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by Alfred de Grazia




One thunderstorm does not make a great god, nor does one volcano. Further, ordinary nature does not make a great god, neither its abundances nor its famines. The struggles of old bulls with young bulls over cows do not make a great god. A great god dwells in heaven, but can be everywhere. A people will recognize another people's great god as kindred but, too, the god is often hostile. Every great god emerges out of an apparently universal disaster in which the skies are involved, not excepting the great Mother - Earth Goddess, oldest of all, who cast off from her heaving body the oppressive Heaven, Uranus.

The gods of the Love Affair are great gods. And to the skeptic who deplores the deceit, adultery, an generally libertine and human deportment of these "stars," one might remark: "You cannot imagine how really badly these gods behaved; it was inutterably worse... Anyhow, no one is saying that these are your gods, and we had better not get onto that subject."

The gods of Demodocus opera theater behave as they do to cover up their real behavior which is infinitely more destructive, indiscriminate, and punitive. The next problem of this stage is to show how their more intolerable behavior works itself out as a bedroom farce. How was the traumatic disaster transformed?


The best available model for the interpretation of a myth is the dream. As was shown in an early chapter, the staging of the telling of myth creates a collective Holy Dreamtime. The audience is prepared to dream, to engage in dreamwork themselves, and to emerge with a sense of heightened reality. For reality is the unreality that enable people to compose their anxieties. In The Interpretation of Dreams, his admitted masterwork [1] , Sigmund Freud told how dream functions to keep one asleep, and one can only stay asleep so long as the unconscious problems that bother him most are censored and reworked into a form, which, while often disgusting and disturbing upon recollection, is nevertheless better than the unconscious reality.

To discover the latent wish whose fulfillment keeps one asleep is not always easy, as many a psychiatrist will attest. Homer tried his hand at it, in an astonishing scientific leap over two millennia:

It is dark. Odysseus has returned to his palace. He presents himself to Penelope, his wife, in the disguise of an old beggar who has some knowledge of her husband, the long-wandering king of Ithaca. He wins her confidence. Penelope speaks to him (in disguise as an old beggar):

Let me ask you to interpret a dream of mine which I shall now describe. I keep a flock of twenty geese in the place. They come in from the pond to pick up their grain and I delight in watching them. In my dream I saw a great eagle swoop down from the hills and break their neck with his crooked beak, killing them all, There they lay in a heap on the floor while he vanished in the open sky. I wept and cried aloud, though it was only a dream, and the Achaean ladies, gathering around me, found me sobbing my heart out because the eagle had slaughtered my geese. But the bird came back. He perched on a jutting timber of the roof, and breaking into human speech he checked my tears. "Take heart," he said, 'daughter of the noble Icarius. This is not a dream but a happy reality which you shall see fulfilled. The geese were your lovers, and I that played the eagle's part am now your husband, home again and ready to deal out grim punishment to every man among them. ' At this point I awoke. I looked around me and there I saw the geese in the yard pecking their grain at the trough in their accustomed place.

"Lady," replied the subtle Odysseus, "nobody could force any other meaning on this dream; You have learnt from Odysseus himself how he will translate it into fact. Clearly the suitors are all of them doomed: There is not one who will get away alive." [2] The cunning and cautious Odysseus agrees quickly, in an uncharacteristic way. (Or can one believe that Homer was so extremely subtle as to make him here super-cunning?)

A psychiatrist does well to avoid counsel where his own private involvement is deep. Penelope's wish may not have been that her husband return and the suitors be slain, but quite the contrary, that her legendary patriarchal husband not return so that her beautiful geese could continue to play about her and eat from her board. This latent and ambivalent wish has been bothering her and making her sleep badly, we hear. Perhaps the best that the dream could contrive for her was to act out what she feared, followed by a hysterical awakening; and then came the half-asleep explanation, with which Odysseus emphatically agreed [3] .

It is perhaps one of the signal achievements of humanity to have discovered and applied the principles of collective dreamwork. The sacred conscious dreamers of ancient Phaecia do stay asleep and it is an amusing dream. They are awakened gently by the boys leaping into the air after a ball. Odysseus, one might think, should have been upset by the Love Affair dream. It would not stretch the imagination to put himself in Hephaestus' place, long absent, with his wife rumored to be consorting with various suitors, enjoying his bed as they were his board. Instead he was "glad at heart, following the Song of Demodocus." There was fundamentally more at stake in the dream than his Penelope and possessions.

The reduction of the gods to human terms in the Love Affair myth under examination is basically a way of coping with them. It is universal in religion, as annoying as it may be to rational philosophers. All religion is a dream; the actions here analyzed are a mere flicker played upon a universal human screen.

Within itself, however, the present myth has an external logic that most dreams do not possess. Freud speaks of the occasional reorganization that occurs in dreams so as to reassemble the transmuted pieces into an acceptable form that fools one with its facade of "really the way things happen." The myth has been worked upon consciously. It is not Kafka-esque or Ionescu-esque; it does not double back upon itself like the theater of the absurd. Homer had gone far, but not that far. His myth is classical, "rational," "normal."

His handling of the material gives a clue as to how the Greek and Western mind will work from then on in transmuting its unconscious material into its fictional components: "realism," romanticism (in the vulgar sense), explicit motivation, clarity of plot. At least, this has been the leading thrust of western literature, especially of popular literature, until now.

Freud mentions also the reversal of cause and effect in dreams. One is uncertain, for example, exactly "how the gods flew." The astrophysical uncertainty leaves one uncertain whether such a reversal may have affected the myth. Since destruction was mutual among the parties, the myth-work could have enjoyed some leeway in deciding "who did what to whom" and thereby ease its task.

Other features of dreamwork that Freud analyzed have already been treated. He says that the dreamer is always present in his dream, although somewhat apart as a kind of third person, and our myth contains its dreamers as well, from Athena and Odysseus, down to the ordinary household retainer crowding at the periphery of the audience, the ordinary man beset by the disastrous conduct of the gods.

Freud says, too, that the dreamer commands symbolic language which he has never been aware of learning. And George English has neatly stated that "a dream is a tool for rubbing information against information." So, although the ordinary Phaeacian was not a master of the ceremonies, he was, as a community member, entitled to identify himself with the action; the symbolism of the myth may have meant as much to him or her as it did to Odysseus, or more.

Freud discovered that when the wakened dreamer recites the dream, he is prone to deny most vociferously those elements that are exercising the dreamwork censorship. Everything may be made clear except that which is most obvious - the purpose of the dream. What might have been going on in the unconscious mental operations of the Phaeacian dreamers was described in the pages on "The Love Affair as the Mask of Tragedy." But if Odysseus or any Phaeacian were to be questioned about the myth, his most assured remark would be that it was comedy, not a tragedy; that disaster was not his concern, that the gods had everything under control and didn't mean what they were doing anyhow - in short, a total contradiction of the covert meaning of the myth.

Elsewhere in these pages, other Freudian injunctions as to the components of dreamwork were considered: the transmutation of catastrophic symbolism into the symbols of the smithy and the bedroom; the matching of plot with reality, and reality with wish; the uncovering of the levels of meaning.

Freud can help on at least one more perplexing point, because it bedeviled him too. One cannot help but wonder at the sanguine piling up of levels of different meaning upon single words, phrases and symbolic deeds; this author must seem like a table waiter setting upon his arm an alarmingly tall stack of plates. Freud talks in The Interpretation of Dreams of the genius of dreamwork.

It is, indeed, not easy to form any conception of the abundance of the unconscious trains of thought, all striving to find expression, which are active in our minds. Nor is it easy to credit the skill shown by the dream-work in always hitting upon forms of expression that can bear several meanings; My readers will always be inclined to accuse me of introducing an unnecessary amount of ingenuity into my interpretations; but actual experience would teach them better [4] .

Even when the mind is carefully trained to perceive and understand by one sign only a single referent, it does so under duress. For such perception and cognition is not only inhuman; it is false to "reality." And when freed from the bonds of an everyday meaning, the mind exhibits an astonishing genius for combinations and patterns of "unreal reality." Hephaestus' lameness means all that we have said it means, and perhaps even more. The movements of the plot of the Love Affair are of the number and variety of the movements of great bodies in the sky, a double-tracked reality that scarcely strains the myth-making mind.

Given that Ninevah and Sparta were designed by their rulers to imitate various celestial archetypes, can one still be amazed that the same archetypes will have been working within the unconscious mind to produce many other manifestations, concealed as well as overt?

Where Freud cannot help one, or rather, where one would not want his help, given his theories, is in the interpretation of the larger framework of sexualism and catastrophe. For here, as mentioned before, Freud, like every other authority except the rare predecessors of, and those of the circle of, Velikovsky has not known or been willing to acknowledge the priority of catastrophes over other drives and behaviors in the creation of human nature and institutions as found today. Freud may have postulated an instinct for "ego-survival," but he did not conceive how catastrophically the ego had been threatened.


The Love Affair is especially appropriate for the analysis of the causal forces in human history because it seems on its face to show that sex is so important that even disasters are translated into sexual terms. This is true only in a quantitative sense; sexuality is a step down from catastrophe in the mental turmoil associated with it, and, as such, is a logical deflator of catastrophic anxiety. The Love Affair, paradoxically, reveals sexuality to be secondary in the definition of human nature.

At the beginning one must of course grant the obvious: the Love Affair is saturated with sexuality. It would be difficult to conceive, furthermore, of any area of behavior that would provide such a complete analogy to the latent action and at the same time one that would communicate so readily with the audience of ancient Greeks. We have already remarked on the Grecian fascination with the struggle between the sexes.

Sexuality is primeval, familiar, a continuous source of conflict. It is both marvelous and understandable, surrounded with mishap, steady, dangerous and humorous. It lends itself to moods, to sharing and exclusiveness, to love and hate. It is endlessly diverting and suggestive with respect to ordinary nature. In its reproductive aspects, it is profoundly meaningful to short-lived and disease-prone people. But, one should not forget, sexuality points "downward," to the animal kingdom, further to the plants. What has sex to do with the astral gods? No. The philosophers are right in their way, Sex is tossed by man onto the laps of gods. It is an expiative and control mechanism. "You shall have all we have, and, (cunningly) you will be controlled by it, too."

One must not go too far afield. This ground should be left for a later ploughing. One is faced in the Love Affair with a sexuality thousands of years beyond its first ramifications into human nature. Here it is necessary only to throw up a barrier against interpreting the Love Affair as a love affair because sexuality is deemed to be the fountainhead of myth.

Sexuality can also be a cloak of disaster. It stands here with all of its traditional and well-developed imagery in place of the true story. There is reason for its use. Catastrophe can be buried well beneath sexual imagery; there are enough intimations of fright, noise, violence, love, hate, strangeness, explosiveness, conflict and damage in the "primal scene," the "birth trauma," the lust to mate, and the competition for mates to inspire the most profound analogies. Still, they are partial analogies, not "the whole real thing."

And when the direction of causation is reversed, there is additional reason to believe that the catastrophes of the gods are the teachers of sexual conduct, as they are the teachers of religion, of politics, of war, of the arts and crafts. Catastrophe reinforces sexuality, provides taboos, devises perversions, excites sexual orgies, and poisons relations between the sexes even while it exalts them. That the often repeated song of Demodocus must have taught the audience something about sex, marriage and justice is quite likely. The "calloused attitude" toward such affairs may have been Dorian Greek but where did the Dorians get it from?

The sexual psychoses, which Sigmund Freud and every doctor from the shaman to the Park Avenue psychiatrist have treated, are aggravated by the uncontrolled amnesia of disaster and by many of the transfigured forms of behavior that man invented to ameliorate the symptoms of disaster. Not having yet uncovered the source of the infernal angst that crouches ready to produce psychotic behavior, therapists, whether specialized in sexually oriented crises, or religiously inspired, or war-peace directed, or of any other inclination - alienation, materialism, etc. - can go on in endless circles, curing when easing of symptoms will occur in any event, curing through authority, or passing along through symptomatic relief a psychosis from one object-fixation to another [5] . Withal one should not deny that a skillful cutting of the brain and drugging of the glands may someday excise the primeval angst; it may be that the stoneage men of many areas were up to treating a catastrophically-induced psychosis with their frequent resort to trephination of the skull.


It is common for persons who have suffered a personal disaster to have a recurrent dream respecting it. The same dream or one like it may repeat itself for years, disappear for years, and recur. Similarly, every known human group has developed in its prehistoric period various myths that have to be retold and rituals that have to be repeated. All of them go back to the great times of destruction and creation, illud tempus, a phrase that Mircea Eliade finds useful as a pivotal point in his far ranging studies of comparative religion.

Writing of the activities of archaic man, which would include Homeric man, he declares that "their meaning, their value, are not connected with their crude physical datum but with their property of reproducing a primordial act, of repeating a mythical example. Nutrition is not a simple physiological operation; it renews a communion. Marriage and the collective orgy echo mythical prototypes; they are repeated because they were consecrated in the beginning (in those days in illo tempore, ab origine) by gods, ancestors, or heroes." [6]

"We must do as the gods did in the beginning." [7] Time must be regenerated periodically, in endless cycles; in accord with the temporal period, many things are renewed: fires are put out and rekindled, the dead return to visit, the original combats between gods and devils are reenacted, and orgies commemorating the destruction of all values are held to precede the new year. The year in illo tempore ended in a catastrophe of earth, air, fire, and/ or water. "In fact, among many primitive people, an essential element of any cure is the recitation of the cosmogonic myth." Also, it is recited on the occasions of birth, marriage, and death, indeed for practically every occasion when a person needs to build up morale [8] .

Yet this same "archaic man" dreads history. He wishes only to recapitulate his beginnings, the sacred events, not the profane events that have happened since. He is not simply a conservative, a traditionalist; he is superconservative, obsessed with what happened in illo tempore. For there was a dreadful thing then, beyond all historical measure and until it is controlled, nothing else is controllable.

With all his acumen and learning, Eliade himself does not penetrate the iron curtain illius temporis. Something Big Happened! He writes one work entitled Myth and Reality, but the "reality" is not what happened; it is the interposed reality of a revisionist philosopher, not the reality of which the myths speak in deafening language and blinding imagery. And he entitles another of his works The Myth of the Eternal Return, but here, too, he confines himself to providing valuable illumination from all quarters of the globe on the obsessive need to make the great leap backwards to the traumatics events, not to the actual conditions that mankind returns to.

The terror in illo tempore, the fact that "for archaic men, reality is a function of the imitation of a celestial archetype," the association of the return with cures that practically scream out, "If we survived chaos and creation, we can survive anything!" the fixation upon cycles of disaster and revival and the incompetency of humanity over millennia to get onto a longitudinal temporal plane - all of these facts and many more constitute evidence that unspeakable disaster governs the so-called "archaic mind" and carries through to modernity.

Indeed, one must credit the doctrine of uniformitarianism, and all of its ramifications in the sciences and philosophy, as being the first successful counterattack of the human mind against the fetters that catastrophes imposed upon it. It was largely this modern doctrine in astronomy, geology, biology, and finally religion and politics that smoothed out the external cycles, made the proven details of history important, claimed millions of year for human development, and set up the idea of progress - all of these being achievements that would have been difficult without denying the importance of what happened in illo tempore.

The myth of the Love Affair is not a basic document to establish the general theory of the first days because it is not a myth of creation. That it is in direct line with cosmogony may, however, be asserted. It is a tale told in a newly settled land under semi-cosmogonic conditions of dream, dance, rhythm, and verse. The gods struggle; the Moon is renewed.

It is a second-level myth in the last series of catastrophes. Its relationship with the events in illo tempore is apparent, but it is of the last days of that time. In the next century and a half, the first group of uniformitarians will have appeared, with the colossal nerve to say, with Plato, that "the ruler of the universe has ordered all things with a view to the excellence and preservation of the whole." [9]


Millions of words of myth have been born of the human mind through the ages. Myth is still being created, not only among the so-called primitive peoples whose numbers are so rapidly diminishing everywhere, but also in the sophisticated editorial rooms of giant newspaper and television monopolies and in the halls of law and bureaucracy. The myth that "the President works with great energy and command of information" is comparable to the myth that "Hercules cleared the Augean Stables." (Amusingly, Hercules was accused of a conflict of interest for taking pay from two sources for his work.)

This is so if we take, as the superficial rendering of the word, that myth is a factual narrative whose aim is to some important degree to stabilize the ever-flowing stream of anxiety of the organism within itself and in regard to the outer environment. It is like a dam that commands the flow of water from the rains and streams above in the interest of the consumers of the water below. By using common symbols, the system operates on behalf of a community. As a result, a myth will perform little or no functions for a person who belongs to another community, to a different hydraulic control system. One should not be put off, therefore, when a scoffer exclaims, "All these myths do nothing for me."

The greatest sources of trouble and fear are the greatest and most enduring sources of myth. The doings of the gods (nature), supplemented by the dynamics of sexuality and the competition for the other scarce values of power, respect, wealth, knowledge and health provide both the anxieties and the linguistic references used to compose myths. The combinations and permutations of expression that give rise to particular myths are infinite, especially when one adds the universal factors of wish fulfillment, already mentioned, and functional design, by which different types of myths are to be used as supplications, expiation, lessons to children, augury, dramatic entertainment, and so on. Myth is adapted, also to create the type of person a society's ideology needs.

That millions of words have been composed for such personal-social reasons over 10,000 years, say, is not at all surprising. and that most myth is untranslatable without knowledge of its culture, its language, the context in which one myth is employed, and its typical audience is also understandable. Which is to say that the problem of the historic message contained in a myth is to be solved only when these features of its expression are known.

Afterwards, the historic content of the myth can be approached directly. In this sense all myth contains history about a group; it could only come about as a result of experiences, whether one or many; and its detail contains empirical and linguistic references. Ares does not "bridle" in a horseless culture, nor does one smite a rock to get water in swampland. That Achilles is known by 36 epithets and Odin by fifty names, gives some idea of the variety of traits of a hero or god in a given culture.

But now to the most difficult problem; the portrayal of an actual event in a myth, as in the Love Affair. If one has arrived at the historic message contained in the Love Affair, what is to prevent him from putting all of Greek myth or any other body of myth through a historiographical sausage-grinder, emerging with thousands of little links of Greek history? It is conceivable. But much is trivia and repetitive. Or the history involved has such vague parameters of time, space and references when treated as history as to be useless.

Also, a great, if unknown proportions of myth consists of references to cultures, sub-cultures, priesthoods, temples, occupations, and schools that are lost to history. Their local contexts are missing. Furthermore, many myths are hopelessly successful in their function of telling about something while at the same time concealing it (the opposite of scientific communication which aims at telling something and only that something in a special language designed to communicate it clearly and exactly).

Still, the impression of impenetrable jungle and inescapable labyrinth that the first sight of the body of myth makes upon one retreats remarkably upon application of the tools of the sciences and the virtues of patience and imagination to particular segments.

Then the questions occur: "Who cares?" and "What resources are we willing to devote the task?" For most people, and experts, too, the use of myth is largely that of symbolic poetry: the mind reacts to it, is startled, pleased, achieves a phantasmagoria or pandemonium akin to the effects of various drugs. Enough.

On the other hand, where there exists little of other types of knowledge of important historical problems, natural or social, resort to myth analysis is necessary and its techniques will be continuously improved. To the degree that such systematic work is accompanied by an equally alert and extensive archaeology, considerable advances in a number of sciences might ensure. As the expert on Babylonian and ancient science, Otto Neugebauer, once commented to the author in a few moments of smoking of the peace-pipe between exchanges on the work of Velikovsky, we could dig up the whole ancient world with a fraction of the funds of the space program, and thus find out what it has to say to us. The art treasures to be excavated would, of course, be also of value.

Notes (Chapter 16: The Transfiguration of Trauma)

1. (1900). Vols. IV and V of the Standard Edition (London: Hogarth press, 1953; New York: Basic Books; Avon Books, 1972.

2. Lines 531-590, Murray, op, cit.

3. An alternative reconstruction, more Jungian than Freudian, is that Penelope was suffering a crisis of Character, in which the eagle (her stronger, more dictatorial, dogmatic aspect) was moving bloodily to dispose of the geese (her inner weakness), and, in the course of the resolution, identifying with her absent husband. George English, who pointed out this interpretation to me, thought as well that the transition was a bloody bridge that often is crossed at the presumed age of Penelope age of, between 35 and 45.

4. Page 562, 332 fn., 560, 60, 534 ff.

5. Cf. Sebastian de Grazia, Errors of Psychotherapy (New York: Doubleday. 1952).

6. Myth of the Eternal Return, p. 4.

7. Ibid., p. 21.

8. Ibid., pp. 66, 68, 73, 82-3.

9. Plato, The Laws, book X, p. 290, loc. cit.

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