There it is called the underworld and truly reminds one of the subconscious in many ways. For the Greeks, this is just one aspects of life after death.. In some sense it seems more closely associated with the Christian idea of limbo. Heaven has its counterpart in the Elysian fields. In the Inferno hell is again representing the subconscious, but in it's more visceral and active and judgmental aspect. In general the "nature" of man to be violent, deceiving, etc. is found in hell in varying degrees. Yet one has some pity for many of its inhabitants, the same as in the Odyssey. He has gone to Hades and returned, survived the song of the Sirens, and rejected offers of immortality. He has built a raft and lost it. And after all these travels, all these experiences, all this suffering, he has now come home; in fact, his travels are precisely what has enabled Odysseus to return home successfully. (Dougherty 161)
But why these visions of gods and hell by these authors? Jung points out that the introversion necessary to look within is the common factor:
The visionary phenomena, produced in the first stages of introversion, are grouped among the well-known phenomena of hypnagogic vision. They form, as I explained in an earlier paper, the foundation of the true visions of the symbolic autorevelations of the libido, as we may now express it. (Jung 197)
So, in mythology in all its aspects we find these "autorevelations," the spontaneous creativity of the libido and psyche of the author creates, often unawares, the vision of truth and the need for knowledge that is absent. The wandering of the hero is also symbolic of an unsatisfied need that the soul yearns for.
In one sense this journey is the quest for unification of the earthly side of human beings with the spiritual side of the universe. "The Ultimate adventure, when all barriers and ogres have been overcome, is commonly represented as the mystical marriage of the triumphant hero-soul with the queen goddess of the world" (Campbell 109). Beatrice as well as the Virgin represents this in the Inferno as Athena does in the Odyssey. It is often not a physical marriage but a spiritual merging of the two forces. In gender sense it may also be perceived as the bisexuality of the spirit, allowing the anima and the animas to converge (Jung).
Life's destiny and the hero's quest are often one and the same. After being gone for over twenty years, Odysseus returns home. Here he becomes the rejuvenator of Ithaca, which has been plagued by having no strong ruler. Furthermore, dozens of suitors have made a shambles of the city and the palace.
Without these experiences the "boon" of reunification that he returns with would never have been possible.
The introspective nature of the journey is a necessary separation between the seeker and the world of reality. The everyday world has no place here.
The possession of the mystery cuts one off from intercourse with the rest of mankind. For a very complete and smooth rapport with the surroundings is of great importance for the management of the libido and the possession of a subjectively important secret generally creates a great disturbance. (Jung 233)
The theme for both is one of transformation and enlightenment. Both "heroes" of these stories had a need for personal fulfillment and reunification with their own spirit. Certainly the myth of Odysseus' quest seems more extroverted and outwardly, but only if we take the journey as absolute fact. In some sense the same could be said about taking the bible as factual history. In doing so we loose much of the psychological significance and fulfilling substance of both works. The Odyssey is just as introverted and introspective as the Inferno, both have the ultimate boon of realization and illumination of the heroes as their goal.
Alighieri, Dante. Dante's Inferno. Trans. Henry Francis Cary. New York: Cassell, Petter, Galpin,
Dougherty, Carol. The Raft of Odysseus: The Ethnographic Imagination of Homer's Odyssey.
New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Dulles, Avery Cardinal. "The Population of Hell." First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life May 2003: 36
Jung, C.G. Psychology of the Unconscious a Study of the Transformations and Symbolisms of the Libido. Trans. Beatrice M. Hinkle. New York: Moffat, Yard,…
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