Human v. Divine
Greek mythology is filled with several accounts of the inclusion of gods in the daily activities of the people. In particular, the stories explore the powers possessed by such gods and their approach in unleashing it under different circumstances. Similarly, it is evident that there was an ongoing struggle between the two entities whereby some men rebelled against the wishes of these Supreme Being thus creating rifts. Moreover, most of them illustrate the development of opposition to certain activities and ideologies even among the gods thereby creating a society that was in constant turmoil (Clack and Clack 17). Furthermore, the limitations of human beings in comparison to the capabilities of the gods is handled as well and the depictions serve to make the latter’s influence known to the public. As such, it is clear that man’s opposition to the gods proves unsuccessful in most cases due to the former’s limitations on different aspects of life.
In the Iliad, Achilles leads the battle for Troy in which he is determined to capture the territory thereby amass a fortune and a great following. His anger for Agamemnon, due to the latter’s stealing of his bride, fuels his rage, and makes him launch a major attack. However, his success in the battle is justified by his ties to Zeus, the greatest god who happens to be the father of Achilles mother. Therefore, both characters are projected as showing intense passion for the same goals although prominence is given to Zeus for his power. It is evident from this myth that the gods shared certain qualities as humans such as anger. By so doing, they become relatable. However, the death of Achilles due to his insistence to return to battle to revenge that of his friend signifies the mortality of man. While the gods may offer support to man in some areas, the former are eternal beings thereby wield greater power which makes them supreme. Their ability to outlive generations facilitates their reverence and makes them seem invisible due to their vast knowledge of world events. Likewise, the difference between the needs of divine beings and those of man is also illustrated by the reference of dreams that can be attributed to the gods. For example, Zeus expresses his disapproval or support for a cause by thundering. In other instances, he uses other mortals to interpret certain signs. Furthermore, some of the myths emphasize the need of mortals to seek approval from gods before embarking on an undertaking (Versnel 171). By so doing, the man would foresee victory or defeat. Nevertheless, some of the gods’ instructions were meant to be misleading as a form of punishment for wrongdoing. Such contradictory personalities establish the common routine of man being in competition with the divine being due to his limited understanding. Whereas mortals are superior to animals and achieve epic results in challenging situations, some of his actions are in contravention of the will of the divine thereby exposing him to dire consequences. It is also a testament to the fallacy of struggling to live an earthly lifestyle rather than the righteous path envisioned by the creator. Accordingly, a warning had been delivered to Caesar by a prophet about the Ides of March but he did not heed it. The lack of belief led to his death as well.
However, they too have a resemblance to humanity through their endless love affairs. For example, the Odyssey narrates the relationship between Athena and Odysseus and tracks it until their separation. The breaking up of this union is surprising due to Athena’s vow not to leave Odysseus even during his misfortune. When that happens, the latter realizes that gods operate in another realm and are in control of people’s destiny. As such, it is a reminder that mortals cannot be equal to the divine beings regardless of their personal relationship with them. While they may be close and share many intimate moments, it is helpful to note that gods have a higher mental capacity and a greater lifespan that enables them to know the fate of humans beforehand. It would be foolhardy to expect constant affection form them especially when committing mistakes deemed sinful in their eyes. In addition, Sophocles manages to demonstrate that man’s actions are premeditated and cannot be changed to suit their wishes. Rather, they fulfill those of the divine. Oedipus tries to avoid fulfillment of the prophesy asserting him killing his father to avoid marrying his mother but ends up doing so (Versnel 168). Having been attacked at a crossroad, he defended himself by killing an older man without giving much thought to it. Likewise, he married an older woman from Thebes thinking that the faraway distance from his territory of Corinth would guarantee the nullification of the oracle’s wishes. Nevertheless, his actions accomplished this feat and he ended up committing suicide. Therefore, this myth indicates that divinity is more superior to humanity and the gods’ plans have to come to fruition despite the numerous resistances that may be mounted by man.
Furthermore, there is a shared obsession with honor among them too. Man tries to seek revenge when he/she has been wronged and the gods mete out punishment for any disobedience. For instance, Achilles believes that the death of his friend is a shame to him as well as his territory hence he decides to revenge by going back to the battlefield despite numerous warnings against doing so. According to him, reclaiming victory would redeem his image and earn him a hero status among the subjects. The gods are also divided as to the best course of action thus engage in partisan activities aimed at dethroning each other as a way of gaining credibility. In both instances, the emotions and needs of the divine beings are in display. Consequently, their rage is expressed in much the same way that man does. By so doing, their likeness to man becomes apparent. Similarly, some of the myths use various abstract representations of nature to make them more believable and simplify their perception as well. For example, the Olympian gods are described as taking the form of fire, weather, water, and love. Such descriptions fit extreme symbols of humanity used to convey certain emotions. In particular, the alternating personalities of gods imply that despite their proximity to humans, they had supernatural powers at their disposal that enabled them to change into various formats depending on the circumstances (Clack and Clack 56). As such, this attribute distinguished them from the mortals thereby cementing their high-ranking status. In fact, in Homer, sometimes the gods combined all these characteristics hence contrasting the few heroic deeds of man.
Moreover, the personification of nature by gods signifies a closer interaction between the two entities in which the divine beings choose symbols familiar to man to simplify the substance of their messages. Therefore, they also take up responsibilities as though they are human. For example, the gods’ parental role is displayed by Sophocles and Sappho. In Sophocles’ Aias, he is authoritative and very stern by providing harsh warnings to the characters and expects them to follow his directives without deviation. Athena becomes stubborn to Ajax and this makes him insane thereby preventing the murder of the Greek commanders. However, Sappho’s depiction shows the gods as caring and protective. Aphrodite plays a motherly role by assisting in different ventures whose aims are to gain victory and happiness. Nevertheless, the difference is that the parental role adopted by the gods is without blemish. The subjects do not have any grounds to talk back or taunt the gods because these are holy creatures. In contrast, mortals are seen to have committed certain sins and sometimes their children use those against them. Whenever they are involved in arguments, they keep reminding them about the ills they had previously committed hence justifying the notion that no human is flawless. Therefore, man cannot compete with the divine, as the latter will outwit him
Similarly, the gods seem to play controversial roles in different stories. In every heroic tale, there appears to be a god who favors the victor in any war. Therefore, it is amusing since it implies that the divine makes the heroes. However, it is clear that any mortal who would like to succeed has to have a personal relationship with the deity. For instance, Patrocalous death is blamed on his lack of a god on his side (Hesiod 18). Therefore, depending on one’s level of interaction with the gods, they can either hinder or help the hero. It shows that gods also have similar motivations to humans but have to alternate between having a physical presence and a psychological one. Notably, the gods use forces of nature to reveal themselves but retain a lasting ideology in which they are thought to be ever-present to maintain their importance. Such a tactic is helpful in outlining the stratification of the society thereby creating a hierarchical structure that places the deity as the supreme authority. By assuming the role of a decider of events despite possessing human characteristics, it emerges that the authority of the gods is final and unquestionable. It would then be disastrous to oppose them, as that would lead to death as well.
Equally, the mention of amorous traits among the gods reveals that despite their vulnerabilities, humans avoided scolding them. By so doing, it reinforces the notion that the divine beings are above reproach and no mortal should blaspheme them. For instances, Zeus was the father of all the gods. However, he was unfaithful to his wife, Hera by having a series of affairs. Such relationships were similar to those practiced by aristocratic families since they illustrate the struggles that befall the elite in the society. While it would be thought that the wife would be unfaithful as well, she remained loyal to him. Nevertheless, despite the comparison to mortals, it is evident that Zeus ran his family on different sets of principles than those run by humans hence highlighting the difference between the two systems. By so doing, it underwrites the supremacy of the divine by giving them the inherent powers to conduct oversight over humanity.
Such tales show that humanity strives to have the powers of their gods. By constantly referring to the heroism of the gods, the characters portray a desire to emulate the successes achieved by the divine. In particular, it is evident that they attempt to incorporate such kind of reasoning into their daily lives. Therefore, the strengths exhibited are an indication that humans strive for supernatural powers that would guarantee success in their endeavors thereby helping them top solve the world’s problems. Additionally, they show a link between myth and history in which the former form part of the ancestry of the people. As such, the relationship between the two entities provides a historical perception of events, which aids in creating a rationale for the occurrence of certain traditions (Versnel 217). By so doing, the importance of specific rituals is emphasized as they are deemed to guide individuals in living a righteous life. While such a comparison is vital in the lifestyle choices of different groups, it is noteworthy that humans are limited in their understanding about nature and the principles that facilitate the success of the ecosystem. In fact, it implies that their intellectual abilities are minimal as compared to those of the gods hence they need to submit to the divine’s authority. Accordingly, there is need to seek favor from them especially when faced with difficult challenges owing to their unique understanding of the universe. Furthermore, it also illustrates the intimacy between them, which is integral in building lasting relationships that have a happy society as their objective. The myths indicate the exemplary nature of the divine that has to be revered at all times as well.
Moreover, the myths assert that mortals cannot intervene in the issues of the gods. In most instances where the divine beings have an altercation among themselves, the human species is relegated to the sidelines to watch as they battle. It is clear that such fights are beyond man’s capability due to the supernatural powers that are in conflict. In fact, they are not even consulted. They only await the outcomes. However, prominence is given to the fact that mortals are prone to interruptions by the divine sometimes to their displeasure (Hesiod 41). In such cases, the victims have no choice but to abide by their wishes. Consequently, it is a sign of the authoritative force of the deity whereby they have the power to influence things while the human creatures do not. It is also a testament to the humane nature of the gods as well. Therefore, the myths reinforce the notion that mortals are bound to suffer for attempting to adopt some of the dive’s power. Accordingly, they illustrate the extent that the deity will go to make him/her aware of his/her place in the world. By so doing, they prove the hollowness of man seeking to replace the divine beings thereby setting a precedent that is applicable in the current era. They justify the validity of the gods’ interventions by documenting positive outcomes for various characters as well hence emphasizing that the divine has varying goals for accomplishment on Earth. Their implementation cannot be derailed.
Therefore, the divide between humans and the divine helps to instill morality in the society. In particular, it provides people with a sense of right and wrong thereby enabling them to avoid evil behavior that minimizes things such as death. By so doing, it makes people to exhibit ethical traits in their personalities, which are vital in maintaining law and order within the community. It also aids in the establishment of obedience to authorities as well especially to the people elected in leadership positions. For example, it creates a form of social stratification within households that facilitate the respect awarded to parents as the heads of the households thus making children to be dutiful to them. They learn to follow instructions. They are also initiated into scriptural teachings, which mould their characters. Upon maturing into adulthood, they become responsible citizens who can be trusted to conform to societal norms and permitted to raise their own families too. As such, it leads to the maintenance of normalcy due to the inherent desire to live a righteous life in fear of offending the divine and being a victim to the impending punishment that waits sinners (Hesiod 27). Likewise, the knowledge of man’s inability to surpass god also gives him the impetus to make innovations aimed at simplifying tasks and enhancing the quality of life. Having noticed the immense talent bestowed on mortals and the divine’s willingness to assist in life struggles, this opposition has become beneficial in the increase in frequency of discoveries that seem to marvel God’s prowess by fueling the ambition to discover new products or systems of doing things. By so doing, it has advanced globalization.
Similarly, it also offers mental peace to many people who face insecurities, uncertainties, and dangers. Such situations are bound to result in hopelessness. However, the presence of a supreme being brings consolation and encouragement that helps to make individuals to counter the problems they face. Additionally, it also promotes the development of democratic political systems due to its manifestation in leadership activities. For example, leaders take oaths in God’s name thereby promising to uphold the laws and preside over the implementation of various programs that are in tandem with the divine’s wishes. For instance, the issue of abortion is reflective of the need to implement Christian values. Therefore, the recognition of the divine’s existence and his plan for the world is incorporated in political circles to help systems of governance to conform to moral standards. In fact, only upon the realization of the gravity of the problems faced by the world do officials invoke the Supreme Being’s principles in the day-to-day operations of governmental work. Moreover, it also aids in welfare development by facilitating the notion that service to God entails service to humanity. As such, it brings about a communal approach to living in which philanthropy and giving to the less fortunate is part of the cultural norm. By so doing, it makes cooperation among different nationalities a mutual concept that results in social harmony.
It regulates the social wellbeing of people as well. It maintains social control of organizations by installing virtues such as honesty, love, non-violence, and discipline thus making people to live in a just environment. The acknowledgement of consequences for wrong behavior is a deterrent that helps to influence members to do the right thing. Furthermore, it aids in the adoption of better capitalistic mechanisms that seek to eliminate fraud in financial matters thereby boosting the economy. As such, it also offers people with a chance to practice social solidarity through common worship, belief, and participation in rituals that aim for communal unity. Division of time, venues, and resources to schedule fellowship meetings are appropriate tactics for enhancing closer interactions and bonding among followers who are then reminded of the supreme will of the divine over their lives hence encouraging them to worship and praise (Clack and Clack 32). Such gestures encourage the continuity of the divine’s relevance in the world especially at a time when secularism is on the rise. The differences arising in the creation of an anthropomorphic deity help in the development of a healthy work-life balance too whereby individuals strive to use their talents for the benefit of humanity without straining so much. It thus enriches diversity at home, workplace, and other public arenas that makes people preoccupied with meaningful chores rather than be engaged in illegal activities. Moreover, the freedom to provide expressions about one’s relationship with the divine while sticking to the supernatural and all-powerful narrative of the creator encourages the preservation of fundamental rights such as the freedom of expression, which are necessary to promote accountability in any environment. Having this free will is a sign that people can be trusted to perform their duties in ways that compliment established rules leading to the achievement of social parity among members. Likewise, it creates meaning and purpose in life since people prepare for the after life (Versnel 157). As the revelation of the limited opportunity that man has to correct his/her mistakes dawns, the individual embarks on a reconciliation mission with the Maker by integrating righteous activities in the daily routine. It is done due to the acknowledgement that humans are mortal yet the divine is eternal hence making it essential to avoid sinful traits that increase conflicts with fellow men and God. Acceptance of such humility becomes the genesis of good morals within neighborhoods that oversee the implementation of social control among the masses. Therefore, moral decadence is minimized.
Most Greek myths are laden with tales about the interaction between mortals and gods. |they explore the close relationship that heroes had with certain gods by illustrating the importance that humans place on consulting the divine before undertaking challenging tasks. In these stories, it is evident that gods do possess human qualities such as emotions of anger and love. However, it is also clear that they are supernatural beings whose power is beyond human comprehension. As such, man’s intellect is limited and his actions are subject to divine approval. For instance, wrongdoings are punishable while righteousness is rewarded. Consequently, the presence of such a relationship is vital in the understanding of global events due to the significant role that morality plays in maintaining social order. Having advance knowledge of right and wrong helps to alleviate many ills due to the enhancement of consciousness within the society. Moreover, the inclusion of God in communal activities is integral in the promotion of social justice that uplifts the standards of living. Nevertheless, the divine is still revered due to the endless power he has over humanity.
Clack, Beverley, and Brian R. Clack. Philosophy of Religion: A Critical Introduction. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2014. Print.
Hesiod, C S. Morrissey. Theogony: Works and Days. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2012. Print.
Versnel, H S. Coping with the Gods: Wayward Readings in Greek Theology. Leiden: Brill, 2011. Print.