Thursday, August 1, 2013

Kairos Time

In 2007 at University, I studyed 'Myth and Mythmaking' - it was one of my favourite subjects that year. Studying myths has all been done by me before in my own time, but I got to do it seriously at University! This way you learn a lot more and in more detail. We got to read things like Inanna's descent, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, the Bacchae, even Genesis (King James). We even read Cupid and Psyche, which had already been my favourite love story for many years. While other students found it hard to read the Bacchae, I found it easy and familiar with no remorse for Pentheus. You just don't interrupt Maenads and their revelry, you will be ripped to pieces - literally.

Each week, our lecturer gave us a word to research and we had to write about 250 words, and relate the concept to the works we had been studying. We had to look up words like - Archetype, Numinous, Cosmology, Epiphany, Psychopomp, Apotheosis, Hubris, Metamorphosis, Possession, and Kairos.

All the words were enlightening. I'd been pleasantly moved by the concept of Kairos. Trying to find anything on it in books was difficult, but we found some things. Kairos Time, unlike Kronos Time, was extraordinary time. I found that in Greek, Kairos meant several things - 'due measure' 'opportunity' or 'mark,' 'target' and 'a place on the body where a weapon can penetrate to the life within' - That split-second 'it missed my main artery by 1 mm' kind of thing.

Kairos has also been anthropomorphised into a God not unlike Hermes. He has angel wings, winged feet, and carries a blade so sharp, it represents the razor moment. He represents 'Chance' and that has become his other name. He runs like the wind. His fringe is thick hair, but the back of his head is bald - you must take your chance - grab his hair by the fringe, because if you miss your chance, there is no hair on the back of his head for you to grab - then 'Chance has gone by' and you missed him. Carpe Diem if you will.

Kairos anthropomorphised (a concept given human form)

In the Western world, we do not have a name, or a God, or an archetype, towards that moment when you should have grasped that point in time. Maybe we should. Maybe Kairos should become a household name, we already say Carpe Diem, why not 'Grasp Kairos!'

I am already thinking of using Kairos in my writings....

Kronos and Kairos Time 
The Ancient Greeks, pictured time in a cyclical aspect – circling the Earth by a tail-eating serpent. Time was also called Chronos, later called Kronos, the father of Zeus and the major Olympian Gods. Linear Time, is experienced by humans everyday, humans age by linear Kronos time, also Judaeo-Christian belief runs on linear time. (von Franz 5,11:Time) 
Jung discovered Time in human unconscious and dream as non-existent, as if it disappears. Man encountering fairyland, or a different realm, may come home one day later to find time passed quickly on the physical. (von Franz 10:Time)
The Greeks and Romans, in their pantheons, had time-gods representing certain aspects of time. They were split-second moments of perfection – Gods like Hermes, Nike, Fortuna and Kairos were gods of these special moments. Kairos was anthropomorphized in a Hermes-like form, with winged feet. He represented a lucky coincidence, the fast moving god that has to be grasped quickly for that lucky chance. This chance of passing through the doorway into the fairyhill may only come at that special moment, that Kairos time. The time within the fairyland, being timeless, can also represent Kairos time, or extraordinary time. (von Franz 90:Time)
The early writers, like Pindar and Euripides, used the word Kairos to mean a ‘mark’ or ‘target’ and Homer uses it ‘to describe a place on the human body where a weapon can penetrate the life within’ like an arrow – or aperture that can pass through a narrow hole. It can also represent the threading of the warp – the opening where the thread passes through (Onians 343).

  • Onians, R.B. The Origins of European Thought. Cambridge University Press, 1951
  • Von Franz, Marie-Louise, C.G. Jung: His Myth in our Time. G.P Putman’s Sons, New York, 1975

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