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Volume 1 Chapter 3

A black and white drawing of the ancient greek gods.

Symbols of the Greek Era

The Foundation of Western Psychology

All science is mythology – Sigmund Freud

What emerged during the Axial Age in Greece were stories and myths to provide meaning and purpose to make Greek life more tolerable and understandable. Like the rest of the Axial world, the Greeks sought answers to the emerging cultural, socioeconomic, and political challenges. As the Zoroastrians and Jews offered monotheism, the Hindus and Buddhists offered the transcendent, the Chinese offered social and ecological solutions, and the Greeks offered myths and symbols before laying the philosophic foundation of Western science and psychology. The importance of exploring the psychological meaning of myth has captivated modern psychology, especially the psychoanalytic, Jungian, humanistic-existential, and transpersonal movements.

Beyond the pre-Socratic philosophers, the Classical Greek philosophers created a philosophy beyond the structure of nature that included universal truths to guide the lives of the Athenian people, which has inspired modern psychological movements. Whether in mythology or philosophy, Greek philosophers emphasized the importance of soul. Psychology, psyche, meaning “soul” in Greek, carries the sacred responsibility of exploring the deeper meaning of mental processes and existence. Because of the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, great thinkers throughout history in all fields have turned to Greek philosophy for understanding and guidance.

The Greeks offered psychology a broad foundation to explore the true meaning of psyche because “soul” had many meanings for the Greeks. Psyche, the soul, was often believed to exist in the heart, not the brain, which led R. D. Laing to define schizophrenia as a broken heart, not a broken brain. For Plato, the soul is immortal; it lives before and after death and has a transcendent function. Socrates believed by asking the right questions the immortal soul emerged and provided guidance toward a virtuous and ethical life. For Aristotle, the soul was an active agent, motivating and moving the natural world toward its purpose for existence. Aristotle believed the soul created the totality of the human personality. For other Greek philosophers, the soul was the very breath of life that could leave the body when there was a sneeze, after death, or during dreaming. No matter the definition, this chapter will explore how Greek philosophy laid the foundation for modern psychology.

Chapter Symbols

A symbol of yin yang and a star.

Fig 3.1 – Axial Age Symbols

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A group of people holding signs.

Fig 3.2 – Self Examination

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A black and white image of a man and woman.

Fig 3.3 – Origin of Greek Love

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A woman holding a bouquet of flowers.

Fig 3.4 – Modern Gaia

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A woman in a helmet and mask holding an owl.

Fig 3.5 – Athena

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A woman holding a sword and a man sitting on a bed.

Fig 3.6 – Eros and Psyche

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A man sitting in water with a planet in the background.

Fig 3.7 – Natural Philosophy

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A diagram of the solar system.

Fig 3.8 – Philosophical Synthesis

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A man with a beard and a red heart surrounded by math symbols.

Fig 3.9 – Numbers as Divine

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A woman in a dress with wings.

Fig 3.10 – Relativity of Knowledge

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A woman sitting on a floor with a computer screen.

Fig 3.11 – Being and Becoming

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Fig 3.12 – “Know Thyself”

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A man riding a horse with wings and a sword.

Fig 3.13 – Tripartite Personality

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A man sitting at a computer.

Fig 3.14 – Allegory of the Cave

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A digital art of a man's face.

Fig 3.15 – Power of Observation

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A tree with a fire in the middle of it.

Fig 3.16 – Teleology and Causality

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A drawing of a human body.

Fig 3.17 – Soul as Final Cause

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