Promethean Hubris and Re-Visioning “Civilization”: On Defiance, Alienation from Nature, Eden, Pandora, Icarus, Cain and Abel, Apocalypse, and Ayn Rand
Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Seven: Civilization and Apocalypse … Deep Thoughts on The Fall
Why Humans Are the Sorriest of Species … Apocalyptic Foretellings Hidden in Myths of Eden, Prometheus, Pandora, Icarus, Cain and Abel
Prometheus, Meat-Eating, Pandora, Eden, the Apple, the Fall, Cain, Abel, and When and Why Human Life Became All About Work
Meat-Eating and Apocalypse … First Falls and Last
After writing the previous section on fire, meat, Prometheus, and Icarus, and in subsequent research into the Prometheus myth, I found there is far more connection in the myth to the eating of meat than I realized. Also, the myth’s elements underscore the idea in the previous article that in stealing fire/ eating meat, we set off the developments that would lead to our apocalyptic prognosis today. Further, it is clear that the Prometheus myth is the Greek analogue to the Judaic myth of Eden and the Fall, which supports my thinking that the apple in the Garden of Eden represents meat—meat eating…hunting…killing of planetmates.
The Greek Fall from Grace — Prometheus
Prometheus’s Meat Trick
In the Prometheus myth, the fire stealing started with a trick that Prometheus played on Zeus. Prometheus—midway between gods and men, a Titan—gave the god two offerings from which Zeus was to choose. He gave meat and bones. Zeus chose the bones, supposedly because it was packaged more attractively. This is said to be the basis for why humans eat meat, according to ancient understandings.
But when Zeus realized the trick, he was pissed … understandably. He hid fire from humans in retribution. Subsequently, Prometheus stole the fire and gave it to mankind. But this angered Zeus even more. So, this time to take revenge, he sent the first woman, Pandora, to live with men.
Ha Ha … Very Funny, Zeus. Thanks a Lot for the Pandora
Pandora literally means “all gifts.” So it is that Pandora represents all the blessings that come with human advancement, represented by harnessing fire. But Pandora, as we all know, brings all troubles as well. She carries a jar that, opened, releases all “evils, harsh pain and troublesome diseases which give men death.”
Pandora shuts the jar but it is too late, and many of the evils had already escaped. Interestingly, what remains in the closed jar along with the rest of the evils is hope. This is a theme that I return to again and again in this book and the subsequent one, The Great Reveal, in discussing what we need to do about our dire situation: That is, turn and face it, delve deeper into it and not turn away, for therein lies our only real hope.
Eden – the Biblical Fall – Life Becomes Endless Work and Struggle
But notice the parallels with the myth of Eden. In the Biblical rendering, the eating of the apple—which I say represents eating meat—results in the end of easy existence and that from then on humans survive only through “the sweat of one’s brow.”
The Original “Leisure Society”
Sure enough, the end of the nomadic and vegetarian existence of early humans—called the first “affluent society” because it required only three hours a day of work to garner what was needed for survival—occurs with the introduction of hunting, then agriculture, then husbandry. [The Great Reveal and Footnote 1]
Strenuous Living, Slavery to Survival
And in the Bible, we notice that immediately after Eden, the “second generation” of humans is seen working strenuously to survive as represented by Cain and Able, who were one a tiller of the soil and the other a herder of animals.
That not bad enough, but then after Cain slew Abel, like a second fall from grace God added an even greater load of hard work. Cain was told that to punish him, the earth that had soaked up the blood he’d spilled would resist aiding him in producing his crops and he and those who came after him would have strenuous work in eking sustenance from her and a hard life in simply surviving.
As an aside, notice how whenever we talk about the deepest structures of our mind—and myths provide a glimpse into that—we see the perinatal gestalt. For the Earth here—the placenta—is no longer rich, nourishing, and helpful but, as is the case for the prenate in the late stages of gestation, is impoverished of oxygen and nutrients and less vital, less supportive of one’s continued living.
Promethean Fall – Defiance is Punished by Hard Work, Like in Eden
And the Prometheus myth also has this same sequence as in Eden and the Fall of a defiance of the ways of Nature and God followed by a punishment and suffering, but also by strenuous work as being the lot of humans from then on. For as Hesiod relates the myth, Zeus did more than take fire from humans in revenge for being tricked out of the meat that Prometheus first deprived him of (and for that you can read that humans took from God/Nature the determination of life and death, which in our deciding to kill planetmates, we most assuredly did, see next post), but Zeus also took from humans “the means of life.”
And the consequences of this are similar to being cast out of Eden. For if fire had not been stolen…meat not eaten by humans…humans not adopted hunting, horticulture, husbandry, as Hesiod puts it, “you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste.”
Deep Thoughts on The Fall – On Sacrifice, Dominion Over Death, Meat, and Murder … Beginning Our Apocalypse
Deep Thoughts on The Fall – On Sacrifice, Dominion Over Death , Meat, and Murder… How We Started Our Slide Into Savagery
Deep Thought on the Falls – Meat, Sacrifice, and the Determination of Death
The Fall After Eden—Meat-Eating is the Issue with Cain And Abel’s Divine Offerings, Just as it Was with Prometheus’s
There are more parallels between the Eden and Prometheus myths and tie-ins to the issue of meat-eating.
Cain Killed Abel, Sedentary Farmers Superseded Nomadic Gatherers
Some scholars see the Cain and Abel struggle as representing that between nomadic hunter-gatherers and the first settled farmers. Abel is the “righteous” man, a herder of sheep, and a nomadic type. He has an affinity with planetmates being a shepherd. Later, Christ is compared with Abel as being a martyr but notice also that Christ is known as the Good Shepherd—that is, caring of animals, too.
We need to think of the different ways herders and agriculturalists might view animals. The herder needs to raise and care for planetmates, regardless that they will eventually be killed. The farmer can view planetmates as a means only to an end—as slave labor or soul-less tools to be used in the raising of crops.
The Gods Want Meat = The Gods Want to Retain Determination of Life and Death
And in the Cain and Abel story, we have the same idea of an offering of a meat and a non-meat to a god, just as in the Prometheus myth. Again, meat is the accepted and more desired sacrifice by the divine.
The Gods Want Humans to Offer Meat – to “Sacrifice” That Right of Determining Life/Death
In the Prometheus myth, it all went awry because Prometheus did NOT offer the meat he should have to God. As I said, offering the meat as a sacrifice is the same as saying that it is left to God to determine the life and death of the planetmates (animals), not humans. And in Abel’s giving up of a lamb to the Divine, the message is that the humans represented by Abel, the nomadic herder-gatherers will be willing to not eat meat, to forego it, to “sacrifice” it.
Cain’s Story of Not Sacrificing Determination of Life/Death to the Divine = Humans’ Increasing Control Over Nature
But with Cain, the farmer, it is all about control. Cain does not offer an animal. Like Prometheus he gives the divine a lesser offering—not quite a tricking of the divine as Prometheus did but close to it; he is not willing to sacrifice as much. In giving up much more abundant grain and vegetables, the price he’s willing to pay is much less than Abel’s offering of a fellow planetmate, a lamb, raised and cared for from birth. The unspoken part in this myth is provided by way of the Prometheus myth. For in not offering meat to the Divine, the assumption is that Cain will be keeping the meat for his own consumption…and by inference that Cain is keeping for himself the determination of life or death of fellow planetmates instead of putting that responsibility where it belongs—in the hands of Nature/ the Divine.
Deep Thought on the Falls – Murder
It’s No Wonder Cain’s Making of Life-Death Decisions of Animals Leads to His Doing That For a Human
Finally, the controlling, savage, and murderous qualities that come with increasing control over Nature—as I have described at length elsewhere—show up in that it is the sedentary, more controlling tiller of the soil, Cain, who has become capable of taking now, even, a human life. In The Great Reveal, I showed why that also follows: For once humans became capable of killing and eating planetmate flesh, it was not long before humans were able to kill each other.
Will “Progress of Man” Be Humanity’s Epitaph?
But all of these developments, these increases of control over Nature, are traditionally seen as the “progress of man,” the advance and evolution of humans. On the brink of ecocide and humanicide as we now are as a result of these developments, we have a unique vantage point for re-visioning these changes. Are these vaunted human “achievements” so great if they lead to species annihilation, species suicide, and ecocide as is becoming increasingly likely?
We now continue to look into these questions. And the very next thing we see is that even the myths from ancient times give us evaluations and prognoses on us that are surprising in light of our current rationalizations of ourselves as a species.
A Re-Visioning of “Civilization” in Light of Impending Apocalypse … Prometheus Made us “Civilized” … And Doomed
On Defiance, Alienation from Nature, “Civilization,” Apocalypse, Marxism, OWS, and Ayn Rand
Defiance, Alienation from Nature, “Civilization” … Apocalypse
Defiance = Birth Pain = Separation From the Real
Other aspects of the Prometheus and Eden myths fit with the interpretation I am making of it: Stealing fire/ eating the apple/ eating meat is the great act-out of the primal birth pain we created for ourselves by standing upright. It was a defiant act against Nature and Universal harmony, but it set us on the human path of being distinct from all other species. Without real access/ connection to the Real, we created substitute realities—culture, structured societies, status, language and writing, power relations, and abstract creative products. [Footnote 2]
Prometheus Makes Us “Civilized” … And Doomed
Fitting with that, Prometheus is given the central role in making humans distinct from all species, creating humanity, in giving defining attributes to humans to set us apart from all species and these are said to be fire and all the civilizing skills. Prometheus is credited with, not only securing meat, fire, and all ailments and troubles (with Pandora), but also with bringing civilization and all its components of science, agriculture, mathematics, medicine, art, and literature…fine things no doubt, but all being aspects of control of Nature, opposition to the natural, abstraction and alienation from the divine, and not harmony with it or balance in relation to it. And only now are we beginning to understand the price that comes with these, as indeed we are suffering the penalties allotted Adam and Eve, Icarus, and Prometheus for their over-reaching and hubris. We are nearing the end of the slide into apocalyptic oblivion that Prometheus, Adam and Eve, and Pandora set us on (poetically speaking).
But within these myths lie the answers to our dilemma as well. These products of the consciousness of billions of previous humans—added to and refined over the millennia—prophesize the apocalypse looming before us, but these tensions cannot exist in myth except being inextricably entwined with the very means of their release and resolution. So they lay before us the way home for us as well; and they predict our redemption and how it will happen. It is to this we now turn.
Before looking at the resolutions of the uniquely human apocalyptic dilemma we have created, let me address something that is no doubt on many readers’ minds.
How Promethean “Heroism” Set Off Our Slide Into Alienation and Apocalypse … His “Rebellion” Was an Abomination, Not a Blessing
I know you are not used to hearing the Prometheus myth interpreted as a defiant act not a heroic act. It is never compared with the defiant acts portrayed in the Eden or Icarus myths as I am here doing. Icarus is rightly said to be a tragic example of hubris or failed ambition, high-flying ambition. In Eden, Adam and Eve defy the sole divine commandment. But they can all be seen as acts of over-reaching, certainly as acts of hubris. And in all of them punishment follows the selfish act; there is karmic retribution for upsetting the natural or divine order.
Prometheus Is a Criminal Not Heroic Figure…On Over-Reaching and Hubris
But remember that hubris and over-reaching was actually the earliest understanding of the Promethean act. It appears that time, understandably—as it does—provided a rationalization of the defiant act. [Footnote 3]
As with everything else—language, culture, hierarchical society, and the like—humans turn their faults into achievements, their crimes into heroism, their cowering before truth into brave creations of castles in the sky. So it is that the Romantic poets Shelley and Byron saw this myth as a reflection of defiance against an oppressive authority, as in their time was the Church; French Revolutionaries saw it as a poke in the eye to the parasitic blue bloods of their age; and Marxists and other activists find inspiration in it for struggle against the suffocating prerogatives of capitalism and imperialism.
They are fine to find inspiration where they can. I submit, however, that a deeper and more currently relevant understanding is the one I am presenting here and which was the earliest understanding. And despite all the rationalizing that’s been done on it, this earlier understanding—the one making it analogous to the Eden and Icarus structures—does shine through at times. In my opinion, Mary Shelley understood its real meaning when in 1818 she subtitled her masterpiece novel, Frankenstein “The Modern Prometheus.” In it, she demonstrates a remarkably current, postmodern theme of the dangers of human hubris, of taking us into arenas of knowledge that we are nowhere near capable of managing … doing again, as we did at the beginning in taking from the divine the determination of life and death over the flora, fauna, and even other humans at times, mucking with the divine order by stirring up the forces deep within the atom and the DNA, opening more and more of Pandora’s jars, which can no longer be closed, many of them. So, yes, Shelley’s understanding is closer to my interpretation of the meaning of bringing these “civilizing arts” … In other words, they are in their essence and therefore their ultimate fruits abominations!
If my interpretation of Prometheus is still not understood and one wishes to follow Marxist, revolutionary, romantic, and modern interpretations of Prometheus as a righteous defier of injustice and heroic bringer of boons—in a way as to make him a model for our real occupy wall street and Arab Spring heroes today—than consider why it is that the person on the extreme other side of this revolutionary ideology, Ayn Rand, uses Prometheus as a model for her ideology of rapacious individuality, which she does in her novels Anthemand the fanatically worshipped, Atlas Shrugged. So, no. Ayn Rand’s rendering shows the myth to be, at its base, depicting the ultimate perversion of a natural benign order and a criminal defiance of Nature—as the industrialists and polluters of today show us—and not the revolutionary overthrow of an oppressive rule, as Marxists, Romantic poets, and French Revolutionaries saw it. [Footnote 4]
Continue with Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Eight: Return of the Centaur and How We Look to the Gods
Return to Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Six: Prenatal Oxygen Hunger and Fire… Why We’re Big on Burning
1. Excerpted from “From Hunting and Gathering to Sowing and Reaping”
Cultural evolution can be defined as the process of developing the tools and skills to deal with certain challenges. Therefore challenges present the key stimulus for any kind of development. The challenge to survive as a hunter/gatherers is not inconsiderable – and early humans met the challenge for hundreds of thousands of years, without depleting their natural environment. Agriculture was invented about 10000 years ago and many of the environmental crisis we face today are directly related to this paradigm shift, from the destruction of the world’s forests in order to grow crops, to the depletion of land due to monocultural plantations, to salination and a thousand other woes.
Early humans were nomads. They roamed within a certain range. Trespassing into another group’s range could result in conflict. However, due to population limits, each group’s range was quite extensive. It is often assumed that finding food must have been incredibly challenging and time consuming, yet, research has demonstrated that in favourable habitats only an average of 3h per day are needed to collect food, plus some more time for preparation. Anyone who has ever even partially lived on foraged foods knows that nature supplies plentifully – each thing in its season. It is also a popular idea to imagine that people were moving around constantly, only remaining in one place for a matter of days. But there is no reason to assume such restlessness. It seems far more likely that people would move from campground to campground in accordance with the seasons, in tune with the things they would find in each place. And it seems reasonable to assume that they would remain in each place long enough to gather and process for transport whatever gifts Mother Nature had offered. Only in areas that are particularly hostile, such as deserts or the circumpolar regions, would frequent moving be necessary since food supplies are less abundant.
(At the 1966 ‘Man the Hunter’ conference, Marshall Sahlins presented a paper entitled, “Notes on the Original Affluent Society,” in which he challenged the popular view of hunter-gatherers living lives “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” as Thomas Hobbes had put it in 1651. According to Sahlins, ethnographic data indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far fewer hours and enjoyed more leisure than typical members of industrial society, and they still ate well. Their “affluence” came from the idea that they are satisfied with very little in the material sense. This, he said, constituted a Zen economy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter-gatherer)
More at “From Hunting and Gathering to Sowing and Reaping” at http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/food/civilization.php
2. See The Great Reveal, Chapter Thirty-Five: The Twenty-Seventh Prasad. A-mazing Cultural Maze.
3. On “time, understandably, as it does, provided a rationalization of the defiant act,” see “A Blessing for You…To Choose or Refuse”—The Great Reveal from The Planetmates: The Complete Prasads, especially
4. Regarding the glow-in-the-dark cats shown in the photo, see “12 bizarre examples of genetic engineering” at http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/photos/12-bizarre-examples-of-genetic-engineering/glow-in-the-dark-c
Continue with Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Eight: Return of the Centaur and How We Look to the Gods
Return to Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Six: Prenatal Oxygen Hunger and Fire… Why We’re Big on Burning
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