|Lament For Icarus (1898) by Herbert James Draper|
The myth of Daedalus and Icarus has been on my mind recently. You can read a brief account of it here.
Daedalus was a skilled artificer. One of his creations was the Labyrinth to house the Minotaur. He was said to be the originator of images.
After the Minotaur was slain by Theseus, King Minos imprisoned Daedalus and Icarus in the Labyrinth. Daedalus, of course, knew his way out, so it was not a problem. Getting off the island of Crete was, however. So, he fashioned wings from feathers and wax for him and his son. They would fly to freedom. Daedalus told Icarus to fly a middle way, not too high lest the heat of the sun melt the wax, and not too low lest the sea foam moisten the wings and make them unusable. We all know the outcome. Icarus flew too close to the sun and plunged into the sea and drowned.
I’d like to return to the subject of metaxy, the Greek word meaning “in-between.” In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates argues that Eros is a daimon who is in-between (metaxy) god and mortal. Indeed, according to Socrates,
the whole of the daimonic is between [metaxy] god and mortal” (202d11-e1).
This state of “in-between-ness” is important in the history of religion and philosophy. I would like to focus on psyche as metaxy.
Daedalus tells Icarus to fly a middle course, not too high, not too low. I see this as a wonderful image of the state of metaxy. It is a place between time and timelessness. It is living in the moment. It transcends opposition.
The metaxy is the realm of
alam al-mithal, the world of the Image, mundus imaginalis: a world as ontologically real as the world of the senses and the world of the intellect, a world that requires a faculty of perception belonging to it, a faculty that is a cognitive function, a noetic value, as fully real as the faculties of sensory perception, or intellectual intuition. This faculty is the imaginative power, the one we must avoid confusing with the imagination that modern man identifies with “fantasy” and that, according to him, produces only the “imaginary” (Henry Corbin, Swedenborg and Esoteric Islam).
The metaxy is this imaginal realm, where image is the meeting place between conscious and unconscious, between human and divine, between all polarities. We visit this world every night in our dreams.
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