Stephanie Pope essay, Janus Series: Two Faces, One Coin Part 6: Interlude,
myth and poetry



One Coin, Two Faces: Interlude

I received some mail commenting on the preceding five parts of this essay on the one coin with two faces. It was an exceptional commentary and exchange and the writer has granted me permission to reprint it in the SPLASH column on the mainpage of  His perspective is worth reprinting but also he has a legitimate plaint. He wants me to provide the translation I used for Ovid, Fasti so he (and you) can compare for yourselves Virgil’s point of view with what Ovid has to say.  

Here is an excerpt from Book One translated by A.S. Kline©2004 who provides the source allowing it to be “freely reproduced, stored and transmitted, electronically or otherwise for any noncommercial purpose.”

And the land was Latium, from the god’s hiding (latente) there.
But a pious posterity stamped a ship on the coin,
To commemorate the new god’s arrival.
I myself inhabited the ground on the left
Passed by sandy Tiber’s gentle waves.
Here, where Rome is now, uncut forest thrived,
And all this was pasture for scattered cattle.
My citadel was the hill the people of this age
Call by my name, dubbing it the Janiculum.
I reigned then, when earth could bear the gods,
And divinities mingled in mortal places.
Justice had not yet fled from human sin,
(She was the last deity to leave the earth),
Shame without force, instead of fear, ruled the people,
And it was no effort to expound the law to the lawful.
I’d nothing to do with war: I guarded peace and doorways,
And this,’ he said, showing his key, ‘was my weapon.’
The god closed his lips. Then I opened mine,
Eliciting with my voice the voice of the god:
‘Since there are so many archways, why do you stand
Sacredly in one, here where your temple adjoins two fora?
Stroking the beard falling on his chest with his hand,
He at once retold the warlike acts of Oebalian Tatius,
And how the treacherous keeper, Tarpeia, bribed with bracelets,
Led the silent Sabines to the heights of the citadel.
‘Then,’ he said, ‘a steep slope, the one by which you
Now descend, led to the valleys and the fora.
Even now the enemy had reached the gate, from which
Saturn’s envious daughter, Juno, had removed the bars.
Fearing to engage in battle with so powerful a goddess,
I cunningly employed an example of my own art,
And by my power I opened the mouths of the springs,
And suddenly let loose the pent-up waters:
But first I threw sulphur intro the watery channels,
So boiling liquid would close off that path to Tatius.
This action performed and the Sabines repulsed,
The place took on its secure aspect as before.
An altar to me was raised, linked to a little shrine:
Here the grain and cake is burnt in its flames’
‘But why hide in peace, and open your gates in war?’
He swiftly gave me the answer that I sought:
‘My unbarred gate stands open wide, so that when
The people go to war the return path’s open too.’
I bar it in peacetime so peace cannot depart:…

One thing this translation reveals to me is that forces of embodied experiences (soul-psyche) give rise to Janus. The embodied experiences include affront and terror in war.  These experiences are often left out of the historical account and will resurface in the poet’s mythopoetic, historical re-turn of the new god’s arrival.

The god raised his hand to his beard and stroked it; the bearded face gazed into the depths of time pulling the old memory and pushing it through the stroke at the close of his muthos, his own mouth and myth and opening into the poet’s pen without obstruction.

                      ------     –stephanie pope, mythopoetic account of the god’s return
----------------------------------------- in A.S. Kline’s translation of the passage from Ovid’s Fasti

The movement is a mythologem in a myth whose outcome is already known to the ambiguous stroke in every writer’s pen because it’s meaning re-mains the return of the ambiguity (what Hillman calls the main repressed and Ovid re-calls as the new god’s hiding —as if hide refers to both a skin, a hide and container of a secret). Every mythologem is a symbol for something that cannot be conveyed in words alone, something that re-mains in secret and must be contemplated to reveal more. Images speak in metaphorical language a correspondence that requires contemplation and interpretation ad infinitum. If one does not leave the interpretation of the symbol open, the symbol is dead.

How can the eye of Divom Deus through a single “I” take an historical account through a mythic mode of expression except to resemble it with more than one perspective involved in sympathetic yet antagonistic participation as such? The subjective gaze, the object gazed upon, the backward-looking glance draws two as one in-side to all outsides in surfaces otherwise disembodied. Furthermore, it does this in poly-theo expression over and over; behind theJupiter and Janus tragen ein Relief der Fortuna -one, the many-sided natures of gods.

The two faces of Janus, a true dyad, hold both views at once in a backward-looking way beyond interpretation, explanation, and marseven observation; the backward glance has a mysterious power to undo the lopsided points of view in natures fated in their bicultural designs vexed to war.

Furthermore, Janus-Divom Deus expresses a triune divinity as such, and as such is a Trinitarian metaphor. Although the poets mention by name Jupiter-Janus, the sympathetic triangle in Divom Deus as such expresses Jupiter-Janus-Mars, with Mars taking on his aspect as god of state, Mars Quirinius.

The god’s gaze is emphasized. The god sees in two directions at once.  The god is not one-sided, in other words. The god does not maintain a lopsided point of view. And, not disembodied, but of the body nature and culture both is divom deus, a door and a way. The mythic aspect of a personal life and the public aspects of a cultural mythology are rewoven throughout the personal and public spheres of individual life, no obstruction.

The god has found residence in the troubled being of life here within the material depths of the image as door, gate and threshold, an ingress and egress between personal, public and private mythocultural spheres. Whereupon this capacity of the god to look both ways at once yet gaze back upon itself once therein, subject now becomes its own object of contemplation. Upon such a threshold, the god’s capacity holds both views concurrently in contemplation and favors neither. In this way Ovid will re-member that a way remains open to a peace in return, no obstruction.

I must digress a moment. There is an image that has been haunting the edge of this essay from its inception. It’s been waiting patiently for a chance to speak. The image first appeared shortly after 911. It appeared the moment President Bush began to speak of evildoers. When he did he fashioned a line. On one side of the line he placed the good. On the other side he placed evil. If other nations were not in support of his plan for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq, they were on the side of evil. He reserved the good for his own point of view. The line itself he called the axis of evil.  It was! —in its sense for the way it violated the pattern of the dyad as Trinitarian metaphor.

He addresses the nation this way early on and in this way attempts to give a face to terrorism, although terrorism is an ideology and has its own faces beyond the single one any try to give it. What seems lacking here in the action of the President is an identity in Dionysos. President Bush mistakes the face he draws, the axis of evil for something real. He does not seem to know his own line (pun intended) is an image – a no-thing, a mask!  Nor that it is only one among many ones.

When he drew the line he pointed outward into the world at the distant other and said ‘evil’. In drawing the line he drew the deep other here, too. He drew the other’s belonging by way of the one good face and not the two. He insulted the god. For the evil other is an illusory sort, there in the one good in the cowboy action anyway and supporting it via the fixed position given it, although hiding all along its own evil.  For the one is really two, an image with two faces; each a subject, behind whose mask an outward-looking gaze is also looking back upon itself. What the President employed to convince Americans to go to war was an imaginary fiction, an illusion —a false face. He dishonored the mundus imaginalis bearing the image of the god who speaks through the metaphor (see endnote 1).

Clio, muse of historyIn 2004 the late cultural mythologer Maggie Macary taught an on-line course called The Musing Life.  It was a course in personal mythology but she discovered she could not separate the natural body-psyche or ego-soul from the cultural soul and psyche-soul, mundus imaginalis. The personal myth does not mean something kept completely private. She discovered there is a public aspect to the personal along with the private. In opening the course, she honors as its muse Clio, the Muse of History. She does not merely mean the literal facts of historical events, but rather, the collective memory psyche retains in embodied experiences. And so she writes,

We invoke the Muse of History, Clio, first daughter of the goddess Mnemosyne in our musings, remembering that Clio remembers best the heroic moments in which the "archetype at the soul's core is revealed", (Hillman) redeeming events from the blindness of mere fact … Her history is not the kind of history found in our books. There are no facts and dates in Clio’s work.  Instead, there is recognition that personal history is a way of musing about life – a way in which we get the chance to enter our symptoms via historical imagining (Hillman, Healing Fiction 44).

Mnemosyne tile 2ndC-3rdC A.D. Antioch
Macary cannot leave it there and goes on to tell something more.

But see, I think of Clio and history in another way.  We often hear that history is written by the victors – that a whole darker side is lost.  That is because history is the daughter of re-membrance and re-membrance is never objective, regardless of our misguided attempts to make it so. We view our histories through our own lens of life, remembering that a lens reflects in the seeing-through.

-0000000000000000000---House of Mnemosyne, mosaic,
00000Antakya Museum, Antakya, Turkey 2ndC-3rdC A. D.

We may enter our symptoms via the historical image, in this case, we may enter a cowboy resolve via a coin with two faces, a trinitarian metaphor. (see endnote 2) And we may see again what we have failed to remember properly.

Mask of Dionysos c520 BCEWithin the body of this coursework is also a lecture on masks. Macary unfolds a connection between the mask, personae and personal identity through the etymology in the word, ‘mask’. It is well-worth repeating here.

The word mask comes from a Latin word, meaning specter–something ghostly, imaginal and unreal.  But what is really curious is that the word person comes from a Latin word persona - meaning an actor's mask. And in psychological terms, the word persona still reverberates with the idea of presentation and role.  We speak about our outer personae sure that there is an inner true self that we can find when we discard the masks in our lives.  We have yet to recognize that we are the variety of masks that we wear.

Ginette Paris concurs with Macary. “We are actors on a stage,” she writes in Pagan Grace, more or less free to rewrite roles when boredom or oppression is killing us" (58)
baby Dionysos in lap of Hermes floor mosaic 4thC House of AionGinette also comments on the danger of refusing to identify with the masks we wear because they carry "a dangerous separation between our True Self, on the one hand, which the individual defines as good, deep and authentic, and, on another hand, the social role, which doesn't depend on us, which is only a mask we are obliged to wear to live in the world and which excuses us from questioning the sanctity of our deep self" (52).   ---------4thC floor mosaic from House of Aion, Dionysos in the Lap of Hermes

How good is our own good really? Ginette also grounds the image of grace Dionysos confers as in tripartite soul as such: Dionysos-Hermes-Mnemosyne.

Macary thinks it is this refusal to accept the masks as part of who we are that allows us to do terrible things and still believe that this isn't really who we are. This refusal is what creates the embezzler and the cheating spouse and the mass murderer. It becomes apparent such a detour in the way, door, threshold crossing, and/or gate in our coming to presence as such we come to see this that creates the false face of our own delusional "cowboy resolve" — a kind of resolve that drove America and Americans into believing a war as first resort is a legitimate and moral response to the tragic suffering in the deep self at the heart of 911.

Paris ponders the same point regarding the quest of the so-called "authentic self" as if it were a fantasy about seeing behind the mask as if the "True Self" is separate from the roles and social masks we wear in the world.  Macary summarizes

Can we ever separate ourselves from our masks and our roles and should we even bother?  Do we have a monotheistic need to identify the One True Self like we do the One True God, believing that this is all that we truly are in life?  Are we opposed to the multiplicity of selves that the masks and roles we play in life, represent?  If we open up to the polytheistic nature of our psyches, can we in fact openly play with our masks and roles, finding completeness in the sense of a fractured self?

The god left us long ago, leaving the answer like the gate, open.

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1. Here is how Maggie Macary approaches the distinction between the false and the true imagination in her 2004 course, Musing Life. The word imaginary and the word imaginal do not convey the same thing. When we hear the word imaginary, we immediately think of something that is unreal.  The imaginal relates to the world of images and its use in archetypal psychology comes from the work of Henri Corbin who describes the mundus imaginalis - the world of the image, a soul-world, if you want, that is as real as the world of the senses (the body) and the world of the intellect (the mind).  The idea of a mundus imaginalis is that of an intermediate world between the world of the body and the world of the intellect.  It is a world of subtle bodies - subtle in terms of that which is delicate, precise, difficult to analyze or describe.  The art of subtlety is something that we seemed to have lost in our culture, as we demand more and more proof of the existence of UFO's and conspiracies.

2. For more on Trinitarian metaphors see David L Miller, Three Faces of God, Part II. Contemplating the Trinity.

Two Faces, One Coin: Comments From Readers

Two Faces, One Coin Part 1
Two Faces, One Coin Part 2
Two Faces, One Coin Part 3
Two Faces, One Coin Part 4
Two Faces, One Coin Part 5
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