Quora answer: Who are the Furies?

Apr 08 2013

Sean Kelly in his lectures based on All Things Shining calls the Furies the “Old Gods” and sees Aeschylus as trying to reconcile these forces in Greek society. The furies were already suppressed by Homer he points out who mentions them by his count only five times. However, he misses the point that Poseidon is motivated by revenge and thus the furies are present though this only indo-european god who acts as the foe of Odysseus.

But then who are the furies? I had an insight into this recently as I was listening to a lecture by Betty Smith who wrote the Greek Dialogues, in which she produces discussions between the gods concerning the meaning of the events in the mythic history fictively as they occur. My insight was that there are many triplets of Greek goddesses and other creatures, the furies being an example. But we also have the Norns/Fates, the graces, the muses, etc. My insight is that all these female triplets are the same with quantum superposition of different characteristics and all of them go back to their source in the negative fourfold, which according to Aristophanes is Chaos, Covering, Abyss, and Night. The Furies are closer to this origin than the others as their characteristics are closer to that of the negative fourfold which is the feminine metaphysical principle lurking unrecognized behind the fourfold of Socrates that Heidegger takes up which is Heaven, Earth, Mortals and Immortals. I talk about the genesis of this feminine metaphysical principle hidden in our tradition in my book The Fragmentation of Being and the Path Beyond the Void [See http://works.bepress.com/kent_palmer.

The Furies are explicitly associated by Aeschylus with Night and Chaos, but also they cover over the light of reason and they make us fall into the abyss of the infinite regress of vengeance killing in feuds. So the furies hearken back to the very first female goddesses out of which eros arose. These in turn go back to Egyptian prototypes as we get in the Gods of Emphasis called the Octad from out of which Atum arises. According to Aristophanes in The Birds first came the negative fourfold, then came Eros, then came the Birds, then came the Gods which would include all the generations from Hittite Ahlu, to Uranus, to Chronos, to the trinity Zeus/Hades/Poseidon. Of course, the exaltation of the Birds is a joke, but it is really a serious joke, but we cannot delve into that meaning here. The point is that the Negative Fourfold is even before Uranus splits from Gaia, i.e. before Heaven and Earth are cut asunder. And that means before there was a difference between mortal and immortal as well. So they are very old Gods indeed. and they are not going away, and so that is why the Furies must be reconciled and cannot be merely abandoned instead.

But I think it gives us deeper insight when we realize that the Furies which are many, but how many we do not know become eventually the Norns/Fates that even the Gods must obey, and then appear as the Graces, the Muses, and as other threefold characterizations of these primal forces that affect our  lives in many different ways. The furies are a multiple. there is no specific number of them. But a symmetry breaking occurs when they become the Eumenides which are bearers of good rather that evil. In their transformation they become numbered. The multiple Erinyes give rise to Eros, and in the process are transformed from a multiple or fourfold into a trinity, and in that form appear in various guises as the graces, or muses of fates, etc. Their gift to us is the benefits we cannot earn, but must be given from the beginning, i.e. access to knowledge, grace or poise, and a our fate. These different qualities that are superimposed that appear in different situations where the various archetypal aspects are attuned. So instead of their being multiple threefold sources, there is instead the Fourfold that undergoes a symmetry breaking when it gives rise to the emergent event of the production of Eros (the subject of the symposium of Plato). According to Aristophanes it is Eros who is the source first of the Birds and then of the Gods in all their generations. The birds are a flock or swarm that all moves as one. The are what I call ipsities in an aggregate, which is the nondual non-nihilistic position between Set and Mass. The Gods are Setlike, and they fight Masslike monsters of feminine origin, i.e. Apollo/Zeus against Python/Typhoon. These masslike monsters stand in for Existence which Being must overcome in order to exert its presence as primary. Eros is the glue that holds the world together generating desire that moves the stories of the mythic realm forward. There are four such basic practices which are desire, avoiding, dissemination, and absorption. We see avoiding play out in the relations between male and females among gods and mortals. It is the inverse of Desire which propels the generations of the gods and defines the relations between the gods and goddesses and their relations to mortals. Dissemination and Absorption also takes place in the conjunction between the sexes. We should point out here that knowledge is first and foremost knowledge of each other though sex. This is the primal forbidden knowledge. It is out of this intimacy whether forced or actively accepted which gives the fundamental knowledge we have of each other, which is the primary knowledge we have, all other knowledge being subservient to that primal sexual knowledge. There is a field between mortals and immortals driven by sexual desire of immortals for mortals. The Trojan war comes out of the thwarting of that desire to fate and for that reason Themis had to be married to a mortal, Peleus rather than one of the trinity of Gods that ruled over heaven and seas, and what is under the earth. Note the earth itself is parceled out to the various gods with Poseidon and Athena both claiming Athens.

Aristophanes says that something mortal (the birds as swarms) arises prior to the gods, be it something that lives in the air between gods and men, like Damions. These are the atoms, that are the swarming of the Atum as it emerges from the waters on the mound of earth. It is symbolized by a bird with a fish in its mouth. Thus we get the relation of the birds to the fishes which are duals that swarm on either side of the double mirroring partition between air and water. [Cf. F. Cook: Hua Yen: The Jeweled Net of Indra; nb images within the sea]. The first thing that appears that symbolizes the Atum is the bird, feasting on the plenty of the river that has just flooded. So when we go back to the Egyptian roots we see that the Joke of Aristophanes is actually very serious, and is more in keeping with the Egyptian teachings than what Hesiod writes in Theogony.

So the Furies are the Negative Fourfold, which in fact gives us more insight into the structure than the positive fourfold, because though their reversal we learn that the core of our worldview is Light, Order, Ground, and Uncovering = Aletheia = Truth as dynamic uncovering. The Olympians as seen by Aeschylus views the Gods as the bearers of this Light, this Order, this Truth, this Grounding that is what is opposite the negative fourfold. The positive fourfold only tells us about the limits, not about the dynamic that inhabits those limits.

We also see this in the idea that Plato has of the soul, which has three parts: Hydra, Lion, and Man. For man as reason/logos to appear out of the hydra of multiple desires and the darkness of the irrational unconscious, it is necessary for courage (justified controlled anger) to arise, and from that temperance, justice and wisdom can appear. The hydra is an illformed masslike creature with many heads. It is the image of Sophistry for Plato, i.e. opinion made eloquent but without knowledge, where knowledge is defined as qualified ignorance. Only when courage like that of Hercules confronts the monster of mass like existence, can reason prevail and establish setlike dominance of Being. That is why Badiou for instance thinks that Ontology is almost reducible to Set theory. But he has to include two other elements: Multiple like the Furies and the Event like the appearance of Eros out of the Multiple. For Badiou this event is the appearance of the Ultra-One, i.e. the first number One, from which all the other numbers arise. That one establishes the possibility of the system, but this is based on a fundamental Caste-like fragmentation of the numbers. But what is missing is the realization that there is also Surreal Numbers, i.e. numbers derived from game moves that can represent the meta-systemic view that is the inverse dual of the set of numbers. Thus the multiple is never far away from the appearance of the System, or the One as Ultra-one, i.e. as the emergent event, because the meta-system is what the System arises out of, and it is represented in Greek Myth by Mass like monsters and by the feminine trinities that is the dual of the Masculine Olympian trinity, just like the negative fourfold is the dual of the positive fourfold that defines the world.



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