Prometheus Forum
We are the Gods now
The Homunculus
  • xinauxinau  (5 like this)
    Colonist

    The what?

    Reading the Temple thread, someone mentioned that there hasn't been much continuing speculation about the giant head given all the new revelations in the trailers and TV spots.  That remark, and the fact that the Unfiction folks are dissecting how the latest ARG/viral clues at the Weyland Industries site relate to alchemy, reminded me of homunculus theory of mind.

    From Wikipedia:

    "Homunculus (masculine, Latin for "little human", plural: "homunculi"; from the diminutive of homo) is a term used, generally, in various fields of study to refer to any representation of a human being. Throughout history, it has been referred specifically to the concept of a miniature though fully formed human body, for example, in the studies of alchemy and preformationism. In current context, in scientific fields, a homunculus may refer to any scale model of the human body that, in some way, illustrates physiological, psychological, or other abstract human characteristics or functions."

    So, what's that got to do with Prometheus, you ask?

    Well, we all agree that atop the temple mound sculpture is some sort of stylized, humanoid head, a la Giger's designs for the Harkonnen temple from Dune.  Further, we all agree that there is an additional, smaller (but still large relative to ordinary humans) representation of a human(oid?) head inside the temple complex.  This concept of a man inside a man is, you guessed it, the homonculus.

    Some thought-provoking quotes from the article on Wikipedia:

    "In Carl Jung's studies of alchemy, he believed the first record of a homunculus in alchemical literature appeared in the Visions of Zosimos, written in the third century AD, although the actual word "homunculus" was never used. In the visions, Zosimos mentions encountering a man who impales himself with a sword, and then undergoes "unendurable torment", his eyes become blood, he spews forth his flesh, and changes into "the opposite of himself, into a mutilated anthroparion (a Greek alchemical concept of a being somewhat similar to a golem but possessing a sense of will and intelligence), and he tore his flesh with his own teeth, and sank into himself", which is a rather grotesque personification of the ouroboros, the dragon that bites its own tail, which represents thedyophysite nature in alchemy: the balance of two principles."

    "Preformationism, a philosophical theory of heredity, claimed that either the egg or the sperm (exactly which was a contentious issue) contained a complete preformed individual called a homunculus. Development was therefore a matter of enlarging this into a fully formed being.

    The term homunculus was later used in the discussion of conception and birth, Nicolas Hartsoeker discovered "animalcules" in the semen of humans and other animals. This was the beginning of spermists' theory, who held the belief that the sperm was in fact a "little man" (homunculus) that was placed inside a woman for growth into a child."

    Finally, note this interesting graphic (remind you of anything?):

    image

    So. What's this all mean?  I have no idea, except that I think some of these concepts clearly underlie the mythological/symbolic aspects of the Prometheus plot.

    "If Lindelof's script sucks I will wage my own personal jihad on the man and not rest until the streets are flowing with the blood of him and his children." -- ViGiLaNzA on IMDB
  • That may well be and then it can lead to either into becoming SJ or a proto xeno. For some reason I wish neither happens as in transformation but it seems evident from the trailers there will be plenty of transforming in Prometheus.
    Do I look like someone who cares what God thinks?
  • xinauxinau  (3 like this)
    Colonist
    Just thought I'd bump this with a shorter summary -- the OP is solidly in tl;dr territory.

    People have noticed that the SJ temple mound has a human head on the top of it (a la Giger's designs for Dune), and of course, there's the head that the Prometheus crew finds inside the structure.

    The question is, why this particular image and not something else?  I mean, it's cool and everything, but what is its purpose in the story?  Aside from the fairly obvious linkage of that culture to human beings, I think there's a deeper point that the writers are making.

    This idea of a head within a head (or a man within a man) is very old.  The "man inside" is called a homonculus.  In literature, it is closely linked with the study of alchemy (transformation) and preformation -- ancient philosophical ideas about conception and birth, and the origins of human life.  The Wiki article on the homonculus references the Faust and Frankenstein myths, and something very similar to the Prometheus myth.

    I think it's the filmmakers' way of reinforcing the ideas of the movie in a symbolic way.  Want to know what Prometheus is about?  IMO, start reading Faust -- 

    "The second part beings with Faust waking up in a field of fairies from a long sleep. His awakening initiates a series of events. In Act II of Part II, Faust comes across a homunculus, an artificial person created through an alchemical process. Dr. Wagner, Faust's one-time assistant, is the creator of the homunculus. The homunculus serves as a guide to Faust. The homunculus takes Faust and the devil to a meeting of Greek gods."

    "If Lindelof's script sucks I will wage my own personal jihad on the man and not rest until the streets are flowing with the blood of him and his children." -- ViGiLaNzA on IMDB
  • terrapinbearterrapinbear  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    Is David a homunculus?  Discuss.
    =\/\/= The Prometheus Has Landed! =\/\/=
  • countrymancountryman  (1 like this)
    Colonist

    David's role is curious.  Is he leading the journey?  I get the feeling from the trailers that he has the first contact with both the ampules and the SJ.  Maybe the crew use him as sort of a canary?

    Could David find some amusement that humans are just creations of higher Gods?  And if so, should he be loyal to humans or the Gods?  Such an interesting character!

  • aperezNWOaperezNWO  (2 like this)
    Colonist
    xinau said:

    Just thought I'd bump this with a shorter summary -- the OP is solidly in tl;dr territory.


    People have noticed that the SJ temple mound has a human head on the top of it (a la Giger's designs for Dune), and of course, there's the head that the Prometheus crew finds inside the structure.

    The question is, why this particular image and not something else?  I mean, it's cool and everything, but what is its purpose in the story?  Aside from the fairly obvious linkage of that culture to human beings, I think there's a deeper point that the writers are making.

    This idea of a head within a head (or a man within a man) is very old.  The "man inside" is called a homonculus.  In literature, it is closely linked with the study of alchemy (transformation) and preformation -- ancient philosophical ideas about conception and birth, and the origins of human life.  The Wiki article on the homonculus references the Faust and Frankenstein myths, and something very similar to the Prometheus myth.

    I think it's the filmmakers' way of reinforcing the ideas of the movie in a symbolic way.  Want to know what Prometheus is about?  IMO, start reading Faust -- 

    "The second part beings with Faust waking up in a field of fairies from a long sleep. His awakening initiates a series of events. In Act II of Part II, Faust comes across a homunculus, an artificial person created through an alchemical process. Dr. Wagner, Faust's one-time assistant, is the creator of the homunculus. The homunculus serves as a guide to Faust. The homunculus takes Faust and the devil to a meeting of Greek gods."



    Hi @Xinau. Just to say I don't have nothing intelligent or smart to say about your comment but to congratulate you for the well fundamented way you presented your theory. 

    Detachment is our safest attachment
  • MartinRobyMartinRoby  (3 like this)
    Colonist
    Let's just look at the original meanings: homunculus primarily means "little human", "weak human", "frail human" etc., especially as opposed to an ideal deity.

    So in Prometheus it's safe to say (from what we know) that all humans in the film are homunculi.

    The term can also mean "manikin", i.e. a simulacrum, an effigies. So David in that special sense would be the definite homunculus.

    It's a common topic in science fiction stories involving robots, androids etc. Being only "little humans" themselves, they often admire real humans, are enamored by their humanity, emotions, instincts, animalistic drive, violence, compassion etc.
  • BonusituationBonusituation  (4 like this)
    Like_A_Boss
    I still don't see evidence that the "temple" has the figure of a face/head on top of it.  All I've seen is that it has vaguely the same shape as the Harkonnen Palace concept from Giger.

    Interesting idea though!  Even if it is FAR too deep for the average audience to even consider or care about.  :)
    We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space.
  • HephaestusHephaestus  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    I thought the head on top of the temple mostly resembled the curved Xeno head?
    Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
  • xinauxinau  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    The top of the temple (or whatever it is) is never shown clearly, but we do see a glimpse in one of the trailers that briefly shows what looks like the upper part of the face.  The camera starts at the base and pans up -- at the very end of the shot, for a second, you can see what looks to be a human(oid) face.  

    It's at 1:02 in the full-length trailer (US version):
    "If Lindelof's script sucks I will wage my own personal jihad on the man and not rest until the streets are flowing with the blood of him and his children." -- ViGiLaNzA on IMDB
  • xinauxinau  (2 like this)
    Colonist
    What this business about the homunculus tells me (along with the title of the film) is that Ridley and the screenwriters are dealing with archetypal material -- Prometheus/Faust, alchemy/transformation, homunculus, god-images -- and that they are working with it very deliberately.

    George Lucas did this with the original Star Wars -- inspired by Joseph Campbell's writing, Lucas decided to deliberately pattern his script after the archetypal Hero's Journey.  One of the reasons that movie resonated so powerfully with people was that it was working with very powerful psychological symbols, and was doing so in a deliberate way.

    Spaihts tweeted a few days ago that he thought the film would be a "phenomenon".  I think there's a good chance he's going to be proved right, and -- if Ridley is successful -- a big reason will be because beneath the superficial/literal level of the story he's working with very powerful, very symbolic imagery and themes.
    "If Lindelof's script sucks I will wage my own personal jihad on the man and not rest until the streets are flowing with the blood of him and his children." -- ViGiLaNzA on IMDB
  • JonesycatpantsJonesycatpants  (2 like this)
    Catpower
    xinau said:

    What this business about the homunculus tells me (along with the title of the film) is that Ridley and the screenwriters are dealing with archetypal material -- Prometheus/Faust, alchemy/transformation, homunculus, god-images -- and that they are working with it very deliberately.


    George Lucas did this with the original Star Wars -- inspired by Joseph Campbell's writing, Lucas decided to deliberately pattern his script after the archetypal Hero's Journey.  One of the reasons that movie resonated so powerfully with people was that it was working with very powerful psychological symbols, and was doing so in a deliberate way.

    Spaihts tweeted a few days ago that he thought the film would be a "phenomenon".  I think there's a good chance he's going to be proved right, and -- if Ridley is successful -- a big reason will be because beneath the superficial/literal level of the story he's working with very powerful, very symbolic imagery and themes.


    Well said xinau this whole thread is amazing and well presented exactly the kind of thing i love to read,

    i watched this full documentary series many years ago really great stuff



    +100 kharma to you xinau
    Jonesy you little shit..you're staying right here
  • ummesterummester  
    AssFlower

    It is an enjoyable read and I hope the film resonates as well as Star Wars did with movie goers all around the world - but I don't understand something.

    Star Wars dealt with an archetypal hero that was relatable on a human level - an everyman/boy dreams of more, suffers loss, gets given power by old wise man, goes on quest with another character written to oppose his callow POV, rescues damsel and becomes hero. Simple mythological rite of passage that we all aspire to complete with the same flying colours that Luke did.

    We know very little of Prometheus' themes at this stage - only that is has to do with the origins of mankind. Now the OP has linked the imagery in Prometheus to that which is mythologically asscociated with the origins of man, or birth. This imagery in Prometheus that is relatable to mythology isn't part of the more - how can I put it - shallow human pshyce, in the way that Star Wars was.

    The story in Star Wars works wether it's aboute Luke, Harry Potter or any number of popular culture heroes. The story of Faust is about selling your soul to the devil (which I agree, on some level, much of modern humanity can be accused of via it's preoccupation with greed) and I don't see the average moviegoer as seeing themselves as the bad guy - or our species for that matter. We are too full of ourselves to admit it.

    What I don't understand is how this can work? How can a film be fashioned that makes the viewer see themselfs as faustian? It's easy to empathise with the hero like Luke, makes us feel good about ourselves, it's very hard to empathise with a villain like Faust.

    Also, which version of the legend do you think it will be OP? The Christian one where God saves Fausts soul, or the pagan one where the devil drags Faust to hell?

    Suck fuddlety!
  • ummesterummester  
    AssFlower

    Oh, BTW, I do know there is a lot more to the character of faust than a simple villian who gets dragged to hell. Basically, he's a smart guy who wants to know more, is upset that he can't understand how the universe works, thinks about topping himself and eventually turns to the devil.

    But my questions remains to the OP - will any cinema goers other than intellectuals or emos be able to relate to this?

    Suck fuddlety!
  • terrapinbearterrapinbear  
    Colonist
    ummester said:

    Oh, BTW, I do know there is a lot more to the character of faust than a simple villian who gets dragged to hell. Basically, he's a smart guy who wants to know more, is upset that he can't understand how the universe works, thinks about topping himself and eventually turns to the devil.

    But my questions remains to the OP - will any cinema goers other than intellectuals or emos be able to relate to this?



    Your average theater-goer doesn't even know the myth of Prometheus and will be too lazy to find out before seeing the movie.

    I think that's whats missing from the trailers: a quick description of the Prometheus myth.  Or maybe not.
    =\/\/= The Prometheus Has Landed! =\/\/=
  • ummesterummester  
    AssFlower

    Yea, that's basically what I'm asking xinau. How will the story of Faust grab an average cinema goer?

    The Prometheus myth is actually pretty similar. Like Ridley said in that interview 'Don't fuck with the Gods'

    But Faust is a little deeper - in that he wanted answers and gets punished for trying to find them in the wrong places. I can see how this works with what is in the promethues trailers and what is being pitched for the film.

    It's inspiring that a film with a deep mythological base can touch viewers in a profound way, for sure. But if there is nothing heroic to empathise with, can the less thoughtful viewers be touched? I can see how this works with something positve because you don't have to think that much to be inspired by heroic action. But horror is negative and both Prometheus and Faust are basically horror - you overstep the line and there are dire consequenses.

    Suck fuddlety!
  • ummesterummester  
    AssFlower

    Oh, the other thing I meant to add, is that any form of public story telling is at the whim of the public. Sure, Star Wars must have hit all of the right notes but the public was ready for it. released a year sooner or later and it might not have worked so well.

    Is the public ready for a horrific warning about not overstepping the line ATM? Time will tell and so much outside the film itself will shape public reation - the state of the economy, for instance.

    That said, King Kong came out in 1933 and the public was ready for that. It could be argued the public mindset now is similar to what it was in 1933, so perhaps the time is ripe for a horrific warning on our cinema screens.

    Suck fuddlety!
  • ummesterummester  
    AssFlower

    Is David a homunculus?  Discuss.




    I would say yes, to us, in the same way we are homoculi to the SJs:) We all create things in our own image but get tortured if we try and work out how we were created.

    Actually, this could be Davids part to play in the plot - to make viewers aware that our species is more or less synthetic.

    Suck fuddlety!
  • xinauxinau  (1 like this)
    Colonist
    Ummester: 

    Good questions.  The answer is, I don't know :) -- about any of the things you ask.

    Which version of Faust?  The one that I think is the most powerful, mature, and meaningful is Goethe's. This version is about the struggle between man's idealistic/intellectual and chtonic/instinctual natures, and the dangers or incompleteness of living a solely intellectual life. You can see how this theme could play out in Prometheus.  On the one hand you have Weyland -- the brilliant innovator who wants to "change the world".  This is Faust in the beginning of the play.  On the other hand, it's pretty clear that Weyland's impulses meet their match in more basic human instincts -- greed (?), ambition (?), hubris (?), ego (?), lust/sex/love (Holloway/Shaw, Vickers/David?) -- and what you end up with in the end is a titanic struggle.  This is kinda what happens to Faust in the 2nd half of the play -- after making the deal with the Devil he meets a girl, falls in love, and then all kinds of human-level disasters happen to him.

    How will the average cinema-goer relate?  Most of them won't relate, on a conscious level. That is, they won't sit there and say, "Hey! That's the Faust story playing out on the screen up there!"  But that's the beauty of archetypes -- you don't need to be conscious of them in order for them to work.

    Comparing it to Star Wars, the average moviegoer just enjoyed the tale of the plucky young underdog, battling his way against evil forces in the universe to ultimate victory.  In the same way, the average viewer will just enjoy seeing the scrappy human underdogs deal with the unintended consequences of their intellectual hubris, which has unwittingly released a plague of monsters on the Earth.  Or... you know, whatever it turns out to be :)

    Probably the greatest example of this happening in contemporary pop culture (IMO) is the very last episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.  After all those seasons depicting Buffy slaying her way thru the vampires, the last show ends with a recap of her more memorable battles.  But the very last element of that montage?  It's an everywoman -- not even a character on the show! -- trapped in an abusive marriage. Her partner makes a motion to slap her, but she finds some hidden reserve of strength and courage, and she grabs the man's hand before he strikes her -- stopping him cold.  Joss Whedon was saying, the vampire slayer is in you.  You may not have to fight real vampires, but you will surely face some demons.

    On your last points... Great questions.  Will a negative/cautionary myth work as well as a positive one?  Well, lots of myths don't exactly have happy endings, but they still "work" -- i.e., they still depict fundamental truths about human beings.  But, will people flock to theaters to see it?  Don't know, but my guess is they will.  My gut tells me there's something quite different about this movie.  Just judging from the reactions of my friends when I show them the trailer, listening to people talk about the film as a fly on the wall. That enthusiasm is due to a lot of factors, and one of them is the archetypal material (the marketing types will call this the film's "big ideas") that's at the center of the story.

    Are the times right for a message like this?  I don't know.  Maybe.  If they are, it could mean the difference between a summer film that merely does great box office vs. something that becomes a cultural phenomenon.

    "If Lindelof's script sucks I will wage my own personal jihad on the man and not rest until the streets are flowing with the blood of him and his children." -- ViGiLaNzA on IMDB
  • ummesterummester  (3 like this)
    AssFlower

    Thanks for the long and thoughtful reply xinau,

    Yeah, my gut is telling me there is something in this one too. I watched the first trailer for this, Dark Knight and Hobbit in the same space of time and this had something special to it. haven't worked out entirely what but it has me enthused.

    I also see some kind of human clash, likely ideological, in the second act of this film. Like you say, it can be related to Faust's misgivings after he had traded his soul. I'm sure it will run something like a faction of the crew will develop serious misgivings about being so close to their creators, whilst the rest of the crew needs to touch their creators somehow.

    Never got into Buffy but that ending does sound impressive. I liked the Buffy film though:) Guess I was just a little to old to get caught up in the tele series.

    So you think the film will get the horror of realising we have made a terrible mistake right and push all the needed emotional and mythological buttons to invest the viewer in that fully. I hope for the same thing.

    The hype is definately here for this one - it's tangible. I hope it takes off and am starting to wonder now, with all of the reading and posting I have done about it, if I'm getting too close to knowing what the film wants to deliver - which could dampen the message come my viewing.

    Still, you've started a great thread. This is the kind of analysis I wanted to do on this film - dealing with the message and how it might work. Dealing with the fact that this is a big concept flick and what that means for a Sci Fi horror plot. Cheers.

    Suck fuddlety!
  • terrapinbearterrapinbear  
    Colonist
    My understanding of Faust is that he gets earthly delights but has to sell his soul for them.  In Prometheus I don't see that happening.  Maybe old man Weyland is happy to sell his soul for some imagined Faustian reward on the target planet.  The trailers suggest, however, that only pain and suffering are the rewards for the crews' investigations.
    =\/\/= The Prometheus Has Landed! =\/\/=
  • NickIsSmartNickIsSmart  
    Flaming_Telepath



    xinau said:

    Ummester: 


    Good questions.  The answer is, I don't know :) -- about any of the things you ask.

    Which version of Faust?  The one that I think is the most powerful, mature, and meaningful is Goethe's. This version is about the struggle between man's idealistic/intellectual and chtonic/instinctual natures, and the dangers or incompleteness of living a solely intellectual life. You can see how this theme could play out in Prometheus.  On the one hand you have Weyland -- the brilliant innovator who wants to "change the world".  This is Faust in the beginning of the play.  On the other hand, it's pretty clear that Weyland's impulses meet their match in more basic human instincts -- greed (?), ambition (?), hubris (?), ego (?), lust/sex/love (Holloway/Shaw, Vickers/David?) -- and what you end up with in the end is a titanic struggle.  This is kinda what happens to Faust in the 2nd half of the play -- after making the deal with the Devil he meets a girl, falls in love, and then all kinds of human-level disasters happen to him.

    How will the average cinema-goer relate?  Most of them won't relate, on a conscious level. That is, they won't sit there and say, "Hey! That's the Faust story playing out on the screen up there!"  But that's the beauty of archetypes -- you don't need to be conscious of them in order for them to work.

    Comparing it to Star Wars, the average moviegoer just enjoyed the tale of the plucky young underdog, battling his way against evil forces in the universe to ultimate victory.  In the same way, the average viewer will just enjoy seeing the scrappy human underdogs deal with the unintended consequences of their intellectual hubris, which has unwittingly released a plague of monsters on the Earth.  Or... you know, whatever it turns out to be :)

    Probably the greatest example of this happening in contemporary pop culture (IMO) is the very last episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.  After all those seasons depicting Buffy slaying her way thru the vampires, the last show ends with a recap of her more memorable battles.  But the very last element of that montage?  It's an everywoman -- not even a character on the show! -- trapped in an abusive marriage. Her partner makes a motion to slap her, but she finds some hidden reserve of strength and courage, and she grabs the man's hand before he strikes her -- stopping him cold.  Joss Whedon was saying, the vampire slayer is in you.  You may not have to fight real vampires, but you will surely face some demons.

    On your last points... Great questions.  Will a negative/cautionary myth work as well as a positive one?  Well, lots of myths don't exactly have happy endings, but they still "work" -- i.e., they still depict fundamental truths about human beings.  But, will people flock to theaters to see it?  Don't know, but my guess is they will.  My gut tells me there's something quite different about this movie.  Just judging from the reactions of my friends when I show them the trailer, listening to people talk about the film as a fly on the wall. That enthusiasm is due to a lot of factors, and one of them is the archetypal material (the marketing types will call this the film's "big ideas") that's at the center of the story.

    Are the times right for a message like this?  I don't know.  Maybe.  If they are, it could mean the difference between a summer film that merely does great box office vs. something that becomes a cultural phenomenon.

    Usually. Take the layman who reads Shakespeare: He'll grasp as much as he's able, and the deeper meaning behind the play will be lost to him, but there's still a basic understanding. He'll associate with whatever comes easiest to him. Shakespeare understood what the people of his time loved and included plenty of it: violence. However, for the more cerebral, he threw in so much more. According to Macbeth, life was like a bad play, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing; you examine it past the violence and there's nothing to find. A good story will have the basics that appeal to the simplest of us, but it's just a shadow on the wall - the so-called "walking shadow" that Macbeth was talking about (or the images on the wall from Plato's Allegory of the Cave, I suppose) - and the real meaning is the candle generating the light.
    "Oh, hi, Mark."
  • ummesterummester  
    AssFlower

    My understanding of Faust is that he gets earthly delights but has to sell his soul for them.  In Prometheus I don't see that happening.  Maybe old man Weyland is happy to sell his soul for some imagined Faustian reward on the target planet.  The trailers suggest, however, that only pain and suffering are the rewards for the crews' investigations.



    Seems like it is going to be a faustian mash up of the Prometheus myth and perhaps a little more.

    The general idea that man wants to know more, especially about his creators, is definately going to be covered. Then, for whatever reason, our creators are not going to be nice.

    Faust acted selfishly (he traded his soul for his own knowledge), where as Prometheus was more giving (stole the gods secret for others). I expect that the characters in the film will cover both selfish and giving reasons for going to the planet.
    Suck fuddlety!
  • Absolutely fascinating. It may have been mentioned previously but- those who have watched the excellent "Prophets of Science Fiction" narrated by Ridley Scott will be extremely rewarded. Especially regarding the earlier sentiments of the notions of Frankenstein. Its all connected- yes its been said before, but truly- it is.
  • JonesycatpantsJonesycatpants  (1 like this)
    Catpower
    welcome aboard, i watched that episode, i wonder how much influence Mary Shelly's " A Modern Prometheus" will have on this movie.
    Jonesy you little shit..you're staying right here
  • tifosi77tifosi77  (2 like this)
    Colonist
    I particularly liked the Jules Verne episode of "Prophets".

    There is, I think, an obvious correlation between Frankenstein's monster and Weyland's 'cybernetic individuals'.  And there is also an important distinction between those creations and the creations of the gods; 'we' are not artificial.

    Or are we?

    Hmm.
    Perfect organism.

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