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Plato and the Mysteries of the Muse: Menexenus, Ion

Picking up in the Platonic corpus, I cover the next two dialogues, Menexenus and Ion, the more interesting of which is the second.  This talk is for subscribers only, but detailed within are the ancient origins of the notion of alternate personae that “possess” the actor or poet in the process of the dromenon.  In my Hollywood Babylon piece, I cited scholar Dudley Young:

“The earliest gods were invoked by ritual act (dromenon = the thing done) such as a sacrificial dance, commemorating the fact that our life begins and ends when they call upon us.  Subsequently the thing was said (legomenon) as well as done, and the dromenon was on its way to becoming the drama.  Once speech within the temple precincts has been endowed with the power of word-magic, we have “the invocation” properly so called.” (Dudley Young, Origins of the Sacred: The Ecstasies of Love and War, pg. 413)

Of crucial import is the commentary of comparative religious scholar Sir James Frazer in his famed Golden Bough, as well:

“Here then at the great sanctuary of the goddess in Zela it appears that her myth was regularly translated into action; the story of her love and the death of her divine lover was performed year by year as a sort of mystery-play by men and women who lived for a season and sometimes died in the character of the visionary beings whom they personated. The intention of these sacred dramas, we may be sure, was neither to amuse nor to instruct an idle audience, and as little were they designed to gratify the actors, to whose baser passions they gave the reins for a time. They were solemn rites which mimicked the doings of divine beings, because man fancied that by such mimicry he was able to arrogate to himself the divine functions and to exercise them for the good of his fellows. The operations of nature, to his thinking, were carried on by mythical personages very like himself; and if he could only assimilate himself to them completely he would be able to wield all their powers.




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