The wisest man once said that when it comes to our earthly perspective there is nothing new under the sun. Existence consists of an endless cycle of life and death from which it is impossible to escape. Indeed, this observation is itself nothing new under the sun, for it describes the general despairing ethos of the ancient world just as much as it does that of our modern one. Whether at the mercy of unpredictable gods or the blind forces of evolution, mankind is destined to imprisonment in an indifferent cosmos in which meaning is an illusion. Today, the despair is more palpable, for even the hope of leaving this world has been lost. No shadowy afterlife awaits us as it did the pagans. Nonexistence greets us from the infinite beyond.
This is the common despair that arises in ancient and modern endeavors to make sense of the world. Yet, both of these attempts reveal more than they realize. The fact that mankind has always tried to understand his world is itself a pointer and, potentially, an enlightening grace. The Imago Dei with which humanity has been endowed will not disappear. As inveterate story tellers, narrative-writing is a way in which this gift has been expressed in mankind. In his anthology of Greek and Roman mythology, Thomas Bulfinch noted that “Mythology is the handmaid of literature; and literature is one of the best allies of virtue and promoters of happiness.” Man will search for meaning even if he convinces himself that it is an illusion.
The myth of Arachne is one such example. It put pride and its consequences on display within the pagan cosmos. Though the pagan’s analysis of human nature was dimmed and unformed, the Imago Dei could still detect the truth that the hubris of rejecting God was akin to suicide. Surprisingly, the only element that needs to be added to this insightful story is that stony resignation need not be the only option.
Moderns resemble Arachne, who refused to acknowledge where her talent for weaving ultimately originated. Like Arachne, we use our reason, gifted and grounded in God, to reject Him. A modern equivalent would be the scientist who uses his skills to undermine belief in God. Such a person is often willing to strip the world of rationality in order to conquer such beliefs, even if it means stripping his own words of all meaning. He uses reason to commit a kind of intellectual suicide, not unlike Arachne hanging herself by the very tools of her trade. Arachne also reminds one of modern atheists that depict God as evil, constructing their tapestries of a deity who is not worthy of worship. They stand in judgment of God without acknowledging that He is the source of the knowledge, standards, and even language they use to judge, just like Arachne used the weaving skills she was given by Minerva to accuse her.
Dr. A. Rachnid is one such scientist. He has spent his entire career using his gifts to prove that God does not exist. He is a weaver of words, using the very language of Scripture, but twisting its meaning in order to deceive. He fails to see that the ability to reason itself is a pointer to God. As G.K. Chesterton noted, he is one of those “fundamental skeptics” who only “appear to survive, because they are not consistently skeptical and not at all fundamental.” Chesterton would say that Dr. Rachnid would do well to keep “on doubting, to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wilder things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself.”
The crowd flocks like flies around his effigy of a dead God. One thinks of the New Atheists’ best-sellers on display, front and center, at local bookstores. Dr. Rachnid lures them in with the death of God and promise of freedom. The irony is that he has had to surround himself with dead things, from the pickled remains of organisms and lifeless machines to a gaudy imitation of the heavens on his ceiling. Being made in God’s image, he is an irrepressible sub-creator, but he uses this his divine likeness to create a tiny box of a universe filled with death and imitation. Like the New Atheists, what he offers in return is a non-rational and lifeless world full of despair, even if the words he uses to do this are themselves reasonable and beautiful.
The young girl is Minerva. As the embodiment of Wisdom, she leads the crowd and Dr. Rachnid to the truth with probing questions. She appears as a light in the darkness like the Evening Star, bringing a glimpse of “the health and happiness of Heaven” into the reductionist’s lab. Dr. Rachnid is given the greatest gift through her, not unlike Minerva’s merciful warnings to Arachne. The vision he sees is his chance to repent and humble himself.
Read this Myth here: Dr. Adam Rachnid’s Devouring Reason– The Myth of Arachne Retold
 Thomas Bulfinch, Bulfinch’s Greek and Roman Mythology – The Age of Fable (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications; 2000), vii.
 G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 22.
 Thomas Bulfinch, 86: “She assumed the form of an old woman and went and gave Arachne some friendly advice.”