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Lecture 11

PSY230H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: Pythia, Polybus Of Corinth, Laius

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Maja Djikic

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PSY230H1F L11; Nov. 23, 2011
Personality (caught between East and
Being in ourselves all the time makes it hard
to notice our personality; like not noticing air
til gone
Myths, lies, and fairytales
May: Many of the problems we confront
(anxiety, depression, substance abuse) stem
from absence of myths
Myths - “narrative patterns that give
significance to our existence”
Problem: May include every story we may
tell ourselves about meaning, no matter how
Fictional as simply not true, or artisticly true
in a non-literal way (not true in way we usual
Joseph Campbell
Myths - metaphors, not lies
Metaphorical narratives – repetition of
Kingdom w threat, hero = from dif
land or 3rd son of king, becomes new
= you inside, unreceptive to outside
reality (you = dragon, alien
Benevolent aspect of feminine,
protecting something of value
Represent not ‘search for meaning’ (help
me find something to believe) but
‘experience of meaning’ (help me
find myself, so I can experience
both myself and the world)
Experience meaning of world, not give
world meaning
‘The Hero w a Thousand Faces’
metaphor of personality development
(finding one’s real self)
all characters metaphors of inner state
myths found wherever there have been
requires activity to become person,
motivates us to open parts of self
that are valuable
metaphor of dead & alive within self
reminds of what we’re doing so
drawn to
Dif btwn myths & fairy-tales:
Fairy-tale = imaginary; purpose to gratify
cultural wishes; ex. what women supposed
to want (marry prince)
Myth, tho not literally believed, is taken
w seriousness; personality development
Theme of fairytale utopian
myth often tragic – death of unfulfilled
potential, term of development not just
Fairytales bear no relation to each other
myths form cycles; ex. same g-ds +
characters in greek & roman myths
Stage of fairytale is ungeographical fairyland
setting for the myths is the actual world
(Mount Olympus, for example)
Fairly tale = personal gratification, escape
from frustration & conflict (subjective fn)
myth = recognition of natural conflicts,
w end of serious representation of
fundamental truths (moral orientation,
not escape)
Same material, but dif uses, dif beneficiaries
Ex. little red riding hood has elements of
both fairytale & myth; ex. Pans Labyrinth
myth, Twilight fairytale, Harry Potter
myth + fairytale
Mythical element draws us, helps w
inner struggle
Tragedy and Enlightenment – 2 Myths
King Oedipus
Delphic Oracle prophesied to Laius, king of
Thebes, would be killed by son & this son
would marry mother
Shocked, king & queen decided to kill first-
born son; gave to shepherd to be put on
mountainside to die. Infant's feet were
pierced + tied together, & was taken away
shepherd took pity on child, took him to
Corinth, adopted by King Polybus & his
childless queen
When grown, heard not Polybus’ son, went
to Delphi to learn if true
Oracle didn’t answer this q, prophesied
would kill father & marry mother. To protect
parents, decided not to return to Corinth
Leaving Delphi, came upon man at
crossroads four attendants who tried to
force him from path. Man prodded him &
Oedipus, arrogant + quick to anger, slew
him + three of attendants. Fourth attendant
Not further investigated because Thebes
having problems w Sphinx, monster w body
of winged lion & breasts + face of woman.
Stood on a rock outside gates & devoured
everyone who failed to solve her riddle:
"What creature walks on 4 feet in
morning, on 2 at noon & on 3 in the
evening?" Another version: "What has 1
voice & yet becomes 4-footed & 2-footed
& 3-footed?”
Oedipus said it was a man. As an infant,
he crawls on all fours at the beginning or
"dawn" of his life; when grown, he walks
upright; when old, he walks with a cane.
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Oedipus solved riddle, Sphinx hurled herself
to death
Oedipus welcomed as savior of city, offered
the vacant throne. Became king, married
recently widowed queen.
Beginning of an end
Years later Thebes again stricken, now by
plague. Delphic Oracle was asked what
could stop city's suffering. Oracle told
plague would end when murderer of King
Laius punished. Oedipus dedicated self to
solve mystery of murder & rid city of icurse.
Finds out he was murderer.
Before search for truth complete, Jocasta
figures out secret & kills herself. When he
discovers her body, Oedipus gouges out his
own eyes.
Used by Freud – took literally, fate to be
attracted to parent of opposite sex & killed
same sex parent – psychological
inheritance, tragic human nature, must
displace & live as best as can
Thinks children will be like parents, in oed:
aggressive, ruthless – proved by promptly
dispatching on son
Unless make a step to become
different, fate is to become like parents
Things you can’t change
Family, gender
Fate parents have had, similar to child
Solves riddle & marries mother
When have serious problem, might
think becoming smart will help but it
will only make you arrogant & think
you’re deserving of what’s coming to
Stopped Oedipus from realizing Queen
was twice his age & relating to the
Oracle’s prophecy
Blind to our attractions we’re trying to
repress, ex. parents
King blocked road of Oedipus, killed king
Blindness to own character/nature – ex.
ways parents treat us to make us how
we feel
Existentialist perspective – had choice to get
off road, then prophecy wouldn’t have
Blindness of parents ways ends in
tragedy, haven’t claimed self
Siddhartha Gautama
When Siddharta born, his father sent for
sages to interpret boy’s birth & they found
on his body 32 signs he wud be either world
ruler or world teacher
Oracle says 2 basic fates, not just 1
– become a person or don’t become
a person (like his father)
King, eager his son shud become a king like
self, determined to shield child from
anything that might result in him taking up
religious life. Siddhartha kept in one or
another of 3 palaces, prevented from
experiencing much of what ordinary folk
consider commonplace. Not permitted to
see elderly, sickly, dead, or anyone who had
dedicated themselves to spiritual practices.
Only beauty & health surrounded him.
Siddhartha grew up to be strong &
handsome young man. As prince of warrior
caste, trained in arts of war. When came
time to marry, he won hand of beautiful
princess of neighboring kingdom by besting
all competitors at variety of sports. Married
when both 16 yrs old.
As continued living in luxury of palaces,
grew increasingly restless & curious about
world beyond palace walls. Finally
demanded permitted to see his people &
lands. King carefully arranged Siddhartha
shud still not see kind of suffering feared
wud lead him to religious life, decried only
young & healthy ppl shud greet prince.
As lead thru capital, chanced to see old man
who had accidentally wandered near parade
route. Amazed & confused, chased after
him to find out what he was. After finding
out, was in no mood to party, returned to
On 2nd trip out of palace came across sick
On 3rd trip, saw corpse.
Attendant informed him of simple truths
Siddhartha shud have known all along: All of
us get old, sick, & eventually die.
Existential understanding – life choices (not
in terror management theory that all choices
made from fear of death) makes us careful
of choices we make
Led father to guard son & son to react to
the trips
On 4th trip, saw monk who had renounced all
pleasures of flesh. Peaceful look on monk’s
face wud stay w Siddhartha for long time.
At age 29, came to realize cud not be happy
living as had been. Had discovered suffering,
wanted more than anything to discover how
one might overcome suffering. After kissing
sleeping wife & newborn son goodbye, snuck
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