Head of the Young Bacchus
c. A.D. 1 - 50
On view at The Getty Villa in Malibu
"The final secrets of existence and non-existence transfix mankind with monstrous eyes… Here there is nothing but encounter, from which there is no withdrawal… Because it is the god’s nature to appear suddenly and with overwhelming might before mankind, the mask serves as his symbol and his incarnation in cult. The mask has no reverse side. ‘Spirits have no backs’, people say. It has nothing which might transcend the mighty moment of confrontation. It is the symbol and the manifestation of that which is simultaneously there and not there: that which is excruciatingly near, that which is completely absent – both in one reality."
- Walter F. Otto, “Dionysus: Myth and Cult”
Pompeiian Fresco with a graffito warning about the snares of wild Venus
House of Hercules, Pompeii
Possibly the words incorporated into a magic ritual by a worried mother for her lovesick son:
"Venus is a weaver of webs; from the moment that she sets out to attack my dearest (of my blood) she will lay temptations along his way: he must hope for a good voyage, which is also the wish of his Ario."
(Credit to http://pompeiinetworks.wordpress.com/tag/religion/ for the translation and context)
Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your head to the bees as they sing of the dews and the sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you? Dream on, sway and frolic while you may in the gentle breezes of summer. To-morrow a ruthless hand will close around your throats. You will be wrenched, torn asunder limb by limb, and borne away from your quiet homes. The wretch, she may be passing fair. She may say how lovely you are while her fingers are still moist with your blood. Tell me, will this be kindness? It may be your fate to be imprisoned in the hair of one whom you know to be heartless or to be thrust into the buttonhole of one who would not dare to look you in the face were you a man. It may even be your lot to be confined in some narrow vessel with only stagnant water to quench the maddening thirst that warns of ebbing life.
— Okakura Kakuzo, “The Book of Tea”
Parody of Bodhidharma (Daruma) Crossing the River on a Reed
1766 - 67
Fragment from an Interview with Jorge Luis Borges by Roberto Alifano (1981-1983) “The Labyrinth and the Tiger”
Alifano: Do you conceive the image of losing ourselves in a labyrinth as a pessimistic view of the future of mankind?
Borges: No, I don’t. I believe that in the idea of the labyrinth there’s also hope, or salvation; if we were positively sure the universe is a labyrinth, we would feel secure. But it may not be a labyrinth. In the labyrinth there is a center: that terrible center is the Minotaur. However, we don’t know if the universe has a center; perhaps it doesn’t. Consequently, it is probable that the universe is not a labyrinth but simply chaos, and if that is so, we are indeed lost.
Alifano: Yes, if it didn’t have a center, it wouldn’t be a cosmos but chaos. Do you believe that the universe has a secret center?
Borges: I don’t see why not. It is easy to conceive that it has a center, one that can be terrible, or demonic, or divine. I believe that if we think in those terms unconsciously we are thinking of the labyrinth. That is, if we believe there’s a center, somehow we are saved. If that center exists, life is coherent. There are events which surely lead us to think that the universe is a coherent structure. Think, for example, of the rotation of the planets, the seasons of the year, the different stages in our lives. All that leads us to believe that there is a labyrinth, that there is an order, that there is a secret center of the universe, as you have suggested, that there is a great architect who conceived it. But it also leads us to think that it may be irrational, that logic cannot be applied to it, that the universe is unexplainable to us, to mankind – and that in itself is a terrifying idea.
Nut pectoral of Tut-ankh-amun
Gold, inlaid with carnelian, coloured glass.
Terracotta Relief depicting Psyche and Eros
c. 2nd - 1st Century B.C.
You move me powerfully by all that you say, and in the midst of my love I often shudder to see the gentle youth who wept at my feet transformed into this robust being.
Will you not forget all that you have learned of love?
But change as you will! I follow you. I believe that if you could hate me, I, too, should even come to feel as you felt, would make an effort to hate you, and so our souls would remain alike – and this that I say is no exaggeration, Hyperion.
I, too, am wholly different from what I was. I have lost my serene view of the world and my free delight in everything that has life. Only the field of the stars still draws my eyes. On the other hand, I think all the more fondly of the great spirits of the past and how they ended on earth…
— Diotima to Hyperion, Friedrich Hölderlin, “Hyperion”