In a word, I hate all the gods?

In introducing his new book, To Set Prometheus Free, philosopher A C Grayling explains his choice of title by referring to Aeschylus’s play, Prometheus Bound, and quoting from it:

As so often, the Greeks themselves understood with a preternatural clarity the nature of the turning point they represented . . . Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind, “a measureless resource for man, and mighty teacher of all arts”; and for making man powerful in this way, and no longer dependent on the gods’ favour – for helping mankind towards its maturity and self-reliance, and thus promising to free it from subjection to religion – Prometheus was punished by Zeus, who bound him to a rock on a high mountain, and set an eagle to gnaw his liver every day, the liver regrowing at night in preparation for the next day’s torture. The idea of freeing the world from the tyranny of religion can therefore be symbolized as the task of setting free Prometheus himself. Hence the title of this book.

Grayling also refers to Shelley’s understanding of the Prometheus myth as title inspiration:

In choosing it I follow Shelley’s version of the myth, expressed in the introduction to his Prometheus Unbound, having it that Prometheus’s liberation represents the overthrow of “mankind’s oppressor,” that is, Zeus.

Shelley surely would have smiled to see his understanding of the myth forwarded by Grayling, but I’m less sure about Aeschylus, for Aeschylus, like most Greeks living in the classical era, would almost surely have given his own loyalty (at least his open loyalty) to the Ground of Being (that is, the gods) over any act of hubris.

As the conservative philosopher, Erik Voegelin, speaking up for Zeus a bit in response to Karl Marx’s quoting Prometheus from Aeschylus’s play (“In a word, I hate all the gods”) writes in “Science, Politics, and Gnosticism” (1958):

The soul’s rebellion against the order of the cosmos, hatred of the gods, and the revolt of the Titans are not, to be sure, unheard of in Hellenic myth. But the Titanomachia ends with the victory of Jovian justice (dike), and Prometheus is fettered. The revolutionary reversal of the symbol—the dethronement of the gods, the victory of Prometheus—lies beyond classical culture; it is the work of Gnosticism. Not until the gnostic revolt of the Roman era do Prometheus, Cain, Eve, and the serpent become symbols of man’s deliverance from the power of the tyrannical god of this world.

Thus in gauging Aeschylus’s sympathies, Voegelin thinks we ought to give proper attention to Hermes, who is also in the scene cited by Marx:

Prometheus is riveted to a rock by the sea. Below on the strip of beach stands Hermes looking up at him. The fettered Prometheus gives his bitterness free rein. Hermes tries to calm him and urges moderation. Then, Prometheus crams his impotence and rebellion into the line quoted by Marx: “In a word, I hate all the gods.” But the line is not part of a monologue. At this outbreak of hatred the messenger of the gods replies admonishingly: ‘It appears you have been stricken with no small madness.’ The word translated here as ‘madness’ is the Greek nosos, which Aeschylus employed as a synonym for nosema. It means bodily or mental sickness. In the sense of a disease of the spirit it can mean hatred of the gods or simply being dominated by one’s passions.

So what is atheism? A liberation from the gods into existential freedom or a madness of the passions and intellect divorced from a wise moderation that is founded in ontological mystery? Isn’t this the rock upon which the lives of all agnostics (like myself) are, in a sense, tied upon and torn?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to In a word, I hate all the gods?

  1. My experience at 1999 Fat Tuesday was so the gods could "time" Katrina says:

    Your job as a future mother is to learn the god’s ways and to help your child understand despite the negative reinforcement and conditioning of today’s society. Without consciousous parents the child will have no hope, and may even exaserbate their disfavor by becoming corrupted in today’s environment.
    Your ultimate goal is to fix your relationship wiith the gods and move on. You don’t want to be comfortable here, and the changes in Western society in the last 100 years has achieved just that.
    1000 years with Jesus is the consolation prize. Don’t be deceived into thinking that is the goal.

    The gods tempt people for which they are most weak. Artificial Intelligence will create desire in people’s minds for the following sins:::
    1. Alcohol
    2. Drugs
    3. Preditory “earning”
    4. Homosexuality
    5. Gambling
    6. Something for nothing/irresponsibility (xtianity)
    7. Polygamy/superiority over women/misogyny (Islam)
    Much like the other prophets Mohhamed (polygamy/superiority over women/misogyny) and Jesus (forgiveness/savior), the gods use me for temptation as well. In today’s modern society they feel people are most weak for popular culture/sensationalism, and the clues date back to WorldWarII and Unit731:TSUSHOGO, the Chinese Holocaust.
    It has been discussed that, similar to the Matrix concept, the gods will offer a REAL “Second Coming of Christ”, while the “fake” Second Coming will come at the end and follow New Testiment scripture and their xtian positioning. I may be that real Second Coming.
    What I teach is the god’s true way. It is what is expected of people, and only those who follow this truth will be eligible to ascend into heaven as children in a future life. They offered this event because the masses have just enough time to work on and fix their relationship with the gods and ascend, to move and grow past Planet Earth, before the obligatory xtian “consolation prize” of “1000 years with Jesus on Earth” begins.

    The Prince of Darkness, battling the gods over the souls of the Damned.
    It is the gods who have created this environment and led people into Damnation with temptation. The god’s positioning proves they work to prevent people’s understanding.
    How often is xtian dogma wrong? Expect it is about the Lucifer issue as well.
    The fallen god, fighting for justice for the disfavored, banished to Earth as the fallen angel?
    I believe much as the Noah’s Flood event, the end of the world will be initiated by revelry among the people. It will be positioned to be sanctioned by the gods and led for “1000 years with Jesus on Earth”.
    In light of modern developments this can entail many pleasures:::Medicine “cures” aging, the “manufacture” of incredible beauty via cloning as sex slaves, free (synthetic) cocaine, etc.
    Somewhere during the 1000 years the party will start to “die off”, literally. Only those who maintain chaste, pure lifestyles, resisting these temptations, will survive the 1000 years. Condemned to experience another epoch of planet’s history for their ignorant pursuit of xtianity, they will be the candidates used to (re)colonize (the next) Planet Earth, condemned to relive the misery experienced by the peasantry during history due to their failure to ascend into heaven before the Apocalypse.
    Never forget:::It is not a house of Jesus.
    If this concept of Lucifer is true another role of this individual may be to initiate disfavor and temptation among this new poulation, the proverbial “apple” of this Garden of Eden. A crucial figure in the history of any planet, he begins the process of deterioration and decay that leads civilizations to where Planet Earth remains today.
    Which one is it? Probably both:::
    One transitions into the other, allowing the gods to wash their hands of obligation to their Chosen One.

    You are faced with a lifetime to work and prepare for your next chance. Too many will waste this time working, etc.

    I forsee at my end to be banished, by your god for my life and branding,
    Never around in the greatness of sorrow screw your god and his unwrit morals.
    Stifle god and the idols of hated
    Out of my heart I have always been free
    One with no need all alone and satanic
    Wretched and vile, fuck your god, deface him
    Who could believe in a lord that’s demanding?
    Hard to believe when we die we vanish.
    In his deny and for all his creation,
    Fuck your god and his righteous hatred.
    You and your son you are nothing but absence.
    Something not there that controls this planet
    Only deceit do I see in your hallow
    If you believe you will dwell in failure

    Fuck your god
    Holy mother for the whore! she is
    Fuck your god
    Bible thumper preaching threats from hymn
    Fuck your god
    His revival and the holy ghost
    FUck your god
    Only tell us what we need to know
    Fuck your god
    Pointing fingers and then do as me
    Fuck your god
    You are nothing and you’ll never be
    Fuck your god
    It is Satan who in trusts my soul
    FUck your god
    Where the christians are I will not go

    Fuck his commandments and his prophets left stranded to die
    Not in my heart or my soul as I go through this life
    Good book of bullshit lay dirty with vengence and lies
    Go fuck your Jesus and get the fuck out of my sight

    Unity over flowing with anger,
    It is our time to remove the savior,
    Christians are weak and the bible is beaten,
    Homage to god, in this world not needed.
    Fuck your god an his annals of plager,
    Falling apart and exposing the light,
    I will not live by the words of their Jesus,
    He did not die to protect or save me.
    There is just blood in his book of deceiving,
    Riddles and crap to his divine healing,
    Fail is your faith and you blame it on Satan,
    Christians can’t see that their preys are wasted.
    Not a slave to religion unrendered,
    Falsified god and his Christ redempters.
    Never to be in the presence of grandeur,
    I am for me and forever after.

    Fuck Your God, Holy mother for the whore she is,
    Fuck your God, bible thumper preaching threats from hymn,
    Fuck your god, his revival and the holy Ghost,
    Fuck your god; only tell us what we need to know,
    Fuck your god, pointing fingers and then do as me,
    Fuck your god, you are nothing and you’ll never be,
    Fuck your god; it is Satan who in trusts my soul,
    Fuck your god, where the Christians are I will not go.
    Fuck your god!!!!! Fuck you!!!!

  2. mayamarkov says:

    Despite all pious ruminations of Voegelin, my guess is that, if stricken by an illness, he would not succumb to his condition representing “the divine justice of god(s)”, but would promptly resort to medicine – one of the gifts of the “mad” titan.

  3. naren says:

    Shelly is a woman

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