THE ancient Greek accounts of the origin of the world and of the gods have been recognized by many of the older interpreters of Mythology as bearing a striking resemblance to the Scriptural stories of the Creation of heaven and earth, the Golden Age, the Fall, and the Flood. Though this comparison has inevitably suggested itself, no attempt has been made to follow it up systematically and in detail, nor could this have been successfully accomplished without that universal mathesis, that master-key which fits into every door,—the Divinely revealed Science of Correspondences.
In the absence of this guiding star, modern interpreters have attempted to establish the science of Comparative Mythology on a purely materialistic basis, but the result has been an unsatisfactory, unsystematic and ludicrous jumble of contradictory hypotheses, devoid of all religious, ethical, and artistic elements. According to the "physical" interpreters of the evolutionary school, the ancient Greeks were entirely destitute of any spiritual ideas, nay, even philosophical and moral conceptions were quite foreign to them. They were mere nature-worshipers, and all their beautiful myths were nothing but different phases of the apotheosis of dead matter. Everything was a sun-myth, or a moon-myth, or a cloud-myth, not to speak of earth-myths and mud-myths. The Greeks themselves compared this form of thought to Pegasus with his wings bound, and chained to a plow.
In the New Church alone we are able to recognize the intimate relation between Theogony and Theology, between Mythology and Religion. Here we can realize that in the presence of Mythology we stand before a noble classical temple, the home of the Muses, the cradle of all art, poetry and culture; to us alone has been given the key, and if we enter into the inner recesses we shall find ourselves in a sacred adytum which strangely resembles the interior of a temple of the New Jerusalem.
An effort was made, some years ago, to bring the light of the New Church to bear upon the mythology systems of ancient Canaan, Babylonia, and Assyria (see Appendix II). It is our purpose, now, to make a similar effort in respect to the Pantheon of Ancient Greece and Rome, reviewing in a general way the most obvious correspondences which are there presented. The Writings of the New Church contain numerous references to this Mythology, with direct interpretations which to us are authoritative. Our own interpretations, though based upon the Divine Revelation, are offered only in the way of suggestion.
Mythology, being the science of ancient religions, is a sacred science and must therefore be handled with reverence and care. Two things are needed for its interpretation: correspondences and rational doctrine. Without correspondences Mythology will never open up its buried temples and treasuries, but correspondence is merely the key; within are labyrinthine passages and chambers where unguided imagination may easily go astray. A guide is needed and this guide we have in the systematic theology of the New Church, which is one with the Doctrine of the Ancient Church, and which not only points the way but at the same time warns against false interpretations. But with both the key and guide at hand we may safely explore the labyrinth, and our journey will then serve most important uses. It will place our mind in communication with the celestial and spiritual heavens of the Lord's Ancient Churches. It will store the imagination with noble and beautiful images, the representative ultimates of heavenly thoughts and affections, and, above all, it will show that the Religion of the ancients is one with the Religion of the New Church, teaching the same Divine truths, inculcating the same lessons of moral and spiritual good, and leading the mind to the worship of the same and only supreme God, the God of the Ancient Church who is the Lord of the New Church.
C. Th. Odhner