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    • Join Date: Dec 2007
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    #1

    an obscure passage

    Hi, can you help me with this passage

    As Xenophanes recognized as long ago as the sixth century before Christ, whether or not
    God made man in His own image, it is certain that man makes gods in his.
    The gods of Greek
    mythology first appear in the writings of Homer and Hesiod, and, from the character and actions
    of these picturesque and, for the most part, friendly beings, we get some idea of the men who
    made them and brought them to Greece.

    But ritual is more fundamental than mythology, and the study of Greek ritual during recent
    years has shown that, beneath the belief or skepticism with which the Olympians were regarded,
    lay an older magic, with traditional rites for the promotion of fertility by the celebration of the
    annual cycle of life and death, and the propitiation of unfriendly ghosts, gods or demons. Some
    such survivals were doubtless widespread, and, prolonged into classical times, probably made
    the substance of Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries. Against this dark and dangerous background
    arose Olympic mythology on the one hand and early philosophy and science on the other.

    In classical times the need of a creed higher than the Olympian was felt, and Aeschylus,
    Sophocles and Plato finally evolved from the pleasant but crude polytheism the idea of a single,
    supreme and righteous Zeus. But the decay of Olympus led to a revival of old and the invasion
    of new magic cults among the people, while some philosophers were looking to a vision of the
    uniformity of nature under divine and universal law.

    From Sir William Cecil Dampier, A Shorter History of Science, 1957, Meridian Books.
    1) What does 'image' mean ? What does the sentence " .... make man in his own image ..." mean ?
    Why can "his" begin with an uppercase letter (H) ?
    2)What does the sentence "ritual is more fundamental than mythology" refer to ?
    What does "magic" mean ? What are "traditional rites," "promotion of fertility," and "survivals".
    3)Do you get the gist of the first two paragraphs ? I'm blank about them. Can you explain it for me ?

    Thanks

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    #2

    Re: an obscure passage

    Quote Originally Posted by sympathy View Post
    Hi, can you help me with this passage



    1) What does 'image' mean ? What does the sentence " .... make man in his own image ..." mean ? Image means "to look like somebody", so God made man in His own imgae, looking like himself. His is normally used with upper case, referring to God, also with upper case.
    Why can "his" begin with an uppercase letter (H) ?

    Thanks
    The first paragraph tells us that we can't be sure as to whether God made us looking like himself, but we can be sure, that we made our gods looking like us, looking like men.

    cheers


    • Join Date: Dec 2007
    • Posts: 75
    #3

    Re: an obscure passage

    Ah I see.
    Do you mean that because we have never met Gods, we imagine that Gods look like us. That's interesting.

    Can you help me with the second paragraph ?


    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 19,434
    #4

    Re: an obscure passage

    2)What does the sentence "ritual is more fundamental than mythology" refer to ? It is postulating that ritual behaviours precede the creation of mythologies.
    What does "magic" mean ? What are "traditional rites," "promotion of fertility," and "survivals". There is evidence that Man's earliest rituals were mainly concerned with fertility - maintaining the continued existence of "the tribe" and of the source of food [wild animals]. The Eleusinian Mysteries and other rituals are believed to be surviving examples of very old ritual events.


    • Join Date: Dec 2007
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    #5

    Re: an obscure passage

    I still don't get the second paragraph
    Can you explain what the word "fundamental" means ? And what is "magic"


    • Join Date: Oct 2006
    • Posts: 19,434
    #6

    Re: an obscure passage

    But ritual is more fundamental than mythology, and the study of Greek ritual during recent years has shown that, beneath the belief or skepticism with which the Olympians were regarded, lay an older magic, with traditional rites for the promotion of fertility by the celebration of the annual cycle of life and death, and the propitiation of unfriendly ghosts, gods or demons. Some such survivals were doubtless widespread, and, prolonged into classical times, probably made the substance of Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries. Against this dark and dangerous background arose Olympic mythology on the one hand and early philosophy and science on the other.


    Prehistoric human beings are considered to have had ritual behaviours [ceremonies] before mythologies [stories used to explain natural phenomena and human interactions].

    Ritual is in some way essential to human beings in that it imposes some kind of order on the world.

    In ancient Greece, despite the way in which the Olympian gods (and the mythology surrounding them) was presented by the rational thinkers of Athens, there is evidence of very very old rituals that survived.

    It is against this background - a confrontation of sceptical thinking and traditional ritual - that were developed the two threads of Olympian mythology [Zeus, and all the other gods and goddesses and what they got up to] and the beginnings of investigations into the way that the world physically works which led eventually to philosophy and science.

    The "older magic" is the rituals from prehistory used to try and influence the world and what happens in it.

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