Thursday, August 1, 2013

ZEUS?: A Short Note

Since this topic hit the New York Times the other day, and since my buddy, Jerry Clark, noticed me about it, I've decided {foolishly} to say a few words. As this is in a subject area {traditional gods} that I'm pretty ignorant about, and which don't {in their traditional descriptions nor behaviors} easily fit within my model of Reality, I probably shouldn't be lumbering you with any comment at all, but Devil Take The Hindmost, here goes.

The stimulus for these ramblings comes from an article in the NYT by professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, Dr. Gary Gutting. The good Doctor wrote an intellectual opinion about how we jump to conclusions, particularly on the side of doubt and dismissal, based upon mental habits which are unhelpful to the pursuit of truth. These habits are built upon social prejudices rather than objectivity. For instance, today's modern social prejudices would lead us [in the absence of certain kinds of proof] to outright reject the assertion that Zeus exists or even once existed, whereas the more honest assessment would be that since we have no strong evidence either way, we should be willing to grant the possibility at least of the old god's existence, somewhen or another. There are after-all a whole pile of legends about him, and a good part of several cultures based upon him and his godly colleagues.

Gutting's philosophical point will, of course, not be missed by any followers of the history of the anomalies. ALL of our interests are met with the exact rejections from the cultural establishment, as would be assertions about Zeus. Anti-anomalists and wary atheists have immediately smelled a rat in Gutting's viewpoint, as expressed here. They are no dummies, despite being morons of a different sort. They feel, probably accurately, that if they let Gutting's philosophical position stand, it would be the Trojan Horse not only for legitimization of research on anomalies, but acceptance of the reasonableness of employing God as a factor in the Cosmos. If Zeus existed, why not God? ... yes, it's enough to make one shudder in one's mortal bones.

That's the sub-text here. It's something that we know perfectly well already. But more trivially: what about this Zeus guy? Could he have existed?

Let's take a little walk Out Proctor..... {I'm not promising any Zeus sightings on the way though}.

Zeus---- humanoid-looking entity; shape-shifter though. Seems generally selfish and arrogant. Not sure whether he really cares about anything; perhaps amoral. Has some paranormal powers, and they are sometimes Big Deals. Hurls an energy bolt when he's mad. Lives in a place called "Mt. Olympus", which is in the sky, but previously was thought to be on an actual physical mountain here on Earth. A few other groups have claimed that the main Greek group got it wrong, and he lived on different mountains.

Hmmmm..... the question is not WHO he is, but WHAT.

You all must answer this question in your own ways. For me, I'll begin with my own theological assumptions: [on the assumed-for-discussion-basis that this entity was real]
1]. Zeus wasn't God as my Theology views God;
2]. If Zeus had the free ability to enter into normal human lives and willfully, physically affect them using paranormal power, then he wasn't Satan or the attendant "devils" either;
3]. That leaves very clever humans, or those folks that we always end up with, the Middle Earthers, or Faerie Folk.

Could Zeus have been based upon some advanced human[s]? "Sorcerers"? "Wizards"?

I'm really at a loss as to how much a human being might be capable of. The Druid-type people [and the painting of Zeus above looks remarkably Druidical doesn't it?] may easily have known all manner of healing, agricultural, metallurgical knowledge, and Zeus is often given credit for bringing a lot of that. BUT .... shapeshifting? Hurling bolts of energy? Those seem a bit too much to be the phenomena of clever druid-like fellows.

What about Faerie?

Celtic Faerie seems not to "look" much like Zeus and his friends, but there are some similarities. There are shapeshifters all over the Celtic landscape, and plenty of examples of selfishness and amorality. The Faerie Folk often live in "special" geological or ancient places: Forts, mountains, mounds, lakes and streams. One of Zeus' four main attributes was the Oak, surprisingly. The Greeks themselves felt that the origin of Zeus was in Crete, in a Cave. The VERY ancient cult of Zeus at Dodona featured priests who meditated under trees watching the play of light and winds on the leaves. Zeus, originally, may have been a lot "closer to Nature" than we moderns think.

As I said, I don't know any answers here. But if entities such as Zeus, Diana, Aphrodite, Heracles existed, they "feel" to me paranormal and faerie. Whether that be in the style of The Old Green Man of the Celts, or the Lightbringers, or the giants of the mountains, they seem to belong there. There are dribbles of evidence that the paranormal can express itself physically {poltergeist phenomena and Ouija-gone-wrong, as examples}, and maybe the denizens of Faerie could manage some spectacular affairs.

Professor Gutting didn't want to actually pursue any trails of evidence, either because he didn't know any or he felt that such detail would muddy the philosophical point he was making... and it was probably both. But you and I don't have to worry about our reputations, so we can do the good work that the "good doctor" cannot.

Strolling in the Green Forests of Mystery Out Proctor is just so much more pleasant than those suffocating Halls of Academe, don't you think?

Peace, Blessings... and some Fun, my friends.


  1. Rosemary Ellen Guiley lumps much of what you mention into things related to Djinn and includes Faerie. I think it's possible that early humans were more into drugs - plant and mushroom variety - and communing with spirits, especially their ancestors. Who knows what they saw, but memories of great kings and shamans may have been turned into gods. Recently I read somewhere that someone recently determined Jesus was a shape shifter... so possibly all that is related or perhaps it's the ancients' version of comic book/movie super heroes - a literary device. The magnetic field was stronger thousands of years ago and since the human eye has a molecule (much like animals) that can detect the blue part of the magnetic spectrum maybe the ancients saw things. Quite possibly things seen by some today (ghosts, UFOs) are magnetic field related. All very interesting to think about. Keep the posts coming!

  2. Mixed up what I said about the blue part... not blue from the visible part of the light spectrum but rather a magnetic field can appear as a faint blue shape if you have enough of the molecule in your eye that birds have more of and use for navigation (I think I read dogs, cats and some other animals have some, too).

  3. "Anti-anomalists and wary atheists...are no dummies, despite being morons of a different sort."


    You're really kickin' arse today Prof.

    Whatever you're gettin' upto at Kalama Zoo it really seems to be givin' y'u Kalamazoom!

    There is of course the possibility Zeus was something akin to an angel ie a divine manifestation of God's will much like if not actually identical with the likes of Michael or Gabriel.

    Nor does that rule out the human angle because if I remember correctly Snorri actually has Heimdall for instance describing himself as having once only possessed human levels of hearing and sight but over time working to develop these skills until they eventually become godlike.

    My very strong suspicion's Snorri was actually alluding to the development of the spiritual superpowers Hindus call siddhis and implying certain humans can not only thus become god or angel like but become eligible to participate in and even rise up in a hierarchical chain of successive caretakers with responsibility for specific domains of activity in particular geographical regions a bit like a sort of cosmic United Nations.

    You don't actually have to believe the idea yourself to see if the ancients did this'd explain a great deal of why the history of all mythologies seem concerned with formerly lesser gods rising to much more exalted ranks as members of the chief pantheon while the gods they succeed or replace seem to drift into seemingly lesser and lesser significance until seemingly being reduced to the level of the much misunderstood so-called deus otiosus.

    If though you could conceive the possibility of such a thing you might then also credit the possibility this might have something to do with why superheroes with secret identities particularly ones belonging to super groups such as the X-men or the Avengers've gradually migrated from their former pulpy anonymousness except in the eyes of a few nerdy schoolboys to full spectrum total media domination where even girls like my daughter and somewhat amazingly my sister're raving about them.

  4. Hello,

    Julian Jaynes' bicameral brain theory is the best explanation,imo, of gods and the problems you raise. Certainly, Zeus, Heracles, Aphrodite, et al, existed, but ONLY in the right hemisphere of your brain when it 'talked' to the left hemisphere via the corpus collosum. The biological purpose here was to give admonitory/survival warnings for the good of the individual concerned. This 'talking' started to end approx. 1,500 B.C. with the advent of complex written language. No more need for hemispheric cross-talking as a survival tool. Documents could now be consulted, not gods or oracles. The bicameral mind still exists today, but according to Jaynes, only in schizophrenics with their auditory hallucinations. What was considered 'normal' brain functioning prior to 1,500 B.C, would be considered insane today. Jaynes' explanation has the feel and the ring of truth and is the simplest way to view this topic. Not everyone accepts his theory, but his masterpiece, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" should be read if this topic interests you. I have read many books in my life of 6+ decades, but this book/author is absolutely astonishing in its implications. Highly, highly recommended. It is also right on point with your personal interests as I understand them from your essays.



    1. I read Jaynes' views a long time ago. Assuming that hallucinatory talking in our heads was a common experience sounds to me like one of the most dangerous anti-survival "talents" that Mother Nature could have bubbled up. The only way that one could attempt to defend the theory would be to describe very seriously how such divided consciousness would be more useful for human real world natural survival between the ages of zero and say 35, so as to give a survival advantage to those with split-operating minds vs holistic brains. I can think of no such advantage, and because the split nature of the brain talk/feeling/visual hallucination, such a lack of immediacy in holistic awareness and "understanding" would force delays in decision-making. That would be disastrous for survival in my opinion.

      I view Jaynes' idea as clever. Whether it has any reality to it seems highly debatable. Also, using it to sweep away what Jerry Clark calls "the experience anomalies", is very close to suggesting that the anomalies generally are better explained by "the Carnival of the Mind" than any external realities. So, no thanks until I hear better reasons for buying in.

  5. Hello again,

    As I understand Jaynes' theory, the right brain admonitions only 'kick in' under extreme situations of stress. Until then, no need and no authoritative voices would be heard. It is during stressful events that advice was received from the right hemisphere to guide the person in novel circumstances. His theory neatly explains oracles, divination, talking statues, Yahweh talking to Moses and the innumerable references to gods talking to individuals. As this bicameral ability receded in the wake of slaughter, language and its attendant culture, so did the voice of the non-existent gods. Human history since then has been an attempt by individuals and religious institutions to recover their half-remembered conversations with god(s). Historically, it also explains why prior to the second millennium, there were no references by authors to their interior mental-space. The mental "I" that we use for internal speculation about our motives and fears did not exist.

    Jaynes' beliefs are distressing to most religious people. Thanks for your reply.



  6. Well, I disagree with most of this. The "mental I" is certainly well-established in the Bible and my copies of Diodoros and Pliny, so your comment about "the second millennium" must refer to the second millennium b.c. --- if so, I wonder how much "literature" anyone thinks exists from the second millennium b.c. and earlier?? How much writing of any kind with the exceptions of religious texts or deposit tickets for granary taxes or declarations of something political? How many "novels"? How many dramas? How much poetry about anything than a religious mantra or prayer? Jaynes is attempting to create a theory out of essentially no literary data. In Mesopotamia we have cuneiform tablets containing basically no human-oriented topics whatever --- only things like receipts, legends, math, law, etc, and almost all intact examples of even the myths are dated within the Assyrian period of the first millennium B.C. In Egypt almost no "late" literature exists either, papyri being mostly first millennium survivals and painted stuff earlier. So what literature would we be talking about? Chinese? Jaynes did not go into that, I believe, and even there most stuff is later than second millennium and of "pragmatic" not soulful topics.

    In Greece, the only literature which could be called complete enough and MAYBE early enough would be things like Homer and Hesiod. Hesiod's topic has nothing to do with a human approach to anything, being sort-of a god-listing which in my memory does not get into human life in a real world way. Homer is rich, but one could just as easily see human mental space in the egomania of Agamemnon as any Shakespearian lead role.

    Also, the theory does not "neatly explain" all this stuff listed, unless these hallucinations are also deemed to create visual hallucinations as well --- almost always a very bad survival trait to be carrying around. What is almost offensive is the light-hand in almost casually waving away large areas of human experience based upon speculations with very little concrete data. Almost every bit of modern brain research that I am familiar with points to the palaeontological intactness of the Corpus Callosum which connects the hemispheres of the physical brain. Animals all have this intact too. To make the assumption that this intact Corpus Callosum was coordinating everything on the physical left and right sides of the human structure EXCEPT for "thinking" requires a heck of a lot of strong evidence I feel. And, that for no known reason [and there has to be something PHYSICAL about the reason], the Corpus Callosum suddenly got its entire act together AFTER we were fully into the age of technology, "natural magic", agrarian revolution et al, and none of our historians of technology noticed any difference or spectacular breakpoints, well.....

    Lastly, the comment about this being "distressing to most religious people" is a thinly veiled insult, as if I cannot structure a well-reasoned position on this without failing due to my irrational prejudices.



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