Originally written for Elise Schumock's Greek 2 class at Crossroads
ERIS : τον ποιησαμην τη χεω πωs πην ηυρικων
"The Classical Greeks were not influenced by the Classical Greeks."
-- Principia Discordia
Eris was, and still is, primarily a personification of an ambiguous abstract. What she personifies, discord or strife, has varied in function. Since the early seventies, when anyone who could turn around old ideas for a good laugh thought such was the purpose to life (which it inarguably is), a cult of Eris has sprung from the minds of Robert Shea, Robert Anton Wilson, and various semifictional preceders and followers. Its apparent intent, possibly controlled by the Illuminati as a foil, is to throw an element of transhuman angry confusion into any harmonic system. It revels in multiple stories, explanations, and arguments, all of which tear apart an idea, even the very idea of their Goddess, whom a Discordian views to be as powerful as Mother Nature, and much more prevalent. Eris comes to represent basic dualities in human thought, by this token, although that pronouncement itself begins to be discordant with most other ideas about the goddess. In destructing (no, not deconstructing, that makes too much sense) the previous idea of Eris as an evil imp, Discordians are perfectly and mockingly aware that they are creating a structure of desctruction, and confusing chaos with simple strife. All the definitions in the language of discord, strife, chaos, etc., are functions of a language whose very intent destroys these things, and thus is able to group them as an Other. The Greeks, however, even bothered to understand their geneology and attempted, often unsuccessfully, to differentiate the disharmonies within Discord. They seem much more, well, sober on the topic, so I shall intentionally produce discord by denying her extreme positivization in the structure (supporting the negation thereof) of my examination, thereby cohering to Greek concepts of moderation in the very attempt towards definition.
For the Greeks, Eris was a minor god, a side effect of the original bump-n-grind of Chaos and Earth, or a sidekick to violent war. Her definition is itself discordant, perceiving which she is surely happy; Virgil expresses this aspect, everpresent in the goddess and discussions thereof, in the Aeneid: "Discord strides exulting in her torn mantle..."(7.702, from Parada); tearing, a split or gape, is central to strife. More humanizing accounts personify her as Ares's twin sister, but in most other situations in which she appears (she only clearly appears in one, where her presence is felt perhaps solely because of all the orderly gods blocking her vibes) she is more independent and almost entirely abstract. When the Greeks did attempt to define Eris, they of course acknowledged her opposing pluralities, or simply dualities. Gregory Nagy quotes a poem by Hesiod that views Eris as parallelling the ambivalent functions of blame in Ancient Greek society: strife as the driving force in man's ambition, along with resigning to her incarnation as Ares's companion:
ouk ara mounon hn eridon genos, all epi gaian
there was not just one Eris born, but there on earth
eisi duo- ten men ken epaineseie noesas,
are two. When a man recognizes one, he should praise it.
h d epimometh- dia d andica qumon ecousin.
The other is worthy of blame. The two have split dispositions.
(etc. : Hesiod, Works and Days, ll. 11-14, or to 26)
The vitalizing force of discord was understood within what are regarded as Classical values, which are discordant with Christian values supposedly predominant in the culture that raised Wilson and Shea. Christianity seeks control over any system that accepts violence as integral to human nature, thus placing Eris within a rejected context that "expanded" minds readily embraced and examined.
The Greeks had a tendency to anthropomorphize everything, to ascribe human features to something they perceived as integral to humanity, and thus create of it a fallible god. They thus choose to worship those powers inbred far down enough from the conventional Primal Matter/Mhter and Primal Caos, neither of which have any conversational personality, although the latter has been known to show up everywhere (in order to deliver the milk in a timely fashion, of course), truly screwing up Gaia. Eris in her independent role was one of the many daughters of Nux, or night, and herself birthed many more barely stenciled personifications. Personification is hard work, you see, and it was enough for the Greek narrative mind to know that Discord births Battles, Disputes, Famine (An Apocalyptic Horseman! Though I donıt really see the direct descent, here; must be adopted), Fightings, Lawlessness, Lies (no she doesn't), Manslayings , Murders, Oath (to be interpreted as Obscenities if one wants to start an argument), Oblivion/Amnesia (conflict in perspective can take one outside oneıs own mind to the point of losing it), Quarrels , Ruin, Sorrows, and Toil, rather than understand how each of these delightful varieties of human interaction functioned as humans. The main reason is because the Greeks only appreciated Eris intellectually at best. They were trying to create order, and discord, characterized by the competition of meanings, was antithetical to their intent to label and understand the truth, and beauty, of humanity's place in the world. The nonexistence, at least at that time, of a cult of the person of Eris, is that the Greeks found it better to keep actions and influences such as her and her close relatives as abstract as possible. The evil part the Greeks chose to separate was described then as being singularly ugly, although the Erisians' goddess has been quoted as saying that, though she had always been fond of the Old Greeks, "they were victims of indigestion, you know." Her mythological manifestation is a rather attractive winged (like the Sirens) woman, as seen alone on the Athenian black-figure amphora shown above, or mixed with many other characters in battle on another. Explains the Principia Discordia: "The Romans left a likeness of Her for posterity -- She was shown as a grotesque woman with a pale and ghastly look, Her eyes afire, Her garment ripped and torn, and as concealing a dagger in Her Bosom. Actually, most women look pale and ghastly when concealing a chilly dagger in their bosoms." Eris will grow to great proportions at any appearance should a discrepency appear between belief in her existence and belief in the others' viewpoint. Antigone says in Aeschylusıs Seven Against Thebes, "Discord is the last of the gods to close an argument."(Parada) Anthropomorphication is partially discordial; instead of creating a divine unity between the shape and function of human characteristics and physical humans, the inherant clashes, the competing and confusing contrasts between ideas and those in which they reside, become apparent in the creation of gods, especially the god of such discrepencies. The Greeks acknowledged the existence of Eris in (any and all, in fact) interactions with each other, and often the inevitability of her interference. Those who deny discord a presence in their lives will simply invite her in; by opposing her concept, they are discordant with it.
This is obvious from Eris's sole, abstract, and still rather disputed, appearance in Greek mythology, at the very beginning of the Iliad saga. Discord was not invited to Peleus and Thetisıs wedding, held by Zeus, so naturally she showed up anyway, and threw a golden (Hesperides) apple into the wedding with the word kallisti, or "to the fairest", written on it, then, as the Erisian myth boasts, left the deities to her effects and joyously partook of a hot dog. The fruit of discord led to the competition between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite to determine who exactly deserved the apple, and to Judgement of Paris, the bribes, Helen, A Thousand Ships, and some quarrel called the Trojan War. Strife also defines the disagreement of Zeus and Prometheus that led to humans thinking so much of themselves (please reread the last five words carefully) in the first place. The "doctrine of the original snub" in fact personifies the snub by human nature of Eris, who is herself not geneologically related to the favors of human nature but is it; metaphorically speaking, as noticable to humanity as water is to a Curious Squid.
Antikensammlung, Berlin? Dictionary: Eris, detail from clay vase. Beazley Archive. http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/CGPrograms/Dict/ASP/OpenDictionaryBody.asp?name=Eris
Cabal, Joshua Norton OR Anton, Robert Wilson OR Hill, Gregory. Principia Discordia. San Fransisco OR Port Townsend: Loompanics. Represented from http://www.fnord.org/. 7/18/01 and http://www.ology.org/principia
(Also: the llluminatus! Trilogy.)
Hine, Phil. "Discordianism by Phil Hine". http://www.adab08.care4free.net/discord.htm.
Nagy, Gregory. The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Greek Poetry,revised edition, Chapter 19: "More on Strife and the Human Condition". Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979-1999. represented at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/nagy/BofATL/chapter19.html
Parada, Carlos. "Eris Mythology Link." http://www.hsa.brown.edu/~maicar/Eris.html, 9/23/01.