All of life appears to be a clashing of opposites. As Heraclitus said, “Every beast is driven to pasture by a blow.” In the story of Danaë, her blow came in the form of being locked up in an underground bronze chamber by her father, King Acrisius, because the oracle of Delphi said his daughter would one day have a son, who would kill him. Zeus desired Danaë and came to her in the form of golden rain which streamed through the subterranean chamber roof and down into her womb. Soon after, their child Perseus was born. Unwilling to provoke the wrath of the gods by killing his grandchild, the king cast Danaë and Perseus into the sea in a wooden chest and at the request of Zeus the pair were rescued by Poseidon.
Mythology has many stories of people tumbling into the underworld, usually by force. The story calls it a bronze chamber and not a gold chamber, which is our clue that we are talking about an alchemical journey of personal transformation. The golden rain from a god can be seen in Duchampian terms as the illuminating gas; an invisible essence of the Divine that ever searches to manifest in human beings. It is the desire of the groom for the bride. It is also an Eros inspired desire to return to our higher Self or a connection to and experience with “cosmic consciousness.”
The figure of Danaë is painted with a squarish chin and somewhat gender-neutral torso. The reason is to place emphasis on the idea that the goal of our worldly blows is to drive us to a place that transcends the physical and personal identification and towards the Bride’s realm that lies beyond spacetime. The painting illuminates this other worldly dimension with moonlight to emphasize that our modern-day rationalism and search for fulfillment through materialism and the quest for power is itself a clash of opposites—hence the myth of alchemy.
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