Quora answer: What can an adult do to understand Homer’s Iliad better?

Jul 25 2011

Homer’s Odyssey: What can an adult do to understand Homer’s Odyssey better?


In other questions we have been a talking about Achilles and how his life is a study in the various ways that we confront nihilism within the Western worldview. But this worldview also mixes nihilism with its nihilistic opposite which is emergence. And the example of emergence in the Iliad is the Trojan Horse, whose appearance is an emergent event for the Trojans, and which is the ruse which is a product of the guile and Metis of the trickster Odysseus. So the Nihilism of the situation as experienced by Achilles is balanced by the Emergence produced by Odysseus with his clever subterfuge.



The Trojan Horse is a war machine, something the Indo-Europeans have been particularly good at devising. Archimedes was famous for his war machines as was Leonardo, and other geniuses with our tradition. But what is interesting about this war machine is that it has all the different kinds of Being within it, and thus gives us a map of the emergent event itself, which is always a face of the world containing all the various kinds of Being in a singular concrescence. So the Trojan Horse is a static sculpture of a horse, but it was possible to move it and it probably was on wheels. So the Pure Being static Parmedian aspect is its sculptural for which is that of a horse. The dynamic part of it which is Heraclitian is that it can move from  the outside to the inside of the city easily and this shows its connection with Process Being. The Hyper Being aspect is brought our by Helen when she talks to Telemachus, Far War, and describes her imitation of the wives of the those hiding inside the horse. She imitates the voice the different wives as if she knew who was inside the horse. And the men inside the horse almost reveal themselves but do not. This slipping from voice to voice of the wives of those inside the hiding inside the horse is a representation of Hyper Being, what Plato calls the Third kind of Being. Helen’s trickery is almost as good as that of Odysseus, and she was suspicious of the Greeks leaving gifts. Wild Being is the breaking out of the men within the horse at night from which chaos follows within the surprised city. Ultra Being is the Acheaens going too far and taking women from the sanctuary of Athena, and the defacement of the image of Athena in the city. Because of the hubris of the Acheaens when they took the city, breaking the sacred bounds in their looting and pillage and rape of the cities women when they took refuge in the temple of Athena they brought down the wrath of Athena on themselves. In reaction to the anger of the Goddess Agamemnon decided to do sacrifices on the beach, but Menelaus decided to flee. Odysseus first went with Menelaus but then turned back only to miss the sacrifice on the beach by Agamemnon. Odysseus who was blamed the most by Athena because it was his trick that allowed the city to be taken, became lost between the reactions of Menelaus and his brother and took the longest to get home, but on the other hand only he had a wife that was true to him. It is precisely at the point where Athena’s anger against Odysseus begins to soften that the Odyssey begins much later. Now a good source to look at to understand the violations by the Acheaens is Oedipus, Philosopher by Gaux.

He explains that Oedipus has failed the hero’s initiation which includes three parts, sexual, intellectual, and sacred. The intellectual part for Odysseus was the trick, the sexual part was the taking of the women from the sanctuary, and the sacred violation was the taking of the image of Athena from the alter. By this we get an insight into Odysseus, he is a combination of Oedipus, the failed initiate and the Hero, the successful initiate. He passed through his own initiation with his grandfather as the scar on his thigh shows, but he failed at the pinnacle of the battle by winning though an underhanded means that led to the violation of the sacred limits though the hubris of the the Acheaens. It is because he is a synthesis of the pharmakon,  like Oedipus, and a kingly hero that Oedipus has such an interesting personality in the Odyssey. The weakness of Odysseus is his stomach or his tendency to fall asleep at odd times. Odysseus is the hero as Pharmakon who wanders due to the wrath of Athena, and then is saved due to the softening of Athena’s anger toward him. He passed the initiation, but failed to reign in his cleverness in battle and resorted to trickery to take what could not be taken valiantly, and because of his invention of the primordial war machine he became an outcast who was doomed to roam the seas of the Worldview and ultimately come home last. Oedipus supplies the answer to the Sphinx which is his intellectual accomplishment.

His sexual accomplishment is to marry his mother, rather than another woman. His hubris was to kill his father at the crossroads when he demanded that Oedipus give way to him which broke his connection with his fathers genealogy. And that is why he started his own genealogy with his mother again. The family tree was pared then grafted. Odysseus created the archetypal war machine as a deception. Odysseus was responsible for the sacking of Troy and the hubris that violated the temples and the images of the Gods of Troy. For that Odysseus was punished by being made a sex slave to a goddess Calypso much the way Hercules had to serve as the slave of a woman. The proof he was a slave was that he could not leave at will, without the help of Hermes. He had to suffer the hubris of his men which occurred every time he went to sleep. Hercules had to carry out his various challenges because of his hubris and had to serve a master he despised and do his bidding, and who tried to get rid of him by giving Hercules impossible tasks. And this hubris of his men prevented him from returning easily and for bringing his men home with him alive. He had to suffer the wrath of Poseidon alone and naked in the sea. He had to suffer the indignity of not being recognized when he returned home, and he had to play the role of a beggar. Where he created the deception of the Trojan Horse in which his men hid to take the city of Troy by deceit, he was foolhardy enough to enter the cave of the Cyclopes from which he almost did not escape, and then he was foolish enough to reveal his name after escaping so that the Cyclopes could call on Poseidon for revenge  on Odysseus. In other words we see how many of the adventures of Odysseus were punishments aligned to his crimes.

However, for all this punishment by the Gods in which the nihilistic extremes are revealed, and also the nondual within the Western worldview is manifest, there is an unfolding of an emergent event and by that the structure of the Western worldview itself. The Emergent Event is unfolded by the lost journey home of Odysseus. And that emergent event has the structure of the meta-levels of Being which all emergent events have intrinsically. So we get the entire structure of the Western worldview in two Epics. Achilles sets the problematic of the recognition of nihilism, and Odysseus gives the answer to that nihilism in the form of the Emergent event of the advent of the archetypal war machine which from that time on made us wary of Indo-Europeans bearing gifts.
Edo Period: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2128.html
Seclusion of Japan: http://www.wfu.edu/~watts/w03_Japancl.html

A trader from Holland told the Shogun of Japan that first the foreigners send priests then they send their army. The Shogun banned Christianity and closed Japan to all foreigners for a long enough time to avoid the fate of China at the hands of the Europeans. For that bit of advice the merchants from Holland were able to come and trade in Tokyo bay once a year. But no other foreigners were allowed on the islands. Eventually the Americans sailed in to Japan with gun boats because they missed the party in China, for instance the part where the English enforced the sale of Opium which led to the Opium war which the Chinese lost.

From the first conquests based on the power of horses in prehistory, first by chariot and when the horses became large enough on horseback, the Indo-Europeans have been bringing dubious gifts to the rest of the world for a long time. Gifts like Colonialization and Globalization, which all have the Western worldview’s structure inscribed in them. This worldview that is dominant the world  over need to be understood. And our best chance for understanding it better ourselves is to look at these manuals that we were given by the ancients which explained the structure of the worldview called the Epics. Fortunately we have both the Ramayana/Mahabharata and the Iliad/Odyssey which look at the same primal scene from two different directions. If we can decode that primal scene then perhaps we can have better self-understanding, and be better understood by the rest of humanity to whom we bear our suspicious gifts like Technology, leading with the technology of War which makes us unrivaled on the world stage. But we have to realize that the world stage is environmentally fragile, and it is a general economy in which no restricted economy can dominate. We have to understand how the nihilistic opposites of emergence and nihilism arise within the global general economy as miracles and blackholes and how their dynamic creates singularities as well as the black swan events that we have become familiar with lately. As adults we need to understand ourselves more deeply following the maxims of Apollo: Know thyself and Nothing to excess. We need to understand ourselves better so that we can explain our worldview better to our children who inherit it unknowingly, and live within its constraints their whole lives without once having the realization of the nihilism of the worldview that Achilles had when Agamemnon took his war prize Briseis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briseisfrom him. The key is Chryseis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chryseis who Apollo forced Agamemnon to give up. Her real name was Astynome:


  1. The daughter of Chryses (whence she is also called Chryseis), a priest of Apollo. She was taken prisoner by Achilles in the Hypoplacian Thebe or in Lyrnessus, whither she had been sent by her father for protection, or, according to others, to attend the celebration of a festival of Artemis. In the distribution of the booty she was given to Agamemnon, who, however, was obliged to restore her to her father, to soothe the anger of Apollo. (Hom. Il. i. 378; Eustath. ad Hom. pp. 77, 118; Dictys Cret. ii. 17.)” http://www.mythindex.com/greek-mythology/A/Astynome.html


If Astynome was at a festival of Artemis, then Achilles violated sacred limits when he took her prisoner. And it just so happened that her father was a priest of Apollo the brother of Artemis. Apollo and Artemis are opposites born of the same mother to Zeus as fraternal twins.
Apollo & Artimis: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c7/Apollo_Artemis_Brygos_Louvre_G151.jpg/610px-Apollo_Artemis_Brygos_Louvre_G151.jpg

These are the duals of Dionysus and Athena which were born from Zeus’s body directly. Thus Apollo/Artemis//Dionysus/Athena are a fourfold. Nietzsche famously wrote about the dualism in Greek culture represented by Apollo and Dionysus. Nietzsche identified with Dionysus, which was probably a mistake because Dionysus tends to drive everyone mad, and in fact Nietzsche went mad, (or so they say). Achilles then violated someone who was in devotion to Artemis, and so that was the original mistake. He was killed by an arrow from Paris which Apollo allowed to hit his weak spot on the heel.

“As predicted by Hector with his dying breath, Achilles was thereafter killed by Paris with an arrow (to the heel according to Statius). In some versions, the god Apollo guided Paris’ arrow. Some retellings also state that Achilles was scaling the gates of Troy and was hit with a poisoned arrow.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achilles

“When the Greeks left for the Trojan War, they accidentally stopped in Mysia, ruled by King Telephus. In the resulting battle, Achilles gave Telephus a wound that would not heal; Telephus consulted an oracle, who stated that “he that wounded shall heal”. Guided by the oracle, he arrived at Argos, where Achilles healed him in order that he became their guide for the voyage to Troy.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achilles

“According to other reports in Euripides’ lost play about Telephus, he went to Aulis pretending to be a beggar and asked Achilles to heal his wound. Achilles refused, claiming to have no medical knowledge. Alternatively, Telephus held Orestes for ransom, the ransom being Achilles’ aid in healing the wound. Odysseus reasoned that the spear had inflicted the wound; therefore, the spear must be able to heal it. Pieces of the spear were scraped off onto the wound and Telephus was healed.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achilles

So Achilles gave Telephus a wound that would not heal. And the oracle gave him the word that Achilles who made the wound must heal it. Achilles on the other hand had his weakness where his mother held him either in a fire or in the river Styx by which she tried to make him immortal. A similar interrupted scene appears in the story of Demeter which is significant. It is by that weak place in his Heel that Apollo causes him to be killed by Paris a coward with a poisoned arrow, i.e. from a distance.

So wounding and wounded are opposites that play a role here in the story of Achilles who was almost immortal except for a small place where he was vulnerable where by the luck of the gods could be struck by a lesser man from a distance. And that man happened to be the one who stole Helen and caused the war in the first place. So Achilles was killed by his nihilistic opposite, one who stole a woman to cause the war to occur who was a coward and who struck from afar by a poisoned arrow. But Paris could not have done that without the help of Apollo who guided that arrow. It was Apollo who caused Agamemnon’s female war prize to be taken away so he as a side effect would seize the female war prize of Achilles.

Apollo is a wolf god, who is the god of initiation. And during initiation the young boy is given a wound which you see in the would of Odysseus during his initiation given to him by a wild boar. Achilles is wounds others such that their wounds do not heal and is wounded himself by a poisoned arrow in his vulnerable spot. He must heal the wound he makes, which is the first sign of his reflexivity. Apollo is on the both sides of Achilles downfall because he forces Agamemnon to give up A so that he will take B and thus produce the realization of nihilism in Achilles that leads to Achilles nihilistic reactions. And he is there guiding the arrow of paris the nihilistic opposite of Achilles home and making the revenge of his sister Artemis complete.
Apollo & Artimis: http://www.toptenz.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Apollo_Artemis_Brygos_Louvre_G151.jpg

Thus Artimis and Apollo play a key role in the Iliad while the key roles in the Odyssey are played by Dionysus and Athena. Artimis is hidden and Apollo is manifest in the Iliad, and Dionysus is hidden and Athena is manifest in the Odyssey. Dionysus is hidden in the Hydra of the suitors who protect Penelope from each other by their vying to marry her when Odysseus is too late home. So in one case the hidden cause of the action is female and the other the hidden cause of the action is male and vice versa with the apparent cause of the action. Thus the nihilistic opposites of Apollo and Artemis, the initiators of males and females who cause them to appear through initiation as adults in society and the opposites of Dionysus and Athena who are themselves the self-productions of the nihilistic two faced storm god Zeus (Baal in Ugritic mythology) whose faces were too light and too dark.
Athena: http://sawiggins.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/douris-athena.jpg

Dionysus is a male that acts like a feminine and Athena is a female who acts like a masculine. Apollo and Artemis are the natural best representatives of Masculine and Feminine primordial virtues and thus are the gods of the boys (wolves) and girls (bears).

Dionysus: http://natzoo.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/dionysus.jpg

All these complex dualities that play themselves out in Greek myth that are expressed in the epics cannot be accidental. They are all precisely worked out so that we can understand the duality of our worldview.


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