Beware of Greeks bearing gifts

Among the gifts bestowed upon us by the ancient Greeks there are many that are without a doubt of priceless value, such as democracy.  But there are others that were better left outside the gates, as the Trojan horse should have been.

Astrology is one.  Yet the belief persists among many today that the sign of the zodiac under which we were born determines our personality and the course and outcome of our lives.

The second is the pseudo-science of the four temperaments, based on the idea that our moods, emotions and behaviours are caused by body fluids, or “humours”: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.  As expounded by its modern adherents, the theory seems to explain a lot about our behaviour.  The problem is that it explains too much: we analyse our friends and put them into the proper pigeon-holes and interpret everything they say and do by the label on the pigeon-hole.

Psychology is the third.  “Psyche” is the Greek word for soul.  Psychology is the attempt to intellectually understand the workings of the soul and to bring healing to the troubled soul by therapeutic means.

The fourth and last is predestination.  The belief that some cosmic force has predetermined the entire course of our life before we were born goes back as least as far as Zeno and Plato.

Do you see the common thread in all of this?  The Greeks are trying to tell us “It’s not your fault!”  You are not to blame for any of the things that have gone wrong in your life, it was all caused by the stars, the humours in your body, or some other cosmic force.

But if nothing is our fault, there is nothing we can ever do to make things different.  We can’t repent of being born under the wrong star, or having the wrong temperament.  But we can repent of making wrong choices and doing bad things.  That is what the Bible tells us to do.  Beware of Greeks bearing gifts that would lead us away from this truth.

2 thoughts on “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts

  1. It seems very wrong to include psychology in the same category as astrology. The way we behave is, quite scientifically, determined (At least to an extent) by the hormones our bodies produce as well as past experiences. Psychology is the science of the behaviour of the human brain, which is affected greatly by a large number of factors. Depression, for example, is in fact caused by a hormonal imbalance within the brain. The brain is not the soul; but it connects the soul to the earthly external environment, and as such is affected by that external environment. It is true that our actions are totally under our own control, but there are a great many factors which affect why we decide to do what we do.

    • I agree that the brain is a physical organ and its function is affected by various physical factors. My wife suffered from depression for almost a year after receiving chemotherapy treatments. I am acquainted with bipolar people whose lives have been transformed by medication, and schizophrenic individuals who have been able to function much better with medication. However, I am troubled by the tendency of our society to diagnose almost any unusual behaviour as having psychological causes requiring treatment by counselling and/or medication. What is most troubling is that on a nationwide basis the net effect of countless hours of psychological therapy seems mainly to produce a need for more psychological therapy.
      My post was quite brief and I regret if it gave the impression that I believe people with depression, for example, should just snap out of it. There is no shame in admitting to a physical ailment, even one that affects the mind and emotions. That is not the same as seeking to lay the blame for our actions on someone or something else.

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