Thursday, August 19, 2010
Lightning as symbol.
Our early ancestors revered and feared natural phenomena; lightning and other atmospheric displays were appeased by means of magic rituals, a type of behavior that has persisted throughout human development and which remains pervasive today.
As our species acquired complex language skills, and gained confidence by adapting to new environments, we began to project "consciousness" onto the universe in the form of supernatural beings. Storms, lightning, thunder, rain, and wind became attributes of the sky god or goddess. All objects or creatures that traveled through the sky became associated with that deity. Real events and objects became symbols that referred to a new supernatural repository of magical associations and ideas. These ideas created a non-physical dimension within the human mind.
Zeus is a familiar example of a sky god. On a painted Greek amphora (470-460 b.c.e.) he is poised to launch a lightning bolt (against a giant.) As a symbol of flight, a bird is present to indicate (or to improve) the accuracy of his aim. The famous bronze Zeus from Artemisium, in the similar pose of a javelin thrower (470 b.c.e.), literally embodies Greek ideas about mature manhood. His superb physical development is based on the mathematical relationship of the human body to nature; his mental state is equally balanced. Emotion is a potential force held in readiness by rational thought. The result is a quality of lightness, flexibility, and harmony that teaches the viewer what a man can be.
All gods acquire new attributes and characteristics through time: Zeus is a typical Top Male.
In Christian art the image of Zeus was conflated with that of Jehovah, but the two sky gods represent drastically different styles of Top Male. Zeus was famously in love with his wife Hera and seduced many women. He was not the sole ruler of man and nature, but shared dominion with many deities, both male and female. Jehovah was a woman-hating bachelor whose ego consumed creation - a very unbalanced man. He killed off his wife (nature), and destroyed everything positive and necessary regarding females; he demanded the abject obedience of his favorite object of torture - man. He wasn't even present for the conception of his one child, who was produced by artificial insemination. The radically different character of Zeus and Jehovah, who began as essentially the same type of Top Male god, is the product of the cultures that produced them.