Hail Hephaistos, preeminent craftsman;
Artful his style, bold his creation.



Hephaistos, God of the Forge, is the personification of subterranean and terrestrial fire, including human lustiness.  The instinctive, libidinous "fire down below" is echoed by the Tarot attribution of the spermatazoic letter Yod, which means "hand" but represents the 'point' of the phallus, particularly the sperm which projects from it.  It represents the longing for soul completion, or union through the sexual act.  This is reflected in the mythic versions where cuckolded Hephaestos is married to Aphrodite.  He also attempts the rape of Athena, but his seed falls to the earth depotentiated.  Thus he embodies the betrayed and/or rejected lover. The Hermit is solitary, but not lonely.  When he seeks the antidote for isolation, he wants to seen, touched, reacted to, to be intimately close to another human being.  Even that partner cannot walk his path with him, for we can only become self-realized alone.

His worship is probably derived from the Vedic god, Agni.  His dominion over primal fire ranges from the wild force of volcanic activity to the harnessed fire of metallurgy.  He is the archetypal mechanic or engineer.  Technological man has inherited his legacy, and his woundedness, and in this regard Hephaestos shares something in common with Prometheus who stole "fire" from the Gods.  The boon carries a bane inherent within its nature -- for one thing, he is preoccupied, even obsessed, with details.  We see this today in the obsessive loner techno-geek type.

Hephaistos was born of Hera alone.  Some ancient authors say Hera invented the legend of his virgin birth because he was conceived before her marriage to Zeus.  Others claim that he was conceived from Hera's brooding over Zeus' creation of Athena.  Since Hephaistos is credited with striking the blow which released Athena from the cranium of Zeus, this account seems confused.  Yet, the mythic dimension is non-linear. So when we compare accounts of exploits, there are discrepancies and variations on the theme from different regions and times.

Whether Zeus fathered Hephaistos or not, he rejected him forthwith.  In one version, Hera abandoned him also, hurling her lame son into the sea from Olympian heights.  This rejection and abandonment led him to judge himself as "imperfect" and his compensation was to achieve technological perfection through his work.

Hephaistos was born with a birth defect; he was lame and twisted, and only learned to walk with great difficulty.  His appearance disgusted Hera, and she tried to hide him from the Immortals.  He was raised by sea nymphs until the age of nine, when he made his existence known to the Olympians.

Already an artistically gifted inventor, Hephaistos sent Hera a beautiful throne he made for her as a present.  He was not only a craftsman, but a crafty individual--the throne concealed a trap for his mother.  Hephaistos came back to Olympus on his own terms, demanding to know the secret of his birth and seeking the beautiful Aphrodite as his bride.

Hera's heart softened when she saw her son, and she tempered her attitude toward him.  But Zeus never accepted him for how could he claim the imperfect as his own creation?  Hephaistos always took his mother's side when they fought.  Seeking to prevent Zeus from beating his mother, another tale recounts how Zeus hurled Hephaistos down to earth.  He landed, half-dead, in the island of Lemnos where he was cared for by a guild of dwarfish miners and metal-workers.

Here he took on his nature as the god of "earthy" fire.  His name is said to mean 'fire' or ruler of fire.  Other than the metaphor which associates him with lightning, he is distinguished from the celestial fire of Zeus.  Earthy fire promotes civilization by giving us the ability to work metals.  Hephaistos thus became the archetypal blacksmith, characterized by his powerful upper body and the quality of his artistic and mechanical creations.  In ancient Greece it was customary for lame men to become smiths.

Hephaistos kindles within us his own primordial desire.  His creative hand is "trying to grasp," both in the physiological and psychological sense.  He tries to grasp his mother's abandonment, his father's rejection, and his own deformed nature.  He represents man as the tool user, equipped with an opposable thumb.  It is the ability of the creative hand to grasp which links Hephaistos with Trump IX, THE HERMIT, which corresponds with the Hebrew letter Yod, which means "the hand," --specifically the creative hand.

There are numerous ancient connections between Hephaistos and the pre-Olympian Great Mother.  Psychologically, this links the subterranean fire of the smith-God with the dark, internal energies of the Mother's creativity. He can't produce babies, so he copies the creativity of nature and produces things carefully wrought by hand.

Some Jungians note that Hephaistian fire takes its light and energy from the central fires which are at the heart of nature's creativity.   Therefore, Hephaistos is a split-off animus of the Great Mother.  He "mimics" the creative processes in the depths of the Mother and brings his works of art to birth by technological means.

Even though he lacked physical symmetry and personal grace, his inventive spirit found an area in which he could excel--the working of metals.  He is characteristically depicted as grasping his hammer and tongs in his hands, ready to work and temper the raw metal.  There was a STAR TREK NG episode where the android Data has a vision of his creator, Dr. Sung, forging a bird's wing.  Data comes to realize that "he is the bird," and his imagination takes flight as he claims another level of his inheritance.

Hephaistos was a prolific artist, creating artifact after artifact of great precision and beauty.  Many appealed to him for his services.  Even the haughty Zeus came to him for help in punishing Prometheus and men for the crime of stealing the celestial fire--consciousness.

Zeus commissioned Hephaistos to create the body of the first woman from water and clay, taking care to make her a resplendent beauty.  Zeus breathed life into her.  Pandora, a human-sized Great Mother with her magic box of evils, misery, suffering, and disease was loosed on the world.  The woes of physical life come along with corporeal existence.

This myth about the origins of corporeal life coming from clay has been confirmed by modern science.  It is more than a metaphor.  In 1985, NASA scientists showed that clay gives off life-promoting bursts of ultraviolet radiation.  It literally stimulates the growth of organic molecules.  Some clays respond likewise when exposed to gamma radiation.

This discovery led to the proposal of a new theory of human origins--that we are the fruit of the soil.  Other theories begin with "primordial soup" or interstellar "seeding."  Yet, ordinary clay acts like a chemical factory by storing and transmitting energy.  It can transform inorganic raw materials into more complex molecules from which life arises.  In Genesis, Adam is formed of the "dust" of the earth.

Despite his own deformity and imperfection, or more likely because of it, Hephaistos yearned for pleasures and aesthetic beauty.  Therefore, he sought and won the hand of Aphrodite.  Their marriage symbolized his addiction to pleasures of beauty, even though she cheated on him.  He also lusted after Athena, but again the pattern of his rejection prevailed, revealing his faulty anima relationship.

As a result of his continual rejection, he is severely complexed.  He has an unconscious longing to reunite with his mother in an incestuous relationship.  This in is fact what cripples him -- his untransformed desire to return to the comforting bosom of his Great Mother.  Thus he fluctuates radically between lust and guilt.  He would give too much to mother by serving her in a materialistic manner.  He is too pragmatic for his own good.

For her he rejects (as he was rejected) lofty abstractions and the impersonal fantasy world of the spiritual father principle.  He takes refuge in the mother's realm of matter (mater=matter).  Really, he seeks the spiritual transformation both of his body, and by indirection, all matter.  He seeks what he didn't have--a father.  As the projection of Hera's inner masculinity, he embodies the process of change or psychic transformation in his twisted, paradoxical body, which is half maimed, half robust.

He has the introverted personality of a cripple.  His lame foot reflects his mother-complexed soul and his spirit's structural damage.  Unlike the "handicapable," his spirit is where he is truly crippled.  He is a son with an absent, rejecting father.  Therefore, he vows to remain earthy, the very salt of the earth, with no celestial traits or aspirations.

He must turn inward to hidden resources for comfort.  In his introversion, he is always willing to go to the depths of the unconscious (realm of the Great Mother).  He feels comfortable and "at home" in subterranean depths of the subconscious.  Since he had to be self-sustaining, he learned to prefer solitude, and is somewhat withdrawn and remote.  His underground fire smolders with unresolved resentments.

So, as well as the physical representations like mechanics and technology, Hephaistos is with us in such expressions as introversion, depression, union activity, and Marxist philosophy.  Perhaps, most psychologically interesting, he is the motivating force behind the transformative processes of alchemy, which are steeped in cryptic protocols.

Hephaistos, like THE HERMIT, seeks his illumination from within.  The secret impulse emerges as a vision which he holds to its manifestation in reality.  It is a practical philosophy based on what works.  His is one archetypal means of executing one's Will.  Wisdom, prudence, and circumspection guide the will.  He is fertile in his own particular way, which in its ultimate sense manifests as the fulfillment of THE GREAT WORK.  He shares the alchemical world (the mysteries of life) and goals with Mercury, or Hermes.

Prometheus stole fire from the gods -- the fire of technological or scientific knowledge.  For this infraction he was chained to a mountain and his liver was pecked at for a seeming eternity.  We see it in the growing pangs of the digital revolution:  "We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before. . . ." (John Perry Barlow). "One of the digital world's most valuable commodities is the luxury of being nobody - not somebody different, but nobody in particular" (Nicholas Negroponte, Wired Magazine, Oct. '98).


As primal fire, we find the expression of Hephaistos not only within the suppressed fires of volcanoes, but also within petroleum and its result, the greenhouse effect.  The unleashed fires of technologically created nuclear energy reflect his split nature.  Hephaistos turns a blind eye to the toxic shadow-nature of his creations.  These unforeseen or ignored consequences are his pathologies played out in matter.

He is the evolutionary anomaly, technological man.  Just as the Great Mother prevents spiritual possibilities from emerging, so has our cultural bias for technology at any price banished the philosopher from certain areas of knowledge.  Hephaistos seeks to proliferate, creating more and more artifacts and innovations, rather than unifying information into a coherent whole, and taking responsible action.

By encouraging specialization, Westerners have become mentally crippled--taught to think in a narrow and restricted manner.  Our experts are really over-specialized professional corporate robots.  Hephaistos rejects his expansive father's philosophical worldview for a pragmatic materialism.  But technological man has a secret spiritual goal--to transform science and thereby transform himself.

Hephaistos, the master technologist, is adroit at imitating the natural creative process of his mother, nature; the forge emulates the fiery womb.  His artistic creative nature, apes or mimics the generative force of life.  He seeks his own way of fathering offspring on the mother (matter).

A couple of examples will make this assertion more clear.  First, this Hephaistian imperative has culminated historically in the military-industrial complex.  This is his creative effort channeled into producing the deadly machinery of war, though he tends to shy away from conflict, unlike his brother Ares.  Hephaistos forms a politico-economic conspiracy with Hera, and his combative brother Ares, and Hera's overachieving hero, Hercules.  They seek to dominate through force, inadvertently serving yet succumbing to the patriarchy of Zeus.

Technological man has extracted the secret of atomic bonds from matter.  When a nuclear bomb explodes, the energy (E) locked in the mass (m) radiates at enormous speed (C2).  Conventional war has traditionally been considered "good" for business, but this is obviously not the case with nuclear war.  But for years the "nuclear threat" has been big business--the so-called defense business, (offense business).

Another toxic example of the Hephaistian shadow is the greenhouse effect, the result of the burning of fossil fuel.  Pollution ranges from the drilling site to the refinery, to the milling of steel for cars, which create 20% of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  This canopy traps heat.  Carbon dioxide molecules trap infrared waves which would otherwise radiate back into space from the earth.

Other graphic cases of Hephaestian mimicry may be found in the fields of biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology.  Fundamental to all these is the science of chemistry which is directly descended from the psycho-physical science of alchemy.  If the physical archetype for Hera is the principle of molecular bonding, the Hephaestian chemist seeks to delve into his mother's deepest secrets.  At the same time he seeks spiritual fathering by seeking recognition for his work.  The biochemist literally imitates his mother by aping nature's creative process in research on recombinate DNA.

In ancient times, Hephaestos's creations were praised for being so "life-like."  Today, biopolymers like DNA (genetic substance) can be synthesized by these scientists at will.  They may be manipulated in many ways for the desired result.  We are on the verge of hybridizing our vegetables with fish genes, and other weird genetic amalgamations.  Thus, the biochemist produces his offspring as a single-parent, through a "virgin" birth, much as Hera conceived Hephaestos.

Through a process known as parthenogenesis, a female may produce offspring alone, but this child is invariably female.  This shows the self-generating power of the Great Mother.  Physically, this power is represented in our human bodies by plasmids.  Plasmids are bits of genetic substance which float freely outside of the main genetic repository.  They are transmitted to any one individual through the mother only.  They are donated strictly from the egg.  Thus, plasmids come only through the matrilinear line of descent.

In unisex reproduction, exactly the same genetic information is passed to each daughter cell, or clone.  No fresh characteristics can be inherited.  Through technology, almost any gene--from a virus to a frog to a man--could be spliced into a plasmid.  It is then inserted into an E. coli bacterium, and the transplanted DNA is copied down to the minutest detail.  Any product ordered by the inserted genes will occur in the offspring.  Thus bacterium are created, such as interferon, and oil-digesting enzymes.

Recently fertility hormones have been cloned, also.  Recombinant DNA has produced two human fertility hormones.  The hormones are polypeptide chains which must have sugars added to them in order for the hormone to be biologically active.  Bacteria can't produce these, so molecular biologists have "grown" them in mammalian cells.  These clones tend to be unstable, creating defects in replication, forming an archetype of imperfection.

Another echo of Hephaistos in science is the newest advanced weapons system being created around super ceramics.  Remember how he created Pandora of water and clay?  Well, ceramics are neither organic substances nor metals.  They are formed of many materials, 90% of which comes from the earth's crust.  They are even stronger than metals in many cases, because of unique bonding at the atomic level.

Other unique inventions include a new class of metals with the structure of glass, known as "metallic glasses."  Even more amazing are the biochip implants being developed known as nanochips.  These are biologically-based computer chips formed of living tissues which would be infinitely faster than today's silicon chips.

Nanotechnology is a new area being developed which makes use of extremely small robotic assemblers, small enough to manipulate not only molecules, but atoms.  This is opening up an entire new era in engineering at the subatomic level.  The current goal is to build "nanites" which can reproduce themselves--assemblers of assemblers.  In ENGINES OF CREATION, Drexler outlines many of the possible implications of this fantastic scientific horizon, in health care, weapons, communications, space travel, etc.

Technology is also working at creating a world of its own--VIRTUAL REALITY.  These computer-generated simulations, much like the Holodeck on Startrek, create a universe where the programmer is essentially a god within that world, as far as executing wishes which would be unattainable in consensus reality.  Uses range from a simple extrapolation of video games to therapeutic application, to virtual sex.  Controversy already exists about the possible addictive quality of cyberspace over consensus reality.

For technology, "everything is made of materials;" matter or atoms or living tissues have just become building blocks or components for technological man.  We can synthesize most of what Mother nature has made, and are now attempting to create organic computers which could not only plug into the brain, but also copy it.  Organic polymers are carbon-based conductors of electricity which could create the "Holy Grail" of science, the ultimate chip.  But despite all the efforts to instill life into these units, will they be anymore than soulless robots?

Science has a rigid, though paradoxical, profile.  Technological man is obsessed with time, work, order, limits, learning, history, continuity, survival and endurance.  But at the same time he has a phallic drive to inquire, quest, chase, search, and transgress all of nature's limits.  This is his pathos, his yearning for that which can never be fully recovered.  According to R. Buckminster Fuller, technology models principles from science.  A scientific principle becomes technology when someone invents a use for it.  Therefore, technology is the popularization of science.  It creates gadgets which bring mysterious principles into everyday experience.

Hephaestus can also be imagined in the discarded tissues of stem cell research. The promise and perils of stem cell research have become one of medicine's great hopes, and  one of science's greatest political and ethical dilemmas. But often lost underneath the arguments over the promise and peril of stem cell research are nuances that don't fit with all the drama. Despite a growing body of research, no one is sure whether these cells, once taken out of the lab and turned into  medical treatments, will match expectations.

Stem cells, in their ability to morph into hundreds of different body tissues, have challenged a central truism of medicine: Organs can't regenerate themselves. A growing body of research supports the tantalizing potential of these cells to create tissue and build organs.  Recent studies have found the ability for the cells to form everything from new blood vessels to brain tissue. All 75 trillion cells in the human body originate from stem cells -- unspecialized master cells that mature into specialized cells, or renew cells that die or become damaged.

If these cells could be  harnessed in the lab, perhaps they could be employed to help repair the body by renewing damaged tissues in severe disease and injury. Kinds of stem cells include embryonic stem cells, and adult stem cells.  Startling progress in using embryonic stem cells has been used to create blood vessels, blood-forming cells, brain cells, pancreatic cells, spinal tissue; adult cells have created heart muscle tissue and blood vessels.  Other hurdles are yet to be overcome. Scientists still need to learn how cells make their choices to become a specific organ or piece of tissue.

In "A Dim View of a `Posthuman Future" By Nicholas Wade, (2002), the human mind and body are shaped by a bunch of genes, as the decoding of the human genome seems to underscore.  Biotechnologists will one day be able to change both and perhaps, in seeking to refine the imperfect human clay, will alter human nature.  That prospect should be worrying a lot more people, in the view of the political theorist Francis Fukuyama, because history's central question "that of what kind of society best suits human needs" has been settled only if human nature remains as it is, warts and all.

Dr. Fukuyama, now at the Washington campus of Johns Hopkins University, is known for his widely discussed book "The End of History and the Last Man," published in 1992, a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In it he argued that with the demise of communism, liberal democracy had emerged without rival as a political system with universal appeal. The challengers of this tempting thesis included Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard, who argued that struggles between the world's major cultural groups would predominate in a post-Communist world.

In his book, "Our Posthuman Future," he explores the ways in which biotechnology may change the human essence. Despite his title, Dr. Fukuyama has no taste for a rerun of history and believes a posthuman future is one to avoid.  The danger is the greater because those closest to the action, scientists and bioethicists, cannot in his view be trusted to raise the alarm. Scientists are interested in conquering nature while many bioethicists, Dr. Fukuyama contends, "have become nothing more than sophisticated and sophistic justifiers of whatever it is the scientific community wants to do." His views are not academic; he has an official voice on such matters as a member of the White House's Council on Bioethics.

Genetic engineering of the human germline, making permanent changes to the genes in the egg or sperm, would pose the most direct threat to human nature but other techniques bear watching, in his view. Mood changing drugs could change society if taken widely enough, and Dr. Fukuyama says he wonders whether Caesar or Napoleon would have felt the need to conquer Europe if either had been able to pop a Prozac tablet occasionally.

Major increases in human longevity could also be disruptive, he fears, because "life extension will wreak havoc with most existing age-graded hierarchies," postponing social change in countries with aging dictators and thwarting innovation in others.  But the most serious threat to the stability of human societies is genetic engineering that may alter, by design or inadvertence, the special balance of contrarieties of human nature.  Human nature, Dr. Fukuyama argues, "is fundamental to our notions of justice, morality and the good life."

By messing with the human genome in order to enhance intelligence or physique or other desirable qualities, biotechnology may cause us "to lose our humanity” that is, some essential quality that has always underpinned our sense of who we are and where we are going," he writes. Science has had many critics, but Dr. Fukuyama's warnings come from an unusual direction.  His father, Yoshio, a sociologist of religion, was an American of Japanese descent who escaped internment in World War II, unlike several other members of his family. Francis grew up in New York, not much exposed to Japanese culture, studying classics at Cornell and political science at Harvard.

He spent the first part of his career as a Sovietologist at RAND Corporation, the research group, and in between stints at RAND, he worked at the State Department.  It was in listening to a speech by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that Dr. Fukuyama had the idea for his first book.  Hegel, the 19th-century German philosopher, believed history would culminate in a constitutional state or, in modern terms, a liberal democracy, whereas Marx saw a communist state as the likely end point. Hearing Mr. Gorbachev declare surprisingly in a speech one day that the essence of socialism was competition, Dr. Fukuyama recalled in an interview, "I called up a friend and said if Gorbachev was saying that, this is the end of history," meaning that Hegel's prediction had triumphed over Marx's.

Dr. Fukuyama's only expectation of the book he then wrote was that "my political theorist friends would be vaguely amused." But "The End of History" was too powerful and hopeful a guide to the post-Communist world to be ignored.  He argued that history was not a meaningless cycle but had a direction imposed on it by the logic of modern science, a direction that "would seem to dictate a universal evolution in the direction of capitalism." Though the advanced industrialization made possible by science and technology does not necessarily lead to political liberty, Dr. Fukuyama wrote, the human desire for recognition, cited by Hegel as the driving force of history, is best satisfied in a liberal democracy.

Though religion and culture can impede modernization, Dr. Fukuyama sees no reason to suppose that the Islamic and other civilizations will not in time adopt their own versions of liberal democracy. "The basic structure of world politics continues to be the juggernaut of modernization as pioneered by the West," he says.  The optimism about science that imbues "The End of History" is strikingly absent from "Our Posthuman Future."  Scientists' responsible record of self-regulation is now too undermined by commercial ties to biotechnology companies for the same disinterested behavior to be counted on.

Science and technology gave history its forward direction for the last 500 years, he says, but it is much less certain that biotechnology will be handled with the same wisdom as previous innovations.  Dr. Fukuyama says he believes some things should be banned outright, like cloning people, which he regards as immoral in itself and as the opener for worse things, like enhancing human qualities by germline genetic engineering.  Dr. Fukuyama plans to devote the next few years to studying how biotechnology should be regulated.

Occupations associated with Hephaistos include the following:

auto mechanic
computer geek
construction worker
creative genius

lab technician
metal sculptor


Hephaistos, God of the Forge, is the personification of subterranean and terrestrial fire, including human lustiness.  The 'volcanic' psychological types combines the functions of sensation and feeling.  A graphic example of this primal combination of the fiery furnace and testosterone happened to an art historian friend of mine in Malta when he inadvertently found himself caught in what I have come to call an "archetypal storm," showing how primal these emotions can be.  This scene in its primitive setting is essentially unchanged from that of 1000 B.C.  In the heat, the sweat, the dirt, and the fire blatantly Hephaistos reveals his primitive essence:

"It reminded me of the experience I had a few months ago while talking technical matters over with a Maltese forger (bronze casting), a not unhandsome fellow with a torn trouser leg which gave a clear view of his tightly fitting jockey shorts.  Behind him stood his Arab (?) assistant wrapped in cloths that would have made Charles Dickens falter at describing a shirt taken from a Caravaggio regatzzo (sp?) and a sort of wrap around trouser skirt held together with the largest safety pin I've seen outside the circus. He sat behind the Maestro while listening to the conversation which had to be translated to him.

"I haven't the slightest idea of the origin of the behavior, even though I am a psychologist (of sorts) but the fellow started playing with himself and actually succeeded in "coming off" twice in thirty minutes while never taking his eyes off me. I don't know whether the Maestro knew what was going on or not, but in true well-bred Boston fashion I made out that nothing was "going on". The odor of this Ishmaelic semen reached me at three yards so I can only assume that Maestro was aware....which in true psychoanalytic fashion verified the reports I've frequently heard that iron and other metal mongers are notoriously virile. Well, this need for a non-participating, Clinton-like audience for one's sexual display is a metaphor for Bob's literary style." (Henrickson, 2002).

Earthy Hephaistos is the god of the pragmatic working-class man.  As such, he promotes the work ethic and unions.  As god of the proletariat, he exemplifies the theme, "local boy makes good."  He is the archetypal self-made man.  He also inhabits the now-outworn myth of the Marxist world, which tried to make a philosophy of materialism.  The postmodern version of the proletariat society is cyberculture.

Emotionally, he is introverted, even emotionally crippled from rejection.  He is a slow, steady, internal rhythm which allows attention to turn in to subjective states of consciousness.  He can be asocial and prefers solitude, being somewhat of a hermit.  He doesn't handle interpersonal relationships well, so he throws himself into him work.  He appears gauche, childish, or awkward in social situations.  He can be uncommunicative or display his anxiety neurosis and over-sensitivity.  His overwork produces chronic fatigue.  Rage turned inward may lead to depression or numbing out.  Reparenting can help.

Hephaistos' introversion doesn't necessarily mean he is shy, but he is definitely introspective.  This introspective quality is intimately related to his ability to visualize his artistic inspiration.  He must be self-sustaining and tends to get creative rather than bored.  The Hephaistian temperament is found in artists and craftsmen, those who live on income from their beautiful productions, and those who live by utilitarian trades such as mechanics, machinists, and welders.  Those who are preoccupied in work with their hands, with earthy, concrete manifestations are also under him.  Occupational therapy and practical, empirical, functional-art producers of all sorts are under his patronage.

Hephaistos is not a slender, effeminate artiste, though.  He is a robust specimen of his gender, epitomized as the stereotypical hardhat worker.  As patron of the bluecollar class, he embodies the restless volcanic spirit which leads workers to strike against the tyrannical rule of their employers.  In an industrial society, Hephaistos is embodied in the solidarity of unions.

If hardhats can be characterized as "hardworking and hard-drinking" we might remember the close affinity between Hepaistos and Dionysus, god of intoxication.  Dionysus and his wine brings the relief and solace of drunkenness to Hephaistos, freeing him from his normal inhibitions.  But he cannot hold his liquor.  His fires are loosed as he seeks incestuous union with both the creative and destructive energies of the Great Mother.  Thus intoxication can be healing or poisonous to the Hephaestian temperament.  He may regressively seek to dissolve in the unconscious depths, annulling his rejection and abandonment by his parents.

Technology is also planning a carefully orchestrated intervention here, giving new meanings to "intoxication."  Soon science will be able to alter genes through genetic engineering to change human behavior.  But, it will remain difficult for genetic intervention to reach a degree of sophistication where it can produce results as expected.  Since every individual is unique, this tampering with embryos contains a great deal of uncertainty.

The more likely route is that more mood- and behavior-altering drugs will be tailored by pharmaceutical manufacturers.  It is easier and more reliable to intervene with drug therapy than genetic manipulation of embryos.  This is an extremely controversial area of genetic engineering.  This research verges on being seen by some as a contemporary taboo.

Technology is in the process of developing new drugs which will have psycho-social uses, for example enhancing personality in such areas as sociability, kindness, sensitivity, cleverness, etc.  To gain any wide acceptance, these drugs will have to be free of alarming side effects, such as those associated with today's black-market drugs.

So, any mass-brainwashing through genetic manipulation is unlikely, but populations may also be controlled through emotions by programming and doctrinaire philosophies, such as that of Marx.  The Marxist myth was based on its own archetypal perspective of life, which held the vision of a paradisical future.  Marx, himself, was heavily influenced by the German philosopher, Hegel.  Hegel's concept of "thesis, antithesis, and synthesis" carries on in the tradition of the Christian Trinity, which echoed Plato's and Pythagoras's thought on the "three-in-one."

Marx felt that human history transformed through this process.  Projecting this idea into the future of mankind, Marx came up with a vision strikingly similar to the Christian version.  Its major theme states that after an apocalyptic revolution (antithesis), world citizens inhabit a worker's paradise free of oppression by a powerful elite.  The workers are the "chosen people," forming an ideal, classless society.  In practice this was hardly accurate.

How a new social order arises on the ruins of the old is a recurrent Biblical theme, where the Jews, or the "saved" are the chosen who will inhabit the utopian world (synthesis).  Thus the proletariat and the "reborn" have dreams with a common theme.  Both share a fundamentalist work ethic; both seek to overcome that which they consider "evil."  History has shown that Marxists can be as orthodox in their stance as any religious individual.  The shared apocalyptic element of the vision of the world's superpowers was a frightening omen, which has hopefully been averted.  Maybe this subconscious realization underlies the epidemic use of alcohol prevalent in both countries.

Keywords associated with Hephaistos include the following:

birth defect
blow off steam
body armor
child abuse
club foot
crafts fair
crude oil
engine (internal combustion)
forge ahead
greenhouse effect

natural gas
premature birth
psychological materialism
technological acumen
trade secrets
volcanic personality


The mythical stories of Hephaistos include three principle themes:

 1) his unusual birth, including his abandonment and adoption as a foundling;
2) his lameness; and
3) his creative genius, which is embodied in the concept of industry, or intensification of production.

Even though Hephaistos is mother-complexed by his mother's rejection and desertion of him, he makes the best of his adversity.  Even after he tried to help Hera defend herself against the onslaughts of Zeus, she still tried to do away with her deformed son.  She despised him, perhaps because he reminded her of her secret inner imperfections, which he embodied in matter.

When spirit becomes "grounded" after falling to the earth, it is impelled to drag itself around by limping.  But laming can be an advantage or foreshadow achievement and transformation, as it does for shamans in primal cultures.  This tribal theme is re-emerging in technological society as we seek to heal our wounded souls.  Hephaistos learns things from his inner self, and develops an interior strength and self-reliance.  By exploring his heart and mind he contacts that spirit which is uniquely his own.  He gets pleasure from this inner life.  He gains inspiration from being alone in nature.

While Hephaistos is centered, he isn't necessarily stable.  He tries to compensate--but over-compensates--for his sense of rejection through megalomania.  Only alchemy represents "one-footedness" as an accomplishment.  But it doesn't feel like one to the individual stuck in this pattern--he feels self-conscious of his hindrance.  He tries to overcome his frustration through his creativity, or inward-turning libido through fantasy.

Destiny has limited his mobility, but not his imagination.  His immobility binds him to the archetypal realm forever.  His need for a crutch seems to have provided him with "something to lean on."  Laming also symbolizes the weakness or helplessness of any new enterprise.  Will it stand or fall?  Only time will tell.  Initial difficulties may be overcome through industry or hard work.

Looking for Hephaistos' pattern in a historical context, we find that in the industrial revolution of the 1800s there was an epidemic of negligent and deliberate infanticide due to crowded living conditions and severely limited resources in cities.  So many children were being abandoned and left to die of exposure that the English Parliament set up foundling hospitals with revolving boxes in the walls so the abandoning parents could remain anonymous.  Due to the financial burden this presented the burgeoning industrial state, 80 - 90% of these children were allowed to die before they were one year old, especially if they were crippled or deformed, like the mythic role-model.

The standard of living didn't rise even when infant mortality rates dropped in later years.  Children were valued and helped to survive infancy solely for the labor they could provide in factories, before they succumbed to tuberculosis as adolescents.  This era also gave rise to the philosophical economic theories of Malthus and Marx, who may be characterized as obsessed with the laws of reproduction and production.  In every era prior to the development of rudimentary birth control methods, an increase in technological change also brought a period of rapid population growth which kept the standard of living approximately the same from medieval to industrial times.

The fossil fuel revolution (remember, Hephaistos = petroleum) brought a substantial increase in labor productivity in such areas as agriculture, mining, and transport.  The enormous supply of cheap energy extracted from the inner resources of the earth brought an intensification of production never seen before.  But since coal and oil are stored, rather than renewable resources, we now face depletion of reserves, declining efficiency, and the threat of a lowered standard of living.  Now it takes more and more money to extract less and less fossil fuel.  As profits decline, we must seek alternative sources of energy.  It has been calculated that if the rest of the world used energy like the U.S., world reserves would be exhausted in only 11 years.  Therefore industry must move in the direction of "making more from less" (as Fuller suggested decades ago) to satisfy world markets.

Psychologically, on the individual level, a man dominated by the Hephaistian pattern exhibits the moodiness of a social outcast.  He has mood swings which alternate between depression and ego inflation.  He enjoys creativity and the company of women, but his love affairs unfortunately end in disappointment most of the time.  Perhaps he doesn't know how to truly love a woman because he was denied a warm relationship with his mother.  Her desertion remains his wound, and keeps him insecure about his personal worth.  He is mentally crippled by his anguish, but he compensates with an active inner life of fantasy or career success.

In a woman's psychology, Hephaistos may be the motivation for substituting art or work for a personal experience of the woman's mysteries of blood-kinship and birth (or childrearing).  This doesn't mean that every woman who opts for employment rather than breeding is an emotional cripple, but she does carry this as an active component of her personality.  It may manifest as a nagging criticism or guilt, in moments of introspection.  Her feminine naturalism may mourn for an unborn child, and is the perspective which considers her productivity rather than reproductivity as monstrous or offensive.

Cyberculture is an excellent example of the philosophy of the Hephaestus point of view.  In fact, it may represent the mythically abortive rape attempt of Hephaestus on Athena -- now united in Cyber-culture.  The culture that has formed among those who use the Internet and other networks to communicate through multimedia, and have  formed social groups which meet and interact online and may never meet in real life.  Cyberculture has its own customs,  etiquette, mythology, and ethics.  It has its own science, expressed as semiotics, CTheory, and other buzz-words of New Media.

Cyberculture is broad. It exists within and extends throughout the Internet, the global, computer-based "network of networks" constructed in the 1960s by the United States Department of Defense.(1) Although cyberculture is made possible by the network's wires, cables, servers, and terminals, it thrives where users meet within the wires and upon the interfaces. These online social interactions, or what Allucquere Rosanne Stone calls "virtual systems," are as broad as they are diverse and take place within basic email, newsgroups, reflectors, and listserves, bulletin board systems (BBSs) and Usenet, MOOs and  MUDs, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), electronic chat rooms, and interactive sites on the World Wide Web.

Cyberculture is deep. Although it can be as shallow as a single unanswered email, it is often a product of complex and collaborative communicative practices which take place over varying segments of time and "space." Indeed, within a particularly healthy listserve thread or MOO space or collaborative Website exists dynamic interactions, social constructions, political negotiations, sexual posturing, and institutional histories. Like its in real life (IRL) counterpart, cyberculture resembles a collection of mini-villages, replete with the village idiot, the sage, the argumentative curmudgeon, the idealistic student, and the den mother, not to mention the town hall, the playground, the shopping mall, and back alley.

Cyberculture is in a constant state of flux. Of course, what we call cyberculture today may not exist tomorrow. Like other new technologies, computer-mediated communication technologies are evolving at an incredible rate. As mainstream America, not to mention the world as a whole, continues to embrace and integrate basic Internet technologies into their personal and business lives, we can expect even more innovations. Thus, just as email and listservs dominated the Net from its induction and through the 1980s, Gopher altered organizational structures in the early 1990s, and Web browsers such as Mosaic, Netscape, and Internet Explorer completely transformed the Net from a text-based platform to one incorporating various types of media, so too can we expect new and dynamic technological advances to redefine what we call the Net. More importantly, we can expect original individual and collective applications of those developments to reinvent what we think of as cyberculture.

Cyberculture is broad, deep, and in a constant state of flux. Assuming this is true what hopes can we     hold for understanding what cyberculture is, locating its boundaries, and determining its characteristics?   Before we get intimidated by such a daunting task, we must keep in mind that in many ways these are the same questions facing other, more traditional students of culture such as anthropologists and sociologists. After all, all cultures are broad, deep, and in a constant state of flux.

Significantly, it is much easier to put forth a number of dimensions of cyberculture than a single definition of it. Too often, the term is used to describe contemporary cultures and/or cultural products that have some relationship with technology. For example, in his book entitled Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, writer Mark Dery conflates cyberculture with "computer-age subcultures."(2) Although Dery's book explores interesting issues surrounding Internet identities and communities, it also includes chapters on Mark Pauline and Survival Research Labs and tribal tattoo artists. While the book is interesting, it is difficult to ascertain what is cyber about tribal tattos.

Cyberculture is a collection of cultures and cultural products that exist on and/or are made possible by the Internet, along with the stories told about these cultures and cultural products.  Thus, while Dery uses cyberculture to mean computer-age subcultures, I use the term to refer to culture and cultural products that are directly linked to not only computers but, more specifically, the Internet.

One way to better understand cyberculture is to examine its many elements individually. Some facets, including issues of electronic democracy, telecommuting, and the perennial favorite, virtual sex, have become popular topics in the popular media. Other elements such as cyberspace and race, online representations of gender and sexuality, and the political economy of cyberculture are beginning to be addressed by the popular media and within academic circles. Yet in a feeble attempt to impose a     boundary (dare I use the term "containment" with respect to a topic so utterly containless?), I have decided to explore cyberculture in terms of four categories. These categories include cyberculture in context, virtual communities, community networks, and virtual identities. (1996-1997, David Silver).

When Cyberculture and globalization converge, we see again Hephaistos and Athena.  In Global Cyberculture Reconsidered:  Cyberspace, Identity, and the Global Informational City,  Martin Irvine  Director, Communication, Culture, and Technology Program  and Associate Vice President for Technology Strategy , Georgetown University says:

Talking about cyberculture usually means rounding up the usual suspects: adolescents of all ages living out Neuromancer fantasies; online identity morphing in MUDs and chat spaces; virtual communities sustained by Net communication; fascination with cyborg theory and cybersexualities on college campuses and underground websites; magazines like Mondo 2000, Wired and 21.C; speculative and cyberpunk fiction with a finger on fast forward; the global market for multimedia information and entertainment; and the large group of artists, writers, and philosophers who find the Net environment the most interesting place to play, live, think, and create.

Cyberculture has an array of recognized contexts and positions--utopian, dystopian, ironic, postmodern, identity-political, and market-driven opportunist--but these aren't the issues that interest me here. I'd like to disturb the shared, consensual hallucination of cyberculture by thinking about the material conditions of the matrix, specifically the function of imagined communities and the underlying infrastructure of cyberspace in the global informational city. Global cities are the spaces where infrastructure, labor, capital, and information are concentrated; it's where cyberspace happens. In many ways, cyberspacial culture is like the modern spatial city with its segregation of spaces and internal contradictions, only more so. And just as there are resistance movements to urban domination and the multinational corporate culture located in cities, the Net embraces a multitude of local and international anti-globalization movements that use the global technology.

There are at least four ways that the notion of  the globalization of culture is used today:

The use of the Net to communicate local, ethnic, religious, and national cultures to a worldwide and international audience. This could be called optimistic multiculturalism on the Net where anyone with access can participate.  The worldwide diffusion of dominant cultures through the global marketplace (Western and American cultures globalized through ownership of infrastructure and production),      reading "globalization" as another case of  hegemony, cultural imperialism, or Americanization.

The general homogenization or "internationalization" of culture, favoring Western developed nations and their languages and values, accompanied by an awareness of a resulting dilution or disappearance of local and minority cultures.  In the political economy of communications, the movement toward worldwide access to  communications technology and connectivity across territorial boundaries. The goals of global access and ubiquity of the Net require dealing with two forces, one toward technology development and diffusion, the other toward governmental and institutional controls over international interconnectivity.  We are not attempting to describe an object or phenomenon, but trying to track a nexus of relations in real time, reflections on a few themes, rather than a developed argument:

The historical context for the imagined communities and identities in cyberculture and popular myths of globalization. The movements of localized communities and identities that seem to be a backlash to globalization in the networked age (including the paradox of using the Net to promote local, ethnic, and religious politics). Globalization, in one manifestation, is global localization: political groups use the Net to promote local interests and identity politics rooted in very historic place-governed issues like race, nation, territory, and language.  Globalization as urban concentration, or networks of global "informational cities," the spaces of economic and political concentration studied by Castells and Sassen. A more appropriate notion is the global city or globalization of cities in a networked economy, rather than cyberspace as an all-inclusive, homogeneous, worldwide, neutral, transnational occurrence.

Let's first consider the idea of cyberculture as contained in the idea of  virtual community. Cyberculture often assumes a global virtual community like that described by Howard Rheingold, but the embedded history of the notion of "community" used here is usually ignored in the glimmer of utopia. In most uses, virtual community is based on an imagined, new post-national community sustained by the Net and self-consciously deployed Net applications. The term attempts to resist or ironize globalization in the ordinary sense of  international political and economic regimes.The idea of the new, imagined virtual communities of the Net actually has some interesting affinities with, as well as divergence from, the imagined communities of modern nationalism that Benedict Anderson analyzed in his influential study, Imagined Communities.

Imagined communities are not imaginary, fictive or unrelated to material, real-world conditions. Quite the contrary: the shared identity of imagined community expressed in a common language and medium of communication is what holds nationalism together, authorizing and validating the political and economic power of a state. Nationalisms were formed through the ability to achieve identity across distances while accommodating internal diversity. Nationalism, which Anderson sees as born with the sense of difference and continuity in New World states, imagines the simultaneity of old and new across geographical boundaries. The identity of difference created by the new states of the Americas was sustained by the communications technologies of the time:

The parallels to imagined global, cybercommunity are clear: as print helped produce the imagined communities of nationalism, the Net generates a new community imagined as post-national. Books and newspapers, formerly at the nexus of national economies and identities, were the first mass market commodities in capitalism. The convergence of computing and telecommunications underlying the Net is the contemporary, international technology for global identities. In the same way that the New World nations imagined themselves as communities parallel and comparable to those in Europe, proponents of the global community of cyberspace see themselves in a community parallel and comparable to the old communities of nations, ethnicities, religions, and geographical cities, but transcending the limitations of these communities with a new technology that makes place, time, and local governments irrelevant.

The idea of a cyberspatial, virtual community was thus ready to be born in the U.S., where mass media have long been used to support or create "new" community identities structurally dependent on differences from older communities of origin. The imagined post-national "nation of cyberspace," with people like John Perry Barlow leading its cessation, is in many ways an extension of the logic of imagined communities. But as recent research on globailzation has shown, the role of nation states isn't over. It takes international cooperation to create globalization. We're entering a era of globalized regional and urban economies (Castells, 1: 97-103). The virtual community is this embedded in the political economy of the global informational city.

My second theme is the paradox of global localization. There is an important counter-effect or internal contradiction in our global, Net-based information society: simultaneously with the rise of global networked society there is an increase in national, ethnic, and religious identity politics and the resistances to globalization inherent in these movements. Many of the identity groups represent themselves as explicit points of resistance to a global system of any kind while simultaneously using the tools of globalization (Net communications, Web presence, satellite communications). The trend of global localization would be easy to write-off as a feature of the postmodern condition, the movement from grand unifying ideologies to local politics and identities, from macro to micro. But there's a deeper underlying logic at work.

As Manuel Castells states, "our societies are increasingly structured around a bipolar opposition between the Net and the Self" (1:3):

      New information technologies are integrating the world in global networks of 
     instrumentality. Computer-mediated communication begets a vast array of virtual
     communities. Yet the distinctive social and political trend of the 1990s is the
     construction of social action and politics around primary identities, either ascribed,
     rooted in history and geography, or newly built in an anxious search for meaning
     and spirituality. The first historical steps of informational societies seem to
     characterize them by the preeminence of  identity as their organizing principle.
     (Castells, 1:22)

Mixed in with the current global wave of technotopia and optimism about the economic and political potential of the Internet, we have parallel movements of political and economic fragmentation, isolationism, and a proliferation of regionalisms.

The Web is now home to a proliferating array of self-defined communities and subcultures who attempt to represent themselves as sites of resistance to globalization. For example, the Intentional Communities website hosts information for the communitarian movement, which has roots in 19th-century utopian communities. The search engine for the site is hosted by gaia.org, an eco-village service, whose "secretariat" is Gaia Villages, Denmark. This movement seeks to build internally self-sustaining, localized communities. Like similar utopian community movements in the late 19th century, the current movements represent themselves as points of resistance to urban, technological, and capitalist ways of living. The forces of the Net--the globalized information economy--are deflected by the needs of the Self, and the local takes only what it needs from the global, like the Lo-Techs in Johnny Mnemonic.

Likewise, the Net now intersects with--and supports--a variety of local language movements. Most notable are the regional linguistic movements in Europe: the Gaelic dialects in Brittany and Ireland, Basque in Spain, Frisian in the Netherlands. As transnational culture dominates, regional ethic-linguistic identities emerge as counter movements (New York Times, Sunday, Oct. 17, 1999, p.4).

The Web is also home to thousands of political activist groups, both local and global. The vast majority of these activist and identity groups follow Castells' description of "primary identity" groups rooted in history, geography, race, and language. "Global cyberculture" as imagined by American cyberpunks seems a precious fantasy in this context.

The Net works in collaboration with satellite and broadcast technologies to support and promote ethnic and religious political movements that run counter to mainstream nationalisms supportive of globalization. But these efforts also instantiate globalization. My final theme is cyberspace as an effect of the global, informational city. Globalization is actually a networked urbanization, a  reconcentration of capital, production, and labor in cities as the nodes of the networked economy. Global cities are the nodes of cyberspace, the space of flows embodying the simultaneous concentration and decentralization of people, economic activity, technical infrastructure, communications, and information.

What, then, is cyberpace? Cyberspace is an imagined network layer siting on top of the physical infrastructure of cities. Cyberspace is an imagined continuous, worldwide, networked city; the global city that never sleeps, always experienced in real time. As Mike Davis, author of the wonderful study of L.A., City of Quartz, states:

      The contemporary city simulates or hallucinates itself in at least two decisive
     senses. First, in the age of electronic culture and economy, the city redoubles itself
     through the complex architecture of its information and media networks...  If so,
     urban cyberspace - as the simulation of the city's information order - will  be
     experienced as even more segregated, and devoid of true public space, than the
     traditional built city. Southcentral LA, for instance, is a data and media black hole,
     without local cable programming or links to major data systems. Just as it became
     a housing/jobs ghetto in the early twentieth century industrial city, it is now evolving
     into an electronic ghetto within the emerging information city. (Davis, Urban
     Dialogue, May 1997)

Cyberspace is not a disembodied fantasy but  is embedded in the material space of global economics and infrastructure. Cyberspatial culture in its current form is a fantasy of a postmodern city, the LA, New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo of our dreams. Cyberspace is unthinkable today except as networks of global, informational cities.

Cultural globalization, in the sense of the diffusion of cultural productions on the Net, follows the logic of urban concentration in the global information economy. Cyberpace is a segmented and segregated space, much like global cities where IT infrastructure, capital, firms, labor, and services are concentrated.  Concentrated urban diversity and decentralized sources of power and value seem to be producing a post-Net paranoia and re-localization. Fantasies about local sustainable communities, like those of the post-Romantic era over a century ago, happen only with city people.

 There are two forces at work in globalization: the spread of the Net internationally follows urban infrastructures, and nations around the world are cooperating in the creation of a global network economy by creating  networks of globalized informational cities that require liberalized financial and trade policies. We can interpret the concentration of Internet nodes as a global economic indicator. The last survey of Internet hosts by Network Wizards quantifies these trends: the growth of the Net is strongest in countries with cities that function as network economy nodes.

Further reading on the nature of Hephaistos may be found in the following:

FACING THE GODS, "Hephaistos: A PAttern of Introversion," by Murray Stein
GODS IN EVERYMAN, Jean Shonoda Bolen, M.D.
MYTH AND MODERN MAN, Raphael Patai, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1972; p. 95-104, "The Myth of the Marxist World."
CANNIBALS AND KINGS; THE ORIGINS OF CULTURE, Marvin Harris, Random House, N.Y., 1977, p. 179-190, "The Industrial Bubble."


The spiritual myth of Hephaestos in our society is the triumph of technology and modernization.  But these are the most literal forms of its spiritual essence.  In arcane lore, Hephaistos is the archetypal metallurgist or alchemist.  Alchemy was the psycho-spiritual science which gave birth to modern chemistry.  Alchemy arose among tradesmen who held guild secrets in common.  Their silence and secrecy concerning their art showed their prudence, and harks back to the association of this archetype with Trump IX, THE HERMIT.

Alchemy is concerned primarily with the work of refinement, on both the physical and spiritual level--in fact, both are synonymous.  The central problem in alchemy is expressed as the spiritual redemption of one's physical body.  The practice of the art of alchemy centers on the spiritual redemption of matter and the body.  Transforming lead to gold means that there is a process of refinement which applies to mankind as well as to the smelting of ores.

Purifying and tempering the spirit is known as sublimatio.  This indicates raising, ennobling, or channeling instinctual energies into creativity, both outer (art objects or artifacts) and inner (refining personality, soul-making).  Physically, we are seeking to establish a relationship with our bodies and nature which creates optimal health or well-being.

Alchemy is known as the Great Work, because that which "works" is that which has the power to transform.  Hephaistos sought to transform himself into an idealized spiritual being devoid of imperfections, much like his rather abstract "father," Zeus.  Hephaistos seeks a personal immortality, either through his works or through his Great Work.  His never-ending drive and energy comes from this internal motivating force.  As an alchemist he conducts several of his experiments on himself, striving for a union of psyche and matter, or soul with substance.

Alchemy strives for the experience of spiritual rebirth via the union of opposites, such as that represented by the marriage union of heavenly Aphrodite and earthy Hephaistos.  Alchemy requires resurrection of the soul of body.  The challenge we face as modern alchemists is to "see through" to a unified vision of mundane physical processes with spiritual values.  The solution is to visualize the physical body as a metaphor for psychic transformation, such as that described in Jungian psychology.

In alchemy the stages of psychological or spiritual transformation are categorized as specific metals, which correspond with planetary powers.  Thus, Saturn=lead; Luna=silver; Sol=gold; Mercury=quicksilver; Venus=copper; Mars=iron; and Jupiter=tin.  The dynamic impulse of theoriginal alchemists,  modern chemists and physicists is the same.  Namely, to find out how God works, and imitate that process.

This Opus, or Work, is understood as taking place in a sealed retort vessel.  The nature of this vessel is the origin of the common term, "Hermetically sealed" and it originally referred to the self-contained psyche.  This containment insures that none of the ingredients will be lost and also provides a container in which the contents are slowly heated or cooked.  This process is called calcinatio.  Remember, Hephaistos was a smoldering, fiery principle.

The initial material of the untransformed instincts (prima materia) goes through several stages of refinement, defined as operations.  These are not always presented in the same sequence in different alchemical texts.  Most however include forms of calcinatio (heating); solutio (dissolving); coagulatio (congealing); sublimatio (ennobling); mortification or nigredo (blackening); ablutio (whitening); seperatio (seperating); and coniunctio (uniting).  There are also operations of circulating, multiplying, and reiterating.

The body is of vital importance in any alchemical operation.  Alchemy insists on the transformation of the instinctual and biophysical phenomena into psychic experience, but it does not seek to "transcend."  The feet of Hephaistos are forever embedded in matter, distorting the purely abstract patterning principle of spirituality.

Our modern alchemies--chemistry and technology--have lost their spiritual value, altogether.  They have culminated in a system of production intensification based on petrochemicals.  Our greed for fossil-fuel technology which drives the machinery of war may obliterate not only our energy reserves but the biosphere itself through the greenhouse effect or nuclear winter.

Myth recounts how Hephaistos created robots, beautiful golden-haired female androids to substitute for human companionship (virtual and cyber-sex?), as well as wheeled conveniences which functioned as servo-mechanisms much like prototypical cars.  But, he couldn't manufacture what he desired most ardently--to be loved for himself, as he is.  It makes us think of  Speilberg's A.I., Artificial Intelligence, and the promise of ersatz "unconditional love" from biomechanoids.


Vulcan (Roman)
Ptah (Egyptian, fire in the earth)
Agni (Hindu fire god)
Culhwch (Celtic)
Twashtri (Hindu)
Boshintoi (Siberian)


Michaelangelo was stiffled or lamed in his free flow of creativity by remaining under contract to church authorities who directed the course of his artistic career.  He was forced to direct his artistic efforts into commisioned subjects.  Even though he painted such masterpieces as the Sistine Chapel, he didn't even like to paint, much preferring the earthier craft of sculpting.

Medieval alchemist and physician Paracelsus founded modern medicine.  He invented microchemistry, antisepsis, wound surgery, and homeopathy, and occupational therapy.  He combined the mystic and healing arts.

Leck Walesa, leader of Solidarity, was inhibited in his unionization efforts by the Soviet "motherland" while strongly maintaining his link to the Catholic Church, ( a variation of the Great Mother, as bride of Christ).

Hephaistos is any crippled or inhibited artist: the dancer who breaks her foot, the sculptor with arthritis, the martial arts master with crushed knees, all blind and maim artists who create with their feet, etc.

Hephaistos can be seen in the lives of such greats as Beethoven with his deafness, and jazz great Charlie Mingus who died of ALS (Lou Geirig's disease).


birth defect, blow off steam, alloy, artifacts, bronze, androids, burly, determination, hung up, creative, craftsman, iron, steel, foundling, foundry, internal, lustiness, skillful, natural gas, petroleum, crude oil, robotics, nanotechnology, refinement, industry, eruption, volcanic personality, ignition, technological acumen, introversion, rejection, solidarity, "forge ahead," psychological materialism, craftsmanship, pragmatic, solitude, limp, club foot, trade secrets, inhibition, internal combustion engine, hard hat, abandonment, mother-complex, cripple, handicap.


Seek the aid of Hephaistos for understanding your frustrations, rejections, and woundedness, either of the spirit or physical ailments.  If you are extremely extroverted, perhaps this god's extremely introverted nature has been repressed and his voice drown out by louder drives.  Or perhaps he is expressing through symptoms in the body.

If there is a lamed-artist inner aspect of yourself, has the real or imagined handicap thwarted your artistic expression or spurred you on to ever-renewed effort to create?  Through Hephaistos the great forms of nature image themselves forth in art.

The well-springs of creativity, which are rooted in the depths of the Great Mother, take a turn in Hephaistos from concrete child-bearing and body-centered sexuality toward the realization of the cosmos as imagination and symbol.  The symbol of the furnace itself stands for an "artificial uterus."  The Hephaistian passion for creative works are deeply reflective of the mother.

A Hephaistian man will experience certain characteristic problems and issues.  He may find himself an outcast from the conventional world of patriarchal values.  He may be moody and swing between grandiose fantasies and deep depression.  He looks and thinks of himself as unheroic.

He cleaves to the world of the feminine, in his thinking, creativity, and lifestyle.  He is fascinated by the mystery of creativity.  His inner images hold his soul in thrall to the projects of the moment in which he can completely lose himself.  A reductionistic viewpoint might judge him as anima-possessed, or emotionally crippled.  His emotions jerk him around.

This pattern may be even more threatening to the feminine ego.  Hephaestus connects to her deepest feminine-maternal impulses, yet wants something other than simple maternity.  This animus represents a subtle undermining threat to simple, natural feminine creativity, in that he tends toward creating the symbol that mirrors the creative process of nature but produces an artificial product which at once represents and substitutes for the real thing.

Hephaestian creativity can seem monstrous to the feminine psyche because it goes against her natural feminine creativity by undermining or rechanneling it.  This affront to feminine naturalism may create a disharmony between the mandates of feminine ego-consciousness and the dynamic of the Great Mother for reproduction.


 1. Have you ever felt rejected or abandoned by a parent-figure?  Describe this incident in your life.

 2. Have you ever lusted after some aspect of intellectual endeavor (mimicking the passion of Hephaistos for Athena) where your creative capacity in this field was insufficient to realize your goal, and the urge "fell short of the mark"?

 3. Have your ever been a member of a trade guild or union?  What was the depth of your involvement, i.e. passive or active membership, or did you seek some influential position of authority?  What sorts of feelings of loyalty to the cause did the union inspire in you, or not?

 4. Have you ever experienced a particularly creative time in your life as the result of a feeling of "woundedness"?  How did this creativity manifest?

 5. How do you feel about the high-tech revolution?  Are you, for example afraid of (phobic) or totally uninterested in computers, etc.  Do you feel they belong strictly to the new generations while you identify with the old ways?

 6. Do you allow yourself time for introversion and introspection so that your creativity has an incubation phase which is allotted as much "reverence" as the phase of manifestation? . . .or are you an extroverted "do-demon" who must be constantly on the move or feeling guilty about it?

 7. Do you ever notice your moods fluctuating back-and-forth between depression and ego inflation or manic activity?  In its extreme forms ego inflation manifests as megalomania, in which the subject exalts himself with grandiose fantasies.  This is compensation for feelings of rejection or inferiority in which one tends to magnify or exaggerate one's positive capacities, either privately and inwardly, or externally to the world at large.

 8.  If the entire world used fossil fuel at the rate of the U.S., world supply would be used within 11 years!  Do you do your share to use fossil-fuel technology economically and ecologically?  Conservative use of electricity also falls into this category, since some forms of electricity come from the burning of fossil fuel.  Are you aware of the potential dangers of the Greenhouse Effect?

 9. Nuclear weapons are a modern form of unleashed Hephaestian "fire," a more modern metaphor than volcanic or petroleum fire.  How do you feel about the issues of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, in general, including waste disposal?  Many states want to pawn off their waste on other states, much as Hephaistos was rejected and pawned off by his parents.

 10. There is a modern colloquial expression--"That is lame," or "That person is really lame," as opposed to "cool" or "with it."  Hephaistos is the lame god, the working-class Joe with down-to-earth attitudes, and the pragmatics of survival, even the "oppressed masses."  Have you ever been accused of being "lame," or called others "lame"?  Can you recall attitudes you've held to which you could apply the term?  Did this attitude stem from a sense of woundedness, rejection, oppression or inner hostility?

11.  What are you doing with the time you have to yourself?  What are you looking for?  Or what do you need to know?  Who can help you find out?  What concerns about time do you have?  What do you need to keep silent about?  What would be a prudent thing to do?  What do you need to complete?


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