Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The royal line of Arcadia illustrates the liberation from all attachment and the achievement of equality through endurance, equality embodied by Atalanta.

Atalanta fighting with Peleus - Staatliche Antikensammlungen

Atalanta fighting with Peleus – Staatliche Antikensammlungen

To fully understand this web page, it is recommended to follow the progression given in the tab Greek myths interpretation. This progression follows the spiritual journey.
The method to navigate in the site is given in the Home tab.

As with Tantalus and Ulysses, it is not possible to determine with certainty the genealogical lineage of the Arcadian Lycaon, especially as several elements converge to suggest that there were actually two characters named Lycaon who were often confused with one another.

The first was a Pelasgian Lycaon linked to the beginnings of the path, son of Pelasgus and grandson of Zeus and Niobe. He offered the flesh of his son Arcas to Zeus as part of a feast, but Zeus brought him back to life. Then Zeus struck Lycaon and his other fifty sons to death with lightening as a punishment for their pride. This Lycaon founded the most ancient city in Greece, Lycosura, which brought together dispersed members of the population.
This symbolises a seeker who has begun to gather his energies towards a single direction (Lycosura, ‘that which flows from the nascent light’), but who offers to the Absolute the realisation resulting from a first luminous opening, erroneously believing that it can ‘nourish’ non duality, which is to say to be of the same nature. The supraconscient puts an end to this mad presumption.

The second Lycaon was the father of Callisto ‘the most beautiful’, a follower of Artemis. He was also the founder of the royal lineage of Arcadia, a province symbolic of the progression on the path which we situate between Thessaly (the province of ordinary seekers), and Elis (the acquisition of Union), which was founded by either Endymion or Aethlius. It must be remembered that the Centaurs had sought refuge in Arcadia after having been driven out of Thessaly; driven out of their usual province, the current state of consciousness, the unpurified vital energies seek refuge within a deeper layer of consciousness, from which they will again be ousted in a more advanced stage of yoga.

See Family tree 27

Several elements can be used to distinguish between the two Lycaons, including the presence of Auge, wife of Heracles, and of Atalanta in this lineage, and that of Arcas in the lineage of Taygete. Additionally, the three grandsons of the Pelasgian Arcas were Lapiths (from Thessaly). According to some sources the Pelasgian Lycaon had also fathered a son named Arcas who taught his people how to cultivate wheat (a work on the perfecting of nature), how to prepare bread (making it fruitful), and how to spin wool (preparing the accomplishment of the task, for dress is a symbol of function).

However, in a number of sources Callisto is not related to Lycaon. According to Hesiod she was a nymph, a daughter of Nycteus ‘originating from night’ according to Asius, and a daughter of Ceteus according to Pherecydes. Ceteus signifies ‘the opening of consciousness to a higher level’ which allows a descent into the depths, hence also the sense ‘sea monster’ attributed to his name.
This Callisto would therefore symbolise the results of a deepened work on consciousness.
The name Lycaon means ‘nascent light, that which is obtained by the lower nature as a result of purification. Let us remember that this name is built from the archaic term λυγ, which means ‘the light which appears before dawn’. Associated with the character omega, it indicates an irruption of light in the outer nature rather than in the spirit.

Several versions of the legend of Callisto’s transformation exist, but in this study we will follow the one given by Apollodorus.
Callisto had chosen to hunt the wild animals of Arcadia with Artemis, but Zeus fell in love with her and coupled with her against her will, for she had sworn to remain a virgin. Artemis understood that she was pregnant during their bathing, and turned her into a bear, although it has also been said that it was Zeus who did so to hide his disloyalty from Hera. It is under this form that she gave birth to Arcas.
Hera then convinced Artemis to slay Callisto, or else Artemis did so on her own initiative out of fury that her follower had lost her virginity.
Following her death Zeus took the infant and entrusted him to Maia in Arcadia, giving him the name Arcas. He then transformed Callisto into a constellation, which was named the Great Bear.
According to Epimenides, Arcas had a twin brother named Pan.

Callisto is ‘the most beautiful’, which means ‘the most true’.
This therefore indicates that the seeker has attained a level of reception of truth which allows work to be carried out on the deep nodes of the being through the active force of the psychic (Artemis).
But even if this nascent light of truth cannot be maintained, the fruits resulting from its fertilisation by the supraconscient will bring about an important realisation, that of the beginning of ‘equality’ or equanimity (Arcas is the forefather of Atalanta). This flash of truth will only be possible to maintain as a memory of a light in the spirit, a constellation.

The supraconscient aids the seeker to become aware of the realness of this new aspect of the quest; Zeus named the child Arcas, ‘he who resists and holds firm’ (he who endures).
(Its structuring characters and a number of words of the same family complete its significance as ‘a right opening of consciousness which gives stability and allows endurance’. It has also been pointed out in this study that it can be interesting to put together the names Arcas and Arcisius which are built from the same root, the second being the grandfather of Ulysses).

Arcas is the same name as that of the bear, αρκος (or αρκτος), an animal associated with Artemis as the priestesses of this goddess are known as ‘little bears’. The symbolism of the bear is however difficult to define; it may represent a very great power associated with endurance and courage.
According to Epimenides Arcas was a twin brother of the god Pan, who we have also encountered earlier in this study (See Volume 2 Chapter 5). Dwelling in Arcadia, Pan is often cited amongst the sons of Hermes or Apollo. This god represents a very advanced stage on the path, with the integration of the darkness inherent in a diving into the deep layers of the archaic vital and the revelation of the true vital. He was also, like Lynkeus, gifted with a piercing sight, which likens him to the ‘discerning seers’ who observe the world from above, for he watches over his sheep from the mountain peaks.

This ‘enduring power’ depends first and foremost on a consecration emerging from the overmind for the purpose of its growth (Arcas is entrusted to Maia, Hermes’ mother).
There are no salient anecdotes about the adult life of Arcas, but it is known that he entered into a union with Leanira, ‘she who is attached to liberation’ (daughter of Amyclas, ‘he who is without desire’, himself a son of Lacedaemon and a grandson of the Pleiad Taygete), thus establishing a link with the plane of the intuitive mind at a very advanced stage of liberation.
As a couple Arcas and Leanira are therefore an expression of an enduring ‘power’ existing beyond all desire and motivated by a powerful call to truth.

Leanira bore Arcas two sons, Elatus, ‘adaptability’, and Aphidas, ‘he who does not save or spare’, or in other words ‘he who severs’. It is said that the two brothers shared Arcadia, but that it was Elatus who held the totality of power; the seeker learns to combine the capacities of adapting to all situations and of severing unhesitatingly, with the first capacity predominating.
This notion of ‘adaptation’ or of ‘acceptance of whatever is’ holds a very special place in yogic work, but it must not hinder action. It is to begin with a passage to the first plane of the psychic being, and it is then through a complete transparency down to the level of the body that the right action must be accomplished. We have already mentioned this in the conflict between Atreus and Thyestes.

Elatus, ‘adaptability’, entered into a union with Laodice, ‘desiring or seeing in an appropriate way’, with who he engendered several children. Amongst them a homonymous Stymphalos (slain by Pelops, the son of Tantalus) engendered a homonymous Parthenopaeus, ‘virginal purity’. The latter bore with Heracles a son named Eueres, ‘precision and suppleness’.

Aphidas, ‘he who severs’, fathered on his side Aleos, ‘growth’ (or perhaps ‘liberty’), and Stheneboea, ‘a powerful work’ or ‘a strong incarnation’. The latter wed Proetus, ‘he who puts forward consciousness on the higher planes’, who has been discussed in this work amongst the ancestors of Heracles (See Volume 2 Chapter 1).

Aleos fathered two sons and a daughter:

– Auge, ‘resplendent light’: after his unions with Megara and Deianeira Heracles entered into a long-lived liaison with this heroine, who he had seduced or raped when he was reclaiming the horses of Laomedon. She bore him a son named Telephus, ‘light in the distance’, who was himself the father of Eurypylus, ‘a wide door’. Angered, the father locked both the child and the mother in a chest and cast them into the ocean. We will examine this story as part of the Trojan War in which intervened these two heroes, and also as part of the study of the last labours of Heracles, the praxeis.

– Cepheus, ‘the mind’: he fathered a daughter named Sterope, ‘an extended vision in lightening flashes’, which illustrates the establishment of the higher mind and the end of the predominance of the separative mind. Cepheus allied himself with Heracles in his expedition against the sons of Hippocoon at Sparta (see earlier in this chapter the story of Hippocoon, brother of Tyndareus in the lineage of Taygete). The support of the mind proves to be a precious aid in pulling oneself out of an attachment to the perceptive capacities. Cepheus and his sons died in the expedition, at the same time as Iphiclos, Heracles’ half-brother. Iphiclos can be understood either as one who is initially ‘strongly or securely locked’, or as one who ‘works through the personality in view of a greater glory’. In either case, the death of Cepheus and his sons as well as that of Iphiclos mark the end of the dual mind.

– A homonymous Lycurgus ‘he who passionately desires truth’. He formed a union with Cleophyle, ‘a glorious order’, or Erynome, ‘great precision’, who bore him four sons:

– Ancaeus, ‘he who gathers into his arms’. This hero participated in the quest of the Golden Fleece and in the Calydonian Boar Hunt. He fathered Agapenor, ‘true courage’, which is also ‘lower nature opening itself to the evolution of true love’. He became one of Helen’s suitors and one of the Achaean leaders against Troy as the leader of the Arcadians.

– Amphidamas, ‘everything which involves mastery’.
He fathered Meilanion, ‘the penetration of consciousness into darkness’, and a daughter named Antimache, ‘she who opposes herself to combat’ and therefore refuses to confront darkness (or possibly meaning ‘she who resists’). This heroine entered into a union with Eurystheus, ‘a great inner force’, who was the one to set Heracles to his labours.

– Iasos, ‘he who heals’ or ‘who heals himself’.
He most probably symbolises one who heals himself of all inner nodes, a process which leads to equality (or peace) as embodied by his daughter Atalanta.


She was the first heroine to participate in a panhellenic adventure, and was described as having swift feet, gracefully slim ankles and rounded eyelids. She symbolises a seeker who progresses swiftly on the path of equality (Atalanta is fleet-footed), which suggests an adaptation that is fitting to incarnation (she is slim-ankled) and which develops an inner vision of the whole (her eyelids are rounded).
She has already appeared in Jason’s quest, but her appearance there may be erroneous for she is associated with the more advanced stages of the path.
On the other hand, it has been seen at the beginning of this volume with the study of the two lineages mentioned by the initiates of ancient times that Atalanta of Arcadia took part in the Calydonian boar hunt and was one of its main actors.  See The Calydonian boar hunt . Amongst the attackers of Thebes we have also encountered her son Parthenopaeus, ‘he of a virginal sight’, which is to say one who is free of all opinions and preferences.
She is most often identified as a daughter of Melanion, ‘a consciousness which descends into darkness’; having established an unshakeable peace within himself through a work on his shadow-self, the seeker obtains a precise vision of what is Real.
Other writers identify her as a daughter of Meleagros, ‘he who pursues a work of exactness’, or yet again of Ares, the god who ensures the right action.
(According to others, Parthenopaeus was not a son of Atalanta but of Talaos, ‘he who endures’, who entered into a union with Lysimache, ‘the end of the logic of combat’.
Parthenopaeus, ‘a purified vision’, was one of the Seven against Thebes, and died before the ramparts of the city. For initially when the seeker is just beginning the process of purification, an ‘exact vision’ does not suffice to destroy the perverted elements of his nature. Parthenopaeus’ son Promachos, ‘he who commits himself entirely’ (who fights on the front line), becomes one of the leaders of the second expedition ten years later, the expedition of the Epigoni which finally reclaims Thebes.

Sri Aurobindo devotes two chapters in his Yoga of Self-Perfection to the work of ‘equality’. He makes a distinction between a passive equality which liberates itself from the action of the lower nature (a liberation in spirit), and an active equality which completely accepts the phenomena of existence but only as manifestations of the Divine (the liberation of Nature). It is towards this liberation that Parthenopaeus and his son Promachos strive.
The spiritual notion of ‘perfect equality’ implies a complete inner immobility on both the vital and the mental planes, independent of any external events. It implies remaining ‘equal and one to all things in spirit, understanding, mind, heart and natural consciousness, – even in the most physical consciousness (…)’. (Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of Yoga, Chapter 10 in Part IV, The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department 1999, p. 693.)

According to the Mother’s Agenda, psychic realisation consecrates the work of equality, for a sure sign that the psychic being has moved to the forefront is a state of stable and immobile consciousness. The being is then entirely unified.

To finish it must be noted that three of Heracles’ first six Labours (the Hind of Ceryneia, the Erymanthean Boar and the Stymphalian Birds) take place in Arcadia, thus indicating that the spiritual, vital and mental purifications start when the seeker reaches the stage of progress symbolised by this province.