THE PROMETHEUS CONNECTION
All rights reserved Copyright (C) 1994 Derek Strahan
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WHY LUCIFER? No story set in Eden would be complete without the presence of the Serpent. The question therefore arises, what is the character of the Serpent, and what is the nature of the temptation with which the Serpent confronts Adam and Eve? There is no simple answer since the role of the Serpent has been the subject of many commentaries and interpretations over the centuries. In writing this section I am partly motivated by the wish to avoid giving offence to people whose religious convictions might give them cause to object to my characterisation of Lucifer in the plotline of the first opera, "Eden In Atlantis". It is, of course, impossible to please everyone, but I wish, where possible, to minimise opposition in principle to this project because of its content. Therefore I propose to try and explain why I have written this particular version of the Eden story. The best way to offer an explanation is to report on the results of my research, and this requires an analysis of the symbol of the Serpent under three headings: mythological; social/ moral; personal.
THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE SERPENT Not all versions of Christianity have regarded the Serpent in the same light. Orthodox Christianity has demonised the Serpent and equated him with the Fallen Angel, Lucifer, and, in later commentaries, with variations incarnations of Evil, whether Satan himself or other demons or emissaries such as Mephistopheles or Beelzebub (a corruption of the Babylonian God Baal, or Bel, originally meaning 'beautiful'). Lucifer himself is described as having been 'beautiful' before the Fall, which was caused by his rebellion against the authority of God, as represented by Jehovah (Yahweh). Gnostic Christians, however, regarded the true God as existing outside matter, viewed Jehovah as a demiurge (deluded demon) who, in matter, created a flawed universe. The Wise Serpent was seen as the only reliable intermediary between the human race and the true God. Though theologically opposed, these two versions of Christianity each share a common perception of the Serpent as a messenger. In each version this messenger brings knowledge. Indeed the name 'Lucifer' has the meaning of ' the light-bringer'. It is for this reason that, in a pre-Christian context, the Lucifer of Judaic myth (which is derived from earlier Sumerian myth) is seen as an equivalent of Prometheus of Greek myth. The later demonisation of Lucifer needs to be seen in the context of the Christian need to explain the existence of Evil in theological terms. This is a study in itself, for which there is no space here, although I acknowledge the validity of such study.
THE MORAL DIMENSION: The opera stories outlined below do attempt to address the question of Evil - indeed this is one of the main concerns of the Atlantis legend - but they do so in the context of the Promethean myth, which is the myth of the rebel demi-god who defies the authority of the divine overlord to bring forbidden knowledge to the human race. The question of Evil then concerns not so much the behaviour of the rebel demi-god, but the behaviour of humans in respect of the use which they make of the forbidden knowledge. In a modern, psychological sense, the persona of the rebel demi-god is a projection of our own desire for knowledge, and the punishment meted out to the rebel angel is an expression of our own anxiety and guilt in presuming to access and use such knowledge. This makes the issue pertinent to our own age.
The scientist and the artist are both modern analogues of Prometheus, and therefore also of Lucifer. Each is a messenger in the sense that each brings a revelation the social use of which has the potential for good or evil. This has become true for science since the Industrial Revolution, and is increasingly so as technology advances. The portents were also clear to artists, however, from the eighteenth century (the dilemma articulated in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"). The preoccupation of writers and composers of the nineteenth century with such figures as Prometheus and Faust and Byronic equivalents such as Manfred are symptomatic and the list of artists who explored demonic forces is a long one and includes, in composers, Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz, Gounod, Tchaikovsky, Boito, Liszt, Wagner and, finally, Scriabin who, in his last tone poem "Prometheus: Poem of Fire" Op. 60, made the linkage between Prometheus and Lucifer explicit.
The point should also be made that the rebel demi-god seems invariably to be linked in some way with light or fire or both. Prometheus' gift to the human race was fire; Lucifer, originally the "light-bringer" then presided over the fires of hell; and, in Nordic mythology, and in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" Loge, the trickster, the messenger combines in his character elements of Hermes, and Prometheus/Lucifer - and is, specifically, a Fire God and also a demi-god, half human and half divine!
It's also worth reflecting that the name 'Satan' ( in the bibilical book of Numbers and in Job) was originally given to "one of God's obedient servants" (*) ,that is to a 'malak', the Hebrew term for 'messenger', transalated into Greek as 'angelos'. These 'angels' were also referred to as 'sons of God', and were conceived as members of a great army. The wings of these 'angels' should be on their feet, like those of Hermes. To place them on the shoulders is to confuse them with fairies! The original role of a Satan, as determined by God, was an adversarial role: to block or obstruct human activity. This role evolved later into the role of tempter: testing the faith of human's in God. Later still, the Satan became autonomous, and issued temptations on his own behalf!
(*) "The Origin of Satan:
Elaine Pagels, The Penguin Press, 1996
THE HUMAN DIMENSION
FALLEN ANGELS: In 93 AD, the Jewish writer, Flavius Josephus, also a Roman citizen, published "Antiquities of the Jews" in which are many commentaries on the Scriptures. Writing on the Creation myth, he states "while all the living creatures had one language, at that time the serpent, which then lived together with Adam and his wife, shewed an envious disposition, at his supposal of their living happily, and in obedience to the commands of God". This almost human interpretation of the character of the serpent is at odds with the later characterisation of the serpent as Lucifer, or Satan in disguise. But Josephus' suggestion of a domestic triangle found fruitful soil in my dramatic imagination! And if one ascribes to the serpent the human features of a fallen angel, one finds, in Eden in the first days, an anticipation of the events described in Genesis Chapter 6 of the days after the Fall: "That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose." The first four verses of this chapter contain probably the most condensed and elliptic account of an era in world history in any literature. But there is a suggestion that the progeny of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" were "giants" - "mighty men which were of old, men of renown". This equates the "giants" of Genesis with the "titans" of Greek mythology who were, ultimately, at war with the gods. In that Prometheus himself was a Titan, and a demi-god (of mixed divine and human parentage) one begins to discern, dimly, the contours of an actual history of the world in these oblique references. Certainly the progeny of Poseidon were Titans, therefore, if one takes Plato's account of Atlantis to be history, it follows that (the descendants of Poseidon being the inhabitants of Atlantis) the Titans and the Atlanteans and the "giants" of Genesis are one and the same; and that, by the same reasoning, the civilisation which built Atlantis is also that which built Babel - a world civilisation with a common language! - and which was (in each case) destroyed by a cataclysmic rising of the waters.
SUPPRESSED HISTORY: The flood, however, was the most recent destruction. In researching the mythology of Atlantis for writing the libretti to these operas, I began to realise that the full story would have to include also an account of the earlier Golden Age and the catalcysm which brought that to an end. Hence "Eden In Atlantis". And this in itself presented a problem since further reading indicated that the creation myth described in Genesis itself supplants earlier history! The history which it suppresses is the history of matriarchy! For further consideration of this issue I refer you to the section below titled 'OVERVIEW'. Suffice to say, at this point, that once I made the decision to populate Eden with a matriarchal society (to recreate suppressed history) I decided that I would also have to make "adjustments" in the characters of the dramatis personae as presented in Genesis!
Before detailing these "adjustments" it's worth considering two examples of "evidence" for the suppression of the history of matriarchy. Both relate to sex change in divine identity, and are just two of many examples to be found in the writings of Robert Graves ("The Greek Myths"). The first concerns the name of the god Uranus. Uranus is a masculinisation of Ur-ana, the name of a female deity: Queen of the Mountains, of summer of wild oxen, representing the goddess in her orgiastic midsummer aspect. The myths surrounding Uranus offer one of the many examples of the usurpation of meaning which resulted from the ascendancy of patriarchy over matriarchy. Another example is the gender change which occurred when the Sumerian goddess Iahu (meaning 'exalted dove') became the Hebrew God Yahweh (Jehovah).
What is one to make of these
changes? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the
original myths suggesting the existence of matrilineal
societies have been suppressed in a massive re-ordering of
human consciousness. It therefore seems that some invention
is required to restore a semblance of historical truth in
deriving drama from myth. Thus, as regards the myth of
Uranus, and the Golden Age which flourished under his rule,
it seems reasonable to ascribe this age to the rule of
Ur-ana, as being an account of a harmoniously organised
matriarchal society! If one equates the Golden Age with the
Age of Paradise, then it is also reasonable to ascribe to
Iahu, a female creatrix, the role given to Yahweh, in the
Eden story. The question then arises: since the Age of
Paradise occurred under matriarchy, is rule by female
authority inherently more harmonious than rule under male
"adjustments" made in the Eden story, then, are as