[See also the longer essay by Tim Addey:
Some Thoughts - Summer 2012
The following are some thoughts on myths and how we should use them that were included in a talk I gave to the Theosophical Society in London in March 2004 titled: The Greek Gods – A Quantum Reality ! (Talk – March 2004)
EXTRACTS: [A full transcript of the talk is available on request.]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
…..A SHORT PRE-AMBLE IF I MAY:
……… Before we look at some details and myths of the Greek Gods themselves, I would like quickly to consider the nature of myth. One well known saying we should consider is:
‘Myth is what people of one faith call other people’s religion’.
I think it is accepted that many traditional orthodox Jews might consider the storey of Jesus to be a myth, as the Christian might regard the Vedic scriptures and stories of Hindu Gods as myth, as the traditional Hindu might well look at Genesis as a myth – although these days of course we all do this very politely and very PC whatever we may actually be feeling inside.
When it comes to us looking for spiritual information about the Greek Gods, we are largely obliged to look to the Greek myths – but we should have some consideration about the sources of these myths. It is important to remember that the stories of the Greek Gods and the heavens were passed down from generation to generation orally for many centuries, some perhaps for as much as a thousand years, before anything at all was actually written down about them. This has led to a number of variations on certain myths, and certainly various interpretations of certain myths. For example, Socrates himself regards many of the myths as blasphemous or untrue – and I quote Socrates only as a well-known historical man of the time whose opinions we actually have written down for us to agree or disagree with.
An example of such a myth – open to a blasphemous interpretation - would be the abduction of Ganymede by Zeus from the blood and gore of the frontline at the battle of Troy. (and incidentally,…. the ‘Myth of Troy’ is now generally accepted as a reality!) Anyway, Zeus takes pity on the young Ganymede and disguised as a giant eagle descends to Troy and plucks the young boy from the battlefield and takes him up to the abode of the Gods on Mount Olympus to be his cupbearer. For many, it was a simple act of compassion, saving a young lad from the horrors of war; but to some it is an act of monstrous child abduction and rape for which there is of course no evidence. Can two interpretations be further apart ? There is nothing to specifically suggest anything untoward in the myth, but some people like to put the negative interpretation on this storey and indeed many other myths. However, as Socrates says, and I agree, …”such stories and interpretations about the Gods are blasphemous”.
So my point is, we must exercise care in interpreting the myths we have, firstly because of the oral tradition for many centuries before they were written down and therefore a proneness to variation in narrative, and secondly because of the interpretation some people have given to the myths over the years, often negative, as I suppose they are entitled to do, but with no more or less accuracy than any other interpretation. T
The Greek myths are therefore fortunately, (yet unfortunately in some ways as explained above) open to considerable interpretation unlike the myths of some more “closed” or “dogmatic” faiths – often referred to “faiths of a book.”
Regarding the “Faith and Practice” of the ancient Greeks, in truth very little is known about this from ancient times although there are some these days who would claim differently…… This of course is a great shame academically – but also spiritually – since we do know that great importance was attached to the exactness of these holy services in terms of the words used and the actions performed.
So; enough of preliminary remarks urging caution on interpreting myths and the information we have. I shall now tell you something of the Greek view of CREATION and indeed how the twelve main Olympian Gods came into being…..
...... I will then conclude by putting the Greeks Gods and their cosmology into a more modern context, and consider the ‘Gods’ influence on our lives today adding some comments on the latest scientific thinking in quantum physics and how this might oddly be relevant to our lives today. [The full transcript of this talk is available on request.]
..... Regarding the nature of the afterlife, I would like to tell you something very important to our understanding of the Greeks, also revealed by Socrates later on in PLATO’S book PHAEDO. If nothing else, I would like you to take this point away this evening as I think it a crucially important point. When asked by one of his visitors in the Athens jail shortly before his execution about the afterlife, Socrates give a 3 or 4 page answer in some detail that is quite bizarre, with boats taking us down rivers that go around the world etc. It is Socrates final two lines of this passage that are so important and should be remembered. Having given his lengthy “unbelievable” description of the afterlife he says words to the effect: ‘Of course, one can’t expect anyone with any sense or education to believe that what I have just said is exactly or even remotely like what happens literally in reality. But what I have just said is more or less how it is, and we can think of it in that way.’ And this is of course my whole point about many of the Greek myths and stories - were they ever intended to be believed literally, or were they ‘truths’ and ‘descriptions’ given to us in symbolic language and phrases so we could understand the ideas and difficult concepts being discussed?
Furthermore, Socrates in another of Plato’s books, the PHAEDRUS, tells us that we humans will never know what the Gods are, or the DIVINE actually is: we do not have the language or the understanding to even describe these things. But Socrates says; we can describe more or less the situation and roughly some of the aspects of the divine, so that we can get an idea of what it is like.
Now, moving on to the present day, this is exactly the approach adopted many top scientists today, particularly quantum physicists and cosmologists. They are often not sure ‘exactly’ how it is, but they create models that give us an idea of how things are, and help to explain how things may work. If you walk into a science classroom you will see wall charts with pictures of atoms, molecules and many other things. There are also models of molecules with little balls on straws. Well molecules do not look like this at all, and atoms do not look like that chart with electrons circling the nucleus like planets going around the sun. However, these diagrams and models do help students to understand what is going on and “what it is like”.
There have been some fantastic developments in physics generally in the last 50 years and especially in the last 20 years in quantum physics and cosmology that should be of great interest to any spiritual people or religious people of any faith. I am talking about things such as the BIG BANG theory or model of creation, the nature of matter, the shape of the universe, and especially quantum mechanics. Strangely I believe, religious people like me can take comfort from these developments and I’d like to make one or two comments about this before I close. The Greeks through the myth of ORPHEOUS talk about the ORPHIC EGG – and at Cambridge University, Stephen Hawkins, talks about Big Bangs. These are really not such different ideas, and something you might like to discuss if we have time later. As I have mentioned, only this week (March 04) with new photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists are now talking of a time in the universe when there was no light, and then light coming into being. The Greeks talk of Aether (light) being born of Erebus (Darkness) and his wife Nyx, Night. Very strangely, this myth is really is a good likeness in fact to how we are explaining things today scientifically, albeit the ancient Greeks use symbolic ideas and language to make the concepts easy to understand. There are many more examples such as these I can assure you – and they are not unique to the ancient Greek Olympic Religion.
Similarly, under certain conditions nuclear particles can appear from ‘nothing’ and disappear again. Not so far removed from the creation of order from CHAOS in Greek so called mythology.
If you are an agnostic or atheist, and you think that religion is somehow weird and is for ‘weirdos’ – you should try doing a quantum physics course at a top university. Things just don’t make sense ‘scientifically’ and are very weird to say the least when we consider quantum physics and the quantum world:
* A piece of matter can be in two places at once!
* It can appear from nothing and then disappear again!
* It can exist as a particle or a wave or both – until it is believed, only a conscious mind looks at it, and that the ‘looking’ (thinking/knowing) makes it then decide to be a particle or a wave.
* Two partner electrons can communicate and affect each other from different ends of the universe ‘simultaneously’ – and that’s quicker than the speed of light, and that is supposed to be impossible.
Yes, the science of quantum mechanics is all very weird and difficult to understand or say what ‘exactly’ is definitely happening. In truth, in these complicated areas the scientists and physicists have come up against a brick wall in trying to make progress– not a brick wall of technology or equipment to do experiments, not a brick wall which hides the facts from them, but a brick wall of ‘understanding’ which needs them to “let go” of traditional scientific dogma. There is at this moment ONLY ONE ladder that allows this brick wall to be climbed and crossed and allow us to understand the quantum world – and that ladder is FAITH – and the more dogmatic the religion or the priest, and the more dogmatic the scientist and physicist is, the harder that ladder of understanding – the ladder of truth - will be to climb. For they must now climb that ladder together, scientist and priest together – for the name of that ladder is faith as a reality. I am sure that in the next 10 to 15 years only, the most wonderful discoveries will be made in the realm of quantum physics and understanding.
Having digressed a little into science, I would like to curve my remarks back towards the Greek Gods and Greek Myths and repeat some more very wise and prophetic words from Socrates. Remember that top scientists use ‘models’ to explain things. They are the first to admit that these models are not exactly what happens, but that they help us to understand what is going on. They show us ‘kinda’ what it’s like – not exactly how it is - which at the current time is ‘unknowable’ to us humans. As I mentioned earlier, Socrates says the same thing exactly about the Gods in the Phaedrus. He says:
‘We cannot describe the Gods as we don’t have the language to properly describe them, and we will never know exactly what the Gods are…. We can only know some aspects about them and describe what they are like.’
I think these remarks of Socrates compliment extremely well a science book I read recently by Dr John Gribbin - who incidentally has a PhD in astrophysics from Cambridge – so I guess he knows what he is talking about. Dr Gribben says in the final chapter of his book called ‘Schrodinger’s Kittens’ which deals in some detail with the various latest theories and models of quantum physics:
‘I stress again, all such interpretations (..of quantum mechanics) are myths, crutches to help us imagine what is going on at the quantum level and to make testable predictions. They are not, any of them, uniquely ‘the truth’, rather they are all ‘real’, even when they disagree with one another.’
These remarks of Dr Gribben on science seem like wonderful words of advice for us when we consider the myths of other people’s religions. Perhaps the myths are all true – even when they dis-agree with each other. Certainly words worth our consideration I believe.
Finally, I should like to make a few comments about Q.C.F’s. (quantum conscious fields) and recommend a very readable book by the Surrey University microbiology professor Dr. JoJo McFadden. The book is called ‘Quantum Evolution – Life in the Multiverse’ and amongst other things looks at how the human mind works and takes a very up to date scientific look at the latest theories of consciousness.
Now if any of you are psychic (as oppose to a physicist), or know someone who is psychic, and you are interested or confused by how all this ‘might’ work, then try reading this book. Some very interesting scientific discoveries are coming soon in this area according to Dr McFadden. In his book he talks about the Quantum mind, and consciousness being a quantum function. As I have mentioned, the quantum physicists are now busy talking about the possible importance of ‘consciousness’ in particle wave collapse and the formation of particles – i.e. the nature of CREATION. As odd as this may sound, I believe that these areas of study are very relevant to tonight’s subject ‘The Greek God’s – A Quantum Reality’ and indeed religion generally. We should not forget that it was Plato in his THEORY OF FORMS who first suggested that ‘consciousness’ impregnates on matter particles to create matter; and Plato was writing down his ideas long before the benefits of any modern scientific instrumentation - without a particle accelerator in sight….. Given the international reputation of Plato as a rare and gifted mind – perhaps it is time for us to re-examine “the myths of Plato” in the light of modern scientific discovery and the unfolding discoveries of quantum mechanics.
Bibliography / Suggested Further Reading:
(Which at first glance may contain some odd bedfellows, but which will hopefully sit more naturally side by side in the years ahead.)
1) ‘The Myths of Greece and Rome’, by H.A. Guerber. (Harrap, London, 1907) OR: ‘The
Greek Myths – Volumes 1 and 2’, by Robert Graves.
2) ‘The Whole Shebang – A State of The Universe(s) Report’, by Timothy Ferris. (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1997)