Thursday, March 16, 2006

Rafael Lopez-Pedraza, in his brilliant work Hermes and His Children, Daimon Verlag 2003, repeatedly mines nuggets of insight.

One nugget that I was particularly taken with was his observation that “out of pondering upon his [Hermes] crafty nature came his desire to taste flesh, as if the two had a deep and primordial connection. The myth points to a past in the origin of mankind, a past of primal concern to modern scholarship which has given great attention to the search for food and the killing of animals with man’s invention of the wooden spear, hardened in fire.”

Once Hermes is connected to the most primal of complexes, the desire to taste flesh, his role in our psychical development becomes clearer, deeper, and more profound.

On a literal level, a meditation on Hermes might lead us to an understanding of eating disorders, kleptomania, and cultural anxiety. On a metaphoric level, it illuminates certain aspects of religion and the role of ritual sacrifice and eating. And, on a political level, the myth provides a vocabulary to describe current American politics and a solution to our most titanic impulses.

Once we begin this meditation, we are, however, immediately confronted with another mythological character, a Titan, Prometheus, who is also a thief. Both Prometheus and Hermes deal with fire, a symbol of technological progress. Without fire, Hermes could not have made his fire hardened sticks nor burned the cattle for the sacrifice of the gods. Prometheus, however, stole that fire and its use and gave it to man in opposition to the gods.

Hermes mediates his thievery through sacrifice and creation, while Prometheus steals for power. Both gods demonstrate man’s role on the earth after the fall; however, they present two different responses to the fall. Prometheus would have joined the workers at the tower of Babel. Hermes would not. Prometheus would use the earth up in his desire for progress and excess, Hermes would not.

Hermes seems to be in eclipse while Prometheus has been freed from the rock to roam the earth and steal its riches without sacrifice.

Titanic impulses seem to rule modern life. Hermes offers a counter balance to the titanic impulse for excess.

1 comment:

Thieone said...

very interethxing