Madness at the Gates of the City
Madness at the Gates of the City
By: Barry Spector
As the post-modern world lurches toward the disasters and bereavements that signal the end of an age, we turn to myth to comprehend the elemental forces that move through our lives, to know who we are, to understand which stories inform our consciousness.
Madness At the Gates of the City, writes Robert Johnson in his introduction, “shows how America regularly re-enacts old patterns that cause us to subvert our goals and miss the deeper meaning in events. But by looking at American history, politics and popular culture through the lenses of Greek mythology, indigenous wisdom and archetypal psychology, the author discovers new hope in very old ways of thinking. This book should appeal to anyone interested in myth, Classics, history, psychology or progressive politics.”
Barry Spector writes about American history and politics from the perspectives of myth, indigenous traditions and archetypal psychology. He is a regular contributor to Jung Journal: Culture & Psyche and the online journal Mythic Passages (www.mythicjourneys.org/guest_spector.html). Many of his essays can be found on his website: www.barryandmayaspector.com.
Spector uses the ancient mythical confrontation of the puritanical and dictatorial King Pentheus of Thebes with his cousin, the god Dionysus — who shows up at the gates of the city with the liberating blessings of madness as a stranger who is no stranger at all — as the paradigm for a devastating psychoanalytical critique of contemporary America’s attitudes towards the imagined outsider. The power of myth is that it is eternal, and Spector not only offers much to contemplate about today’s society, but also new perspectives upon an ancient classic, Euripides’ tragedy of the Bacchants.
—Carl Ruck, Professor of Classics, Boston University, co-author of The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries and Persephone’s Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion
Barry Spector’s Madness At The Gates of The City explores how Euripides’ Bacchae, written to warn his late fifth-century Athenian compatriots of the internal destructive forces threatening their beloved city, might help us look more honestly at the false innocence that sustains our illusions about the American dream and prevents our acknowledging its dark underside. Yet, the book ends with a beautifully voiced “story that could be true”: we could lift these repressive blinders, we could learn to hear and heed an archetypal cry for initiation into a way of being in the world that honors the life-giving energies the Greeks called by the name Dionysos.
—Christine Downing, author of The Goddess
Barry Spector’s book is a strikingly imaginative rumination on our society, reaching back into Greek mythology to illuminate the world today. It is a fascinating blend of literature, history and myth, and while we have had many critiques of contemporary America, his is unique in the way it draws upon the Greek gods to examine, with devastating accuracy, our present deities of war and greed. This is truly an original work.
—Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States
Our world lives, loves, suffers and triumphs by myth, often unseen and unconsidered. In the tradition of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, Barry Spector makes myths come alive; he helps us in the desperately important task of re-imagining our way.
—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path With Heart
In this disturbing and evocative book, Barry Spector offers us a trenchant commentary on the ignorance, pathos and shadows residing in the American addiction to innocence. Mythologically wise and instructive, the author gives us keys to the hidden kingdom, and the potential to participate in an emerging new and creative story as we once again join forces with the genius inherent in myth and the guidance and warnings that it holds. This is a work that should be read by anyone who wants to make a difference. To respond and become proactive in the mythic tasks that are now upon us, our basic human nature is challenged by Spector to deepen, discover, evolve. We must become mything links.
— Jean Houston, author of A Mythic Life
Madness at the Gates of the City is at once an indictment of America’s obsession with innocence and a treatise on tragedy and myth. Provocative and challenging, it echoes with penetrating ideas and mythic nuances.
—Michael Meade, author of The World Behind the World
Like Freud, Barry Spector has opened a sealed door to the unconscious. Not of an individual, but to a nation. Perhaps Spector would choose “underground,” for this term best reflects the hidden world, consigned to the dungeons of Americana, where the god Dionysus dwells. But Dionysus doesn’t wait below patiently: he escapes a thousand times a day, in music, in dance, in drama, frenzy and myth, sawing through cold brick and the fevered forefront of consciousness. Madness at the Gates of the City: The Myth of American Innocence explores that underworld of national repression and exhumes ancient gods of the Western psyche that were once thought dead and gone to promote the healing balms of balance against the dystopian present of militarism, consumerism, racism and empire. Spector imagines a New America, one at peace with itself, its real self, not its imagined self. Not its Apollonian, paranoid, imperial self. He knows that imagination is often the precursor of lived change, and he wants to be a part of that process, of a new thing being born.
— Mumia Abu-Jamal, author of Jailhouse Lawyers