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demonology at the end of Agamemnon

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demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Thu Jun 20, 2013 1:28 am

On the last page of Agamemnon the word δαίμονος is used three times once by each speaker between 1660-1667. Robert Browning simply transliterates the word leaving it untranslated. This alerts the reader to a thread which would be otherwise invisible to the English reader. Clytaemestra and Aegisthus use δαίμονος in threats leveled at the Chorus Leader who casts it back in their teeth with threat that the δαίμονος (Daimon of the house, R-T) will bring Orestes back home, a prophetic utterance. How this word should be translated is a difficult question. The modernist notion of impersonal destiny which is set in a universe of essentially mechanical forces working according to inviolable laws ... that framework doesn't rule the imaginations currently at work in popular literature, much of which is set in an enchanted universe full of spirit beings on multiple levels, waging war with one another. So we need translations that connect the current readers mental framework directly with the ancient Greek framework, doing an end run around modernism.


Κλυταιμήστρα
...
εἰ δέ τοι μόχθων γένοιτο τῶνδ’ ἅλις, δεχοίμεθ’ ἄν,
1660
δαίμονος χηλῇ βαρείᾳ δυστυχῶς πεπληγμένοι.
ὧδ’ ἔχει λόγος γυναικός, εἴ τις ἀξιοῖ μαθεῖν.
Αἴγισθος
ἀλλὰ τούσδ’ ἐμοὶ ματαίαν γλῶσσαν ὧδ’ ἀπανθίσαι
κἀκβαλεῖν ἔπη τοιαῦτα δαίμονος πειρωμένους,
σώφρονος γνώμης θ’ ἁμαρτεῖν τὸν κρατοῦντά <θ’ ὑβρίσαι>.
Χορός
1665
οὐκ ἂν Ἀργείων τόδ’ εἴη, φῶτα προσσαίνειν κακόν.
Αἴγισθος
ἀλλ’ ἐγώ σ’ ἐν ὑστέραισιν ἡμέραις μέτειμ’ ἔτι.
Χορός
οὔκ, ἐὰν δαίμων, Ὀρέστην δεῦρ’ ἀπευθύνῃ μολεῖν.


KLUTAIMNESTRA.
Nowise, O belovedest of men, may we do other ills!
To have reaped away these, even, is a harvest much to me.
Go, both thou and these the old men, to the homes appointed each,
Ere ye suffer! It behoved one do these things just as we did:
And if of these troubles there should be enough -- we may assent
-- By the Daimon's heavy heel unfortunately stricken ones!
So a woman's counsel hath it -- if one judge it learning-worth.
AIGISTHOS.
But to think that these at me the idle tongue should thus o'erbloom,
And throw out such words -- the Daimon's power experimenting on --
And, of modest knowledge missing, -- me, the ruler, . . .
CHOROS.
Ne'er may this befall Argeians -- wicked man to fawn before!
AIGISTHOS.
Anyhow, in after days, will I, yes, I, be at thee yet!
CHOROS.
Not if hither should the Daimon make Orestes straightway come!
— Robert Browning

Clytaemestra
No, my dearest, let us work no further ills. 1655 Even these are many to reap, a wretched harvest. Of woe we have enough; let us have no bloodshed. Venerable elders, go back to your homes, and yield in time to destiny before you come to harm. What we did had to be done. But should this trouble prove enough, we will accept it, 1660sorely battered as we are by the heavy hand of fate. Such is a woman's counsel, if any care to learn from it.

Aegisthus
But to think that these men should let their wanton tongues thus blossom into speech against me and cast about such insults, putting their fortune to the test! To reject wise counsel and insult their master!

Chorus
It would not be like men of Argos to cringe before a man as low as you.

Aegisthus
Ha! I will visit you with vengeance yet in days to come.

Chorus
Not if fate shall guide Orestes to return home.
—H.W. Smyth
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 26, 2013 8:50 am

Daimon is a difficult word. I suppose you used the word the demonology, which brings to mind later Christian notions, to spice things up even more... :) In Homer, the word seems to be used when a god is intervening with human affairs, but the speaker doesn't know which one - so we might translate "some god". (See The Homer Encyclopedia, Daimon). Maybe a similar interpretation fits here too.

In Homer, when a character seemed to act strangely, another might call him δαιμόνιος - "possessed by a god". But when Zeus calls Hera δαιμονίη, the original meaning must have been partly forgotten:

Τὴν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς·
δαιμονίη αἰεὶ μὲν ὀΐεαι οὐδέ σε λήθω
(Iliad 1.560-561)
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby daivid » Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:19 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote: The modernist notion of impersonal destiny which is set in a universe of essentially mechanical forces working according to inviolable laws ... that framework doesn't rule the imaginations currently at work in popular literature, much of which is set in an enchanted universe full of spirit beings on multiple levels, waging war with one another. So we need translations that connect the current readers mental framework directly with the ancient Greek framework, doing an end run around modernism.

This is a very similar question here as that we discussed in the Robert Kennedy thread. If we look at the 19th century with its optimistic belief that science could conquer all etc then there was a real gulf between the outlook then and Aeschylus but I don't think that is true any longer.
Today I see the distance between the outlook of Aeschylus and us becoming less and less. Lovelock's Gaia is really not very different from Aeschylus' deamons. Lovelock is famous for his u-turns but his pessimistic formulation of Gaia and global warming is that Gaia's response will be to shrug humans off so we will be extinct and life on the planet will then readjust. Drop the spiritual agency of a Gaia that is not really different from how a lot of scientists describe the danger of global warming.
The basic outlook is that actions have consequences.
The actions of Klutaimnestra and Aigisthos will have consequences in the form of an avenging Orestes.
That really isn't at alien to our outlook in the 21st century.
Demon is, of course, not a good translation - it's so "Buffy the vampire slayer". How about "force of nature"?
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:46 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:Daimon is a difficult word. I suppose you used the word the demonology, which brings to mind later Christian notions, to spice things up even more... :) In Homer, the word seems to be used when a god is intervening with human affairs, but the speaker doesn't know which one - so we might translate "some god". (See The Homer Encyclopedia, Daimon). Maybe a similar interpretation fits here too.

In Homer, when a character seemed to act strangely, another might call him δαιμόνιος - "possessed by a god". But when Zeus calls Hera δαιμονίη, the original meaning must have been partly forgotten:

Τὴν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς·
δαιμονίη αἰεὶ μὲν ὀΐεαι οὐδέ σε λήθω
(Iliad 1.560-561)


Paul,

We can call it Daimonology if that would be more appropriate. I am particularly trying to avoid a modernist despiritualizing of the ancient Greek concept of unnamed and/or minor deities. The point of asking this question is to try and reconstruct the thought world of the Attic Tragedians in regard to the agency of unseen beings. Calling them forces of nature (David) rips daimonia out of their cultural framework. Some people refer to the Olympians as personifications, e.g. Aphrodite as personification of sexual desire, but does that carry the implication that Aphrodite wasn't considered a personal deity or a some sort of spiritual agent? Do people make offerings to personifications. Do people fear the wrath of personifications? Don't know of is Daimon was ever used in reference to Aphrodite but it could refer to an Olympian god. Minor unnamed deity covers a lot of territory but there were notions even more vague than that represented by the term. However vague and impersonal the referent might be, when you subtract the semantic component of spiritual agent I suspect that modernism is at work, reducing the discussion to nothing more or nothing beyond physics. A bad move IMHO when reading ancient authors of any sort.

Moving beyond the discussion of the modernist framework, I am particularly interested in the connections between Attic Daimonology and contemporary pop culture, e.g., Angelology (novel by Danielle Trussoni) or the Dionysian rites in The Secret History by Donna Tartt, framing this in the history of re-enchantment of the West 1960s-present.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby John W. » Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:00 pm

For the purpose of this discussion does it actually matter whether people now believe in the supernatural subject matter of (too?) many TV series and films? After all, one can enjoy tales of angels and demons, of zombies and vampires, and of elves and goblins without actually subscribing to any belief in their existence. But that would in turn give rise to questions of how seriously people of earlier eras took such stories, which would no doubt depend on many factors, not least the degree of education and intellectual sophistication of particular social groups and individuals.

As to 'mental framework', one could of course enjoy such fantastic tales while still retaining an essentially rationalist and scientific outlook.

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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:00 pm

John W. wrote:After all, one can enjoy tales of angels and demons, of zombies and vampires, and of elves and goblins without actually subscribing to any belief in their existence. But that would in turn give rise to questions of how seriously people of earlier eras took such stories, which would no doubt depend on many factors, not least the degree of education and intellectual sophistication of particular social groups and individuals.

As to 'mental framework', one could of course enjoy such fantastic tales while still retaining an essentially rationalist and scientific outlook.


There were probably "rationalists" in Ancient Athens but I suspect they would have been a small minority of cultural outsiders. Elisabeth Vandiver raises the question did the people in Ancient Athens believe in the actual existence of Aphrodite. She says that would be like asking if they believed in sexual desire. I think that over simplifies the issue. Reducing Aphrodite to personification of sexual desire and nothing more than a personification in my view is modernism imposing its world view on the ancient text.

There are no doubt contemporary rationalists who enjoy spooky entertainment. On the other hand there are several billion people on the planet who believer in the reality of a metaphysical realm which is populated by unseen beings of various sorts. I run into younger people regularly who clearly believe in metaphysical phenomena of various sorts. I am talking here about neo-paganism without any pejorative connotation attached to the term.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby Markos » Thu Jun 27, 2013 5:43 pm

Shakespeare wrote: There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will...


Shakespeare is undoubtedly a Christian monotheist. Hamlet is too, but he is talking to Horatio, who fancies himself a Christian Stoic. The brave hopelessness of paganism, ON A PURELY LINGUISTIC-RHETORICAL LEVEL, can provide comfort to Christians who can see beyond it. On the night that Dr. King was killed, Senator Kennedy knew that mixing in a little rhetorical paganism to the Gospel of hope might make the country feel better.

Then, maybe, wisdom comes, by the awful grace of a god...


Clayton: I am talking here about neo-paganism without any pejorative connotation attached to the term.


Christians do believe in demons, of course, and we fear Harry Potter precisely because we know that the Devil can work magic. Rationalism is probably a bigger threat to the Gospel than believing that Zeus was a demon.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:03 pm

Markos wrote:Christians do believe in demons ...


OK, but let's forget about Frank Peretti and all that.

I'm talking about Ancient Greek Paganism and current pop culture. My consultant on current pop culture just called me and I asked him: do the people you know believe in the paranormal. The answer was yes. The county library shelves are over flowing with literature that in some sense deals with the paranormal. Some of these books are bought by the truck load, 500 copies of one title. I met a young woman in the park last night who thinks she has a "connection" with owls. She has lots of encounters with owls. She had very special encounter with owls last night. This isn't rationalism. It is closer to shamanism than rationalism.

An encounter with Owls sounds very Ancient Greek to me. They were into bird omens.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:08 pm

I think daimon in the essence represents a very "primitive" religious concept. There's a strong tendency in the human mind to perceive external agents behind random events in our lives, that things that happen to us happen for a reason, because somebody made them happen. For some reason, we believe so even if there's no reason to believe so in the physical sense. It's a by-product of the way our mind works. Those supernatural agents that interfere with our lives are daimons. I think the whole point is that the concept of daimon is relative free of the cultural context and of the cult. Something happens to you, and you say "That couldn't happen by itself, somebody did it to me, daimon did it". Daimon just means "the supernatural", in a wide sense that any person above say 3 years old would understand it, whether a modern American or European or a hunter-gatherer.

Now it's possible that Aeschylus' concept of daimon is more developped than this, but I think this is the starting point. I think this is the starting point in the NT as well, when "daimons" are seen as the cause of mental illness for example (cases of paranoid psychosis probably).

(A very good book on religion and human cognition is Pascal Boyer's Religion Explained)

As to whether the Greeks believed in Aphrodite... I think that's in a way beside the point. The important aspect of a cult is ritual and the social aspect of it. Nobody cared whether you really believed in Aphrodite deep in your heart or not, what was important was doing the rites properly, being part of the group, accepting certain values, etc.

I think the great majority of Christians today have never read their Bible, so how do they know what they're supposed to believe? In Finland, it's also typical to hear people say something like "I believe there's someone up there, but I don't believe the way the church is teaching". Maybe it wasn't that different with the Ancients - some people accepted whatever naive stories they were told, some people believed in the gods but not any children's story out there, and some (probably a minority) were much more sceptical. And probably most people didn't bother too much anyway, just like today. What was important was showing you're part of the community.

Talking about cults... I think the cult of Santa Claus is getting more important here at Christmas than the cult of Yahweh and Jesus. And I'm only half joking. What I mean is that Santa Claus has many aspects of a religious cult, and yet not a single adult believes in it. I think it's a kind of "inoffensive" cult for children that has had religious element removed, so it can be used in any secular context without offending anyone.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Mon Jul 01, 2013 6:07 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:I think daimon in the essence represents a very "primitive" religious concept. There's a strong tendency in the human mind to perceive external agents behind random events in our lives, that things that happen to us happen for a reason, because somebody made them happen. For some reason, we believe so even if there's no reason to believe so in the physical sense. It's a by-product of the way our mind works. Those supernatural agents that interfere with our lives are daimons. I think the whole point is that the concept of daimon is relative free of the cultural context and of the cult. Something happens to you, and you say "That couldn't happen by itself, somebody did it to me, daimon did it". Daimon just means "the supernatural", in a wide sense that any person above say 3 years old would understand it, whether a modern American or European or a hunter-gatherer.

Now it's possible that Aeschylus' concept of daimon is more developped than this, but I think this is the starting point. I think this is the starting point in the NT as well, when "daimons" are seen as the cause of mental illness for example (cases of paranoid psychosis probably).


Paul,

Your post seems to reflect a modernist perspective on the metaphysical realm. The idea that cultures with a worldview that included the supernatural were primitive and ignorant is a standard feature of positivism. There is nothing primitive or ignorant about belief in the supernatural realm. Rationalism is just another religion. It wasn't the religion of the ancient Greek authors I am reading. That is the whole point of the question. What did the tragedians think about the pantheon. The speaking characters in some of the tragedies are very disrespectful towards Zeus and other Olympians. Does that mean the authors didn't believe in the supernatural? The Ancient Greek attitude toward the Olympians is not always one of reverence and respect. It seems to be motivated primarily by fear and a desire to avoid disaster or gain some objective, like Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter.

I am currently listening to some (24) lectures by Elizabeth Vandiver on Herodotus. Once again she is referring to the Ancient Greek Gods (Olympians) as personifications. She nuances her treatment of the Greek Gods but the the question: Did they Ancient Greek authors think of these as personal spiritual beings?, isn't clearly answered. Her treatment is reminiscent of modernist anthropology.

Reading and understanding an ancient literary work requires the ability to shed ones presuppositions and participate in the worldview of the ancient author to whatever extent this is possible. Just sitting in judgement of them, saying they were ignorant superstitious primitive savages is a very old fashion modernist way of doing things. Adopting that stance raises the question, why read them at all? How can a modernist gain any value from studying documents which are pre-modern? That whole condescending attitude toward other cultures is kind of out of vogue and has been for a long time here on the left coast. Thirty years ago I was surrounded at work by several English Lit. PhD candidates, some of whom were taking shamanism and other aspects of the supernatural realm very seriously. Like I said before, it is reflected in the popular literature. The paranormal has become the new normal.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby Markos » Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:11 pm

Clayton:
Rationalism is just another religion...The paranormal has become the new normal.


What drives this home to me is when people who believe in nothing but science wind up believing in non-religious absurdities things like parallel universes and black holes producing time travel and the proto-Nostratic language.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:47 pm

Markos wrote:
Clayton:
Rationalism is just another religion...The paranormal has become the new normal.


What drives this home to me is when people who believe in nothing but science wind up believing in non-religious absurdities things like parallel universes and black holes producing time travel and the proto-Nostratic language.


I am not trying to start a flame war. This is a forum where people treat each other with more respect than what I have found on other forums. Like to keep the discussion focused on Greek texts. To really read texts with comprehension we must know as much as possible about the world view of both author and the audience. There are myriads of books on Ancient Greek culture written from a modernist perspective. All those out-of-copyright works on the web. All of them sound stale to my ears because the perspective has long time ago been superseded by post-modernism which is now very old fashion. Let's forget about the various -isms and just focus on understanding the authors.

The concept of fate, supernatural agency in various forms, the Olympians, other less important deities, unnamed supernatural agents, personifications of natural phenomena, all of these things are crucial to the narratives of Greek Myth. The notion of Myth itself is very difficult to nail down. E. Vandiver spends a lot of time talking about this. It certainly doesn't mean "fairy tales", a common misconception.

Getting a handle on these issues is just as important as syntax and lexical semantics. Some scholars claim it is far more important. This is part of the language, since the "cognitive framework" of the author/audience is what brings meaning to the text.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby Markos » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:19 pm

I am not trying to start a flame war. This is a forum where people treat each other with more respect than what I have found on other forums. Like to keep the discussion focused on Greek texts.


agreed, no disrespect intended, but you do raise some important issues on how to read Greek texts. I would just say that the modern/pre-modern paradigm does not work for a 21st century person reading Homer or Aeschylus. It's more complicated than that, which I think is part of your point.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:39 pm

I didn't want to sound condescending on my last post. I called daimon a "primitive" religious concept, but the reason I used quotation marks was precisely to avoid sounding like I was passing judgement, to show I was using the word "primitive" in the other sense. Apparently, I didn't succeed... I believe belief in the supernatural is very deeply embedded in the human cognition (though probably there are individual differences, and has always been), an essential part of how our brains work, so I don't think that's a primitive or ignorant at all. I meant religion is part of how our brain works and I think by itself this statement shouldn't sound like judgement. By "primitive", I meant "basic", "natural", "undifferentiated", "quintessential", "axiomatic" or something like these combined. I meant the concept daimon is primitive, not that people who believe in daimons are primitive. I think daimon represents a personal religious experience in it essence, as opposed to an intellectual construction; it's a primitive religious concept in the way the Trinity is the opposite, a developped religious concept - and no judgement whatever is intended on either.

Another thing I want point out is that people can be "religious" in many ways. People can "believe in the supernatural" in many diffent axes. Somebody can have strong personal religious experiences, with daimons or owls or whatever; another person you call devout has a firm faith but not much personal experiences; and yet another follows the prescriptions of his cult to the letter but is more or less agnostic deep within. Believing in quantum mechanics probably uses the same neurological mechanisms as are used for some aspects of religion. I think our modern era tends to overemphasize the personal, introspective aspect of religion, and this might be a general tendency of Christianism vs. Hellenic Polytheism. Again, I don't to pass judgement on one kind of religion over another, but maybe the whole question "what did they really believe?" arises from our own more individualistic point of view. The Greeks didn't have a Holy Book and I believe outside the public side of religion, the cult, they were pretty free to believe each their own way.

So, I think daimon means "an unspecified supernatural being that has direct dealings with us", and this idea as such is relatively independent of your culture, your religion or whether you're an Ancient or a Modern. If I said "it's possible that Aeschylus' concept of daimon is more developped", I meant that for him maybe the word had some other meaning, not that he was a more developped human being himself. What that meaning is for Aeschylus, is another difficult question, I don't know for sure, but I'm having a guess at the concept he took and maybe elaborated.

I must say making my point completely clear is pretty difficult for me, because I'm not doing this in my native language. Whatever I write, it always seems to come out more one-sided than I think I would be capable of in my own tongue.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby daivid » Tue Jul 02, 2013 3:56 pm

When I was in Croatia I spent a lot of time talking with Jehovah's witnesses. One of them was from a family of communists whose take on communism was an international world wide brotherhood. For her the movement was about bringing together the people of the world into one happy community - I am sure you have seen their pictures of happy multiracial groups reaping a rich harvest of fruits.
Another had been a hard line nationalist before conversion. I remember being quite chilled when he referred to a group drunks who lived upstairs from where we were meeting saying the sooner Jesus came to rule the planet and got rid of such people the better. His hatred of his rival ethnic group had been simply transferred to the unbelievers.

It would be tempting to say that their religious beliefs were just covers for their underlying belief system but I don't think this was the case. However, both had managed to reshape in their minds their new beliefs to be compatible with old.

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:There were probably "rationalists" in Ancient Athens but I suspect they would have been a small minority of cultural outsiders. Elisabeth Vandiver raises the question did the people in Ancient Athens believe in the actual existence of Aphrodite. She says that would be like asking if they believed in sexual desire. I think that over simplifies the issue. Reducing Aphrodite to personification of sexual desire and nothing more than a personification in my view is modernism imposing its world view on the ancient text.

You are right to say that reading Aeschylus' daemons as mere personifications is to misread what is actually written and that Aeschylus as far as we can tell did have in mind real beings with higher powers and you are right to reject my suggestion of "force of nature". But these "spirit beings" are very fuzzy. If Jehovah witnesses are able to shape what is a pretty rigid faith with a very firm party line according to their outlook, surely it was even easier for Aeschylus to do the same.

One reason for reading an ancient Greek text is to understand the culture. But attempting to fully understand the attitudes actually makes it harder to sympathise. The attitudes towards slavery and the subordination of women seen in many Greek comedies are not ones I can ever have any sympathy for.

But while Aeschylus' plays are shaped by religious belief systems very different from our own that is not the whole of Aeschylus. His "spirit beings" may be, in Aeschylus mind, inspiring Orestes to come back and avenge his father. At the same time, for a son to wish to avenge his father does not require a spiritual inspiration. Which agency in Aeschylus' mind is decisive , the urgings of spirit beings or the human emotion of the anger of a bereaved son? As both push in the same direction there would have been no need for him to even ask that question.
For modern readers of Aeschylus it is however the human desire for vengeance and the consequences of that which make it relevant and allows Aeschylus to speak to us. The religious element inevitably something that none of us can subscribe to.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:15 pm

Paul and David,

Good thoughts from both of you. Thank you.

E. Vandiver's notion of personifications no doubt was not intended as a exhaustive explanation of the greek gods. Assuming Aphrodite in some sense personified sexual desire, that personification did not exhaust her meaning for the culture and writings of 5th century Athens. Aphrodite could also represent a personal deity with a cult. She could be referenced to explain behavior in humans who might be thought of as being in some sense possessed or controlled or merely inspired to act by Aphrodite.

On the other hand there are contexts in which daemons seem to represent impersonal spiritual forces which is somewhat different from saying the are simply forces of nature in the modern sense. I agree with David's comment:

But these "spirit beings" are very fuzzy.


The idea that possession by a god or daemons is comparable to psychosis is difficult to access for various reasons. Not the least of which, psychosis itself isn't subject on which there is universal agreement. I have former colleague who is an expert on this but I am reticent to ask him since he has been researching the question for 40 years and my questions would be trivial. {snipped ... }
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:18 pm

Paul wrote:

So, I think daimon means "an unspecified supernatural being that has direct dealings with us", and this idea as such is relatively independent of your culture, your religion or whether you're an Ancient or a Modern.


Right. I find the various metaphysical beings in contemporary popular culture an illustration of how persistent this idea is across vast expanses of time and culture. It isn't a question of a fixed body of dogma about daimonology just a general acceptance of the paranormal.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Jul 02, 2013 9:44 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:The idea that possession by a god or daemons is comparable to psychosis is difficult to access for various reasons. Not the least of which, psychosis itself isn't subject on which there is universal agreement.

The basic definition of psychosis is "loss of contact with reality". It's of course a matter of how you define it when exactly you have lost contact with reality. But let's leave the borderline cases aside, and concentrate on clear cases. The "classical", common kind of psychosis is paranoid psychosis, where a person has delusional parananoid beliefs and hallucinations, typically auditory hallucionations that are derogatory or commenting the persons behavior. Often the persons might be talking back to the voices, maybe telling them to stop. From an outsider's point of view, I think it's a very obvious interpretation to think a person who's talking to voices no one can hear is possessed by daimons. I don't think the concept of daimon arises from this, but if you already have such a concept and no knowledge of modern psychiatry, this interpretation is obvious. And these are common, maybe not common enough to occur in every family, but the lifetime prevalence is something like 1 or 2 percent.

About the Greek Gods being personifications and whether the Greeks really believed in them, and about Aphrodite. I think about everybody believed in the "supernatural", because obviously you had to have answer to questions such as how did the world come about, what will happen after death etc., while there wasn't any "scientific worldview" to compete with a religious one (if we pretend they exclude each other). Also, everybody certainly believed in the existence of sexual desire. So, if you were told that sexual desire is caused by a supernatural being - let's call her Aphrodite - then why not? In some ways I think this is comparable to how I accept it what I'm told about electrons - I don't understand the details, but my mobile phone is working because something happens to them. I mean there had to be a reason sexual desire exists, and accepting that there was a supernatural power behing it was sort of natural. Then it depended on your character and intellectual sophistication what stories, if any, you accepted as true. And whether and how you participated in the cult of Aphrodite was yet another question, not necessarily dependent on whether and how you believed in her.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:06 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:The basic definition of psychosis is "loss of contact with reality". It's of course a matter of how you define it when exactly you have lost contact with reality. But let's leave the borderline cases aside, and concentrate on clear cases. The "classical", common kind of psychosis is paranoid psychosis, where a person has delusional parananoid beliefs and hallucinations, typically auditory hallucionations that are derogatory or commenting the persons behavior. Often the persons might be talking back to the voices, maybe telling them to stop. From an outsider's point of view, I think it's a very obvious interpretation to think a person who's talking to voices no one can hear is possessed by daimons. I don't think the concept of daimon arises from this, but if you already have such a concept and no knowledge of modern psychiatry, this interpretation is obvious. And these are common, maybe not common enough to occur in every family, but the lifetime prevalence is something like 1 or 2 percent.


Ajax state of mind under the influence of Athena while he was butchering livestock sounds like it would fit the broad definition of psychosis. It was, however, a state from which he recovered and then became suicidal.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby daivid » Wed Jul 03, 2013 1:58 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:
But these "spirit beings" are very fuzzy.


The idea that possession by a god or daemons is comparable to psychosis is difficult to access for various reasons. Not the least of which, psychosis itself isn't subject on which there is universal agreement. I have former colleague who is an expert on this but I am reticent to ask him since he has been researching the question for 40 years and my questions would be trivial.


In the main psychosis or possession is not a good model for the what drives Agamemnon and Klutemnestra.
Agamemnon may have been prompted by Artemis to kill his daughter but he retains control of his actions. Likewise, Klutemnestra when she justifies her murder of Agamemnon is completely rational. Someone possessed or suffering from psychosis is not morally responsible for their actions.
Taking the Chorus as being the voice of Aeschylus it is clear that Aeschylus does not consider "Artemis made me do it." as an adequate defence for Agamemnon's murder of his daughter. The Gods and spiritual beings are morally ambiguous but Aeschylus clearly demands of his characters moral compass and expects them exercise that moral compass even if it means going against divine promptings.

Or if that is going too far, given that we can't be sure when a character/the chorus is giving voice to Aeschylus' true opinion, Aeschylus wants the viewers to consider that point of view.

**Edit**
I think my talk of moral compass above misses the point. Neither Agamemnon or Klutemnestra. acts from evil motives. It some ways it is against the idea that the means justifies the end that Aeschylus is arguing against. Agamemnon organizes an expedition against Troy to right a wrong and that is why Zeus prompts Agamemnon to do so. But there comes a point when and attempt to impose justice imposes a greater injustice.
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Re: demonology at the end of Agamemnon

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:15 pm

daivid wrote:In the main psychosis or possession is not a good model for the what drives Agamemnon and Klutemnestra.

I absolutely agree. You would have to apply a very loose definition of psychosis. I think explaining every evil act by psychosis (or madness, the lay term for the same thing) would be pointless, though there seems to be a current tendency for that.

On the other hand, Ajax seems a case in point. You could even call his madness a "brief reactive psychosis", though of course there's no point applying such modern medical terms... :)
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