Medua Head Frieze from 2nd Century AD


Greek mythology told of three Gorgons, all terrifying female beings with serpents for hair, the most famous of which was, of course, Medusa, who was slain by Perseus. (The great hero had, of course, avoided being turned to stone by her frightful countenance by wielding his sword against her with the assistance of a mirror.)

Barfield evokes the Gorgon myth in "Dream, Myth, and Philosophical Double Vision" to illuminate an important stage in the evolution of consciousness:

If we hold . . . that the myths (with or without the help of Schelling) "disclose the ties uniting man [with] the primary processes of world-creation and formation," we are likely to see in that unforgettable picture of the Gorgon's head, with serpents writhing about it instead of hair, that turns to stone all who look on it, not only an image of ordinary consciousness cut off from extraordinary consciousness, but also (and here I am indebted . . . to Rudolf Steiner) an image of the writhing convolutions of the physical brain in process of formation, before the consolidation of matter.
    . . . Those of us in the West who feel a special interest in myth and dream are mostly impelled thereto by a feeling that the world in which we reside with our ordinary consciousness, and which is correlative to that ordinary consciousness, is precisely that world that has already been blasted by Medusa. (RM 28-29)
See in particular "Dream, Myth, and Philosophical Double-Vision" (RM 22-31).