« As there is a category of facts to which our senses are our best available but very imperfect guides, as there is a category of truths which we seek by the keen but still imperfect light of our reason, so according to the mystic, there is a category of more subtle truths which surpass the reach both of the senses and the reason but can be ascertained by an inner direct knowledge and direct experience. These truths are supersensuous, but not the less real for that : they have immense results upon the consciousness changing its substance and movement, bringing especially deep peace and abiding joy, a great light of vision and knowledge, a possibility of the overcoming of the lower animal nature, vistas of a spiritual self-development which without them do not exist. A new outlook on things arises which brings with it, if fully pursued into its consequences, a great liberation, inner harmony, unification – many other possibilities besides. These things have been experienced, it is true, by a small minority of the human race, but still there has been a host of independent witnesses to them in all times, climes and conditions and numbered among them are some of the greatest intelligences of the past, some of the world’s most remarkable figures. Must these possibilities be immediately condemned as chimeras because they are not only beyond the average man in the street but also not easily seizable even by many cultivated intellects or because their method is more difficult than that of the ordinary sense or reason? If there is any truth in them, is not this possibility opened by them worth pursuing as disclosing a highest range of self-discovery and world discovery by the human soul? At its best, taken as true, it must be that – at its lowest taken as only a possibility, as all things attained by man have been only a possibility in their earlier stages, it is a great and may well be a most fruitful adventure. »
Letters on Yoga, 7-1-1934, XXII.188
When we have passed beyond knowings,
Then we shall have Knowledge.
Reason was the helper; Reason is the bar.
When we have passed beyond willings,
Then we shall have Power.
Effort was the helper; Effort is the bar.
When we have passed beyond enjoyings,
Then we shall have Bliss.
Desire was the helper; Desire is the bar.
When we have passed beyond individualising,
Then we shall be real Persons.
Ego was the helper; Ego is the bar.
When we have passed beyond humanity,
Then we shall be the Man.
The Animal was the helper; the Animal is the bar.
Transform reason into ordered intuition;
Let all thyself be light. This is thy goal.
Transform effort into an easy and sovereign overflowing of the soul-strength;
Let all thyself be conscious force. This is thy goal.
Transform enjoying into an even and objectless ecstasy;
Let all thyself be bliss. This is thy goal.
Transform the divided individual into the world-personality;
Let all thyself be the divine. This is thy goal.
Transform the Animal into the Driver of the herds;
Let all thyself be the Krishna. This is thy goal.
(Thoughts & Glimpses Cent. Edition: Vol. 16, pp 377)
We have presented several decryption keys for Greek mythology in the first volume of this study. They enabled us to uncover its general structure, to get closer to its hidden meaning, and to discover that it represented an extraordinary panorama of human evolution and described the paths to the future which the initiates of ancient Greece, and probably those of prior civilisations, had begun to explore.
Two of these paths are of particular importance: the ascension of the planes of consciousness in the lineage of Iapetus and the path of purification-liberation in Oceanos’.
At the beginning of this second volume, if one wants to explore the deeper meaning of this mythology, one will have to deepen the structure of the consciousness on which it relies and try to gain an overall view of the ways of approaching the Absolute, as well as the different types of experiences and realisations.
It is the only way for one to understand the adventures that preceded the War of Troy as well as the stakes disclosed in the long fight between the Acheans and the Trojan coalitions.
Even though all human experiences eventually recount a similar approach to the Truth, they do vary immensely according to the individuals and their backgrounds. The result of these experiences is a multitude of spiritual paths and teachings, of which it is quite difficult to establish an overview, even today.
The Greek heirs of the ancient Vedic and Egyptian knowledge, who had a better understanding of consciousness than we do as they were closer to the “intuition time”, experienced quite some difficulties themselves when it came to organizing the genealogies into a coherent picture that all could agree upon. (“Intuition time” is the pre-Vedic period, which correspond to the symbiotic time in the hypothesis of a mental cycle spread over 26 000 years.)
Homer left very few indications, and it is the work of Hesiod which bequeathed to us the first and nearly only Greek attempt to present an overview of these genealogies. « The Catalogue of Women », a piece attributed to this poet, gives the most reliable expression of this, even though only a few fragments have reached us, most of the time indirectly. It seems to have been the authoritative poem used as reference by the Ancients in this domain. Nevertheless, the many gaps in the texts contributed to the diversity of hypotheses and to the ulterior divergences.
The structure of the Consciousness succinctly presented here is neither arbitrary nor imaginary, it is the result of the experience of many initiates and mystics of all time.
However, it is so complex, and there are so many domains beyond our ordinary comprehension which are difficult to express in words of the common language by those who experienced them, that it is crucial to maintain a certain fluidity in one’s approach. Aware of the human intellect’s tendency of wanting to organize and compartimentalize knowledge in order to master it better and to subjugate it to its own interests, Sri Aurobindo, like Homer before him, always refused to give of it too rigid a description although he gave a rather precise poetic description of it in « Savitri », Book II. And this all the more since there are never any fixed separations, as all things are only forms or infinite variations of the One Consciousness who plays its own game in the universe, instead of following the rules of the human mental, no matter how developed it might be.
Conversely, ignoring this structure and the spiritual paths ensuing from it could result in side-tracking, or into mistakenly taking modest experiences for ultimate realisations, supposing that such erring ways couldn’t also be a necessity for the evolution of those who experience them.
For these planes are not merely the result of subjective experiences, they are in fact domains of the consciousness inhabited by beings, entities and hierarchies which evolve according to their own laws and rythms.
Therefore, the purpose here is not to give the absolute structure of man, of Consciousness and of its modalities, but only to give the indications that are necessary for the comprehension of the general organization of myths and the place occupied by particular experiences and teachings, translated into symbols, that are recounted in them.
The planes of Becoming: The sensitive created world or the external human nature
The simplest way to address this complexity is through the observation of nature and man who, in his growth since conception, revisits the stages of evolution in an accelerated manner, while keeping memories of it and staying a subject to its laws.
In order to relate this evolution to the essential constitutive elements of the being of which we have a sensitive perception, three of them have been chosen from which all the others, brought out by the different psychological, esoteric or spiritual traditions are just subdivisions or particular aspects : matter, life and mind.
These planes will be called « external », in relation to the « internal » domains of the being, or even « inferior » in the sense that they are « under » or were first to manifest in the evolution, and not because they are inferior in terms of quality.
In evolutionary terms, we suggested considering that matter contained life and mind involuted in itself. When it had evolved enough to allow life to appear, a powerful aspiration to realise the junction between the plane of cosmic Life and the germ involuted in matter occurred: this was the emergence of life and the beginning of the vegetal kingdom. The same process took place for the mind, and its progressive development enabled the apparition of the animal kingdom through many stages. The stage of the reflexive mind opened to human evolution.
We also proposed to consider consciousness as a constituent of the universe, hence present in everything and in all beings in varying degrees, and therefore also in the mineral world.
On the other hand, this distribution led us to consider the mind in its broader meaning, not only including all the aspects of the separative mind (intellectual thought, cognitive ideas and abilities resulting from the process of distancing oneself) but also of the « intelligence » in the broadest sense (Metis), integrating faculties connected to the process of identification (such as intuition, direct mental perception, etc.).
We are going to leave mineral matter and even living matter down to the cellular level aside, since man, with few exceptions, is still far from being able to be conscious of them.
Matter, which we perceive as an inert separated world, contains unsuspected powers which science barely approaches. Furthermore, currents of colossal power run through the universe, unbeknownst to us. These currents, which flow through us without any resistance, connect us to the universe, establishing an interdependence between all existing things.
Not only did science discover that matter is energy, but also that it interacts with consciousness. Science is barely beginning to lift the veil covering the infinite possibilities of the particle world, in which time, space, and information media defy our traditional laws and consistently challenge our beliefs. Spiritual science maintains the tremendous mutual attraction of the Spirit for Matter in which the Divine involuted itself, generating an interval within Himself in order to let manifestation and creation unfold. Matter is actually the place of the eternal New, identical to the Spirit in essence.
While conserving some qualities of matter like the tendency for inertia, this physical body isn’t purely material as it also contains life and a primitive mind at a cellular level (and maybe at even more elementary levels as well). The primary mode at work in the body is « repetition ».
Major evolutions of the species have always taken place through the physical… Thus the body is bound to become the ultimate place for transformation in the next stage of human evolution, under the influence of the supramental creator. And this time, man seems to be destined to participate consciously in this transformation. But it cannot happen too fast at the risk of blowing up all the intermediary constructions put in place by Nature, who works at a very slow pace.
This is why the transformative currents will not be able to flow with full intensity before a sufficient growth and purification-liberation of the external planes of the being have been achieved, before those planes become totally transparent to the action of the superior forces.
The ascendant currents are known since time immemorial, as they enabled the projection of consciousness into the supra conscious impersonal Divine by establishing the connection through the centers situated above the head. Nonetheless, they are usually inactive, traditionally « coiled » at rest at the base of the spine. In the Indian tradition, the main current is named Kundalini, and those surrounding it on each side of the spine are called Ida and Pingala. (It would seem that under the pressure of the supramental, currents similar to the Kundalini would enter not only through the base of the spine, but also through the feet.)
The descending currents are experienced by the adventurers of consciousness who launched themselves into the transformation of the body. No « method » can trigger them but it seems they cannot take action unless certain conditions are fulfilled. They are measured out very precisely according to the seeker’s transparency and capacity for resilience and endurance, as it is a direct action of the Absolute according to conditions which elude mental comprehension.
Many other forces and currents flow through the human body, such as those which travel through the countless meridians or those who define the biological rhythms, and probably many more.
The physical body conceals unimaginable powers. Surely some were at the disposition of mankind in pre-mental times and retreated to the background in order to allow mental growth. Many more are still to be discovered.
With Pontos’ children, we described earlier the five stages of life’s growth as identified by the ancients (Cf. the chapter on « Genesis and Life development »). They are, from most archaic to most evolved, the planes of the material vital, the true vital or « thinking senses », the vital mental, the emotional vital and the large vital (future). Without going into detail, let us remind ourselves that the vital plane begins during the irruption of life out of matter, then develops with the first movements of conservation, exchange of information and reproduction, followed by the instincts and behaviors of the animal world (aggressivity, fear, anger, pleasure, attraction and repulsion, etc.) which persist in man for whom the neo-cortex only adds « a layer » of complexity enabling reflexivity and consequently a certain mastery, among other things.
Therefore the vital is the source of impulses and desires, enthusiasm and violence, dynamic energy and hopeless depressions, passions and revolts, but it is also, as the mind progressively takes a more prominent place, the support for more refined feelings, more elaborate desires, leaving the narrow circle of family and clan behind, to finally reach summits of emotional mental sensitivity.
The growth stages of this plane follow in their progression an evolution which can be superimposed to the five inferior centers of a Sephiroth tree in the vital plane. The individuation process occurs at the level of the third and fourth centers (Phorcys and Ceto). Thus the vital phase presently culminates in the animal world with the construction of the « animal me » or « animal ego » – very visible in some species closest to man – which is the result of a first sign of willingness to extract oneself from the group-consciousness of the race in question.
Most human behaviors are still currently stemming from these animal processes – located in the limbic and reptilian brain – and are the basis for the consciousness of the family, of the clan, of the country or of the race.
Although the mind which we linked to the apparition of the nervous system isn’t a characteristic inherent to man, this term is mainly used in this study to describe the human mind in all its aspects. The Ancients identified seven major steps of progression in the mind symbolized by the Pleiades, Atlas’ daughters, and taken up by Sri Aurobindo under the following names : physical mind, vital mind, intellect, higher mind, illumined mind, intuition and overmind; they are not only cognition faculties but also domains with specific powers that can act or descend into the being.
Man must progressively make its way to the top, and it is most likely that Nature will devote a very long period of time to this labour. Indeed, most of the time, the majority of mankind operates on the two first levels and struggles to apply the third, the intellect, in order to elaborate a personalized thinking free from opinions and beliefs, detached from the emotional and physical vital and able to integrate opposites. It should be noted that human groups are always lagging behind individuals as they can only progress at the rhythm of the least evolved members.
A minority carries out the most advanced tasks of the intellectual mind, however still very far from being able to apply its understanding to its life as a whole, like when it comes to reaching higher syntheses where the various points of view may be reconciled.
Those planes were discussed in detail in the previous volume up to the intellect. We will only give here a few brief indications about the planes situated above the latter – which only a few rare people approach – as these planes will become increasingly relevant throughout the progress of this study.
Sri Aurobindo groups these planes together above the intellect under the term « planes of the Spirit » or « supraconscious », and calls « spiritualisation » (of the mental) the process of ascending these planes of consciousness. (The transition from the conscious to the supraconscious varies according to one’s evolution.)
Just like the ancient Greeks, Sri Aurobindo makes this spiritualisation of the human mental following the direction of evolution one of the foundations of his yoga. For if the complete « purification » of the external nature must prepare the being to receive the transformative power of the Divine (making it « transparent »), it is also necessary that this union be realised in the Spirit in order for the corresponding forces to be able to descend and ultimately realise the « liberation from Nature ».
The classification of these planes was established on the baseline of « The Lightning Bolt » in the Kabbalah’s Sephiroth Tree. The two inferior planes are in the tree’s axis and balanced between the poles of identification and distance, fusion and fission. The intellect is located on the pillar of separation. As a result of the alternate influences of the forces of fusion and separation depending on great time cycles, it is presently leading humanity towards an increasing individualism and inability to bear difference or to appreciate otherness. These periods of 2160 and 26 000 years have been broached in the first volume. However, nowadays an inversion of this trend seems to be taking place.
The transition from the intellect to the higher mind is executed by passing towards the right side of the tree, which means associating a certain dose of intuition to the mind.
This plane of the higher mind is indeed one of a luminous thinking mind, still dominated by thought but with an overall ideation capable of a quick and vast conception which does not necessarily pass through the process of the intellect. It also has a dynamic component which manifests as a realizing power of this luminous mind (which we find illustrated by the offering of a bull by Poseidon to Minos).
Well developed, it characterizes the wise man and the spiritual thinker. It dominates the European myths, such as the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the Battle of Thebes. It is represented by the lineage of the Pleiad Sterope.
The illuminated mind which balances both polarities entails, in the Sephiroth Tree, the clearing of a veil. Therefore, it no longer belongs to the higher thought but to the spiritual light and works through flashes of vision. Therefore, it is the plane of the « seers » and of the enlightened mystics. It brings along a great peace in the being and an « enthusiasm (en-theos) » for realisation. In the myths, it is characterised by the various « Electra » (and Electryon), and more specifically by the descendants of the most famous one of them from whom originated the Trojan lineage, the Pleiad Electra, daughter of Atlas and mother of Dardanos who founded Troy. It is also the spirit of the Achean coalition against Troy.
The next plane is the one of intuitive discernment (Sri Aurobindo usually calls it « plane of intuition ») which brings a discriminative and « striking » element to the previous holistic vision. It is characterized by an ocean of immutable lightning. With its powers of illumination, revelation, inspiration, direct perception of truth and intuitive discernment, it can completely replace the intellect which can then be abandoned. It might strongly act upon the intuitions and perceptions of the heart and body in order to illuminate them. It corresponds to the lineage of Taygete where one finds the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, Helen and Clytaemnestra, as well as Penelope, Ulysses’ wife. This lineage is closely related to the one of Perieres, son of Aeolus (See Plate 13).
Finally, the overmind is the plane that liaises the human mind with the supramental creator. It was the last one to act on mankind as Hermes, its representative, son of the Pleiad Maia, was the last god to reach Olympus.
It lies between the worlds of the Being and those of the Becoming, although it belongs to the latter. It is in this plane that the principle of separation is actualized and that the principle of ignorance appears (when Typhon is considered as one of the sons of Hera). It is entering this plane that caused the adventurers of consciousness who reached this level and had realized the impossibility of transforming the lower nature to consider that the only way to manifest the Union was to dissolve into the nothingness of Nirvana.
It is in this plane that forms appear. It is therefore the residence of the gods who rule it and control its formation, duration and ending. Here duality and divergences materialize.
At the last stage of this spiritualized mental, the seeker acquires a permanent consciousness of the Self (or Divine “I” or Jivatman). The ego’s consciousness in him then ceases to prevail before disappearing, or it will eventually be surpassed. He can contemplate « The Powers that stand above the worlds » and « the wings that fold around created Space ». (Savitri, Book II, Canto 15. These wings appear at the top of the Caduceus.)
The overmind also allows access to the plane of the cosmic Divine Me (Atman) which puts an end to cosmic illusion. There lies the source of dualities « beyond limits of birth and death ». Then further beyond, the seeker exceeds the limits of the cosmic mind and contemplates the Unknown, « His feet firm-based on Life’s stupendous wings ». « From It all sprang, in It is called to cease. But what That was, no thought nor sight could tell. » There, « There was no mind there with its need to know, There was no heart with its need to love » (Savitri, Book III, Canto 1).
But still the overmind is a plane where an action of division is manifesting based on the game of multiplicity and sustained by an array of endless possibilities. It has not the power of Unity hence cannot completely transform the unconscious to its very roots.
The planes of the Being
We are not going to elaborate on these planes of the creating world and of the Absolute. The work of Sri Aurobindo provides substantial presentations of them.
The creating supermind
The term supermind can be misleading, as its nature is completely alien to the mind. It describes a world beyond the mind – the overmind ensuring the transition – and in which there are many gradations.
It is a world of Unity, of Consciousness of Truth in which there is « differentiation » but no « division ». It is at the border between the supermind and the overmind that duality appears and thus the legitimate right for each element of the sets of opposites to pursue its evolving line according to its own nature.
When on the way to ascending the planes of consciousness, neither desire, nor ego, nor dualities resulting from a consciousness of division can withstand the passage through this boundary. It is however possible to receive the lights and the transformative strength of this plane before a complete liberation has been achieved.
Supramentalisation supposes the preliminary realisation of nature’s liberation up to the physical level, that is to say a perfect transparency for the divine power to penetrate the body, where not only forms but also matter « have no more shadow ».
To meet the needs of evolution, the Supermind delegated a new consciousness called « Supermanhood Consciousness » by The Mother and Satprem. It designates the intermediary being whose elaboration must precede that of the supramental man. The Superman is born man and achieves supramentalisation. The supramental man is born already supramentalised.
In a general way, one could associate the supramental creator with all the couples of Titans and Titanides, but we matched it more particularly with the most elevated one, Hyperion-Theia, bearer of Helios « its illuminating power», of Selene « power of its realising action » and of Eos, « the eternal new ».
The Supreme Divine, triple in One and indivisible
Above the supermind is the world of the Divine triple in One and indivisible (Sat-Chit-Ananda), the Brahman who is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss and of which « nothing can be said ».
The inner nature of man
The vaster subliminal planes
If each of the planes of the physical, the vital and the mental manifest in our individual nature in a jumbled, ignorant and limited way, they nevertheless spread over purer and vaster domains, free from ignorance and governed by the Self, until they reach the universal or the cosmic. Man can access them through a reversal of consciousness, as it is through interiority that he can hope to join the infinite. He usually only perceives the tip of the iceberg, which Sri Aurobindo calls « the external being », and believes himself to be the source of his own thoughts, emotions and acts, as well as the victim of bad luck, of events and of others.
Thus for example, « the surface vital is ignorant, narrow, full of obscure desires, passions, cravings, revolts, pleasures and pains, transient joys and griefs, exultations and depressions. The true vital being, on the contrary, is wide, vast, calm, strong, without limitations, firm and immovable, capable of all power, all knowledge, all ananda (divine joy). It is moreover without ego ». (CWSA/-28 Letters On Yoga I/-21 The Vital Being and Vital Consciousness.)
(it should be noted that these inner subliminal planes are extensions of the same plane on the same level.)
According to Sri Aurobindo, man is constantly acting on these subliminal planes, but the evidence of his action usually reaches his consciousness only through dreams. The influence and interaction of these planes on his life are thus permanent.
If man could access all of these planes, he would not be able to sustain it. Therefore, the « veils » in consciousness are a necessary protection for his evolution. The more conscious he grows, the more he gains in strength to confront the vision of the worlds revealed to him and the more he can act in order to free himself from their influence and use their forces.
A subliminal plane corresponds to each of these three inferior planes.
Hence, there is a subtle physical plane very close to ours, where all that is taking place on Earth is being prepared and organised. Behind the individual vital exists a pure vital plane which joins the universal, and, beyond our limited mental world, a non-deformed purer and vaster mental which we can access. In the same way that the vital and the mental entails gradations, the subliminal planes comprise a number of sub-planes.
The Self (or ‘I’ or « central being ») and psychic being (linked to the soul)
Behind the surface being, two centers of consciousness are held, interrelated, the Self (or individualised ‘I’) and « the psychic being » (gathered around the soul) its delegate in incarnation.
The Self is the individualised and yet impersonal part of the Divine (without consciousness of the ego) which sustains from above a close liaison between the individual being and its delegate in incarnation, the soul, who develops the psychic being around itself throughout the incarnations. « He knows himself as universal and transcendent no less than individual and feels the Divine to be his origin, the truth of his being, the master of his nature, the very stuff of his existence ».
In this book, the Self represents the « real “I” » who is an individualised part of the Divine but conscious of its unity with Him. The translators of Sri Aurobindo seem to have indifferently used the terms “I” or Self to define this « central being » or « true being » (Jivatman) who directs from behind the veil. When the « divine “I”, One in all » (Atman) becomes individualised, it becomes the true Self or “I” (Jivatman). It stands above nature and is not affected by its movements. It supports evolution but does not get involved.
In the becoming, the soul or divine spark makes a « psychic being » grow around itself in gradation with the incarnations. Ergo, this being transmigrates through lives, wearing a physical, vital and mental « garment », adapted to the goals set out for a specific incarnation.
Therefore the psychic being supports the “me” (or personality) in the incarnation as per the needs of evolution. It is he, as delegate of the Self, who directs things from behind even though the frontal egotic personality thinks it is in control. But he does so while respecting Nature’s constraints and its very slow pace, illustrated by the opposition of Hera to any fast evolution. But when it moves to the front and directs the outer being, then the seeker enters an accelerated phase of evolution.
The center of the psychic being is located nearby the physical heart. It is he, Agni, the inner fire who, according to the Vedas, is « no bigger than a thumb, always seated within the heart », the spark growing into a fire. It is associated with the need for self-giving, love, sacrifice, adoration that only the Divine can fully satisfy.
We identified the psychic being to Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis, in the lineage of Coios (Koios).
The gods who direct the worlds
All the planes we mentioned are inhabited by beings, entities and forces. In the creator worlds, in the formless worlds, they are the divine hierarchies that the initiates sometimes evoke.
In the worlds of becoming and forms, there are many entities and divinities which belong to all degrees of the duality, thus as much to the areas of shadow than of light. They also all participate in the game of Becoming under the divine law while trying to materialise the goal of their existence. Not only do they act on their own plane, but they also have the ability, the will and the rights to take action on Earth in order to express their own modality of existence. They act in man by manipulating him without him knowing through his urges, his emotions and his desires or by supporting his evolution towards his divinity.
What we call madness is most of the time the consequence of an imbalance due to an open door to these worlds that enables the irruption of entities coming to materialise themselves or feed on particular energies.
For example, one can find there nature’s spirits, the soul-groups of animals, formations made by men. (We call formation any special concentration of the mind into which a vital force has been blown by will. These formations then act to achieve the goal for which they have been created. Our fears, hatreds, etc. construct and support such formations. That is why it is said that every thought is effective.)
In mythology, it is divinities that intervene in heroes’ lives, such as for example the four great winds or the « bad winds », the Erinyes, the children of Night, the Gorgons, the great monsters like the Hydra and Chimera, and of course divine generations of immortals among which the innumerable children of Oceanus, the Titans, the Muses, etc.
Conscious, subconscious, unconscious, nescient and supraconscious
A certain number of terms define the relationship we have with the planes mentioned above.
The conscious is a domain specific to each one, with its own limitations. It is most of the time associated with the three inferior planes of the mental, the vital and the physical (thoughts, emotions, sensations and the most obvious physical habits) but for most men it operates only in very limited zones of these planes. Man must achieve a particular work in order to make it more sensitive, to increase its extent, its height and depth, beyond this superficial consciousness.
When consciousness applies to the mental plane, it is connected to the air element.
The term subconscious should normally refer to all the planes that are not ordinarily accessible but which can be made conscious through the Yoga. Thus they should include all of what is situated « under » our waking consciousness. In fact, Sri Aurobindo seems to exclude all the subliminal worlds, limiting the subconscious to a zone of inferior consciousness, as individual than universal, behaving more particularly like a huge tank which stores the slightest events, perceptions and sensations of our life, be they conscious or not. It is the first place where everything that has been chased from the conscious seeks refuge. It is also from there that the elements that must be treated arise to consciousness.
As most impressions, sensations and emotions are vital, the subconscious has a special relationship with that plane. The vital being associated to the water element, Poseidon, god of the subconscious, is a marine divinity.
Therefore, the domain of the subconscious covers a much vaster domain than the unconscious of today’s psychology.
The unconscious lies under the subconscious and essentially applies to bodily and physical consciousness. It too is as individual as it is universal. It is made of obscurity, inertia and insensitivity. Even if it is meant to be one day integrated to the conscious, it differentiates itself in the sense that it is not actually accessible to human consciousness, except for a few rare initiates.
It is the kingdom of Hades. It resonates with the earth element.
Still « under » is Nescience, the absolute negation of Consciousness, represented by the Tartarus.
Lastly, the supraconscious lies for each one beyond his conscious zone and thus includes for 0the humanity in general the planes of the Spirit, from the higher mind to the supramental and the planes of divine unity.
The myths defined through Zeus (who « integrated » Metis) the highest capacity of mental consciousness that man can attain through intelligence in the sense defined above, the overmind. Therefore the gods’ interventions in the myths (Zeus, Hermes, etc.) belong to the supraconscious until the moment where the heroes are able to come closer to them or to confront them. Until then they manifest as perceptible sensitive experiences but of which the origin is not conscious (Zeus transformed into a bull, changed into golden rain, etc.)
Experiences and realisations
From the above presentation, the result is that the possibilities of contact with our true being or with the Supreme are multiple and that there are still many more paths that lead there.
The above description of the fields of consciousness and the experiences reported by initiates of all time allow us to deduct that there are a great many ways to approach the Absolute and to experience it in one of its forms: in its transcendental impersonal expression, universal, or personal, or even by one of its countless possibilities of manifestation through one of the physical, vital or mental planes. The practices being implemented to this end also vary infinitely. This explains why the Divine could always be contacted throughout the various periods of human evolution under one or another of its aspects.
Therefore, it seems crucial to be able to determine the nature of experiences in our times when the biggest force of separation has been necessary to allow individuation while causing the most extreme distance from Truth as a result of evolving in ignorance and of stopping the evolution in union (Typhon and Echidna). Through practicing true discernment, one will avoid confusing the experiences of the vital with those of the heart or coming from the superior light, and the fascination for false lights. Sri Aurobindo dedicated a very important part of his correspondence with his disciples to this problem.
Let us remember that one ought to distinguish transitory « experiences » from permanent « realisations ». Both the first and the latter concern all the planes and states of being.
Among the realisations, there is that of the Self, of the transcendent Divine, of the cosmic “I”, of the presence of the Divine Mother, of the Light, of the Force, of the Psychic Union, of the Divine Joy or Ananda in every plane, etc.
On the other hand, to have the experience of a certain plane does not mean that one is definitively settled on it. For example, a seeker may be lying most of the time on the planes of the mental-vital and of the intellect and sometimes visit the higher mind. That some experiences may concern this or that plane and have been classified in the posterity of such child of Eole or in one of the Pleiades, does not necessarily mean that the seeker who lived those experiences is definitively established in that plane. On the other hand, even in the most advanced stages of the path, there is always the risk or the choice to put oneself on the side of the light’s forces or of the anti-divine forces.
The association of the two great paths we are considering, that of « the ascension into the planes of consciousness » or « spiritualisation of the mental » and that of « purification-liberation », allows the realisation of the divine “I” or Self (union with the Divine « above ») and the « psychic realisation (union with the Divine « within ») or « awakening », which lead to the « liberation of the Spirit ». That is to say that the spirit becomes free from the operations of nature. And that is what one can usually understand by being « liberated » or « realised » in the literature on spirituality. However, these terms should be employed only if the union with the inner Divine is definitive (the « psychisation »). It supposes the absence of desires and the disappearance of the « ego consciousness ».
But the liberation of the outer nature is still not complete. One has to follow more deeply the path of « purification-liberation » in order to realise the total liberation which Sri Aurobindo calls « liberation of the Nature ». For that, one needs to master the « gunas (the modes of Nature: energy of action, inertia, balance) » and to go beyond « dualities ». It must lead the seeker towards the third accomplishment of yoga according to Sri Aurobindo. The first one is the psychisation which is to put the external nature under control of the psychic, followed by the spiritualization which is to bring the higher light in all the planes of the being. Then can be realized the « transformation » or divinisation of the body which is realised by the divine forces acting in a human vessel which has been made fully transparent.
As a start, the « purification » of the mental is obviously necessary in order to avoid confusions and illusions.
When one engages onto the spiritual path, the choice of the way will depend on what one wants to achieve. For example, to acquire some of Nature’s powers, the ways of occultism will be favoured.
Determining the goal of one’s Yoga is thus an essential pre-condition for any spiritual approach.
Generally, the fundamental goal of all spiritualities (and usually the only one) was to realise the union with the Divine, « union of what was separated in the play of the universe, with the true “I” as its origin and its universality » (Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga). That is the meaning usually accepted for the word Yoga « union »: according to Sri Aurobindo, in The Synthesis of Yoga, « a methodised effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the potentialities latent in the being and through the union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence ».
The word “yoga” derived from the Sanskrit root yug which means « to unite » but can also refer to the verb « to yoke » or even to « a method for training horses ». If the horse is the symbol of the Force, the problem is therefore to reach mastery of this (Divine) Force.
The most widespread spiritualities usually avoided the ways of occultism (sacred magic, trance, manipulation of energies or of the entities of the vital or mental planes, etc.). They doubtlessly considered that occultism presented substantial dangers and that it could only bring one closer to limited aspects of the Absolute. Even if these ways eventually may help contact some aspects of the Real when developed to their highest potentiality, they generally belong to the past of humanity, even though they may still seduce many seekers preparing to engage on the path. On the other hand, they contact certain planes where the powers of shadow and light coexist and where it is very difficult to apply a correct discernment without sufficient purification and the elimination of all fears.
Traditional spiritualities, considering by experience the transformation of the inferior layers of the vital and of the body as impossible, set as their ultimate realisation the union with the Divine in Spirit, generally rejecting matter from their concerns and advocating the ways of isolation and meditation. According to the levels reached by the initiates in the superior levels of the mind (illuminated mind, intuitive discernment and overmind), they theorized these paths in different ways.
But Homer, like Sri Aurobindo, refused the sole personal liberation and continued further toward a yoga of liberation for all mankind. The latter supposes an integral purification of the inferior nature in order for the forces of a world situated above the mental to be able to intervene and transform the physical nature. It is not only a « spiritualisation » of the mental nor a « psychisation » of nature anymore, but a « transformation » for which the two former were merely the preparation.
The Greek myths and the progression described by the elders have to be considered within this perspective. Thus we will not be searching for the ways of occultism in these myths, or even for a description of methods appropriate to each spiritual path, but instead for a synthesis directed towards the transformation of mankind.
The experiences on the path of ascension of the planes of consciousness and the realisation of the Self.
The path of ascension is illustrated by the lineage of Iapetus the Titan. The seven Pleiades represent the planes of the human mental consciousness, and Eole’s children the major experiences on this path. Aethlios’ descent concerns more particularly the adventurers who realise mental silence and continue further.
As the ascension starts with the refinement of the intellect and an intrusion in the higher mind, many experiences of widening of consciousness, of higher understanding or dazzling intuitions might precede the first main experience which results from a response of the higher planes of the Spirit to the seeker’s aspiration to understand and know.
This response is an illuminative chock which provides the strength to follow the way towards union. The entire mind is filled with divine light, joy and power. This experience and the path that leads to it are described in detail in the Quest for the Golden Fleece by Jason and the Argonauts. However it is merely a preliminary announcement, a result of the need for union or fusion of the subjective being with its highest and innermost “I”.
By following the path of ascension and spiritualisation of the mind, together with that of purification, the seeker reaches a set of realisations such as equality, joy, compassion, transparency, etc. which we will examine in the next chapters.
In fact, both paths are not really independent and the experiences result from a progression specific to each seeker in each one of them.
But there is also the possibility to cease the identification to the body, to the vital and to the mind, and to discover then the impersonal source of one’s being which remains in silence, the Self which is the individual component of the One impersonal divine consciousness. From there, the seeker can also catch a glimpse of the divine planes that transcend the mind.
In the East, this was generally the privileged way.
This realisation was usually attained by the pacification of the vital and of the mind, and the obtainment of a relative mental silence. It is fostered by the concentration in the head for consciousness to finally position itself above it. Isolation from society’s agitation is conducive to its obtainment. But the path of renunciation to the world is not the only one, as one can achieve this realisation amongst activities through a profound detachment and inner silence.
It is an immersion in a plane where the consciousness of ego disappears, where the seeker loses consciousness of himself as a separate entity. It is « a void full of light, peace, immensity, eluding all form and all definition. It is the Nought, but a Nought which is real and can last eternally » (The Mother, Prayers and Meditations, 19 April 1915). This realisation makes one « escape time » and thus the future. It entails the descent of peace.
A first stage gives an impression of unreality to life and consequently, the seeker has no desire to get involved in it, to the point of wanting to definitively escape into the Absolute. He may then experience the Nirvana which is the « extinction » or dissolution of the individuality in a consciousness or a cosmic or transcendental Being. Sri Aurobindo states that the experience of (cosmic) universalisation does not require the « psychisation » of the being or the « spiritualisation » of the mind. Nevertheless, the risks of inflation of the ego are great.
But there is a second realisation, which brings a glimpse not only of the static aspect but also of the dynamic aspect of the Self, and opens the doors to a complete reorientation of the yoga towards a terrestrial transformation. Sri Aurobindo explains that there is a « leap » between the realisations of the static Self and of the dynamic Self. This breach is filled by the supramental which is simultaneously static and dynamic.
The path of the psychic opening and its coming in front of the outer being.
This path results from an aspiration to self-giving experienced by the innermost being under the impulsion of the soul (or of the psychic being). It requires from the seeker the perfecting of its inner being, its progressive purification and its liberation from the modes of nature and its dualities.
The psychic being is deep inside the heart area and behind the emotive center. It sustains the evolution of the physical, of the vital and of the mind. Therefore this path consists in bringing it onto the forefront in order to put the whole outer personality under its command. It is then the psychic being who will be taking control of the yoga.
The « realisation » of the psychic or « psychisation » leads to devotion, self-giving, consecration, discrimination which allows the choice for what belongs to the Truth and the rejection of what is wrong or false. « It brings the true vision in the mind, the just impulsion and the true feelings in the vital, the true movement and the true habit in the physical, all states turned to the Divine, all based on love, adoration, bhakti ». It leads to the contact with the « personal » Divine, the divine lover. It gives a feeling of the « divine presence » and allows the growth of the flame, « Agni » the inner fire.
This path is mainly illustrated in the posterity of the Titan Oceanus, since it is mainly a path of purification-liberation.
The basic principles are established with Perseus and the Labours of Heracles. Dionysos evokes joy and love which spread in the whole being when the union is realized in ecstasy. The posterity of Cadmos and Harmonia, « the way of exactitude » or of « integrity », specifies the procedure. Minos brings the attention of the seeker to the risks incurred in the crossing of the « intermediary zone », period during which the seeker has « experiences » but lacks purification and consecration. Peneus’ descent evokes the risks of spiritual pride in a nature that is not purified and Asopos’, with Achilles, opens the spiritual fights of future mankind.
The Sunlit Path
It emphasises a total abandonment to the hands of the Divine Mother implying aspiration, devotion, sincerity, consecration and self-giving. It is the opposite of the path that considers suffering as one of its pillars.
The knot of the ego
This ego – or rather consciousness of the ego as it is a deformation of the consciousness – is an incorrect representation of ourselves to which we wrongly give a certain unity and coherence.
It results from the perception, the feeling and even the sensation of ourselves as a separated being, distinct from other beings and the rest of the world, to which we identify ourselves. It not only pervades the mind but also the vital and the body.
Hence an identification to our habits, our usual ways of thinking, and generally anything that gives us the feeling of permanence. This consciousness, perceiving itself not only as a separate center, but as « the » center, brings everything back to itself. It constantly projects itself outwardly to place the « me » in relation to the « not-me ». It can even keep us believing in a false image of ourselves.
Indeed, one must distinguish the true movement from its deformation. Because the ego is the distortion of a true will of individualized existence (of power) as desire is a deformation of a real will to « possess » the Divine. But this will of individuation should have stayed in the context of subordination to the Absolute and not have undertaken a separation on its own.
This will of individuation is the tool nature set up to allow the existence of individual centers of consciousness while maintaining the consciousness of unity. In the evolution, it must first enable one to leave the group consciousness and to accomplish individual potentialities.
Thus it is the ego idea that maintains the lie of a separative existence. And it is the disappearance of the ego that allows self-giving.
It is doubtlessly very difficult to separate a movement of the ego from the just movement of individuation, and it seems each one must be the best judge to discern within himself what falls within the former or the latter, as only the psychic indicates the true movement.
Sorting out what belongs to the ego from what comes from a true movement of the soul requires a long training which is part of the purification process. It is a common mistake on the path to devote too much energy to the fight against the ego, to the detriment of the development of our being’s potentialities. However, the intellectual, ethical, emotive and aesthetic development can be a necessary preparation for the yoga, as each of these elements – mental, vital and body – has to discover and develop its own capacities, until the moment when man suffocates in its manly skin and cannot find anything in its action which really illuminates his life.
Nonetheless, one must understand that the ego had and still has its usefulness (it is even indispensable to the growth of the child). The abolition of the ego implies a reversal of the grasping movement, transforming it into its opposite, the movement of giving. It is likely that this movement, like all vibratory movements, will be made easier when the ego reaches the maximum of its development, and the being fiercely aspires to be cleared of itself.
Nevertheless, this reversal isn’t easy since the ego, assisted by the separative mind, took the habit of constantly calculating the benefits that can be drawn from each and every thing since tens of thousands of years. Usually, our altruistic movements do not escape this rule.
Entering onto the spiritual path implies that the ego is relatively well developed and has henceforth become an obstacle to evolution.
Still, suppressing the ego does not mean renouncing to the capacities of the being, quite the contrary. If the yoga has for goal the divine perfection, none of the elements which constitute human nature can be left out. Just as efforts will be undertaken to perfect the physical body in order to make it supple and resistant, to master the vital nature to bring detachment to it and to teach the sense of harmony, thinking must be improved in the same way to bring the vastest wideness, height and depth to it as possible, and intuition must be purified from all disrupting obstacles.
Since the ego was establishing limits, the process of annihilation of the ego requires their abolition.
To address the knots of the ego, we only have our mind at our disposal to begin with, along with our vital-emotive nature and our body (as long as the psychic being isn’t the master of the yoga). Based on the observation of our nature’s way of functioning, we quickly realize that what we call « I » or « me » is in reality an indescribable mess where the different parts of our nature are inextricably entangled, opposing each other, where the outer vibrations – vital vibrations or mental images – spin as if they were in a windmill. We are forced to recognize that this « I » does not correspond to any serious reality.
Furthermore, our actions are constantly made imperfect simultaneously by our nature, product of the fundamental separative ignorance – illustrated by the children of Echidna (halt of evolution in union) and of Typhon (the ignorance) – and by the combination of the different planes, particularly habits of the physical and revendicative intrusions of the vital, generating opinions, prejudices and preferences.
The purification as considered in the yoga has nothing to do with moral or virtue. Initially, it is only an attempt to put an end to confusion and actions stemming from ignorance. At the highest level, it seeks to establish a perfect transparency in order to let the divine forces play freely.
The paths of Greek mythology and of Sri Aurobindo
The masters of the past must have judged that the transformation of the lowest layers of consciousness, whose mechanisms go back to the primitive evolution of mankind, was impossible. Thus they only envisioned a liberation that would take place away from Earth, in some Spirit paradise. Indeed, this liberation stayed at an individual level and the rest of humanity remained unchanged in the perpetual cycles of nature. It is the path that was followed by almost all religions and spiritual movements.
But a considerable number of masters refused to abandon the Earth to its ignorance, considering that only a spirituality that would provide the power to transform matter and to bring the world along with its momentum was worth pursuing.
Thus there is a possible bifurcation, a conscious choice to make.
The first substantial text of the mythology – Homer’s Iliad which describes an episode of the Trojan War – shows us an inner dilemma (which must have been a debate amongst the initiates too). What was at stake being which direction to follow to continue the process of liberation represented by Helen. The different episodes of the war expose the arguments of both sides (outer as well as inner debates). The victory of the Achean coalition ended the prioritisation of the ascension of the planes of consciousness, and, thanks to Achilles, reoriented the spiritual quest on the necessity of taking care of the minute movements of the consciousness for deep purification “up to the bones”, (Achilles being the king of the “ants”) in order to transform the external nature.
Nonetheless, the victory of the Achean coalition does not exclude the Trojan spiritual path. It only refuses to consider it as a priority. Indeed, Anchise and his son Aeneas were supposed to quit Troy before its destruction in order to save the possibility of Troy’s future.
Sri Aurobindo continued in the same direction. Before dedicating himself exclusively to the redaction of his immense poem « Savitri », Sri Aurobindo had begun writing a supplement to the Trojan War: « Ilion or The Fall of Troy, » (discontinued after 4800 verses). He refused all yoga which would aim only at a personal liberation, because his objective was to bring down to Earth (or to activate) the power which will transform humankind.
Thus, he is not giving the search for the Self the priority, and even less so to withdrawal from the world and its activities. Satprem, (in chapter IV The fork in the Road, of On the Way to Supermanhood,) insists on the necessary choice between the ascending path in which one is exploring the higher mental planes « that are like the pure source of all what takes place, distorted and approximate here (…) » and the one of the purification of nature. He basically tells us that the ascending path is so tempting in fact that all the sages or even simply those we would today call advanced minds have taken it. But at the end of this journey, one realises that the means « from above » have no power « below ». It is the eternal tale of the Ideal and the realities. And « if the path of ascent is the only way out, then we all had better get out once and for all ». As we do not believe that evolution’s ultimate design is a moralistic separation between the chosen ones and the damned, the other way is therefore the path of Nature, while respecting its methods. And « since Nature embraces everything, we shall endeavor to bring that seed to fruition, to make what is already inside and everywhere, blossom. (…) In short, the method will not be arrowlike, spurning all hindrances in order to soar to spiritual heights, but all-embracing; it will not be a precipitous ascent but a descent or, rather, an unveiling of the Truth which pervades everything, down to the very cells of our body. »
The yoga of Sri Aurobindo must be done in life. To find the Divine within work is an essential part of it, the consecration to the Divine Mother in a perfect serenity is the medium, and the work in all directions simultaneously is the method recommended (according to the triple yoga of Divine Works, of Divine Love and of Integral Knowledge).
In fact, he recommends that each seeker establishes his own method for the yoga according to his nature and his capacities. If it is the path of Knowledge which first imposes itself, he should not refuse it. Nevertheless he insists on the prior need of nature’s purification and « psychisation » of the being in order to avoid the many risks of deviances due to the ego.
Indeed, in his yoga, the first necessity is the purification of the intelligence and of the will, who are generally enslaved by the sensory mind, as with these purified tools, the seeker will be able to progress towards liberation. The seeker will not only need to perfect his intelligence by developing intuition and detachment from opinions and prejudices, but also to perfect his sense of what is true and fair. In the struggle against desire, he should not seek purity through amputation, limitation or inhibition, but by a higher transformation. This work will be completed by a purification of the intelligence from its own limitations: tendency to fix things, need to immediately execute etc.
The second phase of his yoga focuses more on the purification of the vital, leading to the liberation from the sympathy/antipathy, attraction/repulsion pairs, in order to attain perfect detachment. The purified heart is then free from anger, hatred, fear, all repugnance and all repulsion.
In the myths, this detachment is symbolised by Dejanira « the detachment (she who kills attachment) » with whom Heracles unites at the end of the Labours (Cf. Master Eckart for whom detachment is above human love and humility).
The Lineage of the Kings of Athens
We briefly mentioned the Lineage of the Kings of Athens earlier. We will examine it in detail in another chapter but it is presently necessary to remind ourselves of its place in regard to the two great lineages of yoga.
As a matter of fact, if mythology includes more than ten royal lineages (Crete, Argos, Corinth, Thebes, Mycenae, etc.) the one of Athens gradually prevailed as a major lineage, even though Homer hardly mentions it and does not seem to have known Theseus. In the Iliad, the contingent of Athenians led by Menestheus « whom only Nestor could compete with when it came to arranging horses and men » does not hold a special place, far from it. Homer seems to have put this lineage forward only because of its function of purification: to arrange the horses and the men, is to put everything in its right place as much on the vital than on the mental plane.
More than any other lineage, it nevertheless took a growing importance over time.
From a political point of view, one cannot know if Athens acquired a predominant position among the Greek cities in the obscure centuries long after the extinction of the Mycenaean civilisation situated by the historians between the XIIth and the Xth centuries BC.
Through her origins, Athena does represent an influence from an elevated superconscious plane acting in the mind (Zeus associated and identified with Metis « the divine intelligence ») – thus pulling man upwards – as much as an incentive in terms of evolution of the inner being (by the structuring letters of her name). Thus she is active in both of the main paths.
Some reminders and precisions
This study claims by no means to be delivering a spiritual teaching, but merely attempts to bring some light to the deeper meaning of Greek mythology.
The term Divine used here does not refer to a person but to a state of being to be realised.
Even if the spiritual journey is outlined very broadly, any generalisation should be avoided. Each one of us should evolve in his own way.
Many questions remain unanswered. It would seem, for example, that experiences of men and women on the same path are somewhat different. Men seem to more commonly experience short illuminations on a background of spiritual « nights », while women would experience short but deep « nights » with a background of joy. (In her account of the different steps of the way, the contemplative Bernadette Roberts says she did not have notable illuminative experiences during the « nights » and rather places this progression in the mental light as an ongoing experience. On the other hand, the « nights » which are for her extremely violent and marked in time are in most reports made by men engaged on this contemplative path a lot less significant but longer.)
To go back to a quote of Sri Aurobindo appearing at the beginning of this introduction, we note that spiritual evolution occurs through a series of ascensions and stabilisations necessary to bring the whole being at the newly reached level. Some stages require reversals of consciousness: what was useful at a certain stage becomes an obstacle in a next phase.
If, since thousands of years, Nature has precipitated humanity in a vibration of separation/alienation, it was in order to allow each and every one to individualise themselves by eating the fruit of knowledge « which is good for acquiring discernment ». There is therefore no need to curse this process, even if it inevitably accumulated a number of scoria and contributed to establishing a society of which the highly individual and egotistical nature at all levels may appear burdensome.
If humanity needs to move beyond this and free itself from the deadlock where the domination of reason alone has lead – under the influence of men, the masculine being more in resonance with the separator movement which for thirteen thousand years has characterised this part of the mental cycle -, it is through a higher synthesis of reason and intuition and not by the definitive rejection of thought and of the logical mind. In fact, this rejection can only lead to totalitarian and sectarian aberrations, syrupy and entirely perverted spiritualities or idealisations with no-way out . While waiting for the reign of the psychic being, the work of Ares and of Hephaestus is to reshape indefinitely the forms to constantly and increasingly perfect them.
In order to become a perfect tool for the perception of truth, intuition must progressively be purified and brought in contact with the psychic being.
In the current phase of the transition, humanity must still develop and use the logical mind to the maximum of its possibilities while simultaneously leaving more and more place to intuition.
We have noted that some authors tried to establish bridges between the characters of the two main lineages. Nevertheless, we insisted on the fact that a number of myths describe long processes rather than series of events, which dooms any attempts to realise too precise correspondences to failure.
Lastly, we should remind ourselves that our work of investigation has taken place over many years through an « in spiral » deepening process. If its general coherence is now established, it seems obvious that many details will need to be revised and completed as much by specialists of the many disciplines concerned than by today’s initiates.