Famously the Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” was inscribed at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, but it may be the myth of Prometheus which can best reveal the manifestation of our four universal functions; body, mind, soul and heart.
As with most of the major myths there are several variations on the Prometheus archetype. Most tell of his daring theft of fire to give to mankind, thereby risking the wrath of Zeus and yet the most insightful version reveals his central part in the creation of humankind itself and in shaping the very nature of our being.
Prometheus was an immortal; his name literally meaning forethought or foresight and along with his brother Epimetheus, meaning hindsight, they were given the task of populating Earth. However Epimetheus being true to his name gave all of the best attributes; such as strength and speed to the animals and so it fell to Prometheus, the prototype inventor to fashion man with his singular ingenuity. His first instinct was to take the earth itself representing the element of body and mix it with the equally ubiquitous water representing the element of mind to create a man of clay.
While physical, his creation lacked animation and so he beseeched the goddess of wisdom to bestow her most special gift upon his creation. Athena answered his pleas and sent down her butterfly which was symbolic of the very air that bore it’s wings and anointed his creation with an eternal soul to go with its impermanent body and mind. Alas, this was still not enough and so Prometheus approached Zeus. the ruler of the gods in the hope of receiving the eternal fire representing the element of heart that burned exclusively at Mount Olympus. Zeus was adamant that such a gift would be too powerful for mere mortals and so Prometheus was denied. Undeterred Prometheus decided to steal the vital spark of life itself from the sacred fire that burned at the heart of Zeus’s temple.
Finally satisfied, Prometheus surveyed his now complete human being comprised of the physical and the metaphysical; human of body and mind and being of heart and soul. When Zeus discovered this unprecedented act of betrayal he decided to punish the immortal Prometheus for his impertinence in a very mortal fashion. The unsuspecting Prometheus never saw it coming for while he was the god of foresight, he somehow lacked the ability to foresee his own destiny and so Zeus had him captured and chained for all eternity to a Mountain in the Caucasus.
Prometheus could not be killed but this did not stop Zeus from ensuring that in the image of his beloved mortal creation he would be bound to the earth but in his case, for all time. Zeus then added a very specific daily torture when he instructed his great Eagle, symbol of his voracious mind to descend upon the Earth as body to rip out and devour the liver representing the soul of Prometheus. Zeus had concocted a living hell for Prometheus that was symbolic of mortal mans daily existence with the competing functions of body, mind and soul. Only every night the immortal’s liver would regenerate and the whole ghastly ritual would continue without end. As an aside it is a remarkable testament to the ancient Greeks knowledge that they intuited that the liver was capable of regeneration and self-repair.
30,000 years passed and Zeus fell in love with Io, a nymph and priestess to his wife Hera and so he seduced her. To keep Hera from discovering his infidelity he took the precaution of covering the world with a thick blanket of clouds. This tactic only served to arouse Hera’s suspicions and so she came down from Mount Olympus and began dispersing the clouds. Zeus was panicked and quickly changed Io’s form from that of a beautiful maiden into a white heifer and so when Hera arrived to find Zeus standing beside the bovine beast he swore that he had never seen the cow before, it had just sprang right out of the earth. Immediately perceiving his deceit, Hera complemented the cow and asked to have it as a present. Zeus was dumbfounded and could not turn down such a reasonable request without giving his game away. Reluctantly Zeus presented Hera with the metamorphosed Io.
Hera hid the enchanted cow away and arranged for Argus to watch over it. Argus made the best of watchman for he had a hundred eyes and could have some of them sleep while others lay awake. A desperate, Zeus soon sent Hermes to rescue his beloved Io. Disguised as a Shepard, Hermes had to employ all his skill as a musician and story teller to gain Argus confidence and lull him to sleep. Once asleep, Hermes killed Argus. Hera would mourn this treacherous act and as a memorial, she took his eyes and set them into the tail of her favourite bird, the peacock.
Although Io was now free, Hera instructed the mother of all gad-flys to pursue and sting her poor bovine form while the ghost of Argus plagued her every step. Io was pushed close to madness as she wandered the world in a pointless bid to escape this purgatory. On her seemingly pointless wanderings she came upon Prometheus still bound to his chains. Prometheus had his own daily hell to deal with and yet he found it in his own heart to muster enough compassion to give the desperate Io a glimmer of hope. For while his uncanny foresight still predicted that she would have to wander for many years to come. She would eventually be changed back into human form and would bear a child. A child whose own descendent would one day perhaps become the greatest of heroes.
Miraculously his predictions came true and on her wanderings many geographical features were named after Io including the Ionian Sea, and the Bosphorus meaning ford of the cow. Eventually she would reach the Nile where Zeus once more could restore her to human form. As destined she bore Epaphus and eleven generations passed before his descendant, the great Hercules was born. Hercules would endure many trials on one of which he would break the supposed eternal bonds that had held Prometheus and set him free.
Prometheus had suffered for his own original sin as if for the whole of humanity. The human condition is to suffer, for we are all bodily chained to the surface of this planet and carry our mortal sins for the term of our mortal lives. The eagle of our own minds which can so often deal in the daily lies and untruths of existence devours the eternal truth of our souls. Our minds grown weary and satisfied must sleep at night or while in meditation enabling our eternal soul to regenerate once more.
As this myth has shown, all journeys both begin and end in the heart. In this case the journey toward redemption began for Prometheus when he knelt at the hearth in Mount Olympus and stole from the eternal fire of pure heart. It also ended with the consequences of his heart felt gesture of compassion toward the deeply troubled Io. Such is karma.
It is also important to understand that Zeus’s own infidelity ultimately set in motion the conditions for Prometheus’s resurrection. Prometheus has sometimes been called the prototype Christ for his long suffering on behalf of humanity. Many forget that there are at least two references in the scriptures to Christ’s own descent into hell following the Crucifixion, a matter of no small consequence in bringing about redemption, as the reflexive Octave within the Meta Model infers.
Therefore we must first descend from freedom to a fully bound determinism before we can ascend to a new found freedom and know the place for the first time. The most confounding problems in life cannot be solved with our old psyches. Yet following a full inversion we shall find that we have outgrown the impenetrable problems of life that previously bound us and they shall no longer own us….
The Prometheus myth may show us the accumulation of material complexity in our four functions which we call involution. While the myth of the great Theseus equally shows the accumulation of functional complexity which we call envolution when these four functions engage on an epic quest.
Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon. He was born of a special Mandorla, one mortal father, and one immortal, signifying both the physical and the metaphysical or whole-brain thinking. He was the archetype of pure presence. The courageous heart driven hero defined by his nemesis the Minotaur. The covert archetype of bodily fear representing pure absence. It is not a coincidence that the man bull bodily monster alludes to the earth sign of Taurus while the lion heart of Theseus alludes to the fire sign of Leo.
Pasiphae, wife of King Minos of Crete, had several children before the Minotaur. The eldest of these, Androgeus, set sail for Athens to take part in the Pan-Athenian games which were held there every five years. Being strong and skilful, he did very well, winning some events outright. He soon became a crowd favourite, much to the resentment of the Pallantides and they assassinated him, incurring the undying retribution of Minos.
When King Minos heard what befell his son, he ordered the Cretan fleet to set sail for Athens. Minos asked Aegeus for his son’s assassins, and if they were handed to him, the town would be spared. However, not knowing who the assassins were, King Aegeus surrendered the whole town to Minos’ mercy. However, Minos’s recompense for the life of his son was to cost the Athenians dearly. He demanded that at the end of every Great Year of seven solar years, the seven most courageous youths and the seven most beautiful maidens were to board a boat and be sent as tribute to Crete, never to be seen again.
On the third occasion, Theseus came of age and with his great and courageous heart he volunteered to slay the monster. He took the place of one of the youths and set off with a black sail, promising to his father, Aegeus, that if successful he would return with a white sail. Like the others, Theseus was stripped of his weapons when they sailed. On his arrival in Crete, he recognised the soulful Ariadne as his anima. She was King Minos’ daughter, but this could not stop her from falling in love with the bold Theseus. Her great soul would be his guide and so she secretly passed Theseus the fateful ball of thread that would safeguard his descent into her Father King Minos, mind maze of lies and safely back again.
That night, Ariadne escorted Theseus to the Labyrinth, and Theseus promised that if he returned from the Labyrinth he would take Ariadne with him. As soon as Theseus entered the Labyrinth, he tied one end of the ball of thread to the door post. The Oracle had prophesised that the Minotaur’s embodiment of pure fear could never be slain by shield, sword or spear; symbolic of body, mind and soul and so Theseus carried nothing but his great heart within his great chest.
Theseus also had instructions from the intuitive Ariadne as his soul guide to go forwards, always down and never left or right so that he would not reveal any absence through his doubting. Theseus soon came to the heart of the Labyrinth and also upon the sleeping Minotaur who could only smell fear. The beast awoke and a tremendous fight then occurred. Theseus overpowered the Minotaur with his naked strength and killed the beast with his bare hands, the ultimate in courageous acts. For only pure presence could reveal the illusion of pure absence. Had Theseus doubted his own presence and sought to arm and protect himself with shield, sword or spear then it would have proved fatal for he would only have revealed the fear born of absence that would have fed the monsters might.
After defeating the beast, Theseus used the intuitive thread of truth to escape the mind maze of lies that had hidden the bodily fear that his heart had vanquished. His heroics did not stop there as he also managed to escape with all of the young Athenians and Ariadne. Then he and the rest of the crew fell asleep on the beach. Athena goddess of wisdom wakes Theseus and tells him to leave early that morning. Athena tells Theseus to leave Ariadne on the beach. Stricken with distress, Theseus forgot to put up the white sails instead of the black ones, so the king committed suicide. His father’s suicide may be seen as karmic retribution for not having the courage to defy King Minos in the first place. At any rate, having delivered them into freedom, Theseus proved himself to be the true King of the Athenians.
The Promethean journey is the story of the first half of life to descend and fully accumulate and integrate the four functions of our being as an involution. The heroic journey of Theseus is the story of our second half of life when we as integrated psyches achieve our purpose and secure our own freedom and that of others to ascend.
Unlike involution’s accumulation of ego functions the ascent to personal freedom and self actualisation of the self requires instead the dissipation of functions. In this process Theseus had to lose his own Father’s life and Ariadne’s love. One was symbolic of his past while the other was of his future so that he could remain in the present and be fit to rule the kingdom on his return….