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The conversation about mind and its relationship with body is shared by philosophers and storytellers, who began poeticizing their dualistic tensions well before the analysis of Socrates or Descartes. The creation of humans from clay, dough, stone or metal becomes, in Frankenstein, the creation of a creature from dead bodies, which exaggerates the common distinction in these myths of matter as inert. This is in contrast with the breath, fire, lightning or starlight that brings life, consciousness, and animation.
Frankenstein is the Modern day Prometheus, whose creature is likened to Adam and whose work is inspired by Alchemy. Perhaps the greatest forerunner to Frankenstein’s monster is Prague's Golem, the creation of a Jewish alchemist who plays God by modeling what might be seen as the awakening of a Homunculus after God’s work on Adam. Like Frankenstein’s monster, the Golem is out of control. Like the broom in Fantasia, unstoppable water carrying results in flooding. Both can be compared with the opening of Pandora's Box, which is a crucial element in the Promethean myth about seizing creative power from the gods.
Now, we see these characters in the form of robots and AI’s who may or may not be conscious – Data from Star Trek, Ava from Ex Machina, David from the Alien franchise, C3PO in Star Wars, Bicentenial Man, iRobot, and so on. Many of the stories pay homage to the other characters in their family. Ultron, for example, from the Marvel franchise, is presented as a Frankenstein monster who declares there, “are no strings on me.” Still, we continue to love and fear the animation of simple wooden puppets and ceramic dolls--from Mannequin and Weird Science to Chucky and Pinnocchio.*
No matter the character – from Pandora to Frankenstein and DC’s cyborg – the recurring poesis around creatures created by humans concerns the question of our own soul and its relationship with a creator. Are we more than our flesh? Our matter? Is there a part of us that comes from or goes somewhere beyond this life? Do we have free will? The story of Data, Pinocchio and Bicentenial Man wanting to be as humans is a displacement of humans wanting to be ensouled. Their quest for a conversation with their demiurge is a reflection of our desire to meet our maker(s).
*Ultimately, Japetto is a creator made in the image of his animator, a human, who was created in the image of his creator, Prometheus, who was created in the image of his creator, Iapetus, who shares a name with Japeth, a son of Noah, who, like Deucalion--a clay creature made by Prometheus--was saved from the flood.
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