I am pretty sure that I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Anytime you are looking at one account of a myth, you have to assume that there are other accounts that tell the myth in a different fashion, some so different that they would likely offend the sensibilities that made one myth appealing to you. The entanglement of all those accounts defines the myth-mystery, so that a myth is inevitably polymorphous.
I want to make a note of one excerpt from Inanna’s Descent that Dina Katz retranslates. At this point, Inanna has been stripped and stands before Ereshkigal:
“She (Inanna) raised her sister from her throne
And took a seat in her (Ereshkigal’s) throne.
The Anunna, the seven judges, rendered a decision against her.
They looked at her (Inanna), the look of death.
They spoke against her, a speech of wrath.
They shout at her, a shout of guilt.
The ailing woman (Inanna) turned into a corpse.
The corpse was hung on a nail.”
—The Image of the Netherworld in Sumerian Sources (261)
Katz admits that it is ambiguous as to whether Inanna forces Ereshkigal from her seat, but that the grammar of the original text makes it a possible interpretation, and gives to us a sense of why Inanna is punished. Up to this point in her descent, Inanna has followed the rules of the netherworld, but here she violates them and is punished by the highest gods for it.
The tone of the spiritualist material that has been drawing my attention lately isn’t the usual tone in which I tend to feel most comfortable. It feels lighter, faster, and a little more ‘every day’ for the lack of a better word than the Saturnian weight that tends to be where I feel comfortable (I know, I’m weird). That’s one reason why I talked myself through its stability, because it is stable, but it’s not dense.
It’s real, but it takes me a little work to appreciate how it is real. That’s a good thing, because it forces me to stretch my legs a little and get out of my own comfort zone, but it’s different and I’m going to think about that a bit here.
I often lament the rapid transition between structuralism and post-structuralism, between modernity and postmodernity. While there are many figures grouped under the latter’s banner that are vital and important, in most cases it seems like the sort of rapid transition that hides more than it reveals. In the refusal to dwell with structuralism and with modernity, there seems to be a missed opportunity. Or, rather, a whole field of missed opportunities.
Take Claude Levi-Strauss’s most basic insight that myths aren’t singular, that the understanding of a myth requires establishing a sense of the family of myths that share and redistribute its elements. The myth comes to occupy a field defined by its variations. These variations are defined by sharing overlapping elements and themes, even as those elements and themes are constantly redistributed.
I have made the contrast between the great ancestress and the Mithraic mode before, but I want to turn toward it more directly. There is something in it of the contrast between a feminine and masculine mode, but it is more than that, encompasses and overruns that. It reflects a fundamental difference in attitude toward the world and our place in it.
At its heart, the contrast relates to how they approach the mystery of the heavens. What I have called the Mithraic mode isn’t really just about the Mithraic mysteries. Rather, the Mithraic mysteries are a convenient hook upon which to hang a discussion of a certain kind of gnosticism, one that seeks to free the soul from the world and ascend beyond it.