ILLUMINATION OR THE EXPERIENCE OF A “DESCENT” FROM THE HIGHER PLANES
An age of Truth, India’s Satya Yuga, or rather, an age of intuition, preceded the history of our mental humanity. Judging by the shreds of our traditions, our infancy in the world was struck with an illumination, as is sometimes our brief human infancy before reason tramples on our dreams, or as with the seeker of truth when at the start of his quest, for an instant the veil is rent in a dazzling light, as if to tell him, “Here is where you are going.” Then everything closes again, and we are left to the slow plodding of years or centuries, at the end of which we rediscover a child’s truth.
(The Veda and Human Destiny)
If people in ancient times situated the myth of the Golden Fleece under Iapetus’ lineage and more specifically under Aeolus’ lineage it is because the crowning experience in that evolution comes more specifically from ascending the planes of consciousness rather than the path of purification and liberation of Oceanus’ lineage, though the psychic being can manifest itself in either way.
In other words it is an experience that arises more from a perfecting, purifying, and expanding of the mental-consciousness rather than from an act of purification and liberation of the vital being, though the two paths can never be completely dissociated.
As related by Apollonios of Rhodes (a disciple of Callimachus who was probably disowned by him) the myth of Jason and the Argonauts retraces the steps of the seeker from the very moment of his entry into the journey to the point of a major experience of spiritual descent of power and knowledge from the plane of the overmind. This descent first illuminates the mind and then descends toward the centers below, creating a psychic opening in the heart. The light first acts on the mind because descending force is received more rapidly by the higher mind although it is always the heart that recognises the divine essence first. That is why Hermes figures among the ascendants of Jason (it is a descent of the overmind) and why we can consider Cretheus’ lineage to belong to the plane of the higher mind.
To the best of our knowledge the first experience does not generally last beyond a few days or weeks: it only constitutes a temporary rupture of the veil of the mind.
It is due to this that Medea separates herself from Jason upon returning from the quest, destroying even the fruits of their union (she kills her children before returning to Colchis). In fact we see that only realisations are permanent, not experiences.
Yet it would be a mistake to reckon that the experience of illumination is a mandatory passage into the beginning of the journey or that it is the first to appear although it is the most widespread in a civilisation which gives prominence to the mind.
(At least this seems to be the case among men, women live other experiences more intensely. By way of illustration let us cite the contemplative seeker Bernadette Roberts who, in her outline of the different stages of the path stated that she had not lived through significant experiences of enlightenment during the “dark nights” and had experienced her growth in the mental light as a more continuous process. On the other hand the ‘nights’ which are for her as sudden as they are violent seem for men engaged in this contemplative path to be more extended and less easy to clearly be identified. It is as if in the contemplative experience which we associate here with the path of purification-liberation women experience more of a shock with the aim of connecting with the divine within matter by a total annihilation of the mind while in contrast men more often experience these long nights to reach the divine in the realm of the spirit.)
Many other seekers first experience a psychic opening or one of the other innumerable experiences that Sri Aurobindo writes copiously about in the Letters on Yoga.
Although the Elders of ancient times were aware of the absolute necessity of purification and liberation and extolled the labors of Heracles before any other, the quest of the Golden Fleece seems to have gained increasing importance over time. In fact given that the path of purification and liberation is riddled with obstacles that hinder transformation, the experience was highlighted as a first step toward an experience of union with the Self or toward an awakening and considered of paramount in so far as it had not be substituted by the Dionysian path of mystic ecstasy in several schools of initiation.
Although many schools continue to study the union with the Self in our time, Sri Aurobindo emphasizes in particular the process of psychic transformation of the being as a first movement which should be followed by the spiritual transformation to eventually allow the work of the Supreme Power to take place for the transformation of the exterior being. This progression helps to avoid many a trap.
In addition, given that his purpose was to render nature divine for all humanity he wished to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past wherein it was sufficient to attain individual liberation of the Spirit without bringing about a change in any aspect of the external nature of the seeker or in the rest of the humanity.
Following in Sri Aurobindo’s footsteps Satprem in his work On the way to Supermanhood (Chapter 4) goes so far as to suggest that from a certain stage of progress in the ascension of the planes of consciousness the seeker must renounce further pursuit of the path and proceed to a deeper purification and liberation of his nature. According to him the seeker should at some point choose between the path of ascent wherein he can explore the higher planes of the mind “that are like the pure source of everything that occurs here distorted” and the path of the liberation of Nature. He tells us that the first path is so tempting that all the sages of the past and the advanced spirits of today follow it but once they reach its heights they cannot but realise that the ways of the heights have little power here. It is, he says, the eternal story of the Ideal and the realities. For him it is not about rejecting all encumbrances to escape upward, but about an all-encompassing method that would be more of a descent or an unveiling of the Truth present everywhere down to the cells of our body.
Even if we admit that the experience of the descent of lightning flashes of truth from the overmind is only one possible form we should be careful before considering the discourse of Apollonios of Rhodes to be the only approach toward it.
In fact the greater is the relative ease in the theoretical description of the journey when it involves an illustration of its main objectives (for example in the psychic transformation of the being, the abandonment of desire and ego, the battle against illusion and fear, the expansion of knowledge, etc.), the more complicated the problem becomes when it involves experience because it then becomes indispensable to distinguish between the general and the specific.
It is thus imperative to determine to what extent the individual experiences are a mandatory passage for all, whether they belong to a particular yoga or to a specific seeker, whether they always occur in the same order, form part of a repetitive process or mark the end of one.
Although preliminary knowledge of some stages might possibly help the seeker, this should be perfectly defined and universal, and the evolutionary process that leads to them should be clearly identified. Their explanation should not make the seeker worry because he has not had a particular experience, nor establish a hierarchy in progression that would make him fall into the classical trap of the race for spiritual rank.
This was probably the main reason for an absolute prohibition of any kind of disclosure, even partial, of the deeper meaning of myths.
In any case the initiated have always advised seekers to share their experiences only with their guides or at least with utmost precaution to avoid the energy dissipating too rapidly and losing many of its benefits.
Numerous accounts of the myth of the Golden Fleece appear to have existed but we have only one complete Greek version, that of Apollonios of Rhodes from the Hellenistic Age from around the IIIrd century BC. Our study is based on this version. There exists another version by Gaius Valerius Flaccus, a Latin author from I century AD who was greatly influenced by Apollonios.
Every seeker could thus narrate his “own” quest. The progression that we will be examining by means of this text begins at the preparatory stages for the journey. The experience of illumination in the real sense comes only at the end of the tale. Since it is a descent from the Spiritual plane it chooses its time but it seems that the seeker is forewarned that something exceptional is going to occur.
It could thus occur in the midst of everyday life under no particular conditions, but the external circumstances are organized so that the seeker may experience the descent fully.
For seekers who have not worked enough toward the purification of their being the power of the force that descends mostly manifests itself as an exuberant expression that is difficult to control since the force bursts into a non-purified vital being.
It may be noted that the study of the myth here is based on inner experiences but it could be illustrated by external confrontations for every individual, and in this vein Satprem, in By the body of the earth or The Sannyasin, writes that: “All outer roads seem to be doubled by an inner road, and the obstacles, the obscurities, the accidents that we have not overcome on the inner road come back to us on the outer road, but a road infinitely harder, longer, and more relentless, because it swallows up a whole life for one single small experience that makes us say –that is all! “.
The myth of the Golden Fleece
The background of the myth is set by:
– On the one hand, the major characters in Salmoneus’ and Cretheus’ lineage which we studied in the previous chapter. We will discuss their main characteristics below.
– On the other hand by Jason’s companions, symbolising certain kinds of evolution in specific orientations.
The following finds expression through Salmoneus’ and Cretheus’ lineage:
The seeker’s external being, where in a more or less subconscious manner, “forces contributing to evolution in the process of liberation” confront a more mixed force, that of progression in the ignorance of one’s own journey coupled with a vital ambition (Pelias). However the latter creates an aspiration for justice (Pisidice) and a strong righteousness (Alcestis). Among Neleus’ descendants the only surviving dynamism is embodied by his youngest son Nestor who represents “the evolution of rectitude”, “the evolution of sincerity”, or a “capacity to assimilate the experience”.
An “endurance” (Pheres) that brings out “a passionate desire for the Light” (Lycurgus), “a will to liberate oneself from the yoke” (Admetus) and a certain “capacity to see (on the way to be a seer)” (Eidomene).
A “capability of going into silence” (Amythaon), a source of “strength” (Bias) and an “intuitive sensitivity of the mind” (Melampus).
In the end, “a will to fulfill one’s personal destiny” or the “turning over of consciousness from the external to the internal” or even “a higher intellectual consciousness” (Aeson) which receives the influence of the overmind (Hermes) through its capability “to be for himself his own light” (Autolycus) and tend toward “a powerful mind” though with some dispersion (according to his wife’s name Polymede or Alcimede). The Aeson-Polymede couple thus represents the seeker whose powerful individualised mind directs the quest according to its own ideas.
The seeker has also worked to expand his mind and fought against numerous illusions (Sisyphus and Bellerophon) and fears (Perseus). He continues to battle his susceptibility and self-importance which make him portray himself as a constant victim of other people’s acts (the Lion of Cithaeron). It is also possible that he has deeply engraved in his subconscient the memory of a state of intense happiness, his first fleeting experience of union (Phrixus).
Among the countless illusions that delay entry into the path is the prominent idea that one can change the outer world without changing oneself, that is by undertaking humanitarian, social, political or similar commitments without really questioning one’s own actions. Therefore one of the signs that mark the beginning of the quest is the moment when the seeker no longer wants to transform the world and starts taking interest in his own transformation.
In the preliminary stage of the journey a sincere seeker receives help while mostly being unaware of it, for instance in:
Protection for his physical body (from risk of serious accidents, disease, etc.).
Experiences considered a posteriori as “initiations” or confrontations that accelerate the experience of some stages depending on the individual’s level of evolution/development.
Knowledge stemming from the higher self and received through different channels (intuitions, encounters, work, dreams, etc.) that the seeker acknowledge as evidence.
When the quest begins the Isthmian Games had been held (cf. Sisyphus in the previous chapter), indicating that the seeker had embarked on the “narrow passage”. In the symbolic initiations of the past – which did not at all dispense with the confrontations of the journey – he portrayed himself as a neophyte at the doors of the temple in order to be initiated to its mysteries.
The symbol chosen for this experience, the Golden Fleece of a ram has been studied in the previous chapter. It must be recalled that it signifies the refinement of sensitivity (the fleece), a beginning (the ram), the support of the inner fire or psychic fire, and elicits awakening and spiritual purity.
The ram is very often winged to indicate that the very first experience of the supramental world (that of Phrixus) was a gift of the divine and that a long quest has to be done to recover it.
Jason’s youth and the preparation for the quest
As we have seen the Golden Fleece came from a ram which carried Phrixus to Colchis, the kingdom of Aeetes, son of the sun god Helios, who hung it on an oak tree in the sacred grove of Ares close to his city of Aia.
According to Pindar Jason was like several other heroes raised by the centaur Chiron. We have already come across this character who represents “the right movement of focusing one’s entire being” or “the capacity to concentrate”. His name Chiron signifies “hand”, most likely in relation to his mastery and probably also as a symbol of energetic medicine that acts through the body.
He belonged to the Centaurs, advanced seekers who gained control over their vital nature but only to a certain extent. He did not however belong to Ixion’s lineage as the other Centaurs did although he too was chased away from Thessaly. He is not therefore a symbol of an illusory progression.
He was above all a healer who could restore the right balance, put everything in its place, that is to say purify.
He was the accredited tutor of the heroes in their childhood days for music and medicine, the art of war, and the art of hunting which are symbols respectively of the capacity to achieve harmony from the highest vital plane to the corporal plane, of the path of the spiritual warrior and of the necessary capacities for the purification.
As the son of Cronus he represents the earliest capacities of harmonisation developed by the seeker during the stage that leads to the beginning of the quest.
His mother was Philyra, “one who likes the right movement in evolution”. And since he was an immortal who had to die it may well be imagined that a satisfactory level of “purification” was achieved so that the seeker could master the dualities of the vital plane, such as the love-hate duality, but would then have to move up to a higher stage of integration.
We do not know anything further about Jason’s youth prior to the time of his arrival in the city of Iolcus. Iolcus (Ιωλκος) could originate from the word Ιωκη with the insertion of Λ in which case the name signifies “the pursuit of the struggle for freedom”.
According to Pindar Jason arrived in Iolcus to reclaim the throne from his cousin King Pelias, as being the son of Aeson he was the legitimate heir and the eldest of the children of Cretheus. Pelias had in fact inherited the city from Aeson as a regent, or rather seized it by force.
According to other sources his arrival was in response to an invitation extended by Pelias to all his subjects to attend a sacrifice in honour of Poseidon: his presence was thus in no way related to a claim over the throne.
Nevertheless two oracles had warned Pelias that he would be brought to his death by a man from his line of descent (a descendant of Aeolus) wearing a single sandal.
While different authors disagree on the reason why Jason did arrived in Iolcus wearing only a single sandal, Pelias asked him as a favour to bring back the Golden Fleece on the pretext that he was too old to go himself. He believed that Jason would never return alive from such an expedition.
Pelias represents the dominant aspect in a seeker who sets out on the quest with a strong vital aspiration but is still ignorant of his own journey and the goal of his life or his assigned task or raison d’être, – the task that the soul want to accomplish during the present incarnation – striving in quest of the “right movement” (his daughter Pisidice) with a strong “righteousness and sincerity” (his daughter Alcestis).
It is a will to do well which is actually also a resistance to change, progress or evolution. This dynamic will continue to be strong during the entire initial period up till the point of the opening experience, but “ignorance of the goal of life” will partly disappear as soon as Jason and Medea return to Iolcus because Hera, “the power that oversees the right turn of events”, had planned simultaneously Jason’s quest and Pelias’ death. Due to this “ignorance of his assigned task” Jason is not in a position to reclaim the throne and for this reason authors are divided about Pelias’ motive. The seeker is not yet consciously aware that his “ignorance” must give way to a higher consciousness (that somebody from his line of descent, from Iapetus’ and Aeolus’ lineage ascending the planes of consciousness, must occupy his place on the throne) although he sometimes has a vague intuition about it. He is still indeed inadequately equipped for the quest: Jason is wearing only one sandal.
Such was the reason behind the Argonauts’ expedition, their name being derived from the ship Argo named after its constructor. The name Argus simultaneously evokes light and whiteness (purity) but especially in Homer’s works it also evokes speed. The seeker is in fact not supposed to stop on his journey and surpass the stages as rapidly as possible.
The ship itself is the symbol of a well-constructed and complete personality: it had fifty oars, fifty being the number for a complete totality in the world of forms (5 at a higher level). The ship is also a symbol of yoga and the discipline followed (Cf. Mother’s Agenda, Volume 8).
In addition it was equipped with a speaking beam which encouraged the crew when it boarded the ship for the first time. This beam is the symbol of a solid structure which contributed to the success of the quest by way of its existence and proved to be indispensable in its early stages. It came from Dodona, place of the oracles of Zeus, and thus stands for an inner intuition very well established (a beam) and coming from the highest plane of the mind, the overmind. It manifest itself as inner certitudes for actions.
Jason’s companions the Argonauts represent the yogic labors that must be developed up to a certain level to begin the quest. We repeatedly will find lists of characters to illustrate the conditions required to surpass the corresponding stages, particularly in the Calydonian boar hunt, the Lapiths’ battle against the Centaurs, and above all in the contingents from different provinces who participated in the Trojan War.
It seems obvious that no list can be unanimously accepted by the initiated because the individual journeys differ and the masters tend to guide their disciples towards the path that they have themselves trodden. For them each name could be a pretext for a specific teaching and each of them would thus have composed his own list.
Several lists of Argonauts have been handed down to us. The most succinct ones by Pindar and Pherecydes include only around ten names, almost exclusively those of the sons of gods. They emphasize the essential qualities that the seeker must possess to a certain extent and some progressions that should have been embarked upon.
In fact these great heroes are generally found in the genealogical lines of the advanced stages of the journey which mark both their apotheosis and their end.
However the qualities that they represent must gradually be strengthened in the being and that is why we find them here among the Argonauts.
Although it was the responsibility of the master to define aptitudes and assess their degree, they could obviously not guarantee the occurrence of an experience.
Four other lists present many similarities between them: that from the Argonautica Orphica (dated IVth to VIth century AD), of Valerius Flaccus (Ist century BC), of Hyginus (IInd century BC) and of Apollonius of Rhodes (IIIrd century BC). The first three were handed down to us by mythologists and are clearly derived from the fourth by Apollonius of Rhodes who lived through the experience and gave the only complete surviving Greek account of this quest. He provides a list of fifty-five Argonauts and it seems obvious that several corresponding abilities cannot be counted among the prerequisites indispensable to the quest but are part of an overall ambiance, such as Amphidamas “mastery to some extent” or Augeas “flashes of light”.
All these accounts constitute around fifty names like the ship with fifty oars.
The list given by the mythologist Apollodorus (IIth century AD) falls under the same category although it is constituted of around fifteen names which are very different from the ones in the other four lists. To give an exhaustive account it is important that we also mention the lists by the historian Diodorus and the Roman poet Statius.
Only Pindar’s and Pherecydes’ lists will be studied here, and some perspectives will be added for certain other Argonauts selected from other lists.
Jason is the leader of the Argonauts and thus represents the essential aspect of the beginning of the journey. His name means “he who cures himself” or “a turning over of consciousness”. It must be recalled that his brother is Promachos, “he who fights at the front”; one for whom the quest is the highest priority, without lack of commitment, not half-heartedly, i.e. the warrior of the spiritual traditions.
He marks the moment when the future seeker often after having exhausted his desire to change the world begins turning towards his inner world. He learns to understand that what happens to him does not depend on the external world but is instead a true image of his internal state and the progress he needs to make to achieve greater freedom. He works to decipher the signs that the world constantly sends him, discern what is happening within and distance himself in order to be a “witness”. He discovers that he can change his inner state depending on how much he identifies with events, his attachments and his involvement with psychological suffering and thus learns that for this state too he holds responsibility.
Consequently he must admit that the conditions are always and at all times the best for him to evolve and that life never makes him face more than what he can deal with.
A man who begins to be truly alive is not the vital-mental man that our publicity and image centered civilization extols but one who with a change in his perspective tries to act on the basis of what he feels within the depths of himself and begins to “be alive” in response to this call which resonates through the vast magma of nature and nurture, habits and conditioning of all kinds.
Calais and Zetes
Calais is “one who calls out (questions, invokes)”; that is to say, “aspiration”. His name also includes an idea of “righteousness”. His brother Zetes is “one who searches by effort”. They are the sons of Boreas, the north wind of asceticism or effort, and of a daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens, Orithyia, “the one who hurls herself impetuously onto the mountain”, the mountain being the symbol of the spiritual path. They are winged beings who represent above all an aspiration and an effort for righteousness and the mind’s search.
Let us remember that there are four major winds or divine aids for yoga: Boreas, the Northern wind of ascetism, Notos, the Southern wind which brings confusion and conceals the path, Zephir, the purifying Western wind and Eurus, the Eastern wind which brings newness.
Calais portrays the essential “need” for another way of being and behaving, for “something else” than the present world, and Zetes “the search” that is inseparable from this “need” and perseveres despite traps, falls, false trails, and errors. Many seekers in fact follow several Eastern and/or Western esoteric, mystical or philosophical paths before finding the path that truly corresponds to the truth of their soul.
The seers Mopsus and Euphemus, along with Idmon as added by Pherecydes
These seers represent three stages of development of intuition from different perspectives: purely mental receptivity, the capacity to foretell by the interpretation of signs (presages) and direct intuitions from the psychic light.
The seer Mopsus is one who “receives from above in a state of receptivity”. Two seers carry this name but they do not have the same ancestry according to the authors. The one in Apollodorus’ list is a son of Apollo, recognised by the seer Calchas as far superior to himself which confirms Mopsus’ relation with the psychic light. It is this ancestry which has been retained.
The seer in Apollonius’ list is a son of Ampyx, and this name describes “a headband” and would be an expression of a mental intuition which senses peripherally in all directions. Ampyx is himself the son of Elatus, “flexibility and adaptability”.
Apollo had taught Mopsus to interpret the prophetic significance of birds. Therefore in the Argonauts’ quest he is not a symbol of a purely psychic intuition (he is not a son of Apollo) but one of an increased mental intuition guided by the psychic being. He knows how to decipher mental perceptions (the flight of birds) as opposed to signs given by events in daily life. His presence indicates that nothing should be left out in the quest. The seeker must pay particular attention to dreams, premonitions, and intuitions which he receives through the medium of the mind. Clearly all superstition, excesses of imagination or naivety must be discarded and nothing should be accepted blindly.
According to Apollonius the seer Mopsus died from the bite of a viper while crossing the Libyan Desert, a trial during which the seeker loses all points of reference.
But according to other authors he participated in the Caledonian boar hunt which took place much later, contradicting the story of his death occurring during the Argonauts’ quest. In fact mental intuition from higher planes of consciousness cannot disappear because it is the foundation for the upward progression in these planes. This is why Mopsus is usually considered to be the son of Apollo and not of Ampyx. Here we have a first example of the prudence with which we must approach the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes, an author who I believe experienced an indisputably powerful experience of illumination though he does not figure among the several great initiated ones.
Euphemus, “he who spells out good omens”, is a son of Poseidon. He represents the presages and omens that the seeker can obtain through the interpretation of events on the basis of analogies induced by the subconscient. In fact, if we admit that life always brings forth the most suitable events for evolution to take place we must also presume that every individual possesses somewhere within himself the necessary means to decipher their meaning. In the same way it is from the reservoir of the subconscious that numerous symbolic elements of dreams are extracted.
It is Euphemus who released the dove in the dangerous passage before the Argonauts set sail through it: he is in the seeker both that which takes time to see and feel before letting himself be struck by the event as well as that which acts subconsciously to protect himself.
The third seer is Idmon, one who is “educated, skilful” and also “the knowledgeable one”. His divine father is Apollo and his human father is Abas, or “incarnation”.
Idmon was aware of his destiny through the movements of birds: generally at the beginning of the journey the seeker has a vague intuitive mental understanding of his life journey inferred from both his psychic being (Apollo) and his will of incarnation (Abas). But this awareness disappears in the course of the journey under the effect of raw vital energies (Idmon was killed by a boar just before arriving in Colchis). Tiphys the helmsman dies at the same time as him: it is necessary for the seeker to lose all points of reference and abandon all vague desires for finding his own way so that the descent of the spiritual forces can take place.
Echion and Erytus
These two heroes are sons of Hermes, the god that looks after the development in humanity of the “overmind” and Antianeira “detachment” (literally, “one who opposes all attachment” and precedes Deianira, “the one who kills all attachment”). Echion represents “the evolution of concentration or of emptiness in consciousness and Erytus is “he who is drawn forward” or “the right movement on the highest plane of consciousness”.
They represent the effort of detachment induced by the highest knowledge (Hermes) striving to grow by way of concentration and expansion of consciousness and by instilling silence within. They symbolise the gradual work toward freedom from attachment to opinions, beliefs, ambitions, desire for power, material possessions, etc.
The Dioscuri Castor and Pollux
They are the “children of Zeus (Dios-Koroi)” borne by Leda, “freedom and union”. Their sisters are Helen and Clytemnestra and their human father Tyndareus.
Castor is known to be “skilled in boxing”. He represents the struggle for “purity” (his name is formed around the radical καστ “purity” which we also find in the name of Oedipus’ wife Epicaste). He represents the force which strives for greater harmony, the firm desire to put everything in its proper place. This effort toward “purification” is certainly one of the struggles that should be the seeker’s priority while entering the journey.
Pollux, in Greek Polydeuces “he who is “completely gentle” (the name Pollux results from a deformation of Greek names by the Latin Romans) represents the gentleness of the soul, the compassion and flexibility that originate from equality of the spirit and the absence of pride. He is known to be a “skilled charioteer” who is capable of perfectly harmonising vital forces.
Castor and Pollux resonate like the sthira and sukha of Patanjali.
These two aspects – gentleness and force, flexibility and rigour, the force which harmonises and the force which dominates – manifest themselves as much in the higher planes as in the external mental-vital-physical personality.
They are the first instruments of mastery over the emotional being which must allow the psychic being to manifest itself and dominate.
Tyndareus, the human father of Castor and Pollux, is a descendant of Taygete the Pleiad daughter of Atlas who symbolises the sixth plane in the ascending planes of consciousness, the intuitive mind that precedes the overmind.
Leda also represents a very advanced realization being either a descendant of Aethlius, who is the son of Zeus and Protogeneia, or one of the children of Aeolus who would logically be placed between Perieres and Deion based on our analysis of the children of Aeolus.
We will find that the two heroes were rewarded with semi-immortality by Zeus; as Homer writes “Both are covered alive by the fecund earth but thanks to the privileges accorded by Zeus they are within the earth alternatively dead for a day and alive for the next and are honored like the gods” (The Odyssey, Book XI).
Thus when they complete their action in vital yoga as representatives of the intuitive mind (dead sons of Tyndareus in the lineage of Taygete) they still had to work in close association for the yoga of the cells from the overmind as sons of Zeus. In this way they form a bridge between the corporal conscient and inconscient, each in turn executing the task in the depths.
At the highest point of their task Castor and Pollux introduce the seeker to the field of non-duality in the spirit and semi-immortality (they are honored as gods).
It must be noted that they had previously defeated and killed their cousins Idas and Lynceus, grandsons of Perieres, union of faith (Idas) and discernment (Lynceus), both necessary for liberation and which must come to an end at the death of desire and ego.
His name probably means “beyond what is known”. He is the eldest of the twelve sons of Neleus (“the evolution of liberation”) who is the king of Pylos (“the door”) and thus is a brother of Nestor (“righteousness and integrity” or “sincerity”). He is therefore a grandson of Poseidon from whom he received unlimited strength and the power to change form at will if in need during combat; this comes to mean an invulnerability and capacity to adapt when this is indispensable.
He is the first helmsman on the expedition to be replaced in the course of the journey because the energy-consciousness necessary to enter the path is not the same as the one to pursue and orientate it. “He is deft in foreseeing a rise in the waves and windstorms and in navigating with the help of the sun or a star”: the seeker must have a good knowledge of his emotional outbursts or what perturbs him and the confused functioning of his mind – what we in general call self-awareness – and the capactiy to make the most out of the lightning flashes of truth which appear on his path.
The meaning of his name remains unclear. It can mean “marsh” in which case it would indicate a confused beginning of the journey. This would explain the name of his father Hagnias “the ignorant”, and the fact that he dies midway through the journey. With the letter structure Τ+Φ his name could represent “the higher plane which descends into the being”.
Though mentioned by Pindar and Apollonius, Heracles did not participate in the expedition narrated in the oldest narratives. This is perfectly understandable as we have stressed the fact that the theoretical processes cannot correspond exactly to the experiences. However since the seeker must have embarked upon the quest before being able to live the first great spiritual experience several authors including Apollonius place Heracles among the heroes who go on board the Argo but soon make him abandon the expedition under some pretext or another (sometimes for a most absurd reason such that he was too heavy for the boat!).
On the other hand this stage of the journey only involves a preparation for the work of purification essentially focusing on perfecting the mind and does not yet involve actual work on desire and ego.
Since the myth of Orpheus is a complex one, spanning over several stages of yoga according to the different versions, and is closely related to that of Dionysus in one of them, we have deferred its analysis to a later chapter. We shall simply note here that he came originally from Thrace, the province where blows Boreas the wind of asceticism and incarnation. Because of his parentage Oiagros and Calliope, he represents “work on consciousness” and “a beautiful opening of consciousness”.
He was known for his talent as a singer and musician, in other words for his knowledge of the laws of harmony (a purification which allows everything to be put in its proper place). That is why he acquainted the Argonauts with the mysteries of Samothrace.
On board the ship Argo he beat time for the rowers and thus set the rhythm of progression and the right time for all things. While entering the journey the seeker must in fact learn the “law of rhythm” because the Truth reveals itself to him in proportion to his capacity to match the movement of creation with precision both in the seemingly inconsequential details as well as in the “great things”. Conforming to this rhythm which is neither the rhythm of the character nor of events is in fact the real mastery. To be able to learn to sense it the seeker has no other means to begin then to “step back” and withdraw into himself.
Orpheus is therefore the most important character on the ship after Jason, playing the part of a priest or an initiated individual.
Among the other names given by Apollonius some are noteworthy:
He is the one who “copes and endures”. Sri Aurobindo tells us, “Endure and you shall conquer”.
Idas and Lynceus
Idas, “the will to unite with one’s inner being or the Divine”, is the strongest and the most daring (the most violent).
Lynceus, “the vision of a lynx” or “penetrating vision” is a symbol of “deep discernment”.
They are sons of Aphareus, “one who is without a mask”.
Both refer to what Satprem calls “a new threshold of vision”. They personify respectively the force which stems from union (and thus on the mind plane which stems from intuition) and the inner vision or deep discernment which comes from “detachment”.
It must be recalled that like the other Argonauts they indicate the forces which the seeker must mobilized right from the start of the quest and not its prerequisites.
His name signifies “everything related to mastery”.
Acastus and Argus
Argus is “the luminous” and Acastus, “the impure, the mixed”. The latter is a son of Pelias “the dark”, the good intention which impels the quest and is also a resistance to change. The author who cited these two Argonauts together probably wanted to make us understand that the seeker embarks on his journey together with his shadow and his light.
The fact that no woman appears in these lists is not due to misogyny on the part of the initiated ones but to indicate that the beginning of the journey requires active movement and voluntary sâdhanâ and that there are as yet no realisations.
Later authors (Apollodorus and Diodorus) introduced Atalanta in the list of Argonauts but she represents a certain “equality” which cannot be a result of this first phase of yoga. Let us remember that the heroines represent realisations or goals and the heroes the works of yoga (particular sâdhanâ) to reach them.
Apollonius divided the tale of the Argonauts’ quest into four Poems which correspond to four major stages of the first phase of progression:
Poem 1: The preliminary steps and the mistakes of beginners (the quest of the “exotic forms of spirituality” and the going astray due to insincerity).
Poem 2: Some other mistakes, the clarification of intuition, the “knots”, the encounter with the true master and the bifurcation.
Poem 3: karmic memories and the great experience.
Poem 4: Integration.
There is no indication of the duration of time because for each stage there are phases of maturation which could be carried out in some months, years or lifetimes.
On the other hand significant events are experienced as absolute certainties even though the seeker rarely has appropriate words to communicate his experiences.
Poem 1: Erring Vagrancy: exotic forms of spirituality and fascination for powers
It must be recalled that according to the seekers a wide variety of experiences can occur; this myth should then above all not be considered as a set description of the journey. It also appears that women’s path might be quite different from men’s.
Further, like in all great epics of mythology, the adventures of the hero within each major period should be considered as a list of confrontations, trials, and necessary progressions the chronology of which depends on the individual seeker.
Need or aspiration
The first phase of the journey is devoted to the search for the master or for one’s own path. There will be several trials and errors and many impasses but when the disciple is ready the master will reveal himself. This is an occult law for which there are no exceptions. In the preparation of the quest appears of course the gathering of the Argonauts which we have just seen. And nothing can begin if “the need that pushes men to sail across the sea” is not present or if “aspiration” has not been born.
That is why the first port of call is on the land of Magnesia or “magnet”, a symbol of the aspiration that must go hand in hand with a certain amount of good will.
The “need” to grow and evolve is present in all men from the time of birth but it constantly comes against forces the task of which is to stabilise and maintain what exists, and they use fear, desire, and ignorance to achieve their purpose. Therefore man forgets himself in the midst of appearances and of satisfying the desires of the ego which are only derivatives of that need.
What is this “aspiration” and how is it manifested? It is a “need”, a lack, a dissatisfaction which is a need for something else, for another manner of human functioning. And the need will grow like a fire. At the beginning this lack often drives the seeker toward revolt or rejection of society or to various actions which never quench his thirst.
Here it is important to recall the myth of Prometheus, “one who gives priority to his aspiration for inner development”. Despite his warnings to his brother Epimetheus, “one who does not go beyond the surface of things”, he could not prevent him from falling for the charms of the beautiful Pandora who personified the obsession with “appearance”, an obsession present in the man who believes that he acts according to his own abilities, his own laws and not the laws of the Absolute. But this is how it had to be because Pandora was a gift of the gods: man must exhaust all illusions before being able to aspire for the Absolute. In other words nothing can be left behind in evolution. It is with this double nature that the seeker must go forward because the evolutionary lineage in the ascension of the planes of consciousness is a result of the marriage of Prometheus’ son Deucalion, “he who calls for union” and the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, Pyrrha, “a red bird” or the mind-fire that burns for knowledge.
The one who sets out on this journey is therefore the one who clings to this “need” of knowledge and union.
At a later stage on the journey this need is also the engine that drives the Trojan War through the descendants of Tantalus who opened the way for the lineage of the Atrides.
Once his companions had assembled Jason gave orders for setting sail after offering a sacrifice to Apollo, “God of Embarkation”.
On that day all the gods looked down from the heights upon the ship and these demi-gods born of their race.
What the seeker aspires for is the light of Truth perceived by his deepest being, usually called soul, and which we address here as the “psychic being”. This is why Jason offered a sacrifice to Apollo, god of psychic light. All the other spiritual forces certainly gave their consent since the gods attended the departure.
Athena, the “inner master”, had already contributed greatly having given instructions for the construction of the ship and adding to it the “speaking beam”.
The ship, the solid and well-built vessel Argo, named after its constructor Argus, represents the personality of the seeker built on solid bases with all which is necessary to start the spiritual journey (the necessary equipment for a “complete and well organised vessel”). It reflects the required maturity of the personality and mental clarity.
Argo as we have seen is the symbol of the seeker who turns his attention to his inner world instead of constantly being in a state of reaction. It is also the symbol of energies coming together for action. The name Argo signifies “bright” and with the letter structure “an (inward) turning of the impulse”.
Concord prevailing Orpheus beat time, Ancaeus stood in the middle of the ship, Tiphys at the steering and Jason directed the navigation.
Achilles at that time was still a very young child.
While the fertile land of the Pelasgians faded into the distant mist, they sailed along the cliffs of the Pelion and cape Sepias faded into the horizon.
Then they arrived at the coast of the land of Magnesia and the tomb of Dolops. They came ashore against the wind and offered a sacrifice in honour of the deceased. This coast is still called “The Departure of the Argo”.
When the seeker sets out he leaves the world of those “who advance in obscurity of the vital consciousness”, who are controlled by their desires and the movements of a personality that is totally dependent on external influences, the Pelasgians.
The name Pelasgians means “human consciousness immersed in the vital” and in mythology they are the first people to settle in Greece. They came from the sea and are therefore symbolic of the beginning of the domination of the mind over the vital.
The seeker aspires for more freedom and greater knowledge without being clearly aware of what it really involves and aspires to meet those who could give it to him or lead him to it. He already has a confused perception of the “rhythm” which underlies everything, that is to say the feeling that what he does is or is not at the right time, in sync or out of sync with his inner being at least in regards to the broad aspects of his life.
For Orpheus is the one who creates harmony by following the right rhythm. Many more symbolic years must pass before this perception is refined to the extent of becoming a part of the movements of daily life.
At the centre of this initial momentum is the will to “embrace” things (Ancaeus, “he who embraces”, is in the middle of the ship) or in other words the will to escape a “lack of commitment”, the half-heartedly behavior which is a manifestation of the forces of inertia which more often dominate our lives.
The other movements were examined above with the heroes who accompanied Jason: a beginning of self-knowledge, a tendency to direct oneself toward what is true or luminous, deep sincerity, some intuitive capacities, an attentive awareness of signs, good endurance, and a consequent development of the mind.
Dominating the whole is both an intuitive ability for higher truths and the will to clarify the relation between what is ‘me’ and what is ‘not me’ (Jason leads/directs the navigating)
Even though the one who sets out has a good knowledge of his emotional reactions and the capacity to go toward the light rather than the darkness, the one who holds the helm indicates that the purification of Nature has not yet begun (Tiphys, “the marshy” is the helmsman).
When the initial aspiration which leads to the quest (Magnesia, “the magnet”) is manifested the future seeker thanks life for allowing him to understand that he had previously committed himself to a false vision of a saviour or of one who wants to do good to humanity before having transformed himself (Jason offers a sacrifice at the tomb of Dolops, “false, deceptive vision”).
The women of Lemnos: the quest for “exotic spiritual forms” in lieu of an aspiration to transform oneself
The first episode which the seeker is faced with is illustrated by the episode of the women of Lemnos.
The Argonauts arrived at the abode of the Sintians on the island of Lemnos where the entire male population had been massacred.
Since the women of this island had long neglected to honour Aphrodite the latter set their husbands against them and their husbands rejected them. (According to Apollodorus, the women emitted a nauseating odour caused by the goddess.) On the other hand, their husbands felt a violent love for the captive maids brought from their pillage of Thrace on the coast opposite to Lemnos, and they bore them children. And so “while they treated their lawful children with contempt an obscure race of bastards was rising.”
The heroes arrived a year after the jealous and furious wives had not only slain their husbands and their mistresses but also all of the male inhabitants, including children and old men. Hypsipyle alone spared her father Thoas who was ruling over the country, placing him in a chest that she left to drift on the sea.
“The labours of Athena” were now incumbent upon the women. Since they feared that the Thracians would come they were wary of the arrival of the Argonauts and streamed down toward them carrying arms, and according to Sophocles a battle did take place.
But their apprehension was soon dissipated and the Argonauts united with the Lemnian women under the influence of Aphrodite “in order that Lemnos would regain its integrity”. The Argonauts remained on the island for an entire year and Jason resided at the palace of Hypsipyle who bore him his son Euenos.
They enjoyed heir stay on the island so much that it took Heracles’ firm admonition to persuade them to depart. Thus they took to the sea again and “in the evening by the injunctions of Orpheus they stopped at the island of Electra, daughter of Atlas, so that by surprising initiations they might learn the secret rites that would permit them to sail over the sea that freezes with fear”. Apollonius further states: “Of these I will make no further mention; but I bid farewell to the island itself and the indwelling deities to whom belong those mysteries about which we are not permitted to sing.” (Argonautica, Book 1, Verse 910-921).
This story unfolds on the island of Lemnos where Hephaestus was flung down by Zeus from atop Mount Olympus during one of the quarrels between him and his wife Hera as he could not bear that Hephaestus had taken the side of his mother. According to another tradition Hera found him so ugly when he was born that she flung him down herself.
Hephaestus is the creator god of forms, mainly spiritual forms, while his brother Ares is their destructor. But these forms are imperfect since in our times they stand on only one of the two pillars of the mind, the reasoning logical mind, in accordance with the cosmic cycle of the mind. But Hera, a symbol of the highest consciousness could accept only perfect forms despite being the one who had created Hephaestus and so she rejected him.
Lemnos is thus a symbol of a necessary union of polarities.
The seeker who embarks on the quest begins by rejecting the spiritual goals formulated in the forms of his culture, his “legitimate spouses”. According to some, “they smelled badly” because they were in the process of decaying being no longer stirred by the primary inspiration. They had “stiffened” because they had “neglected” the eternal adaptation to the movement of becoming necessary for the expression of love, which is issued from evolution of union (Aphrodite daughter of Dione).
However the new spiritual forms and respective goals which the seeker discovers during his quest and unduly claims as his own (the young maids who were brought from their pillage of Thrace) charm him more than the forms and religions of his own culture.
All new seekers in fact have a tendency to reject the spiritual forms of their own culture and raise foreign forms on a pedestal but they often retain from them only what suits their ego and its need for the new, mysterious and exotic. The seeker creates his own “mixture” taking here and there the bits of truth and forms that suit him (a bastard race was rising).
Only the impetuosity present at the beginning of the quest survives (Thoas is aged) and attempts to go through the highest doors (Hypsipyle) throughout all these experiences.
But the spiritual forms of his own culture continue to have a strong influence on the seeker since they are rooted in the subconscient. (Some masters also contend that they are influences from the invisible world who keep the believers under their laws). And so the women of Lemnos finally iron out all these cravings for the exotic before their union with the Argonauts, the old spiritual goals calling for enrichment and renewal by the new forces.
According to Sophocles the battle that set the women of Lemnos up against the Argonauts most likely corresponds to the struggle that the seeker must engage in to free himself from the “dead beliefs” that confine him before new ones can impregnate his quest.
Only a strong determination and the qualities represented by the Argonauts allow one to overcome these stages and enter a new one which is more about transforming oneself than about changing from one to another spiritual tradition.
Despite their enjoyable stay at the island of Lemnos the Argonauts had to leave the island to pursue their journey on the foundation of old goals freshly renewed.
Through the union of the greatest forces of each current – Jason and Hypsipyle – Euenos, “good evolution”, was created during this long stay.
According to Pindar celebratory games were played in honour of the men killed by the women or in honour of Thoas, which shows that the quests for other spiritual forms were not pointless as they helped to expand consciousness.
Apollonius alone mentions the halt at the island of the Atlantide Electra, “the bright and pure island”, a place conducive to receiving psychic lightning flashes of truth. Electra is associated with the word ηλεκτρον “amber” and also with a precious metal made from 4/5 gold and 1/5 silver which was dedicated to Apollo. Electra is one of the Pleiades, daughter of Atlas, who corresponds to the illumined mind plane.
There the Argonauts received “astonishing initiations” to undertake the certain dangers of the quest that would bring them to “sail over the chilling sea”. At the beginning of this chapter we have mentioned some of these “surprising initiations” such as “invisible protections”, “encounters”, “accelerated confrontations” and “recovery” of past knowledge retrieved by the seeker by means of theoretical and practical lessons in esoteric and occult fields through which he regains knowledge which seems to him obvious.
It is difficult to be conclusive on the nature of lessons imparted in ancient Greece to seekers of the mysteries but it can be assumed that they were closely related to the legacy of Ancient Egypt and covered all domains of the evolution of consciousness mentioned in this work as well as immense occult knowledge which has mostly disappeared.
Inner insincerities which lead to deceptive paths
During the night the heroes finished crossing the Hellespont and advanced into the Propontis. Then they reached a peninsula known as “Mount of Bears” which had two successive harbours and moored their ships in the first cove. The hills of this peninsula were inhabited by wild and ferocious beings, the Sons of the Earth, each of which had six arms. The Doliones occupied the plains and were protected from the giants by Poseidon because they were the descendants of this god.
The Argonauts built an altar to Apollo the “God of Disembarkation”, and developed their friendship with the Doliones. Their king invited them to advance with their ships to the second cove.
The next morning at dawn they climbed to the top of the Mountain Dindymum “to be acquinted with the sea routes”. The giants began hurling rocks to obstruct the channel through which the ships would exit but were slain by the arrows of the Argonauts.
The latter set sail but overnight the adverse winds brought them back to the island without their knowledge. In the darkness the Doliones, believing that they were faced with hostile people attacked the Argonauts who slew a large number of them and realised their mistake only the next morning. The king of the Doliones Cyzicus perished in the battle.
There were then twelve stormy days and twelve stormy nights which prevented them from setting sail again. Warned by the flight of the Halcyon, the seer Mopsus advised Jason to offer a sacrifice to Rhea and the goddess responded “through the manifestation of clear signs”.
The Argonauts then set sail again, travelling past the cape of Poseidon and heading toward new lands.
The advance of the Argonauts across the Aegean, Hellespont, Propontis, the Bosphorus, and the Euxinus Pontus seas describes the progression of increasingly deeper purification of the vital being.
In the first place the Aegean Sea relates to seekers who embark on the journey but stay “on the edge” of purifying their vital being.
Then comes the first strait Hellespont which gets its name from Helle. She was the sister of Phrixus and the two children when tortured by their stepmother fled on the back of a ram with the Golden Fleece sent by Zeus. It is the myth already studied which recounts the first experience of luminous sensitivity. This experience usually opens much later the doors to a deeper involvement in the quest. The Hellespont is also the final limit in the individuation process (Helle). Hellespont is also known as the strait of the Dardanelles with reference to Dardanus, the son of the Pleiad Electra, who marks the first experience of the illumined mind.
The seeker then progresses deeper into the purification of his vital being (in the Propontis which is pro+Pontos, i.e. more deeper in the vital) up to the place that opens the passage to the luminous mind or illuminations. This is the Bosphorus “which carries the cow”, the cow being symbol of illumination.
Finally the seeker penetrates the deep waters of the vital being, the Euxinus Pontus (the Black Sea) or the “strange, inhospitable vital being” with its shores inhabited by wild tribes including the Amazons. As per our interpretation, the meaning usually attached to the Pontus – “the hospitable sea” – is thus quite erroneous.
Therefore the first episode in the quest for the Fleece relates to the beginning of the spiritual journey as “the beard had hardly grown on Jason’s face”. It is a warning against the “insincerities” which create illusions and operate from the subconscient, the word Dolione signifying “deceitful, cunning and deceptive”. The Doliones are sons of Poseidon. The seeker does not identify them as such because they appear to be going in the direction of the quest: in fact the king provided wine for the Argonauts and sheep for their sacrifice to Apollo.
This distances the seeker from his psychic perception of truth although he believes he is on the journey to the light of Truth or convinces himself that he is. That is why sacrifice is offered to Apollo, “God of Disembarkation”: the seeker has left the right path. When we persist in insincerities and are deaf to the inner voice, the latter falls silent, often for a long time until we return to the right path which sometimes happens only after harsh confrontations. There can be several reasons for this deafness: impatience, fascination with powers, desire to stand out from the crowd, automatic self-justification, or anything that benefits the ego pride.
The seeker then sinks deeper into the illusory path without suspecting it and it threatens to imprison him in a kind of a trap (The Argonauts push their ship into the second creek that the giants attempt to obstruct).
The monstrous giants with six arms can be seen as hostile forces with an extended power of action that hides within the heights of aspiration (the mountains). These powers of the subtle world can only act if we open the doors to them.
Here the error stems from the fact that the seeker is not conscious of the forces opposing the journey, forces which are born in the inconscient he came from and which hide behind his spiritual aspiration: the giants, sons of Earth, rush from behind the mountain. These forces attempt to imprison the seeker, “to obstruct the narrow channel”.
Seeming welcoming and of easy access, that which leads to error has every appearance of the truth but arises from the subconscious (Poseidon).This conceals what the highest consciousness nurtures as an obstacle or a test to evolution (Hera feeds the giants): the obstacles appear on the journey to help the seeker in his purification. This is a law of evolution which the seeker must always keep in mind.
In the first confrontation with the opposing forces the seeker is sufficiently purified to avoid total imprisonment, thus destroying the hostile forces without too much difficulty: the Argonauts slay the six-armed giants.
However what the seeker does not realise initially is that it is his “insincerities” or “illusions” which have led him to this situation. Although he thinks that he can continue on his journey he is led back toward them by force. He is not yet advanced enough for the struggle against his shortcomings and weaknesses to take place fully consciously: the “cleansing” thus takes place in the inconscient, in obscurity. The seeker can assess what he has conquered only after his victory. This episode helps him understand that at this stage the journey is an alliance between personal will and divine action working behind a veil.
Therefore what is described here is a trap laid by deceptive forms of spirituality and opening the way to destructive forces. Their mode of operation is to seduce and lure the seeker by playing on his weaknesses, and then to draw him deep into their scheme and trap him by “blocking all exits”. To come out of this type of mistake one must get rid of the false spirituality that one has adhered to and above all become aware of the aspects of one’s nature that allowed such a loss of direction. Some examples of these weaknesses are given with the names of the Doliones who were killed: the search for power, the aspiration for glory, etc. The names of Dolions given by Apollonius seem to indicate that the seeker does not only remove in himself egoistic goals such as the desire for glory, but also partly gives up some enthusiasm that has made him begin on the journey.
The first poem/canto thus describes the two major pitfalls which await the debutant seeker and which sometimes can block him for years or lives.
The end of this stage is marked by a long period of emotional disturbances that cannot hurt the seeker but put the journey on pause, “twelve stormy days and twelve stormy nights which prevent them from setting sail “. But life signals are given to the seeker that he is on the right path as Rhea responds “through the appearance of clear signs “.
It is at the end of the first poem which we can finally consider as the preparatory period for the quest that Apollonius has Heracles disembark: in fact, as soon as there is a conscious entry into the quest there can no longer be any correlation between the theoretical myths (in this case, the labours of Heracles) and the experiences.
Poem 2: Other mistakes, the clarifying of intuition, the episode of the dark rocks and the meeting with the true master
After describing the risks of being misled Apollonius specifies in the second poem a few minor mistakes before turning to the essential event which marks a turning point in the quest: the meeting of the true master.
The passage by force
The Argonauts arrived in the country of the Bebryces ruled by the arrogant King Amycus, son of the nymph Melia and Poseidon. He was the most insolent of men and imposed a disgraceful law on strangers: none must leave the country without challenging him in boxing. He had thus killed many voyagers.
Pollux immediately volunteered to compete against him, and Castor and Talaus helped him prepare for the fight which was a long and very violent one.
Pollux could not avoid injuring his shoulder but according to some, after his victory he made Amycus promise that he would not mistreat any more strangers. According to Apollonius, Amycus was killed during the confrontation and it was followed by a general battle in which many Bebrycians were killed including Mimas.
At dawn the Argonauts took to the sea again and moved into the eddies of the Bosphorus. It was there that a wave “as high as a mountain (…) heaved up above the clouds” rose in front of the ship. The heroes were under the impression that they could not escape death and were terrified, but the navigational knowledge of Tiphys led them away from danger.
King Amycus is “the roaring one” and his country of Bebrycians is a country of “vital greed”.
At this stage the seeker is up against a part of himself which attempts to cross the stages forcefully owing to his strong desire and using solely his personal will (Amycus).
He must counter it with the strength of the spiritual warrior which serves him best in an unarmed hand-to-hand combat: Pollux, one of the Dioscuri, he who fights “with a lot of gentleness” and who is “most skilled in unarmed hand-to-hand combat “.
Of course he must also prepare the way with inner strength and mastery and by opening the consciousness to righteousness and sincerity (Castor) as well as through endurance (Talaus).
In the symbolic description of the human body the shoulder or the collarbone represents “the door of the gods”. Pollux’s injury on this part of the body shows that the seeker had wanted to force his way through.
In accounts where the king is spared, the meaning consists of preserving ardour for the quest while at the same time controlling the pressure put on oneself.
For Apollonius selfishness and vital greed must irrevocably be kept away from the quest.
On “the outer roads” several paths advocate excess asceticism and on the pretext of gradually reduce the resistances of the ego they only reinforce it through sly rewards. It must be recalled that the vital being actually feeds as much on suffering as on pleasure and it is the vital subconscious which is articulated here with its desire for sensations and power (Amycus is a son of Poseidon). The mother of Amycus, the nymph Melia (Ashes), also indicates that it is a spirituality based on the vital.
This mistake has its foundation in the naïve presumption that forced asceticism can accelerate progression and attract the benevolence of the Divine. These deviations can involve scourges and mortifications as well as more subtle forms in which the willpower imposes excessive restrictions on the body, mind or emotions. This encompasses all kinds of deprivations of things which have not been mastered: excessively long fasts, sexual abstinence by principle, etc.
This tale can also be a criticism of the beginner’s tendency to limit his field of expression and gauge himself on the basis of norms meant to regulate the spiritual domain or which are expected to be the most worthy in the eyes of the master or teacher.
The attitudes which are being disputed here stem from a strongly dissenting vital ego which is in no way concerned with spiritual discipline. The only thing that is of interest to it is drama, excitement and surges of energy of whichever kind. For the vital does not care in which action the energy is deployed, and the mind lends its support under the guise of virtue, goodness, courage or spiritual progress.
At this stage of the journey the seeker is not expected to master the vital being but to simply avoid lures and erroneous and dishonest behaviour that only feed his self-centredness and self-satisfaction. Sincerity is an essential tool because it involves the dropping of masks and the ceasing of attitudes or movements which “imitate” as well as giving up on all claims that one is progressing solely on the basis of his own strengths (among the Bebrycians who were killed, there in fact appears Mimas, “the Pantomime actor” and Itymoneus, “he who rises alone”).
This stage comes to an end with the threat of a major emotional disturbance which is more frightening than it is harmful and does not appear too difficult to avoid if the seeker is knowledgeable about his emotional reactions (a wave high as a mountain and ready to break upon them, but which sinks back into itself thanks to the skill of the helmsman Tiphys). This symbolic wave is specific to each seeker and is found at the entrance of the Bosphorus, “the passage of the cow” which leads to the experience of Light, the cow being since Vedic times a symbol of the manifestation of lightning flashes of truth.
Perturbations of intuition and the impossibility of benefiting from expansions of consciousness
The following day the heroes disembark on the land of the Thynians. On the shore dwelled the blind Phineus who was married to Cleopatra daughter of Boreas, sister of the Boreads Calais and Zetes. He had received the gift of prophecy from Apollo. According to some the king of Olympus had taken his sight because he could not bear the slightest restraint in revealing the sacred will of Zeus to men. According to others he preferred to live a long life rather than to see.
But he could not enjoy the innumerable dishes that were offered to him by men in gratitude for his prophecies because the Harpies, “bitches of the great Zeus”, swooped down from the clouds and snatched them away from his mouth and hands with their strong beaks. Not satisfied with depriving him of these delicious treats, they made the remnants reek.
In sympathy the Argonauts delegated Calais and Zetes to pursue the Harpies to the end of the world till the islands of Plotai, “the Floating Islands” which were then renamed the Strophades, “the swirling/spinning Islands”. On the request of Iris who had sworn that they would never again torment Phineus the Boreads spared the Harpies’ lives and turned back.
According to others an edict of fate (Moirai) wanted the Harpies to die at the hands of the Boreads while the latter in turn would perish if they failed to catch them. According to Apollodorus both parties died since the Boreads failed to catch up with the Harpies who collapsed in exhaustion.
As a token of gratitude Phineus informed the Argonauts of a number of upcoming trials.
This stage marks the entry into the inner world involving the disembarkation on the land of Thynias “evolution of consciousness (of contact with) what is at the centre”. This necessary turning over marks the entry into the journey and is symbolised by the blindness which strikes not only seers like the Theban prophet Tiresias but also Oedipus and a number of other characters in tales of initiation.
From this point onward the seeker must have more concern for the movements of his inner world than his reaction to external events.
Authors have different explanations for this blindness: in one version Phineus had indiscreetly revealed “the intentions of Zeus in all their details; however the will of Zeus was that only imperfect prophetic oracles be disclosed to men so they would still need the assistance of the gods”. That is to say that even if the seeker has some knowledge about the journey which can prove useful to him – for Phineus is a soothsayer who does his work well – this should not prevent him from putting himself in the hands of what is at higher levels of consciousness, for it is not ego that must decide the way.
But to begin with it can only be related to a breakthrough of consciousness since abandoning oneself to Reality (or Truth) occurs very gradually for most seekers. The latter can only gain certitudes ensuing from a vision of Truth at a very slow pace because for a long time, they must depend on higher forces to guide them in their ignorance.
In another version Phineus, obliged to make a choice, had preferred to have a long life rather than retaining his sight: if the seeker had continued the movement toward externalisation of ego he would not have been able to retain his nascent intuitive abilities.
The name Phineus is related to “penetrating consciousness at the lower levels of the being” and symbolises better comprehension and therefore mastery of the journey and the way in which it will unfold. After the initial purification the seeker has the ability to obtain precise visions or perceptions from the inner light (he had received the gift of prophecy from Apollo). Phineus thus stands for a growing ability for non-mental inner perception. His union with Cleopatra, whose name signifies “the renowned ancestors”, also indicates that the seeker tries to find his way according to the accomplishments of the ancient spiritual traditions or according to his own past realisations.
Since he turns inward he can begin to perceive the evolution of some parts of his being on the basis of his new perceptions (for those parts for which he makes predictions). But he cannot benefit from them to improve his psychic vision (the gifts offered) because he is constantly disturbed by archaic and extremely quick mental movements, the Harpies. In the chapter dedicated to the study of The Genesis and Growth of Life we saw that the movements of the nascent mind are simultaneously related to the reversals of balance and the process of homeostasis (movements to return to equilibrium). The reason for their existence is the necessity to maintain or reverse the repetitive or revolving processes on which animal life is built in order to provide the stability suitable for a gradual evolution. Therefore they oppose any profound change in the being or any hastening of his evolution.
The harpies are “abductresses” who kidnap people without leaving a trace: that is, they make states of consciousness disappear without us understanding how this has happened. These “troublemakers” prevent the maintenance of peace and calm required for intuition to function correctly and for being able to receive influence from above.
The Harpies dwelled on the Strophades islands, “ones that move in circular motion” or the “revolving” or “winding” movements at the origin of life. From the cellular level up the scale of the whole body are displayed such protection mechanisms, for example the mechanism of the cells of enveloping a foreign body with matter. In the animal world repetition is one of the fundamental processes, which is illustrated in man by his habits.
The Harpies are therefore indispensable till a very advanced stage of yoga is attained at which physical transformation begins.
In the initial stages we are concerned with here, doubt is the great troublemaker for the nascent psychic intuition.
The seeker obviously wants to understand the changes in his inner state in order to limit their influence on his life and psychic visions. But it is very difficult to determine their origin: it requires much sincerity, perseverance and patience to track them and reach their root because these are functions which support the very construction of the ego at the animal level and are related to the appearance of the mind in the body (the Harpies are daughters of Thaumas, the second stage of development of life after Nereus, “the old man of the sea”).
To track the Harpies back to this primitive stage of consciousness the seeker must mobilize two of his most efficient assets, the two essential factors for this phase of the quest in the right movement of incarnation: the Boreads, Calais and Zetes, “the call or aspiration” or “righteousness” and “the search”. These movements are essential for the sâdhanâ. They are children of Boreas the north wind and so their orientation is toward aspiration for union in incarnation. Orithyia or Oreithyia is “one who hurls herself onto the mountain”, an Athenian princess and thus one of the goals for growth of the inner being. The Boreads are winged beings and represent honed mental processes. They can pursue these archaic movements of the vital consciousness to the point where the smallest energy condensates at the origin of life have not yet found their point of application (Floating Islands), that is, are not yet consolidated to create disorder and disharmony. Then the seeker can observe and understand how this condensate is transformed into repetitive or obsessive revolving movements (Turning Islands) leading to disharmony, disorder and disease.
It is obvious that the pursuit will be long as the descent into these archaic levels of consciousness requires patience and perseverance. This pursuit could even last throughout the quest because the Harpies are active down to the cellular level. However the active element will no longer be the mind but a higher order of consciousness. That is why the Boreads died once they succeeded in preventing the occurrence of the winding movements (the death of the Harpies).
In the quest of the Argonauts, it is only about a preliminary task, that of fighting doubt.
In another version the Harpies do not die.
Iris, “the messenger of the gods” requests that they be spared and in return guarantees peace for Phineus: the vital-mental processes necessary for the general equilibrium of the being must be maintained but the seeker who has adequately developed his receptivity is no longer perturbed by their action.
At first, it is in the mind that some degree of tranquility can be attained. Since the mind is a place where there is continuous unrest (comparable to a mad monkey jumping from one branch to another), perseverance in continuous asceticism can bring at least some amount of calm, if not mental silence; in fact the Boreads obtain tranquility for Phineus from Iris, that is to say a certain ability to isolate a receptive (intuitive) state from these troublemakers of the archaic vital plane.
When the seeker has succeeded in pacifying his mind and removing the doubt which disturbed psychic intuition he is in a position to intuitively perceive the great challenges to be met as well as necessary evolutions (Within the permissible limits set by the gods Phineus reveals to the Argonauts the trials that they will face before their arrival in Colchis).
However it is only by progressing in love that they will be able to proportionally progress on their journey as Phineus also warns them that the success of their endeavor will depend on Aphrodite.
Doubt is a mental process. In response to it we either refrain from acting or most often make a choice depending on the preferences of the ego. When intellect is growing the mind proceeds through trials and errors and doubt is its assistant. On the spiritual path however we aspire for exactitude in thought, speech, and action which originates from the inner soul, the psychic light, rather than from the mind. Doubt may be useful in building the ego or establishing free thought and developing one’s own identity, but it becomes an obstacle on the spiritual path on where certitude is obtained from the inner being that gains awareness through identity, through the light of the soul (the psychic being). For there is no knowledge in the mind which cannot be doubted, and true knowledge is only obtained by the soul or the psychic being that is one with the Truth. When we act from the mind, we are forced to make choices, but when the psychic governs the being we know the right way. The spiritual experience pertaining to the soul is thus certain and the key to it is the inner perception in touch with the body.
As Mother confirms it:
“All division in the being is insincerity. The greatest insincerity is to carve an abyss between one’s body and the truth of one’s being. When an abyss separates the true being from the physical being, Nature immediately fills it with all the hostile suggestions, of which the deadliest is fear and the most pernicious, doubt ” (The Mother’s Agenda, 17th October 1958).
The Dark Rocks: the first major test
Phineus counsels the heroes in these terms: “After you leave me and come to the place in which the sea narrows you will see two rocks, the Cyaneans” (Cyanean: dark blue, black). I warn you that no one who has attempted to pass between the two rocks has ever been able to avoid them. For their base is not firmly fixed and they are constantly coming up crashing against each other while above them masses of sea water rise up gushing and boiling into the air.
He advised them to release a dove: if it flew safely through then they could try to cross the passage. But if the bird perished they would have to turn back.
Euphemus released the dove and only the extreme ends of her tail-feathers were cut by the rocks closing back towards each other. When they parted again the heroes rowed with all their might. Halfway through the channel an enormous wave rose and seized with terror, they thought they were about to die. But Athena who had descended from Olympus to watch over the advance of the heroes braced herself against a rock and with her free hand pushed the ship through the channel.
Since then the rocks joined together and were rooted to the spot forever, for such was the destiny that the gods had wished for them. According to Pindar “the living rocks died”.
The journey is strewn with trials and tests which are all opportunities to make progress in specific domains.
In the Agenda of November 12th 1957 the Mother notes that there are three categories of trials:
“The integral yoga is made up of an uninterrupted series of tests that you must pass through without any advance notice, thereby forcing you to be always vigilant and attentive.
Three groups of examiners conduct these tests. Apparently they have nothing in common and their methods are so different, at times even so seemingly contradictory, that they do not appear to work towards the same goal, and yet they complete one another, they work together for a common aim and each is indispensable for the integral result.
These three categories of tests are: those conducted by the forces of Nature, those conducted by the spiritual and divine forces, and those conducted by the hostile forces. This latter category is the most deceptive in its appearance, and a constant state of vigilance, sincerity and humility is required so as not to be caught by surprise or unprepared.
The most commonplace circumstances, people, the everyday events of life, the most seemingly insignificant things, all belong to one or another of these three categories of examiners. In this considerably complex organization of tests, those events generally considered the most important in life are really the easiest of all examinations to pass, for they find you prepared and on your guard. One stumbles more easily over the little pebbles on the path, for they attract no attention.”
The first major test is at the entry into the Bosporus, “the cow’s passage” named in memory of the princess Io, ancestor of Heracles, who passed through it and had been transformed by Zeus into a beautiful white heifer to escape the wrath of Hera. It is therefore symbolically “the passage to illumination”. It marks the beginning of a long process and of numerous other trials that the seeker is warned against with quite some precision either internally or externally (Phineus had forewarned the Argonauts).
The trial in question is inevitable as it is the test for entry into the journey (nobody had ever succeeded to pass between the rocks unharmed). According to Apollonius it is a test resulting from memories or “knots” created by hostile forces which are however not firmly rooted in the body (the Dark Rocks are floating). These knots bring up great emotional upheaval when the seeker faces them by entering into the quest.
The Dark Rocks are also known as the Symplegades, “they that clash against each other”, portraying the confrontation of forces in the midst of which the seeker will find himself without having wished for it. It is the inner calm that he will demonstrate that will help him go through without much damage.
These “rocks” are related to fear and to the different kinds of possible behavior in the face of hostility.
Releasing the dove into the channel refers to the conscious examination of whether in a situation that generates fear we are ready to react in an unconventional way using inner calm rather than strength. The dove is in fact a symbol of peace.
According to Apollonius, if the seeker is not ready for this he must temporarily give up the journey and turn back. He adds that the Argonauts were told to “grip their oars well and to cleave the sea’s narrow strait, for the light of safety will be not so much in prayer as in strength of hands”. At this stage, once one has agreed to first propose and brings peace, mobilizing the will and all the resources of the personality is more important than submitting to the image that one can form of the Absolute, for the image is still too marred with illusion.
However it must be noted that during these trials the seeker receives important and tangible help provided that he remains available and trusting: this is what Athena’s intervention signifies. He can no longer ignore the fact that he receives assistance on his journey.
Progressive confrontation with death appears to be one of the features of the journey, first in the form of sudden episodes such as accidents and then in increasingly conscious and lengthier ways. Fear must be gradually eliminated from the mind and then from the vital being before it is possible to fight the last battles against it in the body.
The rooting of the rocks – or their “death” – after the passage of the heroes signifies that the seeker will not be confronted by the same challenge again if he has passed the test.
The high Black Cape
The Argonauts then continued to work hard at the oars. Tiphys encouraged Jason who was letting discouragement take over, assuring him that he would reach his goal, but Jason replied that he was not afraid for himself but for his men. They thus travelled past the high Black Cape.
The seeker realises that in the course of his journey he has to abandon some processes put in place for the yoga which were useful to him at the beginning of the journey (Jason is afraid for his men). He fears the transformation, yet his good “self-knowledge” tries to reassure him of his ability to reach the goal.
Apollonius then mentions a “great shadow”, the high Black Cape, which the Argonauts sailed by without any difficulties, as if the seeker became aware of a possible spiritual deviation without succumbing to it and thus without bearing any consequences.
It also represent the last possibility of seduction by deceiving spiritual paths.
Encounter with the Master or one’s personal path
The Argonauts disembarked on the port of the desert island Thynias. It was the moment just before dawn when a faint glimmer appears in the night: upon awakening men call it “the break of dawn”.
It was then that Apollo appeared before them with his silver bow in hand. He was on his way to the Hyperboreans. Under his feet the entire island trembled and the waves broke thunderously on the shore. At the sight of him an overwhelming awe seized the heroes; none of them dared to meet the beautiful eyes of the deity. When at last they raised their heads Apollo was already far away and they named the island “Apollo of the dawn” and took an oath to help each other for ever more.
Phineus had not only cautioned the heroes against the dangers of the Dark Rocks but had also given them precise indications about the route to follow all the way to Colchis where the Golden Fleece was to be found. The seeker then broadly senses what changes he must bring about in himself in order to refine his sensitivity and purify himself. Perhaps he is assisted in this way by the modern soothsayers, astrologers and mediums.
He comes to the point of the journey at which the very first brilliant glow of psychic light will reveal itself although he thinks that he has not made any significant progress in the growth of his inner being (the Argonauts are on the desert island of Thynias, “evolution of the inner being”).
When this first glow appears, the quest of “his” path disappears: the seeker has finally arrived at the harbor…of the true beginning. He has found “his” path, usually in the form of an encounter with the “Master” or with the legacy of his work if the latter has already left his/her body.
The encounter takes place when the seeker does not expect it at all, for as the saying goes “when the disciple is ready, the Master appears”. It is accompanied by a feeling of certainty, completeness, quiet joy, wonder and above all, tranquil sense of evidence. The quality of this encounter is very different from the preceding ones that constituted “preparatory” experiences. There is not the slightest doubt: it is instantly clear that one has found one’s path and will stay true to it till the end of one’s life. In addition the “Master” is not above or beyond but is like a very close friend even if he/she left his/her body.
However the intensity of the experience is relatively ephemeral and that is why the Argonauts’ vision of the “Apollo of the dawn” is like a lightning flash. Nonetheless the certainty of having found their right path is indestructible and unforgettable from that moment onward.
This discovery will help the seeker finally gather and focus all his strength in a single direction. Till that moment various elements of his being had been continually pulling in their respective directions due to an invariably unsatisfied quest. It was never “that” which he had been waiting for.
Now although he knows that he is still at the beginning of the journey, if one or the other of his parts fail he knows that the others will overcome this deficiency. For example if the body is tired or falls sick, the mental and psychic will seize the reins to continue the yoga; if depression occurs, the body will resist it with all its might and the mind will endure it; and if the mind is in doubt or continues to experience a lack of understanding the vital being will maintain the drive and joy (they took an oath to help each other forever).
The encounter with the “Master” is adequately described in spiritual literature so we need not dwell at length on this episode. It marks the end of the first stage, the first major turning point: that is why soon after the heroes passed by the “Great Elbow”.
This turning point is marked by changes and realizations which Apollonius mentions without giving details:
The heroes cast anchor at a point beyond the Cape Acheron near the entrance of the Cave of Hades from which an icy breeze was emanating and forming shining white ice crystals all around. There the lord of the land Lycus and his people built up a friendship with the Argonauts.
An experience “above” is always followed by an experience “below” because an advance in consciousness is immediately used to bring light to the inconscient, the world of Hades. This is why Lycus, a symbol of “the light before dawn”, is the king of this region and makes friends with the Argonauts.
But at this point of the journey there is no descent possible into Hades: this is just a preliminary experience for descending into the depths.
While supreme consciousness is associated with a fire endowed with of an intense power of movement the inconscient is the place of icy fixity (hence the ice crystals coming from within the cave).
Jason spent a day of friendship with Lycus, “the wolf, or the light before dawn”: even though the encounter itself was like a lightning flash, the seeker stays in touch with his inner truth for some time, which eventually allows him to incorporate numerous aspects of his life.
The soothsayer Idmon who knew his destiny from the signs of birds was killed by a boar in a marsh and was replaced by the soothsayer Mopsus: now that the seeker has found his path it is a higher kind of intuition that must guide him. According to Apollonius, Idmon and Mopsus are both sons of Apollo and are therefore related to psychic light. But in Idmon’s case it appears to be still strongly associated with the mind (he draws knowledge from the birds) whereas at this point an intuition coming from the inner being, from the core of the psychic soul, is to be developed in order to “receive from above in a state of receptivity and consecration” (Mopsus). In fact intuition related to the mind does not appear to be in a position to fight the energies of the lower vital being which disturb the yoga. This is the reason why Idmon’s death is caused by a boar.
At this time Tiphys, the first helmsman of the expedition, also dies of an illness. Ancaeus, Erginus, Nauplius and Euphemus offer to replace him and the first of them is selected. The Argonauts arrived at the Great Elbow soon afterwards.
Ancaeus and Erginus both prided themselves in their skill as helmsmen as well as in their expertise in war and demonstrated the seeker’s commitment in the same manner in a combination of abilities to guide the process of yoga (they were skilled helmsmen).
It is no longer the knowledge of the emotional self and the ability to find one’s way in faint light (Tiphys) that needs to be at the helm, but “he who embraces, who holds in his arms” (Ancaeus). He will be the symbol of “Integral Yoga”, the one who works on all planes of the being as he incorporates the three yogas of Knowledge, Devotion, and divine Works.
Neither the skill of divination (Euphemus), the capacity for work (Erginus), nor the sole skill of leading the quest (Nauplius) are at this point able to lead.
Thus a reorientation of the process of Yoga takes place: the Great Elbow.
Subsequently the heroes closely avoid a battle with the Amazons: at this stage the victory in such a battle, the adherence of the vital being to yoga which is a sign of a state of wisdom and sanctity, is not expected. Surrender of the lower vital being – anger, sexuality, etc. – is a result of a much more advanced stage of Yoga.
The myth depicts some other mistakes that the seeker must become aware of even though he does not have to correct them at this stage as the Argonauts sail off the coast. Some of these are the attraction for an arduous path that is expected to please the Divine, the trust in the predominant efficiency of the mind, the projections and the blocked energies.
The Argonauts reached the land of the Chalybes whose inhabitants did not care to toil the land or graze their cattle or grow honey-sweet fruits but extracted iron ore without ever taking rest. Amidst the dark flames and smoke they wore themselves out in this laborious work.
What is denounced here is an excessive investigation into the depths of the subconscious – nowadays called the inconscient – which leads to a hardening of the soul (Chalybe signifies “hardened iron, steel”) in place of a healthy concern for a regular and conscientious work of yoga carried out in a gentle manner. It is an arduous journey grounded in one’s own effort and will, the polar opposite of “the sunlit path” which presumes surrender. However the author does not indicate that we cannot expect any results from it as the Chalybes were extracting ore.
They did not care to toil the land: the seeker does not work on his nature in the way he should for the purpose of purifying and perfecting it with the aim of union. In other words they were not concerned with the labors of Demeter, “the mother of union”. Nor did they care to graze their cattle or grow honey-sweet fruits: the seeker’s concern is no longer even the vigilance for the correct development of the potentialities of one’s being, and even less so is the search for what can bring psychic joy.
Then they sailed past the coast of the country of the Tibareni. In this land, when women bore children to their husbands the latter were the ones to moan and whine complainingly, lying dejectedly on their beds with bandaged heads while their wives took good care to feed them and prepare childbirth baths for them.
In this story an inversion of the goals and the labours of yoga are being highlighted: the seeker takes a means or his discipline of yoga to be his aim.
For example he gives increasing importance to the framework of his meditation or to a discipline like Hatha Yoga, he refines it, makes it the highest priority in his life, and brings to it all kinds of justifications and attention to nurture it. He focuses on his practice endorsing it with his own vision of the goal.
While a new dynamic of the being is coming forth (the women who are giving birth) the active part of the mind is ineffective (the bandaged heads) and the seeker complains, imagining that he has worked very hard and deserves care and reassurance. It is actually a sort of blackmail towards the Divine which continues for a long time in yoga as a sly way of satisfying the ego: if I am a good disciple in my chosen practice, I very well deserve this or that.
All the attachments to the labours that should be practised with flexibility and given up as soon as the inner being feel it should come to an end can be included in this category. This is the case for example with attachment for the sake of principle to virtues, renunciation, non-violence, and so on (Tibareni probably signifies “to carry a heavy load on the spirit”).
Undoubtedly the path of renunciation was necessary in ancient forms of spirituality the sole aim of which was to attain a paradise of the spirit. But renunciation cannot have the same role today in the context of a spiritual path which aims at the blossoming of all of life’s potentials in Truth. It can and should undoubtedly be a temporary stage; it should prepare for a return to life on the path of non-attachment which is far more difficult to achieve.
One must always remember that yoga is constituted of reversals and what helps at one stage of the journey becomes an obstacle for the next.
Since the Divine is patient with the seeker he nonetheless receives “the bath of childbirth”.
After that the heroes travelled past the land of the Mossynoeci whose customs were different from those of other people: “Whatever it was right to do openly before other people or in the market place, all this they did in their homes but whatever acts we perform privately they performed out of doors in the open streets without shame. They did not even feel restraint at coupling in public and with no consideration for those present they would, like feeding swine, lay with the women upon the ground.
Here again there is an inversion, no longer between the practice and the goal but between inner and the outer reality. It seems that what is narrated here refers to seekers who divulge their inner life and experiences in public including a demonstration of their powers (their coupling), whereas the inner experience must be kept a secret for a long time so as to retain its power. On the other hand they carefully conceal the acts that do not conform to what they claim to have achieved.
This story might also indicates seekers that pretend to be free through the satisfaction of all desires.
The heroes then approach the island of Ares. It was populated by birds whose feathers fell from the sky like sharp arrows, causing serious injuries. The Argonauts were reminded of the strategy that Heracles used at the Stymphalian Lake: resorting to the clattering sound of bronze pieces striking together to drive away the birds.
So they began striking on their shields while shouting out with wild cries. The frightened birds fled and the Argonauts were able to land without any further risk.
The birds are symbols of mental movements and The Argonauts’ quest being at this point at its beginnings, these birds represent destructive thoughts of judgment, hatred, contempt, etc.
The birds that Heracles fought at the Stymphalian Lake were more related to the process of purification which should be carried out deep into the layers of the vital being down till the physical mind. In the case of this great hero what is needed is the identification and segregation of the mental movements from the purely vital processes. An example of this is the layer of the self-defeating physical mind which keeps the body at the grasp of disease and prevents it from getting cured by its own forces.
The work is carried out here on the island of Ares where the force acts on the level of mental forms and destroys what no longer has its place. This island is also the place of dual thoughts.
Apollonius describes a strategy that is inspired by Heracles’ use of the clattering sound of bronze. “What concerns mastery” (Amphidamas) is what advocates discipline: although the technique of Mantra does not appear to be clearly described here Apollonius recommends to fight these harmful thoughts by preventing them from penetrating the consciousness (by using a shield) and by fighting them with the flame of aspiration (the tossing of the blood-red helmet crest) combined with a strong determination supported by powerful expression (prayers, mantras, etc.).
It was at this moment that the heroes met the sons of Phrixus who had left the kingdom of Aeetes to reclaim the inheritance of their grandfather Athamas. Soon after their departure they had endured a fierce storm. Their ship had foundered and they had been hurled on to the island’s shore. They agreed to accompany the Argonauts till Colchis, but not without warning them of the great dangers they would be exposed to.
It must be recalled that Phrixus, “the shiver”, had escaped death by fleeing with his sister Helle on the back of the Ram with the Golden Fleece. In Colchis King Aeetes, son of the sun god Helios and thus a specific expression of the light of the supermind, gave him in marriage one of his daughters, Chalciope “inflexibility” (the mark of the soul that does not compromise) who bore him four children. (Since Phrixus does not appear again in the rest of the myth the authors give him a long lived old age in Colchis.)
The meeting of the sons of Phrixus and the Argonauts indicates that the seeker revisits this very first experience and establishes the link with what he will be searching for henceforth. The sons of Phrixus are symbols of a kind of nostalgia, a call for rediscovering the disposition and the means which had led to the first “contact with what is Real” (they wanted to reclaim the inheritance of Athamas). They are the ones who will guide the seeker till the point of recovery of a corresponding sensibility (they would guide the Argonauts to Colchis).
But these forces cannot join hands till the quest has not made adequate progress and thus the timely shipwreck compels them to be patient.
In addition when the forces join hands the seeker receives specific signs which warn him that an important experience of the same nature as the first stirring awaits him.
Then the heroes sailed close to the island on which Cronus, deceiving Rhea, united with Philyra, the nymph who bore him the “good” Centaur Chiron.
We have come across the “good” Centaur Chiron at the beginning of this chapter. It must be recalled that he represents the abilities of concentration, harmonisation, mastery and purification which should be acquired before starting out on the journey. Chiron is the highest realisation of one who has not yet purified his lower nature. However it is an exceptional realisation since he is immortal, which is to say that he does not belong to the field of duality. This ability to harmonize must nonetheless be abandoned when it comes to the yoga of the body so that it does not interfere: Chiron, suffering terribly from an incurable wound at the knee, exchanged his immortality with Heracles according to some ad Prometheus according to others.
The fact that the heroes only sail close to the place where Chiron was conceived indicates that the seeker temporarily comes close to the highest healing science, the source of methods with which he can be a simple channel for the powers arising from the worlds of Unity.
Next they caught a glimpse of the Caucasian mountain peaks on the horizon and heard the tearing cries of Prometheus. The latter was chained to the mountain and his liver was devoured by day by Zeus’ eagle and regenerated overnight.
In this episode the seeker becomes aware of the phenomenon of cycles in the mind as is illustrated by the end of the myth of Prometheus, “he who gives priority to his aspiration for the growth of his inner being”. Let us remember that these cycles also regulate mental functioning according to very long periods in which there is an alternating predominance of the forces of separation on the one hand and the forces of unity or fusion on the other. The more thought and reflection become important in humanity, the more strongly is mental consciousness formed and the more man lives under the alternating influence of these forces whether he wants it or not.
This principle is demonstrated in the history of civilisations by the succession of humanist periods which place man at the centre and Middle-Ages periods in which it is the Sacred that occupies this central place. The mode of mental functioning is very different in each period, and one must understand that even independently from evolution, thought processes in the Middle-Ages were not at all as they are now.
Day symbolises periods of remoteness, detachment and separation in which the connection with what is Real loosens and faith decreases while night encourages closeness and intimacy with the Absolute and restores faith. The eagle of Zeus symbolises the action of the forces at the level of the gods, the highest of mental consciousness, the overmind. It oversees the said alternation necessary for allowing individuation without letting humanity irreversibly distance itself from Unity. When the seeker enters the non-duality of the mind (starting at the illumined mind level) and becomes a “knower” he liberates himself from these cycles and the eagle of Zeus can then disappear. This is the symbolism of the labour of Heracles dedicated to the quest of the Apples of the Hesperides.
Apollodorus mentions an exchange of immortality between Chiron and Prometheus, but this version is not agreed upon unanimously. Eschylus wrote a version of “Prometheus Unbound” which we know nothing about but the late tradition confirmed that Heracles freed the Titan.
Poem 3: Karmic memories and the acquisition of the Golden Fleece
Jason convinced the Argonauts to send just a small delegation to Aeetes. Only the sons of Phrixus along with Telamon and Augeias accompanied him.
Aeetes was angry at first, accusing them of wanting to seize the throne but then agreeing to let them go in search of the fleece on the condition that Jason should pass a certain test. The hero had to yoke two dreadful bulls with feet of bronze and exhaling fire as the king was used to doing. Then he had to plow four acres of the fallow land of Ares with the bulls to then sow in it the dragon’s teeth. From this sowing fierce armed warriors would spring up whom the hero would have to kill before they killed him.
(The dragon had been killed by Cadmus at the time of the founding of Thebes to free the access to the spring of Ares; Apollonius thus establishes a link with the purification-liberation process.)
The goddesses Hera and Athena who were closely watching over the expedition feared that the heroes would not be able to seize the fleece when confronted by the terrible Aeetes. They asked Aphrodite to send her son Eros so that with one of his arrows he would ignite Medea’s heart with a violent love for Jason. She was the second daughter of Aeetes, the first one, Chalciope, being married to Phrixus. The help of this sorceress and priestess of Hecate seemed indispensable to the two goddesses in order to save the heroes from disaster. Therefore a carefully masked Eros shot an arrow at Medea who was immediately enamoured of Jason.
On the suggestion of Argus, one of the sons of Phrixus, a meeting was secretly organised between Medea and Jason with the involvement of Chalciope who was worried about the inheritance of her children, for Aeetes in fact believed that the Argonauts had come to seize the throne.
During the meeting Jason could not resist the love that Aphrodite had kindled in Medea. He promised to take her with him after his trial and marry her. Medea gave him an ointment that would make him invincible to the bronze weapons and to fire which he had to spread on his arms and body. The ointment had been prepared with a “plant that had grown for the first time when the carnivorous eagle of Zeus let the divine blood of the unfortunate Prometheus flow to the earth on the foothills of the Caucasian mountain”. Medea also assured him that the protection would last throughout the day without fail and recommended that he must never refuse to fight but when the warriors would spring up from the ground he must throw a heavy stone in their midst without being seen because then they would fight among themselves to seize it.
Just before the test Telamon and Aethalides went to collect the teeth which had to be sown while Jason prepared himself and offered a sacrifice to Hecate.
King Aeetes, the people of Colchis and the Argonauts assembled in the plain of Ares, “the Killer of Men”, to attend the trial.
Jason stood firm and waited for the dreadful flame spitting bulls and overpowered them one after another. Once he had yoked the bulls he ploughed the land and sowed the teeth.
Then across the field rose like stems of grain the fully armed “Sons of Earth”. Remembering Medea’s advice Jason seized an enormous stone and flung it in their midst. As expected “they who had been sown” killed each other to seize it. The hero then hurried cutting down those who were still half-embedded and the latecomers who were entering the battle. Soon the ground was red with the blood of the warriors and not a single one remained alive.
Dismayed Aeetes returned to his palace to consider a nefarious plan for dealing with the heroes.
It must be recalled that Aeetes the king of Colchis, “the consciousness of the whole”, is a son of Helios the sun “that sees everything” (Panoptes) and is thus an expression of the radiance of the supermind consciousness of Truth (Hyperion).
(The character structure of the name Colchis could be understood as the place of “the opening of consciousness and essential liberty”. Let us make note that in the Balkans Colchis is a yellow flower which appears at the end of winter.)
According to the most ancient legend Helios only had two children: Circe the magician, “the power of detailed vision” or “discernment of Truth” and King Aeetes of Colchis, “the high global consciousness”. (Κιρκος is a bird of prey, “the spiraling one” who discerns things from a long distance.)
The other manifestations of the supermind, Perses and Pasiphae, were added later on.
Aeetes is in fact “olophronos”, he who “envelops totality”. His capital is Aia, a symbol of the “development and organisation of existence-consciousness across all planes”.
The nymph Asterodia, “the path of a star” or “the path at the beginnings of light”, bore him his son Apsyrtus.
His legitimate wife Idyia, “she who sees”, bore him two children one of which is the magician Medea, “intention” – in this case it is the intention of the soul rather than of the ego as she is a granddaughter of the sun and Hecate’s priestess – and Chalciope the “inflexibility of vision-willpower”.
The name Μηδεια has the same root as the word μηδος which means at the same time “intention” and “the genitals of man”. The latter meaning is it seems often used by Homer and would associate Medea to the concept of a force of creation.
Another interpretation of Medea can be given based on the word μηδεις which signifies “none, nobody” evoking a giving up of ego with the passage into the first place of the psychic being.
Since at this level the manifestations of the forces are transformational powers of the supermind, the characters that represent them are magicians, notably Medea and Circe.
Medea is in addition a priestess of Hecate, “she who strikes from afar” which is to say “she who has long-term goals”. Hecate is a daughter of Perses “the transformation” (son of the Titan Crius).
It therefore seems obvious that those who opposed Aeetes the most strongly were the Sauromatians (or Sauromatae), “the vain lizards” simultaneously symbolising inertia, lack of commitment and one who has no path and thus no love.
The delegation led by Jason to meet Aeetes specifically includes heroes who represent the first luminous experience of the soul. These are Augeas, “flashes of light” and the children of Phrixus “the shiver”, the only ones able to “recognise” through similarity the nature of the experience which should now be powerfully manifested. We have come across Augeas in the fifth labour of Heracles, in which the hero had to clean his stables (some authors consider him to be a son of Helios and thus a brother of Aeetes). The seeker is also already fairly advanced in his knowledge of the structure of consciousness (Jason is carrying the caduceus of Hermes).
The last ambassador is Telamon, a son of Aeacus and father of the great Ajax, a symbol of “the highest consciousness” both on the plane of the spirit and the plane of matter. He is an uncle of Achilles and in this respect he is concerned by the yoga dealing with the purification of the depths of the vital. His name seems to simultaneously mean “mastery”, “endurance” and “self-giving” or “dedication”.
Apollonius then again resumes the description, almost in full, of the trial of Cadmus, an ancestor of Oedipus, during the founding of Thebes. The first half of the dragon’s teeth was sown by Cadmus after he had tried in vain to find his sister Europa.
It must be recalled that the Theban wars describe the purification of the centers of consciousness materialised in the body as the chakras. Therefore the trial of Cadmus illustrates the principle of purification of memories inscribed in the subconscious and corporeal inconscient.
Jason’s trial is also the description of a process of the cleansing of memories which is not only a particular test on the journey but must be carried out consciously from this point onward.
Through the test wherein Jason had to yoke the bulls and then use them to plough the land and sow the teeth of the dragon, the seeker must demonstrate on the one hand that he is capable of holding the energy that originates from the higher planes in order to use them in the field of duality (the spring of Ares). If the cow is a symbol of illumination then it follows that the bull is a symbol of the power of realisation of the luminous mind. Indirectly originating in the supermind and expressed through the overmind or coming directly from the overmind, this energy is so strong that a few drops of it are sufficient to raise vital storms in a seeker who is inadequately prepared.
Such an uprising can be observed in the years 1967- 1969 when according to numerous seekers some drops of the power of the higher planes brought about both a phenomenal aspiration for innovation and very strong vital reactions due to which the essential was lost from sight.
The bronze hoofs of the bulls indicate a power of incarnation that we can sometimes feel even at the physical level.
On the other hand the seeker must demonstrate that he is now adequately armed to confront certain memories embedded in his being which will emerge on this occasion.
This section of the myth not only refers to inner contradictions like those that the seeker encountered earlier in the episode of the Cyanean rocks but also to memories of evolution which can prove to be very destructive. Through their reference to the dragon’s teeth the Ancient ones have established a link here with the lineage of the Titan Oceanus to indicate that this trial perceptibly occurs in the same period as the beginning of the purification-liberation process of the founding of Thebes by Cadmus and at the time of entering a process of expansion of the consciousness (Europa).
In fact the first half of the teeth was sown by Cadmus after he attempted in vain to find his sister Europa. (Cf. story of the foundation of Thebes in the following chapter.)
It was Telamon “the endurant” and Aethalides, “sparks of flame, ashes”, who went to collect the dragon’s teeth from Aeetes. A son of Hermes, Aethalides was famous for his particularly faithful memory and his skills as an archer (a will resolutely turned toward the goal). His mother was Eupolemeia, “she who fights well in the mind”. We can therefore understand him as a strong capacity for illumination and purification by the highest mind which allows the light to emerge.
Without this capability combined with great endurance the seeker cannot hope to escape unharmed from confrontations with his deep knots.
“Ploughing the field” is a metaphor often used to designate “work on oneself” and the teeth symbolise the “knots” which have not been dissolved and have left marks on the inconscient.
Their reemergence makes it necessary for them to be confronted once again, but with new assistance. From this point onward the seeker is in fact in an “amorous” relationship with his soul’s project which is incarnated in Medea as “the intention of the soul”.
Additionally there must be an alliance between the intention of the soul and an inflexible determination (the two sisters, Medea and Chalciope, are in agreement about the strategy).
But that too cannot be done without a renewed protection from the supermind comprised of an unwavering faith for the completion of the task. This protection is represented by the ointment provided by Medea. It had been prepared with a plant that started growing at the time when Pometheus’ agony began, that is when man entered in the separative consciousness (in the process of the alternation of the cycles of the mind). Therefore “faith” is the remedy which compensates for the entry into the period of individuation “necessary for acquiring discernment” and acts as a balancing factor against the gradual distancing from the Absolute. This is what is described as the Test of Freedom in Genesis.
The only real protection for the seeker on the journey is an unwavering faith in the victory of Truth. This faith protects him from destruction, whether it is from men (through reactivated memories) or from the power of realisation of the luminous mind which can be destructive for the one who wields it.
If the “knots” are given the opportunity to be confronted to the most material reality (the stone) several problems resolve themselves without the intervention of the seeker by nullifying each other (to vanquish the warriors who had emerged from the ground Jason had flung a stone in their midst and they killed each other to seize it).
Internally as well as externally the knots nullify each other on the condition that the seeker is engaged in life and does not yield to a lack of commitment (Medea advises him to never refuse to fight).
When the moment came for the warriors the stone came to symbolise the opportunity to dissolve knots and associated sufferings. The latter provide greater protection as long as the knots are not called upon.
In addition it must be noted that it is not the seeker who activates the knots but that he only prepares the ground for them to be dissolved.
In this way this myth marks the moment when for the first time the seeker comes in contact with the spiritual energies that could help him in his task (Medea).
In a similar myth about the path of purification-liberation we will see that when Cadmus sowed the teeth five warriors survived and became the origin of the military castes of Thebes. Thus out of the memories that emerge there are some which would come up to the conscious level and serve as the basis for the process of the incarnated manifestation of the inner being. Others who had been “sown” would not have killed each other to seize the stone but because they would think they were being attacked by one of their fellows: it would then be the case of knots which can be eliminated by a work of consciousness without needing to be confronted to reality.
Poem 4: The return
Since Medea had decided to flee with Jason, she made use of her powers to lull the monstrous dragon to sleep so that Jason could seize the Fleece.
Then the Argonauts boarded their ship again and sailed in haste to escape the wrath of Aeetes and stopped at Paphlagonia to offer a sacrifice to Hecate.
Phineus had advised them to take a different route on their return journey but nobody was familiar with this route. Then Argus spoke to them thus: “there used to indeed be a route revealed by the priests of Egypt even before the sacred race of the Danaans existed. This land of Egypt was watered by the river Triton. It is said that a man from this land travelled across Europe and Asia and founded thousands of cities including Aia, the capital of Aeetes. The descendants of the men who populated these cities preserved the inscriptions engraved by their fathers which show all the routes and give instructions to those who want to travel around the Earth and the sea. They would have gone up the river Istros that is very deep and can be navigated over a long distance. This river is the only one to cover such a vast territory, as it originates from a roaring far-away source in the distant Rhipaean Mountains beyond the winds of Boreas. ”
A goddess then sent a celestial ray indicating a direction, and following this favourable sign all of the Argonauts exclaimed that they would follow the indicated route.
The yoga proceeds through successive ascents and integrations. Every time a new stage is reached one must go backward to haul the entire being up to the present level. This is the reason why different myths allude to different “return” journeys. The most famous is that of the Argonauts and of the soldiers returning from the Trojan War, including the return of Ulysses narrated in the Odyssey.
Thus the poem 4 marks the beginning of a necessary integration since the seeker gained the highest awareness and sensitivity possible at this point on the journey when the forces employed in the quest and the intention of the soul converged.
The bringing back of the Golden Fleece – a symbol of a well-developed sensitivity, a certain “awakening” – is just a formality because the trials and tests of mastery as well as the dissolution of some of the knots have already been successfully cleared.
The seeker is then seized by a strong determination to take responsibility for his destiny and the forces of ignorance which oppose evolution are temporarily put to sleep; Medea, “the intention of the soul” or “the protector” lulls to sleep the dragon born at the foot of the rock of Typhon (which is the symbol of ignorance). Thus with the Fleece the seeker acquires the possibility of True Knowledge.
The close union of the “intention of the soul” with “that which receives from above in an imperfect manner” (the union of Medea and Jason) will last during the entire return journey and for some time after that till the death of Pelias and Medea’s banishment by Creon.
However bringing the Fleece back does not mark the time when the great experience of union takes place, which will have to wait till the marriage of Jason and Medea and the crossing of the desert. It only marks an opening of consciousness which helps in recognising the personal path.
We have said that the Golden Fleece of the ram is a symbol of a developed sensitivity as well as an “awakening”. If we look at the character structure of the words Apollonius used to describe it we also find the idea of the opening up of consciousness into incarnation (κωας), the right evolution toward union (δερος) and for the ram the right opening of consciousness (κριος).
According to Apollonius’ tale the seeker has at that moment no idea of how to pursue his journey so that it does not follow the same route, or in other words so it does not use the same means as for the ascent. For the period of integration should unfold based on a different sâdhanâ and also gives rise to experiences of another nature.
At this point Apollonius makes a digression to indicate that the Egyptians had already experienced, elucidated and formalised the next steps of the path. He expresses himself through the words of Argus (son of Arestor) who is a symbol of that part of the seeker which is the most purified through the work of sincerity and is thus the most “luminous” of the Argonauts: the Egyptians had recorded on “engraved tables” all the necessary instructions.
Through initiation and his own search the seeker can use the ancient descriptions of the journey. In fact there lived in ancient Egypt an “Aerial” race “that had access to higher regions of the mind”, and a great initiated person of this race had travelled across Europe and Asia. (The classical translation of Ηεριη (αερια) is “Land of Mist” but it appears to be a misunderstanding.)
In other words this great initiated person had travelled the path that is accessed through “a vast vision” acquired through purification (Europe) as well as the confines of the ascent of the planes of consciousness and the descent of the corresponding forces (Asia). He had organised structures of consciousness which the seekers could rely on: he founded several cities, including Aia. Other initiated people followed in his footsteps and passed on their knowledge through hieroglyphics, “engraved sacred letters”. (Several of the initiates who followed him on this path “engraved” their journey on stone.)
The name of the river Istros comes from the word “knowledge” which is a union of “vision” and “learning”. (On this subject refer to the Dictionnaire Etymologique de la Langue Grecque by Pierre Chantraine). The route of this river is that of the “seers” and “sages” from all traditions including the Vedic “rishis”.
This “knowledge-vision” is the only way to pursue the journey for an extended period (Istros being the only river to cover such a vast territory) till the end of personal asceticism (beyond the breeze of Boreas), when the Divine directly takes responsibility for the process of yoga, at the point at which the seeker reaches the stage when “higher sources” originating from the Rhipean Mountains act within himself and establish the “right link” (between spirit and matter).
Then the seeker receives a clear sign: a goddess sends a celestial ray indicating the direction that they must take.
(“Goddess” is the usual meaning ascribed to the word θεα, but this term also means “contemplation”.)
Filled with rage Aeetes demanded that his people the Colchians bring back his daughter Medea without further delay. A large army set out in pursuit of the Argonauts under the leadership of Apsyrtus the son of Aeetes. The latter bade him take a shortcut through the place known as “The Fair Mouth” and cut off the Argonauts’ retreat. The heroes would have succumbed to the sheer number of their opponents if under the threat of death they had not agreed on a peace treaty with Apsyrtus. This treaty stipulated that they could keep the Fleece that Jason had acquired through his feat but that Medea would be entrusted to Artemis till a decision would be taken by the kings of justice.
Learning of this pact Medea felt betrayed because Jason had promised her marriage. But assuring her that this was just a trick, Jason invited Medea to set up a trap for Apsyrtus in order to kill him. When in the darkness of the night Apsyrtus came to their rendezvous alone and confident, Jason pierced him with his sword. Deprived of a leader the team on Apsyrtus’ ship was annihilated by the Argonauts.
The rest of the army of Apsyrtus, not daring to present themselves before Aeetes without Medea, settled down permanently in the region.
However Zeus was infuriated by the murder of Apsyrtus.
The Argonauts subsequently reached the island of Electra and then again were brought back by opposing winds after a long journey. There they heard in astonishment the “speaking beam” which had been placed on the ship by Athena during its construction ordering them in the name of Zeus to purify themselves of the murder of Apsyrtus by the Goddess Circe, without which they would not escape the dangers of the sea.
The original legend is slightly different from that of Apollonius: Apsyrtus was still a child when Medea seized him from his bed on Jason’s orders and carried him away on the ship. In this version the chase had barely begun when the couple killed the child and threw his remains into the river.
Apsyrtus, a grandson of the sun, represents “what is right” (thought, feeling, and action) realised by the “carrying out of purification”. He is a son of Aeetes and Asterodia, “the path of the stars”, the manifestation of the first light of truth.
However in his highest consciousness the seeker is not convinced that he is ready for the completion of his task (Aeetes sent his people to bring Medea back).
If he had sincerely agreed to purify his consciousness further, that is to say to release it from all disruption caused by pride and ignorance, it would have made way for a better evolution (as per the agreement Medea was to be entrusted to Artemis till a decision would be taken by the kings of justice). Then he would have been capable “of speaking the Truth” which would have avoided him many subsequent detours. Apsyrtus had in fact shown the way going through the shortcut “The Fair Mouth” and had thus been able to advance faster.
But the seeker is extremely impatient to reify the intention of the soul with his receptivity as it is (Medea is impatient to be united in marriage with Jason). Thinking that it is not necessary to purify his task, he cuts himself off from the potential reception of the luminous flashes of truth or the “right movement of that which does not lie”, which of course vexes the superconscient watching over his evolution (Apsyrtus’ murder vexes Zeus).
The seeker must therefore “know” if he had another choice or if his actions were carried out with the awareness that it was the best that he could do, in which case the criminal couple would be purified of the murder.
His inner voice guides the seeker to proceed to a test of conscience that does not make any concessions, probing into the hidden nooks and corners of his nature: the “speaking beam” orders them to seek purification from Circe, the goddess who provides a truthful vision down to the smallest details.
Having entered the Eridanus the heroes sailed close to the place where the body of Phaethon was decaying. The latter had once asked to ride the chariot of his father Helios but was unable to control it and since the world faced the threat of being set ablaze Zeus was compelled to strike him down. He fell into the marsh that continued to emanate heavy steam rising from his wounds. No bird could fly over these waters without being plunged into the inferno.
During the day the Argonauts were exhausted, weakened and overwhelmed by the fetid and unbearable odour of the burning body of Phaethon. During the night they could hear the endless lament of the Heliades, daughters of Helios crying for their brother. After this the Argonauts entered the stream of the Rhodanus, a confluence of the Eridanus which came “from the ends of the earth where are the portals and mansions of Night”. It flowed into the Ocean through different estuaries, pouring into the Ionian and Sardinian Seas. Advancing further into Celtic territory they would have faced a miserable destiny if Hera had not watched over them.
Forced to turn backward, they “understood” the route of the return journey.
Having sailed through “the middle opening” they reached the Stoechades islands safe and sound thanks to the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux, the “sons” of Zeus who would also protect “the ships of future sailors”).
The seeker here is warned in two ways.
First of all there is a warning against the spiritual presumption of anybody who wants to conquer the sky when he is not ready. This leads to an experience which leaves indelible marks on the vital being, a terrifying fire that exhausts through the negative energies that it emits. The fetid odour that was emanating from the corpse contrasts with the scent of saintliness. Here in fact the seeker himself is not confronted with this spiritual fall but is only a witness of it (the Argonauts are weakened, exhausted and overwhelmed by the fetid odour). He can witness and endure some consequences of a psychosis resulting from a former attempt to conquer the sky (the Divine) and the all-powerful feeling that goes with it.
Against this tragedy of fire burning endlessly in a vital inner “marsh” thoughts are powerless: against psychosis speech and thought are ineffective (No bird crossed these waters without being plunged into the inferno). The grief of not being able to provide others with the high spiritual light that is kept hidden in the seeker is correlated with this (the Heliades were mourning their brother).
The second warning appears to signify that the seeker should not try to awaken the “serpent” of the Kundalini, the energy coiled at the bottom of the vertebral column, “at the ends of the earth, where are the portals and mansions of Night”. This energy feeds the subtle body as well as the evolution of consciousness and the seven chakras, (flowing into the ocean from all its coasts, pouring into the Ionian Sea and the Sardinian sea through the river’s seven mouths).
If he continued on this path the seeker would put himself in danger if he tried to proceed further. The divine grace that watches over and sets limits ensured that this does not happen and the seeker finds the correct route, helping himself with firmness and gentleness simultaneously (the Dioscuri).
The seeker should thus remain balanced on the middle path (the middle opening). These two experiences can undoubtedly lead to insanity and maybe even death if one does not guard oneself against them.
Setting sail again the heroes finally reached the harbour of Aeaea where they found Circe, the daughter of Helios and sister of Aeetes. She was cleansing her head vigorously for she had been frightened by her dreams of the past night. And now she could see beings that were neither men nor beasts but having the limbs of both advancing in droves behind her. In the past when the earth had not yet become compact it had brought forth such hybrid creatures which time had then divided into species by merging them.
Without knowing anything about the history of the heroes Circe understood from their behaviour that they had come to be purified and she proceeded with the necessary rites.
She then recognised Medea as being from her own race and the latter narrated the tale of the expedition to her in detail “in the Colchian language”. Unable to forgive their intentions and her niece’s flight she refused them hospitality.
At this point Hera who was still watching over the heroes closely sent Iris to summon Thetis. When the latter arrived from the depths of the sea Hera asked her to go to Aeolus (here a son of Hippotes) so that he would hold the winds except the favourable Zephyrus and then to Hephaestus so that he would restrict the blazing heat of his forge. She wanted to ensure that the Argonauts could cross over the sea without any danger and reach Alcinous king of the Phaeacians safe and sound and thereby avoid the monsters Charybdis and Scylla who were on their route.
Circe, daughter of Helios, is the “power of vision of truth in all the details”. She therefore sees with precision what is hidden in the depths of the being. We will come across her again in the voyage of Ulysses. This ability of a “detailed true vision” will be fully active in man only in the distant future for the name of Circe’s son is Telegonus, “one who is procreated – or who procreates – afar”.
The beings that are “hybrid, neither men nor beasts”, and are crowding around Circe illustrate a gradual and apparently disorderly transition through which nature carries out the transformation from animal to man.
The fact that Circe agrees to purify the heroes without even knowing their crime indicates that the journey taken was inevitable. But her refusal of hospitality is a warning that this higher part of the being disapproves of the orientation of the seeker who has given priority to what he thought was the goal of his life to the detriment of his purification (because of the murder of Apsyrtos). And we will see later on what drastic mistakes he will make due to this lack of purification.
In addition Circe and Medea use a language unknown to Jason, the Colchian language: the seeker is thus unable to correctly interpret the exchange that takes place at the highest level of his being although he has a vague perception of some movement in its inner being.
A period of calm ensues during which he is protected by the movement that watches over his evolution (as per Hera’s instructions) because a period of assimilation is necessary. Thus the forces that create new forms (Hephaestus) or even those which facilitate evolution and can sometimes be violent (the winds governed by Aeolus) must maintain a period of calm. On the other hand forces that govern the depths of the vital being (Thetis) must do everything to keep him from the catastrophe that he is unknowingly moving toward (Charybde and Scylla).
In fact Hera knew that without the intervention of Thetis their route would lead them toward the “channel of the sea” where on one side rose the rock of the terrible Scylla and on the other the swirling gulf of Charybdis opened. From her den in the hollow of the rock Scylla thrust her frightening jaws on all ships which approached and devoured its sailors.
Separated from the rock by a narrow channel was the abode of Charybdis who rested at the bottom of the sea. Sometimes a giant whirlpool formed in which ships were engulfed and sailors were devoured by the monster lurking at the bottom of the sea, and with furious roars she would vomit the debris of what she had just swallowed, the shredded elements bursting out in horrifying geysers into the raging sea.
Therefore it was not without reason that Hera feared for the life of the heroes. But if Thetis (daughter of Nereus and mother of Achilles not to be confused with the Titanid Tethys, wife of Oceanus.) agreed to help them avoid the channel of Charydbis and Scylla, she could guide them through the path of the Planctae, “the Wandering rocks”, where the rocks furiously ascended and descended upon the sea. It is said that once upon a time a blazing flame spurted out from that place and the sky was dark with smoke.
Before reaching these baneful waters the heroes passed by the Island of Flowers inhabited by the Sirens whose spellbinding songs made all those who moored in proximity to the island perish. But Orpheus brought out his lyre and played so that they would not hear their songs while the heroes sailed past the coast.
The Sirens had evolved since olden times: they had acquired wings and were now part bird and part young maiden.
As Hera had foreseen the heroes then approached Charybdis and Scylla at the “crossroad of the sea routes”.
Thetis and her sisters, the daughters of Nereus, came from all sides to assist the heroes. Avoiding the cursed places they guided the ship toward the Planctae and playing with the ship as with a ball that they would pass back and forth amongst themselves they led it across the dangerous passage without running any risks.
Then the heroes sailed by the fields of Thrinacia where grazed the cows of the sun with their immaculate white coats and golden horns.
At this point of the journey all the elements are in place for the occurrence of a dreadful psychic ordeal of a schizo-paranoid or manic-depressive type (Charybdis and Scylla) but the seeker is protected from it and perceives only a hint of the danger which can pass almost unnoticed in the course of life.
The seeker is first confronted with the “seductive” elements, the Sirens who attract him with a powerful force. They are daughters of the divine river Achelous, “the concentration of a strong desire or a powerful will” and the Muse Terpsichore. Muses are daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the highest consciousness that brings back to memory the harmonious past of the infancy of humanity. Terpsichore is “the fullness of dance”: “the dance of bliss” of Shiva-Nataraja, the dance of the Divine’s play in creation.
When Persephone, the daughter of Deo (Demeter, “the mother of oneness”) was still a virgin- when she had not yet married Hades at the time when the process of yoga did not need to be involved with unconscious – the Sirens played together with her. Therefore in ancient times they represented the goals of evolution pursued in harmony, a sunlit path of the infancy of humanity.
But they were transformed by mentalisation, becoming part bird part young maiden while continuing to celebrate the primitive harmony of evolution: they are represented as birds with the head of a woman.
They seduce with their songs and make “the sailors languid” with nostalgia for a harmonious period of past evolution. However this is no longer what is required from humanity that by the advent of the mind has to enter a period of individuation. The Sirens are thus an expression of a denial of incarnation, a refusal to consider Reality, and in this way they constitute a dangerous obstacle for the progress of yoga.
The sirens could symbolise an irresistible attraction for the experience of harmonised societies “idealised” by the seeker. They rely on the nostalgia for a harmonious state (which can be experienced either through trance or by rising to the heights of the Spirit) that might have been established in ancient times but is no longer relevant in the current period of evolution because now the work must be done and the battle fought in the field of manifestation and day to day life starting from a clear and perfect acceptance of “what is”. Today we can witness many movements which give way to these “sirens”, for instance the New Age movement and a certain overly idealised tendency for an ecological return to a state of nature. For the battle must be fought against untruth rather than for some idealised harmony that would have existed in the past.
We will come across the Sirens again at another level in the adventures of Ulysses.
Orpheus is the one who protects the heroes from the spell: the seeker defends himself from this “nostalgia” by establishing harmony through his submission to the right rhythm and by his knowledge of the laws of harmony and purification which helps place everything where it belongs.
At this point of the journey all the aspects are in place for the occurrence of a dreadful mental ordeal of the schizoid or manic-depressive type (Charybdis and Scylla), but the seeker is protected because the time has not yet come. However he has a premonition that he will later realise “liberation” in the yoga of the depths of his vital being and it will then be in accordance with the intention of his soul (Achilles will become the spouse of Medea after Jason’s death).
These two processes at the root of life – engulfment and destruction due to fragmentation resulting from the fundamental forces of fusion and separation – are expressed in the vital being by what we call love and hate. In fact as explained by the Mother both are at their roots distortions of the same vibration. This distortion creates internal violence due to not being able to fully absorb what one loves (the so-called love) and external violence that wants to destroy what one loves so as not to be tied to it any longer (hatred). (Ref Mother’s Agenda, Volume 6).
This is in fact only an initial glimpse of the future trials that will mark the voyage of Ulysses. The journey is indeed a progression of spiraling ascent and of the unveiling of the archaic layers of consciousness. Therefore the seeker undergoes the same types of experiences but at higher and higher levels of difficulty. Apollonius’s description of this picks up partly from Homer’s narrative in the Canto XII of the Odyssey.
On the other hand the seeker must deal with the Planctae whose name signifies ” wandering, unstable, and with a disoriented mind”. But there again the Nereids, daughters of the “Old Man of the Sea” and thus “instinctual vital forces” of the seeker, act so that the ship does not suffer any damage while crossing the Planctae. In fact the crew of the Argo had strictly nothing to do for crossing the Planctae because Thetis and the Nereids not only guided the ship but carried it literally across the obstacle.
For the seeker it is a confrontation with the mental knots (severe neurosis or psychosis) which present themselves as impenetrable walls (sometimes the rocks rose skyward like cliffs) and sometimes stay buried in the subconscious while disrupting the surface personality (sometimes they rested at the bottom of the sea covered with the mass of the wild flood tide).
It is from these solidified but not physically manifested pathological conditions (wandering rocks) that in the past of the seeker and of humanity a mind-fire was generated which he or she had taken for a spiritual fire. But confusions and illusions generated by the manifestation of this mind-vital-fire was actually hiding the light of truth. (Once upon a time a blazing flame spurted out from the summit of the reefs and the sky was dark with smoke so that the rays of the sun were hidden from view.)
That is the reason why Sri Aurobindo has always said that purifying the intelligence from separative ignorance and the confusion between planes of being was the first step in his yoga.
The seeker is protected by his instinctual powers that are not disrupted by the mind (Thetis and the Nereids), who not only guide the ship but literally carry it across the obstacle. Similarly only the swineherd Eumaeus stayed loyal to Ulysses in a more faraway stage of yoga.
The seeker then experiences (in a fairly superficial manner since the Argonauts only sail by the fields of Thrinacia, “the plain with the three-pronged fork”) a plane of consciousness that feeds the illuminating powers of the Supermind resulting from a sensitivity or total consciousness and a perfect receptivity for the Divine. While not being certain, we can think that it involves a very brief and sudden burst of abilities of a higher order related to the four powers of intuition explained by Sri Aurobindo (Then the heroes sailed along the fields in which grazed the cows of the sun with their immaculate white coats and golden horns). “The plain of the three pronged fork” is difficult to identify but I think that it refers to Tiphereth in the tree of the Sephiroth, whose symbol is the sun and who also represents the illumined mind which nourishes the expressions of the plain of intuition: vision, inspiration, immediate perception of the truth and of the relationships between all of its manifestations.
Then the heroes arrived to a vast and fertile island inhabited by the Phaeacians and ruled by King Alcinous where they were very warmly welcomed. Drepane (“the Sickle”) was the name of the sacred nurse of these people.
At the same time as the Argonaut’s arrival on the island the army of the Colchians arrived threatening war, having continued the chase to bring Medea back to her father.
Medea pleaded with Queen Arete, wife of King Alcinous. Not denying her mistake she justified her fleeing as having been caused by fear rather than desire for Jason, swearing that she was still a virgin. The Argonauts whom she had helped and brought back to their land safe and sound appeared indifferent to her fate and she urged them to keep their promise.
After having heard the plea of his wife in favour of Medea the king delivered the following judgment: if Medea was a virgin she would be sent back to her father, otherwise she would stay with Jason.
The Argonauts were secretly forewarned of this decision by the queen and they hurried to prepare the bridal couch that they covered with the Golden Fleece, and Jason and Medea then tasted the joys of love.
The Colchians respected Alcinous’ decision and thus Medea stayed with Jason.
But they feared the wrath of their king Aeetes and asked for permission to settle in the land of the Phaeacians, which was granted to them. They stayed there for several years till the Bacchiadae took their place. But that, Apollonius tells us, happened only much later over the course of centuries.
The mysterious Phaeacia that we will come across again in the voyage of Ulysses is a symbol of a “mysterious” transition in consciousness that helps transition to a higher state but in a super-conscious manner unknown to the seeker.
Apollonius gives us a clue that does not explain much when he names what “feeds” this transition Drepane, “the Sickle”, which is to say a reversal of consciousness.
This process is active all the way down to the yoga of the body. In the Agenda the
Mother mentions “reversals” on several occasions.
For Satprem the passage to the Supramental is a process as radical as the transition of a fish from a marine environment to dry land. But there are in all cases intermediary stages, amphibians in the case of the fish and the Superman to come in the case of man.
According to Apollonius the Phaeacians were born from the froth that formed around the genitals of Uranus flung by Cronus into the sea when he castrated him. Coming from the same origin as Aphrodite they would in this way be a manifestation of the fertilisation of life by the creative power of the Spirit. By its character structure, Phaeax refers to “a luminous consciousness both above and below” (or maybe “the radiating of the gradual descent of the Spirit through the planes of consciousness”).
Alcinous the king of Phaeacia is a symbol of a work of “soul fortitude” and a “mighty spirit” applied to “that through which one excels” according to the name of his wife Arete, striving within the framework of an identity of Spirit and Matter (Φ+Ι+Ξ).
It is here – in this work – that aspects belonging to the domain of the soul and resulting from the development of sensitivity will settle for a long period of time (the Colchians are the subjects of Aeetes) as long as the seeker is not overwhelmed by the “joys of ecstasy of the sunlit path” (till the arrival of the Bacchiadae assimilated into the lineage of the Bacchantes or Bacchae) which, as Apollonius tells us must take place much later on the path.
Upon their arrival on the island of the Phaeacians the union of Medea and Jason was consummated so that the fruits of the development of sensitivity/consciousness could be preserved, otherwise the aid for the realisation of the task would have been postponed (Medea would have had to return to her father’s land): the seeker thus takes an irrevocable internal decision to fulfill the goal of his life. It is therefore for him the beginning of his dedication to his task, the true goal of his life.
Although they had reached the outskirts of their homeland the heroes still had to undergo other trials on the borders of Libya.
While the land of Pelops was in sight they were roughly treated by a storm raised by Boreas which lasted nine days and as many nights. They were carried by the winds and the tides to the Gulf of Syrtis where the mud and the algae hold the ships back and were run aground.
There were neither animals nor birds and the sand stretched as far as the sky. The heroes were losing hope, becoming pale and their hearts growing cold and even the helmsman Ancaeus cried. They bid each other farewell and every one of them was ready to die in this distant place. Only moans and lamentations could be heard.
It was then that the guardian goddesses of Libya, “the glorious goddesses of solitudes” who asserted that they knew everything about the trials of the Argonauts appeared before Jason. They bid him to stop lamenting over his misfortune and revealed to him a sign that would indicate the right time for their return: “when they would see Amphitrite loosening the chariot of Poseidon it would be the moment to set out again”. But Jason was unable to understand this vision.
Sometime later a gigantic horse with a golden mane emerged from the sea and immediately disappeared from sight with a gallop as swift as the wind.
The heroes then had to carry the ship on their backs through the dunes of the Libyan Desert for twelve days and twelve nights, thus performing “a prodigious feat under the compulsion of necessity”. They then put down the ship in the waters of Lake Triton.
When the seeker has taken the irrevocable decision to accomplish the goal set by his soul he enters into an area of inner turbulence brought about by his asceticism (a storm of Boreas). Away from worldly interests, free from many of his beliefs and supports but without any clarity of vision in regards to his path he finds himself during this time in an uncomfortable and miserable position as if abandoned both by the Divine and by his fellow men. He feels that he has both lost his life and strayed away in his quest. He has given up, or so he believes, his old dreams and is supported only by his inner flame.
This however is a time for purification since the ship of the Argonauts has run aground in the Gulf of Sirte, “that which cleanses”. The mystics describe these trials that one comes across several times along the way as “spiritual nights”, periods of drought for the senses and for the soul (deserted expanses of sand) often coupled with a strong vital discomfort (the marshes) and without any of the previously familiar “divine consolations”.
However after a time the seeker glimpses the way out and is warned of a signal to come by powers which manifest themselves in solitude, protect the processes of freedom and know about all the past trials of the seeker (the patron goddesses of Libya, “the glorious goddesses of solitude”). Great strength will come to him endowed with an ability to correctly perceive the truths of the spirit “the horse with the golden mane.” But the seeker does not understand anything of what is said to him.
Then begins a rather delicate period of maturation which can seem never ending, a symbolic twelve days and twelve nights during which the “vehicle” (body, vital, mind) undergoes a period of weakness and must be supported by internal forces engaged in the quest (the heroes must carry the ship). The personality that normally “supports” the quest has given in and is no longer operative at that time.
Having arrived at the shores of Lake Triton the heroes laid down their vessel. Parched with thirst they sought a spring and reached the place where on the previous day a dragon had been guarding the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. But it had been slain by Heracles and lay lifeless against the trunk of the apple tree. The Hesperides told them where to find the spring which Heracles, also thirsty, had made to flow from the earth. Several heroes, amongst whom Calais and Zetes, Euphemos and Lynkeus, thought that they would be able to join Heracles and had gone looking for him in vain.
The heroes then sought a way to leave Lake Triton. As they wandered the powerful Triton appeared and offered them a lump of earth while showing them the route to follow. It was a passage between the reefs that they would find by heading toward the place “where the motionless wave of the deep is blackest.” He also recommended that they always “follow the earth closely.”
Having followed his directions the heroes skirted Crete where the giant Talos attacked them with stones. Zeus had offered him to Europa after being united with her. He went around Crete three times a day to prevent foreigners from entering and as his body was made of bronze some add that he made himself white-hot and then took foreigners into his arms to make them perish. A single vein containing Ichor travelled across his body from his neck to his ankles.
While the heroes were about to turn back, the giant became the victim of Medea’s sorcery, ruptured the vein at his ankle against a rock and died. In another version, Medea removed the bronze nail blocking the end of the vein.
This “night” finally opens up to a period of light marked by several important events.
Here Apollonius outlines some notable elements of the progression.
First of all there is the acquisition of true knowledge (golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides). To clearly show that this is only a first approach the heroes noticed that Heracles had preceded them and had taken the apples! Thus the realisation on a given plan can never be taken as the goal or the ultimate accomplishment. Regardless of the efforts made the seeker cannot “know” beyond the transformation that has taken place at this stage: the heroes setting out in search of Heracles cannot catch up with him. Neither aspiration nor need nor search (Calais and Zetes) nor encouraging signs (Euphemos “one who pronounces auspicious words”) nor discernment (Lynceus) can change anything whatsoever. The seeker is still very far from having accomplished his “labours”.
This stage is marked by another death, that of the soothsayer Mopsus, “a broadened mental intuition guided by the psychic being”. It must be recalled that he had replaced the seer Idmon “one who is educated, skillful” who “knew his destiny by the birds” and thus a symbol of a purely mental intuition.
Just as the death of Idmon and Mopsus succeeding him represented an evolution of intuitive abilities – the transition from an intellectual intuition to a pure intuition from the psychic being (the father of Mopsus is Apollo) – the death of Mopsus marks the powerful mitigation of any intuitive faculty so that the seeker may face other trials for the ultimate goal of his liberation. The death of Mopsus is caused by residues of the fight against fear and vital greed (drops of blood from the severed head of Medusa, fallen on the Libyan soil and transformed into snakes).
Firmly established faculties can thus very mysteriously and suddenly disappear when other levels of realisation must be reached.
The seeker then receives support from Triton “the sea monster” who invites him to explore the most “dark and unknown” depths of his being, “a narrow path between the breakers that he will find by going towards the place where the stationary wave of the deep is the blackest.”
The name Triton is linked to the number three and probably refers to the outline of the caduceus at the level of the Sephira Yesod, the energy of life. Here Apollonius associates it to Phorcys and/or Nereus, that is to say to the appearance of the mind in life. Nereus is the “old man of the sea” and Phorcys the very first power of fusion in the vital – probably instinct – before the power of separation of the nascent mind as represented by Ceto begins to act.
The Argonauts are then confronted with Talos “he who supports, who endures.” According to some he was a survivor of the brazen race born from ashes, i.e. an afterglow of the first period of the quest in which the seeker pursued the Absolute at the peak of the emotional vital.
He was a bronze giant (a powerful protection, unalterable but not indestructible), one of the gifts given by Zeus to Europa after the birth of their two sons Minos and Rhadamanthys. It is a gift from the higher planes (Zeus), given to the beginner initiating the process of the opening of consciousness and of mastery (Europa) manifested as an ability to isolate oneself by protecting oneself from the outside in a somewhat “rigid” manner. This protection is however led by a right movement: Talos in fact has a single vein in which runs Ichor, the blood of the gods, a symbol of the “right movement originating from a gathered consciousness ΙΧ+P or a higher Will.
This gift therefore gives the seeker a certain ability of rigid isolation enabling him to exclude external interferences (foreigners) by burning them in the fire of his inflamed will. (Other authors speak of Talos not as a bronze giant but as a bull, the “power of realisation of the luminous mind” of the early stages which was in itself protective.)
If the novice seeker did not have this protection he would be very soon destroyed by the powers that oppose changes in the invisible planes.
When the seeker engages himself in his task (in the union of Jason and Medea) this primarily physical protection is withdrawn from him. Medea, the “intention” of the soul, then removes the nail from the ankle of Talos thus taking away the “rigid” power which supports this protection (the ichor which then escapes from the dying structure).
Subsequently the heroes were “terrified by a night that can be qualified as sepulchral: this sinister night was pierced neither by stars nor moonlight. It was only a black gaping void emanating from the sky or from I know not which darkness risen from the deepest abyss.” (Argonautica, Canto IV verse 1695).
Jason invoked Apollo and tears flowed in his anguish. The god heard him and drew his bow which lit everything around with a dazzling brightness. A small steep island appeared which they called Anaphe, the Island of the Apparition.
This experience of “sepulchral night” and “dazzling brightness” are the most significant experiences that a seeker can live through during this first major experience of the opening of consciousness or enlightenment.
Apollonius does not give any more details. Bypassing the rule that I had set for myself of not voicing my own experience I will base myself on it in this case as this testimony could perhaps give a better sense of it. It must however be noted that there can be a wide variety of experiences depending on the centers which are touched and open at that time. Sri Aurobindo specifies that this first experience can be an opening of the spirit or of the heart or both.
This “sepulchral night” was for me only one of the first manifestations of a powerful experience which lasted a week and then gradually subsided during the span of about two to three weeks.
This “night” is so particular that it is very difficult to portray. It did not last long, about two hours, and is completely independent of external activities: I was working in my office when it engulfed me, but I had the luck of having an isolated desk and no one disturbed me that morning. It was neither a state of trance nor any state obtained by concentration or meditation.
I was suddenly plunged into a parallel reality superimposed on the ordinary reality and equally informed by sensation and sight. There was no pain, no suffering, no fear, no anxiety, yet I gazed upon an absolute nothingness where there was not a breath of life, not even the slightest hope that this “void” would become animate. There could be no trace of despair, since there were no emotional feelings. I no longer had sensations and therefore had no impression, neither of heat, cold, life, death, shadow or light. In this space there was no thought, no life, no time. Paradoxical as it may seem I was both fully present in my office environment and in the presence of this “void”, dark but not black, which evoked the distinction made by Hesiod between Erebus (Erebos) and Night (Nyx) at the beginning of the event. It was like a bottomless abyss that filled one with a feeling that was unlike anything known. I had the feeling of balancing miraculously on a very narrow ridge which looked over the abyss, and it was imperative that I went forward along this ridge because the stakes were considerable.
This state could be defined as immersion in absolute negation, but a negation of what? It is not yet known, but the dazzling experience that follows gives an immediate insight into its opposite.
Satprem on his side narrates this experience in the following way: “suddenly I found myself in a tremendous darkness – we call it “night”, but our night is bright when compared to this blackness! Absolute blackness like the essence of black, which did not resonate with any vibration which would allow one to say “it is dark”: it was not black, it was THE blackness, like death, without any vibration, without a spark of black. A density of suffocating blackness. It was suffocating, one was there like one is in death – and in fact, it was death. And then, I felt (I say felt but it was not vague at all, it was very real, just that I could not see: I thought, I touched), I felt that I was suspended in an abyss, both feet on a tiny ledge a few centimetres wide, against a wall – a great wall, vertical, black like flowing basalt – which plunged into an abyss. (…) I had to cross to the other side. (…) Falling there was worse than death, it was death within death.
(…) And then … silence, crushing, massive, like a world of absolute negation, implacable, where one must not be, one cannot be.” (By the body of the earth or The Sannyasin. Satprem. Robert Laffont).
This sepulchral night is probably the one that Sri Aurobindo calls in Savitri (Book II, Canto VII), “the night of the grey Python”, the reverse symbol of the light of Apollo.
“He was alone with the Night of the grey python.
A nameless Nothing, dense, conscious, dumb,
Who seemed alive, but without a body and without mind,
Thirsty to annihilate all life
To be forever alone and naked.”
In my case the hours and days that followed were marked by different experiences in a very particular atmosphere.
To begin with the sensations:
that of a great clarity in the mind that gave me a sense of light, hence the name given to the experience: It was accompanied by intuitive perceptions associated with a feeling of absolute certainty.
that of being like a veritable bulldozer, being filled with forces in harmony with external reality and which gave me the feeling that nothing was impossible.
for the first time in my life the feeling of being very temporarily free from ego which was replaced by an another I, grander, more joyful, fearless, with a strong sense of “presence” in the world.
that the source of my actions was within rather than outside myself.
Then the events seemed to occur with miraculous synchronicity in expression of a general harmony. For instance if I needed to meet someone I would soon come across him on the street.
These forces from the higher planes naturally also enter the vital which caused with the greatest of intensity tears of gratitude and joy and other excesses of vital energy that I mastered with difficulty. When we see how a few drops of this force in 1968 in Paris brought down barricades we can guess what a small stream of it can cause in an individual. For the experience for me was more or less of the same type but in different degrees of intensity.
During some of the most intense days I was given the opportunity to live some other experiences, especially “revelations” in the form of powerful dreams, auditory and visual messages which gave me some broad guidelines about the “task” to be fulfilled in this life without defining the specific points exactly. This will be the reason for the death of Pelias on Jason’s return to Iolkos, the end of one “who progresses in the shadows.” For example I was told “that there are two children yet to be born” and each was the subject of an enigmatic sentence which became clear to me only over the years: I think that with this decoding of Greek mythology the first child is born. I also received some information about the structure of the Caduceus and the future transformation of energies in the Tree of Life which was necessary for this decoding task.
I know of very few accounts of this experience which allow for a broader understanding. It must however be noted that this is a brief “encouraging” response and not an end in itself.
It must also be noted that most narratives of spiritual experiences were narrated by men in an era in which mental vibrations favoured them. This influence which focused on the separating aspect and thereby on the logical mind was required for individuation. But in men it also favoured experiences of opening of the consciousness grouped under the term “enlightenment”. On the other hand women do not seem to usually go through these great experiences of the enlightenment of the spirit first. If the ways which provide access to the Consciousness specific to men are indeed those of the mind and the vital those specific to women are firstly those of the body and the psychic (the non-emotional heart, the soul) which open to Joy.
If as many foresee humanity is going through a turning point in which the forces of union and therefore the intuitive mind will regain predominance then the path of women will in turn be privileged. But we must take into account that this change occurs over several hundreds of years.
It will therefore be necessary for women’s particular paths to be clarified and included in mythology as well.
The contact that was established is etched forever in the internal memory. There will remain a point of certainty, the memory of a state which had already been glimpsed a long time ago by Phrixus, and the seeker will not rest until he can live permanently this state in which “That exists”.
The name given by the Argonauts to the island rising steeply from the sea, “Anaphe”, comes according to the text itself from the verb meaning “to shine, to appear”, and therefore means “what shines in the heights”. It is also translated as “Apparition”. Another translation more in line with its deeper meaning would be “that which appears in the light”, “which reveals or unmasks”.
Through its character structure this name expresses the evolution of a penetration of higher consciousness into the being making it radiate.
The last part of the story narrated by Apollonius is about the yoga which develops after this first major experience, but the author does not give any details.
When the Argonauts had undone the moorings to set sail again Euphemos remembered his dream. While asleep he held in his hands the lump of earth offered by Triton: it was watered with drops of milk and then transformed into a girl. Under the effect of an irrepressible desire he united in love with her but repented at once, imagining that he had been having intercourse with his daughter. But she reassured him saying: “My friend, I am of Triton’s blood and the Nurse of your children: not your daughter, but a daughter of Triton and Libya. But entrust me to the daughters of Nereus so I may live in the sea near the island of the Apparition, and I will later on rise towards the rays of the sun to welcome your nephews.”
On Jason’s recommendation Euphemos threw the lump of earth into the sea. At once arose an island, Calliste, “the very beautiful”, sacred nurse of Euphemos’ sons. They would first live in Lemnos of the Sintians and then Sparta before rejoining Calliste.
The spiritual power represented by Triton left a symbol of incarnation in the consciousness of the seeker (the gift of the lump of earth retrieved by Euphemos).
Euphemos, son of Poseidon, is “one who pronounces auspicious words”. He shows a “positive” vision of long-term evolution. As a premonition of times to come his dream first relates the need for a period of purification in physical incarnation (when matter, the body, has been fed by drops of milk). Then will come a new human consciousness which will not be the result of the seeker’s own asceticism (he will not feed the young girl with his own milk) but which he will consider as the goal. He will unite with her and this will lead him to limited expressions of the supramental light (the rays of the sun).
Meanwhile this “new consciousness” will have to be entrusted to forces that are at the root of conscious life (daughters of Nereus) and the feeling or memory of this first great experience will have to be maintained.
In other words it is not only personal asceticism which can generate the transition towards “Supermanhood” because to access this new state the seeker must have given up his entire yoga to the hands of the Absolute.
The meaning of the term “Superman” as used here is the one given by Satprem in his book On the way to Supermanhood. This author names thus one who is imbued with the “new consciousness” described in detail by the Mother in the Agenda of the year 1969. It refers neither to the seeker who has reached the level of the overmind nor to the Superman of Nietzsche who wants to be an improvement of the existing man. This new awareness will prepare humanity for the supramental transformation.
The seeker at once casts this “renewed matter” in the flow of life, which allows an initial materialization of the “task” to be accomplished, of his “life goal”. The “very beautiful” island is thus very real and is the anchor on which the seeker will be able to rely for the continuation of his progress in yoga.
The sons of Euphemos (they who go in the right evolutionary direction) must first live on Lemnos. We must remember that it is there that the Argonauts were united to the women who had killed their husbands. It is therefore an in-depth purification of false spiritual forms and the archaic “capturing” movement at the root of the ego (the Sintiens are the “preying birds”). This is basically a reunification of polarities and the realisation of human unity.
Then they will have to experience a revival (Sparta, “sowing”) before rejoining the “very beautiful” island which was renamed Thera “the exact movement of inner evolution”.
But Apollonius tells us that these events came “long after Euphemos”, that is to say long after the seeker received the premonition.
The heroes had to undergo no other trials before their arrival in Greece.
And to conclude his narrative, Apollonius adds:
“May these songs from year to year always be sweeter for men to sing”.
The death of Pelias and the Games given in his honour
Pelias, who had stopped believing in the return of the Argonauts, had wanted to put to death Jason’s father Aeson but the latter had asked for the right to bring about his own death. Jason’s mother Polymede then hanged herself, leaving behind her young son Promachos who Pelias killed.
We have said that the Aeson-Polymede couple represents the seeker whose powerful individualised mind directs the quest according to his own thought and will, and with some dispersion. Even before the advent of enlightenment he goes through a phase in which “ignorance about his own path” – that leads to the desire to do good, which is as well a resistance to the right evolution (Pelias) – compels him to remove the direction of the quest from his mind (illustrated by the suicide of both partners). It is this letting go including the abandonment of the last “bastions” developed by brilliant mental work (the murder of Promachos “the last line of defense”) which actually allows the experience of enlightenment to take place.
It was to take revenge for the wrongs suffered during the quest and the death of his parents and his young brother Promachos that Jason with the help of Medea plotted for the death of Pelias.
Medea convinced the daughters of Pelias that they could rejuvenate their father (or perhaps only three daughters, Pisidice, Pelopia and Hippothoe, since some authors claim that Alcestis refused to lay a hand on him). For this purpose she cut up an old ram, boiled pieces of its flesh with herbs and potions and then brought it back to life as a young lamb. Very impressed the three princesses dismembered their father and put the pieces in a cauldron, but Medea voluntarily omitted to add the necessary herbs.
After this murder Jason gave the kingdom to Acastus (son of Pelias) who had exiled his own sisters after the death of their father.
For Pherecydes the quest of the Golden Fleece was undertaken at the instigation of Hera who knew that the hero being accompanied by Medea on his return, would inevitably result in the death of Pelias. The intervention of the supraconscious (Hera like Zeus belongs to the overmind and thus to the supraconscious) is in fact structured so that the first major spiritual experience automatically ends the ignorant wandering of the seeker (who has not yet found his path or his mission) and those commitments guided only by an “ignorant goodwill” which actually prevent the right movement of evolution (the death of Pelias).
The daughters of Pelias, Pisidice “she who tries to persuade or convince about the right way of doing things”, Pelopia “she with a partial vision” and Hippothoe “she who has an active vital” are resistances derived from this ignorance and seek to keep it active. The seeker is in fact still attached to his old patterns and actions despite the strong inner experience which has just taken place.
Only Alcestis “a strong rectitude (sincerity)” urges that this ignorance must disappear.
When Jason is united to Medea, “the intention of the soul”, ignorance about the life goal disappears and the seeker can look back and see that nothing in his quest was useless. He takes note of the journey travelled and the help given by the subconscious (Pelias is son of Poseidon).
That is why the Games in honour of Pelias were organised by his son Acastus “he who is very sincere”. But the old patterns of behaviour must first leave the centre of the stage, which is why he begins by exiling his sisters.
Only Hyginus preserved a list of the winners who with only a few exceptions are the companions of Jason mentioned at the beginning of this chapter: Calais and Zetes, the Dioscuri Castor and Pollux, etc.
Among the participants it is important to mention a namesake of Glaucus: defeated by Iolaus he was eaten at the end of the games by his team of horses: since he had habituated them to eating human flesh in order to make them more aggressive in battle, when this food was no longer available during the games they devoured him.
The name Glaucus refers to “brightness”. And since this character is usually identified with the son of Sisyphus it makes him the symbol of a “bright intellect” sure of himself up to the point of presumption which supports and enhances the expression of the vital (before the death of Pelias, Glaucus feeds his horses with human flesh to make them more aggressive). But after the first experience of inner contact, this “presumption” must give way to the “voice of consciousness”, Iolaus.
The Elders did not include these celebrations among the great Panhellenic Games probably to prevent the seekers from having the temptation of giving too much importance to the first experience of contact.
The separation of Jason and Medea, the death of their children and the end of Jason’s life
Their vengeance carried out Jason and Medea left Iolkos, giving the throne to Acastus and settled in Corinth. Some say Medea became its queen.
In some versions a few years later Jason agreed to marry Glauce, the daughter of Creon for the social and political benefits that he could thus obtain.
Many versions exist about the death of the children of Jason and Medea. In one they were killed by the Corinthians. In another Medea was indirectly responsible for their deaths but did not commit the act herself. Only Euripides writes that Medea herself killed her two children as an ultimate act of vengeance against Jason.
In some versions the two children survived: Medeios (sometimes also cited as a son of Aegean) and Polyxena who Medea took with her flewing away on a chariot drawn by winged dragons provided by her grandfather Helios.
Arriving in Athens she healed the Aegean king of his infertility and he proposed to marry her.
As for Jason the end of his life is generally not spoken about (except in second-hand accounts and in the version by Euripides which we have discarded as an unreliable source).
As is very often the case accounts of spiritual experiences do not bother about the end of the hero’s life. Therefore in the narrative by Apollonius there do not appear the elements that mythical history has retained: the separation of Jason and Medea, the death of their children and the departure of Medea to Athens before she finally returns to Colchis, elements which indicate that the realisation is only temporary and that the seeker is not yet able to hold on to the fruits of his experiences.
In fact even if he is no longer in search of a path the experience of psychic contact does not last and the seeker reinstates his unpurified mental personality at the same place from which he had started: Corinth, the symbolic province of Sisyphus. Some say Medea became its queen thereby expressing that for some time the intellect remains focused on the essential purpose and the quest henceforth continues through purification (Acastus, “purity”, is given the throne of Iolcus “the opening of consciousness for liberation”).
The effects of this first psychic experience also cannot be sustained for very long and this is the reason for the death of Jason and Medea’s children.
In spite of his experience in the higher planes of the mind the seeker is still attracted by the “shine” of “incarnation” (Jason weds Glauce, the “shining” daughter of Creon “the flesh, or the incarnation”. This Creon should not be confused with his namesake Thebes.) He is in fact far from being free of desire for a particular result, far from “detachment from the act and its fruits” (Jason considers the social and political benefits of the union with Glauce).
The manner in which Medea’s children died is therefore only of secondary importance, except of course for the dramatic nature of the tragedies.
The version which seems most consistent is one in which they were killed by the Corinthians, representatives of the “logical working of the mind”.
In the version in which two of them survived the first child Medeios is the expression of the “goal of life” and the second, Polyxena, indicates the pursuit of “a greater receptivity (from above)” which will help in reaching the goal here dominated by the mind (they are carried away by winged dragons).
To forge the link with the myths about the kings of Athens “who guide inner growth by rendering the mind spiritual” Medea returned to Athens where she married Aegean.