#21. Greek Katabasis—Descent for Our Gain–evil misunderstood

I remember a Thomas Hardy scene in a 1967 film of Far from the Madding Crowd in which sheepherder, Gabriel Oak (played by Alan Bates), having invested everything he had into the animals, watches them fly over a cliff to their deaths in a great storm.  That’s katabasis.

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The Greeks understood  the plaything of Fate–each man and woman; they considered humans to be receiving a raw deal of the cards.  Life is hard.  Arachne in the Myth out-weaves Athena but still gets punished with death.  Prometheus gives fire to humanity, and gets his guts torn at by an eagle every day.  The gods prohibit spiritual growth (perhaps hubris) as seen when Bellerophon tries to ride the winged horse Pegasus to Mt.Olympus where the gods reside.

However, long before our time of greater recognitions 18th Century Alexander Pope wrote in “Essay on Man”:

All nature is but art, unknown to thee; All chance, direction, which thou canst not see; All discord, harmony not understood; All partial evil, universal good; And spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite, One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.”

Basically evil is good misunderstood.  Basically catastrophes and unpleasant experiences work for our benefits spiritually, and probably psychologically and emotionally too.

As many spiritual teachers and writers (like Robert Bly) have pointed out, katabasis is a requisite for Spiritual growth.  The Greeks saw catastrophe as a result of divine meanness and hubris which is our pride, our thinking, and our Karma that invites disaster.

Today we think of the gods as planetary energies like Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Saturn. Astrology has recognized that these energies convey Karma to us in connection with our beliefs, values, and, attitudes. but they also prepare us for the next octave levels of the outer planetary energies of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. . . and new ones: Chiron, Hylonome, Pholus, Asbolus, Haumea, Orcus, Varuna,… 

These, demand our attention to be directed to the higher planes of consciousness.

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5 responses to “#21. Greek Katabasis—Descent for Our Gain–evil misunderstood

  1. I would take issue with the “today we think of the gods as planetary energies” comment, but otherwise your statements regarding evil are insightfully correct. Basically, evil happens because of ignorance and misunderstanding of good. Nice post.

  2. I quite agree with your objection. I should’ve said “Most people think…” because possibly like you I see the planetary energies as alive consciousness. Using God and Goddesses was to me a viable process of understanding them.
    Thanks for your comment. I’d change my phrasing, but then your comment wouldn’t make sense to future readers.

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