, historically speaking, rarely found themselves playing any part unless it was through a clandestine act of seduction. Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, recorded only women who were barbarians or the wives of tyrants, or who died violent deaths; or he made a woman’s death an excuse for mentioning as an unusual funeral rite. They were never depicted in the literature as holding any office, position of status, or influence over politics other than wife and mother.

“The Birth of Venus” by Alexandre Cabanel. This art form emphasis the Cabanel curve which is attributed to Cabanel himself.

In the artwork of “The Birth of Venus” the woman, Venus has her hands flung, one on her forehead, and the other above her head in a posture that expresses exhaustion of the flesh and to which I am reminded of in the case of the Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short. Elizabeth Short’s body was positioned in a very similar way, except her body was surgically and skillfully cut into two pieces in a procedure known as a hemicorporectomy. Hemicorporectomy is a radical surgery in which the body below the waist is amputated, transecting the lumbar spine. This removes the legs, the genitalia (internal and external), urinary system, pelvic bones, anus, and rectum. It is an extremely mutilating procedure recommended only as a last resort for people with severe and potentially fatal illnesses. In this particular case, we would consider the formation of myth and the perpetrator’s unconscious fears and fantasies revolving around issues involving female flesh. This is frequently seen in the murder of street prostitutes as well as in the domination over women’s bodies in the fashion industry, the medical industry, and in the psychology of eating disorders. Or was Elizabeth Short’s carefully and artfully staged murder scene just another example of “the battle between the sexes?”

The fact that Elizabeth Short’s genitalia was separated from the part of her body that possessed her facial image (her torso), can be read as a denial of her right to sexually reproduce. A denial by her killer to engage in her individual right to engage in sexual intercourse. It was an attack on her feminine sexuality. Despite the fact that her upper torso possessed breasts which are symbols in and of themselves of feminine erotic sensuality, they do not perform the job of the clitoris. The fact that she was separated from the intimate parts of her body whose regions are used for sexual reproduction, sexual orgasm, and sexual relations cannot be denied.

In light of this fact, we can make associations in the history of medicine where hysterectomies were standard procedures frequently performed in gynecology on women, as well as cesarian sections where the woman was cut across the stomach leaving a disfiguring scar. What was driving these unconscious phantasies that influenced standard procedures in medicine? To bill insurance companies for procedures and make more money without considering the value of female genitalia and the female form? We can also make a connection to the emaciated faces and frail stature of anorexic runway models in their denial of erotic sexuality, starved to the edge of death. Likewise, the use of electronic targeted assaults and psychotronic torture are yet more ways in which men deny women of their possessed sexuality which seeks to diminish happiness and inflict pain and suffering which take a toll on how she sees herself. This brings up a good question, “How does the woman see herself while being tortured at the hands of her torturer?” If Elizabeth Short was alive to tell of her experience this would be a really good question to ask her.

Sources:

Dijkstra, Bram. (1986). Idols of Perversity; Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture. New York. Oxford University Press.

Dowden, Ken (1992). The Use of Greek Mythology. London. Routledge.

Loraux, Nicole (1992). Tragic Ways of Killing A Woman. Cambridge, Mass: London: Harvard University Press.

Mother, Daughter, Student, Graduate, Lover of Books, Reader of Philosophy, Interested in Psychoanalysis, Criminology, Sexual Deviance, Social Justice&Law