Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bring Back the Greek Gods -- Did They Ever Leave?

An Op-Ed piece in yesterday's Los Angeles Times penned by Wellesley Professor Emerita Mary Lefkowitz demands "Bring Back the Greek Gods."

Dr. Lefkowitz hits and misses with this essay. A serious miss: "Dionysus could alter human perception to make people see what's not really there. He was worshiped in antiquity as the god of the theater and of wine. Today, he would be the god of psychology." No way. Dionysus is all about wildness and loss of control, of "looseness" on every level, many of them physical. But God of Psychology? Perhaps a God of a psychological state, but then again, they are all Gods of psychological states. And they are still with us today.

"Openness to discussion and inquiry is a distinguishing feature of Greek theology." Lefkowitz begins her argument of polytheism over monotheism with this statement -- she says that religion isn't what is poisoning the world with violence and suffering, it's monotheism. Still, it's not polytheism that we need, but as Hillman has pointed out again and again, it's a polytheistic point of view. Obviously, we aren't talking about cultic practices, but ways of thinking about the world and our place in it.

Professor Lefkowitz ends her esaay with the observation, "Ancient Greek religion gives an account of the world that in many respects is more plausible than that offered by the monotheistic traditions. Greek theology openly discourages blind confidence based on unrealistic hopes that everything will work out in the end. Such healthy skepticism about human intelligence and achievements has never been needed more than it is today."

The biggest point that Dr. Lefkowitz misses about monotheisms is their ever-present apocalyptic view of the world. Until these religions stop focusing on the afterlife and stop preaching a rush to get to the "end", no one is safe. No one. Combine that apocalyptic view with a militaristic mindset and you have a powerful myth of TEOTWAWKI. Stopping THAT is what we really need today.

1 comment:

Allison said...

Thanks so much for posting this, Chris.