Search Results for Odyssey
The protagonist Odysseus must face terrible perils on his return home from the Trojan wars. Gods and goddesses, especially Athena, frequently provide otherworldly assistance. The Greek pantheon is depicted as residing at Mount Olympus, a godly abode.
On his return, and after numerous near-death adventures with frightening and bewitching creatures such as the Cyclops and the sirens,¹ Odysseus outwits a slothful pack of suitors who had considered him dead while pestering Penelope, his ever-faithful wife.
Odysseus ends up killing them all with the help of his son Telemachus.
¹ The illustration (right) shows Odysseus strapped to the mast of his ship, as he sails past the dangerous bird-women called the sirens. He’d instructed his crew to bind him tight so that he would not be enticed by the sirens’ irresistible song. For once a sailor gets too close to the sirens, there’s no return and death is assured.
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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Science-fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke, as well as a film with screenplay by Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, starring Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood.
While the novel helps to flesh out the enigmatic film, it’s a bit pedantic. The film, on the other hand, is regarded as a cinematic classic.
In the film two interconnected themes are explored with a bare minimum of dialogue: (1) Mankind vs. Machine, and (2) Mankind in Evolution.
The machine, a HAL 9000 computer, malfunctions and murders astronaut Frank Pool and several others traveling in suspended animation en route to Jupiter (Saturn in the novel). The lone survivor, Dave Bowman, disconnects HAL’s higher processing modules, despite HAL’s advice to “take a stress pill, relax, and think it over.”
Bowman is then transported through an alien gateway to a distant world. Dying, he is reborn a Star Child.
In Clarke’s original story the child-god returns to Earth to safely detonate an orbiting hydrogen bomb. Unsure what to do next, he will “think of something.”
The catalyst for the Jupiter mission (and eventual transformation of Bowman) is a strange signal emanating from an anomalous, rectangular object discovered just underneath the Moon’s surface.
The film tells us that another, identical object was present on Earth at the dawn of mankind. The novel explains that the object, often called the monolith, was planted by aliens in order to guide the evolution of mankind.
The screenplay is far more open-ended than the novel. But both portray astronaut Dave Bowman’s metamorphosis in a way consistent with various mythic cycles relating to the theme of death and transformation.
Subsequent novels like 2010 (also a film), 2064 and 3001 use the literary device of retroactive continuity. That is, certain plot and setting details are modified by Clarke but not at the expense of a greater, more holistic sense of coherence. For instance, in the sequel film 2010 we learn that the HAL 9000 was told to lie by Washington, which was incompatible with HAL’s programming. So the computer’s somewhat sinister ‘malfunction’ of 2001 becomes something more of an unavoidable and forgivable psychosis ultimately caused by human error, as HAL ironically indicated in the original film.
3001 explores an intriguing idea where consciousness of human origin (Dave Bowman) unites with a computer program (HAL) to create a new kind of hybrid named Halman. » Cylons
Official 2001: A Space Odyssey Trailer
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He’s often depicted as brutal, violent and merciless, but not invulnerable. He often returns to Olympia after battle complaining of his war wounds. To this Zeus responds with ambivalence, not only about war but about his feelings for Ares:
Then looking at him darkly Zeus who gathers the clouds spoke to him:
‘Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar.
To me you are the most hateful of all gods who hold Olympos.
Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.
And yet I will not long endure to see you in pain, since
you are my child, and it was to me that your mother bore you.
But were you born of some other god and proved so ruinous
long since you would have been dropped beneath the gods of the bright sky.”¹
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In the ‘original’ (1978) and ‘reimagined’ (2003) versions of the science fiction film and TV program Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons are a mechanical race of beings created by mankind but which have turned on their creator.
In the reimagined TV series, the Cylons may look exactly like human beings. Not unlike the Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Borg and The Matrix, Cylons symbolize the possibility of mankind becoming endangered by machines. And on the sociological level, Cylons could be taken to represent the very real issues of depersonalization, alienation and, as sociologist Max Weber put it, the bureaucratization and rationalization of human beings in contemporary society. Not only that. As the above poster suggests, Cylons could represent hostile spies in otherwise healthy societies.
The background story to the Cylons is pretty complicated. It’s actually quite amazing how thoroughly the Battlestar Galactica writers fleshed out – maybe not the best metaphor in this instance – their identity.¹
The word Cylon, itself, stems from an actual Athenian nobleman.
¹ Especially in the reimagined series: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cylon_%28reimagining%29
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Cyclops [Greek cyclops: round-eyed] – In Greek mythology, the Cyclopes are one-eyed giants, often employed as smiths and associated with volcanoes.
The cyclops appear in several ancient literature sources. In Homer‘s Odyssey, the Cyclops Polyphemus is tricked and eventually blinded by Odysseus. In anger Polyphemus tries to destroy Odysseus’ crew by tossing huge rocks at their ship during their narrow escape.
Although they have one eye, the cyclops should not be confused with the Asian idea of the “third eye” or, for that matter, with the Christian idea of the “single eye.”¹ Not to say that these ideas are identical. They’re not. The Hindu Siva, for example, burns his enemies to ashes with a heat ray that emanates from this third eye.² By way of contrast, Jesus Christ never advocates this kind of violence. Even if they’re not the same, these two images of the single eye, Hindu and Christian, do share the connotation of some kind of privileged spiritual perspective.
By way of contrast, Wikipedia says this about the cyclops:
They were giants with a single eye in the middle of their forehead and a foul disposition. According to Hesiod, they were strong, stubborn, and “abrupt of emotion”. Collectively they eventually became synonyms for brute strength and power, and their name was invoked in connection with massive masonry.³
This clearly isn’t about spiritual insight. However, the cyclops do fashion thunderbolts (as weapons) for Zeus’ purposes. But they’re just the tool makers. It’s Zeus who decides how his thunderbolts should be used in the cosmic battleground.
² Many Hindus, of course, would argue that Siva’s death ray is only aimed at the inferior deities, these symbolizing the inferior aspects of the self. An excellent book about Siva in Hindu mythology is Siva: The Erotic Ascetic by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty http://books.google.ca/books/about/Siva.html?id=dnfZ_MBErlQC&redir_esc=y
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Commander Data is an android science officer played by actor Brent Spiner aboard the starship Enterprise in the science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Data’s character evolves during the course of the series. At first he’s mostly an amusing and capable robot, much like C3PO in the original Star Wars film. As the story cycle evolves, however, we see Data wondering who he is, what it’s like to have feelings, parents, children and if he would enjoy sex.
Through various tricks and turns Data eventually experiences human emotions and activities, to become a sort of mythic representative for the idea of AI rights, a theme followed up by the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager.
This might seem fanciful today but as computer technology advances at warp speed, in the not-too-distant future ethical concerns about AI could be headline news. We see this possibility in the science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which illustrates the potential dangers of an intelligent machine (the HAL 9000 computer) gone wrong.
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Homer is an Ancient Greek poet (Homeros) of uncertain identity.
He or she was believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to have authored the classic epics of the Odyssey and Illiad around the 8th-7th centuries BCE, the former epic likely predating the latter. Today, most people will tell you that Homer is the outstanding author of the Odyssey and Illiad but, in reality, this authorship isn’t solidly established.
Not unlike the uncertainty concerning the originality and authorship of some of the works of Shakespeare, Homer probably borrowed from existing mythological tales which were transmitted through oral tradition. And with a particular poetic genius, he or she depicted the enduring characters of the Olympic pantheon.
Contemporary scholars say that the two Homeric classics may have been authored by several persons.
The ancient Greeks saw Homer as an impoverished, blind minstrel. And a contemporary minority view suggests that Homer was a woman. Regardless of the poet’s gender, his or her lasting impact on Western culture is undeniable.
The 33 Homeric Hymns, likely written after the two epics, are no longer attributed to Homer.
In more recent times, a Homeric strain is arguably discernible in the works of the Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen, who took up residence in Greece during his formative years.
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In Greek mythology Hermes is the son of Zeus and Maia (the daughter of Atlas). In his youth Hermes is regarded as a prankster. In Homer‘s Odyssey he’s depicted as a mature messenger of the gods and conductor of souls to Hades. But he has many other functions, outlined in different sources.
In the Homeric Hymn to Hermes he’s described as the protector or travelers, harlots, old women, thieves, and foot runners. The Homeric hymns are called as such because they follow the same form and pattern as Homer’s work. Ancient scholars assumed they were Homer’s work. But today scholars question not only their authorship but also the authorship of works attributed to Homer.
Scholars are also uncertain as to Hermes’ origin. His cult appears in the remote regions of Greece, where’s he’s chiefly regarded as a nature God, assisting the simple farmers and shepherds of the region. But where he came from remains a mystery. Some say he is indigenous to the area, and worshipped since Neolithic times. Others maintain that he came to Greece from Asia, possibly through Cyprus or Cilicia.
The Romans, as they often did, adapted the Greek Hermes into the god Mercury. The Roman Mercury shared many characteristics with Hermes. So today, when we say someone has a “mercurial” personality, this can ultimately be traced back to Hermes, the messenger who roamed among different realms and, as such, rarely sat still.
C. G. Jung was particularly interested in Hermes, seeing him as a symbolic link among various aspects of consciousness and unconsciousness.
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Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek demigod and incredibly strong Heracles. He is the son of Jupiter (in Greece, Zeus) and the mortal Alcmene.
Generally regarded as a hero, he was born a destroyer, par excellence. Hercules vanquished two snakes while still in the cradle and killed a lion in his boyhood. This disturbed Hera (Juno in Rome) who drove him insane, which lead him to murder his wife and children.
Hercules consulted the Delphic Oracle to find out how to redeem himself. In some versions of the myth, the Oracle instructs him to visit King Eurystheus. Because Hercules was so physically powerful, Eurystheus couldn’t think of any tasks too demanding for him. So he consulted Juno on how best to redeem him through physical penance.
Together, Eurystheus and Juno conceived of 12 Labors for Hercules to undergo in order to restore his good standing among the gods and mankind. However, in other versions of the myth, the Oracle itself prescribes the 12 Labors.
The 12 Labors which Hercules must complete are:
- Kill the Nemean Lion: He strangled it.
- Kill the nine-headed Hydra: This was a difficult job because two heads grew back for each one destroyed. Hercules burnt eight heads and threw one under a rock.
- Seize the Hind of Ceryneia: This was tricky because Ceryneia was Diana‘s pet deer. He pursued the deer for several months before succeeding
- Seize the Erymanthian Boar and bring it to King Eurystheus: “The Erymanthian Boar was a giant fear-inspiring creature of the wilds that lived on Mount Erymanthos, a mountain that was apparently once sacred to the Mistress of the Animals, for in classical times it remained the haunt of Artemis (Homer, Odyssey, VI.105).” ¹
- Cleanse the huge and filthy stables of King Augeas of Elis: Hercules succeeded by diverting a nearby river.
- Free the Stymphalian Lake of nasty birds that ate human beings
- Capture the Cretan Bull
- Capture the four beastly mares of the Thracian king Diomedes
- Steal the golden girdle of the Amazonian queen Hipployte
- Capture the giant Geryon’s oxen
- Obtain the famous golden apples of the Hesperides
- Capture Cerberus: Cerberus is a frightful three-headed dog and the guardian of the underworld ruled by Hades. Hercules had to bring him to daylight, which was no easy task because “Cerberus was the offspring of Echidna, a hybrid half-woman and half-serpent, and Typhon, a fire-breathing giant whom even the Olympian gods feared.”² And Cerberus’ job was to prevent people from escaping Hades via the river Styx, which was the link between Hades and the world of living mortals.
The story of Hercules most likely resonates with anyone interested in the mysterious realm of what C. G. Jung called the collective unconscious. Jung, himself, said that delving into the collective unconscious could be wonderful and enriching but also hideous and revolting.
The downside of the journey into the so-called collective unconscious might be related to the idea of spiritual impurity, especially with regard to the 5th Labor, which involves a great amount of pollution.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
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Hephaestus was a master blacksmith. In his giant forge at Mount Olympus he fashioned the armor and shield of Achilles, as well as Cupid’s arrows and Jupiter’s thunderbolts. He is the only Greek god depicted as lame and his offspring were usually ugly.
The reasons for his lameness might be related to the ancient belief that certain gifts were bestowed on those with disabilities.
To add to his woes, his consort Aphrodite often cheated on him (with gods and men), but Hephaestus is also depicted with another consort.
According to most versions, Hephaestus’s consort is Aphrodite, who cheats on him with a number of gods and mortals, including the god Ares. However, in Homer’s Iliad, the consort of Hephaestus is a lesser Aphrodite, Charis “the grace” or Aglaia “the glorious”, the youngest of the Graces, as Hesiod calls her.¹
Hephaestus is also interesting as a figure who undergoes a massive fall from and subsequent return to grace. Hera flung him from Olympus but he won his return by fashioning a giant golden throne which, when she sat on it, couldn’t get out of.
Some stories say that the act of Hera throwing him out of Olympus caused his lameness, others say he was rejected because of it. In any case, Hephaestus was eventually asked back in order to free Hera from being stuck on her throne. His triumphant return is depicted in pottery paintings in Attica and Corinth.
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