In this third part of a new series of mini-commentaries Tom McMahon takes us to Mount Olympus for an all-too brief look at the Ancient Greek Deities. Tom's commentary might be "mini" but the links we provide to National Geographic, Wikipedia and other sites could occupy you for days. Way back in the mists of human history what are the origins of this human need for gods? When humans first started thinking about gods, what were the images and ideas they had?
The origins of the human concept of gods and deities...
I would ask any reader to imagine this writer like the abandoned army officer in DANCES WITH WOLVES. He is following orders and is loyal to his military commission, while being confused by incoming information out in the field. He is living with indigenous people who are called his enemy and greatly misunderstood by the establishment. This little boy from 15th street who happened to become a priest often feels this confusion and abandonment.
In 1967 I came to an established parish of well-educated people in now famous Silicon Valley to teach "the things of God". 45 years later, fairly alone as my faith community ages and dies, yet equipped with marvellous creation discoveries such as offered by Michael Morwood and Brian Swimme, I continue to search and teach "the things of God".
In the two previous mini-commentaries on the concept of "god" (in this series always a small g) I have questioned the building of a penthouse before a solid foundation is laid or what will be left as the institutional house of cards tumbles into chaos. I wrote last week: "What I regret is that in our times of spiritual and religious chaos the media and people worldwide have not taken time to investigate the mystery of what we call GOD. I offer this investigative series as an amateur interested in the rock bottom foundation of any spiritual endeavor." Editor Brian generously finds place for this mini series while searching himself as to Tom's goal. Brian comments: "he begins today [2/12/12] with a further explanation about what he hopes to achieve via this exploration." Achieve? Accomplish? Neither, as the task is too mysterious, too big, and beyond my simple mind. Do we humans fear coming upon a mystery we cannot understand or control? I searched Catholica's Forum and found no mention of this mini-investigation. I hope I don't search alone or without meaning. [We're keeping the discussion confined to one string on the forum which you can find HERE – or at the link given at the bottom of each of these mini-commentaries.]
The imagery that accompanies the word "god" is human-made, every word borrowed from human experiences. We might fool ourselves by slipping in such words as "super" and "supernatural" as if some gifted person has insight into the total unknown. Theologians throw about the words "grace" and "holy spirit" as if they have some understanding. When in 1950's seminary we referred to the Trinity as a chocolate stone, sweet to the taste and totally indigestible. We are humanly limited. Will a search of the archives offer any value?
Were human beings of the past curious about the MYSTERY called "god"? This little boy from 15th street has some access to their ancient archive thinking in modern day communication tools such as Wikipedia and National Geographic's VISUAL HISTORY OF WORLD MYTHOLOGY. Yes, there are some obstacles for us modern day thinkers who don't want to get into a Santa Claus-Tooth Fairy cul de sac. I read an article recently that addresses how Einstein has been surpassed and maybe if I live long enough, or my grandchildren, someone will scientifically discover the finite (end of discussion) of the mystery called "god". In the meantime I will search the past and hope that other brave persons will keep me company.
Our magic carpet has been warming up as we offered the above lengthy explanation of its amateur navigator. How about a brief fly-by of the Greek Mount called Olympus? We'll make our visit short so as not to awaken the gods and bring down their wrath upon us. Look there is a corner stone marker on one of the buildings: Stone Age Library. Circa 40,000 b.c.e. ... or maybe 200,000.
Looks like Zeus is sleeping, tired out after battling Gaia/mother earth and her Giants in the Giantomachy War , Gaia vs. Olympic gods. Zeus, with the help of demi-god Hercules, wins the battle stopping the sun and moon from giving light to the enemy. (Seems I have heard this sun story before in reverse ... Joshua and the conquering of the Promised Land?)
Zeus, tho top-god, is ruler of the whole world, the gods, and humanity. He stands for truth and justice and is the protector of kingships and, I may add today, papal authority. Zeus also dabbles in a little human footsie-footsie — I am thinking that if we understood this powerful deity succumbing to a bit of human sex play and its female power of attraction we might better understand the clerical sexual abuse issues of today.
The Greeks used their gods as projections of their own human experiences, anger and love, jealousy and revenge, and the other powerful urges which we now appreciate as emotions and human brain activity, which is heavily dependent on our understanding of the chemicals that drive our biology. A study of human psychology 101 could begin with the gods of Olympus. Just look at our modern saying "it makes my blood boil". Is that "it" a god — or the real one?
Our magic carpet has a modern direction finder. We are off next week on a round trip to Egypt and where these human-god legends may have found their origin.
As I watched President Obama fly off from San Francisco airport this morning in Air Force One I wondered where I might find the hidden gods of western culture?
Tom, Indiana Jones 2, with pyramids in sight and whose friends often see as godless while others caulk it up to malarkey ... And others???? Tell me what you think in the FORUM.
Comments (mine and yours) can be found in the Catholica Forum at:
Tom McMahon, in San Jose, Ca. – the 15th St. S.F. kid who happened to become a roman priest! 18Feb2012
What are your thoughts on this commentary?