Friday, April 28, 2006

Hermes, Hephaestus, Breton and the "ultra receptive posture"

In my last post I discussed one of the tenets of surrealism, the “ultra receptive posture,” and I said that this posture was ultimately hermetic in nature. In that regard, I was thinking of Hermes as the guide that leads us into unexpected, unknown regions of experience. New experience and new behavior are difficult to express in our society, where conformity is considered a virtue. The only way that we will follow Hermes and open ourselves to new experiences, new ideas, or new feelings is if we are receptive and willing to overcome our prudishness and our puritanical ideas and be ourselves, to find ourselves and speak of ourselves in a frank and honest way.

It is interesting to note that André Breton was the inventor of the game-Truth or Dare. It was a Dadaist strategy to break down barriers and expose the underlying psyche. Any one who has played the game knows that there must be a degree of trust but there must also be a willingness to accept certain unexpected results, which, in most instances, involve certain crudities, which we usually hide behind a patina of respectability. Hermes, like the Dadaists, was willing to express his desires openly and that is why he was the father of some of the most unusual children in mythology-Pan, Priapus, and Hermaphroditus.

An example of Hermes’ spontaneous and “ultra receptive posture” is found in Homer’s story of Hephaestus and Aphrodite in The Odyssey. In this story, Hephaestus suspects that his wife Aphrodite is having an affair with Ares. To catch them in the act, he devises an elaborate trap, which involves unbreakable nets. He traps the two in the act and then summons all the gods to see Aphrodite and Ares naked in his trap. The male gods show up and utter the usual epithets and censures of the immoral couple. Hermes, however, does not repeat the usual wornout platitudes. Instead, he says, “Apollo, my royal Archer, there is nothing I should relish more. Though the chains that kept me prisoner were three times as many, though all you gods and goddesses were looking on, yet would I sleep by Golden Aprodite’s side.” Rafael Lopez-Pedraza says of Hermes’ response that “Hermes is not at all bothered by revealing his fantasies in front of the rest of the gods.”

I am not calling for a revelation of our inner most thoughts to the world. Instead, I am calling for an investigation of our innermost thoughts rather than repressing or destroying them. If the psyche presents you with an odd or crude image investigate and expose it rather than quickly suppressing it. Because the fact of the matter is that it will not be destroyed; instead,it will simply sink back into the unconscious mind to grow stronger and uglier.

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