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

Jul 31 2011


The Iliad should be read with its lesser sister epic about the rest of the Trojan War called the PostHomerica by Quintus of Smyrna (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posthomerica) which attempts to give a summary of the rest of the Epic cycle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_Cycle). Otherwise you only get half of the story begun by the Iliad and you do not get the background set up information for the Odyssey.

That said what we need to concentrate on in the Odyssey is completely different from the subject matter we talked about in the Iliad. However, because of the constant reference back to the Iliad by the Odyssey, it is necessary to understand the Iliad very well in order to get this references to the earlier epic. Of course, the whole of the Epic cycle is the true context but we do not have all of that to refer to. But it is enough for us that we have the Iliad and the Odyssey which because of their antiquity in comparison with the Mahabharata really gives us some fundamental insights into what the proto-epic cycle must have been like.

The narrative of the Odyssey is quite complex and more sophisticated than that of the more archaic Iliad. Therefore we are even more reliant on commentaries in the reading of this epic due to its complexity of reference and its own internal structure that has a kind of sublime quality to it that is hard to imagine a human being writing. The greatest question that we can pursue the answer to in this respect is how did Homer do it? How did he come up with a narrative and his scenes and characters interacting in those scenes to give such archetypal primal images of our worldview that are so succinct and perfectly formed that almost everyone who reads this text is entranced by it. It has a perfection that no other text I know of can boast. And we can see that in the wealth of commentaries and all the subtle points about this book that they point out and that we continue to discover with each new generation of scholars. We are so lucky to have this book as the foundation of our culture. And we know that the Greeks themselves appreciated it, and its precursor because they had reading contests where it was recited, and they never tired of hearing it spoken.

But what is so fascinating about this text is that it addresses a very fundamental question, which is about the structure of the Western worldview. It exists as a users manual to the worldview in which we live. And if we did not have this text we could hardly understand our own worldview, and to the extent that this text is no longer read and central to our education, we lose out because we do not have other sources of this kind of knowledge about the constitution of the Indo-European worldview in general and the Western worldview in specifics. So the Odyssey is a marvel. It is deeply philosophical while at the same time being an entertaining story, and it builds up the tradition because it is always referring back to the Iliad as its primal ground, which it is reflexive about, more or less as the second half of Cervantes novel is, because in the mean time a fake version of the second half was published which he could make fun of along the way. The Odyssey has this kind of reflexiveness where it is kind of a joke concerning its relation to the Iliad. As the bard told it he was playing on the knowledge of his audience of the earlier epic, and with a sly wit indeed. We don’t really get this kind of Humor again until Plato. Like in Plato, everything is ironic to some degree.

The story starts as I have said at the point where Athena (http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Mythology/AthenaGallery.html) is no longer angry at Odysseus, as he sits on an island in the middle of the Sea, stuck as a sex slave of a goddess who does not want to let him go. He wants to return to his family and gives up immortality in order to go home. Everyone says that it is to see Penelope but this is far from the truth. Who he longs to see is really his Father. Everything about the Iliad and Odyssey is about Fathers and Sons. The Odyssey is about his wanting to go home to see his Father, and his Son. This is because that is how the patriarchal line is maintained. So we have already noted that Odysseus was the scape goat for the sacrileges that were performed by the achaeans in the Sacking of Troy. Odysseus was the one by his Metis that came up with the ruse that allowed the Achaeans to take the city by trickery when they could not take it by arms. And this showed that ultimately they were not the great warriors that they pretended to be, because they were all dishonored by this ruse, but worse than that the gods had been afforded by their hubris in taking the city during the rape and pillage they violated temples where the women sought refuge, and also a icon of Athena was treated as if it were merry another prize to be stolen, so Athena became angry and due to her wrath the Achaeans had two responses. Menalaus fled with his ships and Agamemnon stayed on the beach making sacrifices. Notice how interesting this is that Agamemnon had to make a sacrifice of his daughter to get favorable winds to come to Troy, and at the end of the war he stands on the shore and makes sacrifice in order to get his men home safely. But although his men return safely, death at the hands of his own wife awaits him. He gets home first and is killed while Menelaus gets home last but gets eternal life with his faithless wife. Only Odysseus has a good homecoming, but much delayed by the anger of Athena toward him. Just as Artemis and her brother drove the story of the Iliad, so here it is Athena and Dionysus. And just like in the Iliad where Ares plays a major role, here it is Athena playing that major role helping Odysseus get home. And it seems that the reason she wants him to get home is for the sake of his Son, Telemachus, who she immediately goes to help while Hermes bears the message to Calypso that she must set Odysseus free. So the question is where is Dionysus who is in occultation within the story. And the answer is as has been said previously that Dionysus is there in the form of the Suitors, who in vying for Penelope protect her from each other, they are doing so as they party and get drunk and do all the things that the adherents to Dionysus do. Now the best commentary by far is called Archery in the Dark of the Moon. And that commentary revolves around the revenge of Odysseus against the suitors. But if you ask yourself where Dionysus is while Athena is looking out for Odysseus, he is with Telemachus and Penelope in spirit protecting Penelope and making Telemachus angry enough with his guests that he begins to assert himself as a man.

Telmachus and Penelope

There is no way that I can do justice to the Odyssey in the shadow of this book. there are many good commentaries but this one actually does the text it is commenting on justice. So I suggest you stop reading this post and go read this book.

Artemis, Apollo, Leda

For those of you still around, after that aside, we can talk just between ourselves about precisely what is happening between the beginning and manifest with Athena and the end and unmanifest with Dionysus. These are the primary embodiments of the nihilistic opposites in Greek Society. Nietzsche talks about Apollo (to whom we have to add the mention of Artemis). What is forgotten when talking about Apollo is that he is a wolf God of initiations of Boys just as Artemis is a goddess of the initiation of girls usually as bears. Nietzsche does not seem to be aware that we must balance out the opposites of Apollo and Dionysus with their female counterparts. Apollo and Atriums are fraternal twins of Leda, but Dionysus and Athena are born directly out of the body of Zeus, the two faced god, one face dark and the other light.

Zeus before birth of Athena

Athena from the head of Zeus three versions http://wotantue.us/Greek/Comm.Week5

Athena with Aegis
Zeus (Baal) is the god who embodies the nihilism of the Western Worldview and what comes out of his body are embodiments of those artificial nihilistic extreme opposites, ie. Dionysus and Athena. These are the products of Zeus while Hera produces either monsters like the Typhoon or Hephaestus who is lame, and who she throws out of Olympus because she cannot bear to look at him, mainly because he is the maker of all things artificial, his miraculous devices for example, for instance the Box of Pandora and the Shield of Achilles, as well as the things he made that Odysseus encounters in Scheria. Dionysus comes out of the Thigh of Zeus while Athena comes out of his head, fully formed in her armor. Dionysus is the son of Semele (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semele) who asked to see Zeus in all his wonder and was smitten. So Zeus placed Dionysus in his thigh to gestate.

Zeus and Semele by Sebastiano Ricci
See http://www.oceansbridge.com/paintings/museums/uffizi-pitti-galleries/big/Sebastiano_RicciXXJove_and_Semele.jpg

Birth of Dionysus from the Thigh of Zeus

Dionysos http://www.carnaval.com/silenus/

Dionysus is the only god to experience death because as a child he was torn apart by the Titans, and then like Osiris was reassembled, only to continue to exist and bring trouble where ever he went, as he drove everyone mad that came in touch with him, for instance Nietzsche who made the mistake of identifying with the god. In some of Nietzsche’s last cogent letters he signed the name Dionysus. We should say that Dionysus is Shiva, and Apollo is Brahma in Hindu mythology. So this allows us to call upon Hindu mythic sources to try to understand this pair that Nietzsche claimed were the fundamental dual perspectives of the Greek worldview. We make this duality seen by Nietzsche a bit more complex, but also more comprehensible by adding to this mix Athena and Artemis. The myth that draws all of these gods together is that if Ariadne and the journey to destroy the Minotaur. Ariadne is abandoned by her Apollonian hero, Theseus who unlike Oedipus passed through initiation without failure, on an island by her self. She marries Dionysus and is killed in the end by Artemis. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariadne). Theseus uses Ariadne’s Thread to defeat the minotaur with the Labyrinth, and then flees with Ariadne only to abandon her.

Dionysus & Ariadne
The fact that the epics are organized in a way in which the Iliad emphasizes Apollo and Artemis and the Odyssey emphasizes Athena and Dionysus, where the former gods in each pair are manifest and the second god in each pair is hidden is very significant because it helps us see how the Epics are organized around Nihilistic opposites. These opposites are what are inside of Zeus who has a dark and light face as a storm god with lightening too light and the clouds with thunder too dark, which also makes a differentiation between seeing and hearing in our relation to the gods. It is as if Athena and Dionysus are the nihilistic opposites that are inside of Zeus that when they appear out of the upper and lower parts of Zeus’s body are embodied. We said earlier in another answer that we have nihilistic opposites which collapse into each other and when they do that that it produces the two limits of paradox A yet B and B yet A. These paradoxes collapse into the same absurdity, and are composed of twin contradictions. Athena is a woman who acts masculine and Dionysus is a man who acts effeminate. This is part of their being limiting cases. Metis is the mother of Athena who Zeus consumes as Cronos does all his children, and Semele is the mother of Dionysus who asks to see his actual form and is obliterated. Metis is the type of cunning and practical wisdom that Odysseus exemplifies. Semele on the other hand is the one who wants to experience direct reality not the illusions of Zeus’ appearances. We can see how if we run the process of differentiation of Contradiction, Paradox and Absurdity backward, then we can see how Zeus can be seen as a synthesis of the embodied nihilistic opposites of his offspring but mediated by their mothers who represent cognition and intuition, in the Kantian sense. On the other hand it is clear that the Absurdity splits into nihilistic opposites which themselves embody contradictions. There is a space created by these nihilistic opposites but that space is held apart by the contradictions and paradoxes that we see in these four gods. Artemis is the initiator for girls into Bears which is the process seen in the lifecycle of Artemis. Apollo is the initiator for boys into Wolves and this process is seen in the initiation ceremonies of the boys where they learn how to be men who will protect their cities and be able to distinguish friend from foe. The girls are identified with nature in the initiation process even though they live in the cities and their houses like prisoners. The boys are identified with the city and its protection although their initiation takes place in the wild lands between the cities. Thus we see how the humans are cast in the role of the nihilistic opposites that tear them apart many times with cruel fates, but the gods are the contradictions, paradoxes and absurdities that appear when the nihilistic opposites collapse together as the double binds breakdown and destroy the humans that embody those double binds.




Further fine exmaples of Absurdity
These photos appear in the book The Architect’s Brother, republished last year by Twin Palms Publishers

We are trying to develop this idea further within the context of the Odyssey. It is fascinating to think that the relation between humans and the gods (jinn) is one where humans are bound by constraints between nihilistic alternatives that place them into catastrophic double-binds. When these humans who are caught in the double binds realize their nihilistic nature the duals become appearances only one we see through them to the reality underneath. This insight leads to anomie as it did with Achilles when one sees through the nihilistic illusory appearances to the reality beyond them (The Achaeans are the same as the Trojans, therefore this war has not intrinsic meaning because what we objected to in them we do ourselves). But when this anagogic swerve or insight occurs that allows us to see through the nihilistic situation, then in effect the nihilistic opposites collapse together and we see the absurdity of the situation. But this in turn produces an equal and opposite reaction in which the paradoxical limits arise and those limits are seen as the gods. In the case of the Iliad and Odyssey we go from one paradoxical limit being emphasized to the other, we go from Artemis and Apollo being at the root of the difficulty, Achilles took a devotee of Artemis prisoner in a raid and gave her to Agamemnon and then took Briseis for himself. But when Agamemnon had to give up his war prise because Apollo demanded it for the sake of Artemis, then he took the war prize of Achilles, and this in a kind of domino effect showed that the Achaean King and leader of the expedition was just like Paris who had taken Helen. So why are we spending 9 years in siege and battling over a principle that we do not keep ourselves? Now Artemis and Apollo are born from Leda, and their actions are in reaction to the thoughtless and transgressive action of Achilles himself. So these actions of the gods have a karmic aspect to them. Achilles grabbed the wrong girl who was worshiping Artemis and was the daughter of the priest of Apollo. Thus Achilles crime was against the pair of them and for that Achilles had to suffer the shame of having is own prize taken by the king to make up for what the king lost. Due to this Achilles realized the nihilistic reality of the War itself because Agamemnon is no better than Paris but what is not realized is that it was Achilles himself who took Agamemnon’s war prize in the first place as booty in a raid on outlying areas around Troy, so when we look deeper we see that Achilles is actually no better than Agamemnon and Paris. The gods in this case are the limits from which the karmic action bounces back, because they take action to protect their own, their worshipers and priests. These limits are encountered when the paradoxes of the double-binds collapse into absurdity, and then the limits are produced within which the action occurs in the space opened by the paradoxical limits that in turn produce the contradictory limits. And in the space of these limits the mortals experience the intensification of nihilism as we move to the next deeper set of double binds.

Now the same principle is at work in the Odyssey, but with a fundamental difference. First of all Odysseus has no realization of nihilism, he really thinks only of survival and his stomach and other passions. He is completely who he is unselfconsciously. But who he is IS an absurd combination of the Hero King and Pharmakon like Oedipus. On the one hand he is very clever, but on the other hand he is only thinking of his own survival and justifying why he did not return with his crew, that it was not his fault, they brought their fate upon themselves, because he was conveniently asleep when all the transgressions occurred. The Odyssey opens with the counter to this charge, and the whole tale is meant to justify Odysseus returning alone.


Géraldine Javier
The Absurdity of Being (2007) http://paperimages.tumblr.com/tagged/G%C3%A9raldine_Javier


Now we need to go on to another subject which is the whole question of who is the Pharmakon and who is the King. It has been discovered that some primate populations are for the most part bi-modal. One mode has an alpha male with his harem of females (which is the matriarchal scene). The Beta males who are probably his own offspring try to take the territory he has marked and the harem of females that represent the reproductive resource pool away from the Alpha male. But hour side the power structure there are also another mode of the population which is made up of independent Males and independent females who are outcasts and live in the margins of the power structures of various boundary marking Alpha Males. Since when the beta-males take over the harem they will kill the offspring of the deposed Alpha male. So these females have liaisons with free and independent outcast males so that they have somewhere to go with their offspring in case a coup occurs. So there is a build in escape mechanism where females have liaisons with outcast males, and this is no different from the fact that the Beta and Alpha males will have relations with the outcast females, so illicit affairs are built in from the beginning. Elicit affairs keeps the genome mixed up which is a necessary condition of avoiding the problems that come with inbreeding. Now in this mammalian scenario the pharmakon is the outcast from the outcasts, he is the one that even the outcasts cast out, beyond the pale and beyond the borders of interaction. But if the pharmakon can take some of the outcast females with him then he can set himself up as an alpha male in a new territory. Thus the pharmakon is pushed out into new territories, but this just leads to the expansion of the cells of territories within which there are alpha males. So the pharmakon can easily become a king, and vice versa as we see with Oedipus the king can become a pharmakon. And interestingly it is Oedipus who becomes the one who initiates the sons of Theseus.


Lyubomir Sergeev
From http://paperimages.tumblr.com/

So in the Odyssey we are seeing this dynamic of the Kingly Hero who becomes pharmakon and then becomes King again. In many ways the whole purpose of the Odyssey is to how how this circulation occurs. Odysseus is pushing out to new territories beyond his worldview in his travels but eventually he comes back home to become King again through a series of recognition steps. But in this case, just like the four limits of Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus, Athena define the limits of human experience in a nihilistic landscape and as such show us what is inside of Zeus in terms of his self-production and his other production of offspring. Zeus himself holds the nihilistic light and dark faces together but when they are embodied outside himself they become these four limits. So to the places projected as being outside the Greek Worldview turn out to be an unfolding of the inward structure of the Western worldview. Thus if we pay close attention we can read off or see through to the underlying structure of the Western worldview through the panoply of structural opposites we are presented in the narrative, all seemingly unrelated but producing a field, which implies a certain structure to the worldview itself.

So if someone embedded in the Western wordview wanted to understand the world itself, made up of Heaven/Earth & Mortals/Immortals as Socrates said then we would use the Odyssey along with the Iliad and their mutual reflections as our guide. Many of these points have already been made in my electronic book The Fragmentation of Being and the Path Beyond the Void which is at http://works.bepress.com/kent_palmer. That is a story of the primal scene of the Indo-European worldview and how that scene permutes and moves into Greek Philosophy and eventually into Plato and the interesting relation of Aristophanes with Plato where in we discover the Negative Fourfold and its relation to the positive fourfold. The world appears between Heaven and Earth and between Mortals and Immortals. but within that world is the continuous production of nihilistic extreme opposites which collapse together occasionally and produce absurdity that in turn produces the limits of human experience that the Gods represent and embody.


Ok. We cannot do a whole commentary here to prove the point, but we need an example that is clear. Now as an example we have already shown how the Iliad embodies the negative metaphysical fourfold, and its reversal as well as the positive metaphysical fourfold. So where are these elements in the Odyssey? We will look at Chapter 1 of Part 2 http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/homer/aoo/aoo24.htm. Here all of the aspects of the Negative Fourfold converge on Odysseus, in his passage from the Island of Calipso to Scheria. There Poseidon finds Odysseus in his own medium the Sea unprotected so he sends a raging storm against Odysseus in attempt to drown him. So the storms sent against Odysseus are the Chaos. The Abyss is the depths of the sea itself which Odysseus would enter if he drowned. The covering comes from a nymph Ino who takes pity on Odysseus and gives him a veil of hers to wear which like a life jacket will prevent him from drowning. And the point is that this nymph comes out of the sea to give him a Veil, a very unlikely Deus ex Machina event. And a great point is made that Odysseus has to swim night and day to get to the shore. When he gets to Scheria there are rocks, and he has to entrust himself to the river to whom he prays for help. He makes it to shore, and finds refuge beside to olive trees entwined wild and tame. These olive trees of course stand for Athena which combines male and female traits, and thus the wildness of each and the tameness of each. So all the parts of the Negative Fourfold appear in this journey from Calipso’s isle to Scheria, even a veil comes out of nowhere to complete the picture of the negative fourfold. And according to Aristophanes what is born from the negative fourfold is Eros, and thus young girls are discovered doing their laundry adjacent to where Odysseus slept the night naked under the branches of the dual olive trees that mark the structural distinction between wild and tame, between the wilds that Odysseus have crossed and the tameness of the ultra-civilization of Scheria (a proto-Atlantis). You will notice that Calypso’s Isle is right at the center of the ocean. When he departs from that he goes into an imaginary high technology world of the Scherians, a sort of Utopia of those who live close to the Gods. But they are also descendants of Poseidon, Odysseus’ enemy among the gods. But between the entrapment in the center of the ocean as a sex slave to Calypso, the ultimate degradation for a hero, it is when he leaves this island that he encounters Poseidon’s wrath and the negative fourfold gets thrown at him. But on the other side of Calypso’s island is Carbides, which is a gigantic whirlpool, so it is a chaotic vortex, it is an abyss that the wanter is pouring into. Odysseus when his ship and men were lost clung to the mast and keel lashed together, and the mast has sails on it which are coverings that catch the wind. And Odysseus floated all night towards Charybdis. And when Charybdis swallowed his raft Odysseus hung on a branch of a tree above the whirlpool, for a long time because the influx and outflux from the whirlpool occured three times a day. So he waited hanging in the air with his feet above the whirlpool for some time before he regained his raft and then nine days later was able to make it to the Island of Calypso. Charybdis has covered up the raft for the time that Odysseus is hanging from the fig tree in a groundless state. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charybdis)



So let us notice that there are versions of the negative fourfold before and after his entrapment on the island of Calypso. On the one had we have groundlessness where Odysseus is hanging over an abyss. His raft is covered up by being engorged by the whirlpool. Night has no special significance other than being the prelude to meeting Charybdis at sunrise. Chaos appears as the storm in which the ship goes down with all his men which also is a prelude, and it appears as the whrilpool and the engorging of the water three times a day. But it seems the real emphasis here is on groundlessness.

On the other hand with respect to the attempt of Poseidon to kill him with a storm the emphasis is on the miracle of a sea nymph helping Odysseus survive by her giving him a veil, or scarf of hers, which is one of the highly enigmatic events in the story. It is a or covering that allows him to survive because it acts as a lifejacket and prevents him from drowning when he has lost his raft.

In both encounters with the Negative Fourfold Odysseus loses his raft, but in one case he is saved by a well placed fig tree, from which he hangs groundless, and in the other case he uses a veil to survive being drowned in the depths where he would be covered over by the sea. So going into Calypso’s island there is groundlessness, between attaining and regaining his raft. Coming out of Calypso’s island the emphasis is on the Veil given deus ex machina that saved him from Poseidon’s wrath through a veil given to him by a nymph.


Calypso’s realm is a timeless place, and if Odysseus stayed there he would gain immortality with Calypso. But the entry and exit into this timeless realm is through the negative fourfold. Going in there is the experience of groundlessness hanging over a whirlpool. Going out there is the experience of veiling or covering.

In both cases there are storms, one which destroys the ship and his men, and the other directed at him by poseidon. In both cases there is night as the period just before the encounter with Charybdis, and as an interlude in his swimming as well as the time of rest once he reaches land where he is close to the twin olive trees. Interestingly there is a saving quality to a tree in each of the scenes related to the negative fourfold. These are of course manifestations of the WorldTree which is part of the primal Indo-European scene of the Well and the Tree (cf Paul C. Bauschatz).


Calypso’s isle is central and there Odysseus is making love to the goddess, which is a manifestation of Eros. In the account of Aristophanes Eros is born out of the Negative Fourfold first. So here Eros and timelessness (immortality) is bracketed with the two encounters with the Negative Fourfold. But Odysseus is not happy on the island and with the prospects of immortality, because he wants to see his father, his son and by the way his wife.

In the Iliad within the war falling into the Abyss of Death and Chaos of the Battlefield were background elements while the Night Raid and the Veiling of Paris by Aphrodite were specific incidents. So the emphasis in the Iliad is on Night and Veiling with Abyss and Chaos being background elements.

In the Odessey, Abyss (Groundlessness) and Veiling are called out specifically and Night and Chaos are in the background.

So there is an asymmetry here. Veiling is important to both sagas of the aspects of negative fourfold that are embodied in them. Then Iliad emphasizes Night, while Odyssey emphasizes Abyss and Chaos is deemphasized as a background condition in both. So unexpectedly the two epics introduce an order into the Negative Fourfold which becomes a lattice where veiling is emphasized by both, Abyss and Night are emphasized in each, and Chaos is a precondition in each but is not emphasized.

So now we have some structurally significant information about the negative fourfold within the Western worldview that we did not have previously. The fact that Veiling is the most significant for both aligns with the emphasis placed on it by Heidegger in relation to Alethia, the uncovering truth which is also emphasized in the Oedipus myth. But the fact that Night characterizes the Iliad and Groundlessness characterizes the Odyssey is very interesting, and that Chaos is pushed to the background in both is also of interest. Night is of course reversed to become Light and Light is associated with Glory which is the crux of the Iliad. Glory is obtained by acts of valor in the chaos of War. It is the too light nihilistic dual on the background of the too dark element of chaos. On the other hand within the Odyssey there is an emphasis on covering, the veil which is shared by the two. In one case it is the covering of Paris with a mist so he can escape the battle field to see Helen. On other hand it is Odysseus being given the saving veil by the sea nymph that acts as flotation device. But what the Odessey itself emphasizes is groundlessnes, the opposite of which is finding a ground. Odysseus finds a ground, which is the island in the center of the sea where Calypso lives. that ground gives Odysseus the promise of immortality. But Odysseus instead weeps because he cannot return to his finite family and retain his own finitude. So after the experience of Groundlessness, Odysseus obtains groundedness, i.e. a foundation at the center of the ocean, but he forsakes it for finitude, and thus has to encounter the four fold again where instead of groundlessness he is saved by being veiled. And what follows on from this is a series of recognition scenes though which he gains his old position as King of Ithica he had before he left for the war and thus ceases to become an outcast. So this means that as Pharmakon Odysseus must experience his groundlessenss, and then find a ground where immortality is possible, but then must come back out of that grounding to embrace the veil in order to be recognized as King again step by step as he is recognized by the various people he meets as who he really is.

So the Odyssey at very least is giving us information on how one is transformed from a Pharmakon into a King (alpha male) and that is through a twice encounter with the negative fourfold and then an encounter with eros on the island at the center of the sea which has the possibility of immortality which is then rejected in favor of finitude.

All of this tells us in no uncertain terms about the nature of the Western Worldview in which the Negative Fourfold gives us more insight into the worldview than the Positive Fourfold of Heaven/Earth//Mortals/Immortals. Note that at the central island where Odysseus is a captive he is in a direct erotic relation with a goddess. And the only he can be freed of this is by the intervention of Zeus via Hermes. But what does this tell us. Odysseus wants to go home. But why. And one thing we might say is that he somehow as recognized the nihilism of the possibility of eternal life with the gods, i.e. something that Menelaus has attained which was denied to his brother Agamemnon. In other words both the relationship where the Patriarch is killed by his wife, probably because Agamemnon killed her prior husband and their daughter, is just as nihilistic as the relationship that goes on forever, but is never completely satisfying. Odysseus has a full relationship with his wife in which they are both clever in their own ways, and they take a stand together against their enemies and they take a stand together with their friends. This middle course between the failed marriage because of patriarchal violence, or due to the fact that the wife is not faithful, so that Menelaus has to live with that unfaithfulness forever, is defined as a non-nihilistic distinction between the two nihilistic alternatives. This weeping of Odysseus for his family and his wanting to return even though it will mean his eventual death is as close as we come in the Odyssey to self-consciousness and the realization of the nihilism of the other alternatives. But the self-conscious recognition of Nihilism is not as pronounced and directly portrayed as it is with Achilles. But this orientation toward finitude and its positive features in relation to the alternatives as embodied in a good marriage is something we would not have expected to find at the center of the Odyssey.

Menelaus and Helen

Agamemnon sacrificing Iphigenia with Clytemnestra looking on.


No responses yet

Comments are closed at this time.

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog