Monday, January 4, 2010

Beauty, Nature, Divinity, Secrets

In his Peri Kosmin Kai Theon (On the Cosmos and the Gods), Sallustius wrote of the Gods that
Those who make the world are Zeus, Poseidon, and Hephaistos; those who animate it are Demeter, Hera, and Artemis; those who harmonize it are Apollo, Aphrodite, and Hermes; those who watch over it are Hestia, Athena, and Ares.

One can see secret suggestions of this in their images. Apollo tunes a lyre; Athena is armed; Aphrodite is naked (because harmony creates beauty, and beauty in things seen is not covered).
And of myths he wrote that
They also represent the activities of the Gods. For one may call the world a myth, in which bodies and things are visible, but souls and minds hidden. Besides, to wish to teach the whole truth about the Gods to all produces contempt in the foolish, because they cannot understand, and lack of zeal in the good, whereas to conceal the truth by myths prevents the contempt of the foolish, and compels the good to practice philosophy.

But why have they put in the myths stories of adultery, robbery, father-binding, and all the other absurdity? Is not that perhaps a thing worthy of admiration, done so that by means of the visible absurdity the soul may immediately feel that the words are veils and believe the truth to be a mystery?
Aphrodite, in her nakedness, represents the visible beauty and harmony of the Kosmos, whereas Athena, with her armor, shield and spear, represents the invisible beauty and harmony of Nature that lies beneath the surface. In fact, Aphrodite is not merely naked, but alluring: hers is the beauty that does not merely invite, it positively seduces.

Athena's beauty, on the other hand, is not merely covered, but defended at the point of a spear: it must be fought for, and at great risk. But to win the fight requires more than simple courage. It also requires strength, skill, endurance and judgement.

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