by Alfred de Grazia
The theory to be expressed here is hardly believable. We discern behind a famous Homeric scenario about the misconduct of the gods the shadow of a second scenario of astronomical catastrophe. By pursuing the connection relentlessly, many reasons are uncovered to suspect that the human drama is unconsciously imitating what the human eye witnessed as a prior catastrophe in the skies. Chant and catastrophe, dance and disaster seem to be historically linked.
Can a dance and poem be a piece of astronomical history, tightly, not vaguely, related? If they are, then an idea that many psychologists have considered: that humans have a tendency to suppress the memory of terrible events, but also are somehow compelled by unconscious psychic forces to reenact the events - this idea is supported by our theory.
It appears that the reenactment may take place through religious rites, through wars, through literature, through individual and group behavior of many kinds. Here it is through the sublimated medium of poetry and dance. I think that such a process is occurring in the story of the Love Affair of Venus and Mars. If my readers will agree, then we shall begin to shape a consensus on a matter of great importance to several fields of science and the humanities.
The literature referred to is a brief lyric of a hundred lines, sung in Book VIII of the Odyssey. It tells how the bright-crowned goddess Aphrodite loved Ares, god of battle, and how they met repeatedly to make love "in the home of fire," until they were entrapped in a marvelous net made by her outraged consort, the god Hephaestus, and released only when Ares pledged to reform his conduct.
The lyric tells of a much longer opera ballet sung and directed by the sightless bard, Demodocus, who, some say, is Homer's self-image. The recital plays to a fascinated audience at the palace of Alcinous and to his guest, Odysseus, or Ulysses, hero of the War against Troy. The frank sexuality is Homer's, no matter how often it has been translated vaguely. The story is the archetype of the adulterous love triangle, as neat a plot and piece as anyone has ever composed, and a model for a thousand imitations. But it may also be the masking of a catastrophe visited upon the Greeks from the skies.
I studied the lines and read some translations of them. I rendered them in something like the original epic hexameter, and shall present them below (Chapter 2) in that form. Still, examining the words was but the beginning of an investigation that carried me on odyssean wanderings into various fields of knowledge.
I asked myself what spirit breathed into Homer and saw that it was the goddess Pallas Athena. Athena moved the Homeric Age. She led the Greeks in the Iliad and guided Odysseus through his many adventures of the Odyssey. I found her everywhere. She dominated the skies as a phenomenon, and human strife on Earth.
I concerned myself with the context of the song and discovered that it was a Holy Dreamtime song, not a sacrilegious burlesque. It was presented as an opera-ballet, meant to take place among the gods in heaven. The same art form exists today among the aborigines of Australia.
I asked myself how such holy songs could arise, and found an answer in the modern theory of catastrophism. Precedents and parallels from many countries and cultures justify searching for catastrophism behind the lines of the love song of Demodocus. Greek culture was badly damaged by natural disasters of the eight and seventh centuries before this era, and Homer's poetry (which I place later than is usual) shows both the effects of the disasters and the ways in which the Greeks recovered from them.
The song of the love affair of Aphrodite and Ares is to be stripped of its facade. It is to be considered as a song about planetary gods doing violence to the world. I assign this Aphrodite of Homer to the Moon, with reservations that I believe are fully explained herein, rather than to the planet Venus. Ares stands for planet Mars without doubt. Hephaestus or Vulcan, though male, surprisingly stands for the planet Venus in this episode. Sea-god Poseidon represents the worried Earth, and persuades Hephaestus to release Aphrodite and Ares from the invisible net by which he has trapped them. Poseidon stands bond for Ares. All this suggests the unspeakable horror of natural disasters brought by these planetary gods upon Earth and humanity.
That Aphrodite was always a great goddess of the Moon is maintained, again with reservations, for she may also have had her name assigned to other sky-bodies, especially planet Venus which the Greeks and Romans, following the Orientals, came to call Aphrodite. We tell of how the Moon-Aphrodite received in Homeric times the wanton, irresponsible, and imperturbable character by which later ages came to know her. Aphrodite is tied to Helen of Troy, and Helen to the Hellenes or Greeks. The Trojan wars evolve psychically into campaigns to recapture the Moon from planet Mars (Ares) by the followers of planet Venus (Athena).
The stories of the Trojan wars thus use the historical and mundane battles to play out on Earth the drama of the skies. The skies of the Homeric age must be recent: 776 to 687 B. C. - or so I calculate, taking up Velikovsky's chronology. Although natural disasters had befallen the numerous settlements of Troy (possibly Hisarlik) throughout its history, a final major destruction by natural forces may well have occurred during Homer's boyhood. It was an awesome tragedy to him and others, which could not be recalled without pain, fear, and distortion.
It is to be expected that the life of survivors of worldwide natural catastrophes would be fearful and turbulent. Hence I argue that the social psychology of the Homeric Greeks is framed in a concept of mania and madness, rather than in the conventional view of a primitive people gradually achieving a higher culture.
Further, as on Earth so in heaven, there must be signs of the cosmic disasters of the age. I examine the Moon, as the astronauts have seen and sampled it for evidences of recent disaster, and shall recite indications that it did experience torrid bouts in the near past involving immense electro-gravitational stresses.
I do the same with the planet Mars, from the evidence of the latest explorations. Mars has been the victim, it appears, of recent abysmal ruptures and explosions; I explain how these might have been caused by near encounters with Earth, Moon and Venus. Planet Venus is played by Hephaestus in the love Affair. He is a stand-in for Athena, director of the show, who is more frequently identified with the planet Venus than he. Venus is exceedingly hot, and marred beneath her dense atmosphere by shallow surface craters of great diameter.
The other gods of the Love Affair introduce to the first modern bedroom comedy its humor, which can be explained in Freudian theory as yet another cover-up of the disaster. In reality they too are heavenly bodies. The role of the Sun, Helios, is shown to be secondary to that of the planetary gods and responsive to their behavior, as it is pictured in the earliest development of theology everywhere.
If the characters of the Love Affair are to be placed in heaven, their motions too must be given meaning. The best explanation lately offered has the Sun and planets forming an electric systems, subordinate to and part of the galactic electrical system. They act as charged bodies separated from an oppositely charged space plasma by space-charge sheaths, the rupture of which destroys a balance and creates havoc through discharges among the bodies. These efforts seem to be discernible in the special motions of the characters of the Love Affair.
We present physical and historical evidence in general agreement with the love song sung by Demodocus. How the human mind manages to react to such events in a way to preserve its own balance, and to give forth its most beautiful literary expressions, needs to be learned. An examination of the language of the Love Affair, and of Homer generally, brings forth a theory of myth: to succeed in telling the truth about an unspeakable event, a myth must fail to convey the truth. This fateful contradictory task is achieved successfully through the Love Affair.
Homer was probably an editor and publisher of such great myths. He labored to write down in a fresh and convenient alphabet what he thought should be sung. He was a bringer of peace between gods and men, and the symbolizer of a unified Greek culture.
Memory, I offer, is of traumatic origin. Human memory begins in horror and the need to forget. To remember is to forget; to forget is to remember. From the beginnings of true human nature until now, no one has been exempted from the rules of amnesia, not even the philosophers whose sublimation of the terrors of becoming a creature of memory have seemed to carry them very far from particular events.
Myth and dreams coincide, operating according to similar laws. The conscious and unconscious parts of the mind exchange with each other what is required for a sense of control to exist so life can go on. Still the balance is scarcely a happy one. Human nature is imprinted by a deeply buried, unresting, and generalized great fear. The fear is reflected today and in the earliest human institutions of religion, politics, sex, schools, commerce, and war.
I concluded in the end that the hundred lines of the Love Affair dramatize subconsciously the history of a catastrophic encounter of the planets at or near 687 B. C. Further, the mythical and literary transformations of the event mark a high point in the development of the European mind and its culture.
I ask the reader - no matter that he may disbelieve me - to pursue his disbelief through the pages to follow, and acquire, at the least, a reasoned disbelief. To the reader who is familiar with my ideas, I offer assurances that the revelations contained in this introduction do not exhaust the surprises that he will encounter, one after another, as he moves through these pages upon his personal Odyssey.