Zeus, Conqueror of the Cosmos, and Archetype of the Ordered Whole

“For what is now happening is the decisive rapprochement with the unconscious. This is where insight, the unio mentalis, begins to become real. What you are now creating is the beginning of individuation, whose immediate goal is the experience and production of the symbol of totality[my ital.].” (Carl Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, P. 529, Par 753)

Zeus, mighty Olympian, the one with “unconquerable hands”, who wields the dreaded thunderbolt. Raised on the cliffs of Mount Ida by the Kouretes and his grandmother, Gaia, until he would take his mighty revenge on his father, Kronos, and supplant him and the titans with the new Olympian order. Zeus, mightiest of kings, who is “too strong”, and might, by his own claim, tie all his fellow Olympians to the other part of a string and still pull them, is the archetype of authority, order, and the completion of the process of integrating a new conscious dominant culturally or personally. Behold the might and authority of Zeus from his own mouth.

“Hear me, all you gods and all you goddesses: hear me while I speak forth what the heart within my breast urges. Now let no female divinity, nor male god either, presume to cut across the way of my word, but consent to it all of you, so that I can make an end in speed of these matters. And anyone I perceive against the gods’ will attempting to go among the Trojans and help them, or among the Danaans, he shall go whipped against his dignity back to Olympos; or I shall take him and dash him down to the murk of Tartaros, far below, where the uttermost depth of the put lies under earth, where there are gates of iron and brazen doorstone, as far beneath the house of Hades as from earth the sky lies. Then he will see how far I am strongest of all the immortals. Come, you god, make this endeavor, that you may all learn this. Let down out of the sky a cord of gold; lay hold of it all you who are gods and all who are goddesses, yet not even so can you drag down Zeus from the sky to the ground, not Zeus the high lord of counsel, though you try until you grow weary. Yet whenever I might strongly be minded to pull you, I could drag you up, earth and all and sea and all with you, then fetch the golden rope about the horn of Olympos and make it fast, so that all once more should dangle in mid air. So much stronger am I than the gods, and stronger than mortals.” (Homer, Iliad, Bk VIII 5-28, Lattimore tr.)

Zeus stands unopposed*, and almost feral in his might. He vaunts over the gods in a way, which if he were mortal, would be considered full of excess and hubris, but as king of the gods, such vaunts are his right and marks of his true authority, though Hera, lines 462-463, like a wife mortal or immortal, is quick to remind Zeus how well all know his strength. “Majesty, son of Kronos, what sort of thing have you spoken? We know well already your strength, how it is no small thing.” (Ibid. Bk VIII 462-463). He is energetic, powerful, visceral in his authority. Although, above, one cannot help but notice that he is also the “high lord of counsel”, but his “wide-eyebrows” and “dark-thoughts” are rarely so deeply speculative that they cannot be assertively and aggressively voiced. Perhaps, even though he derives his authority from the power of hands in large part, Zeus may also also receive some bit from his recognition of and obedience to fate. We again observe a small clue in one of his responses to Hera which followed one of his arrogant soliloquies.

“For Hektor the huge will not sooner be stayed from his fighting until there stirs by the ships the swift-footed son of Peleus on that day when they shall fight by the sterns of the beached ships in the narrow place of necessity[my ital.] over fallen Patroklos. This is the way it is fated to be [my ital.]; and for you and your anger I care not; not if you stray apart to the undermost limits of earth and seam where Iapetos and Kronos seated have no shining of the sun god Hyperion to delight them nor winds’ delight, but Tartaros stands deeply about them; not even if you reach that place in your wandering shall I care for your skulks; since there is nothing more shameless than you are.” (Ibid, Bk VIII 473-483)

Two bits are interesting from this second indication of what Bruce Louden in his “The Gods in Epic, or the Divine Economy” calls the “theomachy” or elements of battles between the gods, or for our purposes, aspects of the unconscious struggling for conscious dominance in the culture of a people or person. Zeus, besides again showing massive aggression, and again towards his wife, shows that it is not simply his desire to flex “the royal muscle” but his adherence to fate (moira or heimarmene) which makes him act so candidly. Indeed, he makes something of the ultimate threat, suggesting that if Hera stood apart in Tartaros, that he would care not, because he serves fate**. Now let us consider why it is important that the king of the gods, or the symbol of conscious totality, the “new-king”, or the vital conscious dominant might serve fate. It is precisely because the “old-king” or conscious dominant failed to serve fate, the representation of the will of the unconscious, that the original connection between the “old-king” or conscious dominant was severed. For it is precisely this recognition by Zeus that he must, one, dominate the other gods around him in terms of his greater strength and wisdom, and two, follow fate, and using the tools above, ensure that the other gods do as well. Otherwise, he, like his father and his father’s father, will suffer the same “severing” and again be replaced by fate with a new king.***

Let us now move on to considering the natural antipathy between Ares, archetype of conquest and conflict, and his natural progression, his father, Zeus, archetype of the conqueror now ruling. Again Homer’s Iliad shows their conflicting natures in the wake of Zeus’ conspiring and ever-treacherous wife, Hera’s, conniving words to a banquet of Olympians on high:

“Fools, we who try to work against Zeus, thoughtlessly. Still we are thinking in our anger to go near, and stop him by argument or force. He sits apart and care nothing nor thinks of us, and says that among the immortals he is pre-eminently the greatest in power and strength. Therefore each of you must take whatever evil he sends you. Since I think already a sorrow has been wrought against Ares. His son has been killed in the fighting, dearest of all men to him, Askalaphos, whom stark Ares calls his own son.” (Ibid, Bk XV 104-112)

And Ares’ reaction and response:

“So she spoke. Then Ares struck against both his big thighs with the flats of his hands, and spoke a word of anger and sorrow: “Now, you who have your homes on Olympos, you must not blame me for going among the ships of the Achaians, and avenging , my son’s slaughter, even though it be my fate to be struck by Zeus’ thunderbolt, and sprawl in the blood and dust by the dead men.” (Ibid, Bk XV 113-118)

One sees here the bitter difference between Ares’ almost thoughtless energy and Zeus’ brutal adherence to fate. In fact, just lines later, Athene, herself an aspect of Zeus, is the one who checks the fury of Ares (123-142). Ares, who represents acting with stupendous energy, but with a struggle in heart and not necessarily a thought in mind, is offered as contrast to Zeus whose will reflects his established authority and the will of fate. For Ares, and his archetype, only truly serve fate when Zeus, or any conscious dominant, fails to do so itself.

Though conflict always seems just beneath the surface amongst the immortals, the need for Ares only truly exists when the conscious dominant has fallen, and a new one requires a forceful entrance to supremacy. After this time, however, as tense as things may become, the archetype of conflict must be replaced by the archetype of the conqueror, or the one who brings things to order, a kosmos, and rules in accordance with fate and in connection to the creative unconscious. This necessity exists not only in mythology, but in politics and on a personal level as well.

“In their conflict with the emperor, Gregory and his successors did not have armies of their own to deploy and sought instead to bolster their power through appeals to legitimacy[my. ital.]. The papal part initiated a search for sources of law to bolster its case for the universal jurisdiction of the church. One of the consequences of this search was the rediscovery of the Justinian Code, the Corpus Iuris Civilis, in a library in northern Italy at the end of the eleventh century. To this day, the Justinian Code remains the basis for the civil law tradition that is practiced throughout continental Europe and in other countries there, from Argentina to Japan. Many basic legal concepts, like the distinction between civil and criminal law, and between public and private law, have their origins in it.” (Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order, P. 268)

Above we see the capacity for a new attitude or way of being to take shape out of non-violent conflict through innovation. Just as the church used litigious means to pursue their civil interests, and it did so by a return or reconnection to a code from the past (Justinian code), so does the consciousness of an individual, after passing through the archetypes of the hero, Dionysos, Hermes, and Ares, finally come to the rejuvenation of consciousness that it first sought in removing the “blockage” of the “old-king.” In so receiving the new king, Zeus, the following “goal of the process” may occur.

“The avowed purpose of this involvement is to integrate the statements of the unconscious, to assimilate their compensatory content, and thereby produce a whole meaning which alone makes life worth living and, for not a few people, possible at all.” (Carl Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, P. 531, Par 756)

“To put it in modern psychological language, this projection of the hieros gamos signifies the conjunction of conscious and unconscious, the transcendent function characteristic of the individuation process. Integration of the unconscious invariably has a healing effect.” (Carl Jung, Symbols of Transformation, P. 433, Par 672)

Therefore, the ascending and ascendancy of Zeus, as a dominant of the conscious mind connected to the life-spring of the unconscious (and reality) “assimilates compensatory content” and produces the meaning in the lives of people and persons which the old and dying king failed to. It is, therefore, in the vitality and pure and dominating force of a living and real attitude towards life that meaning and healing for a culture lie.

For a final word on the turning point and revitalization of a spirit of a culture or person, let us look to Tarnas’ description of Zeus as Jupiter:

“the principle of expansion, magnitude, growth, elevation, superiority, the capacity and impulse to enlarge and grow, to ascend and progress, to improve and magnify, to incorporate that which is external, to make greater wholes[my ital.], to inflate; to experience success, honor, advancement, plenitude, abundance, prodigality, excess, surfeit, the capacity of inclination for magnanimity, optimism, enthusiasm, exuberance, joy, joviality, liberality, breadth of experience, philosophical and cultural aspiration, comprehensiveness and largeness of vision, pride, arrogance, aggrandizement, extravagance; fecundity, fortune, and providence; Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods.” (Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, Pp. 90-91)

Only when a person or culture has been “made into a larger whole”, or simply whole can it rightly and honestly experience the enlargement and expansion of its mental boundaries and truly experience fortune, success, and magnanimity. In being healthy, whole, and connected to reality (the unconscious), so does a culture flourish in spirit, through optimism, politically, through cultural aspiration, and economically through fortune and liberality. After the fight is over, and the king has won his throne, so long as he maintains his proper relationship to fate (or as a mental attitude, its relation to the unconscious) does a body politic or individual advance, grow, and live a meaningful and complete life. Therein lies the salvation of the pysche of man and the spirit of his society, America and otherwise.

*Although, curiously, Homer does include an account of the gods on the Danaan side (Athene, Hera, and Poseidon) once binding Zeus–and Thetis getting Briareus, one of the hekatakheires (hundred-handed giants), to save Zeus from this binding. (Iliad, Bk I 396-406)

**Further argumentation for Zeus and all gods serving fate: “Fate governs both gods and men. And it is this primordial acceptance of fate which gives Homeric religion, with all its affirmation of this world and of human existence, its peculiar realistic pessimism. Yet, even in the awareness of the bitterest fate, Homeric man never demands a reversal of nature nor expects rivers to flow uphill. His natural and vital existence, to which the numinous and the miraculous are alien and hostile, called forth gods in its own image.” (Walter Wili, The Orphic Mysteries and the Greek Spirit, from The Mysteries, P. 65, ed. Joseph Campbell)

*** “Zeus was director of Olympus, but he was responsible to the great board of directors of the world, the moira, an invisible influence, the “Faceless Corporation” of Olympus, so even Zeus could not do what he wanted.” (Carl Jung, Seminar on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, Vol. II Page 917)

The Mythological Roots of Friendships between Men

Especially on historic days is it important to keep in mind that no tree is without its roots, no mountain without its base, and no building without its foundation. In a brief concession to the genius temporis, we will consider five mythological friendships, between men and men and gods, which cleared the way for the path America continues down today. And though this article will focus on the relationships between men and men and gods, its lessons could just as easily be generalized to relationships between other genders, regardless of their constituent parts. The point of this article, and friendship, has been said best by Aristotle:

“After what we have said, a discussion of friendship would naturally follow, since it is a virtue or implies virtue, and is besides most necessary with a view to living. For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends? Or how can prosperity be guarded and preserved without friends? The greater it is, the more exposed is it to risk. And in poverty and in other misfortunes men think friends are the only refuge. It helps the young, too, to keep from error; it aids older people by ministering to their needs and supplementing the activities that are failing from weakness; those in the prime of life it stimulates to noble actions-‘two going together’-for with friends men are more able both to think and to act. ” (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics BK VIII 1155a 1-8)

We will begin the day’s article with the deep and close bond between Enkidu and Gilgamesh from Ancient Sumeria’s Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was himself a man who was two-thirds divine and one-third human–so powerful and strong that he required no sleep at night and was granted the divine right of primae noctis. No natural man could tame the appetites of Gilgamesh–so the Sumerian gods (Aruru in particular) created him a “second self, a man who equals his strength and courage, a man who equals his stormy heart.” (Gilgamesh, Book/Plate I, P. 73, Mitchell tr.). Their relationship was like none before–two peerless and divine men–who learned the ways of the earth, men, and themselves through their relationship with each other.

Even their manner of becoming acquainted had a physical and almost animal basis: “…they grappled each other, limbs intertwined, each huge body straining to break free from the other’s embrace. Finally, Gilgamesh threw the wild man and with his right knee pinned him to the ground. His anger left him. He turned away. The contest was over…they embraced and kissed. They held hands like brothers. They walked side by side and became true friends.” Through fighting each other they came to know each other in a way only they two could know. For any wrestler or grappler, this is a truth well-known–only in physical combat, does one learn another and how he relates to him fully. The two men, as best-friends, would go on to kill Humbaba, a forest-giant, and the Bull of Heaven after Gilgamesh scorned the Love Goddess Ishtar. And only through Enkidu dying did Gilgamesh learn the limits of mortality and the destiny which all men, even semi-divine men, must face. Truly, their friendship was one that led to a deeper understanding of each other, themselves, and the human condition–which, as Aristotle suggests above, are a few of the major benefits of friendship.

The next major friendship hails from a closer mythological tradition–Archaic Greece, or smiling Hellas: the ultimate warrior Achilleus and his noble, and older friend, Patroklos. We find the fullest account of the two friends in Homer’ Iliad, where no force was strong enough to bend the “Hades-like” will of Achilleus except for love of his friend and companion, Patroklos. Though Aeschylus is his play Myrmidons has a cruder portrayal of the relationship between the two, one learns in Homer’s Iliad that the two grew up together. Achilleus was always the superior, and that upon the two leaving for Troy Patroklos’ father, Menoitios, advised him always to counsel Achilleus, his superior in strength and rank, and to temper his vicious emotions as only an older and more temperate friend could. Does not this relationship resonate with every reader?

During the Iliad, as Achilleus sat out sullen and grieving for his own lost honor, Patroklos implored him to return to battle–to help their friends. Finally, while crying, Patroklos demanded that he be allowed to wear the armor of Achilleus and go fight in Achilleus’ stead. Achilleus granted his wish, and Patroklos, man that he was, pushed the Trojans back from the ships to their walls and was only stopped by the hand of Apollo, the spear of Euphorbos, and the final and finishing blow of Hektor. Patroklos, though, left the earth with a death-speech as powerful, manly, and ominous as has ever been captured in words:

“Now is your time for big words, Hektor. Yours is the victory given by Kronos’ son, Zeus, and Apollo, who have subdued me easily, since they themselves stripped the arms from my shoulders. Even though twenty such as you had come in against me, they would all have been broken beneath my spear, and have perished. No, deadly destiny, with the son of Leto, has killed me, and of men it was Euphorbos; you are only my third slayer. And put away in your heart this other thing I tell you. You yourself are not one who shall live long, but now already death and powerful destiny are standing beside you, to go down under the hands of Aiakos’ great son, Achilleus.” (Homer’s Iliad Bk XVI 844-854)

To die in such a bold and manly way is the ideal of many men. And to have one’s death be the catalyst which brings the single greatest human killing-force to have ever existed back into the battle (Achilleus had sacked 23 cities previously) both gave great meaning to Patroklos’ death and brought Achilleus back, in a way, to his humanity. Only through being stricken in such a personal way, losing his closest companion, does Achilleus re-enter the war, kill Hektor, and live-out his destiny as strongest and most glorious fighter ever to have lived. Without Patroklos, the “noble actions” which one friend is spurred on to without the other might well have been replaced by an account of Achilleus’ sullen lyre-playing, or by no account at all.

Two other major accounts of the great love shared between a mortal and immortal man are those of Zeus and Ganymede, who was so comely that Zeus, risking the hatred of his wife, Hera, took Ganymede from his royal home in Troy up to Olympos to serve forever as his cup-bearer in the place of Hera’s daughter, Hebe, Youth. A second, even more archetypal story, is that of Hyacinth and Apollo, which has become essentially synonymous with, and is generally considered the first instance of male to male love.

Both Apollo and the West Wind, Zephyros, loved Hyacinth, but as things tend to go, Hyacinth chose Apollo, the great Olympian. So, in revenge, one day while Hyacinth and Apollo were throwing the discus together, Zephyros blew the discus Apollo threw back towards Hyacinth and took his sweet life. Thus, the hyacinth plant. Though the story seems more indicative of the pitfalls of relationships between gods and men–just as Ganymede’s illustrates the potential benefits, one wonders whether Hyacinth would not have happily given up the years of his life that he did for the brief days, months (years?) which he spent in the company of a god, his friend and love.*

Next there is the example of Roman amor pius between youthful Euryalus and the hunter Nisus, whose “minds and hearts were one,” says Virgil (Aeneid Bk IX 239-240, Mandelbaum tr.). These two men were both refugees from fallen Troy, and in the absence of ruling Aeneas, they, confident in the nobility of their pursuit and the strength of their arms, set out from the wall and fortified position of Latium into the night to kill Rutulians/Latins, their enemies.

The two men, along with several other Trojans, set out on a night-raid modeled after the one which Diomedes and Odysseus more successfully carried out in Book IX of Homer’s Iliad. But Euryalus, in his youthful folly, dawns the shining helmet of Messapus, which betrays him by “flashing back moonlight across the shades of gleaming night,” (Ibid Bk IX 496-497), and Volcens, captain of the enemy Rutulians, captures “thrashing but hopeless” Euryalus.

Nisus, in horror, discovers that his closest companion is gone and from the shadows loosens arrows which fell Tagus and Sulmo. Volcens, enraged, exclaims the following ultimatum to the darkness: “yet until we find him, you shall pay…the penalties of both with your warm blood.” (Ibid Bk IX 563-564), and at this Volcens stabs Euryalus dead as Nisus watches and cries out. In response, stricken and single-minded, Nisus rushes from the shadows and through the crowd of Rutulians “seeking only Volcens, only Volcens can be the man he wants. The enemy crowd him; on every side, their ranks would drive him back, but Nisus presses on unchecked, whirling his lightning sword until he plunged it full into the Latin’s howling mouth, and, dying, took away his foeman’s life. Then, pierced, he cast himself upon his lifeless friend; there, at last, he found his rest in death.” (Ibid IX 582-590) Out of love for his noble and slain friend, Nisus gave up his own life to avenge him. Regardless of one’s particular views on justice, one cannot help but admit that tragic and beautiful sentiment of Nisus. Perhaps a certain justice requires listening to one’s heart in the moment rather than accepting a more stoic and considered self restraint?

To give one’s life in response to the death and in the service of a friend seems at least noble-minded and itself a rather heroic way to die, and it is in the deaths and lives of the men above that one sees justification, explanation, and the foundations of the friendships and relationships one sees today: “together, those in the prime of life [friendship] stimulates to noble actions,” and I will add to a pursuit of the good and a recognition of the beautiful. Such sentiments appear to be the foundations of the relationships above, and in so being, these relationships appear to partake of the good.

*One may find the Ganymede and Hyacinth stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses Bk X here in full.