Two further points shall be made here before we move on to our third comparative example, and thence ultimately to our conclusions and instruction resulting therefrom for the Modern Indo-European Man [technically speaking, this is “man” in a less-gendered than usual sense – ‘thinking being’, or ‘Child of Man(n)u(s)’, I mean] .
The first of these concerns the ‘corrective action’ which the Greeks *did* seek to undertake following their failure to mete out appropriate Divinely Ordained Justice against Ajax. Sacrifices had been ordered, on the presumption that a general “please accept these tokens of our appreciation” laid out for the Gods would make up for the quite specific lapse of actual action on the part of the assembled Greeks.
Now, in some ways, this is not an intrinsically bad idea. It is *always* good to display one’s depth of affection for the Gods via sacrificial conduct, especially having just won a rather major war with Their powerful assistance.
But just blithely presuming that doing so in this particular manner would represent a ‘cure-all’ and a ‘blanket absolution’ of the obligations resting upon the Greeks, is not just erroneous – but evidently was found to be somewhat insulting by the Gods in question. As well, come to think of it, as it should have been.
For bound up within it, is the presumption that the *specific action* which had been repeatedly called for, was unnecessary. That the Gods’ righteous demand – and Athena’s in particular – could simply be passed off and avoided through the ‘distraction’ of a generalized rite of sacrifice. And that, on an implicit level, may be thought of as particular men almost placing themselves ‘above’ the Gods; attempting to overwrite the Gods’ own declaration of what They required, with what was easy, what was convenient, what was non-difficult to provide instead. *Hardly* properly pious conduct.
Because it misses the point in both this way, and one additional – it had in no way “set back into balance” the situation in question. Which was the righteous demand of the Deities, of wise Athena in particular, in this woeful circumstance.
And without ‘balance’, the ‘order’ is disrupted. When ‘order’ is disrupted, there chaos waxes stronger. Where chaos strengthens, there shall be required Divine Retribution to beat and to strike and to spear it back down again in wrathful, avenging consequence.
So save your Deity some trouble! Intervene *early* rather than letting it fester and grow from otherwise easily extirpated roots! Which, admittedly, is somewhat at odds with the approach taken in the instance of Fenrir, but that is not so directly our concern here, as mortals. The Ways of Gods, after all, can appear somewhat inscrutable to man as they are occurring – and we have our Word of God explanation for the Divine Conduct in that particular episode, which should be enough.
In any case, the situation of the Greeks attempting to ameliorate their previous lapse via a general sacrifice might perhaps be helpfully compared to an occurrence common among less perspicacious men to this day. When we do something wrong, and then seek to apologize via a non-specific “I’m sorry” and a bouquet of flowers or something, without actually making direct reference to *what* we did wrong or *specific* restitution made (particularly in cases where this should be reasonably easy to do), this can occasionally be read as almost tantamount to no apology at all. For there has been no actual recognition of the fault in question, nor genuine attempt to set things right. If I break a window, and I’m told what the dollar-value is to repair or replace it – then it does not fix the window to present a bunch of flowers. It is also rather unlikely to placate teh owner of said window, if they have rather directly suggested that the settting back into balance of the window via its fixing is what they are after; and especially if we do not make any acknowledgemetn at all that the breaing of the window through our own carelessness or deliberate malfeasance is the problem and
The other important ethical injunction to be extracted from this sad tale of the dereliction of Divinely Delegated Duty, is around Hubris. As I have already mentioned, the implicit suggestion that man knows better than a Deity in these matters, is a dangerous position indeed to put one’s self in [albeit one with some limited degree of precedency in Hinduism, for particular and almost singularly exceptional humans … and it did not stop being a perilous position for those sages simply because of their profoundly great competency]. We shall also encounter this grave fault once more in our third case-study tale.
But as applies the account of Ajax The Lesser, it occurs at multiple times, and upon multiple levels.
It is said that while great Athena had wanted to carry out the sanction upon Ajax which the Greeks themselves had balked at, during the course of his voyage home … Ajax was preserved from this immediate death by the direct intervention of Poseidon upon his wretched, undeserving behalf. The strike which had wrought asunder his ship and drowned many of his men, failed also to kill Ajax – and he was delivered to some rock where he might desperately cling to life … and perhaps come to marvel at the miraculous occurrence which was surely the Hand of a God coming to save him. And therefore learn some of the proper respect due from a mortal to the Divine. An act of Sanctuary entirely unlike the one he sought to claim for himself earlier in the tale, for it was actually Divinely granted … and much more like the seeking of Sanctuary by Cassandra ‘midst the Mandir of Athena, which he himself had desecrated.
But hubris, arrogance, is the foundational sin of all, in many systems of thought – precisely because it blinds us to the prospective possibility that we are, in fact, capable of sinning. It makes us think ourselves far more inestimably greater than we actually are. And in this case, in this instance, this is exactly what happened.
Ajax The Lesser is said to have cried out aloud at this marvelous turn of events … and instead of giving thanks to the High Heavens and the Briny Deep for his salvation, he did directly the opposite, and proclaimed to all who could then listen that he had survived through his own greatness, rather than the mercy of the Gods – indeed, that he had survived in spite of the Gods.
Now, given ‘all who could then listen’ quite directly included the Master of the Mer [‘mer’ in Proto-Indo-European refers to two words – one meaning a body of water such as a sea … the other, “death”. “Memento Mori”, therefore, with “Mori” also carrying in PIE the derived connotion of a Sea .. is a most aptly appropriate injunction for the circumstances; not least due to the potentiality for ‘Mer’ as in ‘to disappear’ effectively encompassing both skeins, somewhat – for what else is it to be swallowed by the deep; and in this instance, for the prior greatness of Ajax (the lesser) upon the fields of war to have been rendered so drastically undercut by his latter disappointing failings of person and of piety [but then, I do repeat myself] following on after therefrom.] …
… this evidently renders Ajax (the lesser) the sort of man whom Terry Pratchett called “the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards’.”
Let us quote some Homer upon the subject:
“‘Aias truly was lost amid his long-oared ships. Upon the great rocks of Gyrae Poseidon at first drove him, but saved him from the sea; and he would have escaped his doom, hated of Athena though he was, had he not uttered a boastful word in great blindness of heart. He declared that it was in spite of the gods that he had escaped the great gulf of the sea; and Poseidon heard his boastful speech, and straightway took his trident in his mighty hands, and smote the rock of Gyrae and clove it in sunder. And one part abode in its place, but the sundered part fell into the sea, even that on which Aias sat at the first when his heart was greatly blinded, and it bore him down into the boundless surging deep. So there he perished, when he had drunk the salt water.”
[- The Odyssey, Book IV; Murray translation]
And, with that having been addressed, we shall now seek to move on to the main event of the Evening. KaalBhairavJayanti, the Victory of the Avenging Son – Kaal Bhairava JI !