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Friday 07-January-10

The Persuasion God

Did you know that there is a god of persuasion? Peitho is the Greek god of persuasion, seduction and charm (the Romans called her Suadela). She was a companion of Aphrodite, the god of love and beauty.

Given the centrality of persuasion to human existence, it is surprising that she is not better known. How often would you like other people to think or act differently? Quite often, if you're like most people.

So to whom did pantheistic people pray when they needed help with a negotiation, argument or other persuasion? Often to Zeus or one of the senior gods. Why? Because they did not want to persuade -- they just wanted the other person to submit. They wanted Zeus to make the other person agree or give in. Like asking a parent to 'tell my brother to give it to me', they want a superior force to intercede on their behalf. And we are often like this in our daily lives. We just want the other person to give us what we want. And, if truth be known, many of us pray to our monotheistic god asking that others are changed on our behalf.

This is not persuasion. Persuasion is a skill. It is about what you do to change the other person's mind, which is quite tricky, as they are the only person who can do this. All you can do is get their attention and point the way. But we do not like other people messing with our minds. After all, they may not have our best interests at heart, so we often resist persuasive attempts by others, especially when they are clumsy and unskilled.

Peitho does not get her way by command, magic or asking Zeus to intercede. She does it by communicating with the other person. She starts by being likable, then subtly nudges their thinking towards her thinking. She invokes desire, not concession. It is no coincidence that she is also the god of seduction, which in many ways is an ultimate form of persuasion.


Your comments


Alas, but what does one persuade.... the heart or the mind? To be too persuasive removes the responsibility (or the enjoyment) of the decision from the persuaded? You can only lead a horse to water.....

As far as the theology of persuasion goes.... I remember reading an old edition of an encyclopedia article on Job. To paraphrase, the author seemed to focus on historical context. At the time deities were perceived to have a perfect right to be arbitrary. They had a right to do as they pleased simply because they could. The "Job's Comforters" pleaded with their friend to admit to any and every flaw and move on - "....we are the lesser creatures are we not?...." - so to speak.

Job insisted on the radical (for that time) concept of fairness, justice and having a covenant with any providential power. In fact it was not the supreme power that afflicted Job, per se, but the barriers protecting him from the lesser deity were lifted.

The classic book concludes with the afflicted being told to pray for the comforters??? What Job's "sin" was never revealed (IMO) and finding which specific technique that persuaded him to see his circumstances differently is a timeless puzzle hidden in the script.

If Persuasion is a creature, Patience must be at least a love interest to rival Romance and Infatuation?

-- Peter S., CA


Dave replies:
Indeed, Peter. There's a difference between getting somebody to do something and getting them to really want to do it. The former is 'compliance'. Only the latter is truly changing minds.


She was also viewed as a goddess or harbinger of rape. She embodied the pure or skilful persuasion (generally sexually) and the forced imposition of power and control.

-- Anaximander


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