Saturday, August 25, 2012

Euripides and Egypt

The Greeks, under the impression that Helen was real, fought a long-lasting and bloody, real war in a real world. For one prize: death. However, the real woman , Helen, is in Egypt. The Ancient Greeks consider this place a Utopia. Egypt represents the opposite of the social and political conditions of the Fifth-century BC. There, women are of primary importance. Helen is a prevailing figure among Greek women prisoners and is accompanied by a woman called Theonoe who incarnates the highest truth. Who is she? Helen says in her monologue about Theonoe: "She sees matters existing and those that are about to happen". Besides, the etymology of her name leads us also to this conclusion. Θεονόη:(Θεός + Νούς) (God and Mind)= she who understands the divine. She has great prophetic powers. She knows the intimate thoughts, the desires of others : "the whole truth has been exposed to me. I know the name of the man standing next to you! I know what he has endured in the sea." She has the gift of the second thought. She represents rationality, the Mind (Nous) that many philosophers talked about.

So, this goddess of wisdom and logic can easily be compared to the goddess Athena, the favorite daughter of Zeus (born from her father's forehead) who is the goddess of wisdom.

More or less, we've all heard of the common saying: "I would like to have a Greek's second thought." The meaning of this saying is that the first  thought comes with  impulsiveness and consequently leads to destruction. But the second thought comes with logic. We can see matters more clearly and soberly and we are led to actions calmer and not catastrophic. Therefore, we understand that Euripides tries to teach us through Theonoe that when people possess a blind,  impulsive, irrational fury they are led to devastating (on many levels) situations. When can we defeat this blind fury? When we use logic. Logic is the one that confines limits and not impulsiveness. That's why logic and wisdom always defeats irrationality. Knowledge always defeats blind emotion.

On a social level

There are demagogues, who can talk eloquently and fire up the people  leading them to catastrophic results.

On a personal level

There is television whose goal is to cultivate irrational feelings. On one day you're a leader and the next... "Oh! Gods! to  be treated like thus!" (- Menelaus) It makes us act offensively, impulsively and not at all logically.

So, Theonoe or in other words Ειδοθέα=who sees God. Possessor of a superhuman cosmic wisdom, she embodies the highest truth. Free of passions and illusions, she is the possessor of knowledge, a knowledge that transcends the limits of development. A truth beyond logic, the equivalent of the truth as Plato perceived it in his theory of Forms. Using this platonic language we should say that  Troy represents the appearance , the μη ον= non existing , while Egypt is the ον = the matter , the being. Helen lies between these two spaces bearing the form of glory.

The real Helen is in Egypt but, in order for one to accept her, one must first shatter the illusion of her idol.

The idol is connected to its prototype, like Helen ("light") is connected to the moon. The moonlight gives us a false vision of reality because in the penumbra our visions are misrepresented. The moon deludes, deceives, overshadows, misleads.

The idol makes the vision an end in itself, it prevents the sight from expanding further away and keeps man imprisoned in the material world.

Ειδοθέα (who sees God) and Plato.

Platonic philosophy is bipolar and divides the cosmos into the material world and the world of Forms.
His view of knowledge was clearly rationalistic. He believed that the Ideas (Forms), the deepest knowledge of the world's nature, could be perceived only with the use of reason (Nous). The perceptions of our senses, according to Euripides and Plato, were uncertain and even false. However, logical investigation will lead to the  insight of the equivalent transcending ideas. Knowledge is a matter of developing the way of seeing.

Dioscuri are connected to knowledge, meaning to vision, light. Castor and Pollux. The former is related to the sun, the insight= the future and the latter is related to the moon, the intellect = the past.
Heroes must escape from their prisons to see the truth. Meaning that the heroes visit Egypt to see Helen (=moon= torch) who is the greatest prize: the Truth!

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