Page 239

SYMBOLIC LANGUAGE

229

Our interpretation, howe\er, needs to he supplemented by another eonsideration. Althoui^h the conflict between Oedipus, Antigone and Ilaemon, on the one side, against

Creon, on the other, contains a

memory

of

the conflict between patriarchal and matriarchal principles,

also

and particularly of be understood

in

its

mvthical elements,

it

must

terms of the specific political and

cultural situation in Sophocles's time

and of

his reac-

tions to that situation. Bachofen found to be the characteristic principles of the matriirchal world. While Hprjer.s s>'mpathy for the piitriirchal principles is not surprising, one does not expect to find it in Bacnofen's writings. And yet Bachofcn's own attitude to matriarchal society h;is been quite ambivalent. It seems that he loved matriarchate and hated patriarchal principles, but inasmucli as he was also a rehgious Protestant and a believer in the progress of reason, he believed in the supremacy of the patriarchal principle over matriarchate. In a great part of his wTJtings his sympathy witli the matriarchril principle finds expression. In other parts, and this holds true of his brief interpretation of the Oedipus myth ( Bachofen's "Mutterrecht" in Der Mythos vom Orient unci Okzident, cited above, pp. 259 f. ), he, like Hegel, sides with the victorious 01\mpian gods. To him Oedipus stands on the frontier between the matri;irchal and the patriarchal world. The fact that he does not know his father points to a matriarchal origin in which only the mother but not the father is certain. But the fact that he discovers eventually who his real father is, according to Bachofen, marks the beginning of the patriarchal family in which the true father is known. "Oedipus," he sa\'S, "is connected with the progress to a higher level of existence. He is one of those great figuros whose suffering and pain lead to a more beautiful form of human civilization; one of those still rooted in the old order of things who are at the same time sacrificed and thus become the founders of a new epoch" (p. 266). Bachofen stresses the fact that the dreaded mother-goddesses, the Erinyes, have subordinated themselves to the Apollonian world and that the connection between Oedipus and them marks the victory of the patriarchal principle. It seems to me that Bachofen's interpretation does not do justice to the fact that Creon, although he is tlie only one who survives physically, symbolizing the \ictor>' of tiie patriarchal world, is the one who is morally defeated. It may be assumed that Sophocles intended to convey the idea that the patriarchal world was triumphant, but that it would be defeated unless it adopted the humanistic principles of the older matriarchal order.

The Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales, and Myths  

Renowned psychoanalyst Erich Fromm investigates the universal language of symbols, expressed through dream and myths, and how it illuminates...

The Forgotten Language: An Introduction to the Understanding of Dreams, Fairy Tales, and Myths  

Renowned psychoanalyst Erich Fromm investigates the universal language of symbols, expressed through dream and myths, and how it illuminates...

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