Ares and Hephaestus are the two male children of Zeus and Hera, and therefore the two essential active principles of human consciousness in the period in which it is identified with the mind.
As the name Ares is built around the single letter Rho (P) this god carries the same energy as Eros, his grandmother Rhea and his mother Hera – whose movement of the Absolute reaches outward and returns towards its origin -, but not in the same plane. We have seen that the character Rho is a double letter, carrying two opposite meanings depending on whether we consider the part of the movement going away from or towards the origin. Ares is therefore also the symbol of the inversion of this movement, which plays harmoniously in the higher planes but leads to their destruction in the plane of forms.
Forms as we know them do in fact very strongly retain the imprint of the rigidity of matter, and this is true in living forms as well as in more subtle forms like ideas and civilisations. This memory of rigidity is enforced in man by the separative aspect of the logical mind, which organises and orients itself toward a kind of crystallisation. The more rigid a form, the less adaptable it becomes, but adaptation is indispensable for the movement of becoming. In the plant and animal kingdoms there are remarkable examples of adaptation to new conditions. But when a form loses all flexibility there is no other solution than its destruction for evolution to continue developing through a new and more supple form.
This is very apparent in man, who is supple at birth, but in whom the rigidity of old age on all planes of the being leads to death.
What is true for a single individual is also true for a group, and civilisations follow the same movement. They rigidify and must be overthrown by forces able to model forms better adapted to changing times. It is those civilisations which were capable of integrating with suppleness a greater number of foreign elements that survived the longest.
Suppleness therefore depends on the capacity for enlarging oneself, and yoga must contribute to extending and rendering mental, vital and bodily consciousness more flexible.
For what regards mental consciousness the process is easy to understand. In the initial phase one must be capable of integrating contradictory ideas and all points of view, abandoning all prejudices, opinions and preferences. Mental widening allows one to avoid a hasty adhesion of the vital, and thus induces tranquility. Satprem, the confidant of the Mother and the transcriber of the Agenda summarises this work with the words: ‘What can it matter what I think of it?’. This could correspond to a first phase of yoga, or spiritual asceticism, which sees man as a spirit within the mind.
This widening can be undertaken to the point of universalisation, which implies an opening of the cosmic mind much vaster than the aspects of it that we know, as well as a questioning of the apparently absolute laws of nature which are so only for our limited minds.
The widening of the vital is more difficult and requires a victory over fear, disgust, repulsion and other vital preferences. It is for the seeker to convince the vital so that the latter, at first recalcitrant, becomes fully in line with the yogic process. Its completion is the free expression of the energies of life in their purified form. This widening must lead to a perfect equanimity and total inner stillness irrespective of the external situation. Satprem’s words for this are, ‘what can it matter what I feel about it?”.
When it comes to the body, the widening process can seem utopian or altogether impossible, but this is precisely the point. The two previous stages have demonstrated that the widening process is a process of unification. For the body it is not so much a matter of extending itself to the limits of the universe, although in some moments one can feel the sense of a body without any precise limits, but rather of achieving within oneself the primordial Unity of matter. This phase is that of the yoga of the body, carried out till the cellular level and surpassing the so-called laws of nature. When physical matter will have acquired enough suppleness to bear the transformative forces, it will no longer need to be destroyed.
As the son of Zeus, Ares acts in the plane of mental consciousness and therefore plays an essential role in the mental progression of humanity. Through a just destruction of everything that is fixed and rigid, he favors an evolution towards more supple forms better able to receive the influence of the forces of transformation.
He is naturally in affinity with the separative periods of the cycles of the mind. He is the one to execute the right movement but does not anticipate it. Along with his mother Hera he regulates the evolutionary process, and while he destroys outdated forms he also opposes undue haste.
If the ancient Greeks have made him out to be a bloodthirsty god, it is because supreme intentions transcend moral considerations as well as our perception of suffering and grief. The destruction of forms is often experienced as something unbearable and incomprehensible for it generates suffering and horror which are perceived to be unjust; man rebels when Ares destroys a form which is, for instance, in its innocent youth.
This is why the initiates of ancient times represented Ares not as a gardener who clears dry branches, but as a fearful god of war who delights in the fury of conflict, carnage and the smell of blood.
Ares is a god who does not have any concern for causes defended by opinion; when a form has completed its time, its being judged as good or bad by others does not matter to him. He is therefore the only god who we will witness acting for both sides in the Trojan War.
Ares is reputed to be a great bringer of souls to Hades, the god of the underworld: destroyed forms do in fact leave traces. Those who are evicted from the conscious level find refuge in the subconscious, and if pressure is maintained they rejoin the kingdom of the inconscient, the domain of the invisible and the world of Hades, where they find their right place. The kingdom of Hades does not represent ‘hell’ in the Judeo-Christian sense, for in mythology there was no concept of sin or guilt linked to this realm. It was only a designation for what “lay beyond”. It seems that the term ‘hell’ was only introduced in the 1st century AD.
We must still specify what differentiates the two warrior divinities, Ares and Athena. They are not in agreement for they do not lead the same battles at all. Those of Athena concern the seeker of truth who fights against the inertia of his nature and against his own imperfections for the sake of mastering his lower nature and contacting the Supreme within himself and becoming one with Him. The enemies of Athena are what is mixed, vague or indecisive, inertia or vital over-activity, arrogance, illusion and falsehood, and in a general way all the defects of the ego as well as evolutionary, personal and collective memories. Athena therefore holds a real battle, the goal of which is not the destruction of forms for the sake of their renewal, but rather to render them more perfect.
Ares is not loved by the people, which is to say our external personality, for nobody enjoys having their habits, security, well-being, virtues or personality masks, life achievements and deepest attachments challenged. But his intervention is not any the less necessary in the life of the seeker. While the work of Ares is indispensable to evolution, it is even more so for yogic work. Those who can recognise in this savage god a symbol of everything that jostles us in life and a liberator to be honoured as such will doubtlessly advance more swiftly on their path.
Ares also represents an overthrow. Carrying out the inner work of Ares is thus an ‘overthrowing’ of elements within oneself on the mental and then vital planes: habits and thoughts, certainties, roles we play, ways of reacting and seeing the world, our escapes and numerous other things which lead us inexorably on the path of fixation, rigidity and death.
It is this characteristic which, added to his warrior aspect, makes Ares a champion of yogic asceticism, sometimes leading to excess. This god is the patron divinity of Thrace, a region situated more to the north and to the east than the ancient Greek provinces where a spiritual search in accordance with a classical progression is carried out (Boeotia, Thessaly, Elis, etc.). Thrace is often the place of an excessive asceticism (the mares of Diomedes of Thrace referred to further on in this text), in contrast to the non-localized northern region, Boreas, the place of just asceticism and the ‘just movement of incarnation Β+Ρ’.
An ancient legend recounts that two giants fathered by Poseidon, the Aloades, shut Ares in a brazen jar for thirteen months, thus keeping him from carrying out his work of the destruction of forms. These giants planned to take the sky by storm, stacking the Ossa and Pelion mountains on top of Olympus to achieve this. The intervention of Apollo, the psychic being, was needed to liberate Ares. This legend, which will be studied later on in more detail, illustrates the fact that there exists powerful forces within the subconscious which can compromise the quest, even for very advanced seekers, as long as the ego has not been completely eradicated and the seeker inhibits within himself what could bring him back to the right path.
In battle Ares is supported by several acolytes, amongst them Enyo, ‘what is issued from evolution’, Eris, ‘conflict and the opposite of the right movement’, Phobos, ‘fear or what causes fear’, Deimos, ‘horror’, Kydomos, ‘the tumult of battle’, and Ker, ‘destiny and death’ or through its structuring consonants ‘the opening of consciousness’.
Ares is not coupled with a corresponding female goddess but only with a single famous lover, Aphrodite, herself married to Hephaestus. We will bring up this union and its children – Harmonia, Phobos and Deimos – when we will discuss Aphrodite.
Ares also took part in numerous amorous adventures with mortal women, all of whom illustrate certain errors and excesses of the path of asceticism. The children originating from these unions most often grew to be very violent men, which suggests that the seeker can face the corresponding challenges only when he is sufficiently armed.
This is why these battles take place in the most advanced Labours of Heracles, the seeker of truth by excellence. Such was the battle against Diomedes of Thrace, whose horses devoured passing victims. Diomedes is he ‘who is devoted to the One, or to Union’. He is not to be confused with the Diomedes of the Trojan War. The homonymous Diomedes symbolise different stages of dedication to the quest. In this instance, he falls within the trap of an excess of constraint of vital energy.
Ares within us
Ares is the symbol of what calls us to overthrow our habits, to question our certainties and flee the lukewarm feelings which are a refusal to engage. He is the force which severs. And yoga requires a constant severing, choosing at each moment what lies in the direction of our inner Truth. It is a force that is feared by the weak, but valued by the strong. For we constantly make compromises with ourselves, pitying ourselves, excusing and justifying our weaknesses and postponing or giving up on making painful decisions.
Before making Ares intervene within us we must know what is right at each instant. The indication of a deviation from the right path is often a slight feeling of unease, but this signal disappears if one has taken the habit of muting one’s inner voice.
Although we may have to be watchful of the excesses which this god can elicit, we must also remember that his action generates a growing harmony, for his daughter is Harmonia. We will then lose all fear of his action, as illustrated by his children Phobos and Deimos, fear and dismay or horror.
He is one of the great regulators of the evolutionary process, along with Hera whose name contains the same structuring consonant.
Ares is the one to execute the right movement but does not anticipate it, and therefore also opposes the seeker who tries to advance too hurriedly. He severs what lags behind and what no longer serves evolution as well as what strives to move forward to rapidly.