Category: Volume 2

THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE

ILLUMINATION OR THE EXPERIENCE OF A “DESCENT” FROM THE HIGHER PLANES

An age of Truth, India’s Satya Yuga, or rather, an age of intuition, preceded the history of our mental humanity. Judging by the shreds of our traditions, our infancy in the world was struck with an illumination, as is sometimes our brief human infancy before reason tramples on our dreams, or as with the seeker of truth when at the start of his quest, for an instant the veil is rent in a dazzling light, as if to tell him, “Here is where you are going.” Then everything closes again, and we are left to the slow plodding of years or centuries, at the end of which we rediscover a child’s truth.
Satprem
(The Veda and Human Destiny)

If people in ancient times situated the myth of the Golden Fleece under Iapetus’ lineage and more specifically under Aeolus’ lineage it is because the crowning experience in that evolution comes more specifically from ascending the planes of consciousness rather than the path of purification and liberation of Oceanus’ lineage, though the psychic being can manifest itself in either way.
In other words it is an experience that arises more from a perfecting, purifying, and expanding of the mental-consciousness rather than from an act of purification and liberation of the vital being, though the two paths can never be completely dissociated.

As related by Apollonios of Rhodes (a disciple of Callimachus who was probably disowned by him) the myth of Jason and the Argonauts retraces the steps of the seeker from the very moment of his entry into the journey to the point of a major experience of spiritual descent of power and knowledge from the plane of the overmind. This descent first illuminates the mind and then descends toward the centers below, creating a psychic opening in the heart. The light first acts on the mind because descending force is received more rapidly by the higher mind although it is always the heart that recognises the divine essence first. That is why Hermes figures among the ascendants of Jason (it is a descent of the overmind) and why we can consider Cretheus’ lineage to belong to the plane of the higher mind.
To the best of our knowledge the first experience does not generally last beyond a few days or weeks: it only constitutes a temporary rupture of the veil of the mind.
It is due to this that Medea separates herself from Jason upon returning from the quest, destroying even the fruits of their union (she kills her children before returning to Colchis). In fact we see that only realisations are permanent, not experiences.

Yet it would be a mistake to reckon that the experience of illumination is a mandatory passage into the beginning of the journey or that it is the first to appear although it is the most widespread in a civilisation which gives prominence to the mind.
(At least this seems to be the case among men, women live other experiences more intensely. By way of illustration let us cite the contemplative seeker Bernadette Roberts who, in her outline of the different stages of the path stated that she had not lived through significant experiences of enlightenment during the “dark nights” and had experienced her growth in the mental light as a more continuous process. On the other hand the ‘nights’ which are for her as sudden as they are violent seem for men engaged in this contemplative path to be more extended and less easy to clearly be identified. It is as if in the contemplative experience which we associate here with the path of purification-liberation women experience more of a shock with the aim of connecting with the divine within matter by a total annihilation of the mind while in contrast men more often experience these long nights to reach the divine in the realm of the spirit.)
Many other seekers first experience a psychic opening or one of the other innumerable experiences that Sri Aurobindo writes copiously about in the Letters on Yoga.

Although the Elders of ancient times were aware of the absolute necessity of purification and liberation and extolled the labors of Heracles before any other, the quest of the Golden Fleece seems to have gained increasing importance over time. In fact given that the path of purification and liberation is riddled with obstacles that hinder transformation, the experience was highlighted as a first step toward an experience of union with the Self or toward an awakening and considered of paramount in so far as it had not be substituted by the Dionysian path of mystic ecstasy in several schools of initiation.
Although many schools continue to study the union with the Self in our time, Sri Aurobindo emphasizes in particular the process of psychic transformation of the being as a first movement which should be followed by the spiritual transformation to eventually allow the work of the Supreme Power to take place for the transformation of the exterior being. This progression helps to avoid many a trap.
In addition, given that his purpose was to render nature divine for all humanity he wished to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past wherein it was sufficient to attain individual liberation of the Spirit without bringing about a change in any aspect of the external nature of the seeker or in the rest of the humanity.

Following in Sri Aurobindo’s footsteps Satprem in his work On the way to Supermanhood (Chapter 4) goes so far as to suggest that from a certain stage of progress in the ascension of the planes of consciousness the seeker must renounce further pursuit of the path and proceed to a deeper purification and liberation of his nature. According to him the seeker should at some point choose between the path of ascent wherein he can explore the higher planes of the mind “that are like the pure source of everything that occurs here distorted” and the path of the liberation of Nature. He tells us that the first path is so tempting that all the sages of the past and the advanced spirits of today follow it but once they reach its heights they cannot but realise that the ways of the heights have little power here. It is, he says, the eternal story of the Ideal and the realities. For him it is not about rejecting all encumbrances to escape upward, but about an all-encompassing method that would be more of a descent or an unveiling of the Truth present everywhere down to the cells of our body. 

Even if we admit that the experience of the descent of lightning flashes of truth from the overmind is only one possible form we should be careful before considering the discourse of Apollonios of Rhodes to be the only approach toward it.
In fact the greater is the relative ease in the theoretical description of the journey when it involves an illustration of its main objectives (for example in the psychic transformation of the being, the abandonment of desire and ego, the battle against illusion and fear, the expansion of knowledge, etc.), the more complicated the problem becomes when it involves experience because it then becomes indispensable to distinguish between the general and the specific.
It is thus imperative to determine to what extent the individual experiences are a mandatory passage for all, whether they belong to a particular yoga or to a specific seeker, whether they always occur in the same order, form part of a repetitive process or mark the end of one.
Although preliminary knowledge of some stages might possibly help the seeker, this should be perfectly defined and universal, and the evolutionary process that leads to them should be clearly identified. Their explanation should not make the seeker worry because he has not had a particular experience, nor establish a hierarchy in progression that would make him fall into the classical trap of the race for spiritual rank.
This was probably the main reason for an absolute prohibition of any kind of disclosure, even partial, of the deeper meaning of myths.
In any case the initiated have always advised seekers to share their experiences only with their guides or at least with utmost precaution to avoid the energy dissipating too rapidly and losing many of its benefits.

Numerous accounts of the myth of the Golden Fleece appear to have existed but we have only one complete Greek version, that of Apollonios of Rhodes from the Hellenistic Age from around the IIIrd century BC. Our study is based on this version. There exists another version by Gaius Valerius Flaccus, a Latin author from I century AD who was greatly influenced by Apollonios.

Every seeker could thus narrate his “own” quest. The progression that we will be examining by means of this text begins at the preparatory stages for the journey. The experience of illumination in the real sense comes only at the end of the tale. Since it is a descent from the Spiritual plane it chooses its time but it seems that the seeker is forewarned that something exceptional is going to occur.
It could thus occur in the midst of everyday life under no particular conditions, but the external circumstances are organized so that the seeker may experience the descent fully.
For seekers who have not worked enough toward the purification of their being the power of the force that descends mostly manifests itself as an exuberant expression that is difficult to control since the force bursts into a non-purified vital being.

It may be noted that the study of the myth here is based on inner experiences but it could be illustrated by external confrontations for every individual, and in this vein Satprem, in By the body of the earth or The Sannyasin, writes that: “All outer roads seem to be doubled by an inner road, and the obstacles, the obscurities, the accidents that we have not overcome on the inner road come back to us on the outer road, but a road infinitely harder, longer, and more relentless, because it swallows up a whole life for one single small experience that makes us say –that is all! “.

The myth of the Golden Fleece

The background of the myth is set by:
– On the one hand, the major characters in Salmoneus’ and Cretheus’ lineage which we studied in the previous chapter. We will discuss their main characteristics below.
– On the other hand by Jason’s companions, symbolising certain kinds of evolution in specific orientations.

The following finds expression through Salmoneus’ and Cretheus’ lineage:
The seeker’s external being, where in a more or less subconscious manner, “forces contributing to evolution in the process of liberation” confront a more mixed force, that of progression in the ignorance of one’s own journey coupled with a vital ambition (Pelias). However the latter creates an aspiration for justice (Pisidice) and a strong righteousness (Alcestis). Among Neleus’ descendants the only surviving dynamism is embodied by his youngest son Nestor who represents “the evolution of rectitude”, “the evolution of sincerity”, or a “capacity to assimilate the experience”.
An “endurance” (Pheres) that brings out “a passionate desire for the Light” (Lycurgus), “a will to liberate oneself from the yoke” (Admetus) and a certain “capacity to see (on the way to be a seer)” (Eidomene).
A “capability of going into silence” (Amythaon), a source of “strength” (Bias) and an “intuitive sensitivity of the mind” (Melampus).
In the end, “a will to fulfill one’s personal destiny” or the “turning over of consciousness from the external to the internal” or even “a higher intellectual consciousness” (Aeson) which receives the influence of the overmind (Hermes) through its capability “to be for himself his own light” (Autolycus) and tend toward “a powerful mind” though with some dispersion (according to his wife’s name Polymede or Alcimede). The Aeson-Polymede couple thus represents the seeker whose powerful individualised mind directs the quest according to its own ideas.

The seeker has also worked to expand his mind and fought against numerous illusions (Sisyphus and Bellerophon) and fears (Perseus). He continues to battle his susceptibility and self-importance which make him portray himself as a constant victim of other people’s acts (the Lion of Cithaeron). It is also possible that he has deeply engraved in his subconscient the memory of a state of intense happiness, his first fleeting experience of union (Phrixus).

Among the countless illusions that delay entry into the path is the prominent idea that one can change the outer world without changing oneself, that is by undertaking humanitarian, social, political or similar commitments without really questioning one’s own actions. Therefore one of the signs that mark the beginning of the quest is the moment when the seeker no longer wants to transform the world and starts taking interest in his own transformation.

In the preliminary stage of the journey a sincere seeker receives help while mostly being unaware of it, for instance in:
Protection for his physical body (from risk of serious accidents, disease, etc.).
Experiences considered a posteriori as “initiations” or confrontations that accelerate the experience of some stages depending on the individual’s level of evolution/development.
Knowledge stemming from the higher self and received through different channels (intuitions, encounters, work, dreams, etc.) that the seeker acknowledge as evidence.

When the quest begins the Isthmian Games had been held (cf. Sisyphus in the previous chapter), indicating that the seeker had embarked on the “narrow passage”. In the symbolic initiations of the past – which did not at all dispense with the confrontations of the journey – he portrayed himself as a neophyte at the doors of the temple in order to be initiated to its mysteries.

The symbol chosen for this experience, the Golden Fleece of a ram has been studied in the previous chapter. It must be recalled that it signifies the refinement of sensitivity (the fleece), a beginning (the ram), the support of the inner fire or psychic fire, and elicits awakening and spiritual purity.
The ram is very often winged to indicate that the very first experience of the supramental world (that of Phrixus) was a gift of the divine and that a long quest has to be done to recover it.

Jason’s youth and the preparation for the quest

As we have seen the Golden Fleece came from a ram which carried Phrixus to Colchis, the kingdom of Aeetes, son of the sun god Helios, who hung it on an oak tree in the sacred grove of Ares close to his city of Aia.

According to Pindar Jason was like several other heroes raised by the centaur Chiron. We have already come across this character who represents “the right movement of focusing one’s entire being” or “the capacity to concentrate”. His name Chiron signifies “hand”, most likely in relation to his mastery and probably also as a symbol of energetic medicine that acts through the body.

He belonged to the Centaurs, advanced seekers who gained control over their vital nature but only to a certain extent. He did not however belong to Ixion’s lineage as the other Centaurs did although he too was chased away from Thessaly. He is not therefore a symbol of an illusory progression.
He was above all a healer who could restore the right balance, put everything in its place, that is to say purify.
He was the accredited tutor of the heroes in their childhood days for music and medicine, the art of war, and the art of hunting which are symbols respectively of the capacity to achieve harmony from the highest vital plane to the corporal plane, of the path of the spiritual warrior and of the necessary capacities for the purification.
As the son of Cronus he represents the earliest capacities of harmonisation developed by the seeker during the stage that leads to the beginning of the quest. 
His mother was Philyra, “one who likes the right movement in evolution”. And since he was an immortal who had to die it may well be imagined that a satisfactory level of “purification” was achieved so that the seeker could master the dualities of the vital plane, such as the love-hate duality, but would then have to move up to a higher stage of integration.

We do not know anything further about Jason’s youth prior to the time of his arrival in the city of Iolcus. Iolcus (Ιωλκος) could originate from the word Ιωκη with the insertion of Λ in which case the name signifies “the pursuit of the struggle for freedom”.

According to Pindar Jason arrived in Iolcus to reclaim the throne from his cousin King Pelias, as being the son of Aeson he was the legitimate heir and the eldest of the children of Cretheus. Pelias had in fact inherited the city from Aeson as a regent, or rather seized it by force.
According to other sources his arrival was in response to an invitation extended by Pelias to all his subjects to attend a sacrifice in honour of Poseidon: his presence was thus in no way related to a claim over the throne.
Nevertheless two oracles had warned Pelias that he would be brought to his death by a man from his line of descent (a descendant of Aeolus) wearing a single sandal.
While different authors disagree on the reason why Jason did arrived in Iolcus wearing only a single sandal, Pelias asked him as a favour to bring back the Golden Fleece on the pretext that he was too old to go himself. He believed that Jason would never return alive from such an expedition.
Pelias represents the dominant aspect in a seeker who sets out on the quest with a strong vital aspiration but is still ignorant of his own journey and the goal of his life or his assigned task or raison d’être, – the task that the soul want to accomplish during the present incarnation – striving in quest of the “right movement” (his daughter Pisidice) with a strong “righteousness and sincerity” (his daughter Alcestis).
It is a will to do well which is actually also a resistance to change, progress or evolution. This dynamic will continue to be strong during the entire initial period up till the point of the opening experience, but “ignorance of the goal of life” will partly disappear as soon as Jason and Medea return to Iolcus because Hera, “the power that oversees the right turn of events”, had planned simultaneously Jason’s quest and Pelias’ death. Due to this “ignorance of his assigned task” Jason is not in a position to reclaim the throne and for this reason authors are divided about Pelias’ motive. The seeker is not yet consciously aware that his “ignorance” must give way to a higher consciousness (that somebody from his line of descent, from Iapetus’ and Aeolus’ lineage ascending the planes of consciousness, must occupy his place on the throne) although he sometimes has a vague intuition about it. He is still indeed inadequately equipped for the quest: Jason is wearing only one sandal.

Such was the reason behind the Argonauts’ expedition, their name being derived from the ship Argo named after its constructor. The name Argus simultaneously evokes light and whiteness (purity) but especially in Homer’s works it also evokes speed. The seeker is in fact not supposed to stop on his journey and surpass the stages as rapidly as possible.

The ship itself is the symbol of a well-constructed and complete personality: it had fifty oars, fifty being the number for a complete totality in the world of forms (5 at a higher level). The ship is also a symbol of yoga and the discipline followed (Cf. Mother’s Agenda, Volume 8).
In addition it was equipped with a speaking beam which encouraged the crew when it boarded the ship for the first time. This beam is the symbol of a solid structure which contributed to the success of the quest by way of its existence and proved to be indispensable in its early stages. It came from Dodona, place of the oracles of Zeus, and thus stands for an inner intuition very well established (a beam) and coming from the highest plane of the mind, the overmind. It manifest itself as inner certitudes for actions.

The Argonauts

Jason’s companions the Argonauts represent the yogic labors that must be developed up to a certain level to begin the quest. We repeatedly will find lists of characters to illustrate the conditions required to surpass the corresponding stages, particularly in the Calydonian boar hunt, the Lapiths’ battle against the Centaurs, and above all in the contingents from different provinces who participated in the Trojan War.

It seems obvious that no list can be unanimously accepted by the initiated because the individual journeys differ and the masters tend to guide their disciples towards the path that they have themselves trodden. For them each name could be a pretext for a specific teaching and each of them would thus have composed his own list.

Several lists of Argonauts have been handed down to us. The most succinct ones by Pindar and Pherecydes include only around ten names, almost exclusively those of the sons of gods. They emphasize the essential qualities that the seeker must possess to a certain extent and some progressions that should have been embarked upon.
In fact these great heroes are generally found in the genealogical lines of the advanced stages of the journey which mark both their apotheosis and their end.
However the qualities that they represent must gradually be strengthened in the being and that is why we find them here among the Argonauts.
Although it was the responsibility of the master to define aptitudes and assess their degree, they could obviously not guarantee the occurrence of an experience.

Four other lists present many similarities between them: that from the Argonautica Orphica (dated IVth to VIth century AD), of Valerius Flaccus (Ist century BC), of Hyginus (IInd century BC) and of Apollonius of Rhodes (IIIrd century BC). The first three were handed down to us by mythologists and are clearly derived from the fourth by Apollonius of Rhodes who lived through the experience and gave the only complete surviving Greek account of this quest. He provides a list of fifty-five Argonauts and it seems obvious that several corresponding abilities cannot be counted among the prerequisites indispensable to the quest but are part of an overall ambiance, such as Amphidamas “mastery to some extent” or Augeas “flashes of light”.
All these accounts constitute around fifty names like the ship with fifty oars.
The list given by the mythologist Apollodorus (IIth century AD) falls under the same category although it is constituted of around fifteen names which are very different from the ones in the other four lists. To give an exhaustive account it is important that we also mention the lists by the historian Diodorus and the Roman poet Statius.
Only Pindar’s and Pherecydes’ lists will be studied here, and some perspectives will be added for certain other Argonauts selected from other lists.

Jason
Jason is the leader of the Argonauts and thus represents the essential aspect of the beginning of the journey. His name means “he who cures himself” or “a turning over of consciousness”. It must be recalled that his brother is Promachos, “he who fights at the front”; one for whom the quest is the highest priority, without lack of commitment, not half-heartedly, i.e. the warrior of the spiritual traditions.
He marks the moment when the future seeker often after having exhausted his desire to change the world begins turning towards his inner world. He learns to understand that what happens to him does not depend on the external world but is instead a true image of his internal state and the progress he needs to make to achieve greater freedom. He works to decipher the signs that the world constantly sends him, discern what is happening within and distance himself in order to be a “witness”. He discovers that he can change his inner state depending on how much he identifies with events, his attachments and his involvement with psychological suffering and thus learns that for this state too he holds responsibility.
Consequently he must admit that the conditions are always and at all times the best for him to evolve and that life never makes him face more than what he can deal with.
A man who begins to be truly alive is not the vital-mental man that our publicity and image centered civilization extols but one who with a change in his perspective tries to act on the basis of what he feels within the depths of himself and begins to “be alive” in response to this call which resonates through the vast magma of nature and nurture, habits and conditioning of all kinds.

Calais and Zetes
Calais is “one who calls out (questions, invokes)”; that is to say, “aspiration”. His name also includes an idea of “righteousness”. His brother Zetes is “one who searches by effort”. They are the sons of Boreas, the north wind of asceticism or effort, and of a daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens, Orithyia, “the one who hurls herself impetuously onto the mountain”, the mountain being the symbol of the spiritual path. They are winged beings who represent above all an aspiration and an effort for righteousness and the mind’s search.
Let us remember that there are four major winds or divine aids for yoga: Boreas, the Northern wind of ascetism, Notos, the Southern wind which brings confusion and conceals the path, Zephir, the purifying Western wind and Eurus, the Eastern wind which brings newness.
Calais portrays the essential “need” for another way of being and behaving, for “something else” than the present world, and Zetes “the search” that is inseparable from this “need” and perseveres despite traps, falls, false trails, and errors. Many seekers in fact follow several Eastern and/or Western esoteric, mystical or philosophical paths before finding the path that truly corresponds to the truth of their soul.

The seers Mopsus and Euphemus, along with Idmon as added by Pherecydes
These seers represent three stages of development of intuition from different perspectives: purely mental receptivity, the capacity to foretell by the interpretation of signs (presages) and direct intuitions from the psychic light.
The seer Mopsus is one who “receives from above in a state of receptivity”. Two seers carry this name but they do not have the same ancestry according to the authors. The one in Apollodorus’ list is a son of Apollo, recognised by the seer Calchas as far superior to himself which confirms Mopsus’ relation with the psychic light. It is this ancestry which has been retained.
The seer in Apollonius’ list is a son of Ampyx, and this name describes “a headband” and would be an expression of a mental intuition which senses peripherally in all directions. Ampyx is himself the son of Elatus, “flexibility and adaptability”.
Apollo had taught Mopsus to interpret the prophetic significance of birds. Therefore in the Argonauts’ quest he is not a symbol of a purely psychic intuition (he is not a son of Apollo) but one of an increased mental intuition guided by the psychic being. He knows how to decipher mental perceptions (the flight of birds) as opposed to signs given by events in daily life. His presence indicates that nothing should be left out in the quest. The seeker must pay particular attention to dreams, premonitions, and intuitions which he receives through the medium of the mind. Clearly all superstition, excesses of imagination or naivety must be discarded and nothing should be accepted blindly.
According to Apollonius the seer Mopsus died from the bite of a viper while crossing the Libyan Desert, a trial during which the seeker loses all points of reference.
But according to other authors he participated in the Caledonian boar hunt which took place much later, contradicting the story of his death occurring during the Argonauts’ quest. In fact mental intuition from higher planes of consciousness cannot disappear because it is the foundation for the upward progression in these planes. This is why Mopsus is usually considered to be the son of Apollo and not of Ampyx. Here we have a first example of the prudence with which we must approach the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes, an author who I believe experienced an indisputably powerful experience of illumination though he does not figure among the several great initiated ones.

Euphemus, “he who spells out good omens”, is a son of Poseidon. He represents the presages and omens that the seeker can obtain through the interpretation of events on the basis of analogies induced by the subconscient. In fact, if we admit that life always brings forth the most suitable events for evolution to take place we must also presume that every individual possesses somewhere within himself the necessary means to decipher their meaning. In the same way it is from the reservoir of the subconscious that numerous symbolic elements of dreams are extracted.
It is Euphemus who released the dove in the dangerous passage before the Argonauts set sail through it: he is in the seeker both that which takes time to see and feel before letting himself be struck by the event as well as that which acts subconsciously to protect himself.

The third seer is Idmon, one who is “educated, skilful” and also “the knowledgeable one”. His divine father is Apollo and his human father is Abas, or “incarnation”.
Idmon was aware of his destiny through the movements of birds: generally at the beginning of the journey the seeker has a vague intuitive mental understanding of his life journey inferred from both his psychic being (Apollo) and his will of incarnation (Abas). But this awareness disappears in the course of the journey under the effect of raw vital energies (Idmon was killed by a boar just before arriving in Colchis). Tiphys the helmsman dies at the same time as him: it is necessary for the seeker to lose all points of reference and abandon all vague desires for finding his own way so that the descent of the spiritual forces can take place.

Echion and Erytus
These two heroes are sons of Hermes, the god that looks after the development in humanity of the “overmind” and Antianeira “detachment” (literally, “one who opposes all attachment” and precedes Deianira, “the one who kills all attachment”). Echion represents “the evolution of concentration or of emptiness in consciousness and Erytus is “he who is drawn forward” or “the right movement on the highest plane of consciousness”.
They represent the effort of detachment induced by the highest knowledge (Hermes) striving to grow by way of concentration and expansion of consciousness and by instilling silence within. They symbolise the gradual work toward freedom from attachment to opinions, beliefs, ambitions, desire for power, material possessions, etc.

The Dioscuri Castor and Pollux
They are the “children of Zeus (Dios-Koroi)” borne by Leda, “freedom and union”. Their sisters are Helen and Clytemnestra and their human father Tyndareus.
Castor is known to be “skilled in boxing”. He represents the struggle for “purity” (his name is formed around the radical καστ “purity” which we also find in the name of Oedipus’ wife Epicaste). He represents the force which strives for greater harmony, the firm desire to put everything in its proper place. This effort toward “purification” is certainly one of the struggles that should be the seeker’s priority while entering the journey.
Pollux, in Greek Polydeuces “he who is “completely gentle” (the name Pollux results from a deformation of Greek names by the Latin Romans) represents the gentleness of the soul, the compassion and flexibility that originate from equality of the spirit and the absence of pride. He is known to be a “skilled charioteer” who is capable of perfectly harmonising vital forces.
Castor and Pollux resonate like the sthira and sukha of Patanjali.
These two aspects – gentleness and force, flexibility and rigour, the force which harmonises and the force which dominates – manifest themselves as much in the higher planes as in the external mental-vital-physical personality.
They are the first instruments of mastery over the emotional being which must allow the psychic being to manifest itself and dominate.
Tyndareus, the human father of Castor and Pollux, is a descendant of Taygete the Pleiad daughter of Atlas who symbolises the sixth plane in the ascending planes of consciousness, the intuitive mind that precedes the overmind.
Leda also represents a very advanced realization being either a descendant of Aethlius, who is the son of Zeus and Protogeneia, or one of the children of Aeolus who would logically be placed between Perieres and Deion based on our analysis of the children of Aeolus.
We will find that the two heroes were rewarded with semi-immortality by Zeus; as Homer writes “Both are covered alive by the fecund earth but thanks to the privileges accorded by Zeus they are within the earth alternatively dead for a day and alive for the next and are honored like the gods” (The Odyssey, Book XI).
Thus when they complete their action in vital yoga as representatives of the intuitive mind (dead sons of Tyndareus in the lineage of Taygete) they still had to work in close association for the yoga of the cells from the overmind as sons of Zeus. In this way they form a bridge between the corporal conscient and inconscient, each in turn executing the task in the depths.
At the highest point of their task Castor and Pollux introduce the seeker to the field of non-duality in the spirit and semi-immortality (they are honored as gods).
It must be noted that they had previously defeated and killed their cousins Idas and Lynceus, grandsons of Perieres, union of faith (Idas) and discernment (Lynceus), both necessary for liberation and which must come to an end at the death of desire and ego.

Periclymenus
His name probably means “beyond what is known”. He is the eldest of the twelve sons of Neleus (“the evolution of liberation”) who is the king of Pylos (“the door”) and thus is a brother of Nestor (“righteousness and integrity” or “sincerity”). He is therefore a grandson of Poseidon from whom he received unlimited strength and the power to change form at will if in need during combat; this comes to mean an invulnerability and capacity to adapt when this is indispensable.

Tiphys
He is the first helmsman on the expedition to be replaced in the course of the journey because the energy-consciousness necessary to enter the path is not the same as the one to pursue and orientate it. “He is deft in foreseeing a rise in the waves and windstorms and in navigating with the help of the sun or a star”: the seeker must have a good knowledge of his emotional outbursts or what perturbs him and the confused functioning of his mind – what we in general call self-awareness – and the capactiy to make the most out of the lightning flashes of truth which appear on his path.
The meaning of his name remains unclear. It can mean “marsh” in which case it would indicate a confused beginning of the journey. This would explain the name of his father Hagnias “the ignorant”, and the fact that he dies midway through the journey. With the letter structure Τ+Φ his name could represent “the higher plane which descends into the being”.

Heracles
Though mentioned by Pindar and Apollonius, Heracles did not participate in the expedition narrated in the oldest narratives. This is perfectly understandable as we have stressed the fact that the theoretical processes cannot correspond exactly to the experiences. However since the seeker must have embarked upon the quest before being able to live the first great spiritual experience several authors including Apollonius place Heracles among the heroes who go on board the Argo but soon make him abandon the expedition under some pretext or another (sometimes for a most absurd reason such that he was too heavy for the boat!).
On the other hand this stage of the journey only involves a preparation for the work of purification essentially focusing on perfecting the mind and does not yet involve actual work on desire and ego.

Orpheus
Since the myth of Orpheus is a complex one, spanning over several stages of yoga according to the different versions, and is closely related to that of Dionysus in one of them, we have deferred its analysis to a later chapter. We shall simply note here that he came originally from Thrace, the province where blows Boreas the wind of asceticism and incarnation. Because of his parentage Oiagros and Calliope, he represents “work on consciousness” and “a beautiful opening of consciousness”.
He was known for his talent as a singer and musician, in other words for his knowledge of the laws of harmony (a purification which allows everything to be put in its proper place). That is why he acquainted the Argonauts with the mysteries of Samothrace.
On board the ship Argo he beat time for the rowers and thus set the rhythm of progression and the right time for all things. While entering the journey the seeker must in fact learn the “law of rhythm” because the Truth reveals itself to him in proportion to his capacity to match the movement of creation with precision both in the seemingly inconsequential details as well as in the “great things”. Conforming to this rhythm which is neither the rhythm of the character nor of events is in fact the real mastery. To be able to learn to sense it the seeker has no other means to begin then to “step back” and withdraw into himself.
Orpheus is therefore the most important character on the ship after Jason, playing the part of a priest or an initiated individual.

Among the other names given by Apollonius some are noteworthy:

Talaus
He is the one who “copes and endures”. Sri Aurobindo tells us, “Endure and you shall conquer”.

Idas and Lynceus
Idas, “the will to unite with one’s inner being or the Divine”, is the strongest and the most daring (the most violent).
Lynceus, “the vision of a lynx” or “penetrating vision” is a symbol of “deep discernment”.
They are sons of Aphareus, “one who is without a mask”.
Both refer to what Satprem calls “a new threshold of vision”. They personify respectively the force which stems from union (and thus on the mind plane which stems from intuition) and the inner vision or deep discernment which comes from “detachment”.
It must be recalled that like the other Argonauts they indicate the forces which the seeker must mobilized right from the start of the quest and not its prerequisites.

Amphidamas
His name signifies “everything related to mastery”.

Acastus and Argus
Argus is “the luminous” and Acastus, “the impure, the mixed”. The latter is a son of Pelias “the dark”, the good intention which impels the quest and is also a resistance to change. The author who cited these two Argonauts together probably wanted to make us understand that the seeker embarks on his journey together with his shadow and his light.

The fact that no woman appears in these lists is not due to misogyny on the part of the initiated ones but to indicate that the beginning of the journey requires active movement and voluntary sâdhanâ and that there are as yet no realisations.
Later authors (Apollodorus and Diodorus) introduced Atalanta in the list of Argonauts but she represents a certain “equality” which cannot be a result of this first phase of yoga. Let us remember that the heroines represent realisations or goals and the heroes the works of yoga (particular sâdhanâ) to reach them.

Apollonius divided the tale of the Argonauts’ quest into four Poems which correspond to four major stages of the first phase of progression:
Poem 1: The preliminary steps and the mistakes of beginners (the quest of the “exotic forms of spirituality” and the going astray due to insincerity).
Poem 2: Some other mistakes, the clarification of intuition, the “knots”, the encounter with the true master and the bifurcation.
Poem 3: karmic memories and the great experience.
Poem 4: Integration.

There is no indication of the duration of time because for each stage there are phases of maturation which could be carried out in some months, years or lifetimes.
On the other hand significant events are experienced as absolute certainties even though the seeker rarely has appropriate words to communicate his experiences.

Poem 1: Erring Vagrancy: exotic forms of spirituality and fascination for powers

It must be recalled that according to the seekers a wide variety of experiences can occur; this myth should then above all not be considered as a set description of the journey. It also appears that women’s path might be quite different from men’s.
Further, like in all great epics of mythology, the adventures of the hero within each major period should be considered as a list of confrontations, trials, and necessary progressions the chronology of which depends on the individual seeker.

Need or aspiration

The first phase of the journey is devoted to the search for the master or for one’s own path. There will be several trials and errors and many impasses but when the disciple is ready the master will reveal himself. This is an occult law for which there are no exceptions. In the preparation of the quest appears of course the gathering of the Argonauts which we have just seen. And nothing can begin if “the need that pushes men to sail across the sea” is not present or if “aspiration” has not been born.
That is why the first port of call is on the land of Magnesia or “magnet”, a symbol of the aspiration that must go hand in hand with a certain amount of good will.
The “need” to grow and evolve is present in all men from the time of birth but it constantly comes against forces the task of which is to stabilise and maintain what exists, and they use fear, desire, and ignorance to achieve their purpose. Therefore man forgets himself in the midst of appearances and of satisfying the desires of the ego which are only derivatives of that need.

What is this “aspiration” and how is it manifested? It is a “need”, a lack, a dissatisfaction which is a need for something else, for another manner of human functioning. And the need will grow like a fire. At the beginning this lack often drives the seeker toward revolt or rejection of society or to various actions which never quench his thirst.
Here it is important to recall the myth of Prometheus, “one who gives priority to his aspiration for inner development”. Despite his warnings to his brother Epimetheus, “one who does not go beyond the surface of things”, he could not prevent him from falling for the charms of the beautiful Pandora who personified the obsession with “appearance”, an obsession present in the man who believes that he acts according to his own abilities, his own laws and not the laws of the Absolute. But this is how it had to be because Pandora was a gift of the gods: man must exhaust all illusions before being able to aspire for the Absolute. In other words nothing can be left behind in evolution. It is with this double nature that the seeker must go forward because the evolutionary lineage in the ascension of the planes of consciousness is a result of the marriage of Prometheus’ son Deucalion, “he who calls for union” and the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, Pyrrha, “a red bird” or the mind-fire that burns for knowledge.
The one who sets out on this journey is therefore the one who clings to this “need” of knowledge and union.
At a later stage on the journey this need is also the engine that drives the Trojan War through the descendants of Tantalus who opened the way for the lineage of the Atrides.

Once his companions had assembled Jason gave orders for setting sail after offering a sacrifice to Apollo, “God of Embarkation”.
On that day all the gods looked down from the heights upon the ship and these demi-gods born of their race.
What the seeker aspires for is the light of Truth perceived by his deepest being, usually called soul, and which we address here as the “psychic being”. This is why Jason offered a sacrifice to Apollo, god of psychic light. All the other spiritual forces certainly gave their consent since the gods attended the departure.
Athena, the “inner master”, had already contributed greatly having given instructions for the construction of the ship and adding to it the “speaking beam”.

The ship, the solid and well-built vessel Argo, named after its constructor Argus, represents the personality of the seeker built on solid bases with all which is necessary to start the spiritual journey (the necessary equipment for a “complete and well organised vessel”). It reflects the required maturity of the personality and mental clarity.
Argo as we have seen is the symbol of the seeker who turns his attention to his inner world instead of constantly being in a state of reaction. It is also the symbol of energies coming together for action. The name Argo signifies “bright” and with the letter structure “an (inward) turning of the impulse”.

Concord prevailing Orpheus beat time, Ancaeus stood in the middle of the ship, Tiphys at the steering and Jason directed the navigation.
Achilles at that time was still a very young child.
While the fertile land of the Pelasgians faded into the distant mist, they sailed along the cliffs of the Pelion and cape Sepias faded into the horizon.
Then they arrived at the coast of the land of Magnesia and the tomb of Dolops. They came ashore against the wind and offered a sacrifice in honour of the deceased. This coast is still called “The Departure of the Argo”.

When the seeker sets out he leaves the world of those “who advance in obscurity of the vital consciousness”, who are controlled by their desires and the movements of a personality that is totally dependent on external influences, the Pelasgians.
The name Pelasgians means “human consciousness immersed in the vital” and in mythology they are the first people to settle in Greece. They came from the sea and are therefore symbolic of the beginning of the domination of the mind over the vital.

The seeker aspires for more freedom and greater knowledge without being clearly aware of what it really involves and aspires to meet those who could give it to him or lead him to it. He already has a confused perception of the “rhythm” which underlies everything, that is to say the feeling that what he does is or is not at the right time, in sync or out of sync with his inner being at least in regards to the broad aspects of his life.
For Orpheus is the one who creates harmony by following the right rhythm. Many more symbolic years must pass before this perception is refined to the extent of becoming a part of the movements of daily life.

At the centre of this initial momentum is the will to “embrace” things (Ancaeus, “he who embraces”, is in the middle of the ship) or in other words the will to escape a “lack of commitment”, the half-heartedly behavior which is a manifestation of the forces of inertia which more often dominate our lives.
The other movements were examined above with the heroes who accompanied Jason: a beginning of self-knowledge, a tendency to direct oneself toward what is true or luminous, deep sincerity, some intuitive capacities, an attentive awareness of signs, good endurance, and a consequent development of the mind.
Dominating the whole is both an intuitive ability for higher truths and the will to clarify the relation between what is ‘me’ and what is ‘not me’ (Jason leads/directs the navigating)
Even though the one who sets out has a good knowledge of his emotional reactions and the capacity to go toward the light rather than the darkness, the one who holds the helm indicates that the purification of Nature has not yet begun (Tiphys, “the marshy” is the helmsman).

When the initial aspiration which leads to the quest (Magnesia, “the magnet”) is manifested the future seeker thanks life for allowing him to understand that he had previously committed himself to a false vision of a saviour or of one who wants to do good to humanity before having transformed himself (Jason offers a sacrifice at the tomb of Dolops, “false, deceptive vision”).

The women of Lemnos: the quest for “exotic spiritual forms” in lieu of an aspiration to transform oneself

The first episode which the seeker is faced with is illustrated by the episode of the women of Lemnos.
The Argonauts arrived at the abode of the Sintians on the island of Lemnos where the entire male population had been massacred.
Since the women of this island had long neglected to honour Aphrodite the latter set their husbands against them and their husbands rejected them. (According to Apollodorus, the women emitted a nauseating odour caused by the goddess.) On the other hand, their husbands felt a violent love for the captive maids brought from their pillage of Thrace on the coast opposite to Lemnos, and they bore them children. And so “while they treated their lawful children with contempt an obscure race of bastards was rising.”
The heroes arrived a year after the jealous and furious wives had not only slain their husbands and their mistresses but also all of the male inhabitants, including children and old men. Hypsipyle alone spared her father Thoas who was ruling over the country, placing him in a chest that she left to drift on the sea.
“The labours of Athena” were now incumbent upon the women. Since they feared that the Thracians would come they were wary of the arrival of the Argonauts and streamed down toward them carrying arms, and according to Sophocles a battle did take place.
But their apprehension was soon dissipated and the Argonauts united with the Lemnian women under the influence of Aphrodite “in order that Lemnos would regain its integrity”. The Argonauts remained on the island for an entire year and Jason resided at the palace of Hypsipyle who bore him his son Euenos.
They enjoyed heir stay on the island so much that it took Heracles’ firm admonition to persuade them to depart. Thus they took to the sea again and “in the evening by the injunctions of Orpheus they stopped at the island of Electra, daughter of Atlas, so that by surprising initiations they might learn the secret rites that would permit them to sail over the sea that freezes with fear”. Apollonius further states: “Of these I will make no further mention; but I bid farewell to the island itself and the indwelling deities to whom belong those mysteries about which we are not permitted to sing.” (Argonautica, Book 1, Verse 910-921).

This story unfolds on the island of Lemnos where Hephaestus was flung down by Zeus from atop Mount Olympus during one of the quarrels between him and his wife Hera as he could not bear that Hephaestus had taken the side of his mother. According to another tradition Hera found him so ugly when he was born that she flung him down herself.
Hephaestus is the creator god of forms, mainly spiritual forms, while his brother Ares is their destructor. But these forms are imperfect since in our times they stand on only one of the two pillars of the mind, the reasoning logical mind, in accordance with the cosmic cycle of the mind. But Hera, a symbol of the highest consciousness could accept only perfect forms despite being the one who had created Hephaestus and so she rejected him.
Lemnos is thus a symbol of a necessary union of polarities.

The seeker who embarks on the quest begins by rejecting the spiritual goals formulated in the forms of his culture, his “legitimate spouses”. According to some, “they smelled badly” because they were in the process of decaying being no longer stirred by the primary inspiration. They had “stiffened” because they had “neglected” the eternal adaptation to the movement of becoming necessary for the expression of love, which is issued from evolution of union (Aphrodite daughter of Dione).
However the new spiritual forms and respective goals which the seeker discovers during his quest and unduly claims as his own (the young maids who were brought from their pillage of Thrace) charm him more than the forms and religions of his own culture.
All new seekers in fact have a tendency to reject the spiritual forms of their own culture and raise foreign forms on a pedestal but they often retain from them only what suits their ego and its need for the new, mysterious and exotic. The seeker creates his own “mixture” taking here and there the bits of truth and forms that suit him (a bastard race was rising).

Only the impetuosity present at the beginning of the quest survives (Thoas is aged) and attempts to go through the highest doors (Hypsipyle) throughout all these experiences.
But the spiritual forms of his own culture continue to have a strong influence on the seeker since they are rooted in the subconscient. (Some masters also contend that they are influences from the invisible world who keep the believers under their laws). And so the women of Lemnos finally iron out all these cravings for the exotic before their union with the Argonauts, the old spiritual goals calling for enrichment and renewal by the new forces.
According to Sophocles the battle that set the women of Lemnos up against the Argonauts most likely corresponds to the struggle that the seeker must engage in to free himself from the “dead beliefs” that confine him before new ones can impregnate his quest.
Only a strong determination and the qualities represented by the Argonauts allow one to overcome these stages and enter a new one which is more about transforming oneself than about changing from one to another spiritual tradition.

Despite their enjoyable stay at the island of Lemnos the Argonauts had to leave the island to pursue their journey on the foundation of old goals freshly renewed.
Through the union of the greatest forces of each current – Jason and Hypsipyle – Euenos, “good evolution”, was created during this long stay.
According to Pindar celebratory games were played in honour of the men killed by the women or in honour of Thoas, which shows that the quests for other spiritual forms were not pointless as they helped to expand consciousness.
Apollonius alone mentions the halt at the island of the Atlantide Electra, “the bright and pure island”, a place conducive to receiving psychic lightning flashes of truth. Electra is associated with the word ηλεκτρον “amber” and also with a precious metal made from 4/5 gold and 1/5 silver which was dedicated to Apollo. Electra is one of the Pleiades, daughter of Atlas, who corresponds to the illumined mind plane.
There the Argonauts received “astonishing initiations” to undertake the certain dangers of the quest that would bring them to “sail over the chilling sea”. At the beginning of this chapter we have mentioned some of these “surprising initiations” such as “invisible protections”, “encounters”, “accelerated confrontations” and “recovery” of past knowledge retrieved by the seeker by means of theoretical and practical lessons in esoteric and occult fields through which he regains knowledge which seems to him obvious.
It is difficult to be conclusive on the nature of lessons imparted in ancient Greece to seekers of the mysteries but it can be assumed that they were closely related to the legacy of Ancient Egypt and covered all domains of the evolution of consciousness mentioned in this work as well as immense occult knowledge which has mostly disappeared.

Inner insincerities which lead to deceptive paths

During the night the heroes finished crossing the Hellespont and advanced into the Propontis. Then they reached a peninsula known as “Mount of Bears” which had two successive harbours and moored their ships in the first cove. The hills of this peninsula were inhabited by wild and ferocious beings, the Sons of the Earth, each of which had six arms. The Doliones occupied the plains and were protected from the giants by Poseidon because they were the descendants of this god.
The Argonauts built an altar to Apollo the “God of Disembarkation”, and developed their friendship with the Doliones. Their king invited them to advance with their ships to the second cove.
The next morning at dawn they climbed to the top of the Mountain Dindymum “to be acquinted with the sea routes”. The giants began hurling rocks to obstruct the channel through which the ships would exit but were slain by the arrows of the Argonauts.
The latter set sail but overnight the adverse winds brought them back to the island without their knowledge. In the darkness the Doliones, believing that they were faced with hostile people attacked the Argonauts who slew a large number of them and realised their mistake only the next morning. The king of the Doliones Cyzicus perished in the battle.
There were then twelve stormy days and twelve stormy nights which prevented them from setting sail again. Warned by the flight of the Halcyon, the seer Mopsus advised Jason to offer a sacrifice to Rhea and the goddess responded “through the manifestation of clear signs”.
The Argonauts then set sail again, travelling past the cape of Poseidon and heading toward new lands.

The advance of the Argonauts across the Aegean, Hellespont, Propontis, the Bosphorus, and the Euxinus Pontus seas describes the progression of increasingly deeper purification of the vital being.
In the first place the Aegean Sea relates to seekers who embark on the journey but stay “on the edge” of purifying their vital being.
Then comes the first strait Hellespont which gets its name from Helle. She was the sister of Phrixus and the two children when tortured by their stepmother fled on the back of a ram with the Golden Fleece sent by Zeus. It is the myth already studied which recounts the first experience of luminous sensitivity. This experience usually opens much later the doors to a deeper involvement in the quest. The Hellespont is also the final limit in the individuation process (Helle). Hellespont is also known as the strait of the Dardanelles with reference to Dardanus, the son of the Pleiad Electra, who marks the first experience of the illumined mind.

The seeker then progresses deeper into the purification of his vital being (in the Propontis which is pro+Pontos, i.e. more deeper in the vital) up to the place that opens the passage to the luminous mind or illuminations. This is the Bosphorus “which carries the cow”, the cow being symbol of illumination.
Finally the seeker penetrates the deep waters of the vital being, the Euxinus Pontus (the Black Sea) or the “strange, inhospitable vital being” with its shores inhabited by wild tribes including the Amazons. As per our interpretation, the meaning usually attached to the Pontus – “the hospitable sea” – is thus quite erroneous.

Therefore the first episode in the quest for the Fleece relates to the beginning of the spiritual journey as “the beard had hardly grown on Jason’s face”. It is a warning against the “insincerities” which create illusions and operate from the subconscient, the word Dolione signifying “deceitful, cunning and deceptive”. The Doliones are sons of Poseidon. The seeker does not identify them as such because they appear to be going in the direction of the quest: in fact the king provided wine for the Argonauts and sheep for their sacrifice to Apollo.
This distances the seeker from his psychic perception of truth although he believes he is on the journey to the light of Truth or convinces himself that he is. That is why sacrifice is offered to Apollo, “God of Disembarkation”: the seeker has left the right path. When we persist in insincerities and are deaf to the inner voice, the latter falls silent, often for a long time until we return to the right path which sometimes happens only after harsh confrontations. There can be several reasons for this deafness: impatience, fascination with powers, desire to stand out from the crowd, automatic self-justification, or anything that benefits the ego pride.
The seeker then sinks deeper into the illusory path without suspecting it and it threatens to imprison him in a kind of a trap (The Argonauts push their ship into the second creek that the giants attempt to obstruct).

The monstrous giants with six arms can be seen as hostile forces with an extended power of action that hides within the heights of aspiration (the mountains). These powers of the subtle world can only act if we open the doors to them.
Here the error stems from the fact that the seeker is not conscious of the forces opposing the journey, forces which are born in the inconscient he came from and which hide behind his spiritual aspiration: the giants, sons of Earth, rush from behind the mountain. These forces attempt to imprison the seeker, “to obstruct the narrow channel”.
Seeming welcoming and of easy access, that which leads to error has every appearance of the truth but arises from the subconscious (Poseidon).This conceals what the highest consciousness nurtures as an obstacle or a test to evolution (Hera feeds the giants): the obstacles appear on the journey to help the seeker in his purification. This is a law of evolution which the seeker must always keep in mind.
In the first confrontation with the opposing forces the seeker is sufficiently purified to avoid total imprisonment, thus destroying the hostile forces without too much difficulty: the Argonauts slay the six-armed giants.

However what the seeker does not realise initially is that it is his “insincerities” or “illusions” which have led him to this situation. Although he thinks that he can continue on his journey he is led back toward them by force. He is not yet advanced enough for the struggle against his shortcomings and weaknesses to take place fully consciously: the “cleansing” thus takes place in the inconscient, in obscurity. The seeker can assess what he has conquered only after his victory. This episode helps him understand that at this stage the journey is an alliance between personal will and divine action working behind a veil.

Therefore what is described here is a trap laid by deceptive forms of spirituality and opening the way to destructive forces. Their mode of operation is to seduce and lure the seeker by playing on his weaknesses, and then to draw him deep into their scheme and trap him by “blocking all exits”. To come out of this type of mistake one must get rid of the false spirituality that one has adhered to and above all become aware of the aspects of one’s nature that allowed such a loss of direction. Some examples of these weaknesses are given with the names of the Doliones who were killed: the search for power, the aspiration for glory, etc. The names of Dolions given by Apollonius seem to indicate that the seeker does not only remove in himself egoistic goals such as the desire for glory, but also partly gives up some enthusiasm that has made him begin on the journey.

The first poem/canto thus describes the two major pitfalls which await the debutant seeker and which sometimes can block him for years or lives.
The end of this stage is marked by a long period of emotional disturbances that cannot hurt the seeker but put the journey on pause, “twelve stormy days and twelve stormy nights which prevent them from setting sail “. But life signals are given to the seeker that he is on the right path as Rhea responds “through the appearance of clear signs “.  
It is at the end of the first poem which we can finally consider as the preparatory period for the quest that Apollonius has Heracles disembark: in fact, as soon as there is a conscious entry into the quest there can no longer be any correlation between the theoretical myths (in this case, the labours of Heracles) and the experiences.

Poem 2: Other mistakes, the clarifying of intuition, the episode of the dark rocks and the meeting with the true master

After describing the risks of being misled Apollonius specifies in the second poem a few minor mistakes before turning to the essential event which marks a turning point in the quest: the meeting of the true master.

The passage by force

The Argonauts arrived in the country of the Bebryces ruled by the arrogant King Amycus, son of the nymph Melia and Poseidon. He was the most insolent of men and imposed a disgraceful law on strangers: none must leave the country without challenging him in boxing. He had thus killed many voyagers.
Pollux immediately volunteered to compete against him, and Castor and Talaus helped him prepare for the fight which was a long and very violent one.
Pollux could not avoid injuring his shoulder but according to some, after his victory he made Amycus promise that he would not mistreat any more strangers. According to Apollonius, Amycus was killed during the confrontation and it was followed by a general battle in which many Bebrycians were killed including Mimas.

At dawn the Argonauts took to the sea again and moved into the eddies of the Bosphorus. It was there that a wave “as high as a mountain (…) heaved up above the clouds” rose in front of the ship. The heroes were under the impression that they could not escape death and were terrified, but the navigational knowledge of Tiphys led them away from danger.

King Amycus is “the roaring one” and his country of Bebrycians is a country of “vital greed”.
At this stage the seeker is up against a part of himself which attempts to cross the stages forcefully owing to his strong desire and using solely his personal will (Amycus).
He must counter it with the strength of the spiritual warrior which serves him best in an unarmed hand-to-hand combat: Pollux, one of the Dioscuri, he who fights “with a lot of gentleness” and who is “most skilled in unarmed hand-to-hand combat “.
Of course he must also prepare the way with inner strength and mastery and by opening the consciousness to righteousness and sincerity (Castor) as well as through endurance (Talaus).
In the symbolic description of the human body the shoulder or the collarbone represents “the door of the gods”. Pollux’s injury on this part of the body shows that the seeker had wanted to force his way through.
In accounts where the king is spared, the meaning consists of preserving ardour for the quest while at the same time controlling the pressure put on oneself.
For Apollonius selfishness and vital greed must irrevocably be kept away from the quest.

On “the outer roads” several paths advocate excess asceticism and on the pretext of gradually reduce the resistances of the ego they only reinforce it through sly rewards. It must be recalled that the vital being actually feeds as much on suffering as on pleasure and it is the vital subconscious which is articulated here with its desire for sensations and power (Amycus is a son of Poseidon). The mother of Amycus, the nymph Melia (Ashes), also indicates that it is a spirituality based on the vital.
This mistake has its foundation in the naïve presumption that forced asceticism can accelerate progression and attract the benevolence of the Divine. These deviations can involve scourges and mortifications as well as more subtle forms in which the willpower imposes excessive restrictions on the body, mind or emotions. This encompasses all kinds of deprivations of things which have not been mastered: excessively long fasts, sexual abstinence by principle, etc.
This tale can also be a criticism of the beginner’s tendency to limit his field of expression and gauge himself on the basis of norms meant to regulate the spiritual domain or which are expected to be the most worthy in the eyes of the master or teacher.
The attitudes which are being disputed here stem from a strongly dissenting vital ego which is in no way concerned with spiritual discipline. The only thing that is of interest to it is drama, excitement and surges of energy of whichever kind. For the vital does not care in which action the energy is deployed, and the mind lends its support under the guise of virtue, goodness, courage or spiritual progress.
At this stage of the journey the seeker is not expected to master the vital being but to simply avoid lures and erroneous and dishonest behaviour that only feed his self-centredness and self-satisfaction. Sincerity is an essential tool because it involves the dropping of masks and the ceasing of attitudes or movements which “imitate” as well as giving up on all claims that one is progressing solely on the basis of his own strengths (among the Bebrycians who were killed, there in fact appears Mimas, “the Pantomime actor” and Itymoneus, “he who rises alone”).
This stage comes to an end with the threat of a major emotional disturbance which is more frightening than it is harmful and does not appear too difficult to avoid if the seeker is knowledgeable about his emotional reactions (a wave high as a mountain and ready to break upon them, but which sinks back into itself thanks to the skill of the helmsman Tiphys). This symbolic wave is specific to each seeker and is found at the entrance of the Bosphorus, “the passage of the cow” which leads to the experience of Light, the cow being since Vedic times a symbol of the manifestation of lightning flashes of truth.

Perturbations of intuition and the impossibility of benefiting from expansions of consciousness

The following day the heroes disembark on the land of the Thynians. On the shore dwelled the blind Phineus who was married to Cleopatra daughter of Boreas, sister of the Boreads Calais and Zetes. He had received the gift of prophecy from Apollo. According to some the king of Olympus had taken his sight because he could not bear the slightest restraint in revealing the sacred will of Zeus to men. According to others he preferred to live a long life rather than to see.
But he could not enjoy the innumerable dishes that were offered to him by men in gratitude for his prophecies because the Harpies, “bitches of the great Zeus”, swooped down from the clouds and snatched them away from his mouth and hands with their strong beaks. Not satisfied with depriving him of these delicious treats, they made the remnants reek.
In sympathy the Argonauts delegated Calais and Zetes to pursue the Harpies to the end of the world till the islands of Plotai, “the Floating Islands” which were then renamed the Strophades, “the swirling/spinning Islands”. On the request of Iris who had sworn that they would never again torment Phineus the Boreads spared the Harpies’ lives and turned back.
According to others an edict of fate (Moirai) wanted the Harpies to die at the hands of the Boreads while the latter in turn would perish if they failed to catch them. According to Apollodorus both parties died since the Boreads failed to catch up with the Harpies who collapsed in exhaustion.
As a token of gratitude Phineus informed the Argonauts of a number of upcoming trials.

This stage marks the entry into the inner world involving the disembarkation on the land of Thynias “evolution of consciousness (of contact with) what is at the centre”. This necessary turning over marks the entry into the journey and is symbolised by the blindness which strikes not only seers like the Theban prophet Tiresias but also Oedipus and a number of other characters in tales of initiation.
From this point onward the seeker must have more concern for the movements of his inner world than his reaction to external events.
Authors have different explanations for this blindness: in one version Phineus had indiscreetly revealed “the intentions of Zeus in all their details; however the will of Zeus was that only imperfect prophetic oracles be disclosed to men so they would still need the assistance of the gods”. That is to say that even if the seeker has some knowledge about the journey which can prove useful to him – for Phineus is a soothsayer who does his work well – this should not prevent him from putting himself in the hands of what is at higher levels of consciousness, for it is not ego that must decide the way.
But to begin with it can only be related to a breakthrough of consciousness since abandoning oneself to Reality (or Truth) occurs very gradually for most seekers. The latter can only gain certitudes ensuing from a vision of Truth at a very slow pace because for a long time, they must depend on higher forces to guide them in their ignorance.
In another version Phineus, obliged to make a choice, had preferred to have a long life rather than retaining his sight: if the seeker had continued the movement toward externalisation of ego he would not have been able to retain his nascent intuitive abilities.
The name Phineus is related to “penetrating consciousness at the lower levels of the being” and symbolises better comprehension and therefore mastery of the journey and the way in which it will unfold. After the initial purification the seeker has the ability to obtain precise visions or perceptions from the inner light (he had received the gift of prophecy from Apollo). Phineus thus stands for a growing ability for non-mental inner perception. His union with Cleopatra, whose name signifies “the renowned ancestors”, also indicates that the seeker tries to find his way according to the accomplishments of the ancient spiritual traditions or according to his own past realisations.
Since he turns inward he can begin to perceive the evolution of some parts of his being on the basis of his new perceptions (for those parts for which he makes predictions). But he cannot benefit from them to improve his psychic vision (the gifts offered) because he is constantly disturbed by archaic and extremely quick mental movements, the Harpies. In the chapter dedicated to the study of The Genesis and Growth of Life we saw that the movements of the nascent mind are simultaneously related to the reversals of balance and the process of homeostasis (movements to return to equilibrium). The reason for their existence is the necessity to maintain or reverse the repetitive or revolving processes on which animal life is built in order to provide the stability suitable for a gradual evolution. Therefore they oppose any profound change in the being or any hastening of his evolution.

The harpies are “abductresses” who kidnap people without leaving a trace:  that is, they make states of consciousness disappear without us understanding how this has happened. These “troublemakers” prevent the maintenance of peace and calm required for intuition to function correctly and for being able to receive influence from above.
The Harpies dwelled on the Strophades islands, “ones that move in circular motion” or the “revolving” or “winding” movements at the origin of life. From the cellular level up the scale of the whole body are displayed such protection mechanisms, for example the mechanism of the cells of enveloping a foreign body with matter. In the animal world repetition is one of the fundamental processes, which is illustrated in man by his habits.
The Harpies are therefore indispensable till a very advanced stage of yoga is attained at which physical transformation begins.

In the initial stages we are concerned with here, doubt is the great troublemaker for the nascent psychic intuition.
The seeker obviously wants to understand the changes in his inner state in order to limit their influence on his life and psychic visions. But it is very difficult to determine their origin: it requires much sincerity, perseverance and patience to track them and reach their root because these are functions which support the very construction of the ego at the animal level and are related to the appearance of the mind in the body (the Harpies are daughters of Thaumas, the second stage of development of life after Nereus, “the old man of the sea”).
To track the Harpies back to this primitive stage of consciousness the seeker must mobilize two of his most efficient assets, the two essential factors for this phase of the quest in the right movement of incarnation: the Boreads, Calais and Zetes, “the call or aspiration” or “righteousness” and “the search”. These movements are essential for the sâdhanâ. They are children of Boreas the north wind and so their orientation is toward aspiration for union in incarnation. Orithyia or Oreithyia is “one who hurls herself onto the mountain”, an Athenian princess and thus one of the goals for growth of the inner being. The Boreads are winged beings and represent honed mental processes. They can pursue these archaic movements of the vital consciousness to the point where the smallest energy condensates at the origin of life have not yet found their point of application (Floating Islands), that is, are not yet consolidated to create disorder and disharmony. Then the seeker can observe and understand how this condensate is transformed into repetitive or obsessive revolving movements (Turning Islands) leading to disharmony, disorder and disease.

It is obvious that the pursuit will be long as the descent into these archaic levels of consciousness requires patience and perseverance. This pursuit could even last throughout the quest because the Harpies are active down to the cellular level. However the active element will no longer be the mind but a higher order of consciousness. That is why the Boreads died once they succeeded in preventing the occurrence of the winding movements (the death of the Harpies).
In the quest of the Argonauts, it is only about a preliminary task, that of fighting doubt.

In another version the Harpies do not die.
Iris, “the messenger of the gods” requests that they be spared and in return guarantees peace for Phineus: the vital-mental processes necessary for the general equilibrium of the being must be maintained but the seeker who has adequately developed his receptivity is no longer perturbed by their action.
At first, it is in the mind that some degree of tranquility can be attained. Since the mind is a place where there is continuous unrest (comparable to a mad monkey jumping from one branch to another), perseverance in continuous asceticism can bring at least some amount of calm, if not mental silence; in fact the Boreads obtain tranquility for Phineus from Iris, that is to say a certain ability to isolate a receptive (intuitive) state from these troublemakers of the archaic vital plane.

When the seeker has succeeded in pacifying his mind and removing the doubt which disturbed psychic intuition he is in a position to intuitively perceive the great challenges to be met as well as necessary evolutions (Within the permissible limits set by the gods Phineus reveals to the Argonauts the trials that they will face before their arrival in Colchis).
However it is only by progressing in love that they will be able to proportionally progress on their journey as Phineus also warns them that the success of their endeavor will depend on Aphrodite.

Doubt is a mental process. In response to it we either refrain from acting or most often make a choice depending on the preferences of the ego. When intellect is growing the mind proceeds through trials and errors and doubt is its assistant. On the spiritual path however we aspire for exactitude in thought, speech, and action which originates from the inner soul, the psychic light, rather than from the mind. Doubt may be useful in building the ego or establishing free thought and developing one’s own identity, but it becomes an obstacle on the spiritual path on where certitude is obtained from the inner being that gains awareness through identity, through the light of the soul (the psychic being). For there is no knowledge in the mind which cannot be doubted, and true knowledge is only obtained by the soul or the psychic being that is one with the Truth. When we act from the mind, we are forced to make choices, but when the psychic governs the being we know the right way. The spiritual experience pertaining to the soul is thus certain and the key to it is the inner perception in touch with the body.
As Mother confirms it:
“All division in the being is insincerity. The greatest insincerity is to carve an abyss between one’s body and the truth of one’s being. When an abyss separates the true being from the physical being, Nature immediately fills it with all the hostile suggestions, of which the deadliest is fear and the most pernicious, doubt ” (The Mother’s Agenda, 17th October 1958).

The Dark Rocks: the first major test

Phineus counsels the heroes in these terms: “After you leave me and come to the place in which the sea narrows you will see two rocks, the Cyaneans” (Cyanean: dark blue, black). I warn you that no one who has attempted to pass between the two rocks has ever been able to avoid them. For their base is not firmly fixed and they are constantly coming up crashing against each other while above them masses of sea water rise up gushing and boiling into the air.
He advised them to release a dove: if it flew safely through then they could try to cross the passage. But if the bird perished they would have to turn back.
Euphemus released the dove and only the extreme ends of her tail-feathers were cut by the rocks closing back towards each other. When they parted again the heroes rowed with all their might. Halfway through the channel an enormous wave rose and seized with terror, they thought they were about to die. But Athena who had descended from Olympus to watch over the advance of the heroes braced herself against a rock and with her free hand pushed the ship through the channel.
Since then the rocks joined together and were rooted to the spot forever, for such was the destiny that the gods had wished for them. According to Pindar “the living rocks died”.

The journey is strewn with trials and tests which are all opportunities to make progress in specific domains.
In the Agenda of November 12th 1957 the Mother notes that there are three categories of trials:
“The integral yoga is made up of an uninterrupted series of tests that you must pass through without any advance notice, thereby forcing you to be always vigilant and attentive.
Three groups of examiners conduct these tests. Apparently they have nothing in common and their methods are so different, at times even so seemingly contradictory, that they do not appear to work towards the same goal, and yet they complete one another, they work together for a common aim and each is indispensable for the integral result.
These three categories of tests are: those conducted by the forces of Nature, those conducted by the spiritual and divine forces, and those conducted by the hostile forces. This latter category is the most deceptive in its appearance, and a constant state of vigilance, sincerity and humility is required so as not to be caught by surprise or unprepared.
The most commonplace circumstances, people, the everyday events of life, the most seemingly insignificant things, all belong to one or another of these three categories of examiners. In this considerably complex organization of tests, those events generally considered the most important in life are really the easiest of all examinations to pass, for they find you prepared and on your guard. One stumbles more easily over the little pebbles on the path, for they attract no attention.”

The first major test is at the entry into the Bosporus, “the cow’s passage” named in memory of the princess Io, ancestor of Heracles, who passed through it and had been transformed by Zeus into a beautiful white heifer to escape the wrath of Hera. It is therefore symbolically “the passage to illumination”. It marks the beginning of a long process and of numerous other trials that the seeker is warned against with quite some precision either internally or externally (Phineus had forewarned the Argonauts).
The trial in question is inevitable as it is the test for entry into the journey (nobody had ever succeeded to pass between the rocks unharmed). According to Apollonius it is a test resulting from memories or “knots” created by hostile forces which are however not firmly rooted in the body (the Dark Rocks are floating). These knots bring up great emotional upheaval when the seeker faces them by entering into the quest.
The Dark Rocks are also known as the Symplegades, “they that clash against each other”, portraying the confrontation of forces in the midst of which the seeker will find himself without having wished for it. It is the inner calm that he will demonstrate that will help him go through without much damage.
These “rocks” are related to fear and to the different kinds of possible behavior in the face of hostility.

Releasing the dove into the channel refers to the conscious examination of whether in a situation that generates fear we are ready to react in an unconventional way using inner calm rather than strength. The dove is in fact a symbol of peace.
According to Apollonius, if the seeker is not ready for this he must temporarily give up the journey and turn back. He adds that the Argonauts were told to “grip their oars well and to cleave the sea’s narrow strait, for the light of safety will be not so much in prayer as in strength of hands”. At this stage, once one has agreed to first propose and brings peace, mobilizing the will and all the resources of the personality is more important than submitting to the image that one can form of the Absolute, for the image is still too marred with illusion.
However it must be noted that during these trials the seeker receives important and tangible help provided that he remains available and trusting: this is what Athena’s intervention signifies. He can no longer ignore the fact that he receives assistance on his journey.

Progressive confrontation with death appears to be one of the features of the journey, first in the form of sudden episodes such as accidents and then in increasingly conscious and lengthier ways. Fear must be gradually eliminated from the mind and then from the vital being before it is possible to fight the last battles against it in the body.
The rooting of the rocks – or their “death” – after the passage of the heroes signifies that the seeker will not be confronted by the same challenge again if he has passed the test.

The high Black Cape

The Argonauts then continued to work hard at the oars. Tiphys encouraged Jason who was letting discouragement take over, assuring him that he would reach his goal, but Jason replied that he was not afraid for himself but for his men. They thus travelled past the high Black Cape.

The seeker realises that in the course of his journey he has to abandon some processes put in place for the yoga which were useful to him at the beginning of the journey (Jason is afraid for his men). He fears the transformation, yet his good “self-knowledge” tries to reassure him of his ability to reach the goal.
Apollonius then mentions a “great shadow”, the high Black Cape, which the Argonauts sailed by without any difficulties, as if the seeker became aware of a possible spiritual deviation without succumbing to it and thus without bearing any consequences.
It also represent the last possibility of seduction by deceiving spiritual paths.

Encounter with the Master or one’s personal path

The Argonauts disembarked on the port of the desert island Thynias. It was the moment just before dawn when a faint glimmer appears in the night: upon awakening men call it “the break of dawn”.
It was then that Apollo appeared before them with his silver bow in hand. He was on his way to the Hyperboreans. Under his feet the entire island trembled and the waves broke thunderously on the shore. At the sight of him an overwhelming awe seized the heroes; none of them dared to meet the beautiful eyes of the deity. When at last they raised their heads Apollo was already far away and they named the island “Apollo of the dawn” and took an oath to help each other for ever more.

Phineus had not only cautioned the heroes against the dangers of the Dark Rocks but had also given them precise indications about the route to follow all the way to Colchis where the Golden Fleece was to be found. The seeker then broadly senses what changes he must bring about in himself in order to refine his sensitivity and purify himself. Perhaps he is assisted in this way by the modern soothsayers, astrologers and mediums.
He comes to the point of the journey at which the very first brilliant glow of psychic light will reveal itself although he thinks that he has not made any significant progress in the growth of his inner being (the Argonauts are on the desert island of Thynias, “evolution of the inner being”).
When this first glow appears, the quest of “his” path disappears: the seeker has finally arrived at the harbor…of the true beginning. He has found “his” path, usually in the form of an encounter with the “Master” or with the legacy of his work if the latter has already left his/her body.
The encounter takes place when the seeker does not expect it at all, for as the saying goes “when the disciple is ready, the Master appears”. It is accompanied by a feeling of certainty, completeness, quiet joy, wonder and above all, tranquil sense of evidence. The quality of this encounter is very different from the preceding ones that constituted “preparatory” experiences. There is not the slightest doubt: it is instantly clear that one has found one’s path and will stay true to it till the end of one’s life. In addition the “Master” is not above or beyond but is like a very close friend even if he/she left his/her body.
However the intensity of the experience is relatively ephemeral and that is why the Argonauts’ vision of the “Apollo of the dawn” is like a lightning flash. Nonetheless the certainty of having found their right path is indestructible and unforgettable from that moment onward.
This discovery will help the seeker finally gather and focus all his strength in a single direction. Till that moment various elements of his being had been continually pulling in their respective directions due to an invariably unsatisfied quest. It was never “that” which he had been waiting for.
Now although he knows that he is still at the beginning of the journey, if one or the other of his parts fail he knows that the others will overcome this deficiency. For example if the body is tired or falls sick, the mental and psychic will seize the reins to continue the yoga; if depression occurs, the body will resist it with all its might and the mind will endure it; and if the mind is in doubt or continues to experience a lack of understanding the vital being will maintain the drive and joy (they took an oath to help each other forever).
The encounter with the “Master” is adequately described in spiritual literature so we need not dwell at length on this episode. It marks the end of the first stage, the first major turning point: that is why soon after the heroes passed by the “Great Elbow”.  

This turning point is marked by changes and realizations which Apollonius mentions without giving details:
The heroes cast anchor at a point beyond the Cape Acheron near the entrance of the Cave of Hades from which an icy breeze was emanating and forming shining white ice crystals all around. There the lord of the land Lycus and his people built up a friendship with the Argonauts.
An experience “above” is always followed by an experience “below” because an advance in consciousness is immediately used to bring light to the inconscient, the world of Hades. This is why Lycus, a symbol of “the light before dawn”, is the king of this region and makes friends with the Argonauts.
But at this point of the journey there is no descent possible into Hades: this is just a preliminary experience for descending into the depths.
While supreme consciousness is associated with a fire endowed with of an intense power of movement the inconscient is the place of icy fixity (hence the ice crystals coming from within the cave).

Jason spent a day of friendship with Lycus, “the wolf, or the light before dawn”: even though the encounter itself was like a lightning flash, the seeker stays in touch with his inner truth for some time, which eventually allows him to incorporate numerous aspects of his life.

The soothsayer Idmon who knew his destiny from the signs of birds was killed by a boar in a marsh and was replaced by the soothsayer Mopsus: now that the seeker has found his path it is a higher kind of intuition that must guide him. According to Apollonius, Idmon and Mopsus are both sons of Apollo and are therefore related to psychic light. But in Idmon’s case it appears to be still strongly associated with the mind (he draws knowledge from the birds) whereas at this point an intuition coming from the inner being, from the core of the psychic soul, is to be developed in order to “receive from above in a state of receptivity and consecration” (Mopsus). In fact intuition related to the mind does not appear to be in a position to fight the energies of the lower vital being which disturb the yoga. This is the reason why Idmon’s death is caused by a boar.

At this time Tiphys, the first helmsman of the expedition, also dies of an illness. Ancaeus, Erginus, Nauplius and Euphemus offer to replace him and the first of them is selected. The Argonauts arrived at the Great Elbow soon afterwards.
Ancaeus and Erginus both prided themselves in their skill as helmsmen as well as in their expertise in war and demonstrated the seeker’s commitment in the same manner in a combination of abilities to guide the process of yoga (they were skilled helmsmen).
It is no longer the knowledge of the emotional self and the ability to find one’s way in faint light (Tiphys) that needs to be at the helm, but “he who embraces, who holds in his arms” (Ancaeus). He will be the symbol of “Integral Yoga”, the one who works on all planes of the being as he incorporates the three yogas of Knowledge, Devotion, and divine Works.
Neither the skill of divination (Euphemus), the capacity for work (Erginus), nor the sole skill of leading the quest (Nauplius) are at this point able to lead.

Thus a reorientation of the process of Yoga takes place: the Great Elbow.

Subsequently the heroes closely avoid a battle with the Amazons: at this stage the victory in such a battle, the adherence of the vital being to yoga which is a sign of a state of wisdom and sanctity, is not expected. Surrender of the lower vital being – anger, sexuality, etc. – is a result of a much more advanced stage of Yoga.

Other mistakes

The myth depicts some other mistakes that the seeker must become aware of even though he does not have to correct them at this stage as the Argonauts sail off the coast. Some of these are the attraction for an arduous path that is expected to please the Divine, the trust in the predominant efficiency of the mind, the projections and the blocked energies.

The Argonauts reached the land of the Chalybes whose inhabitants did not care to toil the land or graze their cattle or grow honey-sweet fruits but extracted iron ore without ever taking rest. Amidst the dark flames and smoke they wore themselves out in this laborious work.

What is denounced here is an excessive investigation into the depths of the subconscious – nowadays called the inconscient – which leads to a hardening of the soul (Chalybe signifies “hardened iron, steel”) in place of a healthy concern for a regular and conscientious work of yoga carried out in a gentle manner. It is an arduous journey grounded in one’s own effort and will, the polar opposite of “the sunlit path” which presumes surrender. However the author does not indicate that we cannot expect any results from it as the Chalybes were extracting ore.
They did not care to toil the land: the seeker does not work on his nature in the way he should for the purpose of purifying and perfecting it with the aim of union. In other words they were not concerned with the labors of Demeter, “the mother of union”. Nor did they care to graze their cattle or grow honey-sweet fruits: the seeker’s concern is no longer even the vigilance for the correct development of the potentialities of one’s being, and even less so is the search for what can bring psychic joy.

Then they sailed past the coast of the country of the Tibareni. In this land, when women bore children to their husbands the latter were the ones to moan and whine complainingly, lying dejectedly on their beds with bandaged heads while their wives took good care to feed them and prepare childbirth baths for them.
In this story an inversion of the goals and the labours of yoga are being highlighted: the seeker takes a means or his discipline of yoga to be his aim.
For example he gives increasing importance to the framework of his meditation or to a discipline like Hatha Yoga, he refines it, makes it the highest priority in his life, and brings to it all kinds of justifications and attention to nurture it. He focuses on his practice endorsing it with his own vision of the goal.
While a new dynamic of the being is coming forth (the women who are giving birth) the active part of the mind is ineffective (the bandaged heads) and the seeker complains, imagining that he has worked very hard and deserves care and reassurance. It is actually a sort of blackmail towards the Divine which continues for a long time in yoga as a sly way of satisfying the ego: if I am a good disciple in my chosen practice, I very well deserve this or that.
All the attachments to the labours that should be practised with flexibility and given up as soon as the inner being feel it should come to an end can be included in this category. This is the case for example with attachment for the sake of principle to virtues, renunciation, non-violence, and so on (Tibareni probably signifies “to carry a heavy load on the spirit”).
Undoubtedly the path of renunciation was necessary in ancient forms of spirituality the sole aim of which was to attain a paradise of the spirit. But renunciation cannot have the same role today in the context of a spiritual path which aims at the blossoming of all of life’s potentials in Truth. It can and should undoubtedly be a temporary stage; it should prepare for a return to life on the path of non-attachment which is far more difficult to achieve.
One must always remember that yoga is constituted of reversals and what helps at one stage of the journey becomes an obstacle for the next.
Since the Divine is patient with the seeker he nonetheless receives “the bath of childbirth”.

After that the heroes travelled past the land of the Mossynoeci whose customs were different from those of other people: “Whatever it was right to do openly before other people or in the market place, all this they did in their homes but whatever acts we perform privately they performed out of doors in the open streets without shame. They did not even feel restraint at coupling in public and with no consideration for those present they would, like feeding swine, lay with the women upon the ground.
Here again there is an inversion, no longer between the practice and the goal but between inner and the outer reality. It seems that what is narrated here refers to seekers who divulge their inner life and experiences in public including a demonstration of their powers (their coupling), whereas the inner experience must be kept a secret for a long time so as to retain its power. On the other hand they carefully conceal the acts that do not conform to what they claim to have achieved.
This story might also indicates seekers that pretend to be free through the satisfaction of all desires.

Mental preparation

The heroes then approach the island of Ares. It was populated by birds whose feathers fell from the sky like sharp arrows, causing serious injuries. The Argonauts were reminded of the strategy that Heracles used at the Stymphalian Lake: resorting to the clattering sound of bronze pieces striking together to drive away the birds.
So they began striking on their shields while shouting out with wild cries. The frightened birds fled and the Argonauts were able to land without any further risk.

The birds are symbols of mental movements and The Argonauts’ quest being at this point at its beginnings, these birds represent destructive thoughts of judgment, hatred, contempt, etc.
The birds that Heracles fought at the Stymphalian Lake were more related to the process of purification which should be carried out deep into the layers of the vital being down till the physical mind. In the case of this great hero what is needed is the identification and segregation of the mental movements from the purely vital processes. An example of this is the layer of the self-defeating physical mind which keeps the body at the grasp of disease and prevents it from getting cured by its own forces.
The work is carried out here on the island of Ares where the force acts on the level of mental forms and destroys what no longer has its place. This island is also the place of dual thoughts.
Apollonius describes a strategy that is inspired by Heracles’ use of the clattering sound of bronze. “What concerns mastery” (Amphidamas) is what advocates discipline: although the technique of Mantra does not appear to be clearly described here Apollonius recommends to fight these harmful thoughts by preventing them from penetrating the consciousness (by using a shield) and by fighting them with the flame of aspiration (the tossing of the blood-red helmet crest) combined with a strong determination supported by powerful expression (prayers, mantras, etc.).

It was at this moment that the heroes met the sons of Phrixus who had left the kingdom of Aeetes to reclaim the inheritance of their grandfather Athamas. Soon after their departure they had endured a fierce storm. Their ship had foundered and they had been hurled on to the island’s shore. They agreed to accompany the Argonauts till Colchis, but not without warning them of the great dangers they would be exposed to.
It must be recalled that Phrixus, “the shiver”, had escaped death by fleeing with his sister Helle on the back of the Ram with the Golden Fleece. In Colchis King Aeetes, son of the sun god Helios and thus a specific expression of the light of the supermind, gave him in marriage one of his daughters, Chalciope “inflexibility” (the mark of the soul that does not compromise) who bore him four children. (Since Phrixus does not appear again in the rest of the myth the authors give him a long lived old age in Colchis.)
The meeting of the sons of Phrixus and the Argonauts indicates that the seeker revisits this very first experience and establishes the link with what he will be searching for henceforth. The sons of Phrixus are symbols of a kind of nostalgia, a call for rediscovering the disposition and the means which had led to the first “contact with what is Real” (they wanted to reclaim the inheritance of Athamas). They are the ones who will guide the seeker till the point of recovery of a corresponding sensibility (they would guide the Argonauts to Colchis).
But these forces cannot join hands till the quest has not made adequate progress and thus the timely shipwreck compels them to be patient.
In addition when the forces join hands the seeker receives specific signs which warn him that an important experience of the same nature as the first stirring awaits him.

Then the heroes sailed close to the island on which Cronus, deceiving Rhea, united with Philyra, the nymph who bore him the “good” Centaur Chiron.
We have come across the “good” Centaur Chiron at the beginning of this chapter. It must be recalled that he represents the abilities of concentration, harmonisation, mastery and purification which should be acquired before starting out on the journey. Chiron is the highest realisation of one who has not yet purified his lower nature. However it is an exceptional realisation since he is immortal, which is to say that he does not belong to the field of duality. This ability to harmonize must nonetheless be abandoned when it comes to the yoga of the body so that it does not interfere: Chiron, suffering terribly from an incurable wound at the knee, exchanged his immortality with Heracles according to some ad Prometheus according to others.
The fact that the heroes only sail close to the place where Chiron was conceived indicates that the seeker temporarily comes close to the highest healing science, the source of methods with which he can be a simple channel for the powers arising from the worlds of Unity.

Next they caught a glimpse of the Caucasian mountain peaks on the horizon and heard the tearing cries of Prometheus. The latter was chained to the mountain and his liver was devoured by day by Zeus’ eagle and regenerated overnight.
In this episode the seeker becomes aware of the phenomenon of cycles in the mind as is illustrated by the end of the myth of Prometheus, “he who gives priority to his aspiration for the growth of his inner being”. Let us remember that these cycles also regulate mental functioning according to very long periods in which there is an alternating predominance of the forces of separation on the one hand and the forces of unity or fusion on the other. The more thought and reflection become important in humanity, the more strongly is mental consciousness formed and the more man lives under the alternating influence of these forces whether he wants it or not.
This principle is demonstrated in the history of civilisations by the succession of humanist periods which place man at the centre and Middle-Ages periods in which it is the Sacred that occupies this central place. The mode of mental functioning is very different in each period, and one must understand that even independently from evolution, thought processes in the Middle-Ages were not at all as they are now.
Day symbolises periods of remoteness, detachment and separation in which the connection with what is Real loosens and faith decreases while night encourages closeness and intimacy with the Absolute and restores faith. The eagle of Zeus symbolises the action of the forces at the level of the gods, the highest of mental consciousness, the overmind. It oversees the said alternation necessary for allowing individuation without letting humanity irreversibly distance itself from Unity. When the seeker enters the non-duality of the mind (starting at the illumined mind level) and becomes a “knower” he liberates himself from these cycles and the eagle of Zeus can then disappear. This is the symbolism of the labour of Heracles dedicated to the quest of the Apples of the Hesperides.
Apollodorus mentions an exchange of immortality between Chiron and Prometheus, but this version is not agreed upon unanimously. Eschylus wrote a version of “Prometheus Unbound” which we know nothing about but the late tradition confirmed that Heracles freed the Titan.

Poem 3: Karmic memories and the acquisition of the Golden Fleece

Jason convinced the Argonauts to send just a small delegation to Aeetes. Only the sons of Phrixus along with Telamon and Augeias accompanied him.
Aeetes was angry at first, accusing them of wanting to seize the throne but then agreeing to let them go in search of the fleece on the condition that Jason should pass a certain test. The hero had to yoke two dreadful bulls with feet of bronze and exhaling fire as the king was used to doing. Then he had to plow four acres of the fallow land of Ares with the bulls to then sow in it the dragon’s teeth. From this sowing fierce armed warriors would spring up whom the hero would have to kill before they killed him.
(The dragon had been killed by Cadmus at the time of the founding of Thebes to free the access to the spring of Ares; Apollonius thus establishes a link with the purification-liberation process.)
The goddesses Hera and Athena who were closely watching over the expedition feared that the heroes would not be able to seize the fleece when confronted by the terrible Aeetes. They asked Aphrodite to send her son Eros so that with one of his arrows he would ignite Medea’s heart with a violent love for Jason. She was the second daughter of Aeetes, the first one, Chalciope, being married to Phrixus. The help of this sorceress and priestess of Hecate seemed indispensable to the two goddesses in order to save the heroes from disaster. Therefore a carefully masked Eros shot an arrow at Medea who was immediately enamoured of Jason.

On the suggestion of Argus, one of the sons of Phrixus, a meeting was secretly organised between Medea and Jason with the involvement of Chalciope who was worried about the inheritance of her children, for Aeetes in fact believed that the Argonauts had come to seize the throne.
During the meeting Jason could not resist the love that Aphrodite had kindled in Medea. He promised to take her with him after his trial and marry her. Medea gave him an ointment that would make him invincible to the bronze weapons and to fire which he had to spread on his arms and body. The ointment had been prepared with a “plant that had grown for the first time when the carnivorous eagle of Zeus let the divine blood of the unfortunate Prometheus flow to the earth on the foothills of the Caucasian mountain”. Medea also assured him that the protection would last throughout the day without fail and recommended that he must never refuse to fight but when the warriors would spring up from the ground he must throw a heavy stone in their midst without being seen because then they would fight among themselves to seize it.
Just before the test Telamon and Aethalides went to collect the teeth which had to be sown while Jason prepared himself and offered a sacrifice to Hecate.
King Aeetes, the people of Colchis and the Argonauts assembled in the plain of Ares, “the Killer of Men”, to attend the trial.
Jason stood firm and waited for the dreadful flame spitting bulls and overpowered them one after another. Once he had yoked the bulls he ploughed the land and sowed the teeth.
Then across the field rose like stems of grain the fully armed “Sons of Earth”. Remembering Medea’s advice Jason seized an enormous stone and flung it in their midst. As expected “they who had been sown” killed each other to seize it. The hero then hurried cutting down those who were still half-embedded and the latecomers who were entering the battle. Soon the ground was red with the blood of the warriors and not a single one remained alive.
Dismayed Aeetes returned to his palace to consider a nefarious plan for dealing with the heroes.

It must be recalled that Aeetes the king of Colchis, “the consciousness of the whole”, is a son of Helios the sun “that sees everything” (Panoptes) and is thus an expression of the radiance of the supermind consciousness of Truth (Hyperion).
(The character structure of the name Colchis could be understood as the place of “the opening of consciousness and essential liberty”. Let us make note that in the Balkans Colchis is a yellow flower which appears at the end of winter.)
According to the most ancient legend Helios only had two children: Circe the magician, “the power of detailed vision” or “discernment of Truth” and King Aeetes of Colchis, “the high global consciousness”. (Κιρκος is a bird of prey, “the spiraling one” who discerns things from a long distance.)
The other manifestations of the supermind, Perses and Pasiphae, were added later on.
Aeetes is in fact “olophronos”, he who “envelops totality”. His capital is Aia, a symbol of the “development and organisation of existence-consciousness across all planes”.
The nymph Asterodia, “the path of a star” or “the path at the beginnings of light”, bore him his son Apsyrtus.
His legitimate wife Idyia, “she who sees”, bore him two children one of which is the magician Medea, “intention” – in this case it is the intention of the soul rather than of the ego as she is a granddaughter of the sun and Hecate’s priestess – and Chalciope the “inflexibility of vision-willpower”.
The name Μηδεια has the same root as the word μηδος which means at the same time “intention” and “the genitals of man”. The latter meaning is it seems often used by Homer and would associate Medea to the concept of a force of creation.
Another interpretation of Medea can be given based on the word μηδεις which signifies “none, nobody” evoking a giving up of ego with the passage into the first place of the psychic being.
Since at this level the manifestations of the forces are transformational powers of the supermind, the characters that represent them are magicians, notably Medea and Circe.
Medea is in addition a priestess of Hecate, “she who strikes from afar” which is to say “she who has long-term goals”. Hecate is a daughter of Perses “the transformation” (son of the Titan Crius).
It therefore seems obvious that those who opposed Aeetes the most strongly were the Sauromatians (or Sauromatae), “the vain lizards” simultaneously symbolising inertia, lack of commitment and one who has no path and thus no love.

The delegation led by Jason to meet Aeetes specifically includes heroes who represent the first luminous experience of the soul. These are Augeas, “flashes of light” and the children of Phrixus “the shiver”, the only ones able to “recognise” through similarity the nature of the experience which should now be powerfully manifested. We have come across Augeas in the fifth labour of Heracles, in which the hero had to clean his stables (some authors consider him to be a son of Helios and thus a brother of Aeetes). The seeker is also already fairly advanced in his knowledge of the structure of consciousness (Jason is carrying the caduceus of Hermes).
The last ambassador is Telamon, a son of Aeacus and father of the great Ajax, a symbol of “the highest consciousness” both on the plane of the spirit and the plane of matter. He is an uncle of Achilles and in this respect he is concerned by the yoga dealing with the purification of the depths of the vital. His name seems to simultaneously mean “mastery”, “endurance” and “self-giving” or “dedication”.

Apollonius then again resumes the description, almost in full, of the trial of Cadmus, an ancestor of Oedipus, during the founding of Thebes. The first half of the dragon’s teeth was sown by Cadmus after he had tried in vain to find his sister Europa.
It must be recalled that the Theban wars describe the purification of the centers of consciousness materialised in the body as the chakras. Therefore the trial of Cadmus illustrates the principle of purification of memories inscribed in the subconscious and corporeal inconscient.
Jason’s trial is also the description of a process of the cleansing of memories which is not only a particular test on the journey but must be carried out consciously from this point onward.

Through the test wherein Jason had to yoke the bulls and then use them to plough the land and sow the teeth of the dragon, the seeker must demonstrate on the one hand that he is capable of holding the energy that originates from the higher planes in order to use them in the field of duality (the spring of Ares). If the cow is a symbol of illumination then it follows that the bull is a symbol of the power of realisation of the luminous mind. Indirectly originating in the supermind and expressed through the overmind or coming directly from the overmind, this energy is so strong that a few drops of it are sufficient to raise vital storms in a seeker who is inadequately prepared.
Such an uprising can be observed in the years 1967- 1969 when according to numerous seekers some drops of the power of the higher planes brought about both a phenomenal aspiration for innovation and very strong vital reactions due to which the essential was lost from sight.
The bronze hoofs of the bulls indicate a power of incarnation that we can sometimes feel even at the physical level.
On the other hand the seeker must demonstrate that he is now adequately armed to confront certain memories embedded in his being which will emerge on this occasion.

This section of the myth not only refers to inner contradictions like those that the seeker encountered earlier in the episode of the Cyanean rocks but also to memories of evolution which can prove to be very destructive. Through their reference to the dragon’s teeth the Ancient ones have established a link here with the lineage of the Titan Oceanus to indicate that this trial perceptibly occurs in the same period as the beginning of the purification-liberation process of the founding of Thebes by Cadmus and at the time of entering a process of expansion of the consciousness (Europa).
In fact the first half of the teeth was sown by Cadmus after he attempted in vain to find his sister Europa. (Cf. story of the foundation of Thebes in the following chapter.)

It was Telamon “the endurant” and Aethalides, “sparks of flame, ashes”, who went to collect the dragon’s teeth from Aeetes. A son of Hermes, Aethalides was famous for his particularly faithful memory and his skills as an archer (a will resolutely turned toward the goal). His mother was Eupolemeia, “she who fights well in the mind”. We can therefore understand him as a strong capacity for illumination and purification by the highest mind which allows the light to emerge.
Without this capability combined with great endurance the seeker cannot hope to escape unharmed from confrontations with his deep knots.

“Ploughing the field” is a metaphor often used to designate “work on oneself” and the teeth symbolise the “knots” which have not been dissolved and have left marks on the inconscient.
Their reemergence makes it necessary for them to be confronted once again, but with new assistance. From this point onward the seeker is in fact in an “amorous” relationship with his soul’s project which is incarnated in Medea as “the intention of the soul”.
Additionally there must be an alliance between the intention of the soul and an inflexible determination (the two sisters, Medea and Chalciope, are in agreement about the strategy).

But that too cannot be done without a renewed protection from the supermind comprised of an unwavering faith for the completion of the task. This protection is represented by the ointment provided by Medea. It had been prepared with a plant that started growing at the time when Pometheus’ agony began, that is when man entered in the separative consciousness (in the process of the alternation of the cycles of the mind). Therefore “faith” is the remedy which compensates for the entry into the period of individuation “necessary for acquiring discernment” and acts as a balancing factor against the gradual distancing from the Absolute. This is what is described as the Test of Freedom in Genesis.
The only real protection for the seeker on the journey is an unwavering faith in the victory of Truth. This faith protects him from destruction, whether it is from men (through reactivated memories) or from the power of realisation of the luminous mind which can be destructive for the one who wields it.

If the “knots” are given the opportunity to be confronted to the most material reality (the stone) several problems resolve themselves without the intervention of the seeker by nullifying each other (to vanquish the warriors who had emerged from the ground Jason had flung a stone in their midst and they killed each other to seize it).
Internally as well as externally the knots nullify each other on the condition that the seeker is engaged in life and does not yield to a lack of commitment (Medea advises him to never refuse to fight).

When the moment came for the warriors the stone came to symbolise the opportunity to dissolve knots and associated sufferings. The latter provide greater protection as long as the knots are not called upon.
In addition it must be noted that it is not the seeker who activates the knots but that he only prepares the ground for them to be dissolved.
In this way this myth marks the moment when for the first time the seeker comes in contact with the spiritual energies that could help him in his task (Medea).

In a similar myth about the path of purification-liberation we will see that when Cadmus sowed the teeth five warriors survived and became the origin of the military castes of Thebes. Thus out of the memories that emerge there are some which would come up to the conscious level and serve as the basis for the process of the incarnated manifestation of the inner being. Others who had been “sown” would not have killed each other to seize the stone but because they would think they were being attacked by one of their fellows: it would then be the case of knots which can be eliminated by a work of consciousness without needing to be confronted to reality.

Poem 4: The return

Since Medea had decided to flee with Jason, she made use of her powers to lull the monstrous dragon to sleep so that Jason could seize the Fleece.
Then the Argonauts boarded their ship again and sailed in haste to escape the wrath of Aeetes and stopped at Paphlagonia to offer a sacrifice to Hecate.
Phineus had advised them to take a different route on their return journey but nobody was familiar with this route. Then Argus spoke to them thus: “there used to indeed be a route revealed by the priests of Egypt even before the sacred race of the Danaans existed. This land of Egypt was watered by the river Triton. It is said that a man from this land travelled across Europe and Asia and founded thousands of cities including Aia, the capital of Aeetes. The descendants of the men who populated these cities preserved the inscriptions engraved by their fathers which show all the routes and give instructions to those who want to travel around the Earth and the sea. They would have gone up the river Istros that is very deep and can be navigated over a long distance. This river is the only one to cover such a vast territory, as it originates from a roaring far-away source in the distant Rhipaean Mountains beyond the winds of Boreas. ”
A goddess then sent a celestial ray indicating a direction, and following this favourable sign all of the Argonauts exclaimed that they would follow the indicated route.

The yoga proceeds through successive ascents and integrations. Every time a new stage is reached one must go backward to haul the entire being up to the present level. This is the reason why different myths allude to different “return” journeys. The most famous is that of the Argonauts and of the soldiers returning from the Trojan War, including the return of Ulysses narrated in the Odyssey.
Thus the poem 4 marks the beginning of a necessary integration since the seeker gained the highest awareness and sensitivity possible at this point on the journey when the forces employed in the quest and the intention of the soul converged.
The bringing back of the Golden Fleece – a symbol of a well-developed sensitivity, a certain “awakening” – is just a formality because the trials and tests of mastery as well as the dissolution of some of the knots have already been successfully cleared.
The seeker is then seized by a strong determination to take responsibility for his destiny and the forces of ignorance which oppose evolution are temporarily put to sleep; Medea, “the intention of the soul” or “the protector” lulls to sleep the dragon born at the foot of the rock of Typhon (which is the symbol of ignorance). Thus with the Fleece the seeker acquires the possibility of True Knowledge.
The close union of the “intention of the soul” with “that which receives from above in an imperfect manner” (the union of Medea and Jason) will last during the entire return journey and for some time after that till the death of Pelias and Medea’s banishment by Creon.

However bringing the Fleece back does not mark the time when the great experience of union takes place, which will have to wait till the marriage of Jason and Medea and the crossing of the desert. It only marks an opening of consciousness which helps in recognising the personal path.
We have said that the Golden Fleece of the ram is a symbol of a developed sensitivity as well as an “awakening”. If we look at the character structure of the words Apollonius used to describe it we also find the idea of the opening up of consciousness into incarnation (κωας), the right evolution toward union (δερος) and for the ram the right opening of consciousness (κριος).

According to Apollonius’ tale the seeker has at that moment no idea of how to pursue his journey so that it does not follow the same route, or in other words so it does not use the same means as for the ascent. For the period of integration should unfold based on a different sâdhanâ and also gives rise to experiences of another nature.
At this point Apollonius makes a digression to indicate that the Egyptians had already experienced, elucidated and formalised the next steps of the path. He expresses himself through the words of Argus (son of Arestor) who is a symbol of that part of the seeker which is the most purified through the work of sincerity and is thus the most “luminous” of the Argonauts: the Egyptians had recorded on “engraved tables” all the necessary instructions.
Through initiation and his own search the seeker can use the ancient descriptions of the journey. In fact there lived in ancient Egypt an “Aerial” race “that had access to higher regions of the mind”, and a great initiated person of this race had travelled across Europe and Asia. (The classical translation of Ηεριη (αερια) is “Land of Mist” but it appears to be a misunderstanding.)
In other words this great initiated person had travelled the path that is accessed through “a vast vision” acquired through purification (Europe) as well as the confines of the ascent of the planes of consciousness and the descent of the corresponding forces (Asia). He had organised structures of consciousness which the seekers could rely on: he founded several cities, including Aia. Other initiated people followed in his footsteps and passed on their knowledge through hieroglyphics, “engraved sacred letters”. (Several of the initiates who followed him on this path “engraved” their journey on stone.)

The name of the river Istros comes from the word  “knowledge” which is a union of “vision” and “learning”. (On this subject refer to the Dictionnaire Etymologique de la Langue Grecque by Pierre Chantraine). The route of this river is that of the “seers” and “sages” from all traditions including the Vedic “rishis”.
This “knowledge-vision” is the only way to pursue the journey for an extended period (Istros being the only river to cover such a vast territory) till the end of personal asceticism (beyond the breeze of Boreas), when the Divine directly takes responsibility for the process of yoga, at the point at which the seeker reaches the stage when “higher sources” originating from the Rhipean Mountains act within himself and establish the “right link” (between spirit and matter).
Then the seeker receives a clear sign: a goddess sends a celestial ray indicating the direction that they must take.
(“Goddess” is the usual meaning ascribed to the word θεα, but this term also means “contemplation”.)

Filled with rage Aeetes demanded that his people the Colchians bring back his daughter Medea without further delay. A large army set out in pursuit of the Argonauts under the leadership of Apsyrtus the son of Aeetes. The latter bade him take a shortcut through the place known as “The Fair Mouth” and cut off the Argonauts’ retreat. The heroes would have succumbed to the sheer number of their opponents if under the threat of death they had not agreed on a peace treaty with Apsyrtus. This treaty stipulated that they could keep the Fleece that Jason had acquired through his feat but that Medea would be entrusted to Artemis till a decision would be taken by the kings of justice.
Learning of this pact Medea felt betrayed because Jason had promised her marriage. But assuring her that this was just a trick, Jason invited Medea to set up a trap for Apsyrtus in order to kill him. When in the darkness of the night Apsyrtus came to their rendezvous alone and confident, Jason pierced him with his sword. Deprived of a leader the team on Apsyrtus’ ship was annihilated by the Argonauts.
The rest of the army of Apsyrtus, not daring to present themselves before Aeetes without Medea, settled down permanently in the region.
However Zeus was infuriated by the murder of Apsyrtus.
The Argonauts subsequently reached the island of Electra and then again were brought back by opposing winds after a long journey. There they heard in astonishment the “speaking beam” which had been placed on the ship by Athena during its construction ordering them in the name of Zeus to purify themselves of the murder of Apsyrtus by the Goddess Circe, without which they would not escape the dangers of the sea.

The original legend is slightly different from that of Apollonius: Apsyrtus was still a child when Medea seized him from his bed on Jason’s orders and carried him away on the ship. In this version the chase had barely begun when the couple killed the child and threw his remains into the river.
Apsyrtus, a grandson of the sun, represents “what is right” (thought, feeling, and action) realised by the “carrying out of purification”. He is a son of Aeetes and Asterodia, “the path of the stars”, the manifestation of the first light of truth.
However in his highest consciousness the seeker is not convinced that he is ready for the completion of his task (Aeetes sent his people to bring Medea back).
If he had sincerely agreed to purify his consciousness further, that is to say to release it from all disruption caused by pride and ignorance, it would have made way for a better evolution (as per the agreement Medea was to be entrusted to Artemis till a decision would be taken by the kings of justice). Then he would have been capable “of speaking the Truth” which would have avoided him many subsequent detours. Apsyrtus had in fact shown the way going through the shortcut “The Fair Mouth” and had thus been able to advance faster.
But the seeker is extremely impatient to reify the intention of the soul with his receptivity as it is (Medea is impatient to be united in marriage with Jason). Thinking that it is not necessary to purify his task, he cuts himself off from the potential reception of the luminous flashes of truth or the “right movement of that which does not lie”, which of course vexes the superconscient watching over his evolution (Apsyrtus’ murder vexes Zeus).

The seeker must therefore “know” if he had another choice or if his actions were carried out with the awareness that it was the best that he could do, in which case the criminal couple would be purified of the murder.
His inner voice guides the seeker to proceed to a test of conscience that does not make any concessions, probing into the hidden nooks and corners of his nature: the “speaking beam” orders them to seek purification from Circe, the goddess who provides a truthful vision down to the smallest details.

Having entered the Eridanus the heroes sailed close to the place where the body of Phaethon was decaying. The latter had once asked to ride the chariot of his father Helios but was unable to control it and since the world faced the threat of being set ablaze Zeus was compelled to strike him down. He fell into the marsh that continued to emanate heavy steam rising from his wounds. No bird could fly over these waters without being plunged into the inferno.
During the day the Argonauts were exhausted, weakened and overwhelmed by the fetid and unbearable odour of the burning body of Phaethon. During the night they could hear the endless lament of the Heliades, daughters of Helios crying for their brother. After this the Argonauts entered the stream of the Rhodanus, a confluence of the Eridanus which came “from the ends of the earth where are the portals and mansions of Night”. It flowed into the Ocean through different estuaries, pouring into the Ionian and Sardinian Seas. Advancing further into Celtic territory they would have faced a miserable destiny if Hera had not watched over them.
Forced to turn backward, they “understood” the route of the return journey.
Having sailed through “the middle opening” they reached the Stoechades islands safe and sound thanks to the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux, the “sons” of Zeus who would also protect “the ships of future sailors”).

The seeker here is warned in two ways.
First of all there is a warning against the spiritual presumption of anybody who wants to conquer the sky when he is not ready. This leads to an experience which leaves indelible marks on the vital being, a terrifying fire that exhausts through the negative energies that it emits. The fetid odour that was emanating from the corpse contrasts with the scent of saintliness. Here in fact the seeker himself is not confronted with this spiritual fall but is only a witness of it (the Argonauts are weakened, exhausted and overwhelmed by the fetid odour). He can witness and endure some consequences of a psychosis resulting from a former attempt to conquer the sky (the Divine) and the all-powerful feeling that goes with it.
Against this tragedy of fire burning endlessly in a vital inner “marsh” thoughts are powerless: against psychosis speech and thought are ineffective (No bird crossed these waters without being plunged into the inferno). The grief of not being able to provide others with the high spiritual light that is kept hidden in the seeker is correlated with this (the Heliades were mourning their brother).

The second warning appears to signify that the seeker should not try to awaken the “serpent” of the Kundalini, the energy coiled at the bottom of the vertebral column, “at the ends of the earth, where are the portals and mansions of Night”. This energy feeds the subtle body as well as the evolution of consciousness and the seven chakras, (flowing into the ocean from all its coasts, pouring into the Ionian Sea and the Sardinian sea through the river’s seven mouths).
If he continued on this path the seeker would put himself in danger if he tried to proceed further. The divine grace that watches over and sets limits ensured that this does not happen and the seeker finds the correct route, helping himself with firmness and gentleness simultaneously (the Dioscuri).
The seeker should thus remain balanced on the middle path (the middle opening). These two experiences can undoubtedly lead to insanity and maybe even death if one does not guard oneself against them.

Setting sail again the heroes finally reached the harbour of Aeaea where they found Circe, the daughter of Helios and sister of Aeetes. She was cleansing her head vigorously for she had been frightened by her dreams of the past night. And now she could see beings that were neither men nor beasts but having the limbs of both advancing in droves behind her. In the past when the earth had not yet become compact it had brought forth such hybrid creatures which time had then divided into species by merging them.
Without knowing anything about the history of the heroes Circe understood from their behaviour that they had come to be purified and she proceeded with the necessary rites.
She then recognised Medea as being from her own race and the latter narrated the tale of the expedition to her in detail “in the Colchian language”. Unable to forgive their intentions and her niece’s flight she refused them hospitality.
At this point Hera who was still watching over the heroes closely sent Iris to summon Thetis. When the latter arrived from the depths of the sea Hera asked her to go to Aeolus (here a son of Hippotes) so that he would hold the winds except the favourable Zephyrus and then to Hephaestus so that he would restrict the blazing heat of his forge. She wanted to ensure that the Argonauts could cross over the sea without any danger and reach Alcinous king of the Phaeacians safe and sound and thereby avoid the monsters Charybdis and Scylla who were on their route.

Circe, daughter of Helios, is the “power of vision of truth in all the details”. She therefore sees with precision what is hidden in the depths of the being. We will come across her again in the voyage of Ulysses. This ability of a “detailed true vision” will be fully active in man only in the distant future for the name of Circe’s son is Telegonus, “one who is procreated – or who procreates – afar”.
The beings that are “hybrid, neither men nor beasts”, and are crowding around Circe illustrate a gradual and apparently disorderly transition through which nature carries out the transformation from animal to man.
The fact that Circe agrees to purify the heroes without even knowing their crime indicates that the journey taken was inevitable. But her refusal of hospitality is a warning that this higher part of the being disapproves of the orientation of the seeker who has given priority to what he thought was the goal of his life to the detriment of his purification (because of the murder of Apsyrtos). And we will see later on what drastic mistakes he will make due to this lack of purification.
In addition Circe and Medea use a language unknown to Jason, the Colchian language: the seeker is thus unable to correctly interpret the exchange that takes place at the highest level of his being although he has a vague perception of some movement in its inner being.

A period of calm ensues during which he is protected by the movement that watches over his evolution (as per Hera’s instructions) because a period of assimilation is necessary. Thus the forces that create new forms (Hephaestus) or even those which facilitate evolution and can sometimes be violent (the winds governed by Aeolus) must maintain a period of calm. On the other hand forces that govern the depths of the vital being (Thetis) must do everything to keep him from the catastrophe that he is unknowingly moving toward (Charybde and Scylla).

In fact Hera knew that without the intervention of Thetis their route would lead them toward the “channel of the sea” where on one side rose the rock of the terrible Scylla and on the other the swirling gulf of Charybdis opened. From her den in the hollow of the rock Scylla thrust her frightening jaws on all ships which approached and devoured its sailors.
Separated from the rock by a narrow channel was the abode of Charybdis who rested at the bottom of the sea. Sometimes a giant whirlpool formed in which ships were engulfed and sailors were devoured by the monster lurking at the bottom of the sea, and with furious roars she would vomit the debris of what she had just swallowed, the shredded elements bursting out in horrifying geysers into the raging sea.
Therefore it was not without reason that Hera feared for the life of the heroes. But if Thetis (daughter of Nereus and mother of Achilles not to be confused with the Titanid Tethys, wife of Oceanus.) agreed to help them avoid the channel of Charydbis and Scylla, she could guide them through the path of the Planctae, “the Wandering rocks”, where the rocks furiously ascended and descended upon the sea. It is said that once upon a time a blazing flame spurted out from that place and the sky was dark with smoke.

Before reaching these baneful waters the heroes passed by the Island of Flowers inhabited by the Sirens whose spellbinding songs made all those who moored in proximity to the island perish. But Orpheus brought out his lyre and played so that they would not hear their songs while the heroes sailed past the coast.
The Sirens had evolved since olden times: they had acquired wings and were now part bird and part young maiden.
As Hera had foreseen the heroes then approached Charybdis and Scylla at the “crossroad of the sea routes”.
Thetis and her sisters, the daughters of Nereus, came from all sides to assist the heroes. Avoiding the cursed places they guided the ship toward the Planctae and playing with the ship as with a ball that they would pass back and forth amongst themselves they led it across the dangerous passage without running any risks.
Then the heroes sailed by the fields of Thrinacia where grazed the cows of the sun with their immaculate white coats and golden horns.

At this point of the journey all the elements are in place for the occurrence of a dreadful psychic ordeal of a schizo-paranoid or manic-depressive type (Charybdis and Scylla) but the seeker is protected from it and perceives only a hint of the danger which can pass almost unnoticed in the course of life.

The seeker is first confronted with the “seductive” elements, the Sirens who attract him with a powerful force. They are daughters of the divine river Achelous, “the concentration of a strong desire or a powerful will” and the Muse Terpsichore. Muses are daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the highest consciousness that brings back to memory the harmonious past of the infancy of humanity. Terpsichore is “the fullness of dance”: “the dance of bliss” of Shiva-Nataraja, the dance of the Divine’s play in creation.
When Persephone, the daughter of Deo (Demeter, “the mother of oneness”) was still a virgin- when she had not yet married Hades at the time when the process of yoga did not need to be involved with unconscious – the Sirens played together with her. Therefore in ancient times they represented the goals of evolution pursued in harmony, a sunlit path of the infancy of humanity.
But they were transformed by mentalisation, becoming part bird part young maiden while continuing to celebrate the primitive harmony of evolution: they are represented as birds with the head of a woman.
They seduce with their songs and make “the sailors languid” with nostalgia for a harmonious period of past evolution. However this is no longer what is required from humanity that by the advent of the mind has to enter a period of individuation. The Sirens are thus an expression of a denial of incarnation, a refusal to consider Reality, and in this way they constitute a dangerous obstacle for the progress of yoga.

The sirens could symbolise an irresistible attraction for the experience of harmonised societies “idealised” by the seeker. They rely on the nostalgia for a harmonious state (which can be experienced either through trance or by rising to the heights of the Spirit) that might have been established in ancient times but is no longer relevant in the current period of evolution because now the work must be done and the battle fought in the field of manifestation and day to day life starting from a clear and perfect acceptance of “what is”. Today we can witness many movements which give way to these “sirens”, for instance the New Age movement and a certain overly idealised tendency for an ecological return to a state of nature. For the battle must be fought against untruth rather than for some idealised harmony that would have existed in the past.
We will come across the Sirens again at another level in the adventures of Ulysses.
Orpheus is the one who protects the heroes from the spell: the seeker defends himself from this “nostalgia” by establishing harmony through his submission to the right rhythm and by his knowledge of the laws of harmony and purification which helps place everything where it belongs.

At this point of the journey all the aspects are in place for the occurrence of a dreadful mental ordeal of the schizoid or manic-depressive type (Charybdis and Scylla), but the seeker is protected because the time has not yet come. However he has a premonition that he will later realise “liberation” in the yoga of the depths of his vital being and it will then be in accordance with the intention of his soul (Achilles will become the spouse of Medea after Jason’s death).

These two processes at the root of life – engulfment and destruction due to fragmentation resulting from the fundamental forces of fusion and separation – are expressed in the vital being by what we call love and hate. In fact as explained by the Mother both are at their roots distortions of the same vibration. This distortion creates internal violence due to not being able to fully absorb what one loves (the so-called love) and external violence that wants to destroy what one loves so as not to be tied to it any longer (hatred). (Ref Mother’s Agenda, Volume 6).

This is in fact only an initial glimpse of the future trials that will mark the voyage of Ulysses. The journey is indeed a progression of spiraling ascent and of the unveiling of the archaic layers of consciousness. Therefore the seeker undergoes the same types of experiences but at higher and higher levels of difficulty. Apollonius’s description of this picks up partly from Homer’s narrative in the Canto XII of the Odyssey.

On the other hand the seeker must deal with the Planctae whose name signifies ” wandering, unstable, and with a disoriented mind”. But there again the Nereids, daughters of the “Old Man of the Sea” and thus “instinctual vital forces” of the seeker, act so that the ship does not suffer any damage while crossing the Planctae. In fact the crew of the Argo had strictly nothing to do for crossing the Planctae because Thetis and the Nereids not only guided the ship but carried it literally across the obstacle.
For the seeker it is a confrontation with the mental knots (severe neurosis or psychosis) which present themselves as impenetrable walls (sometimes the rocks rose skyward like cliffs) and sometimes stay buried in the subconscious while disrupting the surface personality (sometimes they rested at the bottom of the sea covered with the mass of the wild flood tide).
It is from these solidified but not physically manifested pathological conditions (wandering rocks) that in the past of the seeker and of humanity a mind-fire was generated which he or she had taken for a spiritual fire. But confusions and illusions generated by the manifestation of this mind-vital-fire was actually hiding the light of truth. (Once upon a time a blazing flame spurted out from the summit of the reefs and the sky was dark with smoke so that the rays of the sun were hidden from view.)
That is the reason why Sri Aurobindo has always said that purifying the intelligence from separative ignorance and the confusion between planes of being was the first step in his yoga.
The seeker is protected by his instinctual powers that are not disrupted by the mind (Thetis and the Nereids), who not only guide the ship but literally carry it across the obstacle. Similarly only the swineherd Eumaeus stayed loyal to Ulysses in a more faraway stage of yoga.

The seeker then experiences (in a fairly superficial manner since the Argonauts only sail by the fields of Thrinacia, “the plain with the three-pronged fork”) a plane of consciousness that feeds the illuminating powers of the Supermind resulting from a sensitivity or total consciousness and a perfect receptivity for the Divine. While not being certain, we can think that it involves a very brief and sudden burst of abilities of a higher order related to the four powers of intuition explained by Sri Aurobindo (Then the heroes sailed along the fields in which grazed the cows of the sun with their immaculate white coats and golden horns). “The plain of the three pronged fork” is difficult to identify but I think that it refers to Tiphereth in the tree of the Sephiroth, whose symbol is the sun and who also represents the illumined mind which nourishes the expressions of the plain of intuition: vision, inspiration, immediate perception of the truth and of the relationships between all of its manifestations.

Then the heroes arrived to a vast and fertile island inhabited by the Phaeacians and ruled by King Alcinous where they were very warmly welcomed. Drepane (“the Sickle”) was the name of the sacred nurse of these people.
At the same time as the Argonaut’s arrival on the island the army of the Colchians arrived threatening war, having continued the chase to bring Medea back to her father.
Medea pleaded with Queen Arete, wife of King Alcinous. Not denying her mistake she justified her fleeing as having been caused by fear rather than desire for Jason, swearing that she was still a virgin. The Argonauts whom she had helped and brought back to their land safe and sound appeared indifferent to her fate and she urged them to keep their promise.
After having heard the plea of his wife in favour of Medea the king delivered the following judgment: if Medea was a virgin she would be sent back to her father, otherwise she would stay with Jason.
The Argonauts were secretly forewarned of this decision by the queen and they hurried to prepare the bridal couch that they covered with the Golden Fleece, and Jason and Medea then tasted the joys of love.
The Colchians respected Alcinous’ decision and thus Medea stayed with Jason.
But they feared the wrath of their king Aeetes and asked for permission to settle in the land of the Phaeacians, which was granted to them. They stayed there for several years till the Bacchiadae took their place. But that, Apollonius tells us, happened only much later over the course of centuries.

The mysterious Phaeacia that we will come across again in the voyage of Ulysses is a symbol of a “mysterious” transition in consciousness that helps transition to a higher state but in a super-conscious manner unknown to the seeker.
Apollonius gives us a clue that does not explain much when he names what “feeds” this transition Drepane, “the Sickle”, which is to say a reversal of consciousness.
This process is active all the way down to the yoga of the body. In the Agenda the

Mother mentions “reversals” on several occasions.
For Satprem the passage to the Supramental is a process as radical as the transition of a fish from a marine environment to dry land. But there are in all cases intermediary stages, amphibians in the case of the fish and the Superman to come in the case of man.

According to Apollonius the Phaeacians were born from the froth that formed around the genitals of Uranus flung by Cronus into the sea when he castrated him. Coming from the same origin as Aphrodite they would in this way be a manifestation of the fertilisation of life by the creative power of the Spirit. By its character structure, Phaeax refers to “a luminous consciousness both above and below” (or maybe “the radiating of the gradual descent of the Spirit through the planes of consciousness”).

Alcinous the king of Phaeacia is a symbol of a work of “soul fortitude” and a “mighty spirit” applied to “that through which one excels” according to the name of his wife Arete, striving within the framework of an identity of Spirit and Matter (Φ+Ι+Ξ).
It is here – in this work – that aspects belonging to the domain of the soul and resulting from the development of sensitivity will settle for a long period of time (the Colchians are the subjects of Aeetes) as long as the seeker is not overwhelmed by the “joys of ecstasy of the sunlit path” (till the arrival of the Bacchiadae assimilated into the lineage of the Bacchantes or Bacchae) which, as Apollonius tells us must take place much later on the path.

Upon their arrival on the island of the Phaeacians the union of Medea and Jason was consummated so that the fruits of the development of sensitivity/consciousness could be preserved, otherwise the aid for the realisation of the task would have been postponed (Medea would have had to return to her father’s land): the seeker thus takes an irrevocable internal decision to fulfill the goal of his life. It is therefore for him the beginning of his dedication to his task, the true goal of his life.

Although they had reached the outskirts of their homeland the heroes still had to undergo other trials on the borders of Libya.
While the land of Pelops was in sight they were roughly treated by a storm raised by Boreas which lasted nine days and as many nights. They were carried by the winds and the tides to the Gulf of Syrtis where the mud and the algae hold the ships back and were run aground.
There were neither animals nor birds and the sand stretched as far as the sky. The heroes were losing hope, becoming pale and their hearts growing cold and even the helmsman Ancaeus cried. They bid each other farewell and every one of them was ready to die in this distant place. Only moans and lamentations could be heard.
It was then that the guardian goddesses of Libya, “the glorious goddesses of solitudes” who asserted that they knew everything about the trials of the Argonauts appeared before Jason. They bid him to stop lamenting over his misfortune and revealed to him a sign that would indicate the right time for their return: “when they would see Amphitrite loosening the chariot of Poseidon it would be the moment to set out again”. But Jason was unable to understand this vision.
Sometime later a gigantic horse with a golden mane emerged from the sea and immediately disappeared from sight with a gallop as swift as the wind.
The heroes then had to carry the ship on their backs through the dunes of the Libyan Desert for twelve days and twelve nights, thus performing “a prodigious feat under the compulsion of necessity”. They then put down the ship in the waters of Lake Triton.

When the seeker has taken the irrevocable decision to accomplish the goal set by his soul he enters into an area of inner turbulence brought about by his asceticism (a storm of Boreas). Away from worldly interests, free from many of his beliefs and supports but without any clarity of vision in regards to his path he finds himself during this time in an uncomfortable and miserable position as if abandoned both by the Divine and by his fellow men. He feels that he has both lost his life and strayed away in his quest. He has given up, or so he believes, his old dreams and is supported only by his inner flame.
This however is a time for purification since the ship of the Argonauts has run aground in the Gulf of Sirte, “that which cleanses”. The mystics describe these trials that one comes across several times along the way as “spiritual nights”, periods of drought for the senses and for the soul (deserted expanses of sand) often coupled with a strong vital discomfort (the marshes) and without any of the previously familiar “divine consolations”.
However after a time the seeker glimpses the way out and is warned of a signal to come by powers which manifest themselves in solitude, protect the processes of freedom and know about all the past trials of the seeker (the patron goddesses of Libya, “the glorious goddesses of solitude”). Great strength will come to him endowed with an ability to correctly perceive the truths of the spirit “the horse with the golden mane.”  But the seeker does not understand anything of what is said to him.

Then begins a rather delicate period of maturation which can seem never ending, a symbolic twelve days and twelve nights during which the “vehicle” (body, vital, mind) undergoes a period of weakness and must be supported by internal forces engaged in the quest (the heroes must carry the ship). The personality that normally “supports” the quest has given in and is no longer operative at that time.

Having arrived at the shores of Lake Triton the heroes laid down their vessel. Parched with thirst they sought a spring and reached the place where on the previous day a dragon had been guarding the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. But it had been slain by Heracles and lay lifeless against the trunk of the apple tree. The Hesperides told them where to find the spring which Heracles, also thirsty, had made to flow from the earth. Several heroes, amongst whom Calais and Zetes, Euphemos and Lynkeus, thought that they would be able to join Heracles and had gone looking for him in vain.

The heroes then sought a way to leave Lake Triton. As they wandered the powerful Triton appeared and offered them a lump of earth while showing them the route to follow. It was a passage between the reefs that they would find by heading toward the place “where the motionless wave of the deep is blackest.” He also recommended that they always “follow the earth closely.”

Having followed his directions the heroes skirted Crete where the giant Talos attacked them with stones. Zeus had offered him to Europa after being united with her. He went around Crete three times a day to prevent foreigners from entering and as his body was made of bronze some add that he made himself white-hot and then took foreigners into his arms to make them perish. A single vein containing Ichor travelled across his body from his neck to his ankles.
While the heroes were about to turn back, the giant became the victim of Medea’s sorcery, ruptured the vein at his ankle against a rock and died. In another version, Medea removed the bronze nail blocking the end of the vein.

This “night” finally opens up to a period of light marked by several important events.
Here Apollonius outlines some notable elements of the progression.
First of all there is the acquisition of true knowledge (golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides). To clearly show that this is only a first approach the heroes noticed that Heracles had preceded them and had taken the apples! Thus the realisation on a given plan can never be taken as the goal or the ultimate accomplishment. Regardless of the efforts made the seeker cannot “know” beyond the transformation that has taken place at this stage: the heroes setting out in search of Heracles cannot catch up with him. Neither aspiration nor need nor search (Calais and Zetes) nor encouraging signs (Euphemos “one who pronounces auspicious words”) nor discernment (Lynceus) can change anything whatsoever. The seeker is still very far from having accomplished his “labours”.

This stage is marked by another death, that of the soothsayer Mopsus, “a broadened mental intuition guided by the psychic being”. It must be recalled that he had replaced the seer Idmon “one who is educated, skillful” who “knew his destiny by the birds” and thus a symbol of a purely mental intuition.
Just as the death of Idmon and Mopsus succeeding him represented an evolution of intuitive abilities – the transition from an intellectual intuition to a pure intuition from the psychic being (the father of Mopsus is Apollo) – the death of Mopsus marks the powerful mitigation of any intuitive faculty so that the seeker may face other trials for the ultimate goal of his liberation. The death of Mopsus is caused by residues of the fight against fear and vital greed (drops of blood from the severed head of Medusa, fallen on the Libyan soil and transformed into snakes).
Firmly established faculties can thus very mysteriously and suddenly disappear when other levels of realisation must be reached.

The seeker then receives support from Triton “the sea monster” who invites him to explore the most “dark and unknown” depths of his being, “a narrow path between the breakers that he will find by going towards the place where the stationary wave of the deep is the blackest.”
The name Triton is linked to the number three and probably refers to the outline of the caduceus at the level of the Sephira Yesod, the energy of life. Here Apollonius associates it to Phorcys and/or Nereus, that is to say to the appearance of the mind in life. Nereus is the “old man of the sea” and Phorcys the very first power of fusion in the vital – probably instinct – before the power of separation of the nascent mind as represented by Ceto begins to act.

The Argonauts are then confronted with Talos “he who supports, who endures.” According to some he was a survivor of the brazen race born from ashes, i.e. an afterglow of the first period of the quest in which the seeker pursued the Absolute at the peak of the emotional vital.
He was a bronze giant (a powerful protection, unalterable but not indestructible), one of the gifts given by Zeus to Europa after the birth of their two sons Minos and Rhadamanthys. It is a gift from the higher planes (Zeus), given to the beginner initiating the process of the opening of consciousness and of mastery (Europa) manifested as an ability to isolate oneself by protecting oneself from the outside in a somewhat “rigid” manner. This protection is however led by a right movement: Talos in fact has a single vein in which runs Ichor, the blood of the gods, a symbol of the “right movement originating from a gathered consciousness ΙΧ+P or a higher Will.
This gift therefore gives the seeker a certain ability of rigid isolation enabling him to exclude external interferences (foreigners) by burning them in the fire of his inflamed will. (Other authors speak of Talos not as a bronze giant but as a bull, the “power of realisation of the luminous mind” of the early stages which was in itself protective.)
If the novice seeker did not have this protection he would be very soon destroyed by the powers that oppose changes in the invisible planes.
When the seeker engages himself in his task (in the union of Jason and Medea) this primarily physical protection is withdrawn from him. Medea, the “intention” of the soul, then removes the nail from the ankle of Talos thus taking away the “rigid” power which supports this protection (the ichor which then escapes from the dying structure).

Subsequently the heroes were “terrified by a night that can be qualified as sepulchral: this sinister night was pierced neither by stars nor moonlight. It was only a black gaping void emanating from the sky or from I know not which darkness risen from the deepest abyss.” (Argonautica, Canto IV verse 1695).
Jason invoked Apollo and tears flowed in his anguish. The god heard him and drew his bow which lit everything around with a dazzling brightness. A small steep island appeared which they called Anaphe, the Island of the Apparition.

This experience of “sepulchral night” and “dazzling brightness” are the most significant experiences that a seeker can live through during this first major experience of the opening of consciousness or enlightenment.
Apollonius does not give any more details. Bypassing the rule that I had set for myself of not voicing my own experience I will base myself on it in this case as this testimony could perhaps give a better sense of it. It must however be noted that there can be a wide variety of experiences depending on the centers which are touched and open at that time. Sri Aurobindo specifies that this first experience can be an opening of the spirit or of the heart or both.
This “sepulchral night” was for me only one of the first manifestations of a powerful experience which lasted a week and then gradually subsided during the span of about two to three weeks.
This “night” is so particular that it is very difficult to portray. It did not last long, about two hours, and is completely independent of external activities: I was working in my office when it engulfed me, but I had the luck of having an isolated desk and no one disturbed me that morning. It was neither a state of trance nor any state obtained by concentration or meditation.
I was suddenly plunged into a parallel reality superimposed on the ordinary reality and equally informed by sensation and sight. There was no pain, no suffering, no fear, no anxiety, yet I gazed upon an absolute nothingness where there was not a breath of life, not even the slightest hope that this “void” would become animate. There could be no trace of despair, since there were no emotional feelings. I no longer had sensations and therefore had no impression, neither of heat, cold, life, death, shadow or light. In this space there was no thought, no life, no time. Paradoxical as it may seem I was both fully present in my office environment and in the presence of this “void”, dark but not black, which evoked the distinction made by Hesiod between Erebus (Erebos) and Night (Nyx) at the beginning of the event. It was like a bottomless abyss that filled one with a feeling that was unlike anything known. I had the feeling of balancing miraculously on a very narrow ridge which looked over the abyss, and it was imperative that I went forward along this ridge because the stakes were considerable.
This state could be defined as immersion in absolute negation, but a negation of what? It is not yet known, but the dazzling experience that follows gives an immediate insight into its opposite.

Satprem on his side narrates this experience in the following way: “suddenly I found myself in a tremendous darkness – we call it “night”, but our night is bright when compared to this blackness! Absolute blackness like the essence of black, which did not resonate with any vibration which would allow one to say “it is dark”: it was not black, it was THE blackness, like death, without any vibration, without a spark of black. A density of suffocating blackness. It was suffocating, one was there like one is in death – and in fact, it was death. And then, I felt (I say felt but it was not vague at all, it was very real, just that I could not see: I thought, I touched), I felt that I was suspended in an abyss, both feet on a tiny ledge a few centimetres wide, against a wall – a great wall, vertical, black like flowing basalt – which plunged into an abyss. (…) I had to cross to the other side. (…) Falling there was worse than death, it was death within death.
(…) And then … silence, crushing, massive, like a world of absolute negation, implacable, where one must not be, one cannot be.” (By the body of the earth or The Sannyasin. Satprem. Robert Laffont).

This sepulchral night is probably the one that Sri Aurobindo calls in Savitri (Book II, Canto VII), “the night of the grey Python”, the reverse symbol of the light of Apollo.
“He was alone with the Night of the grey python.
A nameless Nothing, dense, conscious, dumb,
Who seemed alive, but without a body and without mind,
Thirsty to annihilate all life
To be forever alone and naked.”

In my case the hours and days that followed were marked by different experiences in a very particular atmosphere.
To begin with the sensations:
that of a great clarity in the mind that gave me a sense of light, hence the name given to the experience: It was accompanied by intuitive perceptions associated with a feeling of absolute certainty.
that of being like a veritable bulldozer, being filled with forces in harmony with external reality and which gave me the feeling that nothing was impossible.
for the first time in my life the feeling of being very temporarily free from ego which was replaced by an another I, grander, more joyful, fearless, with a strong sense of “presence” in the world.
that the source of my actions was within rather than outside myself.
Then the events seemed to occur with miraculous synchronicity in expression of a general harmony. For instance if I needed to meet someone I would soon come across him on the street.
These forces from the higher planes naturally also enter the vital which caused with the greatest of intensity tears of gratitude and joy and other excesses of vital energy that I mastered with difficulty. When we see how a few drops of this force in 1968 in Paris brought down barricades we can guess what a small stream of it can cause in an individual. For the experience for me was more or less of the same type but in different degrees of intensity.

During some of the most intense days I was given the opportunity to live some other experiences, especially “revelations” in the form of powerful dreams, auditory and visual messages which gave me some broad guidelines about the “task” to be fulfilled in this life without defining the specific points exactly. This will be the reason for the death of Pelias on Jason’s return to Iolkos, the end of one “who progresses in the shadows.” For example I was told “that there are two children yet to be born” and each was the subject of an enigmatic sentence which became clear to me only over the years: I think that with this decoding of Greek mythology the first child is born. I also received some information about the structure of the Caduceus and the future transformation of energies in the Tree of Life which was necessary for this decoding task.

I know of very few accounts of this experience which allow for a broader understanding. It must however be noted that this is a brief “encouraging” response and not an end in itself.
It must also be noted that most narratives of spiritual experiences were narrated by men in an era in which mental vibrations favoured them. This influence which focused on the separating aspect and thereby on the logical mind was required for individuation. But in men it also favoured experiences of opening of the consciousness grouped under the term “enlightenment”. On the other hand women do not seem to usually go through these great experiences of the enlightenment of the spirit first. If the ways which provide access to the Consciousness specific to men are indeed those of the mind and the vital those specific to women are firstly those of the body and the psychic (the non-emotional heart, the soul) which open to Joy.
If as many foresee humanity is going through a turning point in which the forces of union and therefore the intuitive mind will regain predominance then the path of women will in turn be privileged. But we must take into account that this change occurs over several hundreds of years.
It will therefore be necessary for women’s particular paths to be clarified and included in mythology as well.

The contact that was established is etched forever in the internal memory. There will remain a point of certainty, the memory of a state which had already been glimpsed a long time ago by Phrixus, and the seeker will not rest until he can live permanently this state in which “That exists”.

The name given by the Argonauts to the island rising steeply from the sea, “Anaphe”, comes according to the text itself from the verb meaning “to shine, to appear”, and therefore means “what shines in the heights”. It is also translated as “Apparition”. Another translation more in line with its deeper meaning would be “that which appears in the light”, “which reveals or unmasks”.
Through its character structure this name expresses the evolution of a penetration of higher consciousness into the being making it radiate.

The last part of the story narrated by Apollonius is about the yoga which develops after this first major experience, but the author does not give any details.
When the Argonauts had undone the moorings to set sail again Euphemos remembered his dream. While asleep he held in his hands the lump of earth offered by Triton: it was watered with drops of milk and then transformed into a girl. Under the effect of an irrepressible desire he united in love with her but repented at once, imagining that he had been having intercourse with his daughter. But she reassured him saying: “My friend, I am of Triton’s blood and the Nurse of your children: not your daughter, but a daughter of Triton and Libya. But entrust me to the daughters of Nereus so I may live in the sea near the island of the Apparition, and I will later on rise towards the rays of the sun to welcome your nephews.”
On Jason’s recommendation Euphemos threw the lump of earth into the sea. At once arose an island, Calliste, “the very beautiful”, sacred nurse of Euphemos’ sons. They would first live in Lemnos of the Sintians and then Sparta before rejoining Calliste.

The spiritual power represented by Triton left a symbol of incarnation in the consciousness of the seeker (the gift of the lump of earth retrieved by Euphemos).
Euphemos, son of Poseidon, is “one who pronounces auspicious words”. He shows a “positive” vision of long-term evolution. As a premonition of times to come his dream first relates the need for a period of purification in physical incarnation (when matter, the body, has been fed by drops of milk). Then will come a new human consciousness which will not be the result of the seeker’s own asceticism (he will not feed the young girl with his own milk) but which he will consider as the goal. He will unite with her and this will lead him to limited expressions of the supramental light (the rays of the sun).
Meanwhile this “new consciousness” will have to be entrusted to forces that are at the root of conscious life (daughters of Nereus) and the feeling or memory of this first great experience will have to be maintained.

In other words it is not only personal asceticism which can generate the transition towards “Supermanhood” because to access this new state the seeker must have given up his entire yoga to the hands of the Absolute.
The meaning of the term “Superman” as used here is the one given by Satprem in his book On the way to Supermanhood. This author names thus one who is imbued with the “new consciousness” described in detail by the Mother in the Agenda of the year 1969. It refers neither to the seeker who has reached the level of the overmind nor to the Superman of Nietzsche who wants to be an improvement of the existing man. This new awareness will prepare humanity for the supramental transformation.

The seeker at once casts this “renewed matter” in the flow of life, which allows an initial materialization of the “task” to be accomplished, of his “life goal”. The “very beautiful” island is thus very real and is the anchor on which the seeker will be able to rely for the continuation of his progress in yoga.
The sons of Euphemos (they who go in the right evolutionary direction) must first live on Lemnos. We must remember that it is there that the Argonauts were united to the women who had killed their husbands. It is therefore an in-depth purification of false spiritual forms and the archaic “capturing” movement at the root of the ego (the Sintiens are the “preying birds”). This is basically a reunification of polarities and the realisation of human unity.
Then they will have to experience a revival (Sparta, “sowing”) before rejoining the “very beautiful” island which was renamed Thera “the exact movement of inner evolution”.
But Apollonius tells us that these events came “long after Euphemos”, that is to say long after the seeker received the premonition.
The heroes had to undergo no other trials before their arrival in Greece. 
And to conclude his narrative, Apollonius adds:
“May these songs from year to year always be sweeter for men to sing”.

The death of Pelias and the Games given in his honour

Pelias, who had stopped believing in the return of the Argonauts, had wanted to put to death Jason’s father Aeson but the latter had asked for the right to bring about his own death. Jason’s mother Polymede then hanged herself, leaving behind her young son Promachos who Pelias killed.

We have said that the Aeson-Polymede couple represents the seeker whose powerful individualised mind directs the quest according to his own thought and will, and with some dispersion. Even before the advent of enlightenment he goes through a phase in which “ignorance about his own path” – that leads to the desire to do good, which is as well a resistance to the right evolution (Pelias) – compels him to remove the direction of the quest from his mind (illustrated by the suicide of both partners). It is this letting go including the abandonment of the last “bastions” developed by brilliant mental work (the murder of Promachos “the last line of defense”) which actually allows the experience of enlightenment to take place.

It was to take revenge for the wrongs suffered during the quest and the death of his parents and his young brother Promachos that Jason with the help of Medea plotted for the death of Pelias.
Medea convinced the daughters of Pelias that they could rejuvenate their father (or perhaps only three daughters, Pisidice, Pelopia and Hippothoe, since some authors claim that Alcestis refused to lay a hand on him). For this purpose she cut up an old ram, boiled pieces of its flesh with herbs and potions and then brought it back to life as a young lamb. Very impressed the three princesses dismembered their father and put the pieces in a cauldron, but Medea voluntarily omitted to add the necessary herbs.
After this murder Jason gave the kingdom to Acastus (son of Pelias) who had exiled his own sisters after the death of their father.

For Pherecydes the quest of the Golden Fleece was undertaken at the instigation of Hera who knew that the hero being accompanied by Medea on his return, would inevitably result in the death of Pelias. The intervention of the supraconscious (Hera like Zeus belongs to the overmind and thus to the supraconscious) is in fact structured so that the first major spiritual experience automatically ends the ignorant wandering of the seeker (who has not yet found his path or his mission) and those commitments guided only by an “ignorant goodwill” which actually prevent the right movement of evolution (the death of Pelias).

The daughters of Pelias, Pisidice “she who tries to persuade or convince about the right way of doing things”, Pelopia “she with a partial vision” and Hippothoe “she who has an active vital” are resistances derived from this ignorance and seek to keep it active. The seeker is in fact still attached to his old patterns and actions despite the strong inner experience which has just taken place.
Only Alcestis “a strong rectitude (sincerity)” urges that this ignorance must disappear.
When Jason is united to Medea, “the intention of the soul”, ignorance about the life goal disappears and the seeker can look back and see that nothing in his quest was useless. He takes note of the journey travelled and the help given by the subconscious (Pelias is son of Poseidon).
That is why the Games in honour of Pelias were organised by his son Acastus “he who is very sincere”. But the old patterns of behaviour must first leave the centre of the stage, which is why he begins by exiling his sisters.

Only Hyginus preserved a list of the winners who with only a few exceptions are the companions of Jason mentioned at the beginning of this chapter: Calais and Zetes, the Dioscuri Castor and Pollux, etc.

Among the participants it is important to mention a namesake of Glaucus: defeated by Iolaus he was eaten at the end of the games by his team of horses: since he had habituated them to eating human flesh in order to make them more aggressive in battle, when this food was no longer available during the games they devoured him.
The name Glaucus refers to “brightness”. And since this character is usually identified with the son of Sisyphus it makes him the symbol of a “bright intellect” sure of himself up to the point of presumption which supports and enhances the expression of the vital (before the death of Pelias, Glaucus feeds his horses with human flesh to make them more aggressive). But after the first experience of inner contact, this “presumption” must give way to the “voice of consciousness”, Iolaus.

The Elders did not include these celebrations among the great Panhellenic Games probably to prevent the seekers from having the temptation of giving too much importance to the first experience of contact.

The separation of Jason and Medea, the death of their children and the end of Jason’s life

Their vengeance carried out Jason and Medea left Iolkos, giving the throne to Acastus and settled in Corinth. Some say Medea became its queen.
In some versions a few years later Jason agreed to marry Glauce, the daughter of Creon for the social and political benefits that he could thus obtain.
Many versions exist about the death of the children of Jason and Medea. In one they were killed by the Corinthians. In another Medea was indirectly responsible for their deaths but did not commit the act herself. Only Euripides writes that Medea herself killed her two children as an ultimate act of vengeance against Jason.
In some versions the two children survived: Medeios (sometimes also cited as a son of Aegean) and Polyxena who Medea took with her flewing away on a chariot drawn by winged dragons provided by her grandfather Helios.
Arriving in Athens she healed the Aegean king of his infertility and he proposed to marry her.
As for Jason the end of his life is generally not spoken about (except in second-hand accounts and in the version by Euripides which we have discarded as an unreliable source).

As is very often the case accounts of spiritual experiences do not bother about the end of the hero’s life. Therefore in the narrative by Apollonius there do not appear the elements that mythical history has retained: the separation of Jason and Medea, the death of their children and the departure of Medea to Athens before she finally returns to Colchis, elements which indicate that the realisation is only temporary and that the seeker is not yet able to hold on to the fruits of his experiences.

In fact even if he is no longer in search of a path the experience of psychic contact does not last and the seeker reinstates his unpurified mental personality at the same place from which he had started: Corinth, the symbolic province of Sisyphus. Some say Medea became its queen thereby expressing that for some time the intellect remains focused on the essential purpose and the quest henceforth continues through purification (Acastus, “purity”, is given the throne of Iolcus “the opening of consciousness for liberation”).

The effects of this first psychic experience also cannot be sustained for very long and this is the reason for the death of Jason and Medea’s children.
In spite of his experience in the higher planes of the mind the seeker is still attracted by the “shine” of “incarnation” (Jason weds Glauce, the “shining” daughter of Creon “the flesh, or the incarnation”. This Creon should not be confused with his namesake Thebes.) He is in fact far from being free of desire for a particular result, far from “detachment from the act and its fruits” (Jason considers the social and political benefits of the union with Glauce).
The manner in which Medea’s children died is therefore only of secondary importance, except of course for the dramatic nature of the tragedies.
The version which seems most consistent is one in which they were killed by the Corinthians, representatives of the “logical working of the mind”.
In the version in which two of them survived the first child Medeios is the expression of the “goal of life” and the second, Polyxena, indicates the pursuit of “a greater receptivity (from above)” which will help in reaching the goal here dominated by the mind (they are carried away by winged dragons).

To forge the link with the myths about the kings of Athens “who guide inner growth by rendering the mind spiritual” Medea returned to Athens where she married Aegean.

***

THE CAPTURE OF CERBERUS

Twelfth Labour : the Capture of Cerberus

Eurystheus ordered Heracles to go to Hades and bring back Cerberus.
According to Hesiod, it was a monstrous dog with fifty heads (he had only two or three in other traditions). He welcomed the arriving shadows but prevented them from going back towards the light, devouring those which tried to cross the threshold of the underground kingdom.
Hermes and Athena helped the hero achieve this task.
According to Apollodorus, when the hero arrived at Hades’ doors, the shadows fled except for two, that of the Gorgo Medusa and that of the hero Meleagros. Heracles drew his sword at Medusa, but Hermes warned him that it was an «empty shadow».
Penetrating further into the underground kingdom, he met Theseus and his friend Pirithoos who were still «alive» but chained for trying to kidnap Persephone. Some say that he freed Theseus but could not free Pirithoos.
In order to give some blood back to the shadows, the hero killed one of Hades’ bulls. The herdsman Menoetes got irritated and defied the hero to fight. During the fight, Heracles broke one of Menoetes’ ribs and his life was safe only thanks to Persephone’s intervention.
Finally, the hero found Cerberus on the banks of the Acheron (or, according to others, of the Styx).
Besides his monstrous heads, Cerberus had a tail made of a snake and a multitude of snakes’ heads covered his back.
Hades having forbidden Heracles to use weapons, the latter fought the monster with his bare hands. In spite of being bitten by the tail, he controlled him (or persuaded him to obey) and took him to Eurystheus’ house. The latter, terrorised, ordered Heracles to bring him back to Hades.

If the goal of the first Ten Labours was universalization of mind and vital, thus the abolition of the limits in those planes, the goal of the last Labour is to initiate the body’s transformation in order to ultimately obtain its divinisation and then its universalisation. According to Sri Aurobindo’s usage of words for the different phases of the yoga, the «perfection» of nature or “supramental transformation” must come after the «spiritual transformation» and «psychic transformation», and must lead to the realisation of a divine nature in a divinised body. It is no longer the work in order to obtain the personal liberation of the adventurer of consciousness, but the work of the Divine in a nature purified fully and receptive to the work and influence of the forces put into action.
This work leads to the depths of corporal matter where the union of the Spirit with the involuted Divine ultimately has to happen. This occurs in Hades’ kingdom which, let us recall, represents the force that watches over the union in matter’s unconscious. This god is simultaneously «he who is not visible» (who resides in the human unconscious) and the principle of a future integral union with full consciousness (ΙΔ).
The first stage is the awareness of what is opposing this process, Cerberus’ capture being the image of it.

Unlike the elements chased from the conscious which found refuge in the subconscious (from where they can always come back to consciousness through Poseidon’s action), it is impossible for those that have been rejected from the subconscious into the unconscious to cross the barrier in the opposite direction. Realisations which are no more necessary for evolution will not come back again to the conscious.
This can also indicate that once a victory has been achieved in the body, it is permanent, which is not the case in the mind or in the vital where the same work has to be done again and again until the obstacle is «worn out».
Besides Heracles, the rare exceptions in which heroes could come back from Hades could indicate a work-in-progress or the resumption of a process at a higher level. But it could be a confusion between unconscious and subconscious by late authors. To mention but a few, the legends of Theseus’ liberation do not appear before Euripides in the Vth century. The myth of Orpheus’ descent into the Underworld is still subsequent.

Like in the cattle of Geryon’s Labour and prior to approaching Hades, the hero faces two obstacles, both represented by a dog and a herdsman, Cerberus and Menoetes.
But here, it is only a matter of becoming aware of the obstacles: Heracles must kill neither the dog, nor the herdsman. Hades does not even allow him to use any weapon to control Cerberus.
It is thus only a very first approach of the yoga’s work in the body.
Before being able to move further, a number of realisations need to be effective. They will be detailed in the Praxeis, the hero’s «free acts» which we shall study in a next chapter.
If this work could begin in ancient Greece or even in ancient Egypt, it was doubtlessly limited to a small number of individual realisations. Nevertheless, let us note that in the Third Nemean mentioned earlier, Pindar seems to say that there was a time when this work was more easily realisable at the individual level (the time of «intuition»).

We are not going to discuss in detail this yoga of the body which is greatly described in Sri Aurobindo’s, Mother’s and Satprem’s works. We shall limit ourselves to the examination of the elements mentioned in the myth.

We must bear in mind that it is possible to descend into the archaic layers of the body consciousness to confront the forces that structured it only to the extent in which we realised the corresponding ascent in the worlds of the Spirit (the permanent union or realisation of the Self and the «psychisation» which brings a sense of Divine «presence»).
Demeter and her daughter Persephone work together to prepare this descent.
The authors who mention in this first stage the help of Hermes and Athena suggest that the seeker is not yet completely installed in the overmind.

The dog Cerberus is the first «guardian of the threshold» of body transformation.
Let us recall that he is the fourth child of Typhon and Echidna, «the ignorance» and «the halt of the evolution in the union». He is the brother of Orthros «falsehood», of the Lernaean Hydra «desire» and of Chimera «illusion».
According to the ascendants attributed to Typhon and Echidna, the victory in this work can only be considered by going back to the roots of life, at the level of Phorcys and Ceto, where the emergence of the animal ‘I’ occurs, according to Hesiod, and to the Tartarus, the primitive Nescience, for Apollodorus.

If Cerberus is a consequence of mental ignorance and of an evolutionary “halt” in the union, it must be defeated by the transcendence of the mind during the installation of humanity into the supramental. Thus, it is the first guardian of the secret the ancients were seeking, «the immortality» or integral non-duality, not only in the spirit but also in the vital and in the body (the victory over death does not necessarily mean an eternal body but a matter submitted to consciousness). We can then associate this to the «feeling of separation» in the body (the spiritual root of the mental-vital ego has been eliminated during the labour of Geryon’s cattle). Ultimately each of the three big stages corresponds to an universalisation: that of the mind, then of the vital and finally of the body. In the current mentality, if it is already very difficult to conceive the universalisation of the vital, it is even more for that of the body, which implies loosing the sensations of one’s own corporeal limits. The Mother’s Agenda and Satprem’s Notebooks of an Apocalypse suggest some characteristics of this transformation.

In the chapter about «the Origins of Life», we have assumed that the name Cerberus could mean «the principle that causes the process of death (of cutting)» or even, with the structuring letters, «the right movement that reverses the process of incarnation». The latter meaning explains the attitude of Cerberus towards the shadows. If he welcomes the ones entering Hades, he is known to devour those wanting to exit: that is to say that the elements or forces which finished their work or were chased from conscious and subconscious evolution, personal or collective, cannot go back.

According to the authors, he is endowed with a variable number of heads of which we can only imagine the meaning: two to express the fundamental duality, three to indicate the planes where it is active (physical, vital and mental), or fifty as a sign of totality in the world of forms.

According to Apollodorus, when Heracles went down to Hades, he was at first confronted with Medusa, the source of fear and of the processes of response to aggression, but he learnt from Hermes that she was only an empty shadow (the overmind informs the seeker that fear is only a lure). Satprem’s writings (Notebooks of an Apocalypse) show nevertheless that one has to dive deep into the body, beyond instinctive fears of dissolution or of the body itself bursting, in order to reach a state free of all fear.

Besides Medusa, Meleagros is the only shadow that does not flee when Heracles arrives (Ulysses will meet many others). Meleagros conducted the hunt for Calydon’s boar that will be discussed later and which deals with the mastery of the primary vital energies. He symbolises «that which follows the work of accuracy (exactitude, rightness)». He will make Heracles promise to marry his sister Deianira, the perfect «detachment». If Meleagros does not flee when the hero arrives, it is because he represents the only method of yoga conceivable in the body, «the accuracy» or «perfect sincerity».

The episode of Theseus’ liberation appears for the first time with Euripides, and was repeated by Apollodorus. It probably allows to follow up Theseus’ feats. But it appears as the right course of action that the greatest king of Athens – among those who lead the evolution of the inner being – accompanied by Pirithoos «he who experiments swiftly», attempts the descent into the body consciousness. This episode appeared, it seems, in the oldest sources.
Nevertheless, this hero does not intervene in the advanced stages of the yoga since, as the unique sigma of his name indicates, he still belongs to the domain of mental duality. We shall examine the texts about his liberation in a later chapter.

Then, still according to Apollodorus, the hero killed one of Hades’ bulls to give back some blood to the shadows «psychai» (this name is mentioned here as a reminder of the fact that the «shadows» of Hades’ kingdom are related to the growth of the psychic being and represent the seeker’s achievements): it seems that this episode indicates that the seeker has to sacrifice a «power» gained by the beginnings of a union in the body – for example, that of healing – in order to be able to revive the processes of consciousness which finished their work in the mind and in the vital and must from then on apply to the body. Indeed, the work is a spiral-like process which requires to face obstacles at a deeper level every time, but most often according to apparently similar requirements.
Yet, as was already the case for the growth of the mind which required to renounce many achievements of the vital, here the seeker must «sacrifice» spiritual realisations.
Since it is an evolution, opposition forces manifest to ensure it is happening «in the right way»: that is what irritates Hades’ herdsman, Menoetes, «consciousness of the separate existence» which continues to the level of the cells, the yoga of the body precisely consisting of giving them back the consciousness of unity. The hero broke the herdsman’s ribs whose life was saved only thanks to Persephone’s intervention: the broken ribs may hint to a «stifling» of the process of separation no more sustained by the «breath».

Then the hero found Cerberus on the banks of the Acheron.
According to the Odyssey (X, verse 487 and following), there were several rivers in the underground world: «at the end of the ocean, the Pyriphlegethon and the Cocytus (Kokytos), whose waters come from the Styx, flow into the Acheron. Both resounding rivers merge in front of the Stone. » It was usually admitted that the Cocytus was flowing in the opposite direction than the Pyriphlegethon.
To understand this passage from Homer, one must refer to the Caduceus symbol with its two currents of energy flowing in opposite directions.

The Styx «that which rights the Truth» is a current of consciousness the crossing of which «gives the shivers». It is fed by the tenth of Oceanos’ water, «the currents of consciousness’ indefinite broadening». It is associated to the Sephira Malkuth, one of the ten Sephiroth or main energy centers of the subtle body in the Kabbalah.
At the bottom is the Acheron, symbol of «the right movement of the One consciousness (or gathered consciousness) ». It is this river (or lake) that one must pass to reach Hades’ kingdom, in «the Unity of Consciousness-Existence».
The Cocytus is the current that descends from the Styx towards the Acheron, towards the worlds of Hades and of unconsciousness: it is then a river of «moaning and whining». As for the Pyriphlegethon, which flows upwards in the Cocytus’ opposite direction, it is the current of aspiration or «consuming fire».

The seeker meets the first guardian of unity, Cerberus, only once he reaches «the edges» of a certain exactitude in the body (the banks of the Acheron). There again is the «stone», the rock that must be crossed to reach unity.

But since it is still only the beginning of the work in the body for the hero, he had to bring back Cerberus in Hades after showing it to Eurystheus.

Thus ends the series of the twelve challenges, the «athloi», of which only ten were recorded by Eurystheus. Yet the hero’s adventures do not stop here since Heracles’ deeds continue with the praxeis, «the free acts».

THE GARDEN OF HESPERIDES

Eleventh Labour: The Garden of Hesperides

Eurystheus ordered Heracles to bring him back the golden apples from the Garden of Hesperides located in the Hyperboreans’ land on the Atlas.
It is said that it was Gaïa’s wedding present to Hera on the occasion of her marriage to Zeus.
They were guarded by a snake (son of Phorcys and Ceto according to Hesiod) and entrusted to three Nymphs, the Hesperides, who protected them from the lust of Atlas’ daughters.
Having reached the Caucasus mountain range, Heracles killed the eagle born of Typhon and Echidna who was devouring Prometheus’ liver and freed the latter. To maintain the sky, he suggested to Zeus that Chiron – who wanted to die because of his wound – take Prometheus’ place. The latter was grateful to the hero and advised him not to get the apples by himself, but to entrust this task to Atlas while he would support the sky. The hero followed his advice.
But when the Titan returned from the garden with three golden apples, he refused to take his place again. So Heracles had to devise a stratagem: on the pretext of sliding a cushion on his shoulders, he asked the Titan to relieve him for a moment. Obviously, he then did not take back the sky onto his shoulders and handed the apples back to Eurystheus.
According to Apollodorus, Eurystheus then handed back the apples to Heracles who gave them to Athena. The goddess brought them back to The Garden of Hesperides since they could not be anywhere else.
In another version, Heracles went himself to collect the apples after killing the snake-dragon.

With those two last Labours, which suppose an advanced stage in «the integral liberation», begins the path of «perfection» which consists of realising an always greater transparency for the action of the divine forces to operate within the body.
The previous Labours occurred in the four directions: The Cretan Bull to the South, The Mares of Diomedes to the North, The Belt of Hippolyte, the Amazon Queen to the East, and Geryon’s cattle to the West. The two last ones, The Garden of Hesperides and the capture of Cerberus, have been symbolically located by the elders in the two remaining directions, on the vertical axis:
at the Zenith, for the Garden of Hesperides which is near mount Atlas in the Caucasus if we follow Apollodorus’ version, which is the most coherent. The state of Knowledge which is symbolised by the apples is reached when the spirit/matter separation maintained by Atlas ceases. For the other authors, this garden is most often located without more details «at the edges of the world» (where no one has been or the most advanced point reached on the path), in the «Far-West» (at the root of life in matter) or even «beyond Oceanos» (beyond the realisation of the cosmic Divine).
To have the knowledge is to have access at each moment in consciousness to all the elements necessary to action in Truth, including the vision of its causes and of its consequences, as much in the details as on the plane of the universe, and in all the planes of consciousness (thus in all the «worlds»). Indeed, this labour is about progressing towards an indefinite extension of consciousness, in width and in depth. In fact, those who reached the furthest on this path mention that it is an exit from time and space as we know them. Sri Aurobindo, describing the Yoga of the King, speaks about it in Savitri I.V:
«Admitted through a curtain of bright mind
That hangs between our thoughts and absolute sight,
He found the occult cave, the mystic door
Near to the well of vision in the soul,
And entered where the Wings of Glory brood
In the silent space where all is for ever known.
(The Wings of Glory mentioned here can most probably be compared to those on Hermes’ Caduceus.)

In Nadir, at the doors of Hades’ kingdom guarded by the dog Cerberus, at the deepest of the body’s unconsciousness which must become conscious. Through the knowledge of its guardians, one must allow the work of the divine forces for the transformation of the body to begin.

Those last two Labours are related on one hand to the supramental and on the other hand to that which is concealed in the depths of matter and of the body. Indeed, the liberation in Spirit or the Union with the Divine in the Spirit does not imply the absolute state of knowledge, since ignorance and unconsciousness perpetuate in the outer nature. Only the barrier of the ego to the union in Spirit is lifted. Similarly, the liberation from nature is only one step on the path of the body’s divinisation.

It is not our purpose to describe here those extremely advanced stages of the Yoga. According to the experience related by Satprem, one can mention just one aspect of Heracles’ Labour, knowing that the seeker who applies himself to becoming a perfect receptacle for the action of the divine forces within and through him, without opposing any «shadow», observes an alternance in the work of those forces which sometimes go up from the feet, and at other times come down through the top of the head.
If in the previous stages of the yoga, all work of purification in the depths of the unconscious had to be preceded by a corresponding ascent, no precise order can be detected from now on. The two last labours must then be regarded simultaneously, even if we have retained here the order given by Apollodorus (which follows Pherecydes’ version).
Note on the other hand that those two labours represent explorations which inevitably have some consequences on all humanity since the seeker works at levels where matter is One.

For some authors, this Eleventh Labour happens in Hyperborea, Apollo’s favourite country, located «beyond asceticism», beyond all ways (Boreas is the wind that blows in Thrace) when the Absolute takes charge of the transformation for an integral perfection.
Note that Hyperborea is located beyond Thrace and is not usually linked to the Caucasus or to the Atlas.
Indeed it seems obvious that this phase of the path is not any more a part of the «personal yoga». From now on, it is the Absolute that leads through the psychic being which came to the fore of the being.

The apples seem to have been considered in ancient times as a symbol of immortality, associated in this study to non-duality, a characteristic of the gods, while the humans are «mortal». They are also related to fertility (creative abilities) and to Knowledge. Generally speaking, one can consider them as symbols of Union.
They are henceforth the symbol of Knowledge which is one with unity. (One finds a similar but not equivalent symbolism in the Genesis where they represent more a path towards knowledge.)

Atlas being the Titan who supports the sky on his shoulders, who separates Spirit from Matter, the apples are where this separation in Spirit stops (in the supramental), while Hades is the place where it stops in Matter.
Atlas is a force associated with the Titans and thus a force beyond the gods’ domain (of the overmind). (In fact, Atlas is the son of a Titan and does not belong stricto sensu to this group, but rather to the next generation, that of the gods. Nevertheless, as he took the Titans’ side in the war that opposed them to the gods, the Ancients considered him as one of them.)
His children are not limited to the Pleiades (the separation in the mind), but some authors also add the Hyades (the separation in the vital) and Hyas (the separation in the body). It would thus symbolise separation down to its roots within the body. It might be the meaning of the three apples, symbols of Knowledge in the three planes of the mental, the vital and the body.

What represents the state of Union is moving further away with every new spiritual conquest. This explains why the Argonauts, reaching the Garden of the Hesperides, did not find the apples already taken by Heracles, or even why Athena put them back in the garden after Heracles gave them to Eurystheus. The access to the immediate, absolute, exact and total Knowledge for the necessities of the pure Act in the moment at the level of the body will only be realised with the installation in the supramental. Before reaching this level, the knowledge will always be blurred because of duality, even at the level of the overmind (the plane of the gods).

The apples were offered by Gaia to Hera at the occasion of her marriage with Zeus, when Consciousness bends towards the development of human Intelligence (Zeus having swallowed Metis) according to the divine law (Hera). The Zeus-Hera couple (the overmind) is then only the depository of Knowledge and not its source, which lies in the Absolute; it only represents a stage towards total Union.

Those apples were entrusted to the Hesperides who protected them from the lust of Atlas’ daughters. These Hesperides are the «evening Nymphs». According to the authors, they are the daughters of Nyx alone, of Nyx and Erebus, of Atlas or even of Phorcys and Ceto. Those different filiations situate their apparition at different stages of the evolution following the authors’ conception of Knowledge (of the Union): either at the sources of manifestation (upstream of creation) when they are daughters of Nyx «the Night», sometime united with the Erebus, «the Darkness», (both being children of Chaos «the Divine Consciousness concentrated on herself») ; either at the origin of the Spirit/Matter separation as Atlas’ daughters ; finally at the birth of the «animal I» as daughters of Phorcys and Ceto, the latter filiation being barely mentioned.
These Nymphs protect the apples from the lust of Atlas’ (other) daughters – the Pleiades, and the Hyades – meaning that the forces they represent prevent the seeker from accessing the Knowledge from a level lower than the supramental, whatever their desire (the planes of growth in the mind and the vital can only bring partial knowledge).

The apples are guarded by a snake. According to Hesiod, it is the son of Phorcys and Ceto and thus appeared during the birth of the animal ‘I’: it is in going back beyond duality in the vital, beyond the origin of animal ego, that the seeker will be able to access Life unity, moment that this author also associates with the acquisition of knowledge.

A few other adventures of Heracles

The location of these adventures in link with the four last Labours vary depending on the authors, because of their progressive realisation. Here, we will follow Apollodorus who place them just before the hero arrival in Hyperborea.

Reaching the river Eridanus, Heracles asked the Nymphs (here, daughters of Zeus and Themis) to let him know where Nereus, «the sea elder», was staying as he knew where to find the apples. Nereus tried to shirk by changing forms but without success.
According to Hesiod, the Eridanus is a river flowing in the Western world, and thus at the roots of life (Nereus, Pontos’ elder son) where the laws of consciousness’ growth are established. Indeed, that is where the ultimate knowledge is.
There, the seeker faces the instability of consciousness which constantly changes form (Nereus is polymorphic). The seeker can only fix his consciousness on a particular phenomenon once he has reached a very high level of union (Eridanus).

In Libya, the hero killed the giant Antaeus, son of Poseidon, who forced strangers to fight with him. (According to Ovid, Antaeus drew his strength through contact with the earth. Thus Heracles lifted him from the ground to kill him)
To continue with the process of liberation, the hero must face Antaeus, son of Poseidon, symbol of «the subconscious opposition». At the roots of life, the latter is nurtured within the body by mechanical habits and inertia. (According to Ovid, in order to win, the hero must isolate this «subconscious opposition» from its repetitive habitual mechanism.)

In Arabia, he killed Emathion.
Emathion is the son of Tithonus «a very old man» and of the goddess Eos «dawn» whom we already met in our study (Cf. Chapter 4, volume 1).
Let us briefly recall Tithonus’ story. According to Homer, he is Laomedon’s son, thus a brother of Priam. Therefore he is located at the level of the illumined mind. His name means «the inner evolution on the peaks of mental consciousness». Eos made him her lover and each morning, she would come out of his bed to open the sky’s doors to Helios. On the goddess’ request, Zeus granted him immortality (the access to non-duality) but she forgot to ask for eternal youth for him (the adaptation to the movement of becoming). So he became an old man with no strength which Eos locked in one room, and he progressively turned into a larva. The myth means that the individual realisation of non-duality (in spirit) on its own is not enough for transformation and cannot even contribute to it (he became a powerless larva).
According to Hesiod, Eos gave him two children, Memnon and Emathion. Those two characters show the movements of consciousness of a seeker who has reached non-duality in spirit but who refuses the movement of becoming (the transformation of the lower nature). They must then be surpassed (by the characters’ deaths).
The word Memnon characterises « thought» associated to an idea of «memory», which is linked to the past and thus to the «known». When this thought tied to the «known» refuses terrestrial evolution, it must be fought against and suppressed. But powerfully developed, «aspiring» and turned towards the incarnation (symbolised by Aga-memnon who is a descendant of Tantalus), it will lead the Achaean to victory, to the great reversal in the yoga.
According to an uncertain source, Memnon, «the mind», would have been killed by Achilles during the Trojan War and his mother obtained his immortality after his death. Once the seeker reaches mental silence (of the thought tied to «what is known») by treating the tiny movements of consciousness for deep purification (Achilles, Myrmidons’s king), he enters non-duality at this level.
Emathion, in his turn, is killed by Heracles in Arabia (province of the incarnation’s right movement, Ρ+Β). His name means «an inactive inner consciousness». He denounces the deviation called «quietism» (an excess of passivity close to inertia) which may appear as sattvic tranquility.

In order to reach the Garden of the Hesperides, the hero got to the shores of the outer sea where he embarked on Helios’ cup (the sun’s). He headed North to the Caucasus where he killed the eagle born of Typhon and Echidna as it was devouring Prometheus’ liver. He freed the latter from his chains. (In exchange for his freedom, he proposed to Zeus that Chiron, who wanted to die, trade his immortality.)
The symbolism of borrowing the sun’s cup was studied in one previous labour (Geryon’s Cattle) and will not be detailed again here.
Having overcome duality in Spirit, the seeker is now free from the influence of the alternating forces of repulsion and attraction within the mind. Then, the hero is able to free Prometheus after having killed the eagle sent by Zeus which devours his liver, this eagle being the symbol of submission to the mind’s cycles. Let us recall that this eagle is born of Typhon «the ignorance» and of the viper Echidna «an evolutionary halt in the union». The influence of those cycles on the outer personality is originated in the overmind (the eagle has been sent by Zeus).

The part about Chiron’s death is confusing since, on one hand, it is unclear with whom Chiron swaps his immortality and, on the other hand, Apollodorus claims in the same piece both his mortal and immortal nature (he belongs to the dual world as well as to non-duality). We will see that the Centaur Chiron represents a very high mastery of the vital force, symbol of the achievement of vital humanity (he is a son of the Titan Cronos), who reached a limited half-liberation of the vital but without the achievement of integral liberation in spirit. According to our understanding, what must disappear (mortal), is the part of this realisation still tied to duality, and what must remain is that which has reached the union in the vital (immortal). Nevertheless, Chiron has been moved away from the seeker’s places of work (he was chased from Mount Pelion by the Lapiths and had taken refuge in Cape Malea) in order to remove the temptation to give priority to this realisation – the acquisition of the vital’s powers, for instance for healing – in the current phase of development of the mind.

Finally, the hero arrived next to Atlas, in the land of Hyperborea.
Both versions of the collection of the apples, either directly by Heracles or through Atlas, answer two different conceptions of this labour.
Either we consider that the access to knowledge is only possible when unity is realised in the three planes of the mental, the vital and the body; it cannot be effective as long as the adventurer of consciousness is not installed in the supramental (which does not seem possible yet except for the «avatars»), in which case Heracles cannot go get the apples by himself. It is Atlas, «the power that bridges the chasm between spirit and matter», who must take them.
Or, if we consider that the overmind, the plane of the gods, already offers some access to knowledge, the hero can get them by himself.
In both cases, this stage being only a partial approach to knowledge, Athena brings back the apples to the Garden of Hesperides. (Since it is one of the Twelve Labours of Heracles, it cannot be related exactly to the Biblical version in which the sin was the desire to appropriate knowledge).

The passage in which Heracles temporarily took Atlas’ place in supporting the sky indicates that the seeker assesses the path left ahead to re-unite Spirit and Matter in himself and, more particularly, that he becomes convinced that this union is possible.

GERYON’S CATTLE

Tenth Labour: Geryon’s cattle

For the tenth trial, Eurystheus commanded Heracles to go to the «misty» island of Erythia located on the edge of the ocean (or beyond) in the far-West and to bring back Geryon’s cattle. The latter was a monster made of three men joined at the waist.
In some old sources and on some ceramics, Geryon had one pair of wings on one of his bodies.
For some, Heracles began his journey at the eastern ends of the world. Some say that on his way, he killed many wild beasts «to prepare the roads of the future».
Then, exasperated by the heat, he threatened Helios with his bow. Impressed, the latter suggested to the hero to use his cup to cross the ocean. According to others, the hero fetched the cup from Nereus or even from Oceanos.
He then built «the pillars of Heracles» (the Columns of Hercules) in Tartessos which mark at the West the borders of the inhabited land.
Then he embarked on the cup and crossed «Oceanos’ passage » until the island of Erythia. During the journey, Oceanos tested him by raising high waves. But the hero threatened the god who calmed down, frightened.
At the end of his journey, Heracles waited for a favourable opportunity, then killed successively the dog Orthos (or Orthros) and the herdsman Eurytion. Geryon, warned by Menoetes who was keeping Hades’ cattle not far away, came to fight Heracles and did not survive.
The hero then seized the cattle, of which the beasts were purple.
According to Apollodorus, on the way back, Hera sent horseflies against the cattle in order to disperse it. The hero had a hard time gathering the cattle and bringing it to Eurystheus, who promptly sacrificed it to the goddess.

Geryon is a grandson of Medusa through Chrysaor (who sprang from the Gorgo’s neck when it was cut by Perseus). Thus he belongs to the Phorcys-Ceto couple’s progeny, in Pontos’ lineage. He represents some energies of the vital world that came into play during the constitution of the animal «I» (animal ego). That is why he lives in the Far-West, place of the memories of the animal humanity’s archaic functioning.
Erythia is «reddening» as it is the land of the setting sun – of humanity’s past – where the vital reigns supreme. In mythology, the East is indeed always related to the New and the West to the old. The sun therefore always completes its course from the new to the old: any new light must illuminate the unconsciousness that is at the basis of evolution.
And if this land is misty, it is because our present consciousness has difficulties grasping the functioning of this archaic mental consciousness and because the path of yoga in these depths is not laid out.
Some even say that Hades’ cattle was grazing close by: the wealth of the body unconscious is close to that of the vital archaic consciousness.

Geryon is one of Chrysaor’s sons «he who has a golden sword» who appeared from Medusa the Gorgo’s severed neck. In a previous chapter, we associated Medusa with fear and vital lust (the movement of appropriation) which comes from separative ignorance. When fear disappears, pure will can manifest, that which is under the guidance of the psychic and not mixed with the ego’s will, subjected to desire. In turn, this pure will reveals life’s gifts and their guardians: Orthros, Eurytion and Geryon.

Heracles must then confront forces that reveal themselves openly (in consciousness) when fear and the appropriation movement cease at the root of the ego. Formerly, they existed all the same but their expression was veiled by these elements, and the seeker did not have the possibility to clearly identify them or act in an impeccably right manner (Chrysaor «he who has a golden sword»).
Nevertheless, the sole awareness of it is insufficient, and to defeat them, the seeker must accomplish «Equality». That is why this Labour finds itself in continuity with that of the Amazon queen’s belt and continues the process of Nature’s liberation, of subjection to its laws.

Taking into consideration this labour’s place in the progression of the yoga and Geryon’s characteristics (a monster with three heads and three bodies of which one with a pair of wings), one can associate without too much risk of error these three bodies to the three gunas, the winged body being related to sattva.
In the Indian tradition, these gunas are the fundamental modes of nature. They are inextricably linked and interact continuously with each other.
Sri Aurobindo provides an extensive description of them in The Synthesis of Yogas, of which we are only quoting the main elements here:
The first mode, tamas, the principle of unconsciousness, of obscurity and inertia, is especially powerful in the material nature and in our physical being. It tends towards inaction, laziness or to mechanical and routine action. It is the cause of many imperfections, such as maintaining ignorance, inertia, weakness and incapacity, repetitive thoughts and the tenacious refusal of their widening, lack of faith, insensitivity, indifference, etc., but it also allows to balance the two other modes.

The second mode, Rajas, is the dynamic motor of action, the principle of effort, of passion, of fight and of initiative. Its favourite field of action is the vital. In the non-purified nature, it supports the desire and the will to possess. Unmoderated by the other gunas, it generates selfishness, violence, arrogance, ambition, vices and passions, the excess of sensitivity, the morbidity and the perversions of the vital being, etc. Subjecting the mind, it brings prejudices and preferences up to fanatism. But it is also the motor of the man of action, of the warrior and the leader.

The third mode, sattva, is the principle of assimilation, balance and harmony. It is particularly dominant within the mind, the intelligence and the reasoned will. It brings clarity of intelligence, self-control, and equality.
It is said that man must first become sattvic (ethical), then rise beyond until the light, the extent and the power of spiritual nature where he escapes from dualities’ clasp.
If it produces higher beings as for refinement, sensitivity and wisdom, sattva cannot approach the infinite, since it is, like the two others modes, created by the outer nature and then associated to a limited mental light. Furthermore, it depends on rajas for action. Thus an egoistic sattvic also exists.

In our nature generated by separating ignorance, these modes generate discord, division and fights between contraries, which we can gather using the term «dualities». If unity has been achieved in the worlds of the spirit, it must also be achieved in the game of nature, not by annihilation of these gunas, which is impossible without withdrawing from life, but by transcending them.
If this work concerns the advanced seekers, it is because the forces necessary to surpass these modes of nature, which support all action, are not sufficiently developed in the ordinary seeker, who is subjected to them.
Our outer being is under their control. Their play determines personality and surface temperament. They constantly operate in a mixed way within our nature where they are alternately preponderant. Tamas moderates the excesses of Rajas, sattva calls Rajas to the rescue to act, etc. which explains that Geryon’s three bodies are joined. The one with wings is sattva, since it expresses itself preferably in the intellectual mental nature related to air. Rajas would be more related to water and tamas to the earth element.

The transcendence of the gunas was traditionally considered impossible. Indeed, according to the elders, all action belonged to the play of the gunas and their perfect balance would automatically lead the seeker to the cessation of action and the immobility of the soul. A quiet liberation could be obtained by imposing an “illuminated Tamas” onto the outer nature.
But Sri Aurobindo stated that this transcendence was realisable, since these three gunas, as we saw before, are in reality divine powers. To find the divine mode of these three powers in the outer nature again is one of the advanced goals of the integral yoga, and according to our understanding, that of Heracles in this Tenth Labour. Indeed, this integral liberation prepares the work of «perfection». In the light of this goal, to withdraw from life and action, that is to say to place oneself in a plane where these modes are inactive, would only be a partial liberation.
The transcendence of the gunas passes through a perfect equality, a prerequisite condition to integral liberation, and supposes a complete detachment, meaning until one is detached from the fundamental attractions and repugnances, as well as the rejection of dualities.

According to some, the hero’s journey began at the eastern borders of the world and ended in the Far West: The seeker must explore the entirety of human consciousness, from the most advanced point in today’s humanity (the Far East, which can be associated with the overmind) until the limits of life, where this consciousness is born. Indeed, nobody can pretend to have descended into the roots of evolution before having first acquired the corresponding spirit forces.
That is why various elements indicate that only divine envoys (or maybe rare initiates) could attain this stage.

First of all, Heracles killed many wild beasts (violent archaic vital forces or forces of the subtle worlds opposing all transformation) «to prepare the roads of the future», that is to say humanity’s future evolution, more particularly to facilitate the path for those who will follow the steps of these adventurers of consciousness. Indeed, one could consider that the individual yoga ends with the fight against the Amazons and that is where the yoga for humanity begins.
Then, the seeker must experience the first manifestations of the supramental energy (Heracles was bothered by Helios’ heat), which are difficult to bear for today’s human nature.

Then, by building the Pillars of Heracles in Tartessos (Heracles’ Columns) which indicate the western limits of inhabited land, on the edge of Libya and Europe, the hero sets the extreme limits that no seeker could claim passing according to the elders. Here we are talking about the limits of the liberation process in the incarnation (Libya) and the expansion of consciousness (Europe) of he who has become a «seer »; passing Heracles’ Columns is to surpass the states of wisdom and sanctity.
Diodorus of Sicily, historian of the Ist century BC (and thus a relatively late source for us) evokes the famous columns in these terms (4.18.5): « It is said that, to leave an immortal memory of his expedition, Heracles brought the extremities of both continents, which were very distant before, closer to each other through a dyke leaving only a narrow passage to the sea water, thus preventing the ocean’s cetaceans to enter the inner sea: this colossal work perpetuated Heracles’ memory. Some claim that, on the contrary, both continents being sealed, Heracles opened the isthmus, thus creating the straits which connects today the Ocean and our sea. Everyone is free to adopt one or the other of these two views».
In this passage, two opposing realisations are being reported, which could be attributed to the avatars as part of their mission to help humanity in key moments of its evolution.
It is thus possible to consider them simultaneously on an individual and collective plane.

First of all, the impossibility for some vital forces to penetrate the being, the realised purity (or the union with the divine) constituting an impassable barrier (the Ocean’s cetaceans can no longer enter the inner sea). This halt would be the consequence of the rapprochement between spirit and matter (two continents which were formerly far apart from each other).
On the collective plane, this could be a definitive end to the action of some forces which must leave the manifestation, since they are no longer useful for its progression.
Those columns can then be considered as what remains of Atlas’ columns at this advanced stage of the yoga (that which keeps spirit separated from matter). Hence the identifications that has been made sometimes between the two.

And conversely, other initiates described the opening of a channel allowing the irruption of new forces into the personal and/or terrestrial consciousness between Oceanos (the global consciousness) and the personal and/or terrestrial consciousness (our sea).

The oldest reference to the columns seems to be found in Pindar’s work, a poet from the Vth century B-C. who affirms that it is not possible to go further in the yoga without precising their place in the Labours: “Now if this son of Aristophanes, being fair of form and achieving deeds as fair, hath thus attained unto the height of manly excellence, no further is it possible for him to sail untraversed sea beyond the pillars of Herakles, which the hero-god set to be wide-famed witnesses of the end of voyaging: for he had overcome enormous wild-beasts on the seas, and tracked the streams through marshes to where he came to the goal that turned him to go back homeward, and there did he mark out the ends of the earth.” (Pindar, Third Nemean. See on this subject Mother’s Agenda volume 1)
This author explains that an initiate – probably also himself – located the currents of consciousness/energy at the root of life and even «saw» the path which leads to the spirit-matter union, and then to matter’s divinisation.
The first authors to locate precisely those columns in relation to the Labours of Heracles seem to be Diodorus of Sicily, a historian from the Ist century BC, and Apollodorus, who lived in that same period. Thus, it is quite difficult to know if there was unanimity about this location in the Labours among the oldest initiates and if they considered that only «divine envoys» could have crossed these limits. In any case, it is certain that the gunas and the guardians of Geryon’s Cattle (Orthros, Eurytion and Geryon himself) were clearly identified, otherwise nobody could have spoken about them.

The name Tartessos is organised with the same structuring letters than those of the name Tartarus (Τ+ΡΤ) with two added sigma (ΣΣ) which also appear in Odysseus’ name (Ulysses) where they are associated to delta (Δ). Those letters from Tartessos’ name express a reversal (or a negation) of the spirit’s abilities in both the separative and intuitive functions of the human mind, associated to the idea of a dive to the root of human consciousness in the faltering steps of its first emergence (the irruption out of nescience).
Also, if at this stage the mind can no longer be the means of investigation of consciousness’ deep layers, an other «support» must be used. That is the role of Helios’ «barge» or «cup» which «carries» the supramental illuminating power during the journey across the night, that is to say in the time of distance and ignorance of our Divine origin.

That is why some authors say that it is Nereus, «the old man of the sea», Pontos’ older son acting at the root of vital consciousness, who provided the sun barge to the hero. The fact that Heracles could approach Nereus suggests that the seeker rose to the overmind, which solely allows the dive into the archaic layers of life.
According to others, the barge was given to the hero by Helios himself, or even by Oceanos, that is to say by the light of supramental Truth or by the cosmic consciousness.

Every evening, Helios settled in this cup to cross the ocean: the light of supramental truth uses a «support» to cross the ocean of consciousness in the time of darkness (the periods of distance from the Divine). It is thus absolutely not affected by those cycles or the alternance.
In order to cross the arm of the ocean to reach the island of Erythia, the adventurer of consciousness must use the same principle of consciousness that simultaneously isolates but also represents the junction between the greatest shadow and the strongest light, between the consciousness of creation immersed in obscurity and the supramental light. The symbol of the barge can therefore be that of an absolute consecration and Self-giving to the Divine, that is to say a complete transparency. The reddening of Erythia is the image of the body filled with supramental light-force.

One can also understand that the supramental consciousness acts alternately in conscious humanity at certain times (in the day) and behind the veil (at night) using another type of consciousness as intermediate.

The stretch of water which the seeker must pass is neither Pontos (symbol of life), nor Thalassa (the navigable sea, the path), nor even Als (the salty sea, the essence of the path which is liberation), but Oceanos, the current of consciousness «which surrounds the earth from all sides», the «cosmic consciousness». The access to the island of Erythia surrounded by mist thus requires a passage through the most archaic levels of consciousness with the support of the supramental light.
The confrontations no longer take place at the level of the gods but at that of the Titans, since it is Oceanos who tries in vain to rise the sea against him, and not Poseidon as it was the case for the seekers, including the most advanced ones like Ulysses.

It is the first Labour in which a close cooperation between one of the greatest gods, Helios, and a mortal occurs. It sanctions the beginning of an alliance which proves indispensable in the war of the gods against the giants. Indeed, «there was an oracle among the gods saying that no giant could be killed by the gods alone, but that if a mortal would form an alliance with the gods, then the giants would die». Those giants represent forces that manifest at the root of life, even before the emergence of human consciousness: they are preceding the gods since they were born out of drops of blood falling from Uranus’ severed sex which was thrown into the sea. Indeed, these are forces which must be confronted within the body, going back to life’s origins, when the adventurer of consciousness has improved in himself the mental and vital planes of consciousness to the best of their possibilities (having achieved the union of men and gods). This fight will be studied later, since it concerns the yoga’s most advanced stages.

Geryon’s cattle was under a triple guard: a dog, a herdsman and finally Geryon himself, whom the hero had to defeat successively.

The first «guardian» is the dog Orthros.
It is unambiguously one of the four monsters born to the viper Echidna «an evolutionary “halt” of the union» – herself daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, the stage of the first «will of individuation» in the animal consciousness – and of Typhon «the ignorance».
Let us recall that the corrections of this name (from Orthros to Orthos) were made by scribes in the manuscripts and that it is then quite difficult to re-establish the name previously used by each author.
If we keep the spelling Orthos, meaning «erected, not deviated, straight», it then cannot be «the Truth» (otherwise his murder would obviously not have been necessary) but only a «transitory» truth which must be surpassed when the time has come. This monster would then represent the «established truths» which appear unreal or even deceitful to the adventurers of consciousness, especially the physical laws (for example that of the senses, of illness, or even of death).
If one considers the other spelling, Orthros, this name can mean at the same time «he who is present from dawn, at the root of conscious life», and also «the opposite of Truth, that is to say falsehood, the fundamental insincerity », all that keeps one away from unity with the Real.
Nevertheless, at a very advanced stage of the yoga, the adventurer realises that a tiny movement of consciousness is enough to pass from the world of Truth to its reverse, which would explain the close use of both names, Orthos/Orthros, as well as Orthros’ representation with two heads.
The victory over the first guardian can then be considered under two points of view: either it consists of questioning, not only mentally, but also practically, the established beliefs and the «imprints» in regard to the most fundamental «laws» of the mental-vital nature, or it requires the growing awareness of the tiny torsions that transform the movements at their root and plunge them in the world of separation and of division.

The second opponent of the hero was the herdsman Eurytion. This name means, with the structuring letters, «a vast consciousness on the plane of the spirit». Eurytion most probably incarnates the bulwark which demands that man has reached the summits of the mind before proceeding to a reversal that would make the cattle, or «divine realisations», which belong to the world of Unity accessible.
Eurytion can also be the symbol of «the spiritual root of the ego» as we already mentioned in the introduction of the four last Labours. In the Indian tradition, this root lies indeed in the Buddhi, the highest intelligence.

Finally, Heracles clashed with the «owner» of the cattle, Geryon «voice, language, ability of expression (here that of Nature, as it is situated at the origins of life)». This giant with three bodies, triple in one, would then incarnate the three gunas or indissociable modes of Nature’s expression.
To kill Geryon is to transcend the gunas and to reach not only the liberation of the spirit but also that of Nature.

Then penetrating into the world of non-dual true life, the seeker is able to retrieve Geryon’s cattle of which the beasts were purple, that is to say life’s divine powers. Those powers, for today’s humanity, are still miraculous.
But they remain only life’s powers at the level of the overmind, and not that of the supramental. That is why some say that Hades’ cattle was grazing not far from there (let us recall that Hades, ΑΙΔΗΣ, is the symbol of unity of consciousness in matter, in the body). This is only a stage that must also be surpassed. That is why Sri Aurobindo and The Mother deliberately limited the use of those powers in order not to be restrained by an intermediate realisation which did not offer the possibility of human transformation that they were looking for.

We shall not linger here on the etiological tales of the hero’s return, since the sources we have are too recent and unreliable.
Still it should be noted that Apollodorus mentions that Hera sent a horsefly to disperse the cattle that Heracles was bringing back, as she did to torment Io. This action, opposed to Zeus’ movement of expansion, might prevent too big a lag between the evolution of a rare few initiates and that of the rest of humanity.

THE BELT OF THE AMAZON QUEEN

Ninth labour: The Belt of the Amazon Queen

On ceramics, the fight that opposed Heracles’ troop to the Amazons was very popular, but one finds no trace of a belt or harness. Heracles’ opponent was an homonymous Andromache «who fights the man» in which we can see a meaning equivalent to that of Paris-Alexandros «who pushes man back»: the only ultimate possibility of the yoga was an annihilation into the impersonal Absolute, and not the divinisation of the body.

The oldest texts insist on the fight and the death of the Amazon queen, then named Antiope, killed by Heracles. The later versions recount a friendly relationship before the deadly fray.
At first, Heracles began to build a friendship with the Amazons and even obtained the belt peacefully before fighting them in a second phase: this progression followed by a reversal indicates that the seeker must first realise a perfect vital control before surpassing it in order to realise a more integral union, a greater perfection, by the liberation from nature’s modes and dualities. By vital control, one has to understand liberation from desire and ego, including control over anger, sexuality, disgust and fear.
This reversal then logically occurs at the same time as the Trojan War, during the first great reversal of the yoga, as the Amazons sided with the Trojan camp.

Apollonios (IIIrd century BC.) is the first to mention Melanippe, Heracles captured Melanippe, the queen’s sister (here called Hippolyte), in an ambush and exchanged her for her «harness».
This version could be telling that this perfect control over the vital can only be obtained through a perfect apprehension of «the shadow». Melanippe, the queen’s sister, is indeed «the black deformed force», Hippolyte’s counterpart «the vital energy from which one liberated oneself». Melanippe indeed represents the restrained vital energy which distorts into a black and destructive energy, for a seeker who nevertheless places purity at the top (the Amazons revere Artemis).
The presence in the myth of this duality as well as the Amazons’ filiation – they are Ares’ daughters – show that the seeker has not yet reached total liberation in the action, beyond dualities.
Some of Pindar’s scholars mention that Melanippe was killed by Telamon «the endurance», Aeacus’ son, while Hippolyte was killed by Heracles: when duality stops, the perverted energy (Melanippe) and the ideal aimed goal (Hippolyte) disappear too, vice as well as virtue.

Diodorus (in the Ist century BC.) completed Apollonios’ tale: a troop of the best warriors was accompanying Heracles in this expedition, including Telamon and Theseus. After the victory, the latter received as spoils of war, an Amazon named Antiope who was the mother of an homonymous Hippolyte, whom Phaidra fell in love with.
Nevertheless, in the oldest tales (Pindar’s and Pherecydes’), Theseus’ expedition against the Amazons was independent from Heracles’.

According to Apollodorus, (between the Ist and IIIrd century AD.), it was on Eurystheus’ daughter’s request, an homonymous Admete «she who is not yet subjected to the yoke», that Heracles had to bring back the harness. On the way, the hero helped king Lycos defeat the Bebryces and their king Mygdon, Amycos’ brother.
Then, during his first meeting with Queen Hippolyte, she promised him her harness. But Hera, disguised as an Amazon, excited the other women by spreading the word that the hero wanted to kidnap the queen and they attacked his ships. Feeling betrayed, Heracles killed Hippolyte and seized the harness.
In order to achieve this realisation (at the Amazons’), an alliance of the yoga of purification/liberation (Heracles) and of inner light (Lycos) is necessary to conquer anger (The Bebryces «roar, devour» and their king Mygdon).
Furthermore, the force which always brings one back to the right movement of evolution (Hera) does not accept that the seeker stops on the way.

All the tales agree with the description of a nation of «warrior» women, thus an advanced realisation of «Truth fighters». The first example of such women, besides the immortal goddesses, appears with Atalante who represents the realisation of a certain «equality» in the Hunt for the Calydonian Boar lead by Meleagros (a descendant of Protogenia «those who walk forward», a heroine of Japet’s lineage, the ascent of the planes of consciousness).

Some sources mention that the Amazons were governing themselves without the help of any man and tolerated their presence only as servants, or even, killed or mutilated their male children at birth, blinding them or making them lame. The seeker then considers he completed the yoga. He does not let the necessary work of purification on his nature’s imperfections come to his consciousness, or he refuses to take them into account or only very partially.

Diverse characteristics are attributed to the Amazons of which the origin is difficult to determine.
For example, even though the legend passed down to us makes them excellent horsewomen – this competence depicting control over vital energy – they are usually represented on foot on ceramics, and among the reliable sources, only Apollodorus seems to mention that they rushed on horseback towards Heracles’ ship anchored in the harbor in Themiskura.

Apollodorus reports elsewhere that «mothers compressed strongly their daughters’ right breast for them not to be hampered while handling the javelin or the bow». However, the ceramics, on which they have at best one naked breast, do not confirm this fact.
This anecdote could illustrate the fact that, according to some initiates, the work of liberation in the spirit cannot be done without resorting to some «limitation» or «compression» of vital energies, and more particularly of sexual energy (that is indeed usually requested in most yogas). Melanippe could represent the consequences of this constraint, the «black» vital energy.

Heracles was not the only hero to fight the Amazons. Theseus, Priam, Bellerophon and Achilles also had to confront them, even if, in their cases, this «work» was not put at the forefront. According to its position in the concerned myth, this fight indicates either that the seeker has reached the level of this liberation, or that this fight is one of the logical outcomes of the related work: purification of errors, fight against illusions or realisation of transparency.
Theseus, who was married to Antiope (or to an homonymous Hippolyte), confronted the Amazons when he neglected his wife for Phaidra, Minos and Pasiphae’s daughter. This war occurred shortly before the abduction of Helen and the episode of the descent to Hades, and long after the victory over the Minotaur. We shall examine it in detail in a later chapter with the version according to which he accompanied Heracles in his expedition.

According to Homer, Bellerophon fought the «viril Amazons» at the very end of his feats, after the victory over the chimaera, but before the king of Lycia opposed his best men to the hero who will conquer them, so just before the seeker overcomes the “lightnings of Truth” he has experienced. The importance given to these «luminous experiences» is indeed one of the last obstacles (close to an illusion) which must disappear.
It is more like a Truth which must evolve towards even more Truth, rather than an illusion as we usually understand it. It can be difficult to see liberation in the spirit as an illusion unless one considers that it is the perception of the world’s illusory nature that the seeker experiences. That is why the heroes appreciate the company of the Amazons for some time before having to confront them.

Many Amazons, under Penthesilia’s lead, intervened in the Trojan War by helping Priam, to whom they had gone to be purified. To access a purification indicates the rightness of the path. The Amazons, representing the perfect mastery including that of suffering through total detachment (Penthesilia), could only side with the Trojans who themselves rejected any possibility of divinisation of matter and aspired to a divinisation out of the world, to a return to the Absolute out of manifestation.

Nevertheless, in his youth, Priam had assisted the Phrygians who were fighting on the Achaean’s side against the Amazons who had invaded Phrygia «that grills, burns». He thus contributed to their defeat.
This episode occurs before the split between Trojans and Achaean happened, that is before the bifurcation between the continuation of the ascent of the planes of consciousness and that of divinisation of matter. This split expresses that the seeker, at a given moment of the quest, must prevent the way that puts mastery as ultimate goal from «taking ownership» of the fire of the quest.
Mention should be made that Achilles, while in the Achaean camp opposed to the Trojans, at first experienced friendship for Penthesilia before fighting and killing her: each realisation, as advanced as it may be, must be exceeded if the seeker wants to pursue his journey on the evolutive path.

The Amazons live beyond Propontide «the advanced work on the vital (Pro-Pontos)», towards the back of Pontus Euxinus (Euxeinos Pontos) «the work in a very strange inhospitable vital world». Their kingdom is located near to the coast of the Black Sea, North of present-day Turkey, midway to Colchis. Their capital is Themiskura, name designating those «who received the Divine Law». (Themiskura is a word built with themis «what is established as rule» or «Divine Law» in opposition to nomos, «the human law», and kyra «who shares».)
This city is located at the mouth of the Thermodon, meaning that the «spiritual realisation» represented by the Amazons lies where the current of consciousness which carries «the fire of the union» (Thermodon), the Agni of the Vedas, the psychic fire, is at the maximum of its power.
There is no certitude regarding the construction of the word Amazon. The most probable is that it is made from αμα (utterly) and ζωνη (belt), symbol of a perfect vital control. Another hypothesis would be the assembly of the prefix ama (αμα) «together, who is one with» and the verb Ζαω «to live» (or the letter Zêta). Hence it would describe the seeker who has entered the path of union with Reality. (It is built on the same basis than the word Hamadryades, «who is one with the tree».

We already used several times the word «harness» (zoster) instead of «belt» which has been consecrated by the tradition. Indeed it is more a piece of warrior equipment used to hold a sword than an element of feminine clothing. (The word ζωστηρ is to be compared to ζωος «alive» and can also be from ζωρος «pure, without mixing». It also includes the root ΣΤ «to stand» source of the idea of rectitude, of the spirit/matter relation.)
On the other hand, some authors mention that Melanippe, «the black (vital) force», was killed by Telamon, which means «harness», but also «he who works on his full consecration» or even «he who endures»: control, consecration, self-giving (surrender) and endurance enabling to integrate and transmute «the shadow» in order to prepare the access to non-duality.

In summary, the labour in which Heracles had to bring back the Amazons’ queen harness symbolically involves two periods: the achievement of a perfect mastery (most probably associated with the union with the Divine in spirit, the realisation of the Self), before going beyond that in order to pursue the yoga towards Nature’s liberation until he obtains integral liberation.
In the first period, the ideal is preeminent, but in the spirit-matter division. The seeker, thinking he has reached the end of the path, does not want to get involved any longer in any labour (the Amazons reject men). In some ways, this can be considered as an illusion, the reason why Bellerophon had to fight them too. To surpass this stage depends as much on the growth of the inner being (Theseus) as it does on the work of purification leading to the psychisation of the being (Heracles).
In the second phase, it is a question of renouncing the previous realisations in order to begin a yoga in matter, which requires great «endurance».

The construction of the Walls of Troy

There is an anecdote linked to this Ninth Labour which exposes the motives of the «first» Trojan War, led by Heracles. Some elders indeed wanted to situate the «second» Trojan War – the one chanted by Homer in the Iliad – in relation to Heracles’ feats.
On Zeus’ request (without Homer giving any reason for it), the gods Poseidon and Apollo served Laomedon for one year during which they built the walls of the citadel of Troy (Pergamum). According to Apollodorus, this was to verify by themselves Laomedon”s arrogance. For that, they took a human appearance. For some, while Poseidon was building the walls, Apollo watched over the cattle. But once the labour was completed, Laomedon refused to pay the salary they had agreed upon.

Laomedon was the king of Troy and Priam’s father. He belongs to the lineage of the fifth Pleiad, Electra, who corresponds to the plane of the illumined mind in the ascent of the planes of consciousness (Iapetus). His ancestor is an homonymous Erichthonius (not to be confused with Athen’s legendary king), that is to say «a powerful incarnation». His grandfather is Tros «the right development on the spirit’s plane» who gave his name first to the people then to the city of Troy. His father is Ilos «the liberated consciousness». This name has the same structuring letter than that of the sun, Helios. His uncle is Ganymedes «he who guards joy» who Zeus kidnapped to be the gods’ cupbearer.
The name Laomedon most probably means «he who has collected and controlled the elements of his outer being». Pergamum is the name of the citadel of Troy and means «totally united» (referring here to the union in spirit).
Indeed, these elements indicate a seeker «liberated» in spirit, the purification of the outer nature not being completed yet. That is why this character reneged several times on his commitments.

The seeker «on the path of liberation» committed to give from himself, to carry out a yoga (to pay a salary) when the work of «fortification» of his path would be completed, when the work «of union» would have been made easier for him (Pergamum). Nevertheless, when this is accomplished by higher forces – the subconscious and the psychic light – which did not appear clearly to him in consciousness (the gods are disguised), he refuses to honour his debt, to give them all the credit.
For some, Poseidon was building the Walls of Troy while Apollo watched over the cattle: the light of the psychic being ensured that the previous achievements were not lost. According to Sri Aurobindo’s terminology, it would seem that here Poseidon may more likely be the subliminal mind and vital (the immense parts of the vital and of the mind located below our active consciousness), rather than the subconscious, receptacle of all the impressions and sensations collected by the consciousness.
If we take Apollodorus’ version, the seeker is tested in order to assess his ability to recognise the work of the Divine in himself, the work of the divine forces that act through him and of which he is only the receptacle (in order to test Laomedon’s arrogance ).
Some authors describe the walls built by the gods as those «of an impenetrable city», thus showing that it is no longer simply a temporary experience but a definitive realisation.
Among these realisations can be mentioned the union with the Divine in spirit, the cosmic consciousness, the Presence of Shakti or Divine mother, the Force, the Light, the Knowledge, the realisation of Sat-Chit-Ananda (the supreme triple-in-one consciousness, existence-consciousness-felicity) and joy.
This myth would then tend to express that the Trojan way is not a mistake in itself, rather a necessary realisation, but the mistake occurs at a time when the seeker is still considering the realisations as his own, refusing to attribute them to the Divine, or at least refusing to fulfill his commitments to the yoga (if one considers that the gods took human appearances). Indeed this path will be pursued by Aeneas’ progeny, long after the Trojan War.

Apollo and Poseidon were irritated by Laomedon’s behavior. The first sent a plague onto the land, the second a flood and a sea monster which devoured its inhabitants. The oracle was consulted and replied that only the sacrifice of the king’s daughter, Hesione, would appease the gods’ anger. Thus she was tied to a rock on the shore, a prey to the monster.
Laomedon promised his immortal horses to whoever would kill the monster and free his daughter. They were the best on earth, since his father Tros received them from Zeus in exchange for Ganymedes. (The latter was the most beautiful mortal and he had then become the gods’ cupbearer, pouring the nectar of immortality into their cups.)

Coming back from the Amazons’ land, Heracles was sailing past Troy. Having spotted the young girl tied to her rock, he offered to fight the monster himself. Homer adds that Athena and the Trojans built a wall to protect Heracles from the sea monster. According to Hellanicos, Heracles entered the monster’s womb and destroyed him from within. Then the hero went back to the sea.

Here again, Laomedon refused to honour his promise. This refusal re-occurred at different times according to the versions.
In the first version, Heracles came back to receive the promised reward only many years after having freed Hesione, after spending at least one year at Omphale’s service. But since Laomedon refused to give the promised horses (or gave «mortal» horses instead, Heracles noticing the deception only later), the hero took hold of the city of Troy and destroyed it.
In another version, Laomedon’s refusal occurred just after Heracles’ victory over the monster, but the hero came back later for revenge, like in the previous version.

Then Heracles took Hesione, Laomedon’s daughter, as a captive and gave her to Telamon as spouse. She became the mother of Teucer. Furthermore, he offered Hesione to free a prisoner. She chose her brother Podarces who from then on took the name of Priam «who was bought back».
It is said that this double refusal from Laomedon to honour his spiritual commitments was the primary cause of the Trojan War.

Because of this refusal to honour his «spiritual commitments», the seeker goes through a difficult period. He is simultaneously seriously disturbed by his psychic being which removes its light, generating a very destructive increasing disharmony (Apollo sent a plague) and even more severely so by emotional disorders and opposing forces in the vital produced by the subconscious (the flood and the sea monster sent by Poseidon).
Looking within (by consulting the oracle) the seeker understands that in order to stop this deserved trial, he must sacrifice the ascent of the planes of mental consciousness (represented by Hesione, the receptive «evolution of human mental consciousness»).

When the seeker accepts to redirect his yoga (Laomedon offering his daughter as sacrifice), a new possibility of evolution presents itself but he must first demonstrate his sincerity (Heracles’ arrival and his request for compensation).
For mental consciousness to continue participating in the yoga (Hesione’s liberation) the promise to put the ability to use nature’s illuminated vital forces to the service of that which controls the yoga of purification (the transfer of horses to Heracles) is necessary. The latter are the immortal horses which Laomedon inherited from his father Tros who himself received them from Zeus in exchange for Ganymedes «who watches after or aspires for joy»: when the seeker accepted that his «joy» participates to his growth in spirit, he received in exchange the ability to draw without limitations nature’s vital energies.

In this labour of reorientation, the seeker who works in the right way of purification is protected from forces of destruction (threatening he who persists in the ascending way without entirely dedicating himself): Heracles was protected from the monster by a wall built by Athena and by the Trojans. And when Hellanicos specifies that Heracles had to enter the monster’s womb to destroy it from within, he insists on the need for an identification with the obstacle in order to be able to understand it completely and to surpass it.

But for the second time, the seeker refuses to honour his inner commitments, refusing to put nature’s unlimited vital power (the immortal horses) at the service of the yoga’s right way, of the work of purification and of total liberation of the lower nature of which Heracles is the hero.
This renewed refusal of the seeker to commit on the path of greater consecration and of purification/liberation will then be the cause of the great inner conflict which will follow (primary cause of the Trojan War).

That is why, a few years later, Heracles will come back to raze Troy. At that time, «the evolution of higher consciousness» (Hesione) is given in marriage to Peleus’ brother Telamon «the endurance». This first destruction of Troy must be linked to its siege related by Homer in the Iliad. Let us recall that this destruction of Troy by Heracles serves only in locating the Trojan War in the process of yoga. Through the marriage of Hesione and Telamon, the seeker is returned to the right path of yoga, implying a total submission in the incarnation, that is to say the work on the depths of his nature.

We shall study the end of the story – Podarces/Priam’s redemption – in a later chapter.

THE MARES OF DIOMEDES

Eighth Labour: the Mares of Diomedes

Diomedes, son of Ares and Cyrene, was king of the Thracian people of Cicones (Kikones) or, according to others, of the Bistones who were very belligerent. His mares fed on human flesh. (Some stallions or winged horses appear on the oldest ceramics.) Eurystheus requested Heracles to bring them back to him.
According to Pindar, the hero who was supposed to accomplish the labour without help, gave the mares a passerby to devour to distract them while harnessing them. Diomedes tried to oppose the hero and died in the fight that followed. The animals, once quieted, let themselves be taken meekly.
According to Diodorus, the troughs were made of bronze and the mares were chained to them. The hero gave them their own master Diomedes to devour, and thus they were cured from their bad habits. He then brought them to Eurystheus who gave them to Hera and ensured their progeny.
According to Apollodorus, Heracles had taken some volunteers with him, among which Abderos (a son of Hermes) who he loved (some say he was his lover). He used violence against the servants attending the troughs and took the mares towards the sea. As the Bistones pursued him, he entrusted the mares to Abderos who was ripped apart. After defeating the Bistones and having killed Diomedes, Heracles founded the city of Abdera and took the mares along with him. They were released by Eurystheus and went to Mount Olympus, where they were killed by wild beasts.

The texts hardly give us more details regarding this labour. It is essentially question of «bad habits» (human flesh as food) which a king of Thrace had given to his horses on which he exerted severe constraints.
The horse is a symbol of strength, of power which the yoga brings, as well as of the vital force.
(We shall not take into account Euripides’ version that introduced in this labour which he placed in fourth position, the story of Alceste and Admete that we studied in the second Chapter of the present volume.)
This labour takes place in Thrace, province of asceticism located in North-Eastern Greece where Boreas, the North wind, blows. The latter is one of the «breaths» of the Absolute encouraging the effort for the labour of purification and transformation in the right movement of incarnation, before the seeker abandons it between the hands of his Psychic Being. Let us recall that Apollo, the god of psychic light, lives in Hyperborea, thus beyond asceticism.

If the previous Labour was focused on the risks of an insufficient consecration of the power of the luminous mind during the first spiritual experiences, power therefore deviated for the benefit of the ego, this Labour denounces excessive austerity and constraints on the vital forces which ruin a right asceticism and lead to dryness of the being or to an amputation of its potentialities and qualities. This deviation is supported by the wrong belief that this excess pleases the Divine, while in reality the seeker clings to the ego with all his strength. He therefore distances himself from Reality through the violence of his very efforts to «feel» and «seize» It.
Diomedes «who meditates on the Divine or whose concern is the Divine» (not to be confused with Diomedes, chief of the Argives against Troy) is indeed the Kikones’ king «they who work with strength». His father is Ares, the god who works towards individuation and ensures the destruction of obsolete forms, and his mother is Cyrene (Kyrene) «the authority». The seeker would constrain his own nature by an excess of «separating» authority, which leads him to reject sometimes violently a right process of incarnation. He uses the strength given to him (the horses) to «devour» himself, while, on the contrary, the path requires to develop one’s abilities at best.

One can also see in Diomedes he «who thinks the Divine», and because of his parents Ares and Cyrene, «he who has a preconceived and separated idea of himself», idea generating an inner «censor». When the latter acts with a will of purification, he simultaneously removes the faculties necessary to perfecting one’s nature in its integrality. (The homonym Diomedes of the Trojan War would represent a much vaster idea of the Divine.)

This story can also be compared to that of Glaucos’ homonym (usually identified as Sisyphus’ son) killed by Iolaus during the funeral games in Pelias’ honour. He also fed his horses human flesh and was devoured by them when they had none left. The story denounces the intellect’s habit of drawing from the mental reserves to sustain the vital.
The present Labour of Heracles could therefore also be understood as an excessive constraint over the vital forces, which are sustained at the expense of the mind.

Sri Aurobindo in The Renaissance in India insisted on this deviation: «It is a great error to suppose that spirituality flourishes best in an impoverished soil with the life half-killed and the intellect discouraged and intimidated. The spirituality that so flourishes is something morbid, hectic and exposed to perilous reactions. »

Long is the list of constraints that the seeker can exert on himself under the guise of purification and at the expense of his outer nature resources: the fight against all what may seem impure to him or contradicting the path the way he conceives it, various excesses of ascetic disciplines, etc.
In other words, it is the error of he who seeks too much purity and perfection through his own strength, who often refuses that he belongs to humanity with all the darkness it implies, and moreover, who has not surrendered his yoga to the Absolute yet. The will of consecration to the quest which is diverted here towards that which wants to «seize» the Divine (Diomedes) is then used exclusively for repression, even though it was not the intended goal. The seeker stiffens and devours himself.

In Pindar’s version, the seeker returns to a right control without suddenly breaking his habits and moreover, without forcefully trying to control the vital (without suddenly depriving the horses of their usual food or wanting to forcefully tame them, since Heracles gives them somebody to devour while harnessing them). As soon as resistance occurs, the cause of the error (the death of Diomedes) automatically disappears.
In Diodorus’ version, the seeker uses the trapped forces to turn back against that which constraints them.

(According to Hyginus, who gives them masculine names, the mares are called Podargos, Lampon, Xanthos and Dinos, respectively «a beautiful incarnation», «brightness», «flare» and «spinning » or «evolution towards the union». For this author, they would then be positive forces that were diverted.)

In Apollodorus’ version, after seizing the mares, Heracles had to fight against the Bistones, who were pursuing him. We do not know the meaning of this people’s name but it could probably be associated to the Kikones «who work forcefully», as it is logical for the hero to be «pursued» for a long time by what emanated from these deviated energies (the Bistones), even if the pressure over the compelled energies is released (the mares are freed).
With the structuring letters (Β+ΣΤ), this people would represent a labour of incarnation of rectitude, which would be pursued with excess here.

In order not to be hampered in his movements, the hero entrusted the mares to Abderos, who he loved. Yet, he was devoured.
Abderos is a son of Hermes and symbolises a movement stemming from the overmind. This name can be interpreted in two ways.
Either it represents «a right asceticism» inspired by the highest planes of mental consciousness. Abderos’ death would then mean that the seeker is not able yet to «rightfully» control the energies barely freed from the constraints that blocked them for too long.
Or it represents «the right use of the whip» and the disappearance of Abderos indicates that the released vital force can no longer bear any constraint, even the right one. During this work, the seeker would no longer need to put any constraints on himself for the yoga. This episode would reinforce the meaning of the mares’ liberation. Nevertheless, Heracles paid a tribute to the period where the right constraint was indissociable from the yoga by founding the city of Abdera.
In both cases, Abderos is logically «loved» by Heracles.

The mares’ destiny is inconsistent from one author to another.
Either Eurystheus consecrated them to Hera and secured their progeny: the liberated forces are put to the service of the right movement of evolution (Hera) and thus will be useful to the yoga and bear fruits.
Or, released by Eurystheus, they wandered to Mount Olympus where they were killed by beasts: released, these vital forces can help the yoga up to an advanced stage on the path, but they are not able to confront the forces of opposition that suddenly appear on the way.

Introduction to the last four Labours.

The interpretation of the last Labours of Heracles requires the right understanding of the advanced stages of the yoga. It is complex not only because of the difficulty of interpretation, but also because the progressions in the yoga associated to it vary according to the authors.
For further information about this introduction, please refer to the first chapters of The Yoga of Self-Perfection in which Sri Aurobindo presents the advanced stages of the yoga.

The two previous Labours, the Cretan Bull and the Mares of Diomedes, associated to the deepening of the purification, invite the seeker to a right control of the power of the illumined mind, while warning him not to exert excessive constraints to the life energies.
The essential idea is to bring balance, clarity and peace in the being, as nothing can happen in unconsciousness or agitation.
According to Indian terminology, it is the Sattva (one of the three modes of nature with inertia and dynamism) which must be brought to the best of its perfection. It is made of moderation, balance and harmony. It is directed towards goodness, knowledge, right understanding, right order and vital control. It is particularly active in the intellect.
But here again, it is only a state of higher wisdom, as complete control over the vital is not yet accomplished, nor the transcendence of the fundamental modes of nature, thus imperfections remain, like a particular form of egoism (sattvic).

Purification being the condition for liberation, we have seen that this realisation consisted in purifying the instruments «in themselves» (intelligence, will, etc.), from their deformations and limitations, from the false movements coming from fundamental ignorance and the mixing of functions. It was the object of the previous Labours. Its main orientation is the liberation from desire and the movements of the ego in the outer being (mind, vital and body): liberation from vital lust and its irruption in other planes, from the egocentric orientation of the will, of passion, from selfish preference in the intelligence, etc.

A first achievement is the «liberation in the spirit» which is liberation from ignorance and the outer nature’s limitations for the seeker who reaches the union with the Divine in the spirit. According to a common denomination, the one who is «liberated» resides in the Self; he knows and he is the fundamental truth of his being; he enjoys his unity with universal existence, with the timeless Divine. But as soon as he comes down from his heights and approaches the limits of the mind, he contacts the roots of separateness in the spirit which can bring him back towards the ego at any moment, ignoring and forgetting unity. He may also imagine at times that he is free from the ego, while acting under its subtle influence.

As the extension of consciousness and the purification progress in view of the disappearance of the ego, the inner flame grows. This flame is represented by the river Thermodon “the warmth of the union” at the mouth of which live the Amazons, who symbolise a perfect vital control. This was considered the ultimate goal of all the ancient yogas (and it still is to a large extent the goal of contemporary yogas). Indeed, there are no more men among the Amazons, which signifies that there are no more works of yoga, but only goals or achievements represented by the women.
Nevertheless, it cannot be the ultimate goal for one who is searching for a divinisation of earthly existence. Also, it is not only a matter of bringing back the queen’s belt – symbol of perfect control – but also of pursuing the purification through the transcendence of the modes of nature, or gunas. Hence the fight against the Amazons, which marks a reversal in the yoga.

According to the ancients, the seeker would then face the complex action of the gunas within himself which operate in a very intricate manner. These are very powerful forces or principles of nature which find themselves in everything and whose particular combinations determine our temperament, for example. In action, the soul (or Psychic Being) is subjected to their game.
We shall give more details about these three «gunas» further. Tamas is the mode of passivity and inertia. Rajas is the principle of dynamism, effort and fight. Sattva is that of balance, integration and harmony.
Each one of these modes is particularly active in the plane of which it is the basic principle: Tamas in matter, Rajas in the vital and Sattva in the mind.
Their interaction is the source of dualities.
If the goal of yoga is the perfection of the entirety of nature, and not just a flight in the spirit, resolving the problem of the gunas’ domination becomes indispensable. Surpassing the gunas means surpassing all attachment to knowledge, action and its fruits, as well as indifference. It means reaching a perfect equality in the face of all dualities, suffering or pleasure, praise or blame, etc.

Yet any action attempting to limit the influence of one of these modes modifies the action of the others. For example, any attempt to limit Rajas, the principle of energy and of passion, causes in consequence renewed inertia, Tamas.
Thus there are only two solutions to overcome the problem of the gunas’ actions. Either immobilising nature’s instruments (mental, vital and bodily) to render the three modes inoperative, or mastering them.

According to the ancient initiates, none could stabilise a harmonious balance of the outer nature (Sattva) while maintaining their participation in the world. They considered that only the first solution – the immobilisation of the instruments – was realisable and constituted the ultimate stage the seeker could reach.
Because even if they considered its possibility, they had not found how to fully transcend the gunas, except by escaping into an immobility of the spirit, by withdrawing from worldly action. Any attempt to balance them in their not yet perfectly spiritualised being would automatically cause the cessation of action and the immobility of the soul. That is why they placed Heracles’ columns, symbols of impassable boundaries in yoga, at the end of the Amazons’ Labour or at the very beginning of that of Geryon’s Cattle, the latter also being the first of the Labours to take place in a mythical place.

In order to achieve this first separation from the gunas’ action, it is recommended to rise above them by developing the impersonal witness consciousness (which is a mode of the inner being) in order to conquer full freedom in the spirit. This consciousness leads to a «detached» superiority, a «static» freedom.

But, if the goal of the yoga is not only the individual liberation but that of the whole of humanity, one must overcome this realisation. For anyone who seeks divine perfection including in the body, this liberation through inaction is not enough as one must also render the outer being transparent to the action of the divine forces, thus transcending the gunas within action as well.
That is why Heracles and other heroes (like Theseus and Bellerophon) will have to face the Amazons to prepare themselves for the next labour, that of liberation of the ego’s spiritual root (which is also the root of the desire’s soul).
It supposes complete transcendence of the gunas and of the dualities they generate. Yet the greatest initiates already knew what Sri Aurobindo stated in our time: that the gunas’ conflict existed only because of human nature’s imperfection and that these modes expressed themselves in perfect unity in the being integrally liberated as three essential powers of the Divine in Nature: «the Divine calmness» which is the source of perfect power, «the pure spirit will» and the «Divine light» illuminating the whole.
According to our understanding, this will be the object of the Tenth Labour of Heracles, «Geryon’s cattle», which the great initiate Pindar considered unrealisable, having located the «Pillars of Heracles» on the road that leads to Geryon.

In order to achieve an integral liberation, that is to say not only the union in the spirit of one’s being with that of the Divine Being, but also that of one’s will with the Divine Will working in the manifestation, the seeker must then also attain a second liberation through the transcendence of nature’s modes and of their complex interactions, source of dualities which support the roots of the ego.
According to Sri Aurobindo, even if ego and desire have been eradicated from the instruments (of the mind and the vital), the first purification and liberation is insufficient as it does not eliminate their spiritual roots located at the highest of mental nature. This root or «primordial knot» appears when the individual soul strays from Unity (which is the universal and transcending truth of one’s being) and wants to make something of its own with the spiritual energy that supports the universal movement and works towards individuation. The soul seeks to possess its being, its consciousness, its strength, its joy, in a separative way, in its own right and not in the Divine’s right. This will for a separated existence then changes nature within the external instruments and transforms into tension, effort and suffering.

It is the movement which finds its origin in the Echidna-Typhon couple – «the cessation of the evolution in the union» combined with «the ignorance» – that produced the four great monsters.
Thus it is «the sense of ego» or the mere idea of ego (which is also the fundamental root of desire) that must be eradicated. Ultimately, the feeling and the experience of being a separated and independent person in the universe must disappear, including in the body. (About the loss of bodily ego, see Mother’s Agenda volume 10, 1969.)
This liberation cannot be completed without the help of the energies from the supramental plane. That is why Heracles will use the sun’s barge. According to Sri Aurobindo, integral liberation can be achieved only by he who accesses the Gnosis and lives in the supramental.

In this phase of the yoga, the work of liberation is marked by an increasing «equality», as «the perfect equality» is the sign of an accomplished liberation. The first realisation in the progression of equality is illustrated by the action of Atalante «the Equality», the first feminine hero who distinguished herself in the hunt for the Calydonian boar, which represents the purification of the uncouth elements of the vital. Without a certain «equality», it is impossible to overcome the boar.
Sri Aurobindo seems to distinguish «Equanimity» and «Equality», as he attributes a more restrictive nature to the first notion: «There is a stage in the sadhana in which the inner being begins to awake. Often the first result is the condition made up of the following elements:
1. A sort of witness attitude in which the inner consciousness looks at all that happens as a spectator or observer, observing things but taking no active interest or pleasure in them.
2. A state of neutral equanimity in which there is neither joy nor sorrow, only quietude.
3. A sense of being something separate from all that happens, observing it without being a part of it.
4. An absence of attachment to things, people or events.
(Letters on Yoga, Part IV, Experiences of Inner Consciousness)

According to Sri Aurobindo (The Synthesis of Yogas, Part IV, Chapter XIII, The Action of Equality), the progression of this equality can be assessed in oneself through four criteria:
Equality in the most concrete practical sense of the word: freedom from mental, vital and physical preferences, an even acceptance of all God’s workings within and around him;
a firm peace and absence of all disturbance and trouble,
a positive inner spiritual happiness and spiritual ease of the natural being which nothing can lessen,
a clear joy and laughter of the soul embracing life and existence.
and he adds: «To be equal is to be infinite and universal. »

With the integral liberation from nature comes a liberation of the spiritual perception of nature’s dualities. That is to say that the «fully liberated one» completely «understands» the Divine game, that for him there are no more contradictions, just the deployment of a vast harmony. The fundamental knot of attraction and repulsion is defeated (repulsion for the divine action in the universe which manifests in us through suffering, for example, and which seems contrary to the nature of the Divine, as since long vital repulsion has been mastered ).

But this integral liberation is not the culmination of spiritual evolution yet. As Nature, within all its instruments including the body, must still become divine: «to be, to know and to possess the Divine» is the ultimate goal of the evolution for humanity.
To prepare this transformation, the being has to become totally transparent for the action of the divine forces within – through a complete spiritualisation -, he must have reached Apollo’s state in Hyperborea, beyond asceticism (the Divine does the work within him), and beyond duality, in the land «where things have no shadow»: the divine forces can thus go through the seeker without the slightest turmoil, without facing the slightest resistance nor awakening any fears in the lower planes.
The last phase, that of the transformation which must lead to the divine perfection in a divinised body, begins to be illustrated by the two last Labours located in mythical places like Geryon’s: the quest for the Apples of the Hesperides, symbol of «Union» or «unitive knowledge» of which the limits are ceaselessly pushed further as they progressively expand to all the parts of the being, and the descent in Hades to learn about, before removing them, the barriers opposing the body’s transformation for its divine perfection.

THE CRETAN BULL

Seventh Labour: the Cretan Bull

Eurystheus ordered Heracles to bring the Cretan Bull back alive.
When Heracles arrived on this island, he solicited Minos’ help who, according to different versions, accepted or refused. The hero captured the bull by seizing him by one horn, brought him back to Tiryns, showed it to Eurystheus, then set it free.

Note that according to Pausanias, Heracles captured the bull in Attica, not in Crete. This version is most coherent with the chronology of events as it locates Heracles’ exploit where Androgeos, Minos’ son, perished. According to another version, Heracles would have released the bull in Attica, but this version is less logical because it puts Androgeos’ death after the victory of the hero.

This seventh Labour gives less additional indications, except if compared with other tales mentioning a bull, which the Ancients have not failed to do.
According to some, this bull is the one which took Europe to Crete, Zeus having taken this appearance or the bull simply having been sent by the god. According to others, it is that same bull which Poseidon pulled out of the sea at King Minos’ request when the latter wanted to prove his legitimacy to reign.
Let us recall that indeed Minos had promised to sacrifice the animal to the god. However, seeing the splendor of the bull emerging from the sea, he decided to keep it in his herd and to offer another one in sacrifice, chosen from his own animals. Pasiphae fell in love with it and confided in Daidalos who intervened to allow the union, from which the Minotaur originated.
Somehow, the bull had taken refuge in the plain of Marathon. This version does not explain how the bull went from Crete to Attica. In order to resolve the problem, polygraphs pretended that Androgeos was killed in Crete.
As we have seen above in Chapter 4, the king of Athens, Aegeus, sent Androgeos, Minos’ son, to fight against him. The failure and death of Androgeos caused the war lead by Minos against Athens. Victorious, the latter imposed a heavy toll on the Athenians: every nine years, young Athenians were offered to the Minotaur. After some time, Theseus, on his way to fight the Minotaur, controlled the bull and offered it in sacrifice. By doing so, he accomplished what Minos could not achieve a long time ago.
This victory of Theseus echoes with Heracles’ seventh Labour, and it must be understood in the light of the Minotaur’s myth of which we will only be looking at the key elements here.
The symbolism of the bull is different of both that of the cow, illuminator principle of the consciousness bringing knowledge, and that of the horse, principle of strength and power (usually associated with the vital).
From the earliest antiquity, the bull represented the guarantor of fertility. It is the symbol of the fertilizing power of the spirit, of the principle generating the New, of the descent of the Divine consciousness and its force in matter and thus, by extension, of the realising and creative ability.
In this study, we adopted the symbolic significance of the bull given by Sri Aurobindo: «the power of the luminous mind».

There can therefore be no question of casually «killing» the bull, but only of «sacrificing» it, that is to say to put this power not at the service of the ego, but to that of the Absolute based on the perception of the truth brought by the psychic being.
The symbol of the sacrifice must be understood in the myths as the progressive realisation of «transparency» to the influence and the action of the Absolute, which explains why, in Hyperborea, Apollo’s land, things and beings no longer have shadows. The notion of «sacrifice» is substantially developed by Sri Aurobindo in The Synthesis of Yogas, Part 1«The Yoga of Divine Works».
Minos’ refusal to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon indicates that at this point the seeker has not yet appreciated the extent of the power of his ego.

At first, Jason had to demonstrate his ability to control by putting Aeetes’ bulls under the yoke to plough Ares’ fields: before the first response of the planes of the spirit would occur, the seeker had to prove his aptitudes to control this «power of the luminous mind», which until now was only achievable with a holistic spiritual vision and power originating from the soul to which the seeker had no access (Aeetes). At this stage, it is only question of short bursts from the illuminated mind (or even from the planes of intuition and of the overmind) in the progression of the higher mind.

This Labour thus concerns all the seekers who rise above the ordinary mind and penetrate into what Sri Aurobindo calls «the intermediary zone» in which the seeker starts to receive influences from above and to live experiences without having undertaken a sufficient purification of his outer nature. This zone has been described at length in a previous chapter and we are only mentioning here a few of the main points.
The seeker can therefore become the prey of lower or hostile powers that wish to act through him. When forces from the higher planes flow, often an inflation of the ego follows, making it feel strong, divinised, luminous. The mind and more specifically the vital tend to seize these forces and to use them for the ego’s purpose, or they merge the demands of the latter with the service of something higher, which has the same results. Sri Aurobindo also writes that «impersonality in itself» is not the Divine, and that many think they are impersonal and free from ego because they are obeying a force or something bigger than their own personality – but that force or that something may be quite other than the Divine and it may hold them by something in their personality and ego (More-Lights-on-Yoga -Bases of Sâdhanâ. p 47 English original)

His projects and creations are thus under the influence of the ego or of hostile forces, even if the seeker believes he offered then to the Divine.
According to Sri Aurobindo, if the seeker is purified and sincere enough, if he is not abnormally vain, selfish or ambitious, if he receives a sound direction from his spiritual master or if he is vigilant enough, or even if his Psychic Being leads his outer being, he must be able to avoid the traps of this intermediate zone and of mixing spiritual influences with a non-purified ego, as well as to pass this zone with a minimum of troubles.
The feats of Theseus provide a general overview, according to the ancients, of the conditions or purifications required for eradicating the Minotaur, including the victory over the Pallantidai, and the fight against the bull of Marathon.

The description of this Labour of Heracles does not indicate whether the hero avoided or overcame the difficulties mentioned above. The myth only states the need for passing this zone in order to enter the higher planes of spiritual consciousness. The seeker should thus, in principle, be protected from all serious falls like the Minotaur’s, and should be able to use the power of the luminous mind without being disturbed while sacrificing it in the right way.

Heracles must therefore demonstrate his ability to control without artifices – with bare hands -the power of the luminous mind. It must be able to express itself within a nature in the process of being purified and must be at the service of the seeker’s «life purpose» or his «task». This implies a progressive detachment from all concerns for result, from all attachment to actions and their fruits.
According to Diodorus, Heracles returned to Greece on the back of the bull, showing a perfect control of the power of the enlightened mind.

THE SIX FINAL LABOURS OF HERACLES

A voice cried, “Go where none have gone!
Dig deeper, deeper yet
Till thou reach the grim foundation stone
And knock at the keyless gate. »

Sri Aurobindo
A God’s Labour

The first six Labours of Heracles described the conditions necessary to the first liberation, named “spiritual liberation” by Sri Aurobindo, that is to say a cessation of the spirit’s subjection (understood here as including the planes above the logical mind) to the mixed, ignorant movements of the lower nature.
Mainly defined by the two first labours – the Nemean Lion and the Lernaean Hydra – this spiritual liberation consists of a liberation from the ego (the will of self-assertion) and from desire, of which the root is a vital lust stemming from a deformation of life energy due to ignorance and to a halt in the evolution in union.
The next four Labours of this first group specified certain requirements or necessities for this liberation of the spirit.
with the Ceryneian Hind, an aspiration and purification of the intuition from what interferes with it, for the purpose of integrity and consecration.
with the Erymanthian Boar, the necessary rejection of the most uncouth impulsions and movements of our nature.
with the cleaning up of Augeas’ Stables, the renouncement to «the benefits» of the first experiences on the path.
finally, with the Stymphalian Birds, the ability to discern the confusion of the planes (mental and vital) and the obtainment of a certain control over our mental movements.
These first six Labours take place in the Peloponnese, on either side of Argos for the two first Labours, in Arcadia located South of Achaea in the central area of the Peloponnesus, or on its borders for the four next ones.

The next six Labours take us away from the Peloponnesus, adressing more precisely the rather advanced seekers who at least received a first response to their aspiration from the Invisible, in the form of a temporary opening of the mind or of the psychic (illumination or psychic opening), or both simultaneously.

This first contact enables the entrance into what is usually called in Western mystic «the unitive stage» following those of «purification» and «illumination». The seeker must deepen his being’s purification upon entering this unitive life. He is then driven by his «inner guide» (the «Psychic Being» or the Master of yoga) rather than by the will of his outer being, at least when it comes to the major orientations in his life
If entering the path confronted him to a first purification, called «night of the senses» in this mystic, he could find himself confronted to a second night, that «of the spirit». The duration of these nights, their requirements and their intensity are obviously different for each individual, and probably proportionate to the intensity of the experiences. This second night brings the seeker into contacting a place of silence and peace deep inside the being, which corresponds to a surrender of the outer being and eventually to the end of psychological suffering. It is around this place that the seeker will progressively reunite all the parts of his being, in order to make his inner fire grow.
Nevertheless, Sri Aurobindo did not dwell on these different nights nor did he encourage addressing them, preferring to indicate that all seekers meet periods of darkness and dryness throughout the yoga. As the very principle of it is an ascent followed by an integration, it is obvious that any progression towards light implies descending into the corresponding shadow. The first night corresponds to a lack of interest for wordly affairs and ordinary pleasures, just like the second one, who will dive into what seems like a radical abandonment of the Divine support (which can go as far as the loss of intellectual functions), are only specific formulations of these periods of integration.

Some ancient masters also marked this important step by the conclusion of the elimination of the most common errors in asceticism, which is the object of Theseus’ preliminary labours. Indeed, for them, the Cretan Bull which Heracles had to bring back during the seventh Labour was the same one that Theseus had to tame in Marathon as he just arrived in Athens after «correcting» many mistakes on the way, before even tackling the Minotaur.
Let us recall that after his victory over this monster, Theseus established synoecism, unifying Attica through the reunion of the twelve communities in order to have only one people and by setting central institutions of a same state. Synoecism is a «community of houses» and represents the founding act of a city. Cf. ch. 4.
Even if Heracles’ Seventh Labour seems to correspond rather correctly with the stages of Theseus’ life, let us remind ourselves that it is advisable to avoid comparing lineages too precisely.

At this stage, the construction of a labyrinth should be no longer possible, that is to say that the seeker should no longer have the freedom to build a mental fortress out of a spiritual experience sustained by the power of the luminous mind but which would have been diverted by the ego, thus from the consecration to the Truth. Furthermore, the process of purification has been set in motion and all the energies are gathered under the control of a higher will. The seeker can then guide them towards his only true «task» of which he already perceives the essential outline.

Nevertheless, during this first phase, the seeker is far from being done with «his personal will», since the process of consecration or total abandonment into the hands of the Absolute will still take a long time. Thus he must remain extremely attentive to the continuation of his purification and consecration, with a growing sincerity, in order to avoid falling into the classic mistakes of this phase. The deviances which usually occur after the first experiences often originate from the fact that the seeker holds on to the «I» whilst believing he has surrendered to the Divine.

The two first Labours of this second series, the Cretan Bull and the Mares of Diomedes, concern the ability to contain without artifice (with bare hands) the producing power of the luminous mind and to overcome the attraction for excessive asceticism, which compels the vital force.
Through these two Labours, who are located on two opposing poles (Crete to the South and Thrace to the North), it is a question of achieving a fair control over one’s potential and a right balance in the work of yoga.
Jason already had to prove his ability in this domain by mastering the powers of realisation of the luminous mind at work in the world of duality (he had to plough Ares’ field after putting two fiery bulls under one yoke).

The second phase of the progression towards the union with the Divine (or «unitive life») is marked essentially by the growth of the inner flame. The progressive warmth of the current towards the mystic union is illustrated by the river Thermodon «the union’s warmth (or ardour)» at the mouth of which is located the Amazons’ capital. (Cf. «Living Flame of Love», by John of the Cross).
It includes two realisations. First of all, with the Belt of the Queen of the Amazons, the seeker must surpass the achievement of a perfect vital control. This phase marks the peak of the inner fire and opens wide the doors to the powers of life. The second realisation, illustrated by The Cattle of Geryon marks the acquisition of the powers of life, which are still akin to miracles for most of men. This realisation corresponds to the state of sanctity.
At this stage, the seeker must consider overcoming the three modes of nature (the «gunas»).
But it is still not the path’s end, and the seeker will have to avoid all temptation to use these powers if he wants to continue on the way towards Knowledge and towards the transformation of the body for the Absolute to lead him to its perfection. These realisations are the subject of the two final Labours.

Following the order of the canonical list of this second group of six Labours, the four first ones are arranged according to the cardinal points – Crete to the South (the Cretan Bull), Thrace to the North (the Mares of Diomedes), the shore of the Black Sea to the East (the belt of the Amazons’ queen), and Erythia to the West, the glowing island «in the Far West» (the Cattle of Geryon). This cross might carry various symbolisms, like the initiatory journey which always takes one back to the centre, the infinite extension of consciousness or even the progressive annihilation of the ego in all the planes.

Unlike the three first ones, the labour of Geryon’s cattle is not located precisely; we only know that it took place in the Far-West. It implies a resolution of the archaic memories at the root of life, memories which the seeker will have to deal with as they progressively appear, always going further back towards the source until he finally broaches the yoga of the body, the descent to Hades which is the subject of the next labour.

Finally, the last two Labours take place in purely symbolic places, the descent in the Hades and the Garden of Hesperides, which exclude a priori all possibility of total completion as much for the initiates of Ancient Greece as for today’s humanity. This explains why their places could have been interchanged according to the authors. As it represents an evolution regarding the millennia ahead of us, they can nevertheless still receive the beginning of a realisation.
Thus they occur not only in mythical places but also in mythical times, beyond even all the late accomplishments of the heroes, the Praxeis – «deeds» or «achievements» – which continue beyond the twelve famous Labours.

The Apples of the Garden of the Hesperides symbolise «the union», the «non-duality» and thus also the «Knowledge» of which the limits ceaselessly get «pushed further» following human evolution. It can only be «absolute» when humanity is permanently settled in the Supermind.
This is why Heracles had already picked the apples when Jason arrived in the Garden of the Hesperides, and why he had to return them at the end of the eleventh Labour in order to put them back in the garden.

As for the task concerning the Dog of Cerberus, it represents a first investigation of the transformation of the body, as what «guards» or «prevents the access to» its divinisation, or, in other words, what prevents its premature divinisation, arises to the consciousness.
The limited visibility of the elders about the degree of progress necessary to undertake the two last Labours explains why some initiates situated the ultimate limit of the possible realisations in the yoga at the end of the tenth Labour (the Cattle of Geryon), characterised by the famous «Pillars of Heracles (Hercules)». We therefore understand better why the poet Pindar exclaimed that it was impossible to cross the inviolate sea beyond the Pillars of Heracles.

THE MYTH OF ORPHEUS

The myth of Orpheus, because of its relationship with the mystical power or mystery cult known as Orphism, is perhaps the one from Greek mythology which has generated the most studies and debates among experts, who even take care to distinguish between legend and myth.
We will first examine the different stages of spiritual growth that the evolutions of the myth reveal; then we will study, without going into detail, the myth of the dismembering of Dionysus specific to Orphism.
We will not study the Orphic cosmogonies, nor the rites and beliefs attached to this particular religion. The latter seems to have been reserved for followers of a yoga of knowledge associated with a deep desire for purification. It is probably the same spirit which led the Cathars of France, from the Greek Katharoi “the pure ones”, in an altogether different context.

If we consider that only very great heroes such as Ulysses or Heracles were able to venture into Hades, then Orpheus should be regarded as their precursor, maybe their initiator, or even as a hero of the same stature. Let’s remember that a “descent” into Hades is a dive into the physical unconscious, which requires prior mental and vital liberation. Theseus and his friend Pirithoos who had not acquired the corresponding stature remained prisoners. We will see in a later chapter that Euripides is the first to have mentioned the deliverance of Theseus by Heracles, but that in all likelihood, the ancient versions mentioned irreversible punishment.

However, no primitive myth makes Orpheus the hero of a great epic, even if he seems to have been famous throughout the Greek world as early as the 6th century BC.
Other examples of heroes who were able to return from the kingdom of Hades, such as Sisyphus and Alceste, did not enter there voluntarily and could only be “released” with the permission of Persephone or Hades or after the intervention of Heracles.

The initiating function of Orpheus had to be developed over time until the myth could cover the initiations into small as well as great Mysteries. In the small mysteries, the role of Orpheus was only the one of a musician and a poet (bard), while the most advanced initiations of the great Mysteries were related to the voluntary descent of the hero into the underworld.
This is the reason why, in the quest of the Golden Fleece by Jason, the descent of Orpheus into the kingdom of Hades is not mentioned, an incursion which must have been well known by the poet. That quest belongs to the beginning of the path, and the Orpheus of the Argonautica of Apollonius has no other role than singing and keeping the beat, together with initiating the Argonauts to the mysteries of Samothrace.
It is most likely because of this role of initiator that Orpheus got his reputation of transmitter of the story of the dismemberment of Dionysus, which is the basis of the Orphic beliefs about immortality of the soul.

Orpheus as initiator of the first phase of the path

Neither Homer nor Hesiod mention Orpheus. Also, he does not seem to appear in archaic art. The most ancient vases where he is represented date from the first half of the 5th century BC.
Some ancient authors who considered Orpheus a historical character ranked him among the mythical poets who preceded Homer for several generations and made him a son of Apollo.
Among these mythical poets were also Eumolpos and Philammon.
Eumolpos “who sings and dances well” or “a noble song that sounds right” is therefore the symbol of a just and true harmony in acts as in their expression. The late authors make him a son of Poseidon and the father of Museum. He was considered the founder of the Eleusian mysteries and the first priest of Demeter and Dionysus.
Philammon “who loves the consecration, self-giving (or who likes the sun god Ammon)” is son of Apollo “the god of the manifestation of the light of truth in the mental consciousness” and Chione “evolution of the focusing of consciousness” and was the father of Thamyris. In some traditions, he was the half-brother of Autolycus “who is for himself his own light” or “what radiates its own light”.
According to Pherecydes, it is Philammon and not Orpheus, who was with the Argonauts. In this variant, the author’s stress is on consecration, the manifestation of the psychic light and the focusing of consciousness, while Orpheus emphasizes the work of incarnation, purification and the opening of consciousness.

So, if Orpheus does not appear in the older texts, he is, however, mentioned as early as the 6th century BC in the works of Ibycos as a great musician, poet and singer, belonging to the Argonaut clan.
He is also found in Delphi in the building of the same period known as the Sicyonian Monopteros on which he appears unambiguously as an Argonaut. At the end of the same century, the poet Simonides attributed supernatural gifts to Orpheus: birds surrounded him and fish jumped out of the water to the rhythm of his music. Apollonius, Bacchylides and Euripides went on in this “magical” vein, some even in an exaggerated way by involving trees and rocks in the procession.
Pindar, at the beginning of the 6th century BC., mentions him also as one of the Argonauts. He makes him a messenger of Apollo, and as such, the father of music.

The initial myth can be summarized thus:
The father of Orpheus was Oeagrus considered by some as the king of Thrace. His mother was the muse Kalliope (Calliope) daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Orpheus was famous for his wisdom, his talents as a singer and musician. He played beautifully on the lyre and zither whose invention was sometimes attributed to him; it was even said that he knew how to play tunes so sweet that wild beasts followed him.
He took part in the quest for the Golden Fleece organized under the leadership of Jason, where the Argonauts avoided succumbing to the sirens by his chants. Another time he appeased the raging waves. Being the only “initiate” of the group, he was not rowing, but set the pace. As such, he initiated his travelling companions, the Argonauts, in the mysteries of Samothrace.

In this myth, he fulfils the role defined by the symbolism of his name obtained with the structuring letters ΡΦ: “the right action of consciousness in man”. From this true movement a “radiance” is brought forth.
(Cf. the words formed on the root Φα, Φη, Φω, Φυ, “to shine”. With the Rho in the sense of inversion, we also get words like ορφνη “darkness, obscurity” and ορφανος “he who is without parents or children. Some parts of the myth could be interpreted on this basis: Orpheus, losing faith, turning away from the light.)

This is the only characteristic acknowledged by Apollonius (in the 3rd century BC.) who described him as the spiritual guide of the group. He can cover with his voice the song of the sirens and thus fight against the most dangerous forms of seduction related to “idealizations”, or to the expression of a strong desire to find again a true knowledge or a harmonized state of consciousness now lost. (See what has been said about the sirens in the study of the myth of the Golden Fleece.)
Embodying a double capacity of receptivity and transmission, Orpheus represents at this stage of the path the highest harmony the seeker can demonstrate in the quest for the state where each thing is in its proper place (the non-mixture or purity).
Beating time and exempted from rowing, he marks the right moment of each act for its beginning, middle and end. So, the Truth is revealed to us by our growing ability to harmonize accurately with the movement of creation, in small as in large things. Obedience to the law of rhythm is in fact the true mastery.
We are also told that he can appease the raging waves; the waves here being the symbol of the vital world (passions, emotions and feelings), it also represents the ability of the seeker to use his higher consciousness to control his vital movements.
Having received the initiation into the mysteries of Samothrace, he encourages the Argonauts to get initiated as well: “the same night, on the order of Orpheus, they came to the island of Atlantis Electra to learn, by strange initiations, secret rites that would allow them to sail safely on the frightening sea.”
The scholars associate the island of Atlantis Electra with the island of Samothrace located south of Thrace, not far from the Trojan coast. The initiations that were performed there concerned the lower planes of the mind up to the illumined mind (Electra is the fifth Pleiades, daughter of Atlas). Indeed, although very few details about the secret rites have survived, we will rely on the story of Apollonius in order to situate this episode at the beginning of the quest. We then can assume that this is only the first level of “the initiation into the mysteries” or “muesis” which gave the rank of mystes (word composed on the verbe μυω “to be silent” – which was an imperative demand made to the candidates -, or “to close the eyes” in the sense of an inner reversal). The second and highest degree of initiation “the epopteia” or “contemplation” gave access to the rank of epopte. Although some authors claim that the two degrees could be obtained at Samothrace, it is more likely that the second initiation could be obtained only in Eleusis. In this sanctuary, the rite of “the ear of wheat” was associated with him; he symbolized the perfection of the work of Demeter “the mother of the union” and thus the completion of the purification-liberation process.
The faculties that characterize Orpheus as a “priest” of the Argonauts are emotional control and the first initiatory skills leading to spiritual discernment, accuracy and harmony.

Orpheus is a native of Thrace, the province of asceticism. Apollonius gives him a human father Oeagrus (Oiagros) “work on consciousness” and a divine father, Apollo.
According to other authors, Oeagrus is either the son of Ares “the god who ensures the right renewal of forms”, or the son of Pieros “abundance, opulence”, or the son of the king of Thrace Charops “with bright gaze”, or, for the mythographers, a river god, that is, a movement of evolution of consciousness. For Asclepiades, Orpheus is only the son of Apollo).

By his divine father Apollo, he is related to the first luminous manifestations of the psychic being.
His mother was Calliope “a beautiful voice” (perhaps also “a beautiful vision”). Hesiod presents her as being by far the most noble of the nine muses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Indeed, her “beautiful voice” is a sign of the true word and therefore creative. She represents the necessary condition for the birth of Orpheus. The Muses being the daughters of Mnemosyne, it is more about finding the true word than inventing it.
There are two groups of Muses: those which are related to Zeus and who live close to Olympus and those related to Apollo. Calliope belongs to the first of these groups.
The place of his birth is Mount Pimpleia, the place of the aspiration “which fulfills”.
As the king of Thrace, he represents what directs the quest at this point of the path.

Apollonius also takes the pretext for the presentation of Orpheus to do a brief review of the history of evolution: initially, he tells us, the great snake Ophion and his wife Eurynome ruled, symbols of the penetration of consciousness in humans and evolution where everything was going according to the “right order”, where everything was in its place. Then, when the time came for the development of purely human consciousness, Kronos drove them into the Ocean (in the water of evolution of consciousness) and that was the reign of the Golden Age and the childhood of Zeus, the period of human vital evolution. Then came the rise of Zeus and his coming to power as in the traditional cosmogony.

The second phase of the path: Orpheus and Eurydice or the descent into the physical unconscious

The story of Orpheus descending into the kingdom of Hades to bring back his wife appears at the beginning of the 5th century. It illustrates an investigation of the physical unconscious by a “right movement of evolution of consciousness”.
It is indeed between 550 and 450 BC., (the period of the Tragic poets Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and also of Pindar, Herodotus, Bacchylides and Simonides) that the bases of the myth were laid, as it was reported in all its details much later by Virgil and Ovid at the turn of the millennium.
As for the name of the wife of Orpheus, Eurydice, she is not mentioned before the 3rd century BC.

From the moment it became clear that spiritual evolution, in the most advanced phases, involved an exploration of the physical unconscious – long after the first experience with the Self or the psychic being – the character of Orpheus must have been connected in one way or another with the myth of Demeter and his daughter Persephone. It is indeed the latter who represented by her going and coming between Hades and the surface of the Earth, the flow of consciousness between the conscious and the physical unconscious.

This evolution of the myth can be compared to the dismemberment of Dionysus in Orphism. The hero-god, first called Zagreus, there is the son of Zeus and Persephone, and therefore the symbol of an impulsion’s work from the supraconscient to penetrate the unconscious.
Dionysus, as we have just seen, represents ‘the penetration of the Divine in the soul’, the mystic ecstasy on the path of liberation and purification.
The Orphic myth of Dionysus-Zagreus dismembered by the Titans and then brought back to life by Zeus or Apollo, may represent the main phases of the ultimate evolution of yoga, knowing that it begins at the point where the young Zagreus has already reached the level of the Overmind (as from birth, he handles the lightning of Zeus). Following his dismemberment by the Titans, the different parts of Zagreus’ body are boiled and then burned; thus is set out the purification process to achieve the psychisation of the being and then prepare the final stage of the supramental transformation. This requires that each part of the being, isolated from the rest, is purified by water and fire to obtain immortality and eternal youth – unity in diversity and the capacity to renew itself indefinitely – before the New Dionysus could be “born”.

The different approaches of the myth of Dionysus, from the simplest one considering him as the god of drunkenness to the most elaborate ones, could therefore give rise over the centuries to various spiritual movements and practices. Dionysian official religions developed with their own rites, bacchic religions, and also a more mystical doctrine with its own theology, Orphism. The latter, which included many currents, was close to the “paths of knowledge” and seems to have been reserved for a spiritual and intellectual elite who sought a more effective and therefore stricter asceticism.
We are then in the presence of many sources that often mingle and deserve a special approach. Initially, we will limit ourselves to the study of the refined myth without taking into account the many developments to which it gave rise and excluding the purely Orphic elements.

Among the Tragic poets, Aeschylus evokes the extraordinary events surrounding Orpheus while Sophocles ignores the hero. Regarding Euripides, he mentions his descent into the kingdom of Hades, his relation with Dionysus, his stay in the forests of Olympus and he makes him the founder of the Mysteries.

In the Banquet of Plato, Orpheus managed to go down to the underworld Kingdom, but he found only a “shadow” of his wife, who could not leave the place: he was driven out of Hades by the gods who showed him “a ghost of the woman for which he had come, but did not give her person because he seemed to have a weak soul, something fairly natural for a zither player; and he did not have the courage to die for her love like Alcestis, but had instead used his talent to enter, alive, into Hades. And that’s certainly the reason why they imposed a penalty on him and made death come to him by women”.
It seems that Plato went on like this in his denigration of what he regarded as stories bound to mislead the mind.
The historian Pausanias, in the 2nd century AD., goes even further in the denial of the capacities of Orpheus, transforming the descent into Hades into a simple divination: Orpheus went to consult an oracle who had the art to conjure the dead and as he wanted to grasp the shadow of Eurydice, she escaped and he killed himself in despair.

Eratosthenes in the 3rd century BC, according to what came to us indirectly, would have spoken of Orpheus in these terms: “once he came down into Hades because of his wife, seeing what kinds of things were there, he ceased to worship Dionysus thanks to whom he got his fame and felt that Helios was the greatest of the gods, Helios whom he invoked under the name of Apollo”.
The author expresses a rejection not only of the exploration of the physical unconscious in the face of the difficulties met at the roots of life, but also of the psychic realization. By the attitude of Orpheus, he confers the primacy to the supramental light (Helios) that he confuses with the light of the psychic being (Apollo). It seems obvious that the author was not an initiate and got only a glimpse of the deep meaning of the myth.
It is the poet Moschus at the 3rd century B.C. who was the first to mention the name of Eurydice.
Finally, the more elaborate versions of the myth have been transmitted to us by Virgil and Ovid at the beginning of our era.
The more sober version is that of Ovid (The Metamorphoses, books 10 and 11):
Orpheus, in love with his wife Eurydice, lost her the day of the wedding when she was bitten in the heel by a snake while she was walking in the fields. Inconsolable, he decided to search for her in the kingdom of shadows. He charmed so well the dog Cerberus by his singing that he let him enter. Then he asked Hades and Persephone to “undo the weft” of Eurydice’s fate. The deities could not resist the prayer of Orpheus, but agreed under one condition: so long as the journey back to the light would last, he could not look back under any circumstances.
While he travelled on a steep trail, dark and shrouded in a thick fog, Orpheus, fearing that his beloved eluded him and impatient to see her, turned around. Eurydice was immediately driven backwards and died a second time. Orpheus could not make the guardians of the underworld yield despite his entreaties and had to return to the surface of the Earth, inconsolable.
The word ‘”hell” derived from the Latin “infernus” and in this context means “place from below”. In the Christian Greek scriptures, the word “Hades” is often used in its place.
The filiation of Orpheus has not changed since the primitive version. Oeagrus is his human father, Apollo, his divine father. Some authors refer only to one of the two. His mother is most often Calliope, more rarely another Muse, Polymnia.
According to the letters of his name, this hero symbolizes the right movement of penetration of the higher consciousness into the being (ΡΦ). By his descent, he expresses the work done for a “virginity of the existence-consciousness” (Oeagrus) and/or the impetus given by the light of the psychic being (Apollo). This work needs to be done for a “true expression” (Calliope) that should allow the seeker to “remember” his primordial divine condition (Calliope is daughter of Mnemosyne).
He is king of Thrace and therefore a movement leading the practice in the quest.

In earlier versions, the name of Orpheus’ wife is not indicated. The wife of a hero being the symbol of the aim he pursues, her disappearance implies the loss of vision or meaning of the path.
Generally, when the seeker meets the purifying “nights” accompanied by a loss of reference points, he tries to stay in touch with his inner being until a “light” appears. For Orpheus, however, it’s not a descent into the subconscious (the world of Poseidon), but a dive into the physical unconscious, the realm of Hades. This part of the myth concerns the most advanced seekers who reached the level of the twelfth labour of Heracles.
In a sense, the myth of Orpheus would therefore cover the totality of the path, from the quest for the Golden Fleece (or search for a refined sensitivity) to the descent into the physical consciousness.

From Moschus, the authors agree to name the intended purpose “Eurydice”, without linking this heroine to a specific family tree, however.
The name Eurydice comes from the words Euru (Ευρυ) “vast, wide” and Dike (Δικη) “the imperative rule” (and/or “how to be or act”). The union of Orpheus and Eurydice would therefore express that the seeker follows the “mandatory rules” that govern evolution, that he aspires to a “right way to act”. There is disagreement among the experts on the meaning of the word Δικη but in this study, both meanings are possible insofar as the “right way” is associated with this moment of the path of obedience to rules.
But soon Eurydice was bitten in the heel by a snake. As in all traditions, the snake here symbolizes evolution. The bite in the heel could mean that the seeker has engaged in an evolutionary process close to matter. But most importantly, it indicates the loss of contact with unity. This image can be compared with the text of Genesis which expresses the exit from the “intuition” period: “And the Lord God said to the snake: because you have done this, cursed you are more than all the cattle and more than all the beasts of the field. And upon your belly you shall go and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will set enmity between you and the woman and between your posterity and her posterity: she will crush your head and you will smite her heel.” (Genesis 3.14)
Orpheus losing Eurydice, the adventurer of consciousness is deprived of the “mandatory laws” which were his guide up to this point. He must venture into the depths of physical consciousness, in the memories of evolution, looking for a new path. The name Eurydice would therefore confirm the symbolism of the loss of the wife.
From the fact that the deities of the underworld ordered Orpheus not to turn around as long as he had not come back to the light (the moment when he can contemplate his wife), we can deduce that during the crossing in the physical yoga, the seeker should not dwell on the rules of the past, nor look for new ones as long as they are not clearly communicated to his consciousness. Such would be the law imposed by the power that ensures the spirit-matter union, Hades.

It seems that in some versions, Orpheus overcame the ordeal by “proving the teachings of Dionysus” i.e. demonstrating the merits of both aspiration and surrender to the Divine which brings ecstatic joy.
But in the more well-known versions, he fails: the seeker does not retain an unshakable faith in the divine power because he aspires to find again “great laws.” He cannot go beyond his belief in the so-called absolute laws of the body. The Agenda of the Mother amply underlines this difficulty
Thus, the laws of transformation cannot be known until the work is done.

The version of Virgil

This author’s account deserves a closer look, because not only does he emphasize the fact that it is a very advanced stage of the path, but especially he puts in opposition two destinies: the one of Orpheus who succumbed due to lack of faith and then was dismembered by the women of Thrace, and the one of Aristaeus who, having integrated the dramatic narrative of the error of Orpheus, made the necessary sacrifices and regained his dear bees, symbols of the work towards non-duality.

Virgil introduced the story of Orpheus with a long digression on the breeding of bees.
In this introduction, the queen is a king and reproduction occurs because the bees “adopt hatched worms from the bosom of the flowers”. Considering the symbolism of bees linked to the psychic being, this passage is interesting. Indeed, since bee-keeping was practiced from time immemorial, the Ancients could not have misunderstood their mode of reproduction. Virgil also states that “the bee, helping the Corybantes, feeds the young King of heaven (Zeus) in his crib” and with it, everything is put “in common”.

Then, having explained that the people whom the Nile floods the furrows was evidence of the power of the art of bee-keeping, he explains how an innumerable swarm arose from the bowels of a bull sacrificed according to specific rules.
He then continues with the story of Aristaeus, in these terms:
Aristaeus had many bees which one day began to starve. He went to complain to his mother, the nymph Cyrene who resided at the bottom of the river Peneus. She said that only Proteus, son of Poseidon, could solve his torment because he “knew the past, the present and the future”. But Aristaeus had to be careful because Proteus changed his shape constantly, taking in turn that of a furious tiger, a huge boar, a lion, fire or a roaring torrent.
Aristaeus having overcome Proteus, the latter informed him that his misfortune was that he had once pursued Eurydice and that she was bitten by a snake as she was running, causing the despair of Orpheus.
Virgil developed then the end of the story of Orpheus in a manner very similar to that of Ovid, as we have studied above. Then he ends the story of Aristaeus thus:
When he had finished his story, Proteus disappeared into the sea.
Cyrene tells her son that he had to appease the anger of the nymphs, companions of Eurydice, by offering a sacrifice of four bulls and four heifers. In addition, he had to sacrifice a black sheep to Orpheus and a heifer to the manes of Eurydice.
Aristaeus did as recommended by his mother and swarms of bees came out from the flanks of the bulls.

The origin of Aristaeus is not mentioned by Virgil. We have seen in this chapter the one given by Pindar in the study of the myth of Actaeon, the son he had from Autonoe. In this story Aristaeus “the best” is a son of “the light of the psychic being” Apollo and the nymph Cyrene “sovereign authority”, herself daughter of the king of the Lapithae, Hypseus “high”. He was fed with nectar and ambrosia, food and drink of the gods conferring immortality (access to non-duality) and eternal youth (adaptation to the movement of becoming or the presence in the moment). Having almost become a god, he was then called Agreus or Nomios, “order according to consciousness” where each thing is in its place. This last name can be compared with Eurynome “vast order”, a godhead who, in the Orphic tradition, ruled the universe with the great serpent Ophion before the Titans seized power.
Aristaeus represents a seeker among the most advanced, one who is about to impose on its nature the sovereignty of the psychic light and accuracy.
He is somehow a clone of Orpheus, being also an offspring of Apollo and a nymph.
He excelled in all human activities: he knew the art of healing (the seeker possesses the knowledge of the energies and understands how to use them), that of prophesy (he has a higher intuition) the arts of hunting and leading of the herds (he knows how to orient his capacities towards the desired goal and masters perfectly the disciplines of the way…) as well as the cultivation of olive trees (…and the processes of purification) and bee-keeping (and knows how to develop the psychic being).

Indeed, bees produce honey which is the symbol of immortality, of non-duality. This is why there are many symbols revolving around honey: purification, resurrection, inspiration coming from the beyond, etc. (It seems that the priests and priestesses of Eleusis, the operative intermediaries of the path towards non-duality, were called “bees”.)

Virgil declared that the Egyptians (people whose land is flooded by the Nile) demonstrated the transforming power of the psychic being and knew the yoga that favoured its development (he confirmed the power of the art of bee-keeping). In particular, he mastered the consecration – with no concern for the result – of creative capacities of the luminous mind (an innumerable swarm arose from the bowels of a bull sacrificed according to certain rules).

And while Aristaeus saw his bees die of hunger, the seeker loses the means to develop his psychic being because he aspires to follow “the right way to act” or rather “an imperative rule”, a valid evolutionary law for everybody (indeed, his misfortune came because he had one day pursued Eurydice). Because he is still a prisoner of a tendency to follow known rules while the evolution of the psychic being eludes them.
In other words, we can progress on the path of a certain perfection (holiness and wisdom) while “starving” one’s psychic being. That’s why Aristaeus went to ask the cause of his bewilderment to his mother Cyrene, daughter of the river Peneus (who holds the “sovereign authority” in the flow of consciousness “which leads to mastery”). At this point, it’s no longer mastery, so she could not advise him and sent him to Proteus.

For Homer, who named him “Proteus the Egyptian”, the latter is an “old man of the sea” just like Nereus. He is also a servant of Poseidon who keeps the herds of seals of the god (of whom he is sometimes considered the son). He’s “immortal” according to Homer and “knows the abysses of all the seas”.
He represents in the subconscious the force that devised the plan of Nereus in the development of the vital, i.e. the one who inspired the emergence of life out of matter. That is why he watched over herds of seals, symbols of a change of environment. Like Nereus, he belongs to the non-dual plane of life (he is immortal). Let’s recall that the appearance of life as well as the mind are the combined results of the Divine acting through the higher planes of the Mind and that of the Divine involved in matter expressing himself in the form of a powerful aspiration of the lower planes. (The process is the same for the installation of the Supermind by awakening the aspiration in the cells. In fact, Mother says that it is a sensitisation or a “permeabilisation” of matter to the supramental forces that are always there.)
The name Proteus (Pro+Τ) means “the setting in motion of the higher consciousness” from the deepest subconscious (the abysses of the seas). It is at these depths, at the root of life in non-duality, that the seeker can contact what in him has full knowledge of his soul’s evolution (Proteus knows the past, present and future) and can show him the mistake on the path.
However, in those areas where life emerged from matter and where the body retains the memory, the powers contacted are constantly in motion and can be terrifying for those who have not reached a sufficient equanimity.
The attribution by Homer of the epithet “Egyptian” to the name of Proteus would suggest that some initiates among these people reached that level of consciousness. What we have already noted with Apollonius of Rhodes, stating that ‘these people kept, set in stone, the instructions for the path’.

After having integrated the story of Orpheus, Aristaeus recovered swarms of bees after offering bulls and heifers in sacrifice (the seeker overcoming the error which is to rely on reference points, finds ways to develop his psychic being if he dedicates his realizations and luminous powers of the mind to the truth).
We can consider that the story of Aristaeus, who himself does not descend into Hades, prepares the descent of Orpheus, the one into the body where there is no more path.

The end of life of Orpheus

Back to the surface of the Earth, Orpheus avoided all trade of love with women although many wanted to unite with him. The Maenads, feeling scorned, stoned and dismembered him. And the shadow of Orpheus joined that of Eurydice.
According to other versions, having founded the Mysteries of Eleusis with Dionysus, he was killed by Thracian women who felt they were scorned, because he kept them away from the Mysteries he founded, or because he persuaded their husbands to follow him in his wandering.
As another source would have it, he had been struck by Zeus who was irritated by the revelations he made about the Mysteries. According to yet another source, he was struck down because of the resentment of Aphrodite towards his mother Calliope.

The end of Orpheus’ life does not appear to have been described before Ovid and Virgil.
The different versions of Orpheus’ death suggest different ideas about the evolution of the quest.
His refusal of any alliance with women, after failing to bring back Eurydice, could express a refusal by the seeker of any new attempt of transformation of matter (he doesn’t set a goal anymore).
His dismemberment by the Maenads (which here seems a resumption of the fate of Dionysus in the Orphic myth) would suggest that the seeker refuses the path of possession of the soul by the Divine (individual mystic ecstasy) and must therefore undergo a deep purification before any new evolutionary breakthrough.
The variant in which Orpheus is killed by the Thracian women would rather suggest an inner conflict. On the one hand, his participation in the foundation of the Eleusinian Mysteries along with Dionysus indicates an adherence to the search for ecstasy as a way of consecration and aspiration which must lead to spiritual transformation. His participation in the establishment of the Mysteries is indeed coherent, for the minor Mysteries by initiating the Argonauts, as well as for the great Mysteries related to the latest labours of Heracles and the descent into the body. But his dismemberment by the Thracian women shows that the seeker is not yet ready to give up the ascetic paths even if a part of him “despises them.”

The death of Orpheus could have different meanings: either the end of a lack of faith and the arrival of a new light, or the stoppage of “the right infusion of consciousness into the being” pending a more complete purification.

The Orphic myth of Zagreus-Dionysus

The myth of Zagreus-Dionysus is one of the most confusing for those who study it. Because of the multiple variants, it is difficult to reconstruct what was the core, as it developed over more than a millennium. Some attribute a Phrygian or Cretan origin. It is said that it was included into Orphism by Onomacrite in the 6th century BC., and that it quickly took a prominent place.

As we have avoided in this study the Orphic cosmogonies, we will likewise leave aside the aspect of the myth that raises man out of the soot of the charred remains of the Titans (struck by Zeus for having killed and dismembered Dionysus Zagreus, the divine child born of Zeus and Persephone) because it seems to be rather a late theology (or belief).
But it seems worth mentioning here the Dionysia, an epic of forty-eight songs that the poet Nonnos (5th century A.D.) left us. It’s a complex poem that contains a very large number of accounts of the primitive mythology, but adds different stories, including the conquest of India by Dionysus. It deserves a detailed study, but we restrict ourselves here to his evocation of three successive Dionysus.

One day, Zeus, changed into a snake, unites with Persephone. From this union was born Zagreus. (According to some, he was destined to be the “very last king among the gods” and receive from his father the domination of the universe.)
Having horns, he went up immediately without help on the throne of Zeus and brandished the thunderbolt. Then Zeus entrusted him to Apollo and the Curetes. Hera, jealous, stirred up the Titans against the young god, who by cunning applied gypsum powder on his face. While he contemplated his reflected and denatured features in a mirror they killed him and butchered him. (Another translation indicates that it is the face of the Titans which was covered with gypsum. Other sources report that they entertained him with toys in order to accomplish their plan: a pine cone, a spinning top, articulated dolls, beautiful golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides and sometimes also a bullroarer, a mirror and ossicles.)
He immediately reappeared in the form of Dionysus, and then took successively the forms of Zeus, Cronos, and various terrible animals to get away from the Titans. Then Hera screamed in anger and the last form of Dionysus, a bull, collapsed. The Titans butchered this bull-Dionysus and then boiled and burned the limbs. (With many other authors, the myth ends here, Dionysus having regained life after his limbs have been put together by Demeter, Rhea or even Apollo.)
Zeus, having understood the cunning of the Titans, became furious and locked them up in Tartarus, also throwing his lightning on their mother, Gaia the Earth. Burning everywhere, the Earth was suffering terribly. Finally, Zeus took pity on her and sent a flood.

Then Zeus fell in love with Semele, and from their love was born the second Dionysus who we discussed previously.
The poet adds here the long history of the conquest of India whose King is Deriades (“the one who fights”).
But Hera was quickly angered by the fame of Dionysus and asked Persephone to send the Erinyes to make him crazy.
Finally, Gaia asked the Giants to kill Dionysus, but they were massacred. While the nymph Aura competed with Artemis in a beauty contest, the latter asked Nemesis to make Dionysus fall in love with Aura. Dionysus raped the nymph in her sleep. She gave birth to twins that she tried to get eaten by a lion, but they were saved. Aura was transformed into a spring. One of the children, named Iacchus, was given to Athena. Dionysus was finally allowed on Olympus.

So, Nonnos evokes three Dionysus – or rather two and his son Iacchus – respectively born from the union of Zeus with Persephone (Zagreus) and Semele (Bacchus), and from unions of Dionysus with Aura (Iacchus). This last Iacchus-Dionysus seems to have already existed in ancient times.

The first Dionysus, Zagreus, represents a phase of yoga in which the seeker would already have had access to the Overmind (with horns, he immediately went up without help on the throne of Zeus and brandished the thunderbolt) and tries to descend into the depths of the body consciousness. This Zagreus is indeed a son of Zeus and Persephone. It is then the work of the adventurers of consciousness to establish the Spirit-Matter unity.
But the powers at the origin of this creation are much too powerful for the seeker at this point of time, regardless of the angle chosen to tackle the work, including the power of realization of the luminous mind (the bull).
(The authors who describe Zagreus as the successor of Zeus – he must be ‘the very last king among the gods’ and ‘receive from his father the domination of the universe’ probably identify him with the second child who will be born from Metis “supreme intelligence”.)
The variant in which Zeus turns into a snake to unite with Persephone, according to some by raping her, confirms that it is a movement that seeks to accelerate evolution, even by “force”.
Zagreus, it’s Agreus + Ζ, “the divine hunter” (or perhaps also Zeus + agros, the work of the highest consciousness). Some make him “a great night hunter of wild beasts” to indicate a work of yoga on the vital of the depths.
Despite the growth of the light of the psychic being (under the watch of Apollo and the Curetes), this first attempt will fail, due to lack of purification.
Of course, Hera who watches over the right process according to the law of nature is opposed to this evolutionary breakthrough, but she is not able to oppose it alone (which was not the case previously with the other lovers or sons of Zeus, such as Io, Heracles, etc.). To “satisfy her hatred”, she must seek the help of greater powers than the gods, the Titans. These are the forces of the world of creation which set and govern the laws, and no longer forces of the world of forms (the gods of Olympus).
In the first version in which it is the face of Zagreus which is coated with plaster (white face, therefore pure), we can deduce that the Titanic forces do not allow him to see “the truth” or make him believe that he reached the goal.
In the other translation in which it is the Titans who have a plastered face, the forces they represent don’t seem to be able to directly oppose Zagreus without being recognized and therefore potentially inhibited. That’s why they progress masked, to avoid alerting the vigilance of the adventurer (maybe they want to make him believe in a right direction if we consider the whiteness of the coat of plaster on their face).

Other authors explain the diversion of consciousness by the “toys” that represent certain paths of yoga under various symbols:
The pineapple for occult knowledge (likely the symbol of the bullroarer).
The articulated dolls for logical knowledge.
The golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides for the highest intuitive knowledge, that of the Overmind.
The mirror for total knowledge of the self.
It is said that in memory of these toys, the initiation rites included ball, spinning top, bullroarer, ossicles, apples, wheel and mirror.

In most versions, his limbs are boiled, then roasted, which was interpreted as a rite of immortality and rejuvenation, i.e. purification of nature’s elements after separating them, in order to prepare non-duality, and on the other hand, adaptation to the movement of becoming (life in the present moment). Then one of the gods “gathers” the pieces to access the next phase.
It is then essentially the body undergoing the purification constraints (the Earth is burning) until the divine moderates “His ardor”, Zeus sending a flood. According to some exegetes this flood was associated by mistake with the flood of Deucalion. “Nonnos notes that The abode of the Sun was shining on the back of the Lion, (that the soul was dominant in the personality), that Venus stayed with the Bull of Olympus (that love was “cohabiting” with the power of realization of the luminous mind at the Overmind level), etc.”

Nonnos introduces at this stage the “second” Dionysus who represents the right process of purification and growth in the power of the spirit (in Zeus) before the seeker can endure without flinching the penetration of the divine powers in him, which leads to some experiences of ecstasies.
This second Dionysus, Bacchus, by its structuring letters (Β + ΚΧ) points to an incarnation of the extension of consciousness at the centre (the psychisation of the being).

The seeker violates the evolutionary process in order to bring a “new air” (Dionysos rapes Aura). Then appears the last Dionysus, Iacchus, symbol of a seeker who can then approach the work in the body, hence his nickname “Dionysus Chtonien”. The name Iacchus (Ι + ΚΧ) suggests an opening that happens in the body consciousness.
Appendix: The God Pan, the Satyrs and the Silens, the Curetes, the Corybantes, the Cabiroi and the Telchines.

These minor deities who intervene in the great myths are described in conflicting and often obscure sources. To follow the evolution of their symbolism over time would therefore require a special study that goes beyond the scope of this book.

The god Pan

We are dealing here with this god because he is often cited as belonging to the retinue of Dionysus. He is often compared to the Silens and Satyrs as his appearance is close to theirs. However, contrary to them, Pan is a god. He also has no affinity with drinking which favours the emergence of the unpurified vital. His horns, ears and legs of a goat must therefore have a different symbolism: the attributes of the goat which accesses the Spirit through the highest of the vital, and not by a raw life force. (Let’s recall that Zeus was nursed by a goat, Amalthea).

He is almost unknown in archaic time, because only the Homeric hymn to Pan composed in the 6th century attests to his existence. His influence became stronger in the classical period, and he seems to have gradually become an important deity of Orphism. Indeed, he is often represented in the retinue of Dionysus.
According to the Homeric hymn, he was born in Arcadia on Mount Cyllene, from Hermes and a Nymph with whom the god fell in love.
According to other sources, he would be the son of Penelope and Odysseus, or even Apollo.
Whatever his parentage, it always refers to very advanced experiences on the path: either to the most advanced seeker (Ulysses), the Overmind (Hermes), or to the radiance of the psychic being (Apollo).
Son of Hermes, he represents a realization of the Overmind, the ability to descend into the deep layers of the vital and/or reach its heights. The father is in no way disturbed by the boorish appearance of his son, because only the highest of the mind can integrate the totality of the shadow.
His mother, a nymph daughter of Dryops, expresses “the consciousness or vision in the vital” at a very archaic level of human development. It corresponds to the energies of nature that enliven “the tree”, and even the most advanced of them, the “oak” (Dryas). Arcadia, province in which the town of Olympia is located, is also the symbol of a very advanced region of the quest.

Pan is thus the expression of a force or a plane that the seeker encounters in the later stages of the quest, a plane at the roots of life where everything is considered and integrated, in keeping with the name of the God “Pan (Παν, everything)”. He expresses the integration of the shadow inherent to diving into the layers of the archaic vital and the revelation of the “true vital” or “cosmic vital (Pan)”. That is why, at his birth, Hermes introduced him to Zeus and the other gods who, without exception, rejoiced. Because even if Pan had a somewhat worrisome appearance that could cause some “unspeakable panic ” (which overwhelms the seeker)”, he was “happy at the bottom of the heart”: only a seeker who reached the Overmind can meet Pan without being destabilized by what this goat-god represents and find joy beyond all fear.
Symbol of the profound overmind-vital junction and the joy that accompanies the discovery of the true vital, he became a great god of Orphism.

Pan has also a piercing eyesight that reveals him to the seers (with the addition of discernment) who look at the world “from above”, because he watches his sheep from the summits.
Like his father, he plays the flute beautifully (Syrinx), late authors attributing the invention to him (although in the classical tradition the inventor was Hermes, after the latter had given the zither to Apollo.) He is therefore the expression of a certain capacity of adherence to “rhythm” and “harmony” (accuracy and purity).

Expression of the Overmind, he was able to intervene with his father Hermes to get his grandfather Zeus out of trouble after the latter defeated the Giants (during a fight occurring at a very advanced stage on the path and which we will have the opportunity to study further). According to Apollodore (I.6.3) Typhoon had wings on his whole body, his size was so excessive that he overshoot all the mountains and often even his head touched the stars. The upper part of his body was just an intertwining of snakes. During the battle, he cut the nerves of the hands and feet of Zeus (or its tendons) and hid them. Hermes and Pan stole them and placed them in the body of the god, which allowed his final victory.
In the most advanced struggles of yoga, the process of consciousness expansion (Zeus) loses its faculty of action (cut tendons) and cannot overcome the fundamental ignorance (Typhoon) if the Overmind (Hermes) does not intervene with its capacity of integration of the shadow that opens up on the true vital or cosmic vital (Pan).
Late literature, under the influence of Christianity, gave a distorted image of this god who was, apparently, very honoured in Orphism. It shows him pursuing nymphs in the countryside, most of the time unsuccessfully.

The Satyrs and the Silens

The oldest sources make the Satyrs and Silens (who are the older Satyrs) descendants of Phoroneus. They describe them as worthless and unfit for work and do not mention any link with Hermes or Dionysus.
The first figurative representations depict them as half-human, half-goat, half-horse accompanying the procession of Dionysus.
Then they evolve into human with only a few special animal features, first of horses, then of goats (tail, ears, horns). Then they were equipped with thyrses and Pan pipes.
Most often mentioned as the sons of Hermes and the participants in the procession of Dionysus, they would be in this case the joyful expressions of the Overmind associated with the path of divine enjoyment.

The Curetes, Corybantes, Dactyls, Telchines, and Cabiroi

We do not study them here in depth because they are hardly involved in the great myths.
Their places of residence could give a first indication. The Dactyles of Mount Ida, “union”, may concern the realization of non-duality in spirit (Zeus was born on this mountain). The Telchines of the Isle of Rhodes, “pink”, are linked to the development of the psychic being while the Curetes and Corybantes “the inspired” of Phrygia “to burn” concern the growth of the inner fire, like the Cabiroi.

The name Curetes means “young warriors”, symbol of the seekers who take the path. Or with κουρος and the structuring letter T, they represent a help for seekers “who begin to aspire”.
By indulging in loud warrior dances, they allowed the growth of Zeus, sheltered from the searches of his father Cronos. In some legends, Zeus came out of their head which would have allowed the emergence of mental super-conscious “human consciousness”. They existed during the Golden Age, under the reign of Cronos, during the vital development of humanity.
It is said that they invented the art of working metal (the making of the first effective tools for ploughing, hunting, etc., i.e. the first tools for working on oneself and the quest), the rearing of herds (concentration, conservation of experiences and realisations, etc.), the art of hunting (vigilance, witness consciousness and discernment) and that of bee-keeping (development of the psychic being) i.e. the preliminaries of the spiritual path.

The Cabiroi are related to the mysteries of Samothrace, an initiation place probably reserved for small Mysteries. In a lost drama of Aeschylus, they would have welcomed the Argonauts. They were called “the great and powerful gods.” They were supposed to protect the initiates from all dangers, especially those coming from the sea, the dangers of the vital plane.

THE ANCESTORS OF DIONYSUS AND ŒDIPUS THE MYTHS OF ORPHEUS AND DIONYSUS

In the lineage of the Titan Oceanus, the previous chapter dealt with the progeny of Europe and therefore with the evolution of the discerning intelligence as a result of the widening process of the consciousness or the “extension of the vision” obtained by acquiring a “discerning intelligence.” The main point was to go beyond the limits imposed by the lower nature and the purification of the higher intelligence from the mixtures of functions.
We address here, in the lineage of the same Titan, the descendants of Cadmus, brother or uncle of Europe depending on the sources, who does not deal anymore with the purification of intelligence, but with the processing of evolution’s memories. (We adopt here the genealogy where Europe and Cadmus are brother and sister, in the lineage of Agenor and Telephassa.)

We have already mentioned in the previous chapter the genealogical uncertainty regarding the two characters of Belos and Agenor, sons of Libya and Poseidon (see T. Gantz, chapter VI). According to an early tradition (Pherecyde), Agenor had two wives. By Damno “mastery (in the incarnation)” he was the father of Phoenix (Phoinix) “purple” and two daughters, Isaiah and Melia, who contracted unions with Aegyptus and Danaus respectively. This Phoenix is probably the one to whom Homer attributed the paternity of Europe. We suggested that this first union described a preliminary stage of the path, namely a “mastery” achieved by the will of the outer personality. The liberation process really begins with the two girls, ancestors of Heracles. From a second wife, Argiope “who expressed herself in a luminous and pure way”, Agenor had a son, Cadmus. This version establishes him as the uncle of Europe.
In another tradition, Cadmus and Europe are brother and sister, children of Phoenix.
Finally, with Apollodorus and Hygin, Cadmus, Europe and Phoenix are children of Agenor and Telephassa, “the purity (dove) in the far”, or Argiope, “who expresses herself in a luminous and pure way”.
The symbolism of the name Phoenix, “purple”, is obscure. It is perhaps related to the inner fire that is growing with the expansion of consciousness.

The marriage of Cadmus and Harmony initiates the purification process leading to the liberation of nature. Indeed, let us remember, this path wants to speed up evolution by purification and the liberation from the subjection to nature and its processes in the lower layers of the self. It is not so much about discovering new horizons as clearing the dross of evolution so that the New can act in us.
A number of processes described here are recurring because they tackle successive layers of memory knots. The spiritual path is indeed a series of ascensions and integrations, of conquests on increasingly higher planes that bring us down to more profound obscurities, into the archaisms of our unconscious nature. As the yoga advocated by the myths dismisses processes that would only lead to personal liberation in the worlds of the Spirit or an escape into some paradise, it aims at the divinization of the lower nature, requiring a profound transformation of the latter.
The process studied here implies that the seeker already had a first experience of the Real, even fleeting (Epaphos, who has received the “touch” of the Absolute). He makes inroads in the higher mind, accepting intuition as an aid on his path. He engaged more or less consciously in a purification process (awareness of the inner movements, distancing from the outside world and vigilance to untangle mixtures and other sources of impurity).

Agenor, not seeing his daughter Europe come back, sent his wife Telephassa and all his other children to search for her, not allowing them to return until they found her. Their search was in vain and they settled in Thrace where Telephassa died. (Some say that only Cadmus was sent looking for his sister.)
Cadmus decided to consult the oracle of Delphos. The oracle told him to stop his search because he would not find his sister, but to follow a cow that he would meet on his way. Where she would lay down (or collapse from exhaustion) he had to found a city.
Cadmus followed the instructions of the oracle. He wandered through Phocis where he found a cow which led him across a large part of Boeotia (a province named Aonie at that time) before stopping.
Prior to the laying of the first foundation stone, Cadmus decided to sacrifice the cow in honor of Athena. As he required lustral water, he sent his companions to draw water at a nearby spring. It was dedicated to the god Ares and guarded by a terrifying dragon-snake, who put to death those came near. His companions were wiped out. Finally Cadmus went himself to the spring and killed the dragon. Then, on the advice of Athena (or Ares), he sowed the dead Dragon’s teeth from which dreadful warriors with weapons came out, the “Spartoi” or ‘”Sown men’ who, according to some, killed each other deliberately, involuntarily according to others. According to some authors, Cadmus threw stones at them, which provoked their fratricidal fight, each one believing he was attacked by the others.
Only five of them survived, and they established the foundations of the future city. (We are not taking into account Hellanicus’ version that excludes the fratricidal war of the Sown men.)
For killing the Dragon who was a protégé of Ares, Cadmus was forced to spend a year in the service of Ares. Cadmus then proceeded to the construction of the Cadmea, which later took the name of Thebes.

The meaning of the name Cadmus is not clear. With the Greek letters this could be “the opening of the consciousness to mastery or service”. The root ΔΜ is indeed related to the idea of the tamer (mastery) or to the slave (service).
One can also mention that the root καμ (derived from the aorist of the verb καμνω “to work”) would give with the insertion of delta “the work towards union”. This would be more in agreement with the notions of purification and liberation for union conveyed by the heroes of this branch.

The symbolic reason why Telephassa and her children could not find Europe is unclear. Perhaps this is simply to mean that the expanding process of consciousness and that of purification will develop in parallel while ignoring each other.
Parallel to the expansion of consciousness and the refinement of the discernment through participation in the world, the seeker must undergo an active purification of his nature’s knots in order to gradually establish a perfect equality. In Thebes, “the incarnation of the inner consciousness”, the most important city of Boeotia, Cadmus is the founder of this path.

However, before reaching Thebes, Cadmus and Telephassa settled first in Thrace, the province of asceticism, which marks the beginning of the quest. Telephassa “purity in the distance” died there, which we can understand as an indication of the end of the preparatory period.

The beginning of yoga is then marked by a period of uncertainty. Although his inner voice (the Apollonian oracle of Delphi) asked the seeker to resume his journey until he is guided by “a higher light” (the meeting of the cow), the wandering continues for some time.
Indeed, Cadmus travelled first to Phocis whose name is associated with the “seal”. This animal is the symbol of vital elements, perhaps subconscious (Proteus, one “of the old men of the sea” watched over Poseidon’s seal herds). It evokes the idea of a transition (it’s an animal both of land and water). We can therefore probably associate this crossing of Phocis with a period of wandering and subconscious experiences during which the seeker ignores the direction to follow in the quest.

Cadmus then met the aforementioned cow that led him across Boeotia: in the beginning of the path, after the period of wandering, the seeker is guided by a “light” and he is only asked to “follow” it. In practice, this translates into openings that take different forms: unexpected meetings, readings, etc.

Then, by the sacrifice of the cow to the goddess Athena, the seeker realizes that the “light” that guided him during the previous phase prepared his entrance on the path.
To mark the beginning of this commitment, he must purify himself. (Although this is not specified, one can suppose that water was necessary for the purification of the officiant.)
But this first purification is not without difficulties, because the movement of evolution (the dragon-snake) opposes it. Indeed, when one seeks to speed it up, all the old laws are opposed.
This dragon was a protégé of Ares (or even his son): it is therefore a “gatekeeper” that ensures the right evolution of forms. If the seeker is not ready, if he has not developed enough individuality, he cannot appear before “the doors of the temple”.
Also a number of aspects of the surface personality must be transformed or some attachments have to stop (some companions of Cadmus killed by the dragon). This purification can undoubtedly be linked to the preparation of Heracles, especially the murder of Megara’s children and the death of the lion of Cithaeron. It concerns mental arrogance, complacency and other shortcomings that we have described in the first chapter. The priority is no longer the assertion of the ego in the world, but the contact with the inner being.
When the purification is sufficient, it is the symbolic entrance on the path: Cadmus himself killed the dragon.
The seeker can then “lay the foundation stones” of the process that will lead him to “equality” by purification, opening and radiance of all the centers (chakras).
In the primitive tradition, the city of Thebes was first named Cadmea. It was founded by Amphion and Zethos, the sons of Antiope and Zeus, who we will discuss further, and then rebuilt by Cadmus. According to another tradition that combined the two versions, Cadmus erected only the citadel or upper town of Thebes “the Cadmea”, while Amphion and Zethos built the lower town.

On the advice of Athena “power directing the evolution of the inner being” (or of Ares “the power watching over the right evolution of forms”), Cadmus had to sow the dragon’s teeth. According to some authors, the teeth would have been sown by Athena and not by Cadmus. This would be rather an automatic consequence of the commitment to the path than a movement of the ego under the influence of the higher consciousness.
In the process of purification-liberation that should make the forms receptive to the action of the Spirit’s powers, the seeker must then accept to let the evolutive knots emerge to consciousness, even facilitate their manifestation. Sowing the dragon’s teeth is to initiate this process by involvement in the incarnation. These teeth represent the crystallized memories of evolution resulting from non-assimilated experiences. Uprooting them (“sowing” them), gives them the opportunity to resolve themselves.

To make the parallel with the other major path, some authors (including Apollonius of Rhodes in his account of the quest for the Golden Fleece) claim that half of the teeth were preserved to be sown by Jason in Colchis. In the first steps on the path of ascension of the planes of consciousness, dealing with certain memories would then be imposed at a specific moment on the path by the higher planes of the soul as the condition for the experience of enlightenment. But with Cadmus, it is rather the acceptance of a process (to be renewed many times) which is “recommended” by Athena and is therefore an integral part of yoga.

One wonders, however, if Apollonius has not adapted the older myth of Cadmus.
If a number of elements have some similarity (the order given to Jason by Aietes and the advice given to Cadmus by Athena, the work of preparation and purification in the form of the ploughing of the field or the quest of lustral water, etc.) we can nevertheless identify some major differences.
In the quest of Jason, the seeker must prove that he is capable of mastering “the powers of realization of the luminous mind” (to put under the yoke of the bulls snorting fire) before allowing the emergence of the knots and accessing an experience of high “sensitivity” (the Golden Fleece). He must also work on himself (“ploughing the field” is a common metaphor for the “work on oneself”). Then he must participate to some extent in the destruction of the “spartoi” by mowing those “who were still half buried and the latecomers who left for battle”. However, the myth takes an idea proposed in the other path, namely the cancellation of the knots when they are faced with reality (the stone thrown by Jason in the middle of the warriors and for which they kill each other).
Conversely, in the story of Cadmus, the quest begins with a period of wandering during which the seeker does not let out of his sight the light that was given to him (Cadmus follows the cow). Then after an act of commitment, he is led to a necessary purification, preparing the processing of memories. He also discovers the fundamental laws of energy (the surviving Sown men), what prevented the quest for the Fleece. Finally, and above all, the myth of Cadmus suggests the possibility of a choice, which is not the case with Jason.

It is important to note that Cadmus is not fighting against the Sown men, but only against the Snake-Dragon of Ares. Indeed, according to traditional teaching, the seeker should not fight with his “shadows” but only “shake up” the unchanging forms. These are guarded by the Serpent who watches over the right evolution of forms (the Snake dedicated to the god Ares) because they allowed the necessary stabilization.

When the myth describes a fratricidal war between the “Sown men”, it is only to say that some knots cancel out each other when they are placed together. This confrontation may be deliberate, but sometimes also unintended when they are the result of life events.

At the end of the fight of the “Sown men”, there were only five survivors left.
Five characterizes the world of forms. These five surviving “Sown men” would then be the symbols of the fundamental forces supporting the evolution of life forms. This is why they are described as “the foundation of the future city” or “the founders of its military caste”. They should therefore not be considered as unresolved traumas, but as guardians of forms that would only disappear with the descent of the Supermind.
These are very powerful energies that can be considered obstacles and destructive forces as long as they are in the form of teeth, unconscious energies, and, on the contrary, as powerful supports of the quest when they are brought to consciousness.

Common translations bring little information about their nature. Indeed, the five Sown men are called Chthonios “the Earth (the body)”, Oudaios “underground or emerging from the earth”, Hyperenor «proud of his strength”, Pelorus “prodigious or monstrous (of enormous size)” and Echion “the snake or the viper”, i.e. the progressive force of concentration of the consciousness or its interruption, perverted or not.
With the structuring letters, we can better apprehend their meaning: Echion “ΧΙ, the interruption of evolution of consciousness, what keeps us away from the Divine”, Oudaios “Δ+Ι the union of consciousness, what brings us close to the Divine”, Chthonios “ΧΘ + ΝΙ the evolution of consciousness from the body”, Hyperenor “Υπερ + ΝΩ a powerful evolution from matter” and finally Peloros “root Πελ + ΩΡ the movement of the shadow in matter”.

To close this chapter of the founding of Thebes, Apollodorus and a scholar of Hellanicus mention that “as punishment for killing the Dragon who was protected by Ares, Cadmus was forced to spend a year of the gods at his service”.
The god Ares is the great “controller” of the evolution of forms and cannot allow premature movements. It is therefore not enough to loosen the knots, to release the energy, but one must immediately keep it in the right forms, hence the need for the seeker to strictly control its use.

The processing of “memories” is one of the foundations of the spiritual path; it fills the whole life of the seeker, from personal, family, clans, nations and race knots, down to the memories of the corporal, physical and cellular nature. The more his consciousness is developed, the more the seeker will have to confront powerful archaic knots. These are encysted in man at the mental, vital and physical level, right down to the most archaic symbolic structures and densest legacy of animal life, the bone and teeth.
It should be noted that in this process, it is always an influx of light (the cow) that calls the corresponding shadow (spartoi) so that it is dissolved. It corresponds to the process of ascension-integration described by Sri Aurobindo.

The myth gives no indication about the exact nature of these memories, simply because they are countless, and initially, specific to each person.

That the body retains memories from past evolution is now a scientific fact. The memory of life traumas is only one aspect of this general memory which also includes trans-generational memories.
The topic of the so-called “karmic” personal memories is beyond the scope of this book. However, we can imagine every human being as a beam of light that sometimes “solidifies”. He then preserves the memory of all these “incarnations”, at least everything that has contributed to the maturation of his “psychic being”.
A particular incarnation could then imply the solving of a number of problems that revolve around a “major impossibility” already encountered. The conditions would then be put in place to provide the obstacle, the opportunity and the capacity to solve it.
However, we can also imagine that the psychic being chooses to experience a situation having nothing to do with his past.

The marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

The “knots” manifest on each of the planes of our nature as all kinds of dis-harmonies. To make a knot disappear means to recover the fundamental Harmony of this point; it is to engage in a process of “exactness”, “accuracy” or “rightness”.
Taking the path of the “just” is so important that the marriage of Cadmus and Harmony will be one of the only two unions of a mortal with a goddess attended by the gods (with much later the one of Peleus and Thetis) even though they disapprove of any union of this type.

After Cadmus had spent a year of servitude at the service of Ares for killing the dragon, the gods gave him as wife Harmony, the daughter of Aphrodite and Ares. As the bride was one of them, the gods came down from the Olympus to attend the wedding. The bride received a famous necklace as a gift from Cadmus, the work of Hephaestus, the same necklace that Zeus gave to Europe in Crete. (Diodorus says it was a gift from Aphrodite or Athena who also offered a dress.)
From this union were born five children: a son, Polydoros, the great-grandfather of Œdipus, and four daughters, Autonoe, Ino, Semele and Agave.
At the end of their lives, Cadmus and Harmony were transported to the “Isles of the Blessed” (The Fortunate Isles).
According to Euripides and later authors, Dionysus made the prediction ‘”they would be first transformed into snakes and at the head of a large army, they would ransack many cities until they were eventually defeated the day they would attack the oracle of Apollo”.

The name Harmony means both an “adjustment” and a “fair proportion”, i.e. the quality of elements that are exactly in their place, not mixed – what we call here “purity” (at its primary level) – and in just relation to each other, “the just”. (With the structuring letters, it describes “an evolution of surrender to the just law of perfect balance”.)

Harmony is daughter of Aphrodite and Ares, fruit of “love in evolution” through the process of “transformation of forms.”
Born from two major deities, she should also be among the recognized immortal deities. Obviously, this isn’t the case and the reason is probably that Homer considers Aphrodite “love in evolution” (as the daughter of Zeus and Dione). On the other hand, it must be remembered that Ares is the lover and not the husband of Aphrodite, who is Hephaestus. One would think that belonging to the fifth generation of gods would automatically cancel his status of god, but this is also the case of Hermes.
Harmony would then be a symbol of an evolving state which, in its ultimate perfection – a state of perfect accuracy and equanimity, is very far from the common acceptation of the term harmony. She would therefore represent a state that could be described as “trust (in the Divine)” related to the current evolution in duality (she is daughter of Ares) which implies the existence of its opposite related to fear, her brothers Deimos and Phobos, “Terror” and “Fear”. That would explain why she can unite with a mortal with the approval of the Olympians.

The marriage of Cadmus and Harmony would be a symbol of incarnation for the inner being (Thebes) by which “the work of purification for the union” (Cadmus) takes as a goal the trust in the Divine and equanimity (Harmony).
The gods offered gifts of all kinds, but only a dress and a necklace were of importance which was subsequently confirmed.
The dress, the symbol of the function, was given by Athena.
The necklace was offered, according to the sources, by Athena, Aphrodite, or even Cadmus who would have inherited it from his sister Europe, herself having received it from Zeus when she met the god in Crete. At the same time it “contains” (by analogy with the belt) and adorns. So it can be associated with the mastery or the truth (beauty) of the word.
Perhaps it also establishes a link with the one who offers it, as a sign of belonging.
In many traditions, sound defines the essence, the Truth of all things, and it is creative. If man wants to take his place as creative power, it is therefore essential to master his speech, then to make it true. The word allows one to “name” truthfully.
This necklace will go from hand to hand and we will find it on several occasions.

At the end of their lives, Cadmus and Harmony were very logically led to the “Isles of the Blessed”, the place of accomplishment of “truthfulness”.
However, many authors following Euripides mention their prior transformation into snakes, meaning in evolutive processes which have to undo a number of personality structures (they plundered many cities), before the “word” of the psychic being leads the quest (before having to confront the oracle of Apollo). The work of purification/liberation must bring the psychic being to the foreground (the psychisation of the being).

The children of Cadmus and Harmony

The children of Cadmus and Harmony illustrate different ways by which the work of purification/liberation towards “truthfulness” (purity, accuracy and exactness) can be accomplished. In this regard, let’s not forget that the path of purification must always be considered in parallel with the process of liberation described in the work of Heracles, because Agenor and Belos are twins.
Five children are named: a son Polydoros, and four daughters, Autonoe, Ino, Semele and Agave.
Three girls represent realizations evolving in wrong directions: Ino, Agave and Autonoe.
Polydoros and Semele represent the two directions of “aspiring” and “consecration” in order to achieve truthfulness.

Ino or the excessive asceticism of the beginners

During the study of the first children of Aeolus we have already mentioned Ino, symbol of the beginning of the quest. Let’s recall here the essential elements of her story.
She was the second wife of Athamas “who enters a certain consecration (to Reality) for his inner evolution”, king of Boeotia. She had two children, Learchos “the quest subjected to principles” and Melicerte “who labors forcefully”. Jealous of the children of a first marriage, Phrixos and Helle, she represents the mistake of beginners who follow a path according to strict, sometimes excessive, rules, and rely on the will of the ego to find their first “luminous experiences.”
Struck crazy by Hera, Athamas killed their son Learchos with his arrows while Ino sank into the depths of the sea, their son Sisyphus in her arms. The latter was then renamed Palaimon “the wrestler.” Ino became Leucothee “the white goddess”, a sea goddess that the sailors in distress could now implore.
Submission to strict rules must disappear and the “forceful labour” must be transformed into a “zeal to fight” that draws its force and energy from a harmonized vital (Learchos dies and Melicerte must now act as Palaimon, a sea deity).
Likewise, Ino, symbol of the quest turned towards the incarnation, must transform into Leucothee, the White Goddess expression of a quest for purity or inner truthfulness. She will then come to the rescue of the sailors in distress and in particular of Ulysses: when the seekers face the difficulties of yoga, they will receive help from this inner “truthfulness” and the strength it generates to overcome them.
The third wife of Athamas must redirect the quest in the right direction: “the law of what is right, just”: Themisto, i.e. “just movement of evolution” (in yoga).
The Ino myth therefore marks the end of misdirection and the entry on the “narrow path” of the quest. This passage is confirmed by the first of the big four games, the “Isthmic Games” or the “narrow passage” games instituted by Sisyphus, and by the migration of Athamas of Boeotia in Thessaly.

We should also remember that Ino raised together with her children the small Dionysus, son of her sister Semele. She took him with her when the latter was consumed by the brilliance of Zeus, who appeared at her request in all his magnificence. Regardless of the extent of imperfections at the beginning of the path, it is indeed a period of strong aspiration that makes the inner fire grow under the aspects of consecration and transforming joy.

Autonoe or the deviance of the “too perfect” seeker

The second of Cadmus’ daughters, Autonoe, illustrates another mistake on the path. This time it no longer concerns the beginners who go astray by the letter rather than by the spirit and demonstrate stiffness rather than rigor, but the fairly advanced seekers who fall into the trap of spiritual pride and rely on their own comprehension of the path rather than on the messages of the inner being. They consider the end of an advanced stage as the ultimate goal.

Cyrene (the sister of Themisto, the third wife of Athamas) was the daughter of the Lapith king Hypseus, himself son of the river god Peneus.
She liked hunting wild animals. While she fought a lion with her bare hands, Apollo fell in love and took her to Libya to unite with her. She gave the god a son, Aristaeus. He was entrusted to the Horae, fed with nectar and ambrosia, and soon excelled in all human activities: he knew how to heal, prophesize, hunt and drive herds, breed bees, grow olive trees and prepare wool.
He united with the daughter of Cadmus, Autonoe. She bore him a son, Actaeon, who created a famous pack of 50 dogs and became a great hunter.
But the latter offended the goddess Artemis, either pretending to be a better hunter, or even by catching her naked while she was bathing in a spring. According to another source, he made himself a competitor of Zeus by courting Semele. This provoked the anger of the god who then asked Artemis to put an end to the misdeeds of the impudent.
The goddess punished Acteon by transforming him into a deer so that his dogs, not recognizing him, would devour him.
For Stesichore, the goddess merely covered him with a deer skin because “her purpose was to prevent him from marrying Semele'”.

The three generations concerned with this myth describe the process by which the seeker, as advanced as he may be, goes astray.
The grandmother of Actaeon, Cyrene “sovereign authority” symbolizes a “very great mastery”. She is the sister of Themisto “law of what is right, just” who was the last wife of Athamas who we just spoke about. Both are daughters of Hypseus “who is at the top”, a Lapith king, i.e. a seeker who reached an advanced stage of yoga.

Let’s recall that the Lapiths and the Centaurs are the people of Thessaly (the province of committed seekers) issued from the river god Peneus “evolution of a right balance or mastery” in the incarnation, because Peneus was married to Creusa “the incarnation”. Hypseus had two sisters who were both loved by Apollo, Stilbe “who shines with beauty” and Daphne, “the laurel”. The latter is the symbol of true spiritual victory, the psychic realization.

Cyrene “a great mastery” represents the stage of a seeker fighting his ego by using his own nature “in truth” as a weapon (she fights the lion with bare hands under the same conditions as Heracles during his first labour). This means without using any special practice of yoga but through sincerity, want for progress and bringing consciousness into inconscient.
This mastery brings to the foreground the psychic light, Apollo. The union of the god with Cyrene occurred in Libya, where the liberation is incarnated. The mastery in yoga is then sufficiently incarnated to produce fertilization by the psychic being and the apparition of a yoga work for the “best”, Aristaeus ‘he who holds the first rank, the best’.
And the best continues as long as the seeker follows “the just law of consecration”. So the child is fed with what is needed at the highest levels of the being, the overmind, the nectar and ambrosia, the food of immortality usually reserved for the gods: the seeker is nourished by the powers of the spirit, with what supports the state of non-duality.
Themisto brings the sense of high rectitude, because she is the daughter of the Lapith Hypseus “who is elevated”. The Horae who raised him are Eirene (Peace or Serenity), Dike (Justice), and Eunomia (Order), which are in terms of yoga, “equanimity”, “accuracy” and “what puts everything in its right place” or “purity”.

After some development (when Aristaeus became an adult), the seeker knows how to harmonize the energies (the art of healing). He developed intuitive abilities (the prophecy), acquired endurance, patience and determination turned towards the goal (the art of hunting). He knows how to orient the energies in the same direction, including the stubborn ones (he knew how to lead the herds, to “bring together on a single path, in a flowery grazing land, rebellious, slow or roving bands of sheep by putting in front a goat that stimulates and regulates the pace” ; Nonnos, Dionysia, V 229 and following). He realized that nothing is separated, that everything is divine (because “he wrote the pastoral song of Pan, the host of the mountains”; Cf. the study of the god Pan at the end of the chapter). He works for the mastery of the mental-vital and uses for that purpose mantras (he struck against the other the brass that threatened the bees frightened for their swarm; finally, while they buzzed incessantly in the vaults of their hives he increased with his noisy hand a loud sound). He also knows how to work for his purification (produce olive oil). Finally, he prepared for his function (the future dress) by a labour of putting in order and refinement (carding and spinning of wool that precedes the weaving).

Then comes a moment when deviance starts to appear, when the seeker relies on his own mind to move towards equality and perfection: Aristaeus unites with Autonoe “she who is directed by her own will” or “she who is herself her own intelligence of the path or her own spiritual authority”, the daughter of Cadmus. He hopes or realizes a partial identification with the Divine while his ego lives on.
Initially, the deviance does not appear. The son of Aristaeus and Autonoe, Acteon, symbol of an “opening to the heights of the spirit”, inherits his father’s realizations. He is a great hunter, accompanied by a pack of 50 dogs: the seeker has developed a “totality” of tools or intuitive abilities in the pursuit of the goals of yoga (fifty dogs).
But the ego still wants to retain its grip and assert itself as the best guide of purification rather than what comes from the psychic being (Acteon pretends to be a better hunter than Artemis). The seeker believes that he has reached the goal. All his “intuitive skills” in yoga (his dogs) then turn against him because the seeker must go to the end of his mistake.

The many variations about the reason of Actaeon’s death indicate that the seeker believes he has realized union and total identification with the Divine insofar as he thinks he has achieved total purification of his being or “liberation” (he thinks he’s worthy to see Artemis naked and compete with Zeus). In fact, being himself the judge of his experience, as high as it may be, he is unable to recognize that his realization is just an intermediate step where ego got mixed in. He left the path of right consecration.
This realization can create illusion in the eyes of the world.

If Actaeon is devoured in the form of a stag or a deer, it is probably to indicate that his consecration is still too much of an ego-trip.
At this level, realizations, even offered to the Divine and of whatever nature they are, cannot in any case replace this “self-giving”.

The first two daughters of Cadmus, Ino and Autonoe, describe the mistakes that can continue throughout the path, with all the intermediate shades that are not described: in the beginning, a formal and sometimes excessive asceticism based on principles and the will of the ego (Ino), and for the advanced seekers, a deviance that results from a lack of consecration. The myth therefore calls for vigilance all along the way.

The other two daughters of Cadmus relate more to the nature of purification that must happen in a state of consecration.
Semele, also named Thyone “who desires with ardour”, embodies an intense aspiration to “see”, i.e. to “know” the Divine. This knowledge, even if it consumes the being initially, would lead, after maturation, to the experience of mystic joy in union or ecstasies (Dionysus is the son of Semele).
As for Agave, she represents the way that combines the path of purification/liberation with suffering (or at least an “adherence to its inevitability”) which finds its source in the memories of evolution.
Semele and Agave can most probably be linked to the “dark path” and “the sunlit path” mentioned by Mother and Sri Aurobindo, the first being the path of arduous effort while the second is an “enthusiastic” surrender.
The conflict between Pentheus (son of Agave) and Dionysus (Semele’s son) illustrates therefore the inner struggle of the seeker inheriting the culture of arduous effort and suffering and doubting that a path practiced in relaxation, joy and devotion can lead faster towards the goal.

Agave and her son Pentheus, or the attachment to effort and suffering (the dark path)

The third daughter of Cadmus is called Agave. She united with one of the “Sown” Echion and bore a son, Pentheus.
The latter usurped the throne of Thebes then occupied by his grandfather Cadmus and made the city a perfect model of a Greek city.
But the Maenads were, according to him, a source of disorder and trouble. Taking the new god Dionysus for an imposter, Pentheus was opposed to the introduction of his rituals despite the warnings of the diviner Tiresias (according to Euripides, he was even ready to eradicate his cult).
The mother of Pentheus, Agave, also refused to believe that Zeus was really the father of Dionysus, which upset him a lot. This is why Dionysus struck her and all the women of the city with madness and sent them wandering in the mountain with his Maenads. Then, taking the appearance of one of his devotees, he let himself be imprisoned in the stables and escaped immediately, thus demonstrating his powers. Then he caused an earthquake.
He then persuaded Pentheus to watch the women who celebrated his mysteries in the mountain. The king was to disguise himself as a woman to avoid attracting attention. He climbed then on top of a pine tree to watch the women “in a frenzy”. They spotted him immediately and tore him to pieces, imagining they were chasing a lion. His mother Agave even proudly brought back to Thebes his head stuck on a pike.

Before the 5th Century BC there is no mention of the marriage of Agave nor the existence of her son Pentheus. The more complete version that came to us is the one of Euripides, repeated by Nonnos in the 5th Century of our era.

The essence of this myth coming from Euripides, we have to accept the usual reservations regarding its interpretation.
The third daughter of Cadmus, Agave, means “noble, worthy of admiration”. But it can have multiple other meanings based on the root “αγ”(to lead, or to be pure) or the prefix “αγα”(very), with the upsilon as structuring letter (state of receptivity). It conveys therefore ideas of purification and receptivity. It’s the idea of purification in a state of passivity that we will use, consistent here with the path of purification-liberation.
This approach to purification by suffering, embodied here by Agave united to Pentheus, is often linked to the idea that the atonement for fault is essential for the growth of the vital-mental man. This conception must undergo a mutation. The Yoga of Sri Aurobindo never takes suffering as a basis or purpose. It does not confer any merit and is in no way pleasing to the Divine. On the contrary, it indicates a resistance to the transformation. It must never be encouraged

But it will happen only gradually because his first cousin Labdacos (son of Polydoros and grandfather of Œdipus) who perished after Pentheus,”thought pretty much like him”. 
The initial purpose of purification is deflected when a perversion issued from the memories of evolution takes it as purpose. Indeed, Agave unites with one of the five “Sown” survivors, Echion “the Viper” or “stopping the consciousness in the incarnation (ΧΙ + Ω)”. (The name Echion can be compared with Echidna, with khi taken in its negative sense, i.e. “stop”).
There arises then a desire for purification without consciousness, i.e., without discrimination. It leads to an adherence/identification with the effort and the induced suffering, based in part on guilt and embodied by the son of the perverted couple, Pentheus. This name means “suffering, weeping” and with the structuring letters “a halt to inner evolution, Π + ΝΘ”.

We can better identify the type of deviance introduced in this path of yoga by Echidna in the light of this sentence of Sri Aurobindo in A God’s Labour:
“For man’s mind is the dupe of his animal self;
Hoping its lusts to win
He harbours within him a grisly Elf
Enamoured of sorrow and sin.
The grey Elf shudders from heaven’s flame 
And from all things glad and pure; 
Only by pleasure and passion and pain 
His drama can endure.” 
Reference is made here to a deviance unrelated to masochism. Rather, it is an adherence to suffering that has been stored in our archaic memory during the formation of the animal self (with Phorcys and Ceto, children of Pontos). It is a stage where the vital feeds itself in equal parts with pleasure and pain.
In one way or another, what predominates in this difficult path is the effort and suffering as a principle of purification and liberation. As a result, any manifestation of joy and devotion becomes suspicious and questionable: not only does Pentheus become the king of Thebes (Nonnos tells us he usurped the throne while Cadmus was still alive) but still he sought to eradicate the cult of Dionysus.

The seeker organizes his mental constructions perfectly on the basis of this unity of purification with suffering, making it a perfect model of a Greek city. He rejects the path of “enthusiastic” devotion, its practices and its expressions (the cult of Dionysus, its rites and the Maenads).
A note on “Eumenides”, lost play by Aeschylus, mentions that the women of Thebes went with the Maenads on Mount Cithaeron, which situates this deviance at the beginning of the path (cf. the Lion of Cithaeron killed by Heracles.)

The seeker refuses to consider that expressing “enthusiasm” for the Divine, a path of mystic ecstasy, could be a right path in line with the principle of evolution of the highest consciousness (Agave and her son Pentheus refuse to consider that Dionysus might be a son of Zeus).
However, the warnings of the diviner Tiresias suggest that the seeker feels that it is wrong to refuse this mystical ecstasy. Moreover, all the attempts to shake his certainties are in vain: the attempt to win over the intuitive parts (women of the city), or the “signs” presented by life and that the seeker cannot ignore (the “demonstrations” of the god) or still, the vital and physical upheavals, i.e. psychological breakdowns and physical illnesses (the god frees himself from his chains and causes an earthquake that makes the stables collapse).

The seeker is then led to observe more carefully, from the point of view of the highest occult knowledge, putting himself in tune with the energy he refuses, in a state of receptivity (Pentheus is invited by Dionysus to watch the Bacchantes and the delusional women of Thebes from the top of a pine tree, disguised as a woman).
(Remember that the Dionysian Thyrsus as well as the Caduceus of Hermes have at their tip a pine cone, symbol of occult Knowledge.)
But the Bacchantes, including his mother, see him as a lion and kill him (according to Nonnos, they are “the killer of lions” and therefore killers of ego): the consecrated parts of the being “see the truth”, and put an end to the error of orientation, whereas the ego clings to its knots and suffering.
These are the attributes of the “mystical madness” that can detect the fake and upset it at its roots. This can be compared at a higher level, to the role played by the “court jester”.

To ensure that the process is followed through, a profound change is necessary. The seeker must isolate the principle that made him deviate (Agave must dissociate herself from Echion).
This is the part that returned first to the right path (Agave), which removes the mental support that endorses and organizes this deviance (Agave cuts off the head of her son Pentheus). What has brought about the error is best able to correct it.
For us, the version of Euripides which orients the myth towards the repressed sex drive of Pentheus and actually makes him a voyeur, seems to induce a serious deviation from the meaning of the myth.

Agave is the path that chooses effort and suffering as the price to pay for victory. Sri Aurobindo admits, however, that each ordeal encountered on this path can be an opportunity of significant progress: “often they appear to show in ourselves the difficulties we have to overcome, and tell us: this is where you have to conquer. However, it is a too dark and difficult path that no one should follow if not compelled by necessity” (Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Volume 6).

Semele and his son Dionysus

Semele, on the other hand, represents the opposite way of absolute trust in the Grace. She asks to let herself be carried in relaxation, without fear, without grieving over anything, in the tranquillity of the mind and vital, and especially in a joyful acceptance of everything that comes. On this path, subjective pain is low or non-existent and objective pain cannot deeply affect the being.

Semele was beautiful. Zeus fell in love and took her as lover. He came every night to meet her in secret, which aroused the jealousy of Hera. She congratulated Semele for having such a high placed lover and suggested that she asks for proof that he was actually the one he claimed to be and that he really loved her. (According to some, she introduced herself to Semele in the form of her old nurse Beroe or one of her friends). Others say that Semele felt scorned and asked Zeus to appear to her like his wife Hera.
The god went then into the house of his lover, mounted on his chariot, wielding thunderbolt and throwing lightning. Semele died of fright and was consumed. However, as she was pregnant with the child of her divine lover, she gave birth prematurely before dying and Zeus installed the newborn in his own body – in his thigh for some authors – until the due date. (In another version, Zeus himself pulled out from the dying body of Semele the six or seven months premature baby. When the time came, the god gave birth to Dionysus on Mount Nysa, at the foot of Mount Helicon.
Later, thanks to the intervention of Dionysus who brought her back from the Kingdom of Hades, Semele rose to immortality and took her place on Olympus under the name of Thyone.

Before going into the details of this myth, it is necessary to have an overall view because it presents the beginning of a right path, a deviance and its recovery all at the same time. It addresses the relationship of the contemplative paths to the paths of mystical ecstasy, and among the latter, the good and bad ecstasies.
Initially, the relationship of the seeker to the Divine is correct, since Zeus fell in love with Semele. Some say that this happened while Semele bathed in the Asopos, the river-god, ancestor of Achilles, and therefore the sign that this myth is about an advanced stage on the path.

The connection to the divine, at the level of the Overmind, is effective but the seeker, while being aware of this connection, ignores its exact nature and especially its potential power (Zeus comes every night to Semele, but not in all his glory). It’s an experience that renews itself for some time, Zeus visiting Semele during the symbolic six or seven months that their relationship lasted.

Up until then, everything is going well and the purification process is going on.
The meaning of the name Semele is not clear. It is usually accepted that it is a deformation of the Thrace goddess Zemelo, but that association seems hardly plausible.
She is the daughter of Cadmus who belongs to the lineage of Oceanus and Harmony, the latter being the daughter of Aphrodite and Ares: she represents therefore an expression of “accuracy” in the process of love’s growth, towards which the seeker must strive through the path of liberation and purification. With the structuring letters, we can understand that this is both a progress in the flow of energy and consecration towards liberation (Σ + Μ + Λ).
Semele is beautiful (therefore true), otherwise Zeus wouldn’t be able to take her as lover.
But “the power of limitation that ensures that nothing is left behind” finds a flaw: the impatience of the seeker who wants evidence that the Divine is with him/her. It instils doubt in his/her mind and persuades him/her to ask for confirmation of what s/he feels to be a contact with the Divine (Hera persuades Semele to ask Zeus to manifest himself in his full power).
At this point, a part of the seeker still demands or at least expects to receive from the Divine in return for his requests. But this demand seems inevitable on the way; so it can be said that Semele doesn’t really commit a mistake – unlike Minos who refused to sacrifice the bull – because it is Hera who incited her.
With Hygin and Ovid, Hera took the appearance of the old nurse of Semele, Beroe “the embodiment of the right movement”: the old woman representing wisdom, this doubt manifests itself in a misleading aspect, a familiar form in which the seeker has put his complete trust.
The seeker expects proofs and therefore “pulls” prematurely the spiritual forces.

In absolute terms, the Divine knows better than us what is good for us and we shouldn’t bother about it. The right attitude is to accept everything that comes with joy, never blame the outside, but to consider it as an opportunity, all the while fighting what must be. But human nature is such that under the pressure of the aspiration to evolve and the need for knowledge, man asks for signs.
According to Sri Aurobindo, the right attitude is to want “the Divine with total confidence and the will to surrender to him so that he does the work in us; to rely on him more than on one’s own efforts. This attitude of the being develops when the mind and the vital enter peace, when the mind receives the light and the pacified vital lets in the calm and joy of the Divine”.

For all the authors, Zeus answered the request of Semele; to any sincere request, even one which is rooted in an imperfection of the nature of the seeker, there is a response from the Absolute. Some authors say that Zeus promised Semele to fulfil all her prayers; the seeker would have acquired the certainty that the Divine would never abandon him and would always do the best for his/her evolution.
To this request uttered with force and insistence, the Divine responds with a powerful mystical ecstasy, a divine fullness possessed by the soul. The seeker is possessed by the Divine, but cannot bear the intensity; he’s literally “consumed” by a “divine intoxication.”
This can lead to psychological illnesses, at least by excesses which will be illustrated by some authors of the later tradition by the Maenads or the Bacchantes. Probably these excesses have only appeared in the texts starting with Euripides who we rank among the uninitiated authors, because initially the Maenads, the ‘Inspired’ are the nurses of the young Dionysus, and thus right expressions.
The Maenads are spirits of nature (nymphs). They were initially called Thyades “inspired”, and therefore carried the same sense as the Maenads. With the Greek letters ΘΥ they mean “those who operate from the inside.” They were later depicted as women in the grip of mystical delirium.

But whatever is the apparent initial damage, this first experience of taking possession of the soul by the Divine is not lost, because Zeus “retrieves” the premature baby.
However, there can be from that moment on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ecstasies.
‘Good’ ecstasies would be those in which the seeker masters fully his vital nature and does not give in to any excesses.
‘Bad’ ecstasies would be due to vital excesses in a seeker who cannot contain the erupting forces in him.

If the seeker resists excesses and continues on his path of purification with perseverance, patience and endurance, then he is sure to reach the goal, to “possess” the Divine and be “possessed” by Him. This maturation is undertaken by the highest of the Overmind, who puts the result of this enthusiasm at a place of great strength (Zeus puts the premature baby, the future Dionysus, in his thigh).
When the time is ripe, a “joy”, a “divine inebriation” or ecstasy of oneness is manifested in a controlled and purified nature, and without excesses, because Dionysus was born immortal, therefore in a state of unity. In our view, it is necessary to distinguish “the psychic realization” which is the permanent union with the inner Divine from the possession of the soul by the Divine. This possession could be closer to the second phase, the spiritual transformation, as described by Sri Aurobindo.

However this possession of the soul by the Divine confers unusual abilities revealing the actions of the ego, in oneself and outside.
Dionysus will later search for his mother in Hades who took then the name of Thyone “the enthusiast”, accessing immortality on Olympus. This name conveys ideas of “what aspires with ardour”, of “possession or inspiration by the Divine” and “sacrifice to the gods”. It has the same structuring letters as Athena, Θ (Υ) + Ν, “the evolution of the growth of the inner being or inner Divine”, but incorporates also the idea of responsiveness and dedication given by the upsilon.

The myth of Dionysus does not describe an experience of ascending the planes of consciousness, or an experience of the Self – of union with the Divine in spirit, when any identification with the body, vital and mind ceases, a union that ignores evolution – but a soul possession of the seeker by the Divine, a response of the Divine to an “enthusiastic” aspiration that initially “pulls” often too violently. The power of the Divine, instead of entering a state of balance and equanimity, causes then instability and dementia.
As Semele is a daughter of Cadmus and Harmony, it represents a goal of accuracy on the path of love’s growth through the work of purification of impatience.

The myth of the Minotaur pointed out the risk of confinement in a rigid mental structure that threatens the seeker in the yoga of Knowledge. However, the way embodied by Europe seems to have been the recommended path of yoga, the one of accuracy whose bearers are Minos and Rhadamanthus, “the kings of justice.” The myth of Semele is more about the yoga of Devotion and draws attention to the absolute need of patience and a sufficient maturation of this devotion in the power of the highest mind. That is why Sri Aurobindo insisted on the need for purification of the higher mind (Buddhi) as a preliminary step.
What could best summarize the myth of Dionysus, as well as the relationship of Agave and her son Pentheus with Dionysus, is the following aphorism of Sri Aurobindo (Thoughts and Aphorisms, 93):
“Pain is the touch of our Mother teaching us how to bear and grow in rapture. She has three stages of her schooling, endurance first, next equality of soul, last ecstasy.  » The gestation of Dionysus in Zeus would be the learning of endurance and his adventures the maturity of equanimity.

Birth and youth of Dionysus

Zeus gave birth to Dionysus (by taking him out of his thigh) on mount Nysa to protect him from the hatred of Hera. Then he asked Hermes to entrust him to the nymphs who lived there. But as Hera had discovered the hiding place, he was entrusted to his aunt Ino and her husband Athamas who raised him (unless, according to other authors, it was the other way around, and the child was entrusted to the nymphs only after the death of Ino).

This episode of the second birth justifies the nickname attributed sometimes to Dionysus, “the twice born”. We could draw a comparison with the second birth, that in Spirit or “spiritual marriage.” Semele’s vision of Zeus in his glory would be the symbol of the first contact foreshadowing this union, the time of “spiritual betrothal”.
Homer mentions Dionysus, “joy for the mortals”, only very briefly, but he stresses his divinity starting from birth, although he is the son of a mortal. So this isn’t a hero born as a man and progressing towards divinization, but directly a god; this is therefore an experience of non-duality that will develop with the yoga. Hesiod also speak of him as an immortal (a-thanatos) (Theogony, around 942).

Mount Nysa doesn’t correspond to a known mountain and many assumptions have been made by the Ancients regarding its location. For us it is purely symbolic and might be there only to confirm the meaning of the name of Dionysus that has the same structuring letters). Ν + Σ, refer to “the evolution of human consciousness” in a state of receptivity-surrender (with the upsilon Υ). Dionysus would be the symbol of the way leading “human evolution to the conscious union with the Divine (ΔΙ) “who gives a sense of “Presence”. For the experts, the name Dionysus is of obscure origin.
For Homer and Hesiod, the primitive form of the name is Διωνυσος which extends the idea of the word’s formation from the genitive of Zeus insisting with the omega on “the incarnation” of the path, the descent into the body. (Which leads to what Satprem called “Divine materialism”.)

Dionysus has many other names, including Iacchus and Bacchus which was taken over by the Latins. We find the first references of this name in the 5th century. Iacchus is the symbol of “the consciousness which opens at the centre of the Being” while Bacchus is the symbol of the same movement penetrating matter. Both have as structuring letters ΚΧ, “the opening of consciousness at the centre”.
For Dionysus we keep the idea of an ‘opening capacity’ to the divine influx.

Dionysus is probably one of the mythological characters around which a lot of complexity and confusion developed, to the point of transforming the god who brings the joy of ecstasy into a god of drunken orgies.
Because there has been over time a progressive diversion of the symbolism of Dionysus which made out of this son of Zeus an orgiastic god in the derogatory sense of the word, whereas “the Dionysian orgy” is first of all a celebration inspired by the mysteries. Indeed, all what is related to “orgies” in the primitive myths is absolutely independent of wine.
Orphism, by appropriating the god to put him at the service of its own theology of dismemberment and regrouping of a god, has certainly contributed to this confusion.

If Homer calls him a “delusional” (μαινομενος), one must rather understand it according to the saying of St. Paul “May nobody fool himself’! If anyone among you thinks he is wise according to this world, he should get crazy to become wise; because the wisdom of this world is foolishness for God” (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 3.18). The devotees of Dionysus become “ενθεος, in the Divine”, the “enthusiastic” or “amazed”.

Athena and Dionysus are the only two gods who experienced a period of maturation inside Zeus. They share a privilege that differentiates them from the other gods. The fight of the warrior for the spiritualization of the mind and the growth of the inner being represented by Athena continued their development, not by a specific method of yoga, but by joining the cosmic flow of intelligence developed in man (gestation of Metis in Zeus). It is only when Athena appears from the head of the god as an adult, already armed, that her participation in the yoga becomes an integral part of the path.
Dionysus, however, only began his gestation by joining the sunlit path of consecration (in Semele), but it is the supraconscient which led him to the end (the response of the spirit and the end of gestation in Zeus). And unlike Athena, he appears as a fragile being in his youth. His power and “intransigence” will thereafter keep growing.

If some post-Homeric authors made him appear among the Twelve Olympians, it is not only because of his immortality, because then many other deities with the same status could also qualify.
In order to belong to the inner circle of the twelve, several conditions have to be met for which we can only make a number of assumptions.
First of all, the deity has to be immortal by birth, i.e. participate in a non-dual state.
Then, it must be a descendant of the Titan Cronos: either a brother or sister of Zeus, or a child of Zeus and an immortal goddess. That is, it must find its origin in the highest human supraconscient, the Overmind. (Aphrodite is here considered to be the daughter of Zeus and Dione according to the Homeric filiation, but not of Hesiod where she is issued from the sea froth; Maia, the mother of Hermes, is a full-fledged immortal because her father Atlas is considered to be a Titan.)
But all the deities who meet these two conditions do not belong to the Twelve Olympians, such as, for example, the Kharites, the Muses, the Horae and the Moires or even Hades, even if they are sometimes mentioned by some authors as residing on Mount Olympus.
Therefore, at least a third essential condition is needed: an active participation in human evolution of which the seeker can be aware. This would explain that neither Hades, god of the deep unconscious, nor the Moires, for example, are among the twelve.
The divinized mortals, such as Herakles and Ganymede, cannot belong to this circle because they do not meet the first condition.
In order for Dionysus to figure among the twelve, it was therefore necessary that Semele had an immortal status. That’s why Dionysus had to descend into Hades to find his mother and give her this status. Some authors could then make him appear among the overmind powers participating in the yoga, as an alternative, of course, to another god.

In general, the episodes about the maturity of the god are explained by the specialists of the Greek world as a refusal of the Dionysian cult. In this study, it would rather be a warning for the seekers who are encouraged to avoid “pulling” spiritual powers and be wary of the ecstasies occurring in natures lacking purification and mastery.

Dionysus and Lycurgus

Lycurgus, son of Dryas, pursued Dionysus and his nurses to the bottom of the sacred mountain Nysa (or Nyseion) by hitting them with a cattle prod, which caused such a fright to the small Dionysus that he plunged under the sea where he was rescued by the goddess Thetis. Zeus then deprived Lycurgus of eyesight and the latter died shortly after this, because he was hated by the immortal gods.

The version of the myth of Lycurgus presented here is that of Homer. (The one of Apollodorus puts the episode at the time when Dionysus is already an adult.)
His interpretation can vary, depending on the meaning of the name Lycurgus.
Lycurgus is a son of Dryas “the tree” or “the oak”. The green oak, symbol of strength, is the tree dedicated to Zeus. Big oak trees grow in the forest of Dodona in Epirus, where the oracle of this god takes place. Dryas is therefore a movement issued from the highest of the vital nature which “chases” what provides for the growth of this possibility of penetration of the Divine in the being (the nurses).
In many versions, Lycurgus is a king of Thrace. He represents an obstacle that arises among seekers on a powerful ascetic path (such as doubt, established tradition, etc.).
In a first interpretation, Lycurgus would mean “who rejects the nascent light, λυκ+eργω”. However, this meaning seems contradicted by the myths, including homonymous Lycurgus.
For Sophocles, Lycurgus is king of the Edonians. It would then be an expression of the “highest pleasure, enjoyment” which prevents the penetration of the Divine in the being.
In the opposite interpretation, Lycurgus would express “the passionate desire for light, λυκ+οργη ” and therefore, here also, a too “vitalistic” movement. Son of Dryas, he would then symbolize a too powerful vital desire to be possessed by the Divine, a desire that would become in the same way an obstacle.

In any case, it is an incompatibility between the descent of the Divine in the being and the non-regenerated vital. Pherecydes agrees by saying that the nurses are the Hyades, sisters of the Pleiades, symbols of the steps that fill the separation in the vital. This descent can only be fully achieved when the seeker has gone beyond the vital dualities, attraction and disgust, the “I like / I don’t like”.
The requirement of a complete surrender is impossible for beginners and even for those much further along the way; this “opening capability” must grow in contact with pure life forces (Dionysus seeks refuge at the roots of life, where the vital joy is pure, with the goddess Thetis, mother of Achilles and daughter of Nereus “the old man of the sea”).
The highest in the consciousness of the seeker forces him then to turn inward (Lycurgus is deprived of sight by Zeus) so that he understands why this new state has temporarily vanished (Dionysus took refuge in the vital subconscious).
In a well-directed yoga, in a just effort without constraint, this opposition of the non-purified vital cannot last long, because it cannot resist the forces that support evolution (the gods hated Lycurgus who had a very short life).
Post-Homeric tradition tells us that Dionysus made Lycurgus crazy, who, taking his son Dyas for a vine, cut off the ends of his limbs; Lycurgus, through his son, became unable to act.

Dionysus and the pirates (The version considered here is that of the 7th Homeric hymn)

This myth concerns the opposition which rises when the “opening” becomes significant. Somehow it is the counterpart of the Minotaur, as it also expresses a desire of the ego to appropriate the benefits of growth.
Pirates captured Dionysus who had appeared on the shore in the form of a beautiful young man. Seeing that they could take advantage, they tried to tie him up, but the ties immediately fell off. The pilot of the ship then sensed the true nature of the prisoner and tried in vain to convince the others to release him, but the captain refused. Then fragrant wine spread throughout the ship, and a vine with fine fruits invaded the masts. These signs terrified the sailors. Then Dionysus changed into a terrible lion and then made a bear appear to demonstrate his power.
The lion devoured the captain and the other sailors, except the pilot who was saved by the god; they threw themselves into the sea and turned into dolphins.
When the inner opening and joy become manifest, egotic elements in the being want to benefit from it (the pirates wanted to hinder the freedom of “teenager” Dionysus). Only the pilot, who directs the yoga, sensed the origin of this growing joy and tried in vain to convince his rebellious nature. He was called Hecator, which can be compared with Hecate “who aims at distant goals” or “who is beyond the self-deception of the mind”, first cousin of Apollo and Artemis by Asteria, sister of Leto.
To counter these movements, “the opening to Divine possession” uses the ego (Dionysus turns into a lion) before demonstrating his power (the bear).
Only the pilot was saved by Dionysus.

Dionysus and the Minyades

This story treated in chapter two (the first five children of Aeolus) gives an account of the dispute between those who prioritize virtues or ascetic exercises and those who are wary of the paths leading to expressions of ecstatic devotion. What is presented here as an external conflict can also be an inner opposition.
This story especially concerns Westerners who have a kind of instinctive recoil in front of external manifestations of devotion.
Remember that the Minyades refused to follow the mysteries of Dionysus, denying even the divinity of the god. Praising the work of Athena, they disapproved of the wanton conduct of the Bacchantes, whom they accused of leisurely celebrating a chimerical cult. While working on their looms, they were telling uplifting stories.

A similar story of refusal to follow the rites of Dionysus has been studied in the first chapter with the madness of Proetus’ daughters. It pointed out the risks of disruptions caused by spiritual experiences or constructions in the worlds of the spirit while the seeker refuses to include more devotion in the yoga.

Dionysus and Icarios

Under the reign of Pandion I, Dionysus visited Icarius and offered him wine. The latter lived near Athens with his daughter Erigone who was not yet married. Wanting to spread the blessings of the god, Icarius distributed this new beverage to the shepherds who found it pleasant and drank it without adding any water. Drunk, they believed themselves poisoned and killed Icarius. His daughter hanged herself and her dog died with her.

This story takes place during the reign of the king of Athens, Pandion I, which means at the beginning of the quest where the seeker who gives himself to the Divine has a strong tendency to work forcefully to obtain mastery. The character of Icarius must be compared with Icarus ‘clever intelligence’ at the service of self-mastery and no longer purification. It warns of the risk that this “skilful mental consciousness” (Icarius) wants to use divine Ecstasy for elements that are not ready to receive it pure (the shepherds). And the disruption introduced into these basic mental structures destroys this clever intelligence (the shepherds killed Icarius), the development of its goal (his daughter) and intuition (his dog).

Dionysus and Ariane

According to the Theogony of Hesiod, Ariadne, rendered immortal by Zeus, married Dionysus.
Pherecydes adds that she was abandoned on the island of Dia by Theseus on the order of Athena as they returned to Crete after the death of the Minotaur. The goddess told her that she would become the bride of Dionysus, which occurred shortly after the god appeared on the island.

Homer presents a much different version than other authors as he does not unite Dionysus and Ariadne. A passage of the Odyssey tells the story thus:
“Ulysses met Ariadne in the kingdom of Hades. Theseus had formerly abducted her in Crete and taken her to the hill of holy Athens, but he could not enjoy his abduction. In fact, Ariadne was denounced by Dionysus and perished, struck by Artemis on the island of Dia surrounded by the waves.” (Odyssey XI, around 325).

Ariane is a daughter of Minos “evolution of consecration” and Pasiphae, “who shines for all”, herself daughter of the sun Helios. Granddaughter of Europe “large vision” or “wide opening of consciousness”, she represents “the right movement of consciousness for the evolution towards union”, which enables one to get out of imprisonments.
In the Homeric tradition, the Dionysus-Ariadne union cannot happen in ordinary yoga for lack of purification (Ariane is killed by Artemis). It therefore takes place in Hades, according to Hesiod: at the level of the physical yoga, the ways of devotion and divine works converged towards the same realization.
But the latter must have first reached non-duality (made immortal by Zeus to become the wife of immortal-born Dionysus).
The golden crown offered by the latter represents the most perfect opening of consciousness to the higher levels of the spirit.

The children of Dionysus

In the archaic sources, Dionysus has no children. According to later traditions, Ariadne gave him several children including Oinopion “joy in the incarnation”, Thoas “impetuosity” or “interiority”, Staphylus “bunch of grapes (which announces ecstasy)”.
Finally, Apollodorus makes Deianira, “detachment”, the daughter both of Oeneus “drunkenness” as human father in the line of Protogenia (Iapetus) and Dionysus “ecstasy” as divine father, which would suggest that true “detachment” is found at the convergence of two great mystical unions, the one in the true Self and the one in the Divine who takes possession of the soul (the psychic and spiritual transformations).

Attribute of Dionysus

Dionysus and his Maenads are carriers of the thyrsus. It’s a stick topped with a pine cone, symbol of the essence of secret knowledge which attests that the one who is possessed by the Divine has access to true Knowledge.
(The word “thyrsus’ would mean with the structuring letters “right inner movement in a state of receptivity”.)

Polydorus

If the daughters of Cadmus and Harmony can be associated with the awareness of some goals to achieve in this path seeking harmony, Polydoros represents more the directly active part. All should realize “accuracy”, i.e., to bring “the right vision in the mind, the right impulse and right feeling in the vital, the right movement and the right habit in the physical.” (Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga)
His name most probably means “who gives himself a lot, self-giving” without dismissing completely the sense of “many gifts (which is received)”, gifts that can be spiritual gifts including new creative capacities, mainly in the field of the arts.

There is nothing which indicates with certainty that, in the primitive myths, Polydoros had an offspring. It is only at the end of the 5th century that the relationship with Œdipus is established, in the writings of Herodotus and the Tragic poets (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides). However, as this last hero is associated with myths dealing also with purification and re-harmonization – the War of the Seven against Thebes and the one of the Epigones – the filiation seems coherent.

On the other hand, the connection of Antiope to Polydoros is more complex to grasp, because two separate filiations are given, leading to two different chronologies of the foundation of Thebes which mark the entry into the active purification process.
In the next chapter, with the lineage of Polydoros, we will examine the stories about Antiope and her sons, Amphion and Zethos. Let’s only mention here that the beginnings of the process are marked by an orientation error in the yoga represented by Lycos and his wife Dirke. The latter mistreated Antiope for many years: the seeker already sees glimmers of truth (Lycos), but takes a wrong direction (the name Dirke indicates a reversal compared to Dike “right way to act”). At the same time, the bases of the purification process are laid down relatively easily while the seeker begins to experience “the night”. Polydoros, united with Nycteis “the night”, sister of Antiope, who bore him a son Labdacos, father of Laius and grandfather of Œdipus.