<< Previous : The Argonauts at Phineus
The myth of the Symplegades or Clashing Rocks, also known as the Cyanean Rocks, deals with the first major test for the spiritual seeker.
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.
Next : The Argonauts on the island of Thynia >>