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Conference

Greek Mythology: A vast spiritual Synthesis introducing the Work of Sri Aurobindo

 

This talk was given in Auroville on February 7th, 2015

 

The purpose of this talk is to show how Greek mythology can relate to the work of Sri Aurobindo.
Indeed, this mythology is a vast spiritual synthesis and the study of it can be a good introduction to the work of Sri Aurobindo.
It should also be remembered that during his studies in England, Sri Aurobindo not only absorbed Greek and Latin culture, but also became very interested in Greek mythology. He started to write, besides Savitri, a long poem of almost four thousand verses which he left unfinished: Ilion. (Ilion is another name for the city of Troy). This poem picks up on the story of the Trojan War at the point where Homer left it in the Iliad, starting from the support given by the Amazon Penthesilia to the Trojans until the fall of Troy. It seem that Sri Aurobindo wanted to take up the description of the spiritual path, starting from the events described in the Aethiopis – poem of the Trojan Cycle of which we have only a brief summary – which immediately followed the Iliad and dealt with the commitment of the Amazon Penthesilia and the events between the death of Hector and the sack of Troy. Before him, Quintus of Smyrna, a Latin poet of the 3rd or 4th century A.D. offered a version in fourteen songs.
We can safely assume that the framework of Greek mythology didn’t give Sri Aurobindo enough room to express his visions and experiences, but above all, it called for a prior decoding of the used symbolism which deprives the reader of a direct understanding. We suppose that this was one of the reasons why he abandoned Ilion for Savitri.

The interpretation revealing this connection is published in three volumes under the title: Mythologie grecque, yoga de l”Occident (Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West) at the “Editions de Midi”. This work, spanning a few decades, would not have been possible without the gradual updating of the encryption keys including:

  • The meaning of the basic symbols used at the time of Homer, many of them derived from the Vedas, such as the cow, the illuminating principle of the Supermind which is the plane of Truth, beyond the seven planes of the mind.
  • The archetypal content of the Greek alphabet letters forming the names of the heroes, gods and places.
  • The structuring principles of the teachings and experiences according to a complex structure of genealogical trees.
  • The concentration into a single symbol, the Caduceus of Hermes, of the organisation of Truth in its dynamic form, a symbol which, in its static form, can be studied with the Sephiroth Tree, a very complex symbol of the Hebraic Kabalistic tradition.
  • Various devices to clarify certain elements such as the chronology of experiences or the progress in yoga.

Before addressing the spiritual path as such, it is necessary to familiarize oneself with the overall structure of the mythology. We will therefore examine human evolution starting from the beginning of life, although these archaic stages of consciousness are dealt with only during the most advanced stages of yoga which is a gradual, ascending process of unveiling and integration. This ascent brings us into contact with the forces required for the descent and purification process.

Table of Content

TABLE OF CONTENT

 

VOLUME 1

 

PROLOGUE

 

CHAPTER 1: THE KEYS OF DECODING

 

Letters as symbols

    The development of the Greek alphabet

Letters of the alphabet

Decryption of proper names

The elementary symbols

The structure of family trees

The chronology

The sources

 

CHAPTER 2: THE GODS OF OLYMPUS

Zeus

Hera

Ares

Hephaestus

Demeter

Hestia

Poseidon

Apollo

Artemis

Athena

Aphrodite

Hermes

Organization of the twelve gods in pairs

 

CHAPTER 3: THE GENESIS AND DEVELOPMENT OF LIFE; THE RISE OF ZEUS

 

Children of Chaos

Children of Night

Children of Gaia

Children of Pontos and the evolution of life

Nereus, the old man of the sea

– Thaumas and his children: Iris and the Harpies

– Phorcys and Ceto and their children: the Graeae, the Gorgons, Echidna, etc.

– Eurybia

The reign of the Titans and the rise of Zeus

– Symbolism of the Titans

– Birth and rise of Zeus

The children of Typhon and Echidna

 – Orthros, Cerberus, the Hydra and the Chimera

The reign of Zeus

Prometheus and Epimetheus

– The fall

– The punishment of Prometheus

– Deucalion and Pyrrha, the flood myth

The five races of mankind

 

CHAPTER 4: THE STRUCTURE OF THE MYTHOLOGY

TITANS AND THEIR OFFSPRING

 

Hyperion-Theia

– Helios and his son Phaethon

– Selene

– Eos

Coeos -Phoebe

Crios-Eurybia

– Astraeos-Eos

• the winds (Boreas, Notos, Eurus and Zephyrus) and Eosphoros

– Pallas-Styx

– Perses-Asteria and their daughter Hecate

– Themis

Iapetus-Clymene

– Atlas, the Hyades and the Pleiades

• the seven planes of mental awareness

Pluto and Calypso

– The Deucalionides: the children of Hellen and those of Protogenia

Cronos-Rhea

– Hades

– Tityus, Tantalus and Sisyphus

Oceanos-Tethys

– The Oceanids

– The river-gods

Volume 1

 

The first volume of this interpretation of Greek mythology concerns essentially the keys used by the Elders so that the real meaning of the myths would be accessible only to initiates. Among these keys, special attention is paid to symbolic letters as well as to genealogical trees structuring all the myths.
Two other chapters complete this first book, one devoted to the Olympian gods, the main spiritual powers who support the current phase of human evolution, and the other to the genesis of the world and the pre-mental phases of evolution.

The Interpretation Keys

Five encryption methods were uncovered:

– The first method uses the symbolic content of the alphabet which allows us to form nouns, the meaning of which comes from the arrangement of the letters used. Very often, these nouns (gods, heroes, characters, places…), consist of a combination of meaningful letters and words used in common language to form a symbolic rebus. Each letter expresses, in agreement with its graphics, an idea or a fundamental archetype. Thus, theta Θ representing “what is inside” and N “the evolution according to nature”, the goddess Athena expresses “the spiritual power which, in humans, supports the development of the inner being”.
There is good reason to believe that this encryption method was already used by the Egyptians. The Egyptian signs were called by The Greeks “Ta hieragrammata“, the sacred letters, or “Ta hieraglyphica“, the hieroglyphs, an expression meaning “the sacred (letters) engraved”. Why “sacred”, if it is not to demonstrate, by their lines, a symbolic content revealing “sacred things”. The Egyptians themselves referred to it as the “writing of the divine words”.
By extension of the meaning of the letters to that of their roots, and by a correct understanding of the “rebus” method used, it is possible to define accurately the meaning of each proper noun.

– The second method relates to the meanings conveyed by the basic symbols – images, numbers, etc. – often multiple meanings that the “dictionaries of symbols” try to convey. However, one should be careful with the indications given in these books because the Greeks have sometimes adopted ancient meanings that are totally foreign to us. They have, for example, borrowed from the Vedas the image of the cow as a symbol of the “light of Truth”, instead of the “nourishing Earth” or “abundance”, as indicated in these dictionaries. The herds of the Sun, Helios, are “flashes of Truth” perceived by the soul of the seeker.
This category also includes numbers as basic symbols. 

– The third method relates to a structure specific to Greek mythology, at least in the widespread use that has been made, because the seed was already there in the Egyptian and Middle Eastern mythologies: family trees. They provide symbols with multiple ramifications and can be used, by filiations and unions, in a quantity of notions such as spiritual progression, the theory and the practice, the ascending planes of consciousness, the history of spirituality, the stages of the journey and the conditions required to take it up.

The knowledge of two or three hundred characters (among the three thousand listed) helps to situate us easily in the spiritual progression.

– The fourth method concerns the chronology of the stories and the stories themselves which put together in a coherent way basic symbols and stories containing teachings or describing experiences allegorically.

Assuming that the simple symbols have been decrypted without error, the first difficulty is to situate the story in the spiritual progression. The answer is very often given in the myths themselves by indicating a number of generations or years ‘before’ or ‘after’ the great milestones such as the Trojan War, the quest for the Golden Fleece, or the peregrination of people or heroes through real or imaginary provinces and territories. Other more specific indices, such as distant relatives or the age of the heroes, help to clarify the chronology. Theseus, for example, was more than fifty year old at the moment of the abduction of nubile Helen.

– The fifth and final method relates to a single symbol, both simple in its design but very complex in its interpretation: the Caduceus of Hermes. It contains a vast esoteric knowledge regarding the planes of consciousness and their interactions, the circulation of energy, etc.. Better known in its dynamic form – two snakes coiled around a stick – it was transcribed in its static form, in the cabalistic Hebrew tradition, by the symbol of the “Tree of Sephiroth” also called ‘Tree of Life’.

Volume 2

After having expounded in the first volume the decryption keys and the general structure of mythology, the author introduces in this second volume the structure of consciousness. This is neither arbitrary nor imaginary but the result of the experiences of many mystics throughout history.
Its knowledge is an indispensable basis to connect the myths of different categories of experiences and realisations. Ignoring this structure and the corresponding paths can lead to dead ends. One can take modest experiences for ultimate realisations, even if such mistakes can be necessary for the development of those making them; because all these planes are not only subjective experiences, but fields of consciousness peopled with beings, entities and hierarchies that evolve according to their own laws and rhythms.

In this introduction we examine terms such as ego, self, psychic being, and also conscious, subconscious, unconscious, nescient and supra-conscious states of consciousness, as well as the difference between experiences and realisations.

The Self is the individualized but yet impersonal (without ego consciousness) part of the Divine which from above supports the individual being in close relation with its incarnated delegate, the soul, who develops the psychic being. (…)
The ego – or rather ego consciousness (because it is a deformation of consciousness) is a misrepresentation of ourselves to which we mistakenly attach a certain unity and coherence.
It is the result of the perception, feeling and even the sensation of ourselves as a distinct being separate from other beings and the rest of the world, to which we are identified. It permeates not only the mind but also the vital and the body.
From there comes the identification with our habits, our usual thought patterns and in general, with anything that gives us the feeling of permanence. This consciousness perceiving itself not only as a separate centre, but as “the” centre considers everything in relation to itself. It is projected outside to locate the “Me” in relation to the “Not-Me” and gives a false image of ourselves.
In fact, we must distinguish between the right movement and its deformation. Because ego is the deformation of a just will for a separate existence, just as desire is the deformation of a just will to possess. But this separating ought to remain within the framework of the subordination to the Absolute and not assume its own right.” 

We then are entering the spiritual path with the introductory myths which give us a clear vision, if not of the goals, at least of the necessary progression in consciousness and in the purification process that leads to “exactitude” and “liberation”.
Thus, the development of the logical mind which, according to the myth of Sisyphus, never ceases to painstakingly elaborate theories that soon collapse, can also overcome the illusion: the Chimera that the son of Sisyphus, Bellerophon will kill. The myth of Sisyphus, a character embodying the law of effort, shows also that effort is no longer effective in the last stages of yoga, those dealing with cellular consciousness.

Volume 3

The third book deals with the more advanced stages of yoga leading the seeker to the great reversal of the Trojan War that initiates the work in the depths of the vital and the body.

Several great heroic adventures mark the previous period:

– The war of the Lapiths against the Centaurs helps the seeker to track down in himself erroneous attitudes well hidden under deceptive appearances; for example, the deviance of the Ixion Lapith or “spiritual pride” that can still occur far on the path.

– The Boar hunt of Calydon attended by all the greatest heroes: Artemis sent a giant solitary boar, “wild and with white tusks” to ravage the orchard of Oineus every day. Meleager took command of a troop of heroes to hunt it down.

And for the first time in the myths, a woman was among the hunter-warriors, Atalante “equality”, seconding Meleager “the one who works for exactitude”. It is indeed in this work of “equality” or ”equanimity” that the seeker is now called for in order to achieve “detachment” represented by the sister of Meleager, Déjanire “the one who kills attachment”.

– The Wars of Thebes: the one of Seven against Thebes which saw the children of Œdipus killing each other and the one of Epigones which marks the completion of the work of purification.
Even before the start of these two wars, the seeker must be free from a terrible mistake: false wisdom. Indeed, when he arrived at the gates of the city, Œdipus had to defeat Phix or the Sphinge “the one that stops the penetration of consciousness into the being”, symbol of a simulacrum of wisdom. This Sphinge was the daughter that Orthros’ “falsehood” begat with his own mother Echidna “the stopping of evolution in the union”.

Here follows the study of several lineages including those of heroes involved in the Trojan War:

– The lineage of Tantalus which marks the evolution of “aspiration” and where Agamemnon and Menelaus, the leaders of the war, are present.

– The Trojan royal lineage of the descendants of the Pleiad Electra, symbol of the illumined mind.

– The Royal lineage of Sparta concerning “what is seeded” in which the stakes of war are contained, Helen “the truest evolutionary direction”.

– The lineage of the Asopos River with its illustrious descendant Achilles, “who endeavours to realise the two liberations, those of Spirit and Nature.” As king of the Myrmidons “the ants”, he takes care of the smallest movements of consciousness, the only branch of yoga that will lead to the final victory of the Achaeans.

 

Finally the author proposes a detailed interpretation of the two great myths of Greek Antiquity:

– The Iliad or the strike of Achilles, which explains that liberation in the spirit is not the ultimate realisation and that from now on, the seeker must not strive anymore for personal liberation, but for that of humanity as a whole, involving the most difficult of yogas, the one of the body.

– The Odyssey which describes the more advanced stages known at the time of the ancient Greeks, where it is found that spiritual endeavour develops according to a spiralled movement in which the seeker finds at deeper and deeper levels what he had already dealt with in the mind and vital. This explains the apparent similarity of many exploits of Jason and Ulysses.
Finally, the Odyssey, which is a myth relating “experiences”, is put in connection with its theoretical counterpart: the latest feats of Heracles, “praxeis” or “free actions” which complete the twelve labours or “athloi”, opening up the future.

The work presented on this website is the result of thirty years of personal research.
It is essentially an interpretation of Greek mythology based on the decoding keys or methods discovered by the author, now outlined on this webpage.
This interpretation has been published in a work of three volumes titled Mythologie Grecque, Yoga de l’Occident (Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West), but the texts on this site constitute a revised version of their content and will be updated to reflect new insights and developments.
Presented here is also a historical study on the cycles of the mind, as well as a study of the interpretation of Sri Aurobindo’s poem ‘Ilion’, set in the last days of the Trojan War.

How to navigate this website

The pages of this website have been designed to reflect the chapters of the published work, arranged as per the progression of the spiritual journey as understood once the decoding method and the structure of the mythology have been made explicit.
This website can be navigated either by searching for a keyword in the search box above, or through the list of contents at the bottom of this page if searching for a specific myth.

Summary of the three volumes work on the interpretation of Greek mythology

The summary below follows the sequencing of myths as presented in the published works. However, this website can also be navigated independently of this sequence.
According to the Sanskrit origin of the word, the process of Yoga refers to a progression towards a state of ‘union’ with Supreme Reality. In its loss of meaning, our culture has often searched for such secrets in India, unaware that these had also been concealed within Greek mythology.
But it would seem unlikely that the ancient Greeks of Homer’s time, living roughly a hundred and forty generations before us and thus being our elder brothers on the scale of human evolution, would have developed such an extensive system of over a thousand characters for literary, historical or moral purposes alone. Is it not more likely that an elite group would have transcribed in coded form their highest knowledge in the domain of human experience?

When the decoding methods presented in these works are applied methodically, we are able to progressively discover a literary monument that is of great complexity but perfectly coherent. This mythological system is then revealed to be an extraordinary synthesis of different spiritual paths.

The interpretation presented here covers the totality of Greek mythology as it is presented in works including:
– The remarkable work of Timothy Grantz, Early Greek Myth (Belin 2004).
– The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology by Robin Hard (Routledge 2004).
To the extent that this system of mythology delineates the different paths of spiritual progress, the most trustworthy sources are the earliest ones – even though we often only have access to later compilations – as well as those which have been recorded by the initiated. It is generally noticeable that such individuals utilised the poetic form, more suited for the expression of truths of an order superior to that of the mind and sometimes received through direct ‘inspirations’.
Outside of the most well-known poets like Homer and Hesiod, this work of interpretation is therefore based on texts by the poets Pindar, Bacchylides and Pherecydes in the form of scholia and fragments, as well as on the texts of the philosopher Stesichorus.
The Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes served as a foundation for the decoding of the myth of Jason, although Apollonius does not appear to have numbered amongst the great initiates, having only pursued some stages of the path. This text is in fact the only one to illustrate in any detail the quest of the Argonauts, which spans from the beginnings of the path to the first great spiritual experience.
The Greek playwrights of the great tragedies have been considered with great prudence. For to stress dramatic effect they have striven to humanise the great heroes, introducing variations alien to the deeper meaning of these myths. For the sake of play, to keep the meaning secret or to give these theatrical works the value of moral edification, they presented certain stories as just the inverse of what an initiate was to understand of them.
For instance, Aeschylus celebrated the defenders of Thebes to exemplify how reprehensible it is to turn against one’s own city. However, the seeker is to understand that on the contrary it those mounting the offensive who are in the right, as this myth deals with the purification of the energy centers and the reestablishment of an inner harmony. This is illustrated by the failure of the war of the Seven against Thebes, followed by the success a generation later of the sons of these leaders, the Epigoni.
The works of mythologists are essential in countering this lack of sources. However, they must be considered with great caution and compared with those of other writers. Amongst these the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus is of great interest, for although he belonged to a later period this author seems to have been sufficiently aware of the real meaning of mythology to be able to discard unreliable versions.
For the purpose of this study the works of historians such as Pausanias and Diodorus have been used for useful complementary detail.
As for what regards the reconstruction of genealogical lineages, Hesiod’s Catalogue of Women has been considered to be the most trustworthy source.
A number of websites such as theoi.com, remacle.org, mythindex.com, etc., also offer valuable compilations.
The application of the decoding methods presented here allows for a coherent interpretation of the totality of these myths in all of their variations and details.
The first volume reveals indispensable decoding methods, and applies them to the study of the gods of Olympus and the story of Genesis.
The second volume is more specifically focused upon the first stages of the path till the first great experience of inner contact. It also includes a study of the Labours of Heracles, and the ‘great spiritual error’ illustrated by the myth of the Minotaur.
The last volume discusses the advanced stages of yoga, with the great reorientation described by the Trojan War for those who have attained the stage of the ‘liberation’ of the spirit. It is concluded with the last ‘return’, that of Ulysses’ return to Ithaca, which begins the work on the depths of the vital and the body.
However, considering the extent of knowledge necessary in all the domains involved, including the history of archaic Greece, its different dialects, their linguistic aspects, symbolism, the history of religion, the nature of spiritual experiences, etc., a very great number of other studies would still be necessary to further understand or correct certain points.

Volume 1

The first volume of this interpretation of Greek mythology mainly deals with the decoding methods used by the elders of ancient times to ensure that the true meaning of mythology would only be accessible to the initiates. From amongst these methods, attention is especially brought to symbolic alphabetical characters, as well as to genealogical lineages with constitute the structure of the entirety of the mythological system.
Two additional chapters make up this first work, one dedicated to the Olympian gods, important spiritual powers which support the present stage of human evolution, and the other to the story of genesis and the pre-mental evolution of life forms.

Coding or encryption methods

Five coding methods have been brought to light:
-The first utilises the symbolic meaning of alphabetical characters, from which proper names are built and their meaning partly derived depending on the arrangement of characters. Very often, these names of gods, heroes, mythological characters or places are made up of an association of symbolic characters and words from common language which form a symbolic riddle or rebus. In accordance with its graphic form, each character expresses a fundamental idea or archetype. Thus, as the character thêta Θ represents ‘that which is within’ and the N ‘an evolution in accordance with nature’, the goddess Athena therefore represents ‘the spiritual power which supports the growth of the inner being in man’, or ‘the inner master’.
There are grounds for believing that this coding method was already utilised by the ancient Egyptians. In referring to the characters of Egyptian hieroglyphs, the ancient Greeks used the term ‘hiera grammata’, the sacred letters, or ‘ta hiera glyphica’, hieroglyphs, an expression which signifies ‘sacred engraved characters’. And why would they be termed ‘sacred’ if it was not because they represent, through their form, a symbolic content which reveals ‘sacred things’? The Egyptians themselves refered to them as ‘the writing of divine words’.
By an extension of the meaning of these characters to that of word roots, and through a correct understanding of the method of the ‘rebus’ or riddle, it is then possible to define in a precise manner the meaning of each proper name.

The second method is linked to the meaning carried by the basic symbols of images, numbers and so forth, meanings which often varied and that ‘dictionaries of symbols’ try to explain. However we must be careful with the meanings construed in these works, for the Greeks sometimes took up ancient meanings of words which are entirely alien to us. For instance, they seem to have borrowed from the Vedas the image of the cow as a symbol of the ‘light of Truth’ rather than ‘the nursing Earth’ or ‘abundance’, which are the meanings indicated by those dictionaries. The herds of the sun, Helios, are therefore representative of ‘flashes of Truth’ perceived by the soul of the seeker as well as his ‘realisations’.
This category also includes numerical values as basic symbols.

The third method, that of detailed genealogical lineages, deals with a structure specific to Greek mythology, at least in the extended use to which it has been put, for it was already present in germinal form within the mythologies of Egypt and the Middle East. These provide symbols with multiple ramifications, allowing through symbolic filiations and unions for the combination and free play of concepts such as spiritual progression, theory and practice, the succession of planes of consciousness, the history of spirituality, stages on the spiritual path, the conditions required to engage in them, and the numerous tests which the seeker must undergo.
Knowledge of two or three hundred characters (over the near three-thousand characters recorded) therefore allows one to situate oneself within a spiritual progression.

-The fourth method deals with the storylines of the myths themselves, which are coherent assemblages of elementary symbols and narratives which hold the teachings within themselves or describe the experiences in an allegorical fashion.
Assuming that the simple symbols have been deciphered correctly, the first challenge lies in situating the storyline within a narrative of spiritual progression. The answer is most often given within the myths themselves by the indication of a number of generations or years that have elapsed ‘before’ or ‘after’ important landmark events such as the Trojan War, the quest for the Golden Fleece or the journeys of heroes and peoples across real or imaginary provinces and territories. Other more specific indications such as distant kinship or the age of the heroes allows for increased specificity in the chronology. For instance, Theseus was over fifty years of age at the time of Helen’s abduction, and it was noted that the latter was then still nubile.

-The fifth and last method relates to a unique symbol, simple in its graphic form and yet very complex in its interpretation: the Caduceus of Hermes. It contains of itself a very substantial esoteric knowledge concerning the different planes of consciousness and their interactions, the circulation of energies and so forth. Best known under its dynamic form, in which it is represented by two snakes coiled around a staff, it has been transcribed under its static form within the Jewish Kabbalistic tradition by the symbolic Tree of Sephiroth, also known as the Tree of Life.

The structure of mythology is presented here in a branching pattern organised not from the starting point of the gods, but rather that of the Titans. Amongst these, two Titan couples are placed at the origin of the great lineages within which the great majority of these myths take place.
One of these couples are Iapetus and Clymene, who reveal the process of human evolution through the ascension of the planes of mental consciousness. Within this lineage, the children of Atlas indicate theoretical aspects, while those of Hellen and Protogenia indicate experiences which the seeker may encounter during his ascension.
Atlas symbolises the link between Spirit and Matter, for with his feet on the earth he ‘holds the vast sky upon his head and his tireless arms’.
Homer does not describe him as supporting the sky, but as one who ‘knew the depths of all the oceans, and alone watched over the high pillars which separate earth and sky’. As the process of separation of Spirit and Matter intervenes from the very beginnings of life, he is well acquainted with the depths of the seas. He is in some ways the one to ensure this separation, maintained for as long as humankind does not traverse all of the stages represented by his children.
If Atlas is the one to hold Spirit and Matter away from one other, he is also the power forging the link between these two poles, and more specifically between the summit of vital evolution and the Supramental world. The initiates of ancient times therefore considered his companion to be Pleione, an Oceanid whose name signifies ‘that which fills (with consciousness)’.
His children the Pleiades represent an emptiness which is yet to be filled, rungs of mental consciousness to be ascended for regaining a lost unity. Their presence within the different genealogical branches is therefore a very important clue about the stage of the path being referred to.
The other Titan couple are Oceanos and Tethys, describing the process of evolution in accordance with nature and that of purification and liberation within the being, following the unfolding of the currents of energy-consciousness symbolised by the great rivers and the Oceanids.
The other Titan lineages allow for the situating of energies and forces encountered on the spiritual path, which fulfill the roles of either obstacles or supports. Amongst these, the different divinities indicate different planes of consciousness: the Olympian gods most often intervene through the intermediary of the mind, as do divinities acting from the heights of the spirit or the roots of life such as the winds or stars. Amongst these is the most remarkable of these stars, Eosphoros, ‘the messenger of dawn’ (also known as Phosphoros, ‘the bearer of the light’, and Lucifer amongst the Latins) for he precedes the rising of the sun. He heralds contact with the soul, hence his special place amongst the other stars.
Other lineages indicate specific movements of yoga, as for example that of the kings of Athens, ‘those who direct the growth of the inner being’, or that of Tantalus, ‘aspiration’.
In the first volume the Olympian gods are given particular attention, for they represent those forces which are most immediately perceptible to contemporary man. For while they represent powers which exist outside of man, existing within an independent reality and being able to make use of man for their own ends, the seeker can also learn to play with these forces within himself and thus to master them.

Thus, within us Zeus represents that which aspires for growth, the surpassing of oneself and the limits imprisioning us. Zeus’ spouse Hera is that which safeguards us from the consequences of the excessive externalisation of her husband, representing that which sets limits and especially constantly invites us to regain our centers. Their son Ares is the symbol of what calls us to overthrow habits, question certainties, and flee from lukewarm feelings which are a refusal to engage. He is a force that is feared by the weak but valued by the strong.

A final chapter is devoted to the genesis of the world and to the different processes which contributed to what has become known as ‘the Fall’.
‘Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. ‘(Hesiod, Theogony 116, translation by Hugh Evelyn-White)
Within Hesiod’s narrative, chaos appears first. This word is usually ascribed the meaning of emptiness, incorporated into the elemental chaos of Genesis and the concept of an empty and undefined world. But in this case there is no connotation of disorder or confusion, rather of concentration. If an idea of emptiness persists, it is that of a void that has the potential of holding all within itself.
At the same time as the Titans appeared the Cyclops, who had a single eye in the middle of their foreheads symbolic of omniscience, as well as the Hundred-Handed Giants, expressing a power which acts with precision, skill and efficiency in each and every instance, simultaneously and on every plane, also known as Omnipotence and Omnipresence.
And we can understand how appeared within the process of evolution, through the union of Typhon, ‘the ignorance principle’, and Echidna, ‘the perversion of evolution’, the four great monsters Orthros, ‘falsehood’, Cerberus, ‘death as guardian of the ultimate achievement of unity’, the Lernaean Hydra, ‘desire and ignorance flowing forth from’, and Chimera, ‘illusion’. Orthros, the symbol of falsehood, fathered with his own mother Echidna two other monsters, representing the consequences of this mental perversion. These were Phix or Sphinge, symbolic of a perverted wisdom, which Oedipus will have to face, as well as the Nemean lion, image of the ego, filled with pride and insensibility.
Running parallel to the Ouranian lineages which outline the evolution of human consciousness are described the stages of development of life within the lineage of Pontos.
– Nereus, ‘the old man of the sea’, sincere and truthful and expressing the surging of Life outside of matter. His daughters the Nereids, incarnating the states of fulfillment and powers of Life which man will have to conquer by descending into the roots of the consciousness of cells.
– Thaumas, the second evolutionary level, along with his daughters, life’s most primitive processes. Amongst them, Iris is the messenger of the gods, who establishes the link between cellular matter and consciousness and is the image of the nascent nervous system, while the Harpies are symbols of forces which ensure homeostasis or the reversals necessary for evolution to occur.
– Phorcys and Ceto define the stage of the appearance of the animal ego, from the first mentalisation of life during which are formed the rudimentary elements of reflective consciousness symbolised by their children, the Graeae, creatures with a single eye and a single tooth which they pass on from one of them to the other. Another well-known daughter of this couple is the Gorgon Medusa, ‘petrifying fear’.
– Eurybia, ‘fully realised life’, concludes this progression. She belongs to a stage of human development that is yet to come.

Volume 2

After having outlined in the first volume his decoding methods and the general structure of mythology, the author proposes a structure of the different aspects of consciousness as an introduction to the second volume. Rather than being arbitrary or based upon the imaginary, this structure is extrapolated from the experiences of mystics across time.
In fact, an understanding of it is indispensable for comparing myths referring to different types of experiences and realisations.
A lack of knowledge of this structure and the paths held within it can lead to the seeker being sidetracked or mistaking modest experiences for ultimate realisations, although such difficulties may be necessary for the personal evolution of those who experience them.
For these planes do not simply refer to subjective experiences, but rather to domains of consciousness populated by beings, entities and hierarchies which evolve according to their own laws and rhythms.

Within this introduction are detailed concepts such as the ego, the Self, the psychic being, the conscient and subconscient, the inconscient, nescience and the supraconscient, as well as the difference between experiences and realisations as defined by Sri Aurobindo:
‘The Self is the individualized but yet impersonal (without ego consciousness) part of the Divine which from above supports the individual being in close relation with its incarnated delegate, the soul, who develops the psychic being. (…)
The ego – or rather ego consciousness (because it is a deformation of consciousness) is a misrepresentation of ourselves to which we mistakenly attach a certain unity and coherence.
It is the result of the perception, feeling and even the sensation of ourselves as a distinct being separate from other beings and the rest of the world, to which we are identified. It permeates not only the mind but also the vital and the body.
From there comes the identification with our habits, our usual thought patterns and in general, with anything that gives us the feeling of permanence. This consciousness perceiving itself not only as a separate centre, but as “the” centre considers everything in relation to itself. It is projected outside to locate the “Me” in relation to the “Not-Me” and gives a false image of ourselves.
In fact, we must distinguish between the right movement and its deformation. Because ego is the deformation of a just will for a separate existence, just as desire is the deformation of a just will to possess. But this separating ought to remain within the framework of the subordination to the Absolute and not assume its own right.’ 
We then enter deeper into the spiritual path with the outlining of the myths which afford a clear vision if not of the aims, then at least of the necessary progression through the planes of consciousness and of the process of purification which leads towards ‘exactitude’ and ‘liberation’.
Thus, the development of the logical mind, which according to the myth of Sisyphus is constantly engaging in defending constantly-collapsing hypotheses, also allows for illusion to be overcome; Chimera killed by Sisyphus’ son Bellerophon. The myth of Sisyphus, a character who embodies the principle of effort, also demonstrates that effort is no longer useful in the last stages of yoga, which engage with the consciousness of the cells.
The theoretical bases for purification are then specified by the six first labours of Heracles:
– The death of the Nemean Lion affirms as its ultimate object the liberation of the ego (which is the will of self-affirmation).
– The victory over the Lernaean Hydra refers to the liberation of the desire, which has at its root a vital covetousness originating from a distortion of the energy of life due to the suspension of evolution in union. The crab which comes to the aid of the Hydra represents what we commonly think of as a ‘seizing’, a spontaneous and instinctive movement which leads one to attempt to possess oneself of what one believes one does not possess.
Psychological suffering ceases with this double liberation.
The four following labours specify certain modalities or necessities of the liberation of the spirit:
– With the Ceryneian Hind, an aspiration and a purification by intuition of what parasitically preys upon it, in view of the final aim of integrity and consecration.
– With the Erymanthian Boar, a necessary rejection of the basest impulses and movements of our nature.
– With the cleaning of the Augean Stables, the renouncement of the benefits garnered by the first experiences on the seeker’s path.
– Finally, with the Stymphalian Birds, the ability of discerning the confusion of the mental and vital planes and the achievement of a relative degree of mastery over one’s mental movements, with a peace resulting from this.
Then the first children of Aeolus, in whose lineage are situated the experiences corresponding to the ascension of the planes of consciousness, lead us step by step to the first great experience of contact with the Absolute, such as it is recounted in the Quest of the Golden Fleece.
Through the study of this last myth recounted by Apollonius of Rhodes, we cover with Jason and the Argonauts the preliminary steps of the path, the quest for exotic spiritual forms, the encounter of the Master or of the Path, as well as karmic memories, etc.
Amongst these experiences are to be found the first encounters with states of engulfment and dissociation:
‘Then the heroes arrived, as predicted by Hera, to the vicinity of Charybdis and Scylla, at the crossroads of the sea. Thetis and her sisters the Nereids arrived from every side to bring assistance to the heroes. Avoiding the cursed places, they directed the ship towards the Planctes, playing with the it as with a toy which they would throw to one another, and helped it cross the dangerous waters unharmed’.
At this stage of the path, all the elements are put in place to bring about a terrible psychic test of the schizoid or manic-depressive type (Charybdis and Scylla). But in this phase the seeker remains protected, and only experiences a mild foretaste of the experience.
As the spiritual path is a spiraling movement in which one traverses the same kinds of experiences on progressively higher planes, it is Ulysses who will much later on face these two monsters.
The culminating point of this myth is the narration of the first great experience itself.
‘But straightway as they sped over the wide Cretan sea night scared them, that night which they name the Pall of Darkness; the stars pierced not that fatal night nor the beams of the moon, but black chaos descended from heaven, or haply some other darkness came, rising from the nethermost depths. But Jason raised his hands and cried to Phoebus (Apollo) with mighty voice, calling on him to save them; and the tears ran down in his distress. The god raised aloft in his right hand his golden bow; and the bow flashed a dazzling gleam all round. And there appeared that bare island they called Anaphe, the island of the Apparition. ‘(Argonautica 4.1694)
This experience of ‘sepulchral night’ and a ‘dazzling brightness’ following it constitute the most striking experiences which the seeker can undergo during this first great experience of illumination.
At this stage, the seeker has arrived as a vast opening of consciousness, represented by Europe, whose name signifies ‘an extended vision’.
But while it is true that any upward ascension automatically brings about a descent into the planes of external nature to purify the corresponding plane, the seeker is warned of the dangers risked if he penetrates into the terrible impasse of the Minotaur. For this test seems to be an almost ineluctable consequence of the first major experiences.
The Minotaur in fact represents the fruit of an experience of the soul allied to a powerful capacity for realisation: the union of Pasiphae, daughter of the sun, with the bull sent forth by Poseidon.
The seeker calls upon his mental abilities (Daedalus) on two occasions; the first time to forge a ‘link’ between his power of realisation of the illumined mind and his spiritual experience (the union of Pasiphae and the bull), and the second to consolidate the fruit of union with a mental fortress from which escape is impossible.
Daedalus then built a great labyrinth-palace in which to imprison the Minotaur. It was a tortuously winding dwelling, and none could find the exit again once they penetrated within. 
The seeker deludes himself here, for Daedalus does not represent a power that is in itself perverted, but rather a tool at the service of a perverted force. He simply excels in building ‘systems’ which find justification and finality within themselves. The only initial error rests in the fact that the bull has not been sacrificed through a lack of purification of the discerning intelligence.
To put an end to the error of the Minotaur we will have to wait for the intervention of Theseus, ‘consciousness which acts from within’, son of Aethra, ‘mental clarity’. He belongs to the lineage of the kings of Athens, who direct the growth of the inner being.
The author then addresses the lineage of Oceanos. The wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia introduces us to a progression towards precision through a work of purification. One of the branches of this lineage leads to Dionysus, symbol of the path of ‘divine intoxication’ or ‘ecstasy’, and addresses the myths mentioning this hero, who was only later on divinised.
The last chapter proposes an interpretation of Heracles’ last labours, reflecting the most advanced stages of the spiritual path.
The first two, the Cretan Bull and the Mares of Diomedes, deal with the capacity for containing without trickery the power of realisation of the luminous mind, and to surpass the attraction for excessive asceticism. It is neither a question of allowing free course to this energy, nor of constraining vital power. In other words, the seeker comes at the end of these two labours to a degree of perfection under the domination of the mind, that of the wise man and the saint.
The second phase of progression towards a union with the Divine (or ‘uniting life’) is most essentially marked by the growth of the inner flame. The progressive warmth of the current towards mystical union is illustrated by the river Thermodon, ‘the heat (or ardour) of union’, at the mouth of which the Amazons’ capital city is situated.
This consists of two successive liberations. That of an ‘accomplishment of mastery’ with the Belt of Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons, and a first stage in the ‘liberation of nature’ with the Cattle of Geryon.
The latter demands the transcendence of the three modes of nature (or gunas) not only in the passivity of the external nature but also in the realm of action. It marks the culminating phase of the inner fire, and opens wide the doors to the powers of the soul (or of the psychic being) which are still considered to be miracle-like by the majority of men and are represented by the Cattle of Geryon.
But this is not yet the end of the path, and the seeker will have to move away from any temptation to utilise these powers if he wishes to pursue his path towards Knowledge and the transformation of the body so that the Absolute can lead him to perfection. These realisations become the object of two last labours, the descent into Hades to bring back Cerberus, and the adventure of the Apples of the Hesperides. These exploits take place in purely symbolic locations, which exclude all possibility of a total accomplishment for both the initiates of ancient Greece as well as for those of the contemporary world. This explains how their places might have been inversed by certain writers. Representing a process of evolution which reflects centuries yet to come, they can however already be the recipients of the beginnings of a realisation.
The Apples of the Hesperides symbolise a ‘Knowledge’ which ceaselessly recedes as human evolution moves forward.
The task which consists in bringing back to the surface of the earth the dog Cerberus represents a first investigation of the transformation of the body, an ascent of consciousness of what impedes or watches over its divinisation, which is to say what gives warning of a premature transformation.
The limited degree of awareness of the initiates of ancient times regarding the level of progress necessary for undertaking these two last labours explains the fact that some initiates had placed at the end of the tenth Labour (the Cattle of Geryon) the final limit of the possible realisations within the process of yoga, marked by the famous ‘Pillars of Hercules’. This can also help us understand why the poet Pindar had claimed that it was impossible to cross the inviolate seas beyond the pillars of Heracles.
But the adventures of the heroes do not end here, for ‘the labours’ (athloi) continue with the ‘free acts’ (praxeis) analysed in the last volume.

Volume 3

The third volume addresses the most advanced stages of the yogic process which are to lead the seeker to the great reversal of the Trojan War, beginning a work on the depths of the vital and the body.
Several great heroic adventures mark the period preceding this:
– The war of the Lapiths against the Centaurs, which helps the seeker flush out from within himself erroneous attitudes well dissimulated under deceptive appearances, amongst them the deviance represented by the Lapith Ixion, ‘spiritual pride’, which may still appear when one is at more advanced stages of the path.
– The Calydonian Boar Hunt, in which participated the greatest heroes of Greek mythology.
Artemis sent fort an enormous lone boar, wild and white-tusked, which every day ravaged Oeneus’ orchard. Coming to his aid, Meleagros led a group of heroes against him.
For the first time in these myths, a woman, Atalanta, ‘equality’, is recorded as standing alongside these hunter-warriors, acting as Meleagros’ second. It is in fact only ‘equality’ or ‘equanimity’ which allows such a work on the depths of the being to be undertaken.

– The Theban Wars: the war of the Seven in which Oedipus’ children killed one another, followed by that of the Epigoni which marks the accomplishment of the purification of all the centers or chakras.

Even before the beginning of these wars, the seeker must have freed himself from the fatal error of false wisdom. In fact, upon reaching the gateway of the city Oedipus was obliged to vanquish Phix, or the Sphinge, ‘the end of the penetration of consciousness in the being’, symbolising an illusory wisdom. This Sphinge was the daughter of Orthros, ‘falsehood’, borne from a union with his own mother Echidna, ‘the end of evolution in union’.
Several lineages are subsequently studied, amongst which those of the heroes who take part in the Trojan War.
– The lineage of Tantalus, which marks the evolution of ‘aspiration’, and in which are included Agamemnon and Menelas, important leaders of the war.
– The royal Trojan lineage, within the descendance of the Pleiad Electra, symbolic of the plane of the illumined mind.
– The royal lineage of Sparta, referring to ‘that which is sowed’, in which is situated the stake of the war, Helen, ‘the truest direction of evolution’, which belongs to the next plane of the intuitive mind.
– That of the river Asopos with its illustrious descendant Achilles, ‘he who strives for the double liberation of the mind and the vital’ which consecrate the states of wisdom and sainthood. As the king of the Myrmidons, ‘the ant-people’, he concerns himself with the purification of the depths “up to the bones” through the yoga of the minutest movements of consciousness, the only direction of yogic practice which will allow the final victory of the Achaeans.
The author then gives a detailed interpretation of the great epic myths of Greek antiquity:
– The Iliad, or the strike of Achilles, which explains how a liberation of the spirit is not an ultimate accomplishment, and how the seeker must henceforth search for not an individual liberation alone, but the liberation of mankind as a whole, undergoing the most challenging of yogic processes, that of the yoga of the body.
The Odyssey, which reveals the most advanced stages known by the ancient Greeks, and in which it becomes apparent that the spiritual work develops in a spiraling pattern within which the seeker keeps reencountering on increasingly higher levels what he had previously encountered within the mind and the vital. This explains the apparent similarity of the exploits of Jason and Ulysses.
Over these two last chapters is presented a study of the last accomplishments of Heracles, the ‘praxeis’ or ‘free acts’, which concluded the twelve Labours or ‘athloi’ and thus open the paths of the future.

Introduction to the three Volumes

The interpretation given in the books presented here covers the totality of the Greek myths as they appear in general literature, in particular:

– The outstanding work of Timothy Gantz, Early Greek Myth : A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources 1993. (Mythes de la Grèce archaïque, Ed. Belin 2004.)
The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology, by Robin Hard, Routledge 2004.
The Dictionnaire de la Mythologie Grecque et Romaine, (Dictionary of Roman and Greek Mythology) by Pierre Grimal, PUF.

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