Friday, December 8, 2017

Lesson from Phaethon Myth

Phaethon, the son of the Greek sun god Helios. Ancient myths told the story of how this rather insecure-sounding young god was challenged to prove he was related to Helios, who was said to pull the sun across the sky
To prove his divine provenance, Phaethon decided to have a go in his dad’s chariot and was unable to control the horses, who then ran wild across the sky dragging the hot sun with them. Humanity was almost destroyed in the subsequent chaos, which scorched the Earth, burned vast amounts of vegetation and created the great deserts of Africa. The Earth was only spared when Zeus blasted the horses with a thunderbolt, killing Phaethon in the process. Here’s what the Greek philosopher Plato wrote about the myth in his famous work, Timaeus:
“There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and other lesser ones by innumerable other causes. ‘There is a story that even you [Greeks] have preserved, that once upon a time, Phaethon, the son of Helios, having yoked the steeds in his father’s chariot, because he was not able to drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt.”
This myth resonated with what we are doing to ourselves through shallow thoughts and reasoning in the area of development of technology and sustainability of the ecosystem.
Let us take for an example the use of fossil fuel such as coal, oil and gas which are drawn out of the very innards of the earth. These resources have developed over millions of years and the unbridled rate at which we are consuming these resources is equal to the action of Phaethon in driving the horses of Helios in the Greek mythology. A deep reflection will point out that it took the Sun’s energy millions of years to convert decaying vegetation into deposits which is utilized not only to conserve and convert nature’s waste into useful structures of trapping the latent energy but contain the pollution of the atmosphere. By burning the fossil fuel and converting its energy content at a rapid rate, we have polluted the atmosphere with greenhouse gas such as Carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
There is a saying in the 12th century wisdom traditions of the Iroquois tribe of native Indians of America which states as follows:
“The Seventh Generation philosophy mandates that tribal decision makers consider the effects of their actions and decisions for descendants seven generations into the future. There should a clear understanding that everything we do has consequences for something and someone else, reminding us that we are all ultimately connected to creation.”
The irresponsibility with which we approached the technical development in the Industrial age has to give way for more eco-sensitive and life oriented decisions in future developments of science and technology and our own responsibility to the entire ecosystem.
Like Phaethon, we have not evaluated our core strengths and the holistic thinking and skills needed to control the vehicle which has tremendous potential to destroy the whole of humanity.
The thunderbolt of Zeus is the ethical and moral principles which destroys all devious paths and keeps us on the straight and narrow. It is the ethical and moral principles on which every decision in future technology development has to take place. Be it in the development of Artificial Intelligence or Gene manipulation, the extreme foresight that is needed to guide us should take a front seat. This is the reason why today we are talking of Spirituality Based Leadership. Spirituality is not a my belief system but the acute awareness of our connectedness to the entire cosmos.
In the spiritual Vedic tradition the symbolism of the chariot and horses are again brought out as to why one should develop a singular focus, as was the strength and capability of Helios, who could keep the horses in tight control so that the Atman or Soul which is symbolized by effulgent Sun could trace the correct path. I quote the verses from the Katha Upanishad:
“Know the Atman as the Lord of the chariot, the body as the chariot; know the intellect as the charioteer and the mind again as the reins. They say, the senses are the horses and their objects are the roads; the Atman, the senses and the mind united, the wise call the enjoyer. He who has no discrimination and whose mind is always uncontrolled, his senses are not controllable like vicious horses of a driver. But he who has understanding and whose mind is always controlled, his senses are under control like good horses of a driver. But he, who has no discrimination, and whose mind is not under control, and who is always impure, does not reach that goal, but enters into the round of births and deaths.” ………..Katha Upanishad Chapter 1 Section 3 Verses 3-7.
The lesson we learn from the myth of Phaethon and from the symbolism of the scriptures should takes us into deep reflection.

Love to you all.

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