At the dawn of civilization, men and women learned to recognize in archaic tales the enigma presented by the irrational forces that nest in human nature and prevent it from dominating its being. Around the Aegean Sea there was one of the densest concentrations of myth known to mankind, but what is surprising is that it fantasized about the same stories, monsters and chimeras in all times and latitudes. The terrible female figures of the myths of archaic Greece – Gorgons and Sirens – are related to those of the Minoan culture, those of Asia Minor and those of ancient Egypt. Thus Minoan civilization was dominated by the cult of matriarchal deities; the same idolatries to goddesses of terrifying aspect, exacting bloody tribute, were practiced by the Aztecs, Mayas, and archaic cultures of Melanesia. The victim was originally a teenager; later sacrifices were regulated by castrations and mutilations and finally by the sacrifice of a sacred animal, a bull in the Minoan civilization. Hence the hypothesis that bullfighting originated in the Minoan-Cretan culture, whose rituals required the sacrifice of a sacred bull in the name of the goddess before a woman could fight it. Picasso hints in his Minotauromachy to this connection of the beast and the female deity. They are universal images that perhaps represent the human fear of the unknown, and what comes from us is also in the unconscious realm of what is rationally inexplicable.
The process of birthing consciousness must have been forged after a long and painful struggle with the jaws of the dark world; a world that still tends to easily neutralize the natural tendency of consciousness to manifest itself: whether in dreams, in madness, in a creative trance, and even in a religious one, it is consumed by latent forces of the unconscious that can lead to monstrous, but at the same time time, fruitful. Humanity has always perceived this phenomenon as a terrible threat, and this is how this existential dilemma is symbolically reflected in the myths of the Terrible Mother: the person who does not want to leave the warm maternal shelter, although he is inexorably forced to do so. In this process, an invalid and uncertain being must be transformed into another that faces the principle of reality; but dealing with the tasks of reality requires at the beginning of existence the proper maturation offered in a protected and emotional gynoecium. Later, reason can help to mitigate the troubles of nature, to dominate the animal kingdom and even other people, but not to fully control itself. In fact, a remnant of this existential ambivalence can creep into any mature life.
Whether from an excess or lack of this protection, many display in the prime of life a kind of misunderstood ephebism in which they reveal their refusal to leave the safety of the maternal shelter. Painful reality does not confer advantages, but requires instead commitments and responsibilities, including dealing with individual destiny. Abandoned to the magical world, they believe that everything will be fine par excellence. They give up growing up, integrating tragic fate, and learning responsiveness – that is, responsibility – to the only method available, that of trial and error, to navigate the habit of life. They prefer the tyranny of being swallowed up by the old gynaecium instead of the terrible vertigo of a sense of responsibility and freedom. But not leaving the land of childhood tends to mineralize the crust of the ego and this causes fear and discouragement to well up from the heart. Instead, there is a “nostalgia for the future”, a calm courage in those who do not give up their daily efforts, especially if they exercise them freely and in its most generous version. There is no choice but to acknowledge our weakness, which becomes strength if it sits on the altar of conscience, amid whose silence passions are calmed and life can be reordered; there are no more recipes for “sentimental education”. Perhaps ataraxia is nothing more than an adolescent dream of humanity, from which the West today seems free. Failure to recognize our wounded nature in personal and social life elevates caprice to an absolute, the place from which ideologies arise, where they seek to disrupt reality or ultimately demand the protection of “rights” that express only subjective desires. Regarding the risk of neglecting the evil tendency of human nature, Plato warns in The Republic that allowing oneself to be carried away by appetites, unaware of their false lights, leads to slavery. I am also thinking of nihilism.