The search for Immortality part one

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The search for Immortality part one

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Wed Dec 29, 2004 10:56 pm

Salvete

I just finished translating this piece into English. It is something I wrote while thinking about Gilgamesh, Herakles and the eternal search for immortality. Its open for critique an debate.
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The search for Immortality


Throughout history man was always fascinated by the very notion of eternal life, a way to escape the clutches of Death. In almost every culture, this desire to escape Death, is present. Every conscious being doesn’t want to die and wants to life forever. With humans, this desire is mostly present in literature, mythology and religion. Every religion on Earth promises an afterlife, a chance of immortality. With some cultures, this was transparent, but with others no so much. The Hellenic and Roman cultures are examples of that kind where the quest for immortality is not so transparent as in others like in the Sumerian mythology with the epic of Gilgamesh as a prime example for the desire to live forever.
The Hellenes had no epic like that of the epic of Gilgamesh. But they did had something else which shows up in almost every Mediterranean culture. That is that the Underworld is no fun to be in. That’s why there were so many mystery cults that promised a better place in the Underworld if they were initiated like in the Eleusinian Mysteries and others. All what these initiations did for these initiated was to elevate them beyond their normal conscience, they transcended to a different level of consciousness. The Hellenes, the Romans, the Sumerians and other polytheistic cultures knew that only the Gods are eternal and can bestow immortality upon a mortal being. This is only done with a few select people who elevated themselves above all other humans through actions. Most of them are initiated in certain mystery cults like Herakles was initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries. But most of these select few had divine parentage. Akhilleos/ Akhilles had Thetis as his mother. Herakles had Zeus as his father, as did Kastor and Polydeukes. That is not the only thing that separated them from the rest. What separated them from us is how they lived their lives. Perseus had the same father as Herakles, Kastor and Polydeukes and is only remembered as a hero, a daimone, while Theseus had Poseidon as his father (according to some), but he had to do with the status of hero, but not a hero god like Herakles. Herakles was the greatest of them all, had human flaws, but met a gruesome end.
Akhilles separated himself from the rest at Troy, but in death he was remembered as a pan-Hellenic hero. Akhilles was immortal, but his heel wasn’t. When Odysseos meets him in the Underworld, Akhilles has a different attitude than in life. He wishes that he was rather a slave than to be a shadow in the Underworld. This reflects how people perceived the Underworld, afterlife in general as a fearsome place, full of terrors and darkness. Like Gilgamesh, all men, including half gods and heroes are afraid of dying. Mystery religions are more than dealing with the afterlife. They create a certain connection between mortals and Gods and with the afterlife that other cults don’t have. The Hellenes were busy trying to secure their afterlife while still enjoying their lives. Life on itself wasn’t all fun, so they could only make the best of it. The lesson Gilgamesh eventually learned when he returned empty-handed is that life is nothing if you haven’t lived it. Hellenes as Romans knew this, which is why they tried to enjoy their live as much as they could before they died.
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valete

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The search for Immortality part two

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Wed Dec 29, 2004 10:57 pm

Salvete

This is the second part of my article.
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At the same time, this is also the meaning of life: enjoy it as much as you can while you are alive. Life on Earth for the average human is short. Its to short to occupy ourselves with the notion that we were sent to Earth with a purpose or something like that. To many people think about this like they are part of some grand design. Like with the heroes of mythology who achieve immortality, this is equally true for a select few of mortals who can make a difference, but this is something that is not laid out for every human. The Gods have put us on this Earth with or without reason and all we can do is make the best of it. After all, it’s the journey that is more important than the destination. The answer to the question of what the meaning of life is or why we were put here, might be one that we might not like. All we can do is make the most of it and enjoy life to the fullest. As a species, we will never achieve immortality, because the very notion is ridiculous. It creates problems that we don’t want to see. Without death, life would be unbearable. Another lesson Gilgamesh had to learn the hard way is that immortality is something man is not meant to achieve. He was so afraid to die, that he lost the only thing that could make him immortal after he had slept for several days. Eventually Gilgamesh grew old and died just as any other mortal. Like I said, life without death would be unbearable. One line out of the Matrix Trilogy does point it out that everything that has a beginning, has an end. So is it with mortals. We have a beginning and we will have an end. There is nothing we can do to change that. Without death, there would ben o life. Herakles was the greatest of all heroes and he died a gruesome death by fire, after he was poisoned by his second wife Deianeira. If she ahdn’t given him that cloak, than he would life either forever or he would have died like any other man. But Herakles didn’t stay dead. He became a god and crossed the boundary between hero and god, between heaven and underworld, by becoming what the Hellenes called a Heros Theos, a Hero God.
Most people like the idea of becoming immortal, but what most don’t realise is that they probably have to die to become immortal. For Hellenic heroes, this was reality. Kastor and Polydeuks became immortal Gods in death, just as Herakles. Even they could not escape the clutches of Death (Thanatos). Immortality is something that mankind can only dream about. If we take a look at all immortal heroes in literature, ancient and contemporary and in mythology, we see that most of them consider immortality as a curse. Without an end, there is no joy in life. Just because we realize that all things must end, we can enjoy our life. Without Death, life would become unbearable. The Highlander series does demonstrate this. The immortals must see how everyone they knew grew old and died while they lived on. Even they had to die in order to find out that they were immortal or not. Which shows that immortality is something where a human transcends into another place of existence, something that can only be given by either God or Gods.
After all, it’s the journey that is more important than the destination. A human can only achieve immortality through his offspring and through his legacy.
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valete

Quintus
Quintus Aurelius Orcus
Rector ColRel
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