The Herald’s Book
Claude de Warren
Original text of Ilion from: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, First Edition 1957
Break the moulds of the past,
but keep safe its gains and its spirit,
or else thou hast no future.
Sri Aurobindo, Aphorism 238
Until today, the poem Ilion was practically ignored by those who have studied the work of Sri Aurobindo, for the simple reason that he never gave the keys necessary to its comprehension or any indications concerning the symbolic contents of this poem.
It nevertheless addresses an essential question in the great spiritual turning point that is being experienced by humanity today, namely what can be conserved of the structures and realisations supporting the most advanced efforts of the ancient Yoga aiming towards more consecration, more devotion and more knowledge of the Divine, and what the bases of the new yoga will consist of.
During his studies in England, Sri Aurobindo had acquired a deep understanding of Greek culture, and was able to compose poems in ancient Greek. Furthermore, we can deduct from his words that he had acquired a deep intuitive comprehension of the signification of the myths during his time in prison in Alipore. He then undertook the task of confirming, in a colourful manner, what Homer had “seen” more than three thousand years ago: Troy had to be mercilessly destroyed, and all its inhabitants killed. In fact, Troy represents the structures established through a permanent access to the illumined mind in order to support the Yoga and the most advanced realisations. However, the Achaean coalition which opposes it is based on the higher mind, a plane which humanity as a whole will have to access during the centuries or millennia to come, starting with the realisation of its unification.
For the adventurers of consciousness, the problem that occurs is that of the bases of the new yoga. Homer addressed this problem by placing the only survivors of Troy, Aeneas and his son Anchise, in the lineage of Assaracus, whose name means “equality”. They are the ancestors of the lineage who will have to establish “The future Troy” based on a progression in love, since Aeneas is the son of Aphrodite, the goddess who sees to the progression of love within humanity. Homer does not say more about this in the Iliad, only explaining the transformations necessary to the change of direction in the Odyssey.
Sri Aurobindo confirmed this vision by claiming that no yoga could be undertaken if a perfect equality or equanimity had not been realised beforehand. And in order to do so, a thorough purification had to be achieved. For, he tells us, Love can only grow on a base of Truth, when the world is still mostly ruled by lies. In fact, what humans call love is often its contrary: not necessarily hatred, which we automatically associate as the opposite of love, but the manifestation of the movement of possession and of all its complex forms of expression which will sometimes go as far as taking the form of devotion, sacrifice or charity.
Sri Aurobindo set the foundations of the new Yoga very clearly, its guidelines being:
a complete offering of oneself into the hands of the Divine Mother or Shakti, the power of realisation of the Divine ; in other words, a complete offering of oneself to the Divine or to That, no matter what name we choose for it (also called “surrender” or “consecration”)
a powerful aspiration, which must progressively grow in order to become constant and unshakeable (a “need” for something else, for more truth, more joy)
an equality or equanimity
“Equality means a quiet and unmoved mind and vital; it means not to be touched or disturbed by things that happen or things said or done to you, but to look at them with a straight look, free from the distortions created by personal feeling, and to try to understand what is behind them, why they happen, what is to be learnt from them; what is it in oneself which they are cast against and what inner profit or progress one can make out of them; it means self-mastery over the vital movements,-anger and sensitiveness and pride as well as desire and the rest,-not to let them get hold of the emotional being and disturb the inner peace, not to speak and act in the rush and impulsion of these things, always to act and speak out of a calm inner poise of the spirit. It is not easy to have this equality in any full perfect measure, but one should always try more and more to make it the basis of one’s inner state and outer movements.” (Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Vol. 23, p. 661)
a progressive sincerity
Sincerity that Mother defined as a progressive surrender of all the parts of the being to the Divine: 14-7-1965 « To be sincere is to unify all of one’s being around the supreme inner Will.» 9-02-1972 « The complete unification of the whole being around the psychic centre is the essential condition to realise a perfect sincerity ». 17-10-58 « Allow nothing, nowhere, to deny the truth of your being: that is sincerity. »
On top of the lineage of Assaracus (equality), the ancient Greek initiates illustrated these bases through the heroes that came back to Greece alive: these are the epics named “Returns“, the most famous and the only one to reach us being related to the return of Ulysses or Odysseus, recounted in the Odyssey. It describes the realisation process of a perfect transparency which must allow the currents of divine consciousness-energy to achieve the transformation. Except for this hero, those who returned are known to us. Here are the main ones: Agamemnon, king of Mycenae (symbol of a powerful aspiration and an intelligent will), Menelas, king of Sparta (one that is faithful to the vision of the New), Nestor (the growth of sincerity and rectitude), Diomede (the will to unite with the Divine), a few oracles or seers (the growth of sensitivity and receptivity in different parts of the being), Idomeneus (one who desires union), Aeneas (the evolution of love), and many more secondary heroes.
Let us also mention that other than the bases of the new yoga, Sri Aurobindo broaches a fundamental issue in Ilion, which is that of suffering in the new Yoga, illustrated by the relationship between Achilles and the amazon Penthesilia.
According to Sri Aurobindo himself, Ilion, whose title was then “The fall of Troy, Epic“, was “Commenced in jail, 1909, resumed and completed in Pondicherry, April and May 1910 “, therefore a few years before he started Savitri, since the earliest known manuscript of Savitri is dated 1916. (The information related to the composition of Ilion has been drawn from two books: « A commentary on Sri Aurobindo’s Poem ILION » by V.Murugesu, and « Ilion ou La Chute de Troie », annotated translation in French by Raymond Thépot.)
We do not know if, lacking the necessary material to write in prison, he “entrusted it to his memory”, as he claims to have done with other poems, noting them down on paper only after his release. Indeed, Sri Aurobindo had an extraordinary memory, attested by many witnesses.
Between 1910 and 1917, he transformed the poem from a brief narrative into an epic made up of several books, but then gave the priority to the monthly journal Arya and to Savitri.
In the “Note on the texts” of “Collected poems”, we can read:
“During the twenties and thirties, Sri Aurobindo returned to Ilion from time to time. As late as 1935, he complained jocularly that if he could get an hour’s freedom from his correspondence every day: in another three years Savitri and Ilion and I don’t know how much more would all be rewritten, finished, resplendently complete.
He in fact, never found the time to complete Ilion, but in 1942 he revised the beginning of the first book which was to serve as an illustration for his study of the quantitative hexameter, an essay published under the title: “On Quantitative Metre” in Collected Poems and Plays in 1942 (SABCL, vol.5, pp. 341-387), as well as in a separate booklet published the same year. Indeed, he admired this type of versification used by Homer, and as he was not satisfied by the attempts made in his time to adapt Homer’s work to the English language, offered his own theory and solution to address this problem.
(This aspect of Ilion – the theory of the true quantity – will not be explored in this study.)
This reviewed passage of 371 verses was the only part of Ilion to be printed during his lifetime. A footnote then indicated: a poem left unfinished.
The complete text (composed of nearly 5000 verses) was transcribed from Sri Aurobindo’s manuscripts and published in 1957. A new edition came out in 1989, incorporating the chronological corrections of the author and the beginning of the ninth book, which was never completed.”
Sri Aurobindo, during his studies in England, had studied ancient Greek. The headmaster of St Paul’s School in London, surprised by his student’s abilities, gave him private Greek lessons. We do not know for sure whether he could read Homer fluently in the original Greek text, but it is certain that he knew the work of this author perfectly. Furthermore, while he had been imprisoned due to his activities for the liberation of India, he experienced an intuitive understanding of it, as he says it himself: “A moment’s illumination in Alipore jail opened my vision and since then I have understood with the intuitive perception and vision”.
However, to our knowledge, Sri Aurobindo never gave any keys concerning the deep signification of Ilion, not even unveiling the symbolism of the Trojan War and the different heroes participating in it. The elements of understanding given in this essay are therefore based on an interpretation of Greek mythology in relation to Sri Aurobindo’s writings carried out over twenty years by the author of this essay. This interpretation has been published in three volumes under the title Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West. These books are available in French and in English, as they are currently being translated, on the website greekmyths-interpretation.com.
Even though nothing a priori allows us to affirm that all the hypotheses and results of this interpretation can be applied to Ilion, so many clues found in this poem and in Savitri go in this direction that we feel that it is appropriate to apply them to the decryption of Ilion.
However, the signification of the names of some characters depicted by Sri Aurobindo still eludes us. Since we assume that nothing in his writings was “gratuitous”, that everything had a reason, it is likely that he used coding keys that we are still unaware of.
The bases of the interpretation and the description of the spiritual path will not be repeated here. Indicated in what follows are only the general significations of the main lineages.
That of Iapetus the Titan concerns the ascension of the seven planes of the mental consciousness represented by the Pleiades, children of Atlas, and the experiences related to it. Atlas, condemned by Zeus to carry the sky on his shoulders, is the symbol of the force that separates spirit from matter while also connecting them when the seeker – and humanity in his wake – ascends these seven planes.
In this lineage, the Trojan branch falls within the descent of Electra, the fifth Pleiad, who corresponds to the stage of the illumined mind according to the progression indicated by Sri Aurobindo. Ruling over the extreme East of what used to be the “great Greece”, in Troad, – known today as Anatolia -, it represents the most advanced realisation of the ancient Yoga, marked however at multiple occasions by a lack of sincerity and complete consecration on the seeker’s behalf (such as Laomedon’s refusal to honor the promise made to the gods during the construction of the citadel of Troy, for example). The sincerity of which we speak here is of course not the obvious one which dictates not to tell lies; it is the one described by the Mother as being the integral submission of all parts of the being to the Divine.
The famous heroine Helen, symbol of “the true evolutive direction towards Liberty” belongs to the next plane, that of the intuitive mind, where Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces) – symbols of the most advanced realisation of “strength/power (absolute mastery of the vital)” and “gentleness” combined also appear – along with Clytaemnestra, symbol of one of the highest mental realisations.
In this lineage of Iapetus, the experiences fall under two different branches: on one hand in the descent of Hellen (not to be confused with Helen) – symbol of the seeker who works “towards more freedom” -, and on the other hand in the descent of Protogenia, symbol of “those who walk forward” or of the adventurers of consciousness.
The first descent features heroes like Nestor “the progression in rectitude or sincerity” and Ulysses, he who works to achieve, within himself, a total “transparency” to the influence of the currents of consciousness/energy connecting the worlds of spirit and matter. The second descent features Diomede “one who has the intention of being divine”.
The second major lineage is that of Oceanos, which concerns the process of purification/liberation. The twins Agenor and Belus branches detail its necessary accomplishments, with the battle against fear illustrated by the fight between Perseus and the Gorgo, and the path of purification/liberation indicated by the labours of Heracles. The first two labours illustrate the victory over the ego and over desire all the way down to the root of the appropriation movement.
A particular emphasis is made on the great spiritual error that is the elaboration of a mental construction around a true spiritual experience: it is the story of the labyrinth which holds the Minotaur, fruit of the love between Pasiphae and the Bull of Minos, who will be killed by Theseus.
Achilles “the one who achieves liberation within the depths of the vital” is featured in this second major lineage. Without his participation, the Achaean coalition would not have been able to win the Trojan War as Homer sung it in the Iliad. This war would decide which evolutive direction to follow in order to conquer a greater freedom according to the truth of evolution (Helen).
The leaders of the Achaean camp against the Trojans belong to another lineage, that of Tantalus, symbol of “aspiration”. His descent features two brothers, Agamemnon and Menelas.
Agamemnon “a very strong aspiration” (Homer tells us that he is the most “cupid” of all Achaeans) is the king of Mycenae “a violent ardor”, founded by Perseus, the conqueror of fear: he is therefore the symbol of an inner construction opposed to the “tepidity” of a seeker freed from fear.
His brother Menelas represents “one who is faithful to his vision of the New towards more Liberty” (or “the will extended towards the goal” or even “the aspiration to see”.
It is difficult to understand the exact meaning of the name Menelas. Among the meanings that we suggest here, we will favour “one who is faithful to his vision (of the New towards more Liberty)” since he is a warrior (loved by Ares), but more importantly, Homer tells us at multiple occasions that he “has blond hair”. His vision concerns the New because he is the king of Sparta “what arises”, and the evolutive Truth towards Liberty because he is Helen’s spouse.
Until the abduction of his wife Helen, he was the symbol of the seeker progressing in accordance with the evolutive truth.
If the Iliad describes the first step of the reversal of the ancient Yoga – the refusal to separate spirit from matter – in the Antiquity this poem came along with a few others, of which we only have the summaries: the Cypria, the Aethiopis, the Little Iliad and the Sack of Troy.
For those interested in the topic of the reality of the Trojan War and the site itself, we recommend reading what R. Thépot wrote in the second annex: Guerre de Troie et origine troyenne de Rome. For us, this war is symbolic in its entirety.
Many other poems treat of the Returns of the heroes from the Achaean coalition who had survived the war, “Returns” that illustrate the processes of integration into matter. These processes follow an “ascension” and correspond to an expansion of the consciousness. We have mentioned earlier the Odyssey, which tells the story of Ulysses’ (Odysseus) return. The adventures of this hero depict a vast process of purification. The final stage of this process leads to the renunciation of the states of wisdom and holiness (which can only be absolute for a seeker who would be out of the world) in order to find the Divine in life, in matter. These states of wisdom and holiness are represented by the two main “suitors” of Penelope – Ulysses’ wife -, the divine Antinoos “a powerful spirit” and Eurymachus “the great warrior”, confirming that the “best of the old” is always the greatest obstacle to the new. It is indeed very difficult for a seeker to renunciate his most beautiful realisations.
The future yoga is then prepared by Neoptolemus “the new battles”, son of Achilles, who will complete the purification of the deep vital. Let us remind ourselves that indeed, Achilles is the son of Thetis, daughter of Nereus “the old man from the sea”, deity symbolising the realisations corresponding to the beginning of life out of matter and to cellular consciousness.
And it is in these depths of the archaic memories that the great battles of the yoga of the future will take place, at the level of cellular matter’s memory. This yoga of the future will be undertaken by the sons that Ulysses had respectively with Penelope “the vision of the framework” and Circe “the discerning vision of the Truth in all details”: they are Telemachus “the battles of the future” and Telegonos “what is born afar, in the future”.
It will be works of yoga that will continue the work of transparency in order to allow the action of the divine forces within the body. It is then no longer question of an individual yoga, but of a yoga with repercussions over humanity in its entirety, for at this level, everything is One.
A final poem, the Telegony “that which must be born in the future”, of which we have only Proclos’ and Apollodorus’ brief summaries concluded the Epic Cycle.
It recounts crossed unions, the son of one of Ulysses’ partners marrying his father’s other partner: Circe’s son, Telegonos, married Penelope, while the latter’s son Telemachus, married Circe.
The vision of the “framework” (that which simultaneously “covers” and protects the ascension to the primitive states of consciousness, symbolised by Penelope) which had already been approached by the seeker (through his union with Ulysses) continues in the form of a quest for a discernment stemming from the supramental light: Telemachus marries Circe who is indeed a daughter of Helios, the sun, symbol of the supramental light.
Conversely, the process of understanding the “framework” deepens due to the already acquired discerning vision of the Truth: Telegonos “what is born in the future”, son of Circe, marries Penelope.
Mother’s Agenda is a day by day account of the liberation from this “framework” over a span of thirteen years. Here we will only quote excerpts from the texts on the back cover pages of Volumes 3 and 9:
Mother’s Agenda, Volume 3:
(…)This year Mother emerges into a “third position” in her body. Neither life nor death as we know it. Another side of the “web” where physical laws no longer apply and which curiously resembles the subatomic world of “black holes”: time is changed, space is changed, death is changed. Could this be the material site, in the body, where the laws of the world are overturned – they were only our self-imagined laws – and where evolution opens on an incredible bodily freedom, a third position that will be the position of the next species on earth?
Mother’s Agenda Volume 9: (…) As if the earth were shut in a glass bowl, prisoner of a “false matter”: “There is as if a web covering the entire earth, and the body is being taught how to extricate itself from it… Gradually, the consciousness of the cells is freeing itself from that domination.”
Sri Aurobindo followed with Ilion the description of the path based on the events described in the Aethiopis, poem which came immediately after the Iliad. It treated of the commitment of the amazon Penthesilia as well as the events that took place between the Iliad and the Odyssey. Quintus Smyrnaeus, a latin poet from the 3rd or 4th century A.D., offered a version of this poem in the “Posthomerica “. While this author makes Penthesilia die in the first canto, she is still alive at the end of Ilion, even though it is understood that she will be killed by Achilles in singular combat.
Finally, let us note that, like in Savitri, each verse is important and carries a particular signification for the yoga. Thus, the interpretation that follows cannot solely reveal all the richness of this poem.
Lastly, and without prejudice, we can imagine that the context of Greek mythology did not give Sri Aurobindo enough freedom to express his visions, his experiences, and his realisations. Above all, the direct comprehension of Ilion implied a prior knowledge of the symbolism of this mythology. Since Sri Aurobindo refused to give any indications concerning this symbolism, we suppose that is one of the reasons why Ilion was abandoned to the profit of Savitri, a poem which does not necessitate any initial knowledge of mythology.
This work is based on the translation by Raymond Thépot (Latin Pen Edition, Fraternity, Auroville) of the original text Ilion published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.
THE CONTEXT OF THE TROJAN WAR.
The symbolic analysis of the Trojan War can be found in the third volume of the study Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West and can only be truly understood after assimilating the elements given in the corresponding chapters and the previous ones. Only the most important elements of this study will be repeated here.
The account of the Trojan War, as it was told in the Iliad, is a description of the difficulty of operating the shift between the ancient yoga and the yoga of the future, since “the best of the old” is always the biggest obstacle to the “new”. Indeed, the ancient Yoga which offered ways to unite with the Divine or the Supreme Reality in Spirit had renounced searching for this union also within matter. The initiates of those times had come across apparently unsurmountable obstacles during the transformation process in order to achieve the complete divinisation of man, his physical body included. Therefore, they intended to lead humanity in their wake into the only individual “liberation”, mostly through isolation from material life in order to explore the paradises of the soul. No matter the degree of material and social engagement of the “realised” beings in the “ancient” yoga, these were only personal accomplishments which left humanity as a whole unchanged.
The Trojan War illustrates the refusal of this sole personal accomplishment – represented by the Trojan coalition – and the quest for a higher truth embodied by Helen, the heroine stemming from the Achaean coalition. We speak of Trojan and Achaean coalitions and not of Trojans and Greeks not only because each camp consisted in true alliances of troops from different provinces, but because we can consider Trojans to be part of the Greek empire. It is actually question of a civil war, symbol of an inner conflict within the adventurer of consciousness. The level represented by the Trojan coalition is also representative of the powers that will be used in the future yoga – the future Troy that will be founded by Aeneas – once humanity has understood that matter cannot be dissociated from spirit, and that evolution implies an integral transformation of human nature to achieve its divinisation. If this war recounts an inner conflict, it also most probably expresses an opposition between the various currents of Greek spirituality of those times, an opposition that widely persists to this day. Indeed, few are the spiritualties – let alone religions – that offer the vision of a divine life and its progressive realisation within the material reality of this world.
The entirety of the participants in this Trojan War thus represents a seeker who has reached what is generally considered as the limits of the spiritual experience, limits represented by the states of wisdom and holiness. In fact, the renunciation of wisdom – of power of intelligence – and the renunciation of holiness – of the strength of life and its powers – which are the signs of perfection to man, in order to abandon oneself completely to the power of the Divine within matter, within the body, will only be acquired at the end of Ulysses’ journey, when he will have killed Penelope’s two suitors, Antinoos and Eurymachus, symbols of the states of wisdom and holiness respectively (See Agenda Volume 7). This is how the challenge of the liberation from submission to the three modes of action of nature, the guna, is presented. For, as Sri Aurobindo writes in the commentary of the 35th strophe of the Bhagavad Gita, “the ego is there, hidden in the mind of the saint as in the mind of the sinner”.
Helen, the stake of the war, belongs to the lineage of Sparta, that of the “arising of the new”, stemming from Taygete – the sixth Pleiad – who represents, according to Sri Aurobindo’s classification, the stage of the intuitive mind or intuition, located between the illumined mind and the overmind. If we follow the version where she is the daughter of Zeus and Leda, and not of Tyndareus and Leda, she would even come from an influence of the overmind. Thus, she belongs to the general process of ascension of the planes of consciousness within the mind described by the lineage of the Titan Iapetus. Of the deadly conflict which opposed her two brothers and her two cousins, symbols of the realisations at the border of non-duality – her brothers Castor “the power bestowed by mastery” and Pollux (Polydeuces) “one that fights with extreme gentleness”, and her cousins Idas “vision of the whole” and Lynkeus “vision of details”, both elements of the exact discernment, only an immense compassion will subsist, Polydeuces “one who is perfectly gentle”, symbol of the victory over dualities
The Trojan lineage
We will repeat the main elements of the Trojan lineage here so that we may have a clear idea of the realisations of the seeker when the Trojan War begins. The symbolism of the other lineages will be reminded later.
(This lineage appears on Diagram 16.)
The city of Troy or Ilion is located in the most Eastern province of the Greek empire, in Phrygia “that which burns”, symbol of the structures of the yoga which enabled the most advanced realisations (located to the East, the direction of the rising sun) and the most ardent “need”, the strongest inner fire – Agni – (in Phrygia).
The royal Trojan lineage illustrates the most advanced stage of the spiritual progression in the ascension of the planes of consciousness which is well established in the seeker, as it stems from the Pleiad Electra, who represents the plane of the illumined mind.
The founder of this lineage is Dardanos, symbol of the state of union with the Divine in Spirit. The king of Phrygia, Teucer “widening of the soul” gave him his daughter Batia for wife, symbol of a seeker who is developing his yoga towards “everything that is accessible”. He founded the city of Dardania on the slopes of Mount Ida (the mountain of “seers”), the city’s name probably related to the gift of oneself.
His son Erichtonios “one that goes deep underground (into the unconscious)” represents the work in the vital bodily unconscious, a descent enabled by the more or less stabilised access to the illumined mind. The seeker therefore developed many powers in the domain of the vital force because Erichtonios “was the wealthiest of all men and owned three thousand mares and their fowls”, symbol of many “powers”. Boreas, the wind of the North, symbol of yogic asceticism, “taking the form of a blue maned stallion, fathered twelve fillies that ran over the ears of wheat without bending them and bounced on the sea’s wide back without worrying about the waves”: This means that the use of these powers did not change the fruits of yogic asceticism in any way, nor were they subjected to the vital perturbations. Sri Aurobindo tells us that if the powers are not to be sought, the seeker must not refuse them systematically when they manifest themselves. The “Journal of Yoga” of Sri Aurobindo describes all the accomplishments that can be realised at this stage. The blue color of the stallion’s mane evokes that of the aura of Sri Aurobindo, expressing the power of the overmind.
Erichthonios has two brothers, Ilos and Zakynthos, who might represent the psychic transformation.
Erichthonios, married to Astyoche “one who concentrates the capacities of the being “, had a son, Tros, who, Homer tells us, was the king of Trojans, i.e. of everything that is at work in the higher planes of consciousness.
Tros then “fathered three perfect sons, Ilos, Assaracus, and Ganymedes”.
Ilos, the elder son, symbol of the work towards the second transformation, “the spiritual transformation” which follows the “psychic transformation”, is the founder of the city that will bear his name, Ilion. Following the orders from within and an illumination (a cow), the most enlightened part of the seeker takes position in Phrygia, in a place where burns Agni, the inner fire.
After founding the city, Ilos requested a sign of validation from Zeus. When dawn came, he saw a small effigy of Pallas-Athena, the Palladium, which had fallen from the sky. But in response to Ilos’ prayer Zeus had also thrown Ate, “the error”, with the Palladium. Ilos built a temple for the statue in Troy, as this object would protect the city as long as it stayed within its walls.
This time, the city is founded in the plain: the seeker is thus distancing himself from the heights of the union within the spirit, from the state of “seer” (Mount Ida where Ilos’ ancestor, Dardanos, had established the first city, Dardania). The original error in orientation, marked by the simultaneous throwing of Palladium and Ate, is noted by Apollodorus, who indicates that “the cow laid on the hill of Ate (of error)”.
Nevertheless, it seems that it is (or was, in the time of ancient Greeks) an unavoidable error. Indeed, the seeker asks his supraconsciousness for confirmation concerning the exactitude of the direction he chose and receives in return a “sign” which he considers to be a validation (the Palladium). But the supraconsciousness simultaneously sends the symbol of “the peace of liberation” and the goddess of “error” (Zeus sends the Palladium and Ate).
If one considers that the name Ate is built around the letter T (Tau) and that she is the eldest daughter of Zeus according to Homer, she could indicate a tension towards a realisation in the heights of the overmind. She would then represent an “error” only if the time of spiritual ascension has come to an end.
Another understanding would be that since the overmind is the foreground of duality when crossing down the border of the Supramental, it contains the seeds of opposites, both a certain truth and a certain error.
The subsequent support of several major gods at the Trojan camp (Ares, Aphrodite and Apollo) underlines the difficulty of discernment while the seeker aspires to a confirmation of the evolutionary path. At this stage, the error is still only potential, and the supraconscious seems to encourage this way with the protection of Athena. That is, the quest for the heights of the mind is not initially a mistake. The error will come later from the lack of a complete consecration.
The other sons of Tros are Assaracus, “he who works with equanimity, with equality” and Ganymedes “he who works to bring about joy”, that of the overmind, for Zeus will make him the butler of the gods.
Mother perfectly describes the level of achievement reached here when in an interview of October 17, 1956, (Questions and Answers), she describes a joy beyond that symbolised by Ganymedes:
“Indeed, that delight is beyond the states which are generally considered as the highest from the yogic point of view, as for instance, the state of perfect serenity, of perfect equality of soul, of absolute detachment, of identity with the infinite and eternal Divine, which necessarily raises you above all contingencies. Parallel to this state there can be another which is the state of perfect, integral, universal love, which is the very essence of compassion and the most perfect expression of the Grace which wipes out the consequences of all error and all ignorance. These two states have always been considered as the summit of consciousness; they are what could be called the frontier, the extreme limit of what the individual consciousness can attain in its union with the Divine. But there is something which lies beyond; it is precisely a state of perfect delight which is not static: delight in a progressive manifestation, a perfect unfolding of the supreme Consciousness. The first of the two states I spoke about leads almost always to a withdrawal from action, an almost static condition, and very easily would it lead to Nirvana — in fact, it has always been the way prescribed for all those in search of Nirvana. But this state of delight I am speaking about, which is essentially divine because it is free, totally free from all possibility of oppositions and opposites, does not break away from action; on the contrary, it leads to an integral action, perfect in its essence and completely liberated from all ignorance and all bondage to ignorance. One can experience, on the path — when one has made some progress, when there is a greater understanding, a more total opening, a more intimate union with the divine Consciousness, one can experience this Delight as something that passes by and colours life and gives it its true meaning, but as long as one is in the human consciousness, this Delight is very easily deformed and changes into something which no longer resembles it at all. Therefore, one could hardly say that if one loses the delight, one’s consciousness is lowered, for… the Delight I am speaking about is something which cannot ever be lost. If one has reached beyond the two states I spoke about a while ago, that is to say, the state of perfect detachment and close union, and the state of perfect love and compassion, if one has gone beyond these two states and found the divine Delight, it is practically impossible to come down from there. But in practical life, that is, on the path of yoga, if you are touched, even in passing, by this divine Delight, it is obvious that, should it leave you, you are bound to feel that you have come down from a peak into a rather dark valley. But Delight without detachment would be a very dangerous gift which could very easily be perverted. So, to seek Delight before having acquired detachment does not seem to be very wise. One must first be above all possible opposites: indeed, above pain and pleasure, suffering and happiness, enthusiasm and depression. If one is above all that, then one may safely aspire for Delight. But as long as this detachment is not realised, one can easily confuse Delight with an exalted state of ordinary human happiness, and this would not at all be the true thing nor even a perversion of the thing, for the nature of the two is so different, almost opposite, that you cannot pass from one to the other. So, if one wants to be safe on the path, it seems to me that to seek for peace, for perfect calm, perfect equality, for a widening of the consciousness, a vaster understanding and liberation from all desire, all preference, all attachment, is certainly an indispensable preliminary condition. It is the guarantee of both inner and outer equipoise. And then on this equilibrium, on this foundation which must be very solid, one may build whatever one wants. But to begin with, the foundation must be there, unshakable.”
This text makes it possible to understand why the future Troy will be built by the descendants of Anchise and his son Aeneas, in the affiliation of Assaracus, “equality” and not in that of his brother Ilos. For it is from Laomedon, son of Ilos, that the deviations in yoga will occur. After a long period of purification and “reversal” of yoga, the adventurer of consciousness and humanity after him will be able to resume the path of the ascension of the planes of consciousness in the pursuit of love (Aeneas is the son of Anchise and Aphrodite) in a world of Truth. But before, as Sri Aurobindo says, the forces of Truth must incarnate to enable an enlightenment of matter.
If Virgil, to relate the lineage of the Roman Emperors to Greece, took up the indications given by Homer on the future Troy for the history of the founding of Rome, it was in our opinion without a deep understanding of the symbolism of the Iliad, only to glorify the Roman emperors.
Tros also has a daughter, Cleopatra “the famous ancestors” showing that the adventurer of consciousness recovers the many “realisations” of the ancient masters of wisdom of past humanity. Reading the biographies of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother before they met as well as Sri Aurobindo’s Journal of Yoga makes it very clear. It is because of the progression towards this triple realisation that the greatest of the Trojan heroes is called by Homer “the Divine Hector”.
This level of realisation has allowed the acquisition of a certain power (in the vital), a certain strength, but it is not yet a power of absolute transformation coming from the world of unity, of the supramental, because the horses of Tros are not immortal. Apart from those of the gods, only Achilles’ horses will be immortal.
Ilos had two children. His son Laomedon “one who governs the people” – that is to say “one who works to the total control of the elements of his being” – is going to be the cause of the deviance of yoga. His daughter Themiste “the just law of yoga” represents the right evolutionary goal, thus she will be the wife of Kapys (grandfather of Aeneas), and symbol of the place from which the yoga of the future will have to be resumed after the realisation of spirit-matter unity.
But there was a moment in yoga where a lack of consecration, of self-sacrifice, was introduced, which oriented the yoga in the wrong direction, symbolised by the double refusal of Laomedon: in the first place that of honoring his promise to the gods Apollo and Poseidon to give them the salary that had been previously agreed upon. These gods – respectively deities of the psychic light and of the subconscious – who had helped him build the wall of Troy, his citadel; and, in the second place his refusal to yield to Heracles the horses he had promised in exchange for the deliverance of his daughter Hesione.
Although the seeker tried to make things right (with Priam “the redeemed”), he finally turned to the rejection of his external nature (Paris-Alexander), focusing primarily on opening to the worlds of the spirit in order to acquire an even greater mastery (Hector is united to Andromache who gave him Astyanax “the master of the city – of the lower nature”).
On the Trojan path that has deviated at some point by separating spirit from matter, there can no longer be any aspiration to “become” since the goal is the immutable, timeless, impersonal being, in the Self or the Brahman.
This path of the ascension of the planes of consciousness – which not only is not an impasse in itself, but which is also a fundamental datum of human evolution – can only continue after the correction of the error and the establishment of a state of Truth (Aeneas, the only surviving hero fleeing the city with his father Anchise on his back, is at the origin of the founding lineage of the future Troy).
In the opposite camp is the Achaean coalition: supported by “aspiration” or “strong need” (the branch of Tantalus), it represents the will to continue the process of liberation in action (Menelas, in the lineage of Atreus, is united to Helen). But the guiding element of this coalition, the strongest aspiration (Agamemnon), is still in search of an improvement of man as he is today towards a higher wisdom (Clytemnestra) and does not conceive yet that the new yoga should move towards a radical transformation of human nature. For it is question of a mutation towards a supramental humanity, and not of an improvement of the mental man, as holy and as wise as he may be.
This transformation must take place by plunging into the roots of consciousness at the origin of life in order to purify its evolutionary memories, in order to reach the Truth of Matter, that which is contained in the cells of the body and even deeper. At first, it must be the achievement of the vital liberation, which leads to a perfect “equality” (by the acceptance of Achilles – son of Nereid Thetis and therefore grandson of the “old man of the sea” -, and his battalions of Myrmidons to engage in the combat).
But for a long time, the seeker does not appreciate the importance of the necessary transformation of the external being in the depths of the vital to enable the perception of the direction of evolution: this is the “strike” of Achilles, the main subject of the Iliad, which lasted nearly ten years, a long and exhausting symbolic period of evolution. More precisely, the powerful aspiration of the adventurer of consciousness, turned towards a superior understanding, appropriated elements of psychic light that should guide this work of equality in the depths (captive Briseis was appropriated by Agamemnon, when she rightfully belonged to Achilles).
In the Achaean camp, some other characters deserve to be mentioned:
Diomedes who represents – for a seeker established in a certain mental silence and also as a consequence of the work to acquire divine drunkenness -, the intention to merge into the Absolute.
Nestor, the symbol of rectitude, sincerity or integrity, who has been one of the pillars of yoga since its beginnings: he is by far the oldest of heroes and his life extends over many generations.
Patroclus, “the glorious ancestors”, who embodies the past realisations of union with the Divine as part of the ascension of the planes of consciousness.
When the seeker has managed to make the psychic govern the being, when he has agreed to go down into the depths to purify the external nature (when the strike of Achilles, son of the Nereid Thetis, ceases) when he has succeeded in putting past achievements in their right place (the funeral of Patroclus), when he became familiar with the powers of the overmind, when he renounced the old structures – the “moulds of the past” (after Troy was razed) -, the reorientation of yoga can begin.
In summary, the seeker is what we call a “living liberated”. He achieved the “psychicisation” of the being, which works to “the transformation of the lower nature which brings the true vision into the mind, the right impulse and the right feeling into the vital, the right movement and the just habit in the body”. (Sri Aurobindo, The triple transformation.)
Tradition has it that thirty years of sustained yoga are necessary for the psychic to come to the fore, a realisation that consecrates the work of equality, because the certain sign of it is a state of stable, immobile consciousness in which the being is perfectly unified.
The seeker also achieved partially the second transformation, that of the Cosmic Self, the “spiritual transformation which is the stabilised descent from above of peace, light, knowledge, power, bliss, awareness of the Self, the Divine, a higher cosmic consciousness and the transformation into that of all consciousness.“
If he is free from desire and in a large extent from ego, he is not, however, free from the limits and laws of Nature, the three gunas.
To follow the complexity of the story, it is therefore useful to keep in mind the symbolism of the opposing forces that are fighting for “the evolutionary truth towards the liberation from all limitation” (Helen)and to remember that the Trojan War is nothing but a struggle against the old spiritual forms that refuse to disappear..
THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR
Legend has it that the fall of Troy had already been inscribed in its foundation. Indeed, we have seen that in one of the versions of the legend, “Ate (goddess of misguidance or error) was thrown on Earth by Zeus in Troy at the same time as the Palladion – a statue to the effigy of Athena – when Ilos, the father of Laomedon, founded Troy”. Moreover, this error in understanding the direction of the spiritual path, sent by the gods, that is, coming from the summit of the overmind (Zeus), was accentuated by the fact that an “enlightenment” developed on a false basis: Ilos had followed a cow (symbol of enlightenment) who lay down on the hill of Ate (misplaced), thus indicating to him the place where he was to found the city of Troy”.
However, Troy could not be definitively conquered as long as the Palladion remained in the enclosure of Troy, that is to say, as long as the Master of Yoga upheld the corresponding evolution and as long as the purification of the depths of the vital had not been achieved (Achilles’ involvement in the war).
We have identified Athena with the Master of Yoga, but perhaps she is only the symbol of the highest wisdom stemming from the overmind, from the head of Zeus. This identification is justified by the fact that she was born “armed”: it is not a power that develops, but a force of consciousness, which, when it manifests itself in the seeker, is already totally formed and active.
The ancient Yoga defended by the “living liberated” (the Trojan heroes) had set as their supreme goal “the peace of liberation within the spirit” or “the perfection of negative equality” (represented by the Palladium), and no evolution was possible as long as the seeker persisted in regarding the exit from earthly life as the only possibility of divine perfection. It is the stage of “sattvic indifference” resulting from the knowledge that occurs when the world is perceived as an illusion. (See Record of Yoga, Udasinata.)
This state is well described by Mother (Agenda Volume 1, 16 may 1960): “For, you see, you can go right to the height of your consciousness and from there sweep away the difficulties (at a certain moment of the sadhana, difficulties truly don’t exist; it’s only a matter of nabbing the undesirable vibration and it’s over, it’s reduced to dust). And everything is fine up above, but down below it’s swarming. (…)
The mastery must be a TRUE mastery, a very humble and austere mastery which starts from the very bottom and, step by step, establishes control. As a matter of fact, it is a battle against small, really tiny things: habits of being, ways of thinking, feeling and reacting.
In all this study, the reader should remember that the heroes are symbols of yogic labours while heroines represent the goals of these labours, that is to say the corresponding realisations. They also sometimes represent what the hero can rely on to achieve his work of yoga, or even his complement.
Paris is one of the sons of Priam who according to Homer had fifty, a number that expresses a totality of realisation. It is therefore in the lineage of the Pleiad Electra, symbol of the “enlightened mind”.
His great-grandfather is Ilos, the founder of Troy who gave his name to the city – Ilion – and symbolises the work of “spiritual liberation” (from desire and the sense of ego). His great-uncles and aunts are Assaracus “the one who is not troubled by anything” or “equality”, Ganymedes “he who has joy for aim” and Cleopatra “the famous ancestors” or “the realisations of the past”. (Sri Aurobindo explains that the “powers” should not be rejected systematically but that their use can become a dangerous test in an insufficiently purified nature. Cf. Record of Yoga, Vijnanachatusthaya.)
His grandfather is Laomedon, the one who twice refused to honor his promises, a symbol of the seeker who refuses to keep his spiritual commitments of total consecration, of a gift of self (surrender) of all the parts of being until the end. His great-aunt is Themiste, “who acts according to what is right” or “according to the divine law of rectitude”.
His father Priam “the redeemed” was named this way because he was “redeemed” by his sister Hesione, a captive given by Heracles to Telamon after his punitive expedition against Troy. The seeker still fails to consider that it is not he who acts but that he is only an instrument of the Divine.
Indeed, in the Essays on the Gītā, Sri Aurobindo explains the three degrees of progression in the yoga proposed by the Gītā. In the first degree, “man must, through the renunciation of desire and a perfect equality of the soul, as long as he believes himself to be the author of the act, accomplish the works as a sacrifice, a sacrifice to a deity who is the one and supreme Me, even though he did not yet realise it within himself”. In the second degree “one must then abandon not only the desire for the fruit of the work, but also the claim to be the author of it, and recognise that the self is the constantly equal, inactive, immutable principle, and that all works are mere operations of the universal force, the soul of nature, Prakriti, unequal power, active and mutable.” Because of his refusal to honour the promise made to the gods, Laomedon is the symbol of a seeker who has not fully accomplished this second degree. After a first purification carried out by Heracles, the seeker has made progress in this second degree. So he is given a second chance, the opportunity to “redeem” himself (from his father Laomedon’s refusals mentioned above). Priam is the “redeemed”. But he will marry Hecuba “what is out of the Incarnation”, re-orienting the Yoga towards the heights of the mind and a rejection of matter.
By gaining momentum – with the growth of Paris – liberation in the spirit, equality, joy and siddhis (powers) are developing, leading to more “truth” and “power” (Paris outweighed many in beauty and strength).
But soon,” he was renamed Alexander because he chased the brigands and preserved the flocks.”
The new name given to Paris – Alexander – means ” the man who wards off “, that is to say in our interpretation, “he who rejects his external nature”, at least the impulses, the mechanical movements which come from this nature before it is transformed (the brigands) instead of trying to transform it, and this in order to preserve his yogic acquisitions (thus preserving the herds).
When he became an adult, he was chosen by Zeus to arbitrate a quarrel:
At the time of the marriage of Thetis and Peleus, Eris created a quarrel between the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, concerning who was the most beautiful. Zeus asked Hermes to lead them to Ida so that the dispute could be settled by Paris. Athena offered glory (success in battle), Hera absolute sovereignty (or royalty over all Asia), and Aphrodite promised him that he would be beautiful and desirable amongst all (for some authors she promised him the love of Helen).
The subject of the dispute is to determine which of the spiritual powers belonging to the plane of the overmind is the goal that will lead the closest to the Divine Truth (which of the goddesses is the most beautiful): the inner guide to Knowledge (Athena), the goddess of the just movement in the spirit (Hera) or the one of the evolving love (Aphrodite). Let us remind ourselves that Aphrodite, according to Homer, is the daughter of Zeus and Dione, and thus represents “the evolving love in the mental period of humanity” and not the highest Love as described by Hesiod when the impregnating force of the spirit came into contact with life, when Ouranos’ severed genitals by his son Cronos fell into the sea, Pontos.
When a part of the seeker finally decides to work on the depths of his vital (Thetis is a daughter of Nereus “the old man of the sea “), the power of ” discord ” intervenes to remove the seeker from this path of transformation (Eris created the quarrel at the wedding of Thetis and Peleus). The most evolved mental part – the one that has reached equality in the enlightened mind, Paris – then chooses to consider evolving love towards a state of perfect, integral, universal love and compassion, as the first goal of yoga, as proposed by Aphrodite. Or, the overmind makes this goal appear to what in the seeker is in search of “evolutionary truth”, Helen, as the most obvious path (that Paris is the most desirable). Thus, the seeker chooses the path of love instead of choosing that of the right movement, of truth, or that of the inner master.
In fact, it is the gods – the powers of the overmind – who somehow imposed this choice because Aphrodite promised Paris the truest realisation, Helen being “the most beautiful mortal” and therefore symbol of the truest evolutionary direction towards freedom. It is also Zeus, the supraconscious, who asked that the arbitration be held on Ida, the mountain of Troy, symbol of the Union with the Divine in the spirit. The higher supraconscious overmind makes it possible to open new paths of evolution and to overcome the limits of past spirituality (Zeus wanted to start the war).
Thus, in a first phase that will prove to be quite long, the supraconscious withdraws to the background and puts the choice of the new orientation in the hands of the seeker who has reached “equality”, an “equality” he judges sufficiently established (Zeus decides to leave the arbitration to Paris). This equality is indeed the highest spiritual realisation of the seeker because Hector, eldest brother of Paris, only symbolises the quest towards the heights of the spirit. But this equality is also the result of the path which, by lack of surrender, denies the possibility of transformation of the lower nature (Paris is also Alexander). (In fact, the origin of the name Paris is quite uncertain. This name can be formed from Παρ + ισος or Παρ + ιημι, with the meaning “almost equal” and/or “release”. In the line of Ilos where Paris figures, personal liberation is paramount. It will be in the line of his brother Assarakos “equality”, the ancestor of Aeneas, that the new yoga will develop).
It is the overmind which guides the seeker towards the obligation of choice with a view to deepening the union in the spirit (Zeus sends Hermes to guide Paris to Ida).
One might think that Aphrodite’s promise to give Helen to Paris indicates that the goddess misleads the seeker by supporting the Trojan way, because we can consider that the wife must follow her husband, the future couple having to reside in Troy. It would then be legitimate for the seeker to admit that for a long time the quest for Love and the rejection of the lower nature is a true way of evolution towards union with the Divine (Mount Ida). Unless this promise is intended only to carry through the purification leading to “wisdom” and “sanctity”, and then to its overcoming, which will be the subject of the Odyssey.
Recall that Helen is married to Menelas, representing “he who stands by his vision towards more freedom on a new basis” (or “an unwavering will towards the goal “) in the lineage of aspiration, of the will to progress and to persevere (Menelas belongs to the lineage of Tantalus).
While Menelas was traveling, Paris came to Sparta and persuaded Helen to leave with him. Helen was fully consenting, since she will say later that she was blinded by love. Both embarked at night for Troy with much of Menelas’ treasures.
We must note here an important element: this “sliding” of the evolutionary truth takes place in a certain unconsciousness because “they fled in the night”. But the seeker retains many of the realisations obtained by his yoga (they take away much of the wealth of Menelas).
But Helen’s suitors had made the promise to support the one who would be chosen to be her husband if he was wronged in his marriage. Agamemnon and Menelas therefore went first to find Nestor, the symbol of the work of “integrity” or “the just evolution of rectitude” or “sincerity”, who accompanied them to gather the heroes and their troops. Two events marked their journey: the “madness” of Ulysses and the “disguise” of Achilles.
Recall that Achilles symbolises the seeker who completes the purification of the vital within the depths and that Ulysses then represents the work of transparency that must allow the free flow of spirit-matter currents through the body. Both are still quite young before the war begins, indicating works of yoga that have barely started.
If the seeker mentally rebels in front of the commitment of what he feels is coming (Ulysses simulating madness), he also puts very little eagerness into including work in the depths of the vital into the yoga. Indeed, the spiritual power (Thetis) who initiated this work within the depths “knows” that if it participates in the reversal movement, the “glory” obtained by total mental and vital liberation cannot last (Thetis knew that her son Achilles would have a glorious but short life if he committed himself to Troy). She thus makes sure that the movement that makes reversing possible is hidden from the consciousness (she concealed Achilles).
The seeker can therefore make the choice to remain a liberated living “without glory” for a long time, that is to say without it bringing new elements to the evolution. But if he engages in combat, he will not be able to enjoy the advantages resulting from access to non-duality and liberation in the spirit for long, because another yoga awaits him, even more difficult than what he can imagine at that moment. The death of Achilles can probably represent the moment when Mother, at the end of 1926, according to the indications of Sri Aurobindo, deconstructed in a few hours’ time a new creation of the Overmind that was already elaborated in the subtle planes and ready to manifest on earth.
So this movement is “hidden” among the potential realisations of what “cares about the light”: the work of “accomplishment of liberation” is kept oriented towards the heights of the spirit, among the objectives of realisation of an “enlightened” spirit (and therefore ineffective for the transformation of the external being).
According to Hyginus, the seeker already has a very strong connection to the light of the overmind, since Achilles has red hair. This would confirm the installation of the seeker in the overmind, or at least partly, because, let us remember, on one hand Ulysses is bound to this plane by his great-grandfather Hermes, and on the other hand Homer also says of him that ” his thought makes him the equal of Zeus “.
But the fundamental nature of the seeker – warrior of light – trumps everything: once he has made the irrevocable decision to devote his life to yoga, he can no longer ignore the power of his commitment (Achilles cannot resist at the call of arms, even when he is tempted to get away from the fight).
At this stage of the journey, the seeker is about to complete his mastery work: with Deidameia “ the one who goes beyond the control (the one who kills what submits to the yoke)”, Achilles fathered Neoptolemus “new fights”, hero who participated in the final destruction of Troy. This birth therefore symbolises the end of the personal yoga and the beginning of the direct action of the spiritual forces in order to prepare a mentally and vitally transparent being (Odysseus).
It took a long time, however, for the seeker to engage in a reorientation of yoga. He must still undergo a long period of purification (the war lasted ten years, an entire cycle of evolution prepared by the sacrifice of Iphigenia).
The Achaean chiefs who are named in song two of the Iliad each represent a particular work of yoga needed at this stage of the journey and the number of their boats and men most likely indicates the degree of completion required.This song is nicknamed “Catalog of Ships“.
The first landing in Mysia
The Achaeans launched the first expedition about two years after Helen’s abduction. When they reached the shores of Asia Minor, the heroes discovered a city in Mysia and ransacked it, believing it to be Troy. The King of the Mysians, Telephus, son of Heracles, finding that his territory had been put to fire and sword, armed his people and pursued the Hellenes to their ships; he killed many of them, among whom was Thersander, the son of Polynice, who had resistanced. But when Achilles attacked him, refusing to face up to him, he fled. In his flight, he tripped over a vine shoot and was wounded by a spear to his thigh.
It should be noted that neither of the two failed attempts to leave for Troy is mentioned by Homer. They were probably added later to clarify some initial wanderings of the great mutation of yoga. Homer never mentions Iphigenia. The first version of the myth is given in the Catalogue of Women, such as it has been reconstructed from a manuscript with many shortcomings.
This expedition is closely linked to a confusion of the seeker concerning the nature of the “lights” that he perceives in the distance (Telephus “what shines in the distance, in the future”), of the glimpsed Truth, because there is still a mix with the ancient truths of yoga that lay the foundation of holiness and wisdom. Instead of considering that a deeper purification in the depths of the being (Telephus is son of Heracles) is a necessity on the way to victory against Troy – and thus to make Mysians allies – the seeker violently rejects this purification. The inner fire disappears (Thersander “the man who burns” is killed).
Without prejudice, this would allow us to understand the final phase described by the mystic Bernadette Roberts, who evokes this sudden cessation of the inner fire after it had developed into a torch, and is astonished to find no trace of it in the mystic writings of St John of the Cross.
The second gathering at Aulis and the sacrifice of Iphigenia
Agamemnon, united with Clytemnestra, had fathered Iphimedeia (or Iphigenia) with beautiful ankles and Electra whose beauty rivalled that of the goddesses.
The Achaeans gathered at Aulis could not go to sea because of violent winds, of which the oracle Calchas revealed the cause: Agamemnon claimed to be better than Artemis at hunting, causing the goddess to anger. To appease her, the Achaeans had to sacrifice Iphigenia. They slaughtered the girl on the altar of Artemis, or rather sacrificed in her place an “eidolon”, Artemis having substituted a doe.
Then the goddess made Iphigenia immortal and eternally young, and took her to the Tauri where she became her follower.
We are in the presence of a myth that evokes another imperative: “the powerful will towards the heights of the mind” still oriented towards “the famous wisdom” must renounce pursuing this path (Agamemnon, united to Clytemnestra, must accept the sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia “what is born with force”). In fact, it is not question of improving man as he is today in view of more intelligence and wisdom but of his transformation.
The authors, for whom only a simulacrum is sacrificed, insisted on the fact that only the personal form of the intention must be abandoned, and not its essence which must be left to the direction of the Divine: what must be undertaken (the act) must be fully determined by the divine and not by the ego.
It is a perfect consecration that is required: what must appear must come from Unity and belong to the eternal present (Iphigenia is made immortal and eternally young).
Moreover, “this intention which wants nothing more than to emerge” must first be put in the service of the force which sees to the purification (Iphigenia is taken to Taurida to be a follower of Artemis).
However, Pindar and Aeschylus agree that Iphigenia actually died at Aulis. They therefore opted for a pure and simple abandonment of any personal purpose except that of following the divine plan at every moment.
The embassy in Troy
The Achaeans then sent an embassy to Troy composed of Menelas and Ulysses, asking them to return Helen and the treasures of Menelas. The Trojan assembly, under the influence of Antimachos, rejected the demands of the Achaeans.
Before the final internal struggle for the reversal of yoga begins, the seeker tries to reconcile the two paths, hoping to take advantage of his past achievements for the perfection of the present man while attempting to respond to the “need for something else” that presses him.
Other events before the war.
A number of other notable events occurred during the first nine years of war that we will not detail here. They were due to Achilles, when it is precisely the “strike” of the latter which constitutes the pivot of the Trojan war. In other words, it would tend to indicate that the seeker initiates a movement of work within the depths of the vital and then stops for a long time, the duration of the “strike”, so that the other parts of the being rise to the same point of evolution.
It is question of the following main events:
“The first embassy sent to Troy” which indicates a first attempt to reconcile the old and the new evolution, the old Yoga and the new yoga.
“The Sack of the Cities in Asia” which describes a questioning of secondary structures – established by the most advanced ancient Yoga – that must be demolished first.
THE TROJAN WAR
We have devoted over a hundred pages to the Trojan War in our study of Greek mythology. It would actually take several volumes to give meaning to all the details. We will only resume the outline here.
Initially, there is the inner realisation that the evolutionary Truth towards a more integral freedom (Helen) cannot be the goal of a path that rejects matter and advocates only a perfection of mastery and union with the divine within the spirit by renouncing the world (the Trojans). The Trojan War expresses the inner conflict that then agitates the adventurer of conscience who knows not what must be preserved of the forms and achievements of the ancient Yoga for future evolution.
For a very long time, the adventurer of consciousness thinks himself able to settle this conflict without descending into the deep layers of the being, because the strike of Achilles does not end until canto XX of the Iliad, towards the end of the tenth year of war, when yoga definitely changes to the new direction.
The refusal to descend to the depths comes from the fact that the desire for more wisdom (Agamemnon) claims to be better able to pursue the goal in this fight. But this goal must be sought through the pursuit of work within the depths and not in the heights of the spirit.(Agamemnon seized the captive Briseis “the power” that had been allotted to Achilles during his raids.)
Of course, claiming to be the preferred path of evolutionary truth was done by many Yoga (the suitors of Helen) but it is ” the aspiration for more freedom “, or the work of ” the one who remains faithful to his vision “or ” the will tended towards the goal ” which is the most legitimate (it is Menelas who prevailed and became the husband of Helen). Helen belongs to the lineage of the intuitive mind that comes after the illumined mind, and therefore the level in the mind that is best able to perceive the evolutionary truth.
When the seeker sets off on the path of this new yoga, he has no idea what to expect. Sri Aurobindo would even say that he would not have engaged in this path with such enthusiasm if he had known what was awaiting him (Ref. A.B. Purani, Evening talks with Sri Aurobindo). But he received an inner confirmation of the success of his “mission” (Nestor reminded everyone that Zeus had promised them victory at the rally at Aulis “with an indisputable sign”).
Initially, he does not really understand that this great upheaval requires a radical reorientation, and not a minimum arbitration between certain realisations, in this case between an “equality” that rejects the external nature and “what pursues the vision” (The two camps think to resolve the conflict by a singular combat, after Menelas had challenged Paris-Alexandre). But the powers of the overmind do not hear it that way and it is then “the violation of oaths”, an imposition of the truth of the overmind against the laws established by habit and mind.
After having insisted on the necessity of the ascension of the planes of consciousness (Athena wanted to distinguish Diomedes), put forward the “sincerity” in all the planes of the being (the interviews of Nestor), made a pause in the yoga by confronting the realisation of union of the soul with the highest consciousness (Hector against the great Ajax), the shift in yoga seems so ready to fail that the powers of the overmind are ready to intervene in the struggle. But they are stopped in their movement (Zeus forbids the gods to intervene). The seeker, however, refuses to consider the descent into the depths of the bodily consciousness as long as the situation of the yoga is not hopeless (Achilles agreed to commit only when Hector reached the barracks and naves of the Myrmidons).
To face this long ordeal, the seeker since long had to protect himself from the hostile attacks in his external nature by “building a wall”, the citadel of Troy, which will be destroyed by the powers of the overmind well after the changeover of yoga.
Then, the supraconscious forces that see to the right path of evolution mobilise themselves to force the reversal of yoga (Hera decided to put Zeus to sleep): the seeker then allows certain powers of the overmind to help him in the fight, by closing the access to the highest planes of the mind (Zeus is asleep). The seeker became aware that the Yoga of the past have reached an evolutionary stalemate with respect to the fundamental process of the growth of love.
The powers of the overmind then participate more and more in the struggle, first subconsciously and then more and more consciously (It is first the intervention of Poseidon, then that of Apollo who reveals himself to Hector).
There comes a time when the old realisations are no longer of any help (death of Patroclus).
Until the last moment the highest of the supraconscious overmind (Zeus) delays the changeover of the yoga until everything is ready. New “protections” and “practices of yoga” are then offered to the seeker to enable to achieve a purification of the depths in which he engages (Achilles’ new weapons). (We think of the mantra which “came” to Mother.) He finds that the powers of the overmind are very active in his yoga, but in opposite directions (some gods support the Trojan camp – which wants to reconcile the best of the old achievements with an improvement of man -, others the Achaeans – the aspiration for “something else”).
At this turning point of yoga, the seeker is increasingly close to the forces of the overmind. So the gods will manifest themselves more and more openly. The fact that they are divided in two camps indicates that the overmind is still a plane of duality where the forces can confront each other, because all of them have the same legitimacy to pursue the line that is their own. And while some defend an apparently indefensible option – here the Trojan position – they are not all wrong. Only our limited vision can give this impression, since in fact they are all intended to contribute to a greater human perfection.The forces that support the old yoga only allow a total completion of the previous evolutionary movement. Others anticipate the new.
The seeker is then shaken by the subconscious down to the depths of his physical being, and the power that sees to the work of union within the body even fears, for a moment, that the horrors of the deep unconscious where Truth is corrupted might be unveiled too soon – or that the body might not bear them : Hades, god of the unconscious, fears that “Poseidon (god of the subconscious) will make the earth burst into the sky and open the frightful abode of corruption, which even the gods hate, to the eyes of mortals and immortals”.
Finally, the powers of the overmind retreat, with the exception of the god of psychic light (Apollo).
It is then the end of the movement which tends towards the highest realisations in the planes of the mind (the level of intuition or intuitive mind) by separating itself from the external nature. This announces the near end of the vital liberation or universalisation (Hector dying announces the upcoming death of Achilles).
For the adventurer of the depths, having conducted a yoga by separating spirit from matter is an unforgivable mistake (Achilles refuses to return Hector’s body and drags it behind his chariot). Indeed, preventing the deceased from being buried according to the rites indicates that the seeker still does not have a fair understanding of what this movement represented or of its place in evolution.
Conversely, even considering that they will no longer be useful in the new Yoga, he shows gratitude for the ancient realisations that have enabled the union within the spirit (Achilles honors the memory of Patroclus).
Finally, he accepts to consider that this phase of separation was necessary to the evolutionary process. A part of himself, still attached to the ancient Yoga, shows gratitude for this (Achilles agrees to return Hector’s body, in honor of whom a grand funeral is celebrated).
It is at this precise moment of the war that the Iliad ends and that Sri Aurobindo’s poem, Ilion, begins. Other poems of the “Epic Cycle” mention the arrival of Penthesilia, a daughter of Ares of Thracian origin, who will fight alongside the Trojans. This heroine will have a very important role in Ilion. As already mentioned, the Epic Cycle includes the Iliad as well as the Cypria, the Aethiopis, the Little Iliad and the Sack of Troy.
ILION or THE FALL OF TROY, epic in quantitative hexameters
The Herald’s Book
Ilion is the ancient name of the city of Troy in mythology.
As absolutely all the details given in mythology have a reason to be, we will first focus on the geographic location of this name, its origin and its symbolic meaning. We will not deal with the problem of the composition of the poem in quantitative hexameters, which in itself constitutes a vast subject which is foreign to our study. Readers interested in this problem of the adaptation of the hexameter verse to the English language can refer to the book by Sri Aurobindo, Volume 26 of The complete works of Sri Aurobindo, The Future Poetry with On Quantitative Meter.
Ilion is located in the western part of present-day Turkey called Asia Minor or Anatolia “the land of the rising sun”. It was the most Eastern province of the Greek Empire: it symbolically represented the most advanced spiritual realisations both in the ascension of the planes of consciousness and in the purification of the depths of the being as well as the psychic transformation.
At the time of Homer, this region included several provinces, the principal of which was Phrygia, from the Greek Φρυγω: to grill, to burn, symbol of an ardent interior fire (Agni).
It is in this province that a first cycle of progression that was described in The Quest for the Golden Fleece by Jason and his team of Argonauts already took place. They had followed the coast of the Black Sea to the kingdom of Colchis, located at its eastern end. This first cycle of yoga is mostly directed by the subconscious in response to the seeker’s aspiration.
It is also in this province, much further on the path, that the ninth Labour of Heracles is located: the hero has to bring back the belt of the queen of the Amazons to his uncle Eurystheus. This tribe of warrior women had its capital at the mouth of the Thermodon River “the heat (or ardour) of the union” which marks the final phase of the progression towards union with the Divine (often called “unitive life”). Since they are women, it is not question of a labour which can give transient experiences but of a realisation. Some authors portray them as accomplished riders, demonstrating a perfect vital mastery: the seeker is not only “a master in his home”, but also an accomplished sage and saint. This realisation opens the doors to the powers of life that will be fully acquired during the following labour, The Herds of Geryon. In Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, this corresponds to an advanced stage in the spiritual transformation that follows the psychic transformation. It is in this “region” of spiritual progress that Heracles will erect the famous Columns that mark the limit that the initiates of that time thought they could not cross (the transformation of the physical mind). The oldest mention of these columns can be found in the works of Pindar, a poet of the fifth century BC, who states that it is not possible to go further in yoga, although he did not specify the location of these limits within the labours:
“It is not easy to cross the trackless sea beyond the pillars of Heracles, which that hero and god set up as famous witnesses to the furthest limits of seafaring. He subdued the monstrous beasts in the sea, and tracked to the very end the streams of the shallows, where he reached the goal that sent him back home again, and he made the land known”. (Pindar,Third Nemean song. On this subject, refer to Mother’s Agenda Volume 1, 4th November 1958. Hereafter a slight different translation the translation of Ernest Falconnet 1838 “Do not flatter yourself for having crossed, through the currents of an inaccessible sea, these columns that Heracles erected as the shining witnesses of his navigation at the ends of the world. This hero-God had already tamed the monsters of the ocean, probed its abysses and its deep currents, to those distant beaches where the pilot finally finds the end of his fatigues and the beginning of the return; he had, in one word, assigned boundaries to the universe unknown to mortals.”)
This author specifies that “an initiate of the ancient times” had “spotted” the currents of consciousness/energy at the root of life and had even “seen” the path that leads to the union between spirit and matter, and therefore to the deification of matter.
It is interesting to take the time to focus on the names of the lands, maritime expanses and straits, when, leaving the Argolis, one moves away from the coast of Greece towards the famous Colchis, the place “of the opening of the consciousness to essential freedom”. This last province was called Aea (or Aia) in Homer’s time, “the place of full Consciousness”, kingdom of Aeetes “the vision of the whole” and the magician Circe “the vision of all details”. Mother mentions this ultimate realisation of yoga where the two visions are simultaneous and absolute: “The result of creation is a detailed multiplication of consciousness. When the vision of the whole and the vision of all the details join together within an active consciousness, the creation will have attained its progressive perfection.” (Mother’s Agenda, 12-01-1972).
First, starting from Argolis, “the province of the seekers of Truth, light and purity”, the traveller had to travel along Achaea, place of a progressive capacity of “concentration”.Argos means “bright, white, bright, fast “.There is another meaning, which is “who does not work”, which we can imagine comes from the fact that those who were dedicated to the spiritual life “did not work” in the true sense of the word.
It is worth noting that Achaia (αχαια) was the name of the goddess Demeter in Attica “the mother of the union”, the power of the overmind that, from within the seeker, sees to the perfection of his external nature. In addition, Homer named the inhabitants of most provinces forming the coalition against Troy “Achaeans”, which gives us an idea of the importance he gave to “concentration”.
Then the traveller must cross the Strait of Corinth, a city founded by Sisyphus, which involves working on the intellect to free it from opinions and prejudices, to form an independent thought.
Then the seeker must pass between Boeotia, a region symbolic of those who begin and then continue the work of purification, and Attica, the province of those who “throw themselves impetuously” into yoga.
The last province on land is Euboea, symbol of a vast incarnation, of a solid materialistic base. Of course, the surrounding provinces will also provide timely information about the Yoga.
Then the seeker can begin navigating (practicing yoga or sadhana) and progress through the Aegean Sea, Hellespont, Propontis, Bosphorus and Euxine. This journey describes a progression in the purification of the vital, going deeper and deeper.
First, the crossing of the Aegean Sea – a name that comes from the goat, an animal that jumps towards the heights – is the symbol of a progression of aspiration towards union with the Divine.
There comes a time when the seeker enters the sea of Thrace: the land of Thrace is a place of asceticism where Boreas, the north wind, blows.
Then comes the first strait, the Hellespont, which marks a very first experience on the spiritual path. It takes its name from Helle, sister of Phrixos. When these two children, battered by their mother-in-law, fled from Greece on the back of a flying ram with golden fleece and horns, sent by Zeus, Helle could not maintain her grip, fell into the sea and drowned. This story illustrates a first experience of luminous sensitivity, long before the seeker started consciously on the path. The fall and drowning of Helle also indicates the limit of the process of individuation, the realisation of a balanced and accomplished personality (Helle).
The Hellespont is also called “Strait of the Dardanelles” in reference to Dardanos, the founder of Dardania “the structures of a true evolution towards the union”. This strait illustrates the fact that yoga is “a narrow path”. The construction of Dardania on the side of Ida, the mountain of “union”, anticipates that of Troy. Tros, the grandson of Dardanos, will be the founder of the city of Troy at the foot of Ida in the plain. The city took the name of Ilion during the reign of Ilos, son of Tros. It is starting from Laomedon, son of Ilos, that the lack of consecration will start occuring. The seeker’s insistence on the Yoga of the heights of the mind in order to achieve personal liberation is to the detriment of the progression of humanity as a whole: the lineage of Ilos develops to the detriment of that of his brother Assaracus “equanimity”. It will only be after the fall of Troy, when the highest mental consciousness will aim for an absolute sincerity – including within the body – that the quest towards the heights of the spirit can continue: when Capys, son of Assaracus “equanimity” will be united to Themiste “the law of rectitude or sincerity”, daughter of Ilos, fathering Anchise, father of Aeneas.
It is important to note that Dardanos is the son of the Pleiad Electra, which indicates that this lineage works towards perfecting the position in the illumined mind. However, access to the intuitive mind and the overmind are already present because the mountain range of Ida has “its peaks haunted by the gods”.
Having ventured on the narrow path, the seeker then approaches the purification of the vital and the confrontations with the forces which reign on this plane: he enters the Propontis “pro Pontos”. Let us recall that the two main mythological lineages are from Pontos and Ouranos respectively, and express, for the first, the growth of life, and for the second, the growth of human mental consciousness (in the broader sense). At the end of this purification, the passage towards the illumined mind opens, the Bosphorus “who carries the cow”, the cow being, in the Vedas, the symbol of illumination, of lights coming from the plane of Truth.
Finally, the seeker enters the deep waters of the vital, the Pontus “the very strange, inhospitable vital” whose shores are populated by wild tribes including the Amazons. According to our interpretation, the meaning usually given to the Pontus: “The hospitable sea ” is therefore wrong.
This yoga descending into the depths of the vital for a thorough purification or “liberation of nature”, it is likely that this is what earned it the nickname of “Black Sea”.
The city of Troy, located in Phrygia and probably symbolically located on the shores of the Black Sea, represents the structures on which are based the most advanced realisations of the ancient Yoga, which were always looking for more union with the Divine from the inner fire, Agni, in a pursuit of the ascension of the planes of consciousness and a withdrawal from the world.
The (symbolic) localisation of Troy on the west coast of Asia Minor does not seem to correspond to this phase of the yoga. We would tend to locate it beyond the Propontis (Sea of Marmara), on the beginning of the coast of the Black Sea or just before, on the shores of the Propontis.
To what extent these structures will have to be destroyed to tackle the new yoga, this is the problem examined by Sri Aurobindo in Ilion: “Break the moulds of the past,
but keep safe its gains and its spirit, or else thou hast no future”.
The name Ilion is built around the two structuring letters Lambda (Λ) and Iota (Ι).The first, Lambda, through its graphics, indicates a deployment of the Divine in the manifestation. It is therefore a symbol of multiplicity, diversity and also of separation, individuation, and freedom. The second, Iota, indicates the principle of existence-consciousness active in all the planes of the manifestation. This word therefore expresses the structures (a city) that are established for the liberation of consciousness. Since Ilos is a son of Tros, it is question of the liberation at the summit of the spirit. Tros, built around the letters Tau and Rho, indicates a just movement towards the heights of the spirit. The lineage of the Atrides, from the name Atreus, father of Agamemnon and Menelas who will lead the coalition against Troy, is in contrast a movement that does not rise towards the heights: a-TR.
The Herald’s Book
While the events described in Homer’s Iliad unfold during approximately one month (actually a six-day period followed by Hector’s funeral twelve days after, or eighteen days) during the last year of a war that had lasted for ten long years – a complete cycle of maturation in yoga – those described in Ilion unfold during the very last day of the war. In Ilion, Sri Aurobindo is mainly interested by the major obstacles that ultimately oppose the changeover to the new cycle of evolution, that of the descent into the body.
At this stage of the war, many heroes have already died on both sides, indicating either that the corresponding movements have come to an end or have been abandoned, or that the seeker can no longer rely on the corresponding realisations. Let us mention, in particular, the “divine” Hector, on the Trojan side, who embodied the most advanced work in the summits of the spirit. On the Achaean side, let us quote Patroclus “the glorious ancestors”, which illustrates the ancient realisations that have been “re-discovered” by the seeker, but who cannot be useful anymore. As Mother will say many times, the path is henceforth unknown.
In this first book, Sri Aurobindo evokes an ultimate attempt of the adventurer of consciousness to reconcile the structures and the most advanced realisations of the ancient Yoga with a progressive evolution.
The Achaeans do indeed delegate a herald to propose an armistice to the Trojans that would allow them not to lose face while returning Helen – namely by accepting a reorientation of the evolutionary truth – and a consequent war chest. The Trojan assembly will debate this in the next two books to finally reject the proposal: the seeker cannot spare himself the internal struggle that will necessarily lead to forgetting or abandoning some past realisations.
If we speak of a “final attempt”, it is because the seeker has already tried several times to reconcile the old Yoga with a progressive evolution. In Canto III of the Iliad, Paris-Alexander offered to fight in singular combat with Menelas, which was accepted by the Achaeans. The proposition that Hector transmitted to the Achaeans: if Menelas were victorious, the Trojans would keep Helen and all the treasures of her husband whom she had brought with her, and the Achaeans would leave; in the opposite case, the Achaeans would take Helen and the riches of Menelas and would also be entitled to a substantial compensation.
This would have allowed the adventurer of consciousness to retain many past realisations. But at the end of the fight, the agreements were not respected. In Canto VII, the Trojans offered again to return the treasures of Menelas that had been taken by Helen but the Achaeans rejected the offer. Then again in Canto XXIIII, Hector thought for a moment of returning Helen to the Achaeans along with many treasures. As a radical change in the evolutionary direction takes shape, these attempts illustrate the deep uncertainty the adventurer has about the right path.
Sri Aurobindo thus continues with Ilion Homer’s poem Iliad, as Quintus Smyrnaeus, a poet of the first centuries of the Christian era, had done before him. (Τα μετα τον Ομηρον, Posthomerica an epic poem by Quintus of Smyrna.)
The action takes place after the death of Hector at the arrival of Penthesilia and her Amazons in support of the Trojans. This heroine routs the Achaeans, but the poem Ilion stops before she is killed by Achilles, respecting the tradition. It is therefore Deiphobe “the one who has conquered fear” that Sri Aurobindo presents as the main Trojan leader (see Book of the statesman, verse 262). At his side stands the amazon Penthesilia “the one who is free from suffering”, symbol of a seeker who, through mastery and the spirit-matter separation, stands in the heights of joy (she lives in a country where the grape rises to the clouds). She embodies the realisations represented by the three children of Tros: liberation within the spirit (Ilos), equanimity (Assaracus) and joy (Ganymede).
A major heroine of Ilion, queen or simply daughter of a queen of the Amazons, Penthesilia is therefore the symbol of a realisation which, by a progressive elimination of suffering, reveals the luminous nature of the being. Let us recall that this community of warrior women resides beyond the Propontis “advanced work on the vital (Pro-Pontos)”, at the mouth of the river Thermodon “the fire of the union”. Her kingdom being located even further east than Troy, Penthesilea symbolises the most advanced point of the spiritual experience, the maximum of the Sattvic realisation, but not the final overcoming of the three Gunas as we will see.
However, the great reversal of yoga has been decreed in the supraconscious with the transfer of the evolutionary torch. It is about progressing from the liberation within the spirit that rejects the incarnation towards a yoga of greater liberation. The power that is the lever belongs to the supramental plane, because Eos, goddess of dawn and therefore of the “New”, is daughter of Hyperion – the Titan who embodies the highest plane of the forces of creation – and therefore sister of Helios – the sun, symbol of the supramental light. (The goddess Eos, indifferent to the fate of Troy, “Carried the burden of Light and its riddle and danger to Hellas”). It is just as much a reversal on the individual level as it is on that of humanity as a whole.
At this stage of the seeker’s evolution, the forces of the overmind are sometimes clearly present in his consciousness (the gods reveal their grace and power to the vision or hearing of the heroes). The realisations of the illumined mind (the Trojans come from the Pleiad Electra) then appear as the summits of human spirituality, both in terms of mental development and psychic openness (“the palace of Priam, (…) Laomedon’s marvellous vision, (…) Dreamed by the harp of Apollo”), of harmony and power:
“Marvellous, rhythmic, a child of the gods with marble for raiment,
Smiting the vision with harmony, splendid and mighty and golden,
Ilion stood up around him entrenched in her giant defences.”
They allowed liberation within the spirit and victory over fear but led to the rejection of the incarnation (the sons of Priam have mastered fear but have moved away from life and human things, “blinded by heaven”).
Let us remember that Priam united with Hecuba “what is out of the Incarnation”.
Sri Aurobindo continues Homer’s affirmation that the illumined mind, once yoga has been straightened in the right direction of mind-matter union, will have to eventually resume the direction of yoga. Like Homer with the embassy in Troy, he asserts that an adjustment of yoga would be possible if the mind did not cling with all his might to “its” truth, especially since the seeker wants to keep the effects (or powers) of his realisation (Achilles does not want the ruin of Troy, especially since he is in love with Polyxena, but the Trojans want to keep Helen). Talthybius, who conveys the Achilles’ message, is here Achilles’ messenger and not the one of Agamemnon as in Homer’s poem, and Anchise is the son of Bucoleon instead of Capys.
This recovery would involve giving primacy to aspiration, associated with work in the “details” of daily life, while recognizing the importance of liberation in the spirit (Achilles proposing to unite Asia with Greece, the Trojans would have to return Helen for that).
But the seeker, stimulated by a realisation that freed him from suffering, does not want to give up the certainty that he is in the right path, at the very level of the overmind, despite this warning from another part of himself. (Penthesilia rejoices then to finally face Achilles and stimulated the Trojan chiefs whom she considered equal to the gods).
This liberation was achieved by a long asceticism carried out gently and joyfully, but the seeker wrongly considered it as an ultimate realisation to which he had to cling against all odds (Penthesilia despised her task – the works of the house and the silence – only attracted and blinded by her personal desire to fight). This realisation, although close to the truth, still belongs to the duality (the amazon is beautiful, but beautiful of a bitter sweetness, which is contradictory). Moreover, it allows the lower nature to imprint its law on the soul (“Monarchs descending court the imperious mob of their slaves and their suppliant).
The Herald’s Book
Dawn in her journey eternal compelling the labour of mortals,
Dawn the beginner of things with the night for their rest or their ending,
As in Savitri, the poem begins with an evocation of the goddess of Dawn who always and eternally brings a new light, a new evolutionary possibility. (Savitri, Book 1, Song 1, The symbolic Dawn.)
In Greek mythology, the highest plane of the world of Titans – the world of creation that we can associate with the Supramental – is that of Hyperion “the consciousness that is above”. This Titan has three children:
Helios, the sun “the supramental light of Truth” or the enlightening principle of the Supramental
Selene, the moon, the Power of Truth, which we understand as the principle of realisation of the Supramental, and perhaps also as the matter destined to be supramentalised.
Eos, the goddess of Dawn, of the Eternal New.
The symbolic goddess of Dawn appears in the East, where the sun rises, where the supramental light is manifested. So the most advanced evolutionary realisations are also located in the East, and therefore so is the city of Troy. On the other hand, the Achaean coalition, although at a lower level in the progression of the planes of consciousness, relies on a “need”, a powerful aspiration which is manifested in all the parts of the being: not only is Agamemnon the most “greedy” of all the Greeks, but he also belongs to the lineage of Tantalus which illustrates “the aspiration” or “the need for something else” all the way down to the body (Tantalus is punished after his “death”, in Hades kingdom, that is to say in the unconscious part of the being, up to the level of the cells).
Eos, the goddess of Dawn, is therefore the symbol of the Eternal New. Her four children, the great “winds”, the spiritual forces which assist the seeker – Boreasthe wind of the north “the effort”, Eurus the wind of the East “the renewal”, Notus the wind of the South “patience”, and Zephyrusthe wind of the West “purification”, – are working on her arrival. She has always been present at all moments when an evolution occurred, be it individual or human. That is why she is a goddess “who constantly falls in love“. Her most famous lover is the great hunter of wild beasts Orion, the most beautiful mortal who can walk on water, symbol of the seeker who has achieved the perfect vital mastery.
The letter Ω (omega) in the name Eos indicates that it is always an action turned towards the incarnation, allowing a new dimension to emerge from the matter, from the body. Homer calls her “the rose-fingered goddess”, expressing the infinite delicacy with which the Divine influences this movement.
We have seen previously that the Euxine (the Black Sea) – Pontos Euxeinos, the inhospitable vital – is the place of the most advanced combats in yoga, in the planes of the corporeal mind and the animal vital. It is a path that is no longer traced and which, because of its difficulty, nears the icy depths of death. This is why Sri Aurobindo speaks of “the mists and the chill of the Euxine”. The goddess of Dawn, the evolutionary power, seems to announce, for the upcoming yoga, a descent into these planes in view of a new light.
Earth in the dawn-fire delivered from starry and shadowy vastness
Woke to the wonder of life and its passion and sorrow and beauty,
All on her bosom sustaining, the patient compassionate Mother.
Out of the formless vision of Night with its look on things hidden,
Given to the gaze of the azure she lay in her garment of greenness,
In addition to the poetic image of the earth receiving the first light of dawn on the horizon, on its bulging forehead, perhaps Sri Aurobindo also evokes the power that sits at the summit of the manifestation and that the Greeks named ” Gaia “, the executing Force of the Divine who manifests itself in the form of Nature. United with the Spirit – Ouranos – it gives birth to the powers of creation or Titans. (Cf. genealogical diagram 1).
Perhaps it also announces a new awakening of the corporeal matter which supports within us the evolution of the other planes of consciousness with patience and endurance, starting from an enlightened mental consciousness (Wearing light on her brow).
In the dawn-ray lofty and voiceless,
Ida climbed with her god-haunted peaks into diamond lustres, 10
Ida first of the hills with the ranges silent beyond her,
Watching the dawn in their giant companies, as since the ages first began
They had watched her, upbearing Time on their summits.
Troas cold on her plain awaited the boon of the sunshine.
Greek mythology has several symbolic mountains that must be distinguished.
Among the most important, let us first mention the peaks of the Caucasus, north-east of the Black Sea. These are probably the most distant mountains, in the logic of the prolongation of the kingdom of Aeetes and Circe, to which the ancient Greeks could refer because they were localisable by the cultured Greeks. This is where Prometheus is chained. Son of a Titan, he has the same rank as the gods. He represents the effort of consecration subjected to the cycles of the vital and the mind. It is only after the mental and vital liberation that makes it possible to free oneself from the influence of the cycles – and therefore the end of all doubt and all fear – that he can be released. (Cf. the story of Prometheus: chained by Zeus on the Caucasus, the god’s Eagle devours his liver during the day, and it regenerates during the night. This illustrates the alternation of the phases of separation and union, mainly in the mind. The Eagle of Zeus will be killed by Heracles during one of the last two labours, that is to say when the seeker has discovered the secrets that “prevent access to immortality” (Capture of the Dog Cerberus) or when he becomes an absolute “knowing”, an omniscient (The Apples of the Garden of the Hesperides).
Of course there is Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece (2917m), which is the summit of the mind, the overmind, where the gods of the Overmind reside. The last god who joined Olympus is Hermes, who represents the plane of the overmind, as the son of the seventh Pleiad, Maya.
The Olympic Games are therefore celebrated in honor of those who have reached the overmind, the liberation within the Spirit or the realisation of the Self. The name itself seems to be built around the letter Lambda Λ “liberation” with the suffix mpos (μπος) of “localisation”. These games were established by Heracles of the Ida (Mount of the Union), commemorating the end of the labours, i.e. the end of personal yoga through the union with the absolute, the end of the phases of psychic and spiritual transformation. They were the fourth celebrated in ancient Greece. They were preceded by the Isthmian Games instituted by Sisyphus (“those who soar on the way”), the Nemean games founded during the first War of Thebes and of which Heracles increased the fame during his victory over the lion of Nemea (those who begin the purification work and at the end achieve the death of the ego) and the Pythian Games established in honour of Apollo who, barely born, killed the Python snake, symbol of the “process of Decay” (the first conscious contact with the psychic or may be when this one takes the direction of the being).
Finally, Ida dominates the plain of Troy. The structuring letter of this name Δ Delta
indicates “the union” – the one in the Spirit -, at the level of the overmind because Ida has “her god-haunted peaks”. But the name probably comes from the verb meaning “to see”, and thus Ida would be the mountain of “seers”. To “see” – the truth, what is real – is the characteristic of the advanced yogis.
During the last moments of the war, the gods will participate in the battle, sometimes recognised by the heroes: the seeker then becomes the theater of a confrontation within himself of different forces of the overmind that he can sometimes discern.
Of course, it is not question of denying the value of this realisation because Ida’s peaks climb“” into diamond lustres“. This mountain represents the ultimate fulfilment of the ancient Yoga in the Union with the Divine (Ida first of the hills), accompanied by other great realisations of great silence resulting from the realisation of equality within the being (with the ranges silent beyond her). Since the beginning of time, the most advanced men have always silently contemplated the New brought by Dawn (as since the ages first began they had watched her), well beyond the time scale of human life (upbearing Time on their summits). The adventurer of consciousness, once again in evolution, was waiting for the grace of a new intervention of the evolutionary supramental manifestation (Troas cold on her plain awaited the boon of the sunshine.)
There, like a hope through an emerald dream sole-pacing for ever,
Stealing to wideness beyond, crept Simois lame in his currents,
Guiding his argent thread mid the green of the reeds and the grasses.
Headlong, impatient of Space and its boundaries, Time and its slowness,
Xanthus clamoured aloud as he ran to the far-surging waters,
Joining his call to the many-voiced roar of the mighty Aegean, 20
Answering Ocean’s limitless cry like a whelp to its parent.
In mythology, the rivers are currents of consciousness-energy, all children of the Titan Oceanos, which participate in the widening of the human consciousness, not through an ascension in the heights of the spirit but by the integration: evolution of the concentration (Inachus), equality (Peneus), etc.
The Simois and the Xanthe are the two rivers flowing in the plain of Troy and merge there according to the Iliad.
They represent two currents of consciousness-energy who are in some way opposites: on one side that of the power that soars impetuously to break the limits, on the other that of nature which takes its time and seems to be lazing in infinite meanders.
In the Iliad, Homer specifies that the river which the gods call Xanthe (Xanthos) “yellow, red or golden red” is called Scamander “the man on the left” by men. This means that this stream of consciousness-energy which supports a precise work of yoga is seen differently depending on whether it is considered from the point of view of the overmind or the intellect.
The name Xanthos is not only that of this river of Troas, but also that of one of the immortal horses of Achilles, of a mortal horse of Hector and of some other secondary characters.
The sources of the Scamander are described by Homer in the following chapter:“ and past the weather-beaten wild fig-tree, till they came to two fair springs which feed the river Scamander. One of these two springs is warm, and steam rises from it as smoke from a burning fire, but the other even in summer is as cold as hail or snow, or the ice that forms on water. “
The Scamander acts thus through two totally opposite movements, which can be associated with fusion and separation (from one rises smoke as from a burning fire, from the other icy water).
With the structuring letters, Ξ + ΝΘ, the name Xanthos “golden yellow” expresses an internal evolution in view of the high/low, spirit/matter identity. At the level of the overmind, the plan of the gods, we see that this is perceived as a force tending towards the supramental unity, thus a yellow-golden colour. The Xanthe is thus a current of consciousness that tends towards immortality as described by the Gita, i.e. “a supreme perfection, an identification in law of being and in nature with the supreme, while still continuing to exist, conscious of the Universal movement, but above this movement.” (The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita.)
From a lower point of view, from “the man to the left”, from the left brain that processes the information in a linear, logical way, and separates to distinguish, only the separative component is perceived. The Scamander is then the power that leads man to aspire to a total and definitive immersion in the unique infinite existence.
Symbolically, the Scamander can also represent the two energy-consciousness currents that animate the structure of the Sephiroth tree (“the silver-swirling river”) and are represented by the two serpents of the Caduceus. These currents support the world of forms and provide the link between Spirit and Matter. In the body, they use the canals named Ida and Pingala and are often represented in the Caduceus by the opposite colors black and white.
These are two currents of opposite nature, reflecting the fundamental forces of fusion/fission, remoteness/closeness, fusion/separation, and so on. One leads to individuation and the removal from the Absolute, the other to the fervent fusion with the Divine.Both are necessary for the movement of the Becoming. They have their source in “the two fountains” which feed the world of forms with their waters, at the point where the head of the two serpents meet. They are located “beyond the fig tree“, the tree of supreme Knowledge, of the Vacuity where it has its source, or of the Unity in which everything is gathered: it is the level of the occult Sephira Daat. (This is only the tree of the mind and the world of forms, because according to Homer, the Xanthe is a son of Zeus). This fruit has without a doubt been taken for symbol because of the many seeds of the fig that give the impression, in section, of all being connected like the elements of a unit.
If these currents maintain the balance of the creation, their influence on certain planes is however reinforced according to cosmic cycles that men ignore, because they perceive only the energy in which they are immersed in a predominant way. In the mental cycle of individuation in which humanity has been plunged for thirteen thousand years (according to the author), men clearly feel only the separating influence, that of the left side (of the logical left brain, the Scamander “the man who perceives what is on the left”). The gods who have a higher vision know the whole cycle and its purpose in the evolution.
The other river, the Simoeis, has more to do with the consciousness of Nature, which takes its time so that nothing is left behind“stealing to wideness beyond, crept Simois lame in his currents” .
The meaning of its name through its etymology is indecipherable for us.
Sri Aurobindo associates the Scamander with the fundamental will to achieve freedom, with the aspiration to break the limits:
Head first, unable to suffer Space and its limits, Time and its slowness, the thundering Xanthe rushed to the stormy waters in the distance
This evolutionary aspiration joins the one that has put the seeker on the path, the one who has risen to the heights, towards “the indefinite widening of consciousness” (Oceanos) (Joining his call to the many-voiced roar of the mighty Aegean,
Answering Ocean’s limitless cry like a whelp to its parent.)
Forests looked up through their rifts, the ravines grew aware
of their shadows.
Closer now gliding glimmered the golden feet of the goddess.
Over the hills and the headlands spreading her garment of splendour,
Fateful she came with her eyes impartial looking on all things,
Bringer to man of the day of his fortune and day of his downfall.
While the seeker is more and more able to face the vision of the bare Real, he has an increasingly clear perception of an evolutionary turn coming from the supramental and turned towards matter (the golden feet).The Force that manifests itself is a divine Force, coming from areas well beyond what humanity can understand. In his hands, man is only a toy.
Full of her luminous errand, careless of eve and its weeping,
Fateful she paused unconcerned above Ilion’s mysteried greatness,
Domes like shimmering tongues of the crystal flames
of the morning,
Opalesque rhythm-line of tower-tops, notes of the lyre of the sun-god. 30
The structures of the yoga that support the realisations of the adventurer experiencing the higher planes of the mind – enlightened mind, intuitive mind and overmind – are like points of crystalline light. And the most advanced structures develop according to a great cosmic rhythm, expressions of the harmony of the psychic light (Apollo).
There is an uncertainty here: the lyre is an attribute of Apollo, who sides with the Trojans during the war. Helios – the sun, the supramental light – is not usually depicted with a lyre. A little further on, mention is made of the “golden herds of the sun god” which seem more related to Helios because of their golden color.
High over all that a nation had built and its love and its laughter,
Lighting the last time highway and homestead, market and temple,
Looking on men who must die and women destined to sorrow,
Looking on beauty fire must lay low and the sickle of slaughter,
Fateful she lifted the doom-scroll red with the script of the Immortals,
Deep in the invisible air that folds in the race and its morrows
Fixed it, and passed on smiling the smile of the griefless and deathless, —
Dealers of death though death they know not, who in the morning
Scatter the seed of the event for the reaping ready at nightfall.
The evolving force that is about to come into action (and of which the seeker is aware) contemplates from the heights of the divine plan the realisations of the ancient Yoga (all that a nation had built) (Cleopatra “the famous elders” is the sister of Ilos, grandfather of Priam ), as well as what has been achieved in the progression of love (…and its love) (Anchise, grandson of Assaracus “equality” united with Aphrodite), as well as in that of joy (Ganymede “the one who has joy for design”, the cupbearer of the gods, to whom laughter refers). The seeker knows that the New which is about to manifest itself demands the abandonment of many past forms (highway and homestead, markets and temples), many past sadhana (men who must die) and many realisations and aims of yoga (women destined to sorrow).
All this was true at the time (beauty is truth) but must now give way under the effect of an uncompromising will (beauty fire must lay low and the sickle of slaughter).
The divine plan, ignored by men, is unavoidable (Deep in the invisible air that folds in the race and its morrows).
What has been sown at the beginning of an evolutionary cycle is now maturing. For the seed contains the tree, and the very first moment of every movement contains its whole development (the griefless and deathless, — dealers of death though death they know not, who in the morning scatter the seed of the event for the reaping ready at nightfall). Similarly, one can see the human development for the millennia to come in Sri Aurobindo’s work and actions.
Over the brooding of plains and the agelong trance of the summits, 40
Out of the sun and its spaces she came, pausing tranquil and fatal,
And, at a distance followed by the golden herds of the sun-god,
Carried the burden of Light and its riddle and danger to Hellas.
The first verse may indicate “the expectation” of common mortals of a paradise promised by the various divine envoys and the realisations of their initiates towards the realms of the spirit, obtained solely through trance, for millennia.
The goddess-force who brings the New comes from the supramental world and brings in her wake, for the millennia to come, the powers and capacities related to this plane, the golden herds of the solar god. (Cf. the previous note.)
To open the evolutionary paths, to walk in front of humanity is always a difficult task and a progression into the unknown. The burden borne by the most advanced beings, the living liberated of the last millennia, are here somewhat thanked for their work while the burden of evolution, the mystery of the divine ways and the danger for oneself that represents any evolutionary breakthrough is passed on to others, to another part of the being of the seeker.
Even as fleets on a chariot divine through the gold streets of ether,
Swiftly when Life fleets, invisibly changing the arc of the soul-drift,
And, with the choice that has chanced or the fate man has called and now suffers,
Weighted, the moment travels driving the past towards the future,
Only its face and its feet are seen, not the burden it carries.
Weight of the event and its surface we bear, but the meaning is hidden.
Earth sees not; life’s clamour deafens the ear of the spirit: 50
Man knows not; least knows the messenger chosen for the summons.
Only he listens to the voice of his thoughts, his heart’s ignorant whisper,
Not only because of the pressure of life, but also because of his choices and his powerful desires of which he must endure the consequences, both of which are the result of his ignorance, man unknowingly modifies the deep choices of his soul, the path that it had set before incarnation. He is then only aware of the external expression of events (the face of the moment) and their impact on matter (his feet), not what they are actually carrying. At the level of the whole, of the great earthly movements, we endure without understanding: humanity does not understand their meaning in evolution (the earth does not see). Similarly, at the individual level, man is carried away by his emotions and thoughts, as well as by distant and uncertain perceptions: he is unconscious, he does not “know” because he is no longer attentive to the voice that whispers within. (Or: we do not know the meaning of the events, both from a material point of view (the earth does not see) and from a spiritual point of view (life’s clamour deafens the ear of the spirit: man knows not)).
And it is the most unconscious part that carries the ultimate attempt at conciliation for irreconcilable things. For if it were conscious, it would see that this attempt is not in keeping with the evolutionary truth (the one who knows the least is the messenger chosen for the summons).
Now too the messenger hastened driving the car of the errand:
Even while dawn was a gleam in the east, he had cried to his coursers.
Half yet awake in light’s turrets started the scouts of the morning
Hearing the jar of the wheels and the throb of the hooves’ exultation,
Hooves of the horses of Greece as they galloped to PhrygianTroya.
Proudly they trampled through Xanthus thwarting the foam of his anger,
Whinnying high as in scorn crossed Simois’ tangled currents, 60
Xanthus’ reed-girdled twin, the gentle and sluggard river.
One and unarmed in the car was the driver; grey was he, shrunken,
.Worn with his decades. To Pergama cinctured with strength Cyclopean
Old and alone he arrived, insignificant, feeblest of mortals,
In this last attempt to reconcile the old and the new yoga, the adventurer had prepared himself and mobilised his energies as soon as he felt that new forces would be manifesting themselves on the earth. These energies were those of the Achaean coalition led by Agamemnon, those of the power of concentration and aspiration.
At this time of the Yoga, the adventurer ignores the movement of the becoming which hitherto supported the evolution towards the heights of the spirit, so he “tramples” the Xanthe, and he does not want to wait for the evolution to occur with the infinite slowness of nature,so he “despises” the Simoeis, these two rivers which we talked about previously.
The part of the consciousness of the adventurer who tries to conciliate is positioned beyond duality: the messenger is unarmed. If we refer to the preceding paragraph, it represents the part that is least aware of the new path, probably always for the same reason that the best of the old is still the greatest obstacle to the New. The part of the seeker’s being that carries the attempt of conciliation (between aspiration to more freedom and the highest realisations) exists since a long time(One and unarmed in the car was the driver; grey was he, shrunken, worn with his decades). But this part has no power over the forces that prepare the changeover (Carrying Fate in his helpless hands and the doom of an empire).
Pergamum is the name of the citadel of Troy, that is to say the fortified part of the city. This name can also mean “what realises the union above”, in the heights of the spirit. Recall that these fortifications were built by Apollo and Poseidon – respectively gods of the psychic light and the subconscious – who had come to the aid of Laomedon. That is to say, the powerful bases and protections of the ancient Yoga had been elaborated by the adventurer in contact with the forces governing the psychic light and the subconscious at the level of the overmind.
The Cyclops are human-looking giants with a single eye in the middle of the forehead, a symbol of an enlarged and non-dual vision. Their name means “spherical vision” and therefore includes an idea of totality. There are several levels of this expanded power of vision in the mythology. The highest is represented by the Cyclops, sons of Gaia and Ouranos, and therefore brothers of the Titans. They represent the Omniscience of the Absolute (their brothers the Hecatoncheires or Hundred-Handed-Ones being His Omnipotence and His omnipresence).
On a lower level, the best-known Cyclops is the one whom Ulysses had to face, Polyphemus. His name means “the one who manifests many things or renders them perceptible”. He is a son of Poseidon, the god who governs the subconscious.
Sri Aurobindo, mentioning the enclosure of Pergamos “of a Cyclopean power”, tells us that what constitutes the great “protections” of the ancient Yoga was elaborated by beings who not only had achieved psychic transformation (Apollo’s help) but had also developed a great power of vision.
Ilion, couchant, saw him arrive from the sea and the darkness.
Heard mid the faint slow stirrings of life in the sleep of the city,
Rapid there neared a running of feet, and the cry of the summons
Beat round the doors that guarded the domes of the splendour of Priam.
“Wardens charged with the night, ye who stand in Laomedon’s gateway, 70
Waken the Ilian kings. Talthybius, herald of Argos,
Parleying stands at the portals of Troy in the grey of the dawning.”
The first verse of this passage characterizes an “awakened” seeker who keeps himself in a state of perfect relaxation and equanimity. His consciousness is constantly alert, “couchant”, while his whole body is relaxed but perfectly present, ready to pounce if necessary. This state is the opposite of sleep. The English word “couchant” is a term usually used in heraldry.
This “awakened” being becomes aware of a movement coming from the depths of the subconscious and the darkness of the unconscious (Ilion saw him arrive from the sea and the darkness), but still perceptible to the consciousness despite its little participation in the outer world and its distancing from it (Heard mid the faint slow stirrings of life in the sleep of the city). This movement, hardly perceptible at first, soon becomes a pressing inner questioning (the cry of the summons). It manifests within the adventurer, in parts of the consciousness that have remained open to the world, to a wider consciousness (the gates of the city’s ramparts), especially in the area which was subject to a lack of consecration and self-giving (Laomedon’s gateway). This inner call cries for the questioning of the main movements and achievements of yoga which led to this state of affairs, namely to the realisation of the impossibility of making matter divine (Waken the Ilian kings).
We know little about Talthybius, except for his role in mythology as Agamemnon’s herald, i.e. the outer expression of a very powerful aspiration towards knowledge. Here, he is presented as the herald of Argos, the adventurers seeking light.
His name is difficult to interpret. It could be an association of what represents the “force” (bi βι) and the inner being (θ), associated with the root tala (which supports, which endures), because one of the ancient forms of his name appears to be Talethobius (Ταλεθοβιος). He would be the symbol of “the inner strength that supports and endures”. As Agamemnon’s herald, he speaks in the name of the strongest aspiration within the being. He could then be the symbol of endurance in the aspiration of the intelligent will tending towards more wisdom (Agamemnon united to Clytemnestra).
Sri Aurobindo states that at this stage of yoga, the looming renewal is still indistinct (the grey of the dawning).
High and insistent the call. In the dimness and hush of his chamber
Charioted far in his dreams amid visions of glory and terror,
Scenes of a vivider world,—though blurred and deformed in the brain-cells,
Vague and inconsequent, there full of colour and beauty and greatness,
— Suddenly drawn by the pull of the conscious thread of the earth-bond
And of the needs of Time and the travail assigned in the transience
Warned by his body, Deiphobus, reached in that splendid remoteness,
Touched through the nerve-ways of life that branch to the brain of the dreamer, 80
Heard the terrestrial call and slumber startled receded
Sliding like dew from the mane of a lion.
The adventurer cannot evade the question, for the inner call linked to his incarnation is powerful and insistent. He is “drawn” out of the worlds of consciousness that his spirit will explore, both the worlds of light and those of darkness. These worlds where he is brought (charioted far in his dreams) are more true (beauty), more varied (full of colour) and are more grandiose where the adventurer experiences them than what the brain can make of them in a waking state. Their influences are no longer perceptible (this world, once blurred and distorted by the brain cells, is vague and inconsequential). In the Agenda, the Mother sometimes mentions these worlds of terror that she must confront within her consciousness, and the dauntlessness and absolute lack of fear that is needed to achieve this.
These are probably trances, for what is known in esotericism as the “silver cord” brings the adventurer back to his physical reality (Suddenly drawn by the pull of the conscious thread of the earth-bond). His physical nature brings him back to the imperative needs of evolution (the needs of Time) and the task assigned to him in this incarnation, in this earthly life subjected to impermanence. When the nerves, supporting bodies of the mental consciousness, transmit the perception of the body to the consciousness (Touched through the nerve-ways of life that branch to the brain of the dreamer), the adventurer snaps out of his customary trance.
Deiphobus “he who conquers fear” is a Trojan prince, son of Priam. At some point in the Iliad he is named “Divine Deiphobus”, i.e. representing a state of non-duality. He is the favorite brother of Hector, the Trojan leader in the conquest of the spirit.
With this questioning, the part of the adventurer which works on fear is the first to be summoned or awakened. At this stage of advancement in yoga, the adventurer is freed from fear, or at least from the mental and vital fears – those symbolized by the Gorgon defeated by Perseus, the ancestor of Heracles – but the cellular fears have not been thwarted yet. In the Agenda, the Mother not only speaks of the absolute need to be fearless to venture into the worlds which one accesses through trance, but also of the powerful dread she experienced at the level of the cellular consciousness.
Reluctant he travelled
Back from the light of the ﬁelds beyond death, from the wonderful kingdoms
Where he had wandered a soul among souls in the countries beyond us,
Free from the toil and incertitude, free from the struggle and danger:
Now, compelled, he returned from the respite given to the time-born,
Called to the strife and the wounds of the earth and the burden of daylight.
He from the carven couch upreared his giant stature.
Haste-spurred he laved his eyes and regained earth’s memories, haste-spurred
Donning apparel and armour strode through the town of his fathers, 90
Watched by her gods on his way to his fate, towards Pergama’s portals.
During his trances, the adventurer explores wonderful worlds, home to souls and psychic beings. They are planes of light, beyond birth and death. There, there is no more effort to be made, everything is known without any possible doubt, there is no more duality, so no more struggle; even hostile forces are perceived as part of the Divine plan (Free from the toil and incertitude, free from the struggle and danger).
Hence he comes out of his trance “reluctantly”, because the real world has much less appeal, being a world of duality marked by conflict and suffering.
The inner movement occurs with a witness-consciousness stemming from the overmind, because he is “Watched by her gods on his way to his fate”. In fact, the gods belong to the highest levels of the formation plane, the overmind. The world of creation is that of the Titans, above that of the gods.
Nine long years had passed and the tenth now was wearily ending,
Years of the wrath of the gods, and the leaguer still threatened the ramparts
Since through a tranquil morn the ships came past Tenedos sailing
And the ﬁrst Argive fell slain as he leaped on the Phrygian beaches;
Still the assailants attacked, still fought back the stubborn defenders.
In mythology, there are several symbolic notations of the duration of the progression phases in yoga. Of course, none corresponds to a real duration. Ten years correspond to a totality of expression, the amount of time needed for the necessary progression to be lived and manifested in all its aspects. For example, in the work of purification-liberation, it took ten years for Heracles to complete the twelve Labours, and the war of the Epigones took place ten years after the war of the Seven against Thebes. Another way of noting the passage of time is “generations”: for example, Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece took place nearly three generations before the Trojan War, and the hunting of the Calydonian boar occurred one generation before the war of the Seven against Thebes.
We are here in the very last moments of the phase of yoga in which the forces of the overmind start pulling, each one in its own direction, only concerned by its full expression, taking different parts of the being along with them. Sri Aurobindo tells us that all the forces in creation have an equal right to pursue their guiding principle, that for which they have been manifested, until it has been realized.
In fact, these powers of the overmind each support a particular form of yoga: that of knowledge which aspires to a total and definitive immersion in a unique infinite existence, that of devotion and adoration which aspires to remain within the Divine, and that of works that aspires to a unity of nature and to a power of being. (Sri Aurobindo, Bhagavad Gita, Canto XII, comments on the first stanza.)
Thus, the Achaean camp is supported by Hera, “the movement of righteous evolution” (according to the divine order), by Athena “the inner master towards discerning intelligence”, an emanation from the divine intelligence which aids the evolution of the being through the fights of yoga, as well as by Hephaestus, the god who forges new forms.
Even though Poseidon, the god of the subconscious, often seems to put obstacles on the path, they are merely levers of the righteous evolution. As long as the evolutionary will is turned towards the heights of the spirit, Poseidon seems to offer his support to the Trojans. Let us remember that he helped Laomedon during the construction of the walls of Troy. But when the last year of war was well underway, he took pity on the Achaeans and finally took their side.
Finally, Hermes, the god of the highest Knowledge of the overmind, also supports the Achaeans although he does not intervene at the beginning of the conflict. Representing the highest plane of the mind, he must necessarily make the connection with the supramental, and therefore intervene at the end of the conflict to operate the definitive reversal. However, his goal being unity, without exclusion, he will be compassionate with the Trojans. He will help Priam solicit the clemency of Achilles.
Supporting the Trojan camp, we see first of all Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus and Dione in Homer’s works, symbol of evolving love. She will be forced to leave the battlefield after being violently defeated by Athena, for, Sri Aurobindo tells us, love cannot be achieved on Earth until the reign of Truth is established.
Ares, the god who destroys outdated forms, seems indifferent at first. Then he made the promise to the goddesses Hera and Athena to support the Achaean camp, but soon broke it by taking the side of his lover, Aphrodite.
The name Ares is built around the letter Rho (Ρ) which is a double letter. So Ares is a force that “slices”, but also one that “keeps” when the time has not yet come. Therefore, even if he promises to support the just evolutionary movement (the Achaean camp), he still takes the Trojan side – that of his lover Aphrodite – and initially supports the party of those separating spirit from matter. Wounded by Diomede in the last days of the war, he will have to withdraw from the fight, allowing the final reversal to take place.
The Trojans also receive the support of Leto and her two children, Apollo and Artemis, whom we have associated with the growth of the psychic being. This can be understood if we consider that these are evolving forces that act to instill accuracy, and righteousness in thoughts, words and actions. They must therefore be present until the completion of the divine movement, which is ordained by Zeus. Indeed, the perception of the righteous linked to the psychic – right thought, right feeling, right action – is manifested within the framework of broader cycles or movements of evolution of humanity that follow their own development or law of action to the end. What is right in one time may no longer be right in the next phase. That is why Apollo will be the last to leave Troy.
During this phase of yoga, the corresponding forces of the overmind are therefore opposed to each other in their movement, which the seeker perceives as a violent inner tug: hence, these are “Years of the wrath of the gods “.
This phase of yoga began while the adventurer lived a very quiet period of yoga, even though the war was brewing.
For the conflict to take place and to resolve itself, the forces present must be on the same ground, in this case in front of Troy. That is to say that the part of the consciousness which pursues a more complete liberation – the Achaeans or Argives – must gradually rise to the level of the most advanced part of the seeker’s highest consciousness, where the purest truth must emerge.
Tenedos is a small island located at the entrance of the Strait of Dardanelles or Hellespont (see map above). It could indicate an advanced progression in the liberation within the spirit – the realization of the self (or oneself) – which is, in its static aspect, infinite, one, without movement, without action, without duality, and in its dynamic aspect, depends on the place where the experience is perceived, in the mind, the vital or the body. (Cf.Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Nirodbaran, January 3rd 1939.)
According to the structuring letters (Tau Τ, Nu Ν, Delta Δ), this island could indicate a place of progression towards the union in the spirit.
Sri Aurobindo mentions a certain “obstinacy” of the resistance to operate the movement towards the new, to abandon the most beautiful achievements of the old yoga (Nine long years had passed and the tenth now was wearily ending… Still the assailants attacked, still fought back the stubborn defenders).
When the reward is withheld and endlessly lengthens the labour,
Weary of fruitless toil grows the transient heart of the mortal.
Weary of battle the invaders warring hearthless and homeless
Weary of battle the Phrygians beset in their beautiful city
Prayed to the gods for an end of the danger and mortal encounter.
Long had the high-beached ships forgotten their measureless ocean.
Greece seemed old and strange to her children camped on the beaches,
Old like a life long past one remembers hardly believing
But as a dream that has happened, but as the tale of another.
Time with his tardy touch and Nature changing our substance
Slowly had dimmed the faces loved and the scenes once cherished:
Yet was the dream still dear to them longing for wife and for children,
Longing for hearth and glebe in the far-off valleys of Hellas. 110
These verses evoke a period of doubt and great weariness for the adventurer even though he is accustomed to the hard battles of yoga, for it seems that an opening occurs only when one is at the extreme limit of what one can endure.
The part within him which seeks a new path has no support and nothing to rely on (the invaders warring hearthless and homeless) and bears some kind of nostalgia for the old achievements and the states that were associated to them (Prayed to the gods for release and return to the land of their fathers) (for example the strength and power acquired in the vital transformation. Cf. Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Nirodbaran, 7-01-1939).
And what within him is attached to the highest achievements fears losing them: Prayed to the gods for an end of the danger and mortal encounter.
The ancient states of consciousness and modes of being that the adventurer can still observe in those around him have become totally unreal (Greece seemed old and strange to her children camped on the beaches, Old like a life long past one remembers hardly believing, But as a dream that has happened, but as the tale of another): On many occasions in the Agenda, the Mother evokes the states of consciousness in which she found herself some 20, 30 or 40 years back, judging them full of ignorance, childish or those of a life unrelated to the present state of consciousness. They keep themselves in consciousness as in a dream.
But the purpose that the soul has set itself, its svadharma, remains very alive within his consciousness (Yet was the dream still dear to them).
And the two sides, the seemingly opposite parts of the being, resort to the divine, through a gift of self, an increasingly integral surrender.
Always like waves that swallow the shingles, lapsing, returning,
Tide of the battle, race of the onset relentlessly thundered
Over the Phrygian corn-ﬁelds. Trojan wrestled with Argive,
Caria, Lycia, Thrace and the war-lord mighty Achaia
Joined in the clasp of the ﬁght. Death, panic and wounds and disaster,
Glory of conquest and glory of fall, and the empty hearth-side,
Weeping and fortitude, terror and hope and the pang of remembrance,
Anguish of hearts, the lives of the warriors, the strength of the nations
Thrown were like weights into Destiny’s scales, but the balance wavered
Pressed by invisible hands. 120
This transition from the old Yogas to the new involves hard fights on the Phrygian corn-fields, sometimes damaging the fruits of the most advanced mastery of the external nature. Demeter “the mother of the union” is the goddess of domesticated nature, of crops, and especially of the noblest of them, wheat. Thus, she is the symbol of the sadhana, of the work of self-improvement, and of its fruits. As they are fields of Phrygian wheat (which “burns”, the Trojan inner fire), they represent the masteries of the most advanced states of what is considered to be holiness and wisdom. Indeed, the new consciousness as manifested in 1969 does not demand to go towards more holiness and wisdom, but towards a completely new “something else”.
The goddess Demeter is active through her daughter Kore who was abducted by Hades, the god of the subterranean world, to make her his wife, the work being then done in the unconscious physical nature. Under the pressure of Zeus, Hades agreed to release her, but he made her eat a pomegranate seed in the underworld, thus, she tasted “the essence of Divine Love which spreads on the Earth” according to the symbolism given to pomegranates by the Mother. She could no longer return to a state of ordinary consciousness, that of the surface of the Earth. Kore then took the name of Persephone “the one who destroys death.”
Caria, Lycia, Thrace and the war-lord mighty Achaia
Joined in the clasp of the ﬁght:
In the second canto of the Iliad, in the Catalogue of Ships, more than fourteen provinces on the Achaean side and seven on the Trojan side are mentioned, along with many cities, islands and peoples. Each of them represents a specific work of yoga. The provinces of the Achaean camp: Thessaly, Hellas, Phthia, Boeotia, Phocis, Locris, Euboia, Argolis, Laconia, Messenia, Arcadia, Elis, Aetolia, Achaea; Cities such as Salami and Athens, the islands of Asia Minor, the Ionian Sea, Crete and Rhodes
The provinces of the Trojan camp: Caria, Lycia, Thrace, Phrygia, Maeonia, Paphlagonia, Mysia; peoples such as Pelasgians, Cicones, Paeonians and Alizones; and cities such as Troy and Dardania.
The four provinces mentioned here by Sri Aurobindo are probably among the most important works of yoga.
The first three belong to the Trojan camp. Caria symbolizes the work in the mind (Car: the head), Lycia the acquisition of psychic light (Lug: light) and Thrace is the province of extended asceticism where blows Boreas, the Northern wind (Apollo, the god of psychic light, revitalises himself in Hyperborea, i.e. beyond asceticism).
The only province of the Achaean camp that is mentioned is related to the gathering of the whole being, to the “concentration” (the name Achaea is built around the chi X). This province borders the Gulf of Corinth to the north of the Peloponnese. It seems that Homer regroups under the term “Achaeans” a large number of provinces under the command of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, while distinguishing the Achaeans of Phthia populated by Achilles’ Myrmidons from the ones of the Peloponnese. Therefore, it is not surprising that Sri Aurobindo qualifies it as “powerful”. History noted a gradual domination of the Achaeans over ancient Greece, first driving the Pelasgians away (those who are immersed in the vital) before dominating Thessaly, Attica and the Peloponnese. Symbolically, this would represent a gradual development of the being’s capacities of concentration and gathering of its different parts.
For the coalition against Troy, according to the passages of the poem, Homer also uses the words Danaans “those who give themselves” and Argives “those who are on a quest for light (for truth)”.
Sri Aurobindo then evokes the torments that must be endured by the adventurer of consciousness, not only in parts of his being, but in the whole being (the strength of the nations). This is when we have to face the abandonment of ancient truths and realisations (death), the panic-stricken fears at the root of the vital and the body (panic), what seems endless fights in the subconscious, bringing extreme solitude (the empty hearth-side), suffering and disillusionment (wounds and disaster, tears), spiritual defeats, sometimes the nostalgia of the well traced paths of the old Yoga (the pang of remembrance), but also of the strength of the soul and hope.
One might be surprised by the use of the word “glory” both for the conquest and the fall. This reminds us of the poem by Rudyard Kipling:
“If you can meet Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;”
On a higher level, regarding victories and defeats in yoga, Sri Aurobindo tells us: “It is the Divine that has created the opposition and sends you a defeat so that you may conquer hereafter. This is necessary in order to go beyond the ego’s sense of its own responsibility.” (Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Nirodbaran, 1-01-1939.)
All these fights, sufferings and inner difficulties sometimes seem useless to the adventurer of consciousness. Until the very last moment, he does not know if the time has come for the New, the divine forces hiding their intentions (but the balance wavered, Pressed by invisible hands).
For not only the mortal ﬁghters, 120
Heroes half divine whose names are like stars in remoteness,
Triumphed and failed and were winds or were weeds on the dance of the surges,
But from the peaks of Olympus and shimmering summits of Ida
Hidden from human knowledge the brilliant shapes of Immortals
Mingled unseen in the mellay, or sometimes, marvellous, maskless,
Forms of undying beauty and power that made tremble the heart-strings
Parting their deathless secrecy crossed through the borders of vision,
Plain as of old to the demigods out of their glory emerging
Heard by mortal ears and seen by the eyeballs that perish. 130
Mighty they came from their spaces of freedom and sorrowless splendour.
Homer mentions some heroes who, after their death, became “Demi Gods” (“ἡμίθεοι” hêmítheoi) which does not mean that one of their parents was divine and the other mortal, as understood by later authors.
In mythology, the characteristic of the gods, immortality, must be understood as explained by Sri Aurobindo in the Essays on the Gita Canto II stanza XV: “For by immortality is meant not the survival of death,- that is already given to every creature born with a mind, – but the transcendence of life and death. It means that ascension by which man ceases to live as a mind-informed body and lives at last as a spirit and in the Spirit. Whoever is subject to grief and sorrow, a slave to the sensations and emotions, occupied by the touches of things transient cannot become fit for immortality. These things must be borne until they are conquered, till they can give no pain to the liberated man, till he is able to receive all the material happenings of the world whether joyful or sorrowful with a wise and calm equality, even as the tranquil eternal Spirit secret within us receives them. ” And Canto XIV stanza 2 “Immortality is that supreme status in which the Spirit knows itself to be superior to death and birth, not conditioned by the nature of its manifestation, infinite, imperishable, immutably eternal, – immortal, because never being born it never dies. ” From these words, it becomes apparent that the condition to achieve immortality is perfect equality as defined by Sri Aurobindo, liberation within the spirit being merely a preliminary step.
The term “demi-god” used by Homer to qualify heroes after their death could designate works of yoga that lead to the union with the divine, whether it be the psychic Union or the Union within the spirit (the realisation of the Self or I), without needing to achieve perfect equality. Indeed, the full-fledged gods on the one hand belong to the plane of the overmind and on the other hand are pure expressions of the divine forces.
These demi-god heroes whose names are like very high stars are however the expression of achievements that serve as lights and guides to the rest of the being and in a more general manner, to the rest of mankind.
If we come back to Homer’s work, we saw in the short summary of the Trojan War above that Zeus first forbade the gods to intervene in the conflict: the powers of the overmind had to stay away from the movement that sought another way of evolution, other than an improvement of the present mental man through a separation of spirit and matter.
But the powers of the subconscious do not intend to submit to the orders of the superconscious: Poseidon was undecided in the early days of the war and seemed to offer his support to the Trojans. Let us remember that he helped Laomedon during the construction of the walls of Troy, On the other hand, he will be seen complaining to Zeus about the wall that the Achaeans will erect in front of their boats to protect themselves from Trojan attacks. But when the last year of war was well underway, he took pity on the Achaeans and finally took their side. Bypassing what was forbidden, he went down to support them (Canto XIII). The power that governs the subconscious is thus definitely shifting to the side of the “new”. Perhaps this can be associated with the time when, in the Agenda, the Mother reports that Nature committed to collaborate. (Mother’s Agenda, January 1, 1958.)
Then Homer describes an increasing intervention of the forces of the overmind to a culminating point where they oppose the adventurer in a way that can be supposed to be very painful, since “truths from the overmind” come to contradict each other two by two: the master of the subconscious and the psychic light (Poseidon and Apollo), the just evolutionary movement and the power of purification (Hera and Artemis), the evolving power of love and the inner master for the growth of discerning intelligence (Aphrodite and Athena), etc.
First, in Song XIV, Hera puts Zeus to sleep to let the gods intervene: for a moment, the just evolutionary movement (Hera) is about to bypass the highest force of the overmind that ensures that nothing stays behind and that all movements that have been initiated can continue their development to their end according to their own trajectory (Zeus’ action).
When he awoke, Zeus decided to limit Poseidon’s action and support the Trojans by sending Apollo.
Then in Song XVII, he sent Athena, the master of yoga towards discerning intelligence, to stimulate the Achaeans.
Finally, in Song XX, anxious to finish, Zeus ordered the gods to go onto the battlefield to assist the camp of their choice while he himself would contemplate the show. Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Hephaestus, and Hermes joined the Achaean camp; Ares, Apollo, Artemis, Leto, the Xanthus and Aphrodite joined the Trojan camp. The gods faced each other two by two: Poseidon and Apollo, Enyalea and Athena, Hera and Artemis, Leto and Hermes, Hephaestus and the Xanthus, whom the mortals called Scamander.
Finally, in Song XXI, the gods, divided in their hearts, pounced on each other to the great pleasure of Zeus. Ares threw himself on Athena, and struck her aegis, but the goddess took a heavy stone and struck her brother’s neck, making him fall to the ground. Aphrodite came to help him up, but as she took his hand, she was struck by Athena, who was being stimulated by Hera, and collapsed on the ground with him.
Poseidon challenged Apollo, letting him attack first as he was the youngest. As Apollo was reluctant to attack his father’s brother, Artemis tackled him, which aroused the anger of Hera who hit her in the face. Artemis ran away crying.
Hermes, meanwhile, told Leto that he was renouncing to face her because she was more powerful than him. When the confrontation was over, the gods returned to Olympus except for Apollo, who entered Ilion.
In the last songs, there were still punctual interventions of Athena, Hermes, Apollo and Aphrodite.
The gods who engage with the Achaeans represent the forces that by nature are in affinity with the evolutionary movement and therefore the first to respond within the being to the “need” for evolution, as they are less “attached”, might we say, to the past achievements.
Hera, because she is the force that sees to a right evolution according to the divine plan, and therefore the first to know and support what in the being works to a just evolutionary movement; wife of Zeus, she is the one who contains and limits and acts so that the evolution is achieved with a minimum of damage.
Athena, because she is the master of yoga towards discerning intelligence, the inner teacher who guides the growth of the inner being towards the total mastery of the external being, the force that supports the adventurer of consciousness and guides him safely if he knows how to listen to it and obey it without argument. Indeed, Athena is considered classically on the exoteric plane as the goddess of reason, but she is symbolically very different from that. Born from the highest of the highest power of the overmind (the head of Zeus) and the cosmic intelligence (Metis), she embodies the supreme “discerning intelligence” of the inner master. In Perseus the Deliverer, Sri Aurobindo describes her as:
Me the Omnipotent
Made from His being to lead and discipline
The immortal spirit of man, till it attain
To order and magnificent mastery
Of all his outward world.
And later, in the same play that deals with the liberation from fear, it is worth noting the dialogue between the power that governs the subconscious, Poseidon, and the inner master, Athena:
The anarchy of the enormous seas
Is mine, O terrible Athene: I sway
Their billows with my nod. Man’s feeble feet
Leave there no traces, nor his destiny
Has any hold upon the shifting waves.
Thou severest him with thy unmeasured wastes
Whom I would weld in one. But I will lead him
Over thy waters, thou wild thunderer,
Spurning thy tops in hollowed fragile trees.
He shall be confident in me and dare
The immeasurable oceans till the West
Mingles with India, and reach the northern isles
That dwell beneath my dancing aegis bright,
Snow-weary. He shall, armed with clamorous fire,
Rush o’er the angry waters when the whale
Is stunned between two waves and slay his foe
Betwixt the thunders. Therefore I bid thee not,
O azure strong Poseidon, to abate
Thy savage tumults: rather his march oppose.
For through the shocks of difficulty and death
Man shall attain his godhead.
In this text, Sri Aurobindo tells us that man must have absolute trust in the inner master and his guidance, despite the dangerous emotional storms raised by the subconscious. Man will thus have to face the bottomless depths of life until the yoga for the perfection of matter and mind are merged (West and India united). The inner teacher even encourages the subconscious to oppose man so that the latter reaches his divinity through the shocks of hardship and death.
Poseidon, because the subconscious collaborates through its storms with progression and forces the adventurer to purify the vital depths;
Hephaestus, because he represents the force that creates the new forms;
Hermes, because he embodies the highest knowledge from the overmind by which the adventurer has the certainty of the direction of the evolutionary movement. Son of Maia, the seventh and last Pleiades, he represents the highest plane of the mind. He must necessarily enable the connection with the supramental and therefore intervene at the end of the conflict to operate the final reversal. However, his goal being unity, without exclusion, he will be compassionate with the Trojans. In particular, he will help Priam solicit the clemency of Achilles.
The forces that have been most influential in the spiritual evolution of humanity in the past millennia are on the Trojan side.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love, ranged on the Trojan side. She is the power that led, through the yoga of devotion, to a state of perfect, integral, universal love and compassion.
In Homer’s work, she is the daughter of Zeus and Dione, symbol of love in evolution in man (to be distinguished from Love present at the origin of manifestation when the goddess surged forth from the foam of the sea as a result of the divine power of creation mingling with life). It was she whom Paris-Alexander recognized as the most beautiful, therefore the most just way of evolution. He thus chose the primacy of (still imperfect) love over the just evolution in truth, dissociating the “unshakeable will” of the seeker from his quest for greater freedom (separating Menelaus from Helen). The adventurer of consciousness who has traveled all the way to holiness, has great difficulty in admitting that the new yoga should be turned first and foremost towards Truth and not Love. Sri Aurobindo tells us, Love can only be established on earth in a world of truth. But of course, Troy, which represents one of the greatest achievements of the past evolution, is the true homeland of Love in evolution. Aphrodite remains there through her union with Anchises, the father of Aeneas, whose descendants will return to found the future Troy.
Ares, the god of the destruction of forms, seems indifferent at first. Then he made the promise to the goddesses Hera and Athena to support the Achaean camp, but soon broke it by siding with his lover Aphrodite. Because as long as the law of supramental evolution is not installed, the human progression is obligatorily achieved through the destruction of the old forms to allow the appearance of new, more adapted ones.
Ares is the force that “sever”, but also the one that “maintains” when the time has not yet come. That is why, even if he promises to support the right evolutionary movement (the Achaean camp), he still ranks on the Trojan side – that of his lover Aphrodite, because love progresses through the renewal of forms – and supports at first the party of those who separate spirit from matter. Wounded by Diomede in the last days of the war, he will have to withdraw from the fight, allowing the final reversal to take place.
The Trojans also receive support from Leto and her two children, Apollo and Artemis, the gods we have associated with the growth of psychic light and the force of psychic purification. Apollo will be the last god to leave Troy. We can understand that the psychic being accompanies to the end the movements or cycles that support evolution. But since Apollo and Aphrodite are turned towards true Love, Troy is his true homeland. He will leave the city only with regret and he will return with the descendants of Aeneas as soon as the evolution will allow it, in new forms, the Truth being sufficiently installed within man.
The river of the plain of Troy, the Xanthus or Scamander, also ranks in the Trojan camp. We have seen that this river is composed of two opposite currents. In its entirety and seen from the overmind, the Xanthus symbolizes a stream of consciousness energy that brings a progression from the inner being to an identity in nature and the power to be with the Supreme. (Ξ). But seen by man in his alternating action, he represents only a power calling to the overcoming of the limits towards the infinite and the eternal, and thus an aspiration to a total and definitive immersion in the unique, infinite existence, ultimate goal of the exclusive yoga of knowledge.
Returning to the poem Ilion, Sri Aurobindo tells us that all these gods of the antique ages were descending, gleaming and clanging, from the peaks of Olympus and the shimmering peaks of Ida. They are gods “of the antique ages” because they represent the forces with which men have been in contact for millennia and the way they have expressed them, since the mind has taken the direction of evolution (when the gods prevailed over the Titans), making the creations of the overmind succeed one another: religions, major influences in all areas of human evolution, etc.
If they are gleaming and clanging, it is because they can be perceived by the subtle senses of vision and hearing.
The peaks of Olympus represent the heights of the overmind and those of Ida the realm of the realisations of union with the Divine.
Usually acting without the knowledge of men, the powers of the overmind become fully active at this moment of Yoga, in the inner struggle, and the seeker can perceive their presence and action through the subtle sense of vision (Forms of undying beauty and power that made tremble the heart-strings, Parting their deathless secrecy crossed through the borders of vision) and through the psychic being (the heart-strings). This perception is very “physical” because these gods are “Heard by mortal ears and seen by the eyeballs that perish.”
The plane of consciousness where they reside is the overmind, a plane of freedom beyond all duality, beyond all suffering (their spaces of freedom and sorrowless splendour).
The poet Hesiod, a contemporary of Homer, describes in Works and Days the five successive races that populated the earth. This part of Hesiod’s poem is studied in Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West, Volume 1, at the end of Chapter 3. The periods could perhaps be compared to the Indian Yugas in which the Truth gradually disappears.
Hesiod begins the poem with a complaint: “Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron”.
The first race is of gold: “And they lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them.”
The second race is of silver. It can be associated with the development of the vital mind, like the golden race to that of the physical mind.
The third race is of bronze: The men of this race cared only about fighting.
The fourth race seems to be also of bronze, although Hesiod does not say anything about it. However, “it was more just and more valorous, a divine race of heroes, the very ones who are called demi-gods. “These heroes fought before Thebes at the seven gates, in the land of Cadmus for the herds of Oedipus, or at Troy beyond the seas, for the fair haired Helen. Some died but others were established by Zeus in a kingdom different from that of other men, on the ends of the earth, far from the immortal gods, in the Isles of the Blessed governed by Cronus.”
The last is the iron race, to which belongs today’s humanity.
It is therefore to the period immediately before ours that Sri Aurobindo refers here, that of the demi-gods – those who have realized the spiritual and psychic transformation -, the one he probably calls “the ages of Intuition” and which corresponds to the times of the Vedic rishis (demi-gods of ancient times).
In these times of “Intuition”, the most advanced men – the Rishis – had great perceptive and intuitive capacities, as well as, we may suppose, great powers over matter and the living. For example, intuitive knowledge of healing powers of plants, telekinesis, etc.
But it can be assumed that ordinary men also had abilities far superior to those of today’s humanity. Hesiod even seems to say that for a large part, humanity was able to achieve a certain unity in harmony with the powers of the overmind, the gods. These demi-gods could perceive the gods very distinctly in a natural way, which is now possible only after a very advanced yoga. This is also what Sri Aurobindo tells us: the gods were “Plain as of old to the demigods out of their glory emerging”.
The Biblical Genesis gives an illustration of similar capacities when it recounts that God was walking in the Garden of Eden, visible and audible to the first human couple, although this passage refers to the entry of humankind in intellectual mind.
One cannot help wondering why Truth has been gradually disappearing from humanity for millennia (Hesiod, Homer, and the authors of Genesis are almost contemporaneous, around the 8th century BC)
In an essay – entitled The Cycles of the Mind throughout the History of Humanity – the author of this study has set forth the hypothesis of very long cycles influencing the human mind, passing the point of concentration of consciousness from one hemisphere of the brain to the other during a twenty-six thousand year cycle. We know that the left hemisphere processes information in a linear fashion, while the right brain operates in a way that seems anarchic, non-linear. Other shorter but similar cycles would also influence the development of civilisations, which oscillate between periods of humanism of which man is the center – periods of separation – and periods during which the Sacred is the center, periods of union called Middle Ages. Men in general, and especially thinkers, conceive thought as an independent and progressive faculty, without conceiving that it can be inflected in one direction or the other by forces beyond them. If it is determined by the law of alternation of the movements of separation and union, its freedom is relative as long as the being did not rise to higher levels of consciousness through purification and universalisation.
According to this theory, it seems that the cycle is currently at the peak of the period of separation and that the seed of a new golden age has been planted.
Sea-vast, trailing the azure hem of his clamorous waters,
Blue-lidded, maned with the Night, Poseidon smote for the future,
Earth-shaker who with his trident releases the coils of the Dragon,
Freeing the forces unborn that are locked in the caverns of Nature.
In the distribution of the world of consciousness between the three sons of Cronus, Poseidon was given dominion over the sea, that is to say over the subconscious, which is, according to Sri Aurobindo, a vast reservoir recording the slightest mental-vital phenomenon, the slightest sensation. The sea is both a symbolic expression of life and the place that preserves the memories of evolution. Poseidon is “Ποντο-μεδων”, the king of the sea. But Pontus does not represent the physical sea that is called in ancient Greek Thalassa, Als or Nau. If Pontus is symbolically associated with the high seas, it is because he is related to the subconscious “depths of life”, its divinities and its monsters.
Poseidon is not the subconscious itself but the force from the plane of the overmind that governs and works for its transformation.
Complementary to the goddess Demeter “the mother of the union”, his name could be understood as “the master (Ποσει) of the union (Δ)”. If the goddess maintains a tension towards the perfection of being, Poseidon ensures that nothing remains behind. Also, his actions are not always appreciated for their true value because he highlights, through emotional, physical and mental shocks, the seeker’s psychological knots and imperfections.
As the vital manifestations are mostly out of the control of the intellect, he is more the god of rough seas than that of calm seas. As emotions have a strong impact on the body, called a psychosomatic effect, he is also called “the shaker of the earth” or “the support of the earth” (the earth being here associated with the body).
Master of the vital energies, he can raise storms just as well as he can save ships in perdition by soothing the unrelenting waves.
He also causes bulls to appear – symbols of the “power of the luminous mind” – that must be controlled (put under the yoke) and sacrificed to the Divine.
But it is his relationship with the horse that is paramount, because the latter is the symbol of the disciplinable or disciplined life force and therefore of power in the vital. When he works on mastery, he is named “the horse tamer”, and sometimes gives the seeker the horse corresponding to his level (cf. for example the horses of Idas, Pelops or Adraste). Likewise, he begot Pegasus, the winged horse who was born from the slashed neck of Medusa: when fear is defeated, a great force is released which can operates in the vital plane and in the mind.
The lower planes of Poseidon’s kingdom harbor impulses, desires, sensations, emotions, passions, instinct of possession, anger, fear, greed, lust, and so on.
At the lower border, adjoining Hades, the seeker approaches the vital planes anchored deep in matter, which makes Homer say that the horses of Poseidon’s chariot have bronze hooves.
According to Sri Aurobindo, the subconscious, the kingdom of Poseidon, is the part of our being where there is neither will nor conscious awakened feeling; it receives and stores the slightest impressions and sensations, as well as all our experiences. It contains all the primitive reactions to life, struggling to emerge from matter. Everything that is repressed penetrates and stays there, ready to manifest at the slightest opportunity. All this re-emerges in a dream or a waking state, mechanically, repetitively, stubbornly, often without any relation to the current situation. The subconscious is largely responsible for our diseases. This subconscious belongs to the three planes of the mind, the vital and the physical. It is universal as well as individual.
Although it is one of the major obstacles to progress in yoga, Sri Aurobindo recommends to reject it as not being our essential nature, but only a result of the action of ignorance. And the Mother speaks of endless transformations in this plane.
Poseidon’s temperament is a reflection of what he triggers within us, most often in the form of uncontrolled emotional storms: he is said to be gruff, angry, jealous, and permanently unsatisfied.
But, when speaking of a god, these characteristics do not concern only the necessary work of control of these same energies within the seeker, but the attitude to be adopted vis-à-vis the quest: if Poseidon is “gruff”, it means that one cannot be satisfied with false pretenses or half-engagement, because to approach the deep layers of consciousness is difficult. If he is “angry”, it is because lukewarmness is out of place and the transformation of our vital nature will not take place without harsh storms. And if he is “resentful”, it is because the memories lodged in the subconscious will come back to the surface to be processed someday.
He is therefore a very present god in the advanced phase of yoga during which he brings out the most buried evolutionary memories in the subconscious.
Pindar, speaking of the famous columns of Heracles (Heracles), mentions these memories as monstrous beasts: “it is not easy to cross the trackless sea beyond the pillars of Heracles, which that hero and god set up as famous witnesses to the furthest limits of seafaring. He subdued the monstrous beasts in the sea, and tracked to the very end the streams of the shallows, where he reached the goal that sent him back home again, and he made the land known.” (Pindar, Third Nemean.)
The trident is the attribute of Poseidon. It was offered to him during the war of the gods against the Titans by the Cyclops “those who possess the vision of truth”, symbols of the divine omniscience. A trident is what catches fish while killing them. The fish or rather the sea monsters are the memories or evolutionary nodes, whether personal memories, family memories or, at a later stage, those of humanity. It is therefore for Poseidon to purify the subconscious, and he is active to his fullest extent (as vast as the sea). Wherever he goes, he raises great swirls, if not storms (Sea-vast, trailing the azure hem of his clamorous waters).
His devastating action actually helps the purification which prepares the future, and the more advanced the yoga, the more violent the storms (Poseidon smote for the future).
Poseidon has his palace in the depths of the sea, so there is “a blue lid” above him.
The mane is to the horse what hair is to man; a way of perceiving things hidden from the ordinary senses. Poseidon, having the Night for mane, is intended to help the perception of things hidden in the deep, in the night of the subconscious.
The three teeth of the trident most probably indicate that the action of the god extends in the three planes at the subconscious level: mental, vital and physical.
In the last two verses of this passage, Sri Aurobindo tells us that it is through a work of purification of the subconscious in these three planes that the “Dragon” can be released. The Dragon or the Serpent is the symbol of the evolutionary force. Here, it could of course be the Kundalini, this energy coiled at the bottom of the spine, but also other eternal energies that still sleep in the depths of matter (Freeing the forces unborn that are locked in the caverns of Nature).
This last verse of Sri Aurobindo echoes that of Homer, in the Iliad, in Song XXI, when the gods threw themselves at each other: Athena and Ares stimulated the fighters with loud cries, Zeus thundered, and Poseidon shook the earth to the point that Hades in his kingdom was frightened, fearing that Poseidon “would open to the eyes of mortals and immortals the terrible and vast dwellings that make the gods themselves shiver”.
The master of the subconscious seems to be the one who keeps the key to the terrible depths that open the door to physical transformation. We think then of the Mother, addressing Satprem who complained of his difficulties, telling him that his hells were child’s play beside those she endured.
Calm and unmoved, upholding the Word that is Fate and the order
Fixed in the sight of a Will foreknowing and silent and changeless,
Hera sent by Zeus and Athene lifting his aegis
Guarded the hidden decree.
Hera is the eldest daughter of Cronus, sister of Zeus and also his wife. Homer tells us that she united with him on Mount Ida, the place of union (Δ) in the spirit: their work at the highest level of the overmind is therefore the realisation of unity. As a wedding present, Gaia offered him a tree that bore gold apples, symbol of the highest Knowledge.
His name, built around the Rho, like that of his mother Rhea, expresses the “right or the exact movement” according to divine law. To Zeus’ expansion principle, she adds her limiting power through cycles. She will angrily chase the many lovers of her husband. And if Hera continues to hate all lovers of Zeus and their illegitimate children, it is because her duty is to fight against all those who, aspiring to larger and brighter spaces, might be tempted to escape from the just incarnation process, or accelerate the evolutionary process while the time has not come yet. For no one can walk too far ahead of the rest of humanity. Her role is indeed to ensure that nothing stays behind in evolution.
Thus is established the balance and unity of the couple, which includes apparent opposites. She is therefore represented by a woman with strict features in the archaic drawings.
But, as paradoxical as it may seem, she is also the guardian of the right movement that generates a first level of Joy, because Eros – Divine Joy or Ananda -, Rhea and Hera have in their name the same structuring letter Rho.
In the world of forms governed by the gods, she is therefore the guardian of the divine laws established at a higher level by the Titans and Titanides, inspired by the Gaia-Uranus – matter/spirit or existence/consciousness – couple, one level higher.
She is therefore the force of the overmind which guards the divine Speech, the creative Word which governs evolution but which man only perceives as destiny or inevitability. This order of manifestation was decided by a divine Will which knows the future and “sees” it, in other words by divine omniscience and divine omnipotence. This power lies in the heights of silence and immutability, hence out of Becoming.
Athena is also a guardian of this divine law or order of manifestation.
She is a daughter of Zeus and Metis, the Goddess of Divine “Intelligence” or “Wisdom”. Metis is the daughter of the titan Oceanos, who is at the origin of all the currents of consciousness-energy acting in creation.
Athena was born armed from the head of Zeus: she represents a power of Knowledge that arises from the highest of the overmind supraconscious and is immediately active as soon as she is perceived by the seeker. Goddess of wisdom, we have associated her with the inner master leading towards discernment whose function is to allow contact and union with the inner Reality and the Supreme above, and to promote the growth of the psychic being and the submission of the external nature to it.
The second stage, under the guidance of the second “unborn child” (of Metis), will bring down into the lower planes the forces of the divine or supramental plane to transform the mind, life and body, for a divine life in a deified body. He will be “a son with a more than violent heart that will reign over gods and mortals”. For it will be the action of a supramental force (reigning over the gods) acting in “correctness” and therefore more “uncompromising” in the eyes of men, in accordance with the light of Apollo and the integrity of Artemis, who then became greater gods than the children of Hera. This force can most probably be identified with the “New Consciousness”, the Superman consciousness, as described in the Agenda from January 1969.
The symbolic animal of Athena is the owl, a bird that sees at night: she is therefore the power that makes it possible to discern in the darkness (of unconsciousness).
The “Aegis” is a loose piece of clothing that can be a goat’s skin, a protective armor, or a banner to scare the enemy. In the Iliad, Hephaestus gave it to Zeus to inspire fear. It is also an attribute of Athena who hung the head of the Gorgon cut by Perseus on her aegis, symbol of the vanquished fear: the victory over fear is indeed an absolute protection for the warrior who goes to the conquest of his inner being.
The name “Aegis” comes from the Greek “αιγιδος, goat skin shield”, symbol of both the aspiration, the need to grow (the goat) and protection.
This word also means “storm, hurricane”: for one who is afraid of God or the gods, the symbol of their infinite power is the hurricane. By waving his aegis, Zeus thus frightens the parts within man which, in his relation to the Real, are still tainted by fears. Although these seem necessary in evolution as long as man has not found his inner god, or as long as he needs external laws to direct his life, the seeker will gradually have to eliminate all the fears within him because they are the biggest obstacle on the path.
But for Ilion, loud as the surges,
Ares impetuous called to the ﬁre in men’s hearts, and his passion 140
Woke in the shadowy depths the forms of the Titan and demon;
Dumb and coerced by the grip of the gods in the abyss of the being,
Formidable, veiled they sit in the grey subconscient darkness
Watching the sleep of the snake-haired Erinnys.
Hephaestus and Ares are the two sons of the Zeus-Hera couple, and therefore the two essential active principles of human consciousness in the period when it is identified with the mind. The first builds the forms, the second destroys them. As the forms evolve towards a stiffening, there is no other solution but their destruction so that the evolution can continue through new, more flexible forms.
This renewal of forms is indispensable in humanity today to the progress of love: that is why, although she is married to Hephaestus, Aphrodite is the lover of Ares. Also, even if he perceives the pertinence of the cause of the Achaean coalition, he sided with Aphrodite in order to help the progression of love to the maximum of what the ancient yoga and/or destruction of outdated forms in the Achaean camp.
He is naturally in affinity with the separative periods of the cycles of the mind.
He is the executor of the right movement but does not anticipate it. With his mother Hera, he regulates the evolutionary process. If he destroys the outdated forms, he also opposes the excess of eagerness.
If the Greeks made him a bloodthirsty god, it is because the supreme designs transcend moral considerations, as well as our appreciation of suffering and sadness. But the destruction of forms is often experienced as unbearable and incomprehensible, as it generates suffering and horrors perceived as unfair. This is why the ancients did not make Ares a gardener who pruned dead branches, but the dreadful god of war, a god “who enjoys the furious sounds of melee, carnage and the smell of blood “.
In Greek mythology, the Titans are the children of Gaia and the parents of the gods. They symbolize the creative powers that ruled humanity as long as the mind was not developed enough within man to establish his supremacy over the vital. (See Mother’s Agenda, 17 March 1961.) However, this period left in the human subconscious memory the reminiscence of a golden age under the reign of Cronos, a time when humanity lived in harmony with the forces of nature. At the end of the war of the gods against the Titans – the gradual domination of the forces of mental consciousness – the Titans were relegated to Tartarus, the area of consciousness which Sri Aurobindo named Nescience, under the guard of the Hecatoncheires. The relegation of the Titans to Tartarus most probably also illustrates the disappearance of many “instinctive” faculties and “powers” that were gradually no longer accessible over the millennia.
The Hecatoncheires are the symbols of huge powers capable of constraining the forces of life and that allowed the victory of the mental consciousness (they had been released by Zeus to assist him in the war). They represent powers of action of the Divine simultaneously in all places (omnipotence and omnipresence). Due to their stay in Tartarus and although they are free as guardians of the Titans, the corresponding powers are no longer available to humanity. They now force the powers of nature, the forces of creation, to remain in the shadow, in the realm of Nescience, until the mind, in turn, gives way to the psychic and the supramental. Sri Aurobindo here calls this area of consciousness the grey subconscient darkness: Formidable, veiled they sit in the grey subconscient darkness.
According to Hesiod, the Tartarus is a region “as far from the earth as the earth is from heaven, for it would take nine nights and nine days to the bronze anvil descending from heaven to arrive the tenth night to the earth, and it would take the same time for it to descend from the earth to Tartarus.“
That is why Sri Aurobindo says that Titans are “Dumb and coerced by the grip of the gods in the abyss of the being”.
When Ares destroys the outmoded mental forms, he removes at the same time the protections they provided against the emergence of deeply buried forces. If we remove the control of the mind, the straitjacket of morals, customs, social laws, religions and beliefs of all kinds, all the “forms” that were established in a given time to allow human evolution, then we awaken “in the shadowy depths the forms of the Titan and demon”.
These forces or powers must not be considered from the point of view of human morality. They do not hold a negative or positive value within themselves.
For Sri Aurobindo, the Titans are forces that tend to turn the creation back to the inertia of matter because they oppose the mastery of the mind and are therefore somehow retrograde. According to the Greeks, they are creative powers fully active during the vital evolution of humanity.
If we associate the English word “demon” with the Homeric word daimon δαιμων, it is a deity. It was only after Homer that the word became synonymous with inferior deity and later with evil spirit, demon. Here, there is every reason to think that Sri Aurobindo used it in this last sense, as a power of opposition to the divine plan.
Like the ancient Greeks, Sri Aurobindo tells us that these titanic and demonic forces, reduced to silence, are forcibly held in inactivity in the deep subconscious by the grip of the gods, by the powers of the mind. “Veiled”, they are ignored by men.
Freed from mental control, they can be unleashed within man. This is the reason for the repeated warning of the Mother concerning the appeasing of desires: the suppression of social and moral laws is not made for the satisfaction of desires but to achieve obedience to a higher law.
In the last verse, Sri Aurobindo tells us that the Titans and the demons, in the abyssal darkness of the subconscious, are watching “the sleep of the snake-haired Erinnys” (This name can be written with one or two “n”).
The Erinyes, born of the blood of Ouranos (the Consciousness, the Spirit), are, like the Titans, forces that appeared at the origin of creation. They are the guarantors of the just divine evolutions and share nearly the same vibration as Ares, but on a higher level.
When Cronos cut off his father’s genitals, splashes of blood spilled over Gaia. And throughout the years, she gave birth to the Erinyes (Alecto, Tisiphone and Megaera), the great giants and the nymphs of the ash tree (the Meliae nymphs).
The “splashes” that flowed from Ouranos’ wound are particles of the “essence” of the power of the Spirit, its life-giving and creative part. When they fell on the Earth, fertilizing it, they generated the primordial elements of the Spirit-Matter alliance, those that the seeker will discover during his descent to the roots of life.
These forces sprang up to stimulate or counterbalance the creative process resulting from the limitation of the Spirit, and appeared as evolution progressed:
they guide the seeker back to the right path of evolution when he turns away from it (the Erinyes)
they support the emergence of life (the Giants)
They encourage growth, being especially active in the beginnings of evolution (the nymphs of the ash trees or the Meliae nymphs).
“The Erinyes are avenging spirits who intervene to punish serious offenses, especially perjury and family crimes. They sometimes act through mortals, sometimes directly.”
The Erinyes are always concerned by the violations of the essential movement of evolution within all human beings. Perjures concern those who do not follow the path their soul has chosen in this life. Family crimes, those of parents or, more often, those of children, break what connects the seeker to his divine origin (crimes against parents are the most frequent cause of their intervention), or interrupt what wants to develop within him (children).
The action of these deities is totally incomprehensible to man because he is most often unaware of his mistake, hence the Erinyes walk in the dark. Moreover, they are merciless: they are inflexible movements.
Even the psychic light can let the seeker move in the wrong direction if the psychic thinks that it should be useful to the rest of the journey: Orestes and Alcmaeon, embodying two rather advanced works of the quest, were punished by the Erinyes for the murder of their mothers – respectively Clytemnestra and Eriphyle – even though they had been perpetrated with Apollo’s consent.
They are represented holding torches, with serpents for hair: they are symbols of “lights in the dark” and “powerful evolutions”. Their name, built around the letters Ρ (Rho) and Ν (Nu), expresses “the action of the higher law over evolution according to nature”.
Sri Aurobindo tells us that this chthonian divine force, whose function is to put the evolutionary process back on the right track, has been asleep until now: the lines of spiritual evolution followed by humanity should have been able to develop until the end.
The movement of recovery cannot occur as long as the powers of creation are maintained in the subconscious where they watch over the immobility of the Erinyes. If they are revivified, the divine righting action can begin to act.
At the end of the poem, in Book VIII, mention is made of Ananke “the mystic Erinye”, the armed force of the highest divine will, the power that governs Becoming.
Seer and magician and prophet who beholds what the thought cannot witness,
Lifting the godhead within us to more than a human endeavor,
Slayer and saviour, thinker and mystic, leaped from his sun-peaks
Hermes, son of the Pleiades Maia, is the divine power in charge of the growth of the overmind, and not Apollo. Apollo, son of Zeus and Leto, is the manifestation of the psychic light at the level of the mental consciousness, of this Light of Truth which resides in the temple of our soul, this sacred fire that the ancient sages of the Vedic era, more than five thousand years ago, celebrated under the name of Agni, this “sun in the darkness” (Rig-Veda III.39.5) which “is there for man and stands in the middle of his house” (Rig-Veda I. 70.2). This luminous fire “Lifting the godhead within us to more than a human endeavour,” Apollo is therefore first and foremost the god who accompanies the incipient light within man. So he was given the nickname “Lukeios”, a word built from an ancient root (Λυγ) which means “the light which precedes dawn” and from a more recent root (Λυκ) which means “to shine”, and not from the word “wolf” as it is usually believed.
Transmitting a light from the plane of Truth, Apollo utters infallible prophecies, as long as they are not clouded by the mind or the vital.
Within man, the psychic light can perform “miracles”, that is, produce incomprehensible results. Delegate of superior harmony, he is of course responsible for healing, which is the result of a purification (when everything is in its place). Apollo is therefore “miracled”.
In ancient Greek, aura (αυρα) could mean “aspirations, feelings of the soul”. In religious iconography, the saints are represented with a halo. Apollo “haloed” is thus linked to the psychisation of the being, which leads to the state of holiness. As reported by Nirodbaran in his Talks with Sri Aurobindo: “This psychic realisation occurs when the wall which separates the external nature from the soul or the psychic being is broken at the level of the heart.(…) One can get rid of egoism but not of ego. For the psychic depends on the individual nature for its action. The lower nature has its hold on the individual and the psychic works through the individual. The psychic realisation is the realisation of the individual soul which feels itself as one in the many; your individuality is not lost in the realisation. The individual soul works in the mind and heart and other parts and purifies them bringing in the realisation of devotion (Bhakti) and love. But the ego remains -it is the saint ego, the Bhakta ego, the ego of the Sadhu or the virtuous man. (…) The ego remains but becomes harmless. “(Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Nirodbaran, 7-01-1939.)
This psychic light makes the one within whom it is active a “seer”: he sees “what is in Truth”. The Vedic Rishis were “seers” who saw “what thought cannot witness”.
It also gives the power of prophecy, a certain ability to receive the signs that come from the supramental fire through the overmind, as transmitted by the Pythies of Delphi. For Apollo had declared that he would announce the infallible will of Zeus, his father. To achieve this, he had instituted at a very young age a place for his oracle at Delphi after killing the dragon Python, a symbol of “putrefaction”: the psychic light is the first tool that manifests itself in opposition to “putrefaction”, and therefore the first instrument needed to achieve immortality. Indeed, divination was said to emanate “from the fire of the earth”, because only this fire in the center of matter can put an end to the process of putrefaction and to death. The Mother tells us in the Agenda that the mind and vital work together, and so do the psychic and the physical: it is through the psychic that one would be better able to approach yoga in the body, from the consciousness of cells.
The Pythian Games were instituted to commemorate Apollo’s victory over the Dragon. This was one of the four great celebrations of ancient Greece mentioned at the very beginning of the detailed analysis of this first book.
Apollo is the light and radiation aspect of the psychic, which is why he is often called Phebus, “the luminous”, derived from the name of his grandmother Phoebe. This is what in us “knows” with certainty, even if the whole world says the opposite.
His twin sister Artemis is the Will and Purity aspect. She is a feminine character because this will is no longer that of the ego, but that of the psychic being: the intuitive knowledge of what must be done and the right action that ensues in a unified will, in accordance with the symbolism of her bow. This will is not a clutch of the ego, but a knowledge of the goal, an aspiration and determination of the whole being tending towards its realisation.
If he is an artisan of holiness in man, Apollo is also that of sacred magic, that of initiates and occultists. As such, he is a magician, a thinker and a mystic: his direct knowledge of the Truth makes him a thinker far superior to mental knowledge. This is why Hermes will attempt to appropriate the flocks of Apollo.
Apollo, killer and savior, seems to possess irreconcilable characteristics. In fact, as Agni, a light and psychic fire, he is a “savior”. He is a “killer” only when faced with what lowers the psychic or attacks it, as well as with spiritual pride.
Apollo eliminated his half-brother Tityos who had tried to attack his mother Leto, symbol of the psychic being. With his arrows, he slaughtered his nephews and nieces, the sons and daughters of Niobe who had dared to mock his mother and killed the Aloades when they began to climb Olympus and challenge the gods.
It is he who stands closest to the supramental light of Truth, on the sun peaks. He is the force emanating from the Divine, who (because he is the son of Zeus) raises us to the Divine through the overmind, to regions inaccessible to our own will acting in yoga.
We have already seen that the gods Apollo and Poseidon came to the aid of Laomedon and built the formidable walls of the citadel of Troy. The “wall of mysteries” must be then understood as the sum of initiations, experiences and achievements.
Heaven’s strengths divided swayed in the whirl of the Earth-force.
All that is born and destroyed is reborn in the sweep of the ages; 150
Life like a decimal ever recurring repeats the old ﬁgure;
Goal seems there none for the ball that is chased throughout Time
by the Fate-teams;
Evil once ended renews and no issue comes out of living:
Such seemed the rule of the pastime of Fate on the plains of the Troad;
All went backwards and forwards tossed in the swing of the death-game.
Spray as of surf on the cliffs when it moans unappeased, unrequited
Age after fruitless age. Day hunted the steps of the nightfall;
Joy succeeded to grief; defeat only greatened the vanquished, 160
Victory offered an empty delight without guerdon or proﬁt.
End there was none of the effort and end there was none of the failure.
At this moment of the yoga, the seeker experiences great uncertainty about the path to follow, especially as the forces of the overmind within him play against each other, according to their own lines of development. The adventurer seems to find himself facing an eternal recommencement, without being able to perceive the goal of evolution. The “recurring decimal” refers for example to the writing of 1/3 in decimal form: 0.33333333 … and the teams of Destiny play on a field where there are no goals, a game that seems absurd, just an illusion. Sri Aurobindo seems to approach here the realisations of the Me (or Self) where the Consciousness enters the void, the infinite and the silence of a Void where there is nothing, where there has never been anything and where there will never be anything. When one goes out of this state, or seen from this state, the world is perceived as an illusion.
Sri Aurobindo, in the Talks reported by Nirodbaran (10-01-1939), explains this way of looking at the world: “The Vedic Rishis,” he says, “accepted life and did not separate the Spirit and material life; this separation began in the time of the Upanishads and then the other ways clearly dissociated the Brahman life and Consciousness. This tendency was accentuated under the influence of Buddhism and Shankara eventually created a complete separation between the two. If one considers that life has no divine purpose, it is useless to want to go beyond the escape into the laya (dissolution). It is therefore quite right to get out of life, because from the point of view of Brahman, life and body are a clutter. But those who preached flight did not bring any satisfactory explanation to the reason for life and the body. They attributed the existence of life and the body to either the maya (cosmic illusion), which means they are inexplicable, either to the lila (cosmic play), which means that God simply enjoys playing, and we cannot expect a game to have a purpose.”
Sri Aurobindo, in speaking of these eternal beginnings, perhaps also refers to the cycles that seem to govern evolution, whether those of Yugas or other cycles that he mentions without ever giving their nature or their duration.
The mind sees only the horrors that are perpetuated: although it says “never again”, it is obliged to note that the old demons transmigrate, using human receptacles weak enough to accommodate them and malleable enough to become their armed force. Thus, some cruelties that may have been thought to have disappeared from humanity reappear in forms that seem even more barbaric: The evil that once ended is reproduced.
And the mind cannot see the finality of life. Only a Vision inaccessible to man can perceive the “thread” of evolution and the way it operates (Only an Eye unseen can distinguish the thread of its workings).
Thus, at this moment of yoga, the adventurer of consciousness sees opposing forces within him that seem to lead him nowhere and have no other effect than to exhaust him on all levels, including the physical. Even his highest achievements seem vain and lose their power (the blood of the mighty was squandered) and nothing seems to advance in an eternal resumption of the battles of yoga in the subconscious (End there was none of the effort and end there was none of the failure).
We have seen above that victory and defeat are deceptive. But more importantly, it is through our mistakes and our defeats that we progress and not through our victories and our successes (defeat only greatened the vanquished). To enter the new world, one must have exhausted all the disappointments. Even the conquests in the subconscious seemed to give way to no light, with for only gain the satisfaction of having earned a victory (Victory offered an empty delight without guerdon or proﬁt).
Triumph and agony changing hands in a desperate measure
Faced and turned as a man and a maiden trampling the grasses
These were gods and they trampled lives. But though Time is immortal,
Mortal his works are and ways and the anguish ends like the rapture.
Artists of Nature content with their work in the plan of the transience,
Beautiful, deathless, august, the Olympians turned from the carnage,
Leaving the battle already decided, leaving the heroes 170
Slain in their minds, Troy burned, Greece left to her glory and downfall.
Fanning the world with their wings. As the great to their luminous mansions
Turn from the cry and the strife, forgetting the wounded and fallen,
Calm they repose from their toil and incline to the joy of the banquet,
Watching the feet of the wine-bearers rosily placed on the marble,
Filling their hearts with ease, so they to their sorrowless ether
Passed from the wounded earth and its air that is ploughed with men’s anguish;
Calm they reposed and their hearts inclined to the joy and the silence.
In this yoga, defeats entail unbearable suffering, anxieties resembling agonies. They are immediately followed by ephemeral joys when a victory is won. And their dance is led by the gods, because it is their choreography. Life within the adventurer – the health of his body – is trampled by the forces at play inside him (trampling the grasses… Face and turn and they laugh in their joy of the dance and each other). Recall that Sri Aurobindo explains that the powers of the overmind – the gods – each follow their own line of development. Sometimes these lines contradicts each other and that is why the gods clashed two by two.
But nothing is eternal in manifestation, and all movement born in time has an end. Then comes a moment when the forces of the overmind retreat: in the Iliad, Zeus first ordered the gods to go to the battlefield to assist the camp of their choice. There, they clashed two by two, then tired, triumphant or irritated, retreated on the Olympus (Song XXI of the Iliad and in Ilion “content with their work in the plan of the transience, Beautiful, deathless, august, the Olympians turned from the carnage”).
Sri Aurobindo calls them “Artists of Nature” because they act according to the ends assigned to them by Nature, and especially their own nature which, in their plane, is not evolutionary. To evolve, they must incarnate, because only the plane of matter enables evolution.
The outcome of this phase of yoga has been decreed by the Divine (the battle already decided). It may be supposed that the outcome of Homer’s time was the reversal of Yoga towards the purification of the depths, illustrated by the battle led by Achilles and then by the adventures of Ulysses. Some three millennia later, it is a very different “issue” that the Mother and Sri Aurobindo announced at the beginning of the 20th century, namely that “this time, something will be done; what was announced by prophets in the past will see a beginning of realisation.”
Just after this great change, the adventurer of consciousness finds himself in a state of mental emptiness, without the slightest idea of the path to take, having reached the end of all the disappointments, without any spiritual structure to which to attach himself, worn out by the long struggle that was waged against the old which resisted, but certain of the divine victory within him (leaving the heroes slain in their minds, Troy burned, Greece left to her glory and downfall).
The eagle has always been taken as the symbol of the highest mind, the overmind. It is the bird of Zeus who devours the liver of the chained Prometheus, according to the cycles of the mind: during the day, an eagle devoured his liver which was reconstituted during the night.
The powers of the overmind who have worked to the realisation of the shift or opposed to it are thus compared to eagles (Into their heavens they rose up mighty like eagles ascending). Henceforth, they will let the adventurer find the new path for himself. So they resume their usual place in the structure of consciousness, because the adventurer is not yet able to withstand the irruption of the overmind into the physical mind for a long time. In one of his Aphorisms, (N°287), Sri Aurobindo tells us: “Thou hast to learn to bear all the gods within thee and never stagger with their inrush or break under their burden.“
(We believe that this short involvement of the gods in yoga precedes the establishment of the overmind light in the physical mind achieved by Sri Aurobindo in 1926. This is more about the illumination of the mind and the vital by the overmind light.)
Their influence however does not disappear for with their wings, they fan the world.
In the Iliad, we first see a few particular gods being cupbearers – those who serve nectar – for other gods: the goddess Hebe, personification of eternal youth which is adaptation to the movement of becoming, without which immortality is doomed to remain in a fixed form gradually losing all reality (Cf. the legend of Eos and Tithonos: Eos asked Zeus to confer immortality on Tithonos, which he consented to, but she forgot to ask for eternal youth. Tithonos became an old man and shrank over time.); the god Hephaestus who builds the new forms; and the goddess Iris, messenger of the gods, establishing the connection between forces of the overmind and between overmind and the other planes, especially the body and matter (Watching the feet of the wine-bearers rosily placed on the marble). With the realization of joy which comes with the psychic and spiritual transformation, Ganymede “the one who watches over joy”, the most beautiful mortal – the truest within the being – son of Tros, becomes the cupbearer: he keeps the joy of the overmind alive within the being, for joy and silence are the characteristics of the overmind (Calm they reposed and their hearts inclined to the joy and the silence).
Lifted was the burden laid on our wills by their starry presence: 180
Man was restored to his smallness, the world to its inconscient labour.
Life felt a respite from height, the winds breathed freer delivered;
Light was released from their blaze and the earth was released from their greatness.
But their immortal content from the struggle titanic departed.
Vacant the noise of the battle roared like the sea on the shingles;
Wearily hunted the spears their quarry; strength was disheartened;
Silence increased with the march of the months on the tents of the leaguer.
But not alone on the Achaians the steps of the moments fell heavy;
Slowly the shadow deepened on Ilion mighty and scornful:
Dragging her days went by; in the rear of the hearts of her people 190
Something that knew what they dared not know and the mind would not utter,
Something that smote at her soul of deﬁance and beauty and laughter,
Darkened the hours. For Doom in her sombre and giant uprising
Neared, assailing the skies: the sense of her lived in all pastimes;
Time was pursued by unease and a terror woke in the midnight:
Even the ramparts felt her, stones that the gods had erected.
Now no longer she dallied and played, but bounded and hastened,
Seeing before her the end and, imagining massacre calmly,
Since the beginning of the poem, Sri Aurobindo does not seem to refer only to the adventurer of consciousness but to humanity as a whole, as he uses the pronoun “our” in the first verse of this passage. So it is also question of a pressure over the entire planet. Humanity must change or become outmoded. All the illusions about changing the world from the outside must be overcome. Thus the ideals for improving the future of mankind through “isms” of all kinds have collapsed, victims of their excesses and shortcomings. Only capitalism and triumphant individualism seem to keep resisting for the time being. But we can already see that this reign of quantity and greed is coming to an end. Nearly one century ago, this was already announced by Sri Aurobindo in The Human Cycle: “Therefore in a commercial age with its ideal, vulgar and barbarous, of success, vitalistic satisfaction, productiveness and possession the soul of man may linger a while for certain gains and experiences, but cannot permanently rest. If it persisted too long, Life would become clogged and perish of its own plethora or burst in its straining to a gross expansion. Like the too massive Titan it will collapse by its own mass: mole rue sua.“
Similarly, the liberations and nirvanas of the past which have allowed isolated individuals to find the Divine but have left the earth unchanged must also disappear. For example, the Himalayan heights of Tibet’s spiritual achievements swept away by the most uncompromising materialism.
This is sufficiently described in the literature of the open eyed authors, so there is no need to linger. As we know, the night is the darkest just before dawn.
When the powers of the overmind – the gods – intervene in the terrestrial life, whether at the individual or collective level, a great tension follows within the being or within humanity, this tension pushing for the overcoming of oneself, and the individual will seems helpless before the forces that move it (Lifted was the burden laid on our wills by their starry presence: Life felt a respite from height).
For example, this was striking during the brief events of 1968 in France and in Europe where a presence was palpable in the air; an air as luminous, soft, light and joyful as bubbles of champagne. But the human consciousness is too undeveloped to oppose vital forces that take advantage of the moment to play their own game. Then the spiritual forces withdraw and everything is the same as it was before, without joy, just the memory (Light was released from their blaze and the earth was released from their greatness. But their immortal content from the struggle titanic departed).
When the forces of the overmind retreat to the background, weariness befalls the seeker. It is not only all that is dragged along in the wake of the aspiration that loses its intensity – the Achaean coalition – but also the light coming from the planes of the mind and the psychic as well as the highest realisations – the Trojan coalition.
Among the causes of this descent into the shadows is not only the lassitude of the effort of the one who wants to change things in the depths of the subconscious and the physical mind and despairs of not getting any tangible results, but also the necessary questioning of the belief of having reached the spiritual summits of human evolution for the consecration in the Works, for the devotion of Bhakti and for the Knowledge of the Divine. As great as the achievements of the past may be, they cannot claim to be the summit of evolution (Ilion mighty and scornful). On many occasions, the Mother, engaged in the process of supramental transformation, will speak of these old years of realisation as childish steps.
The adventurer knows internally that “something” is wrong, and he knows its nature. But because of his “attachments” to his achievements and the unknown nature of the path, part of his mind refuses to face Reality. There is “something” at the bottom of the psychic, deep enough (in the rear of the hearts of her people), who knows what is “right” but cannot come clearly to the forefront of the objective consciousness. This “something” brings with time more and more trouble to his soul who has taken up the challenge of evolution, and to his being filled with joy and truth (Something that smote at her soul of deﬁance and beauty and laughter).
Within the adventurer lies the presentiment of a great upheaval, of the action of something ineluctable which will bring “ruin and misfortune” to the old. He feels that a Fatality, a “tragic destiny” (Doom) for all that has been realised before, begins to spread its shadow.
This divine power of upheaval, dark and gigantic, which acts when the time has come without concern for the consequences that man can see as destructions and misfortunes, attacks first of all the kingdoms of the spirit in him: assailing the skies.
The adventurer lives in the presentiment of a great upheaval, in an uneasiness and even in a terror when he loses with the day the protections of the consciousness of wakefulness (Time was pursued by unease and a terror woke in the midnight).
The goddess of Fatality is named further “Ananke” by Sri Aurobindo. In book 8, verse 733,we read:
“For even the gods in their heavens
Scarce shall live who have gazed on the unveiled face of Ananke,
Heard the accents dire of the Darkness that waits for the ages.”
Even the strongest structures of yoga are shaken (Even the ramparts felt her, stones that the gods had erected).
What the adventurer might have considered before as internal dramas was merely the effect of her banter. Now her true action was going to put his being to fire and the sword.
This passage evokes Sri Aurobindo’s comments in Essays on the Gita, Chapter 5, but on a whole new level. In the Bhagavad Gita, it is a “discouragement of man forced to face the spectacle of the world as it really is, once the veil of ethical illusion, the illusion of personal rectitude has been torn”. To look at existence in the face is to look at God in the face, Sri Aurobindo tells us, and just as much the God of love as the destructive God, this means, if one has the courage, worshipping the terrible Kali in her bloodthirsty dance of destruction.
Here it is no longer just question of understanding that it is the Divine who acts and not the Me, but of accepting that the Divine destroys all the spiritual forms that He Himself helped to build during a past evolution. It is a much more radical challenge that leads to a much deeper abatement. It is to see God in the face of his aspect which destroys the spiritual “molds”, a vision that even the highest powers of the mind, those of the overmind, the gods, cannot endure for long, because it takes place on the border with the Supramental.
Under her, dead to the watching immortals, Deiphobus hastened 200
Clanging in arms through the streets of the beautiful insolent city,
Brilliant, a gleaming husk but empty and left by the daemon.
Seen in its form by men, but itself goes phantom-like ﬂeeting
Void and null and dark through the uncaring inﬁnite vastness,
So now he seemed to the sight that sees all things from the Real.
Timeless its vision of Time creates the hour by things coming.
Borne on a force from the past and no more by a power for the future
Only an eidolon seemed of the being that had lived in him, ﬂeeting 210
Vague like a phantom seen by the dim Acherontian waters.
Deiphobus is one of the sons of Priam, and therefore a brother of Hector, Paris-Alexander and Cassandra, to name only the most famous children of Priam. According to Homer, Priam had 50 sons, and Hecuba was the mother of 19 of them. Of his 14 daughters, Homer only attributes two to Hecuba: 12 are married and two are single, Cassandra and Polyxena.
As the events of Ilion unfold after the death of Hector, it is Deiphobus “the one who overcomes fear (with the inner fire)” that Sri Aurobindo presents as the main Trojan leader (cf. The Book of the Statesman, verse 262). After the death of Paris, he will become Helen’s husband.
With the death of Hector, “he who is outside (of the incarnation)” or “the movement of opening of the consciousness towards the spirit”, the seeker has renounced to separate spirit from matter. The basis of his sâdhanâ is henceforth “what overcomes fear” or more precisely “what destroys by burning what makes one flee”. (Recall that in the formation of compound words in ancient Greek, the determiner precedes the determinate.) The aim is, with the help of the inner fire, to perfect the equanimity through the victory over all disgust, all repulsion, until the very repulsion of the manifestation when one reached the heights of the spirit to identity with the Divine.
If the escape into the paradises of the mind is no longer the solution, then a complete acceptance of the manifestation in all its aspects is required as the work of the progressive manifestation of the Divine and the disgust of the manifestation must disappear.
In Greek mythology, a hero who dies is a work of yoga that is either finished, either no longer needed, or which continues on another level. In view of Sri Aurobindo’s description of Deiphobus, it is most likely a work that is accomplished but remains, in form only, the primary object of the sâdhanâ. Only the “seer” can see that it is no longer the object of yoga (Brilliant, a gleaming husk but empty and left by the daemon. Even as a star long extinguished whose light still travels the spaces).
From the point of view of the Real or of the Truth, which is timeless, the vision of the future models the present moment according to things to come (Timeless its vision of Time creates the hour by things coming).
The things of the past, as grandiose as they may have been, are then empty shells, having lost the flame that animated them, even if they still seem powerful and radiant within forms for a time (Mighty and bright was his body, but shadowy the shape of his spirit).
To understand why Sri Aurobindo mentions the Acheron here, we must make a parenthesis to evoke the rivers of the underworld.
Recall that after the victory over the Titans the three brothers Zeus, Poseidon and Hades shared the world: Zeus governs the sky, the supraconscious; Poseidon the sea, the subconscious; and Hades the underground world, the unconscious. The surface of the earth remained their common domain.
In order to mark both possibilities of the becoming of experiences and achievements when they descend into the unconscious, that is to say after they have finished their time in the conscious, Homer mentions different rivers of the kingdom of Hades: the Acheron – and its smuggler Charon mentioned as early as the sixth century BC by other authors – the Cocyte, the Pyriphlegethon and of course, the Styx.
In his boat, he had the shadows cross for tribute. He was described as a brutal and tyrannical genius. The name of Charon has the same symbolic letters (Χ + Ρ) as those of the river Acheron and Chara “joy”. He is therefore also the symbol of the “just movement of the gathering of the being”.
They delimit several regions, different according to the authors: the field of Asphodeles, the Elysian Fields also called “Islands of the Blessed”, to which are added (in the stories of Pausanias) the “White Islands” reserved it seems to the heroes of the Trojan War. These different regions could serve to illustrate the underworld, the purgatory and the paradise of Christian conceptions.
Some have described the field of Asphodeles as a dreary place, a conception that does not seem to be shared by Homer, who makes it the hunting territory of Orion. The latter pursues “the beasts he had killed in the lonely mountains” because a habit or behavior driven out of the conscious must then be eliminated from the subconscious where it has taken refuge (for example in dreams) and finally of its last entrenchments in the body.
The Asphodel, far from being a bleak and unpleasant flower as it is common to see the description in the commentaries of the mythology, is in the Mediterranean countries a plant whose large flowering stem ends with a cluster of large white starry flowers.
It is possible that Homer was able to differentiate the field of the Asphodeles and the Elysian Fields by attributing to the first the experiences related to a particular existence and to the second those which unite with the psychic being and thus transmigrate through lives.
Similarly, if the kingdom of Hades is an inexorable world in the sense that the law of Unity suffers nothing “twisted” or “lying”, it is by no means a place of punishment or reward. Those who endure exemplary punishments are therefore only indispensable elements of evolution that prolong their “work” in the unconscious, before being definitively destroyed (or rather “exhausted”). They have nothing to do with morality.
We see, for example, in the Odyssey (24, 10-18) the souls of Penelope’s “suitors”, described as sinister characters, making their way to the field of Asphodeles. They are led there by Hermes even though they represented in their lifetime serious obstacles on the path: this is better understood when we know that they represent the best of the old: wisdom and holiness. In myths, “good” and “apparent” evil contribute to evolution.
In the same vein, the fact that crimes can be punished in children or descent only means that the corresponding elements must be rectified in another stage of the path. This is not incompatible with transgenerational karma, as seems to be confirmed by the current sciences – psychology, genetics, etc. – who discover that children must integrate and/or solve what has not been done by previous generations.
The ideas of reincarnation and metempsychosis do not appear in the texts of Homer and Hesiod. They seem to have been introduced at the turn of the archaic and classical periods (between the 6th and 5th century BC), a turning point marked by the tragic, (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides), the Pythagoreans, Plato and the first Orphic. The confusion between “the beyond” of life and the unconscious, “kingdom of Hades”, dates from this period, which can be explained by the fact that “the beyond” was – and still remains – a realm of the unconscious.
By describing Hades as “the region into which Pyriphlegethon and Cocyte, whose waters come from the Styx, flow into Acheron,” Homer explains the relationship between the currents of consciousness that are active there. The eschatological literature, interpreting these names, saw “dread”, “lamentations” and “burning flames”, but their real meaning will be better understood with the structuring letters.
The Styx, the one which “horrifies and frightens” or the “detestable, hateful” is the symbol of the ultimate barrier to achieving spirit/matter unity in the body. This is the oldest consciousness-energy stream, because Styx is the “eldest daughter” of Oceanos, the father of rivers. He “restores everything according to the Truth, ΣΤ+Ξ”, or “impose rectitude (or integrity) on all levels of the being”. This absolute disentanglement is the fundamental necessity for one who ventures into yoga of the body at the cellular level.
The waters of the Styx feed Pyriphlegethon “the fire that burns inside” and the Cocyte, ΚΩ + Κ + Τ, a “widening of consciousness towards spirit and matter”.
These last two rivers flow in turn into the Acheron, “the right movement in the center (of matter) Χ + Ρ “, which is the foundation. These two rivers that “flow in opposite directions” are in relation with the two streams of the Caduceus. They meet in front of the “black basalt rock” deep in the consciousness of which the Vedas speak (as well as Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Satprem), which renders inaccessible to man the tremendous divine powers hidden within matter.
The adventurer of consciousness must descend into the nauseating swamps where the two currents that feed the evolutionary process meet, that of the burning fire of the union and the frozen one of separation. Let us note, concerning the wings appearing at the top of the Caduceus, that the Mother speaks about them several times in Volume 9 and 10 of the Agenda. For example, Volume 9, 6 January 1968, after the destruction of the physical ego, she mentions this great vibration by making a gesture “like two great wings beating in the infinite”.
According to Hesiod, the Styx is made up of one-tenth of the Oceanos River, while the nine others “curl up in silver swirls around the land and the vast back of the sea”. This description confirms that it is a current of consciousness immediately in contact with the body. (Theogony, 789. The Styx corresponds to the energies that traverse the tenth Sephira, that of the densest energies in the Tree of Life (Malkut). They are the ones that nourish body matter, linked with survival.)
The first born of Oceanos, he testifies that the cessation of the “true functioning” was the first disruptive element that appeared in the evolution and the Styx thus constitutes the ultimate barrier on the way back allowing the “liberation” of the body, after that of the mind and the vital.
Speaking of Deiphobus “who overcomes fear with the inner fire,” Sri Aurobindo associates it with a realisation of the past. This is why it is possible to cross the Acheron, as it is a realisation that will be definitively associated with the psychic.
Out of the waking city Deiphobus swiftly arriving
But to the guardian towers that watched over Pergama’s gateway
Called, and swinging back the huge gates slowly, reluctant,
Flung Troy wide to the entering Argive. Ilion’s portals
Parted admitting her destiny, then with a sullen and iron
Cry they closed. Mute, staring, grey like a wolf descended
Old Talthybius, propping his steps on the staff of his errand;
Feeble his body, but ﬁerce still his glance with the ﬁre within him;
Speechless and brooding he gazed on the hated and coveted city. 220
Marvellous, rhythmic, a child of the gods with marble for raiment,
Ilion stood up around him entrenched in her giant defences.
Strength was uplifted on strength and grandeur supported by grandeur;
Beauty lay in her lap. Remote, hieratic and changeless,
Filled with her deeds and her dreams her gods looked out on the Argive,
Helpless and dumb with his hate as he gazed on her, they too like mortals
Knowing their centuries past, not knowing the morrow before them.
Dire were his eyes upon Troya the beautiful, his face like a doom-mask : 230
All Greece gazed in them, hated, admired, grew afraid, grew relentless.
The first verses indicate a good will, certainly limited because the doors of the citadel opened only for a short time, to listen to an inner voice coming from lower levels of consciousness in order to get in touch with the enlightened mind, that of Troy.
We have seen that the herald of Agamemnon, Talthybius, could be the symbol of endurance in aspiration. That is why his external form is old and seems weak, but the inner fire that animates this aspiration is still very powerful.
From the point of view of the untransformed personality or more generally of ordinary humanity, the achievements of the ancient yogas in the realms of the spirit – both desirable and hated like anything that cannot be achieved, such as feeling inferior to more powerful than oneself – seem prodigious. Their structures rise to unimaginable heights within the spirit (seeking heaven with her buildings hewn as for Titans).
At this stage of yoga, the seeker perceives and acts according to the vast rhythms that animate the creation. Satprem will come back many times to this perception of great rhythms that the seeker will have to follow: Ilion is rhythmic. This realisation at the level of the enlightened mind (golden), a product of an action of the overmind (child of the gods), is harmonious, powerful, and elaborated from the most noble construction materials (the practices of yoga) (marble). But it also possesses gigantic defenses, that is to say that it is extremely closed to any other truth (Ilion stood up around him entrenched in her giant defences). In the Agenda, Volume 1, dated 20/9/1960, the Mother explains how the arrival of Satprem’s Tantric guru in the ashram opened a breach in the consciousness of the traditionalist disciples, those who until then had been locked in their certainties about the spiritual path.
Far from denigrating the highest achievements in the realm of the mind, Sri Aurobindo praises them: grandeur, power, and beauty (i.e. Truth).
He also tells us that the gods, the powers of the overmind, who watch over these achievements (over Troy), cannot see their future, even if they evolve in a space-time different from ours, (they know “their centuries past, not knowing the morrow before them”).
At the end of this passage, it is the awareness of the opposition between what is not yet transformed within the being and these very high realisations of peace, joy and dissolution in the infinity of the Spirit who, after having gone through a succession of opposing feelings, will reinforce a very powerful determination within the seeker (All Greece gazed in them, hated, admired, grew afraid, grew relentless.).
But to the Greek Deiphobus cried and he turned from his passion
Fixing his ominous eyes with the god in them straight on the Trojan:
“Messenger, voice of Achaia, wherefore confronting the daybreak
Comest thou driving thy car from the sleep of the tents that besiege us?
Fateful, I deem, was the thought that, conceived in the silence of midnight,
Raised up thy aged limbs from the couch of their rest in the stillness,
— Thoughts of a mortal but forged by the Will that uses our members
And of its promptings our speech and our acts are the tools and the image.
Oft from the veil and the shadow they leap out like stars in their brightness, 240
Lights that we think our own, yet they are but tokens and counters,
Signs of the Forces that ﬂow through us serving a Power that is secret.
In the beginning of this inner dialogue, where the vision from the overmind manifests itself through lower levels of the mind, Sri Aurobindo explains that thoughts are not our own creation, unlike what most men believe. They belong to the plane of the vast subliminal mind from which our mind can only receive what it is open to, what it resonates with. Often, these thoughts, arriving from subconscious or unconscious planes, arise within us like flashes of light, like luminous awakenings that we appropriate ourselves, persuaded to be their authors.
Some of the thoughts that come to us are generated by a superior Will which also guides our life, our words and our actions from the background. The thoughts of light are also the sign of Forces that serve a hidden Power. We are, in fact, the authors of our own lives only to a very small extent.
Apart from this higher Will, many forces also use men to achieve their own goals. Some people have said that man was “cattle for the gods”. This is what the enlightened mind suggests here, questioning the validity of the “thoughts” that “woke” the adventurer as he is less certain of the evolutionary path.
Messenger, voice of Achaia, (…)
What in the dawning bringst thou to Troya the mighty and dateless
Now in the ending of Time when the gods are weary of struggle?
Sends Agamemnon challenge or courtesy, Greek, to the Trojans?”
Recall that Agamemnon is king of Mycenae. This city founded by Perseus, the conqueror of fear, is the symbol of a “powerful ardor” and an inner development that opposes the “lukewarm”. But Agamemnon, symbol of a “mighty desire” or a “powerful will at the service of aspiration” represents a part of the being still oriented towards more intelligence, towards a greater perfection of the mental man (Agamemnon is united with Clytemnestra) even though she recognized that it was better to want to acquire a psychic light instead of an intuitive mental light turned towards more wisdom: indeed, according to mythology, Agamemnon, with the first years of war, had come to prefer Chryseis the captive, daughter of the priest of Apollo, to his wife Clytemnestra. But, following an oracle, Agamemnon had to return Chryseis. In compensation, he seized Briseis, the captive destined to Achilles, causing the strike of the latter.
Once again, the adventurer thinks of tackling this evolutionary problem on a mental plane (Sends Agamemnon challenge or courtesy, Greek, to the Trojans?), but immediately afterwards, it is in fact as a messenger of Achilles and not as Agamemnon’s, that Talthybius addresses Deiphobus. That is, the inner conflict changes domain.
High like the northwind answered the voice of the doom from Achaia:
“Trojan Deiphobus, daybreak, silence of night and the evening
Sink and arise and even the strong sun rests from his splendour.
I have not come from the monarch of men or the armoured assembly 250
Held on the wind-swept marge of the thunder and laughter of ocean.
One in his singleness greater than kings and multitudes sends me.
I am a voice out of Phthia, I am the will of the Hellene.
Peace in my right I bring to you, death in my left hand. Trojan,
Proudly receive them, honour the gifts of the mighty Achilles.
We have already mentioned Achilles several times. Here, we will only review his maternal ancestry, that of Pontos (Cf. Plates 2 and 25). Indeed, it is always more a reference to his mother that is given in the Iliad rather than to his father. The latter, Peleus “the one who works in the mud”, belongs to the lineage of the kings of the Myrmidons “the ants”, those who take care of the tiny movements of the consciousness and venture into its depths, purifying them thoroughly. The ants are indeed the great cleansers of the depths. His grandfather is Aeacus, “the one who works at the opening of the consciousness of the body”.
But according to the Iliad, his mother Thetis, a goddess, was united against her will to a mortal, though she constantly metamorphosed to escape marriage:
“I alone of all the daughters of the sea he wedded to a mere human, Peleus, son of Aeacus, and unwillingly it was that I lay with a mortal man. He keeps to his palace now, weighed down sadly by the years, while I suffer further grief.” (Iliad XVIII 368-467.)
Thetis is a Nereid, one of the daughters of the Old Man of the Sea, Nereus, himself the firstborn of Pontos, and therefore a symbol of the emergence of life out of matter.
(The five stages of the growth of the vital consciousness are explained Chapter 3, The Genesis, Volume 1 of Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West.) Through this union, the adventurer of consciousness penetrates into the origins of the cellular animal consciousness.
This is only possible at the condition that a perfect purification of the being has been achieved.
To marry Thetis, Peleus had to succeed in successively mastering an almighty fire, a fearsome lion and sometimes a terrible snake without weakening:
– the seeker had to be able to bear the almighty fire of the spirit that descends into the body. The Mother and Satprem describe this fire as a compact lightning bolt that would instantly kill the unprepared.
– he had to be able to pull out the roots of the ego,
– finally, he had to master the guardian snake of the current stage of evolution in order to change its course.
Thetis, who used to plunge her newborn children into the fire or, according to The Catalogue of Women, into a cauldron of boiling water to verify or perfect their immortality, would have liked to do the same with Achilles but was stopped from doing so by Peleus. The Iliad mentions nothing about the birth of Achilles and describes him as an only child.
Another tradition was later popularised in the 1st century by the poet Stace, describing Thetis plunging her son into the Styx to make him invulnerable. The Styx being the symbol of the last barrier, the current of deepest energy consciousness whose crossing gives access to the corporeal unconscious, this supposes that the seeker accesses immortality as defined previously. For Achilles, this invulnerability is achieved with the exception, as tradition dictates, of a part that most closely touches the cellular matter, the foot (Thetis holding him by the foot when carrying out verification / purification).
When Talthybius says himself to be the envoy of Achilles and not of Agamemnon, it is because yoga in the depths of the vital consciousness has taken over the aspiration that seeks an improvement of the old yoga, namely always more intelligence and wisdom (Agamemnon united to Clytemnestra).
In the first verses of this passage, Sri Aurobindo tells us that the one who has completely devoted himself to the service of the Divine and who performs his “task” is no longer subject to the rhythms that govern the universe, even the highest of them (the supramental sun). The result of his work does not belong to him either – he fulfills perfectly what he has incarnated, delivered from all desire and attachment, and alone he will be able to take stock of his action once he has left his body (Not for the servant is rest nor Time is his, only his death-pyre).
Speaking of the thunder and laughter of the ocean, Sri Aurobindo refers to the stream of consciousness that directs the growth of human consciousness (Oceanos), manifesting both power and joyful irony in creation.
Achilles, king of the Myrmidons, reigns over Phthia (Φθίη). Phthia is the symbol of a great inner consciousness, both vertically and horizontally, in the realms of the spirit as well as in the realms of nature.
In this inner dialogue, the expression of the desire for greater freedom (two lambda ΛΛ) is expressed by “I am the will of the Hellene”. But the outcome is still uncertain, because the will to reconcile the old achievements and yogas with the New is always present.
Death accept, if Ate deceives you and Doom is your lover,
Peace if your fate can turn and the god in you chooses to hearken.
Full is my heart and my lips are impatient of speech undelivered.
It was not made for the streets or the market, nor to be uttered
Meanly to common ears, but where counsel and majesty harbour 260
Far from the crowd in the halls of the great and to wisdom and foresight
Secrecy whispers, there I will speak among Ilion’s princes.”
Sri Aurobindo uses the name of the goddess of error or misguidance, Ate, the eldest daughter of Zeus according to Homer, to indicate that the pursuit of yoga that rejects the transformation of the external nature is a mistake. Recall that we have suggested that if Ate is both a daughter of Zeus, the summit of the overmind, and the “goddess of error”, it is because her name symbolically indicates a tension towards the highest levels of the Spirit, even though its time is over.
But he does not use the name Moros “fatal destiny” and “violent death”, or Olethros “destruction”, divinities personifying the journey towards an implacable fate, probably because these deities are less known than Ate or perhaps because Homer does not mention them. He prefers the word “doom” (ruin, tragic destiny, destruction).
He also tells us that it is at the highest level of consciousness that the debate must be settled and that no other consideration in the outer being should interfere.
“Envoy,” answered the Laomedontian, “voice of Achilles,
Vain is the offer of peace that sets out with a threat for its prelude.
Yet will we hear thee. Arise who are ﬂeetest of foot in the gateway,
— Thou, Thrasymachus, haste. Let the domes of the mansion of Ilus
Wake to the bruit of the Hellene challenge. Summon Aeneas.”
Even as the word sank back into stillness, dofﬁng his mantle
Started to run at the bidding a swift-footed youth of the Trojans
He in the dawn disappeared into swiftness. Deiphobus slowly,
Measuring Fate with his thoughts in the troubled vasts of his spirit,
Back through the stir of the city returned to the house of his fathers,
Taming his mighty stride to the pace inﬁrm of the Argive.
Thrasymachus is “the one who fights boldly”. But the adjective “thrasos (θρασυς) can also be used in a negative way in the sense of “bold, arrogant “, which could also be appropriate to the psychological attitude of the Trojans, who are sure of holding the evolutionary truth. The path through which a master has achieved certain achievements is most often presented by him as the best and often the only way to access the Divine.
Sri Aurobindo presents it as a fairly recently developed action which always positions itself in the inner dialogue (a swift-footed youth of the Trojans, First in the race and the battle).
He is the son of Aretes “what one excels at”, a Trojan senator, making him an already well-established development of yoga. Provided we retain the spelling Αρετης, of which we cannot be sure because the English language does not note accents.
Developing and using the best of one’s abilities, for which one has particular skills, is a recommendation of integral yoga, and also what the Mother advocated for the development of Auroville.
Deiphobus “the one who has conquered fear” is the main Trojan leader, but when it comes to a problem concerning evolution, it is Aeneas “the evolving consciousness” who must debate it. Aeneas is indeed the symbol of the ascension of the planes of consciousness from the plane of the enlightened mind in the pursuit of love (Aeneas is located in the lineage of the Pleiades Electra, and he is also a son of Aphrodite).
The adventurer must descend from the high levels of consciousness where he usually stands to hear the very old voices that manifest within him (Deiphobus slowly (…) Taming his mighty stride to the pace inﬁrm of the Argive.).
But with the god in his feet Thrasymachus rapidly running
Came to the halls in the youth of the wonderful city by Ilus
Built for the joy of the eye; for he rested from war
and, triumphant, Reigned adored by the prostrate nations.
Ilus is the founder of Troy and the builder of its citadel. His son Laomedon built the ramparts with the help of the gods. Ilos is the city of freedom within the spirit, of union with the divine within the spirit, the realisation of the Self (or Me). The structuring of the spaces in the heights of consciousness was established “for the joy of the eye”, for the joy of those who have reached a certain level, are “seers” of the Truth within the spirit. Thus were named the ancient Vedic Rishis as well as the “seers” of many spiritual traditions.
That is to say, access to knowledge is no longer achieved through uncertain and laborious mental processes but by means of subtle vision. This faculty, called “drishti” in Sanskrit, is described by Sri Aurobindo in “Record of Yoga”. It includes the perception of forms invisible to the ordinary eye (rupadrishti) and the writing that shows itself to the subtle vision (lipidrishti), and more generally, the perception through the subtle senses (vishayadrishti), the knowledge of the past, the present and the future (trikaladrishti), the perception of Brahman in things or beings, the revelation whose nature is a direct interior penetration of the object by the spiritual consciousness. “Drishti is the faculty by which the ancient Rishis saw the truth of Veda, the direct vision of the truth without the need of observation of the object, reasoning, evidence, imagination, memory or any other of the faculties of the intellect.” (Record of Yoga p.17). “This is not, like intuition, looking into a person, an object or a group of circumstances and finding out the truth about them, but it is the vision of the Truth itself, coming as a luminous thought independent of all circumstances, objects etc.”
The emergence of these faculties occurs when the seeker reaches the enlightened mind and establish its bases (in the youth of the wonderful city). This is concomitant with the establishment of the seeker in non-duality, as Ilus rested from war. Sri Aurobindo states this achievement as one of the highest of the ancient yogas because Ilos “triumphant, reigned adored by the prostrate nations”.
The experience of non-duality is the experience where individuality is extinguished in the Self. It is a state where it is perceived that everything is already perfect, that all beings are already realised, that there is no need to “strive for”, no goal to achieve. In this experience, there is no longer momentum to participate in the movement of Becoming. This is why, in Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, it can only be a preliminary step. And knowing that Troy must be destroyed and the spiritual adventure in the heights continued not in the lineage of Ilos “liberation” but in that of Assaracus “equality”, a lineage where we find Aeneas, this experience of non-duality may no longer be sought as the basis of the new yoga.
In the period of extreme separation that current humanity is going through and with the disappearance of the authentic masters, the risks are indeed immense that instead of reaching the non-duality, a seeker might delude himself totally and would only manage to strengthen a spiritual ego. If the true Yogis are indeed liberated from the ego, with the disappearance of the feeling of the separated “I”, it is not so with those who have not purified their inferior nature and have simply repressed it. The researcher then deceives himself about his state of inner liberation, presenting to the world a façade of peace and realization, but identified with false representations of awakening. Guarantees against such drifts are of course humility and a sincerity that does not hide anything, not even when the old evolutionary, trans-generational and collective memories are reactivated.
Now when all ended,
Last of its mortal possessors to walk in its ﬂowering gardens,
Great Anchises lay in that luminous house of the ancients 280
Soothing his restful age, the far-warring victor Anchises,
High Bucoleon’s son and the father of Rome by a goddess;
Lonely and vagrant once in his boyhood divine upon Ida
White Aphrodite ensnared him and she loosed her ambrosial girdle
Seeking a mortal’s love.
Anchises is the father of Aeneas. His name could mean “one who is close to the separated man,” in other words, the compassionate. Compassion being the highest degree of love in today’s humanity, it is right that Aphrodite manifested herself to him when compassion was established (in his boyhood divine). The goddess gave him Aeneas “the evolving”, a symbol of future evolution towards more true love.
In the tradition, Anchises is son of Kapys and Themiste and grandson of Assaracus. We do not know exactly why Sri Aurobindo changed his ancestry, placing him in the line of Laomedon as the son of Bucoleon, and therefore a symbol of a lack of consecration and purification. (In Apollodorus, Bucoleon is the son of Laomedon and the Nymph Calybe.) Without doubt he wanted to indicate that the Roman civilisation as it developed and as we know it could in no case be the future Troy announced by Homer, symbol of the development of a yoga that would develop love on a basis of Truth. But at least, the Roman civilisation enabled the Greek civilisation to reach us.
Indeed, the legends of the foundation of Rome in -753 BC only date from the 1st century BC and nowhere does Homer associate “the future Troy” with that part of the ancient world already known to him.
On the threshold Thrasymachus halted
Looking for servant or guard, but felt only a loneness of slumber
Drawing the soul’s sight within away from its life and things human;
Soundless, unheeding, the vacant corridors ﬂed into darkness.
He to the shades of the house and the dreams of the echoing rafters
Trusted his high-voiced call, and from chambers still dim in their twilight 290
Strong Aeneas armoured and mantled, leonine striding,
Came, Anchises’ son; for the dawn had not found him reposing,
But in the night he had left his couch and the clasp of Creüsa,
Rising from sleep at the call of his spirit that turned to the waters
Prompted by Fate and his mother who guided him, white Aphrodite.
Thrasymachus “the one who fights boldly” approaches neighborhoods where Aeneas resides, a symbol of evolutionary work in the framework of the most advanced structures of the ancient yogas. If the characteristics of sleep that draw “away from (…) life and things human” are obvious for ordinary sleep, this is probably also an allusion to the achievements of ancient yogas who do not seek to deify life and matter. Empty corridors are also likely to refer to a lack of life, or to yogas or ideologies that have killed life.
Creüsa (Κρεουσα), wife of Aeneas, is one of the daughters of King Priam and his wife Hecuba. Her name seems to be constructed from the root meaning “flesh, meat”, expression of “killed life”. The evolutionary movement among the Trojans, before Aeneas leaves the city carrying his father Anchises, would be a yoga that kills life. Sri Aurobindo has strongly denounced the yogas that stifle life or reduce it to its simplest form. He says that civilisations that have glorified life have also been the cradle of the highest spiritualties. The vital must be purified and transformed; it must shift to no longer serve the desires and the ego, but the psychic, the soul. This was extensively developed by Sri Aurobindo in The Life Divine.
Aeneas’ walk is the image of an attitude that is both majestic and supple, and very self-confident. And what in the adventurer seeks to awaken to continue evolution is a call of life within him inspired by his destiny – his Dharma – and by the forces that watch over the evolution of love in humanity (at the call of his spirit that turned to the waters Prompted by Fate and his mother who guided him, white Aphrodite).
Still with the impulse of speed Thrasymachus greeted Aeneas:
“Hero Aeneas, swift be thy stride to the Ilian hill-top.
Dardanid, haste! for the gods are at work; they have risen with the morning,
Each from his starry couch, and they labour. Doom, we can see it,
Glows on their anvils of destiny, clang we can hear of their hammers. 300
Something they forge there sitting unknown in the silence eternal,
Whether of evil or good it is they who shall choose who are masters
Calm, unopposed; they are gods and they work out their iron caprices.
Troy is their stage and Argos their background; we are their puppets.
Always our voices are prompted to speech for an end that we know not,
Always we think that we drive, but are driven. Action and impulse,
Yearning and thought are their engines, our will is their shadow and helper.
Now too, deeming he comes with a purpose framed by a mortal,
Shaft of their will they have shot from the bow of the Grecian leaguer,
Lashing themselves at his steeds, Talthybius sent by Achilles.” 310
Sri Aurobindo develops here furthermore the fact that men are unknowingly the toys of the forces of the overmind, those of the plane of the gods. To become free, man must access this plane himself and become the equal of the gods. This is what happens when symbolically a hero can fight with a god. But access to this plane is not easy and this is the reason for the aphorism of Sri Aurobindo already quoted “Thou hast to learn to bear all the gods within thee and never stagger with their inrush or break under their burden”.
It is customary to say that man acts under the combined impulse of the innate and the acquired. Some agree to include the trans-generational and, at the extreme limit, cellular memories. But few admit the existence of forces beyond us, of which individuals as well as groups and nations would be the toys, at least until they are aware of them. This does not imply that certain degrees of freedom are not accessible according to the planes.
It is at the level of the evolutionary stakes that these forces are the most concerned because each of them seeks to be realised, with the same right as all the others. That is why Troy is their favorite scene for action, and the quest for light and truth is the setting or the context (Troy is their stage, Argos their background).
Let us remember that Argolis was first governed by the Inachids (concentration) and then by a lineage where Perseus (control of fear) and Eurystheus “great (inner) strength” or “great determination” who dictated the famous Labours to his nephew Heracles, of which the first six took place in Argolis or nearby. During the Trojan War, Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, governs Argolis. The adjective “argos” means “brilliant, bright”, “fast”, and also “unfinished”. The meaning we will retain derives from a little bit of all this, describing a seeker who engages on the path in search of light, learns concentration, experiments quickly without stopping in situations that could bring him back into the usual, and at the same time progresses on an unfinished path, always driven by the need for “something else”.
Also remember that these forces – the gods – are not evolving, or at least they must incarnate to evolve, which they are reluctant to do. So they use humans to achieve their goal, to realise themselves. Thus, our actions, our thoughts, our words, our desires and even our will are influenced by them.
Thus, in his highest consciousness, the adventurer knows that the call to reconcile old and new yogas, stemming from the aspiration to achieve complete transparency in his outer nature (Talthybius is the envoy of Achilles) is not the result of the will of his external being, but of the plane of the gods, of the overmind. Not only does the adventurer act without desire and without attachment, but he has also realised and fully accepted that it is not he who acts but the Divine through him.
“Busy the gods are always, Thrasymachus son of Aretes,
Weaving Fate on their looms, and yesterday, now and tomorrow
Are but the stands they have made with Space and Time for their timber,
Frame but the dance of their shuttle. What eye unamazed by their workings
Ever can pierce where they dwell and uncover their far-stretching purpose?
Silent they toil, they are hid in the clouds, they are wrapped with the midnight.
Yet to Apollo I pray, the Archer friendly to mortals,
Yet to the rider on Fate I abase myself, wielder of thunder,
Evil and doom to avert from my fatherland. All night Morpheus,
He who with shadowy hands heaps error and truth upon mortals, 320
Stood at my pillow with images. Dreaming I erred like a phantom
Helpless in Ilion’s streets with the ﬁre and the foeman around me.
Red was the smoke as it mounted triumphant the house-top of Priam,
Clang of the arms of the Greeks was in Troya, and thwarting the clangour
Voices were crying and calling me over the violent Ocean
Borne by the winds of the West from a land where Hesperus harbours.”
Sri Aurobindo continues his description of the overmind, the plane of the gods. Remember that this is not a plane of creation but only of elaboration of forms. It is therefore not in this plane that one can find the source of space/time, which manifests itself differently according to the planes as the densification progresses. We are already able to perceive the relativity of time and space according to our inner state. Mathematical demonstrations have also been given with the theory of relativity. Quantum theory also brings us into universes where time has inverted, where particles evolve as in double spaces. For example, some particles may collide before they even exist.
The Mother, in the Agenda, approaching the supramental plane, describes a totally different material time according to the state of consciousness in which we find ourselves, where exactly the same things can be performed in a surprisingly much shorter time than usual, if she remains in the new state of consciousness.
The time and space of the gods are therefore not at all those of men. The forces of the overmind plane evolve in a much larger space/time than ours. From there, they can act in what appears to us as the past or the future, weaving our destiny, of which we are totally unaware. To gain access to this plane of the overmind and to know its forces, it must already be familiar to the adventurer, that nothing astonishes him in its manifestations, that his eye be free from astonishment when faced with their work (What eye unamazed by their workings). For the ordinary man, they are totally inaccessible, symbolically remaining in the depths of the night, in the midnight darkness.
We have already spoken at length about Apollo, the god of psychic light. Like his sister Artemis, he is equipped with a bow and arrows, symbol of concentration on a distant goal and purification. He supports the Trojan camp. It is therefore logical that Aeneas prays to him.
Likewise, Zeus, the strength of the highest level of the overmind, stands above the inner conflict and controls the outcome, just as the rider masters his mount. He is therefore the master of Destiny.
Zeus handles lightning and thunder, which he received from the Cyclops during the war against the Titans: these are the symbols of the instantaneity of the illuminating light of the supermind (lightning) and its power when acting through the overmind (thunder).
At the end of this passage, we see the adventurer cannot discern whether the images he receives and the words he hears internally about the evolutionary future are true or simple illusions. The images announce a radical change in the evolutionary process, the ancient structures of yoga being subjected to purifying fire.
And the voices inside him challenge “what works for evolution” (Aeneas) to encourage him to look at the origins of life. Hesperos is indeed the evening, the west, where the sun goes down. Symbolically, he represents the origins of life in matter, the beginning of evolution, the cellular consciousness. Thus, it is in the garden of the Hesperides that the ultimate Knowledge is kept, the apples that Heracles will have to look for in the eleventh labour.
Brooding they ceased, for their thoughts grew heavy upon them and voiceless
Then, in a farewell brief and unthought and unconscious of meaning,
Parting they turned to their tasks and their lives now close but soon severed:
Destined to perish even before his perishing nation, 330
Back to his watch at the gate sped Thrasymachus rapidly running;
Large of pace and swift, but with eyes absorbed and unseeing,
Driven like a car of the gods by the whip of his thoughts through the highways,
Turned to his mighty future the hero born of a goddess.
One was he chosen to ascend into greatness through fall and disaster,
Loser of his world by the will of a heaven that seemed ruthless and adverse,
Founder of a newer and greater world by daring adventure.
Now, from the citadel’s rise with the townships crowding below it
High towards a pondering of domes and the mystic Palladium climbing,
Fronted with the morning ray and joined by the winds of the ocean, 340
Fate-weighed up Troy’s slope strode musing strong Aeneas.
Under him silent the slumbering roofs of the city of Ilus
Dreamed in the light of the dawn; above watched the citadel, sleepless
Lonely and strong like a goddess white-limbed and bright on a hill-top,
Looking far out at the sea and the foe and the prowling of danger.
Thrasymachus the Trojan “the one who fights boldly”, a swift-footed youth, first in the race and the battle, represents the energy that goes up to the conquest of the heights of the spirit. It is therefore one of the very first things that must stop in the overthrow movement (Destined to perish even before his perishing nation). Perhaps he is the symbol of a certain “skill in the works” developed by the adventurer who realised the divine union, the Self.
Aeneas, the symbol of “the consciousness that works with evolution”, must grow through what seems to us a fall and a disaster (One was he chosen to ascend into greatness through fall and disaster). Sri Aurobindo describes this process as inescapable as long as man is not supramentalised: Nature disintegrates a structure that reaches its maximum development and mixes the elements for a higher perfection. This would also be the fundamental principle of reincarnation. This evolutionary call must accept the destruction of ancient forms according to the laws enacted by the spirit that directs the evolutionary process: that is why Aeneas is “Loser of his world by the will of a heaven that seemed ruthless and adverse”. But going towards the New implies beings willing to abandon everything for the great adventure (greater (…) by daring adventure). For, as the Mother has abundantly repeated, it is not a question of an improvement of the actual mental man, but of a new creation which must overcome all the oppositions which lay on his path all that is attached to the old and wants to perpetuate the old world. Satprem will even say that “the best of the old is the greatest obstacle to the new”. The Mother has called all those who are thirsty for something else to the great adventure.
But at this moment of yoga, this evolutionary work is still turned towards the heights of the mind in mental constructions far removed from matter (pondering of domes).
We have already spoken of the Palladion or mystic Palladium, a statue of the goddess Athena which protects its possessor.
This is its story as told in Apollodorus’ Library and what we can make of it.
When Athena was born, the goddess was brought up by Triton, son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, who had the upper body of a man and the lower body of a fish with a long tail. Triton had a daughter, Pallas.
The two girls were training together in war exercises. One day, as they had come to face each other and Pallas was about to strike, Zeus, anxious for Athena, lowered his aegis to protect her; Pallas, frightened, looked up, felt Athena’s touch and died. The goddess, saddened by the death of her friend, made a wooden sculpture in her likeness, wrapped her with the aegis, and left her with Zeus.
But on the day when Electra, pursued by Zeus, took refuge behind the Palladion, Zeus, furious, threw it into Ilion when he also threw Ate. Then Ilos built a temple for the Palladion, and worshipped it. As long as it remained in Troy, the city was impregnable.
Triton, son of Poseidon (god of the subconscious) and Amphitrite lived in a golden palace at the bottom of the sea. He represents a force of realisation at the root of the vital subconscious which leads to the consecration of the vital to yoga. Indeed, the vital is normally if not reluctant, at least indifferent to yoga. It is therefore a reversal of the attitude of the vital which implies its full control. Triton’s daughter, Pallas, represents a realisation in this field. She is the symbol of the force that brings the stability of the double liberation, both mental and vital, and therefore the mastery of these planes, or a certain “equality”. She implies a certain purity, hence the common meaning for παλλαξ of “young man, young girl”.
When advancing in the yoga of knowledge (the growth of Athena) there comes a time when the quest for equality clashes with the inner master towards discernment. The latter is protected by the supraconscious (Zeus protects Athena from Pallas’ attack) and the quest for more equality is then nothing but a worshipped image. But as long as the adventurer, from the enlightened mind, claims to hold the monopoly, the shift of yoga cannot take place (Troy cannot be taken as long as the Palladion remains within its walls; with the return of Pelops’ bones to Greece and the participation of Neoptolemos in the war, its removal from Troy is the third necessary condition for the capture of the city).
Electra referred to in this passage is one of the daughters of Atlas, and the symbol of the plane of the enlightened mind. When the highest of the overmind wants this plane to become a goal for the adventurer (when Zeus violated Electra to establish the Trojan lineage), the latter tends to want to frame the illuminated mind with the image he has of equality (Electra takes refuge behind the Palladion which was still with Zeus), which of course is opposed to the light and truth of this plane.
However, the overmind allows this error to develop into a spiritual structure which works to realise the enlightened mind (Troy), but which is not totally purified, not totally consecrated (Ate and Palladion are both rushed to the outskirts of Troy).
No doubt, what was first purity in the original sense “everything in its place”, becomes a principle of exclusion: this and not that, the spirit but not the matter, etc. This principle of exclusion, this attachment to a partial vision, to an image of fulfillment, wisdom and holiness, becomes the impregnable bulwark which stops any new elaboration of the spiritual path: the structure which possesses the Palladion cannot be destroyed. The Mother calls this state “the perfection of negative equality”. (Mother’s Agenda Volume 1, 16 may 1960.)
As long as this state is sacred (the mystical Palladium) and considered the highest attainment, no true evolution can take place.
That is why Ulysses, disembarking at Ithaca after his long journey of purification, will have to kill the pretenders Antinoos and Eurymachus, symbols of the highest wisdom and perfect holiness.
In the last part of this passage, “Under him silent the slumbering roofs of the city of Ilus Dreamed in the light of the dawn” probably refers to high yoga practices that lack incarnation, only turned towards “spiritual dreams”. The highest forms of yoga are those that correspond to what tradition calls “awakening”: “above watched the citadel, sleepless”. We can, it seems, associate it with the second transformation, the spiritual transformation, the first being the psychic transformation, according to the description of Sri Aurobindo. (Cf.Letters on yoga, Volume III, 4th part.) This second transformation begins when, after the realisation of the Self, the higher consciousness opens the chakras irreversibly.
This corresponds to a dissolution of individuality within the Self, a state of knowledge through a direct spiritual vision of what is, and the feeling of being part of the Whole.
Hence this realisation is “Lonely and strong like a goddess white-limbed and bright”.
Over the brow he mounted and saw the palace of Priam,
Home of the gods of the earth, Laomedon’s marvellous vision
Held in the thought that accustomed his will to unearthly achievement
And in the blaze of his spirit compelling heaven with its greatness,
Dreamed by the harp of Apollo, a melody caught into marble. 350
Out of his mind it arose like an epic canto by canto;
Each of its halls was a strophe, its chambers lines of an epode,
Victor chant of Ilion’s destiny. Absent he entered,
Voiceless with thought, the brilliant megaron crowded with paintings,
Paved with a splendour of marble, and saw Deiphobus seated,
Son of the ancient house by the opulent hearth of his fathers,
And at his side like a shadow the grey and ominous Argive.
We have already spoken several times about Laomedon and his son Priam “the redeemed”. Here, Sri Aurobindo tells us that the most advanced or “high” forms of the old spiritualties are derived from the capacity of vision of the yogis who have reached a perfect mastery of life, to the maximum of the inner fire. Indeed, the first refusal of Laomedon takes place after the 9th Labour of Heracles, the belt of the queen of the Amazons, a people living at the mouth of the Thermodon “the fire of the union”.
The citadel of Troy, which includes the palace now occupied by Priam, was built by Apollo “the god of psychic light” and Poseidon “the god of the subconscious”.
The Mother explains in the Agenda that there cannot be too much difference between the progression of adventurers and the rest of humanity. So it does not matter what Laomedon’s “mistakes” are. At this time of yoga, the ancient adventurers developed “spiritual structures” through their capacity for vision and progressive assimilation in thought, and mobilised their will for realisations that far exceeded the capabilities of ordinary humanity (Laomedon’s marvellous vision Held in the thought that accustomed his will to unearthly achievement).
Already certain forces of the planes of the spirit seem to have shown their opposition to such realisations.
According to the Mother, it was previously believed that thirty years of assiduous yoga were needed to achieve the psychic realisation – when this realisation was really a call from the spiritual power of “psychic light” (Dreamed by the harp of Apollo). The ancient adventurers thus gradually elaborated practices of immutable spiritual growth (a melody caught into marble (…) canto by canto), very organised and very precise (Each of its halls was a strophe, its chambers lines of an epode).
Perhaps even “the splendour of marble” is an indication that the concepts and methods of yoga at the level of matter, of the body, were “splendid” but also extremely rigid.
The megaron was the big room of a house where meetings were held. In a temple, it was the most sacred part, the sanctuary. Aeneas thus met Deiphobus and the envoy of the Achaeans there.
Happy of light like a lustrous star when it welcomes the morning,
Brilliant, beautiful, glamoured with gold and a ﬁllet of gem-ﬁre,
Paris, plucked from the song and the lyre by the Grecian challenge, 360
Came with the joy in his face and his eyes that Fate could not alter
Ever a child of the dawn at play near a turn of the sun-roads,
Facing destiny’s look with the careless laugh of a comrade,
He with his vision of delight and beauty brightening the earth-ﬁeld
Passed through its peril and grief on his way to the ambiguous Shadow.
Sri Aurobindo gives us here some additional indications on the Trojan realisation symbolised by Paris “equality”.
First of all, the joy that comes from the light from the world of truth, a stable joy that no external event can alter (Came with the joy in his face and his eyes that Fate could not alter), a joy that makes the person who carries it radiant, as if dressed in gold. We have seen that yoga for obtaining this joy was undertaken by his great-grandfather Ganymede, brother of Ilos. At the level of Paris, three generations later, we can deduce that it is well established.
Moreover, the stabilisation at the level of the enlightened mind makes him “glamoured with gold and a ﬁllet of gem-ﬁre.”
The song and the lyre, attributes of Apollo (the song to celebrate Apollo is the Pean), demonstrate the psychic realisation. The psychic is most often open in small children before being pushed into the background by mental growth. And its characteristic is a joyful simplicity. This reminds us of Sri Aurobindo’s repeated injunction to the disciples “Be simple, be simple”. At this juncture of yoga, the adventurer has thus found the simplicity of a child. The psychic, the craftsman of a relaxed awakening, always open to the influences of the “new” brought by the supramental creator, is the first to be informed of the transformations that the latter instills from time to time in humanity (Ever a child of the dawn at play near a turn of the sun-roads). Knowing himself immortal, he laughs at external events. The task that his soul has given itself cannot in any way be modified by external events, so absolute is its inner certainty. Neither doubt nor fear can touch it, nor can what men call “destiny” shake his conviction and determination. Having dropped the ego, he became the playmate of events: for him, life has become a game where we forget ourselves, with the gravity and carefree joyfulness of the child (Facing destiny’s look with the careless laugh of a comrade).
The realisation of equality is the fundamental basis of all future spiritual evolution. That is why Paris and no other son of Priam kidnapped Helen, a symbol of evolutionary truth. However, the equality of which he is the symbol has not been deepened far enough in the depths of the vital and in the body. It remains attached to a representation, that of Palladion. This is why Paris will have to die in Troy and the evolution will continue in the lineage of Assaracus. However, at this moment of yoga, still united with Helen, it is this imperfect equality that carries the evolutionary torch.
The psychic is also naturally oriented towards beauty: openness in the sense of the beautiful, the just and the true is one of the first signs of the emergence of the psychic.
The adventurer endures the danger and suffering caused by his great sensitivity thanks to his inner joy and his distant vision of the transformed earth. He goes to “the Shadow”, to the depths of his being that do not clearly say what they conceal (He with his vision of delight and beauty brightening the earth-ﬁeld Passed through its peril and grief on his way to the ambiguous Shadow)
Last from her chamber of sleep where she lay in the Ilian mansion
Far in the heart of the house with the deep-bosomed daughters of Priam,
Noble and tall and erect in a nimbus of youth and of glory,
Claiming the world and life as a ﬁef of her strength and her courage,
Dawned through a doorway that opened to distant murmurs and laughter, 370
Capturing the eye like a smile or a sunbeam, Penthesilea.
After Paris, Sri Aurobindo introduces the amazon Penthesilea to complete the description of the most advanced achievements of the ancient yogas.
This realisation being difficult to define, Sri Aurobindo will gradually give elements of understanding to the problem that it represents.
We will first examine the elements given by Greek mythology.
The Amazons intervene several times in mythology and during their very last intervention they came to support the Trojans in the last months of the Trojan War, after the death of Hector.
We have already mentioned in the introduction that Sri Aurobindo has resumed with Ilion the description of the path from the events described in the Aethiopis, a poem that immediately followed The Iliad and preceded the Little Iliad, and dealt with the commitment of the Amazon Penthesilea alongside the Trojans and events between the death of Hector and that of Achilles, so before those of the Odyssey.
Among these, there were the feats of Penthesilea before she was killed by Achilles who in turn was killed by an arrow shot by Paris with Apollo’s help.
In this poem, also took place the attribution of the weapons of Achilles to Ulysses, that is to say the designation of yoga devoted to the advanced purification, the realisation of a full transparency to the divine forces as a continuation of the movement of liberation. This purification is treated in the Odyssey.
As only five lines of the original poem have reached us, we have too few mythological elements about the heroine Penthesilea to deduce her exact symbolism. The only detailed summary of the poem available is from Proclos, a 5th century philosopher. However, we have many elements concerning the Amazons as well as some indications given progressively by Sri Aurobindo.
The Amazons were a people of warrior women who resided beyond the Propontis “advanced work on the vital (Pro-Pontos),” on the shores of the Black Sea or Euxin Bridge (Euxeinos Pontos) “work in a very strange, inhospitable vital world”, north of present-day Turkey, halfway to Colchis. Their capital was Themiskyra, a name for those “who share the divine law”. Themiskyra is a word built with themis “what is established as the rule” or “divine law” as opposed to nomos, “human law,” and kyra “who share”.
This city was located at the mouth of the river Thermodon: that is to say that the “spiritual realisation” represented by the Amazons is located at the maximum intensity of the “fire of the union”, the Agni of the Vedas, the psychic fire. This is the culmination of the period that completes “the growth of unitive life”, associated with the psychic realisation, the permanent union with the Divine within the Self, the continuous perception of “presence”.
This is the most advanced realisation of the ancient yogas: Penthesilea and her captains come from the Far East, from a country further east than Troy.
We have no certainty about the construction of the word Amazon. The most likely is that it was built from αμα (quite) and ζωνη (belt), symbol of a perfect mastery of life.
The name Penthesilea is built around the word which mainly means suffering (mourning, pain, affliction, suffering and also misfortune, painful event).
With the additional indications given by mythology and by Sri Aurobindo (she lives in a country where the grape rises to the clouds), and with the meaning of the structuring letter Lambda (individuation, liberation) included in the name Penthesilea, the “si” acting as liaison, we can understand that it is the realisation that bears witness to the liberation from suffering. This is of course at this level of psychological suffering, which accompanies the liberation from desire and all attachment, and the realisation of a certain equality.
Penthesilea is a good illustration of stanzas 50 and 51 of Song 2 of the Bhagavad Gita:
50 “A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad reactions even in this life. Therefore strive for yoga, which is the art of all work.”
51 “By thus engaging in devotional service to the Lord, great sages or devotees free themselves from the results of work in the material world. In this way they become free from the cycle of birth and death and attain the state beyond all miseries”
and also verses 17 and 23 of Canto VI:
17 “He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.”
23 “Let him know, this rupture of the union with suffering is what is called the yoga; this yoga, he must practice resolutely and never yield to discouragement.”
However, it is possible that, to a certain extent, Penthesilea also symbolises the liberation of physical suffering, raudrananda, the physical ananda associated with the transformation of suffering into Ananda (Record of Yoga).
It is also interesting to note that the Mother, being born without ego, had the corresponding realisation from the beginning. But she had also acquired the ability to get away from all bodily pain. When the reversal took place to descend into the body, this ability was “withdrawn” or “forbidden” so that she could descend to the root of the lie.
Among the other elements concerning Penthesilea, note that if she is considered as a daughter of Ares, it is because she represents a realisation close to the formless, Ares being the destroyer of the forms. Daughter of Ares, she also represents a realisation in the plane of the gods, the overmind.
We are talking about achievement and not yoga work because Penthesilea is a woman, that is to say a realisation.
To a certain extent, she thus embodies what is prefigured by the three children of Tros: liberation within the spirit (Ilos), equanimity (Assaracus) and joy (Ganymede), achievements that Sri Aurobindo makes explicit in the Synthesis of the Yoga, chapter XIII, The action of equality, when speaking of the progression in the equality which can be measured in oneself with the yardstick of four criteria:
equality in the most practically concrete sense: to be free of all mental, vital and physical preferences, to accept all the works of God within oneself and around oneself.
a solid peace and an absence of any disturbance and trouble.
a pure spiritual and interior happiness, an invariable spiritual ease in one’s natural being.
a clear joy and the laughter of the soul that embraces life and existence.
Such an achievement seeks to impose its law on the whole external nature: Penthesilea, in fact, calls for “Claiming the world and life as a ﬁef of her strength and her courage”.
However, if it is such an achievement, we must understand why many heroes such Bellerophon, Theseus, Priam and of course Heracles and Achilles had to face the Amazons.
Bellerophon is the hero who, mounted on the horse Pegasus, killed the Chimera. (See the detailed analysis of the myth in Chapter 2 of Volume 2 of Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West.)
It symbolises the victory over illusion, the victory of light over darkness. That is why it was in Lycia, the land of “nascent light,” that the fight took place.
The Chimera is the daughter of Typhon “ignorance” and the viper Echidna “the stopping of evolution in the union”. She is a sister of the Hydra of Lerna, the dog Orthros, and Cerberus. She is therefore one of the four great monsters that appeared in creation when the light was transformed into darkness and illusion (the Chimera), Truth into a lie (the dog Orthros), power and life into helplessness and death (Cerberus), beatitude into desire and suffering (the Hydra of Lerna).
The Chimera was a monster whose front was that of a lion, its rear that of a dragon and its middle that of a goat. From her mouth came immense flames.
Bellerophon killed the Chimera by trusting the signs of the gods. According to Hesiod, he accomplished his feat by riding the winged horse Pegasus. As the hero had struggled to tame him, Athena had procured him a gold bridle.
Pegasus is the son of Poseidon and the Gorgon Medusa. He came out of her neck when Perseus cut it off. He represents a force free from all limitation, from all fear. That is to say, the illusion cannot be totally vanquished as long as the least doubt, the slightest fear or the least disgust subsists. This is why Athena gave him a gold bridle to enable absolute mastery.
The king of Lycia, after the victory over the Chimera, subjected Bellerophon to various trials, the last of which was to fight the Amazons: it must be understood that it is only when he is free from all fear and that the perfect vital mastery is acquired that the illusion that taints the very high realisation represented by the Amazons, the illusion of separation, can be surpassed.
Theseus is the great purifier. It was he who came to the end of the Minotaur in the labyrinth, this formidable deviation from the right path in yoga. This deviance is due to the mind’s recuperation of spiritual enlightenment and the diversion of the power of realisation to the ego’s ends. We will not return here to the complex story of Theseus’s relationship with the Amazons, which, like all the heroes confronting this people, is marked by ambiguity. Indeed, it is a realisation that the seeker must first achieve before overcoming it. Hence, in general, love is followed by a fight to the death. This is one of the last exploits of Theseus, just before the abduction of Helen.
As far as Priam “the redeemed” is concerned, we only have a part of the myth in the Iliad Song 3. We can only assume that in a given moment of yoga, before the deep questioning represented by the Trojan War, there is an awareness that the realisation symbolised by the Amazons is not the ultimate achievement.
It was during his ninth labour that Heracles had to bring back the belt of the queen of the Amazons. (See the detailed analysis of the myth in Chapter 6 of Volume 2 of Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West .) This labour, a sign of perfect mastery, was the extreme limit that the ancient masters of Greek wisdom considered attainable in yoga. For Heracles, en route to the tenth labour, erected his famous columns – which, according to the poet Pindar, no one was able to cross, “they whom the Hero-God has put as witnesses to the most distant navigation.” The walls of the citadel of Troy were erected at the same period. (Cf.Volume 2 Chapter 6 of Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West.)
In fact, in this ninth work, it was not so much a belt as a harness, a piece of equipment for a warrior used to support the sword, and a sign of perfect mastery.
The oldest texts focus on the battle and the death of the Queen of the Amazons, then called Antiope, killed by Heracles. Later versions indicate that the relations were first friendly before the murderous melee.
Apollonius (3rd century BC), is the first to mention the sister of the queen, Melanippe “a black vital force”: Heracles captured Melanippe, the queen’s sister (here named Hippolytus), in an ambush, and traded her for her sister’s “harness”.
With this mention of a black vital force is introduced here the idea that a lack of purification in the depths allowed a powerful shadow to emerge within the adventurer. In other authors, it is a free manifestation of the life force, the opposite of control, symbolised by Hippolytus “the untied force”, which must be killed by the hero.
This shows the deviance of some of the systems of yoga against which Sri Aurobindo violently set himself, especially with regard to the mixing of sexuality and yoga : “I have observed that sex, to the same degree as the ego (pride, vanity and ambition) and greed and radjasic desire is one of the main causes of spiritual accidents that happen in the sâdhanâ. Wanting to treat it by detachment, without totally extirpating it, fails altogether; to want to “sublimate” it, as many modern mystics recommend in Europe, is a very reckless and perilous experience. Because it is the mixture of sex and spirituality that causes the greatest damage”; or “But no error can be more dangerous than to accept a mixture of sexual desire and its satisfaction in some subtle form, and to consider that it is part of the sâdhanâ. It would be the most effective way to go straight to a spiritual fall and to precipitate into the atmosphere forces that would block the supramental descent and bring down in their place opposing vital powers, cause of disorder and disaster.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Bases of Yoga, chapter IV, translation by the Mother.)
Finally Penthesilea is killed by Achilles before the latter is also killed. In fact, for these two heroes these are ending phases, and not radical challenges concerning what they symbolised. This is why in the Aethiopis, Achilles falls in love with Penthesilea when he sees her die.
Since Achilles represents the end of the process of individuation and liberation of the ego at the mental and vital level, psychological suffering can no longer have any hold on the seeker. This is the end of personal yoga and the beginning of yoga for humanity.
This realisation that leads to the liberation from suffering remains however imperfect because it implies a refuge in the paradises of the spirit, the Nirvanas. It is therefore based on the spirit/matter opposition.
Indeed, all the spiritual achievements of the ancient yogas were based in one way or another on exclusion: the spirit and not the body, the spiritual and not the material, the mind but not overflowing life, etc. Now it is a progressive manifestation without destruction, without exclusion, everything in its place. The Mother tells us: “This is what I have learned: the failure of religions is because they were divided – they wanted us to be religious in the exclusion of other religions; and all human knowledge went to waste because it was exclusive; and man went bankrupt because he was exclusive. And what the New Consciousness wants (this is what it insists on): no more divisions. To be able to understand the spiritual extreme, the material extreme, and find … find the junction point, where … it becomes a real force.” (Mother’s Agenda, Volume 11, January 3, 1970.)
It should be noted that it was said that the Amazons rejected men, a sign that the seeker no longer wants to be involved in any work of yoga, convinced that he has reached the end of the road; Sri Aurobindo will also say further that Penthesilea “despised her task – the work of the house and silence.”
It should be noted that the Amazons were mobilised only at the end of the war, after the death of Hector. The adventurer of consciousness, for a very long time, refuses to even consider that this realization can be questioned. Only when it is admitted that the spirit/matter separation – Hector’s death – must stop.
She from the threshold cried to the herald, crossing the marble,
Regal and ﬂeet, with her voice that was mighty and dire in its sweetness.
“What with such speed has impelled from the wind-haunted beaches of Troas,
Herald, thy car though the sun yet hesitates under the mountains?
Comest thou humbler to Troy, Talthybius, now than thou camest
Once when the streams of my East sang low to my ear, not this Ocean
Loud, and I roamed in my mountains uncalled by the voice of Apollo?
At the beginning of this passage, Sri Aurobindo gives us indirectly some additional indications concerning the embodiment incarnated by Penthesilea who has a voice “mighty and dire in its sweetness”. The voice that “names” is the creative level of being. This realisation – power and extreme gentleness – is illustrated in mythology by the twins Castor and Pollux. Their detailed history appears in Chapter 3 Volume 3 of Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West. We will only repeat here the essentials.
Castor and Pollux, also called the Dioscuri “young boys of Zeus”, have for human father Tyndare and for divine father Zeus.
(Cf. diagram 13. Sources differ on their paternal descent. In Homer who calls them Tyndarides, they have Tyndare as human father, just like Clytemnestra. In the Catalogue of Women, they are both sons of Zeus, or Castor is the son of Tyndare and Pollux the son of Zeus. For Homer and Hesiod, Helen is still daughter of Zeus and Leda. Of the four children, only Clytemnestra does not appear in any author as a daughter of Zeus. For Apollodorus, finally, Zeus and Tyndare united with Leda the same night. Zeus having taken the form of a swan fathered Pollux and Helen, while Tyndare begot Castor and Clytemnestra.)
Through their human father, they descend from the sixth Pleiade, who, among the seven stages of the ascension of the planes of consciousness in the mind, represents the plane of the intuitive mind or intuition preceding the overmind. This plane of intuition is described in detail in The Life Divine; essentially, the activities of the mind pass under the direction of the Intuition which operates by “a quadruple power: a power of vision revealing the truth; a power of inspiration or hearing of the truth; a power to touch the truth or to immediately grasp its meaning – a power that is sufficiently similar, by its very nature, to its habitual intervention in our mental intelligence – and a power to truly and automatically discern the exact and ordered relationship of truths between each other. Intuition can therefore accomplish all the tasks of reason, including the function of the logical intelligence which is to establish the right relationship of things and the right relationship of ideas to one another, but it does so through its own superior process. Without hesitation or failure. It grabs not only the thinking mind, but the heart and the life, the senses and the physical consciousness, to transform them into its own substance.” (The Life Divine, The ascent towards Supermind.)
Through their mother Leda “the union by the liberation”, they belong to the lineage of Protogeny “those who are born ahead”, that of the adventurers of consciousness. (Diagram 9). They are brothers to Helen, the wife of Menelaus, and Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon.
They represent a very advanced work in the intuitive mind before the seeker decides to stop devoting himself to ascending planes of consciousness. Indeed, there will be a deadly conflict between them and their cousins Idas and Lynceus. The latter are the sons of Apharea “he who is without masks”, that is to say, who lives “in truth”, without hiding anything from his being. Idas “he who sees the whole” is according to Homer “the most powerful of the men of the earth – men of that time”. (Iliad, IX, 557.) Lynceus “the lynx” or “the penetrating vision” “was distinguished by a vision so piercing, that he could see what was underground”, what is the most hidden within others, and also their essential nature of which they are not even conscious. From this conflict only Pollux “the one who is very sweet”, an extreme compassion, will finally survive.
It is also said that Zeus allowed the Dioscuri, after their death, to remain one day out of two among the gods, together or alternately: access to the overmind is therefore only half installed within the adventurer. (Cf. Cypria.)
Sri Aurobindo speaks of a voice “terrible in its gentleness”, which may seem very contradictory at first glance. We cannot help but associate this to the “New Consciousness”, the consciousness of the Superman who is the intermediate being between the present mental man and the supramental man, which appeared at the beginning of the year 1969 and of which Mother describes at the same time the extreme kindness and the fact that it is “merciless”, that it does not care about the consequences:
“It was luminous, smiling, and so benevolent by power; that is to say, benevolence, generally in human beings, is something a little weak, in the sense that it does not like fights, it does not like struggle; but it is not at all so!A benevolence that imposes itself (the Mother brings her two fists down on the arms of her chair). (…)
and March14th 1970:”And the action of this Consciousness … (How can I say?) It is almost ruthless to show how false the whole mental construct is – everything, even spontaneous reactions, is all the result of an extremely complex mental construct.
But it is ruthless.
We are born in it and it seems so natural to feel according to that, to react according to that, to organise everything according to that, that … it makes you miss the truth.
It is in the very organisation of the body.
And then, the Action seems to impose itself with an extraordinary power and what appears (what seems to us) to be without mercy (the Mother hits her fist on the matter), so that we learn the lesson. ”and “And then, I really saw – I saw, I understood – that the work of this Consciousness (which is WITHOUT MERCY, it does not care whether it is difficult or not difficult, it even probably does not care much about apparent damage), so that the normal state is no longer that thing so heavy, so obscure and so ugly – so low – and that dawn arrives… something shining on the horizon: a new Consciousness. This truer and brighter “something”.
What Sri Aurobindo says here, of diseases, is precisely this: the power of habit and all constructions and what seems “inevitable” and “irrevocable” in diseases; all this is as if the experiments were multiplying to show … so that we learn that it is simply a question of attitude – of attitude -, to go beyond … to overcome this mental prison in which humanity has shut itself up and … breathe up there. (The Mother’s Agenda, Volume 11, January 4th 1969.)
It is also, it seems, the power announced in the Bible in the Apocalypse 12-1, Revelation to John:
“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.
She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.”
This last text also evokes the Mother who, according to the vision of the great occultists of Tlemcen, wore a crown of twelve stars in the subtle plane.
In the last verses of this passage, it is recalled that this is not the first time that the seeker has tried to reconcile inside himself the most advanced realisations with an aspiration oriented initially towards an improvement of the mental man. Indeed, although part of the lineage of aspiration, Agamemnon “the one who has a strong desire (to achieve his aspiration)”, leader of the Achaean coalition, aims to perfect the heights of the spirit represented by his wife Clytemnestra “a renowned wisdom”. It is for this reason that he will be assassinated on his return from Troy.
The Iliad mentions a first conciliation mission led by Ulysses and Menelaus before the beginning of the Trojan War, but to our knowledge, there is no mention of Talthybius. Maybe it is mentioned in one of Euripides’ plays.
Be that as it may, as the herald of Agamemnon, it is said here that he came before to Troy, while Penthesilea wandered in her mountains, before being summoned by the voice of Apollo, that is to say before the “liberation from suffering” is put in relation with the psychic light.
Bringest thou dulcet-eyed peace or, sweeter to Penthesilea,
Challenge of war when the spears fall thick on the shields of the ﬁghters, 380
Lightly the wheels leap onward chanting the anthem of Ares,
Death is at work in his ﬁelds and the heart is enamoured of danger?
What says Odysseus, the bafﬂed Ithacan? what Agamemnon?
Are they then weary of war who were rapid and bold and triumphant,
Now that their gods are reluctant, now victory darts not from heaven
Down from the clouds above Ida directing the luminous legions
Armed by Fate, now Pallas forgets, now Poseidon slumbers?
Bronze were their throats to the battle like bugles blaring in chorus;
Mercy they knew not, but shouted and ravened and ran to the slaughter
Eager as hounds when they chase, till a woman met them and stayed them, 390
Loud my war-shout rang by Scamander. Herald of Argos,
What say the vaunters of Greece to the virgin Penthesilea? “
If we gather the elements we have on Penthesilea, we begin to understand what she represents:
Penthesilea being a woman, she is a realisation. Her name means “one who is free from suffering”. She is a daughter of Ares, so she represents, at the level of the overmind, a realisation close to the “formless”, Ares being the great destroyer of forms.
The Amazons live beyond the Propontis “advanced work on the vital (Pro-Pontos)” (Sea of Marmara), a sign of great mastery. Their capital is located at the mouth of the river Thermodon, therefore at the highest point of the “fire of the union”. This represents the divine intoxication or ecstasy within the seeker which “aspires” (she lives in a country where the grapes are aspirant).
Their kingdom being located further east than Troy, the Amazons symbolise the most advanced point of spiritual experience. This realisation is located in the ascension of the planes of consciousness, after the enlightened mind, which is why Penthesilea is on the side of the Trojans. She represents a seeker who has achieved the psychic transformation (Loud, and I roamed in my mountains uncalled by the voice of Apollo) and, to a certain extent, the spiritual transformation.
But this realisation is imperfect and cannot be considered as final, even though the adventurer might think differently, because Bellerophon, Theseus, Heracles and Achilles had to fight the Amazons.
Indeed, even if this realisation is “true” (the Amazon is very beautiful), it still belongs to duality (the Amazon is beautiful, but beautiful with a bitter sweetness that contradicts itself). It is essential but it must be overcome.
In addition, the adventurer is heading in the wrong direction. Still subject to the ego, he rejected humility and the work of purification that would have allowed him to continue his svadharma, “the task that must be done” (Penthesilea despised her task – the work of the house and the silence – only attracted and blinded by her personal desire for combat). He no longer wants to get involved in any work of yoga (The Amazons rejected men). Moreover, he lets his lower nature dictate its law to the soul (monarchs woo the populace). Lastly, a realisation of this nature, beautiful but imperfect, seeks to impose the law of the absence of suffering on the external nature in its entirety: Penthesilea indeed claims «the world and life as a ﬁef of her strength and her courage».
She symbolises a culmination of the yoga of knowledge and love that aspires to a total and definitive immersion in the unique infinite existence, in the supreme Divine (Brahman), the supreme Truth or Reality, which is without form, without attributes; impersonal, eternal and immutable.
The Mother describes it in the The Mother’s Agenda, June 1958:
“There was a time, not so very long ago, when man’s spiritual aspiration was turned towards a silent, inactive peace, detached from all the things of this world, an evasion of life to avoid the struggle, precisely, to rise above the battle, to be liberated from effort. It was a spiritual peace where, along with the cessation of tension, struggle and effort, suffering in all its forms also ceased, and this was considered the true and unique expression of the spiritual and divine life. This is what was considered divine grace, divine succor, divine intervention. And even now, in this age of anguish, tension and hypertension, this sovereign peace is of all help the best received, the most welcome, the relief asked and hoped for. For many, it is still the true sign of divine intervention, of divine grace.
In fact, no matter what you wish to realize, you must begin by establishing this perfect and immutable peace—it is the necessary basis for any work; but unless you are thinking of an exclusive or personal and egoistic liberation, you cannot stop there. There is yet another aspect to the divine grace, the aspect of progress that will be victorious over all obstacles, the aspect that will propel humanity into a new realization, open the doors unto a new world, enable not only a select few to benefit from the divine realization, but through their influence, their example and their power, bring a new and better condition to the rest of humanity. “
We must also take into account the fact that Penthesilea does not fight on her land, Themiskyra, but in Troy: the internal conflict is not at the level of the overmind. The seeker who did not want to mobilize this realisation of the overmind in his inner conflict until a very advanced period, because he did not think he had to question it, is obliged to descend from the overmind to the enlightened mind, on a plane of lesser truth.
The problem arises when the time comes to surpass the three guna, meaning that it concerns the still imperfect realisation of equality.
In the Talks with Nirodbaran, Sri Aurobindo tells us that“The experience of the Brahmanic (ego) consciousness can be situated only at the mental and emotional level without descending into the vital and the physical. In this case, we lose the experience as soon as the vital becomes active. “(…)” It is in the magnitude of the realization that comes the problem. The split began at the time of the Upanishad. Shankara eventually created the complete split between life and the Brahmanic experience. “
We can formulate several hypotheses to explain why Penthesilea is a warrior who loves fighting (sweeter to Penthesilea, Challenge of war when (…) chanting the anthem of Ares).
First of all, this could be the sign of a difficult conquest that required many internal struggles.
Secondly, it is perhaps because, as a daughter of Ares, she represents an aspiration to remain in the “formless”, and therefore a permanent fight against all forms, which are mere illusions.
Finally, in the last hypothesis, one can imagine that when the adventurer leaves the level of the Self, rajas manifests itself powerfully within him.
Sri Aurobindo then mentions Ulysses’ bafflement. Ulysses is the symbol of the new yoga that the seeker will undertake once the shift has taken place, after the victory of the Achaeans, and which will be told in the Odyssey. But on this last day of the war, just before the reorientation of yoga, the seeker has no idea about what this new yoga will consist in. He does not know which path will bring him back to his starting point, in Ithaca, after an immense work of purification.
Hence this part of himself is “baffled”.
The realisation represented by Penthesilea indicates a seeker who has already arrived, at least partly, at the level of the overmind, as he can perceive the action of the forces of this plane within him. Neither the highest intelligence from the overmind present within him nor the subconscious seem to support the overturning movement any longer “now Pallas forgets, now Poseidon slumbers”.
Until then, the seeker’s creative will or power of realisation was unyielding (because “Bronze were their throats“) and supported his ardour (because they were like bugles blaring in chorus). Likewise, his action stemming from the “need for something else” was supported by an unyielding will (for Mercy they knew not). That is to say, the adventurer did not hesitate for one second to sacrifice what in his nature hindered this “need”. He scrutinized his nature in its slightest movements and reactions (Eager as hounds when they chase): the Mother often repeats that minute movements in the inner and outer nature, which go completely unnoticed in ordinary life, create disorders of which we cannot imagine the importance.
Only when this powerful need to transform and to know the evolutionary path (to recover Helen) comes up against the realisation of the Self, who enabled the liberation from suffering, that the problem arises in all its magnitude. For if one remains absorbed in the Nirvanas where suffering is absent, then one cannot undertake a deeper purification of the external nature. The latter indeed implies re-establishing contact with the memories of evolution through a progressive unveiling in order to dissolve them, which cannot be done without suffering. The Mother will say of Sri Aurobindo that no one has ever suffered as much as he did.
High was the Argive’s answer confronting the mighty in Troya.
“Princes of Pergama, whelps of the lion who roar for the mellay,
Suffer my speech! It shall ring like a spear on the hearts of the mighty.
Blame not the herald; his voice is an impulse, an echo, a channel
Now for the timbrels of peace and now for the drums of the battle.
And I have come from no cautious strength, from no half-hearted speaker,
But from the Phthian. All know him! Proud is his soul as his fortunes,
Swift as his sword and his spear are the speech and the wrath from his bosom. 400
I am his envoy, herald am I of the conquering Argives.
Has not one heard in the night when the breezes whisper and shudder,
Dire, the voice of a lion unsatisﬁed, gnawed by his hunger,
Seeking his prey from the gods? For he prowls through the glens of the mountains,
a dangerous gleam in the woodlands, fatal and silent.
So for a while he endures, for a while he seeks and he suffers
Patient yet in his terrible grace as assured of his banquet;
But he has lacked too long and he lifts his head and to heaven
Roars in his wonder, incensed, impatiently. Startled the valleys
Shrink from the dreadful alarum, the cattle gallop to shelter. 410
Arming the herdsmen cry to each other for comfort and courage.”
So Talthybius spoke, as a harper voicing his prelude
Touches his strings to a varied music, seeks for a concord;
Long his strain he prepares.
Let us recall that Pergamon “what realises the union above”, that is, in the heights of the spirit, is the name of the citadel of Troy, built by the gods Apollo and Poseidon.
Here, Sri Aurobindo first reminds us that it is a matter of trusting the inner voice, even if considered from the heights of the mind it seems to come from the lower levels of the being: “Blame not the herald; his voice is an impulse, an echo, a channel”.
Likewise the force that manifests itself is not inclined to compromises, to half-heartedness (And I have come from no cautious strength, from no half-hearted speaker). This again evokes the new consciousness that manifested itself in 1969:
“The special character of this new consciousness is: no halfmeasures, no approximations. That’s its character. It doesn’t accept the idea, “OH, yes, we’ll do that, and little by little we’ll…”No, no, not like that: it’s yes or no, you can or cannot.” (Mother’s Agenda, February 15, 1969.)
The emerging inner voice is then identified by the superior consciousness of the seeker as being in relation to a work in the deep layers of the vital consciousness, a work that is not prone to half-heartedness, half-measures, to approximation: Swift as his sword and his spear are the speech and the wrath from his bosom. (Talthybius presents himself as an envoy of Achilles, King of Phthia; Cf. verse 253 above).
A long development follows in which Sri Aurobindo compares “the Strike of Achilles” – the state of the adventurer before the great overturn – to the starving hunted lion: a state made of a great “need” (a lion unsatisﬁed, gnawed by his hunger), of endurance, research, and suffering (So for a while he endures, for a while he seeks and he suffers ), but also of the certainty of the result (as assured of his banquet) and a great impatience in wanting to find new paths of evolution (But he has lacked too long). When the tension approaches its climax, the whole being is shaken (Startled the valleys shrink from the dreadful alarum, the cattle gallop to shelter).
But one broke in on the speaker, —
Sweet was his voice like a harp’s though heard in the front of the onset,—
One of the sons of Fate by the people loved whom he ruined,
Leader in counsel and battle, the Priamid, he in his beauty
Carelessly walking who scattered the seeds of Titanic disaster.
“Surely thou dreamedst at night and awaking thy dreams have not left thee!
Hast thou not woven thy words to intimidate children in Argos 420
Sitting alarmed in the shadows who listen pale to their nurses?
Greek, thou art standing in Ilion now and thou facest her princes.
Use not thy words but thy king’s. If friendship their honey-breathed burden,
Friendship we clasp from Achilles, but challenge out pace with our challenge
Meeting the foe ere he moves in his will to the clash of encounter.
Such is the way of the Trojans since Phryx by the Hellespont halting
Seated Troy on her hill with the Ocean for comrade and sister.”
Paris – the work for equality (he is “the one who is almost equal”) works for liberation within the spirit in the rejection of matter (he is also Alexander) – expresses himself then. This work is at the forefront of the concerns of those seeking dissolution in Nirvana (Leader in counsel and battle) and the most coveted realisations (by the people loved whom he ruined). In its time, this realisation was according to the truth (Paris is beautiful). As we have seen with the twins Castor and Pollux, this equality is manifested by a combination of gentleness and power (Sweet was his voice like a harp’s though heard in the front of the onset).
In the inner dialogue, the enlightened mind demands to be connected to a work that corresponds to it, expressing itself without the distortion of the mind which works in the depths. (Greek, thou art standing in Ilion now and thou facest her princes. Use not thy words but thy king’s.)
It is indeed necessary to remember that yoga develops according to a process of ascension / integration. That is to say, it is necessary to rise to a certain level in the heights of the spirit to be able to carry out the corresponding purification work in the depths of the vital and the body. Without this, serious disorders can threaten the balance of the being.
This process of ascension / integration is described by Sri Aurobindo in The Life Divine. (Second Book, Part Two, Chapter 18: The Evolutionary Process – Ascent and Integration) He writes: “At the outset, we can easily see that, since this is an evolution out of a material Inconscience into spiritual consciousness, an evolutionary self-building of Spirit on a base of Matter, there must be in the process a development of a triple character.
An evolution of forms of Matter more and more subtly and intricately organised so as to admit the action of a growing, a more and more complex and subtle and capable organisation of consciousness is the indispensable physical foundation.
An upward evolutionary progress of the consciousness itself from grade to higher grade, an ascent, is the evident spiral line or emerging curve that, on this foundation, the evolution must describe.
A taking up of what has already been evolved into each higher grade as it is reached and a transformation more or less complete so as to admit of a total changed working of the whole being and nature, an integration, must be also part of the process, if the evolution is to be effective. “
(…) “Ascent is the first necessity, but an integration is an accompanying intention of the spirit in Nature.”
Sri Aurobindo then describes a process of yoga that has been underway since the inner fire, Agni, was permanently installed, which for him marks the foundation of Troy. Taking some liberty with mythology, he introduces a hero who does not appear in mythology, Phryx “the one who burns”, eponymous hero of Phrygia where the city of Troy is located. Here, he is said to be the founder of Troy, when in mythology the city was founded by Ilos, son of Tros, and its ramparts were constructed by Laomedon. It is generally accepted that in Homer’s time Phrygia occupied the central and north-western part of Asia Minor (Anatolia), including the region of Mysia which itself included Troad. The north of the latter province was bounded by the Hellespont (or Dardanelles) which connects the Aegean Sea with the Propontis (Sea of Marmara).
In mythology, there exists a hero with a very similar name, Phrixos, whom we mentioned at the very beginning of the study of this first book. The legend is as follows: two children, Phrixos and his sister Helle, martyred by their mother-in-law, fled from Greece on the back of a flying ram with Golden Fleece and horns sent by Zeus. Arriving above the stretch of sea that later took her name, the Hellespont, Helle could no longer hold her grip, fell into the sea and drowned, while Phrixos continued his journey through the air to Colchis. (This myth is studied in Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West, Volume 2, Chapter 2, with Athamas.) For us, this story illustrates a first experience of luminous sensitivity, a first contact with the inner fire, long before the seeker started his journey consciously, long before the intense burning of the inner fire, and thus long before the foundation of Troy. The fall and drowning of Helle also indicate the limit of the process of individuation, the realisation of a balanced and accomplished personality (Helle).
This is probably why Sri Aurobindo did not retain the name Phrixos to avoid confusion.
When this inner fire is established, the seeker can detect the dishonest modes of operation active within himself, his imperfections, and his errors before life compels him to take them into account, often in a more painful manner. If he finds a movement favourable to his evolution, he supports and strengthens it. If it is a movement that thwarts his evolution, then he strives to transform or reject it before it rises against him in the “outer” life. (If friendship their honey-breathed burden, Friendship we clasp from Achilles, but challenge out pace with our challenge Meeting the foe ere he moves in his will to the clash of encounter.)
Only the psychic opening is accompanied by a perception of “rightness” which enables this work. Before this, Nature acts according to what Satprem calls “the paths of the outside”. Because, he tells us:“ All the paths on the outside are paired with an inner path, and obstacles, shadows, accidents that we have not overcome on the path from within come back to us on the path from outside, but an infinitely harder path, longer, more ruthless for it takes a lifetime for a single little experience that makes us say one day: Ah! That’s all!” (Satprem, By the Body of the Earth or the Sannyasi. Institut de Recherches Evolutives.)
Shaking in wrath his ﬁlleted head Talthybius answered:
“Princes, ye speak their words who drive you! Thus said Achilles:
‘Rise, Talthybius, meet in her spaces the car of the morning; 430
Challenge her coursers divine as they bound through the plains of the Troad.
Hasten, let not the day wear gold ere thou stand in her ramparts.
Herald charged with my will to a haughty and obstinate nation,
Speak in the palace of Priam the word of the Phthian Achilles.
Freely and not as his vassal who leads, Agamemnon, the Argive,
But as a ruler in Hellas I send thee, king of my nations.
Long I have walked apart from the mellay of gods in the Troad,
Long has my listless spear leaned back on the peace of my tent-side,
Deaf to the talk of the trumpets, the whine of the chariots speeding;
Sole with my heart I have lived, unheeding the Hellene murmur, 440
Chid when it roared for the hunt the lion pack of the war-god,
Day after day I walked at dawn and in blush of the sunset,
Far by the call of the seas and alone with the gods and my dreaming,
Leaned to the unsatisﬁed chant of my heart and the rhythms of ocean,
Sung to by hopes that were sweet-lipped and vain.
As at this moment of the story, Hector is already dead, the sentence “Princes, ye speak their words who drive you!” most likely refers to the gods who support Ilion, namely Ares, Aphrodite, and Apollo. The latter, the god of psychic light, makes it possible to discern what is “right”, what enables the Trojan operation – at the level of the enlightened mind – which we just mentioned (Meeting the foe ere he moves in his will to the clash of encounter).
We have already suggested that the perception of righteousness, linked to the psychic, is on a personal level: right thought, right feeling, right action. But this righteousness manifests itself in the context of broader cycles or movements of human evolution that follow their own development or law of action to the very end. What is right in one time may no longer be right in the next phase. That is why Apollo will be the last to leave Troy.
The morning chariot is that of the goddess of Dawn, Eos “the goddess of the New”. Until now, she supported the Trojans, the quest towards the heights of the spirit in a movement of separation and / or renunciation of matter on the evolutionary path.
It is now a question of making her change her evolutionary direction under the pressure of the necessity of purifying the external nature. This is what Achilles, the symbol of the yoga of liberation in the depths of the vital, asks of his messenger (‘Rise, Talthybius, meet in her spaces the car of the morning; Challenge her coursers divine as they bound through the plains of the Troad.)
Undoubtedly, due to the earthly situation, the seeker feels a sense of urgency, hence Achilles asks Talthybius to hurry.
A part of the adventurer’s consciousness already knows that it is not an improvement of the mental man that is sought, that it is no longer a question of formulating a new religion for humanity inspired by the overmind, the kingdom of the gods.
This is why Talthybius is not the envoy of Agamemnon, who is still seeking an improvement in man, “a renowned wisdom” (Clytemnestra), but that of Achilles who declares himself “free” and not under Agamemnon’s orders (Freely and not as his vassal who leads, Agamemnon, the Argive, But as a ruler in Hellas I send thee, king of my nations)
And that is why Agamemnon will be killed on his return by Aegisthus and Clytemnestra.
The process of purification and liberation in the depths seems to have marked a long pause while the forces of the overmind clashed to keep control of the evolutionary process (Long I have walked apart from the mellay of gods in the Troad, Long has my listless spear leaned back on the peace of my tent-side).
It reminds us, on another level, the moment described by the Mother in the Agenda, where with Sri Aurobindo, they had to interrupt yoga during the Second World War, because the fight against the forces of the Axis (Germany, Japan, etc.) demanded their complete concentration.
During this downtime, the seeker also refused to consider the destruction of the forms, ignoring the forces of the overmind dedicated to it, the lions of the god Ares. He simply explored the past of humanity and its future, developing the knowledge of the past and the future, the faculty of trikaladrishti (Long I have walked apart from the mellay of gods in the Troad), without engaging in the depths of the vital (Far by the call of the seas), listening to the rhythms of evolutionary consciousness (Leaned to the unsatisﬁed chant of my heart and the rhythms of ocean).
At this stage, the seeker must have gone through all the disappointments and vain hopes that promise him pleasures which can be a trap to the soul (sweet-lipped).
For Polyxena’s brothers
Still are the brood of the Titan Laomedon slain in his greatness,
Engines of God unable to bear all the might that they harbour.
Awe they have chid from their hearts, nor our common humanity binds them,
Stay have they none in the gods who approve, giving calmness to mortals:
But like the Titans of old they have hugged to them grandeur and ruin. 450 Seek then the race self-doomed, the leaders blinded by heaven—
Not in the agora swept by the winds of debate and the shoutings
Lion-voiced, huge of the people! In Troya’s high-crested mansion
Speak out my word to the hero Deiphobus, head of the mellay,
Paris the racer of doom and the stubborn strength of Aeneas.
Polyxena, the youngest daughter of Priam, is the symbol of “many strange realisations”. She is the sister of Hector, Paris and Deiphobus. Laomedon, their grandfather, is called “Titan” because not only did he trade with the gods – notably, he negotiated the construction of the walls of the citadel of Troy with Poseidon and Apollo – but above all he is the symbol of an adventurer who accumulates many powers or Siddhi through yoga (supra-perceptive abilities, uncommon body control, powerful will, powerful ability of concentration to control the environment and others, etc.). These powers are symbolized by Polyxena.
Between his ninth and tenth labour, while bringing the Belt of the Queen of Amazons to Eurystheus, Heracles crossed the Troad. There, at King Laomedon’s request, he released his daughter Hesione, who had been condemned to be fed to a sea monster. As a reward, Laomedon had promised him the divine horses that had been given by Zeus to his grandfather Tros in exchange for his son Ganymede “he who watches over joy”. But Laomedon did not keep his promise. Hence, after completing his labours, but before the wars of Thebes began (before the purification of the chakras), Heracles organized a punitive expedition against Troy during which Laomedon was killed.
Divine horses are symbols of strength and more particularly of vital force – disciplined and controlled or not – and power in the vital.
Laomedon is therefore the symbol of an initiate who has acquired a great mastery and many powers (the divine horses) which he refuses to abandon in favour of a more thorough purification, beyond the vital control and the maximum intensity of the fire of the union (after the ninth labour).
This need for greater purification (Heracles does not return for revenge after the completion of the last labour) puts the adventurer in the right path while he is at the peak of his achievements (Laomedon is shot in full splendour). A second chance is given with his son Priam “the redeemed”.
But, despite the second chance offered to him, the seeker pursued yoga in the spirit / matter separation, hence in the separation between the spiritual and the body (the brothers of Polyxena, and in particular Hector, Paris-Alexander and Deiphobus, are still the descendants of Titan Laomedon).
The adventurer, divine engine of humanity for the evolutionary movement, has reached the point where he has access to powers that exceed him, of which he cannot maintain control (Engines of God unable to bear all the might that they harbour). He totally mastered the fear within him (Awe they have chid from their hearts), and is no longer bound by “our common human condition.”
As he has reached the plane of the overmind, he has become equal to the gods and therefore no longer needs their support or their sanction (Stay have they none in the gods who approve, giving calmness to mortals).
This seeker has conquered territories of consciousness that bring him both greatness and an inevitable upcoming ruin. Indeed, when men (or a part of humanity) reach the top of an evolutionary stage on a given plane, they acquire exceptional powers related to this plane that give them “grandeur”. But the transition to the next phase also entails the need for some destruction of the forms and structures that allowed access to the previous summit, because it is necessary to find new energies and forms to conquer new and evolving summits (But like the Titans of old they have hugged to them grandeur and ruin).
The Titans, forces of creation that governed the growth of vital humanity to its highest peaks and permeated the adventurers of those ancient times – Sri Aurobindo identifies here the latter to the former – allowed the adventurers to develop immense powers in relation with life and matter. But when the mind strengthens its supremacy – when the Titans lost the war against the gods and were relegated to Tartarus – humanity sees the corresponding powers disappear. It can be assumed that megaliths, pyramids, knowledge of the healing power of plants, etc. were its last vestiges.
These new Titans, adventurers of the summits of the spirit, are dazzled by the lights of these planes and can no longer correctly discern the evolutionary path (the leaders blinded by heaven). But they cannot blame anyone for it, because, due to a lack of a more total consecration and purification, they are the race that condemned itself.
The seeker must examine the situation at the height of his enlightened consciousness, not on some lower plane, in the noble castle of Troy, and not in the agora swept by the winds of debate and the shoutings.
The part of him which no longer has any fear and directs the forces of the ancient yogas (Deiphobus), that which has chosen what it wanted to privilege (Paris chose Aphrodite among the three goddesses) and that which works with an obstinate power towards evolution (Aeneas) must hear the part of him which has turned towards work in the depths of the vital and the body.
Herald of Greece, when thy feet shall be pressed on the gold and the marble,
Rise in the Ilian megaron, curb not the cry of the challenge.
Thus shalt thou say to them striking the ground with the staff of deﬁance,
Fronting the tempests of war, the insensate, the gamblers with downfall. :
“Princes of Troy, I have sat in your halls, I have slept in your chambers; 460
Not in the battle alone as a warrior glad of his foemen,
Glad of the strength that mates with his own, in peace we encountered.
Marvelling I sat in the halls of my enemies, close to the bosoms
Scarred by the dints of my sword and the eyes I had seen through the battle,
Ate rejoicing the food of the East at the tables of Priam
Served by the delicatest hands in the world, by Hecuba’s daughter,
Or with our souls reconciled in some careless and rapturous midnight
Drank of the sweetness of Phrygian wine, admiring your bodies
Shaped by the gods indeed, and my spirit revolted from hatred,
— Softening it yearned in its strings to the beauty and joy of its foemen, 470
Yearned from the death that o’ertakes and the ﬂame that cries and desires
Even at the end to save and even on the verge to deliver
Troy and her wonderful works and her sons and her deep-bosomed daughters.
Warned by the gods who reveal to the heart what the mind cannot hearken
Deaf with its thoughts, I offered you friendship, I offered you bridal,
Hellas for comrade, Achilles for brother, the world for enjoyment
Won by my spear. .And one heard my call and one turned to my seeking.
Why is it then that the war-cry sinks not to rest by the Xanthus?
The adventurer has now reached a point where something must be done to get out of this internal conflict that is exhausting and endless : a challenge to himself, to his highest realisations that he struggles to abandon (curb not the cry of the challenge).
He begins by remembering the moments when the yoga of the depths was, for a time, in harmony with the highest realisations, even if the questioning about the orientation of yoga was in full swing (Achilles went to Troy during a truce).
In this passage, Sri Aurobindo follows what the late authors have transmitted to us from a lost poem of the Trojan cycle, The Sack of Troy, which recounted the loves of Achilles and Polyxena. (The Trojan cycle includes:The Cypria, The Iliad, The Aethiopis, The Little Iliad, Iliou Perseis (The Sack of Troy), Nostoi (The Returns), The Odyssey and The Telegony.) The hero would have met this daughter of Priam during a truce and would have asked Hector for her hand (I offered you bridal). Hector accepted, asking in exchange that Achilles betray his camp by adopting the Trojan party, a demand which revolted the latter.
This legend could mean that at some point in this advanced yoga, the adventurer would have liked to combine the “most surprising” realisations of the conquests in the spirit (Polyxena) and the work of purification in the vital depths. But something within him still required that it happens in a yoga turned towards the heights of the mind, and not towards ordinary life, matter and body, which was “revolting” for this part turned towards purification.
At this moment of yoga, the seeker considers that what keeps him faithful to the structures of the ancient yogas is as strong as the aspiration for a greater liberation (Not in the battle alone as a warrior glad of his foemen, Glad of the strength that mates with his own).
The following verses evoke the Bhagavad Gita with Arjuna’s refusal to fight members of his own family: with our souls reconciled in some careless and rapturous midnight, drank of the sweetness of Phrygian wine, admiring your bodies shaped by the gods indeed, and my spirit revolted from hatred. Is this a moment of weariness of the adventurer who is nostalgic for the joy of the heights of the spirit, for the divine intoxication given by the inner fire, Agni (the sweetness of Phrygian wine), nostalgic for the perfect forms of past realisations fashioned from the overmind (your bodies shaped by the gods indeed), to the point of refusing to enter the fight, the necessary destruction of past forms to give way to the new? Because, as long as the being evolves in the mental, even at its highest levels, this process of renewal of the forms seems inescapable. As the Mother says in the Agenda, only the supramental will allow transformation without destruction.
These verses also evoke the recognition, expressed by this desire for greater liberation, of the truth of the realisations and the joy reached through forms that it must now fight (Softening it yearned in its strings to the beauty and joy of its foemen). For the Truth and the Ananda of the cells must later prove infinitely superior to those of the mind.
According to Sri Aurobindo, the seeker, under the influence of the psychic and not of the mind, comes very close to the possibility of a thorough purification work without having to destroy the forms of the ancient yoga (and even on the verge to deliver Troy (…) Warned by the gods who reveal to the heart what the mind cannot hearken). For a time, he envisioned the possibility of uniting the highest realisations of the ancient yogas (on the three paths: works, devotion and knowledge) to work in the depths towards a greater vital liberation (I offered you bridal). Thus would be accomplished not only the mental liberation, the goal of the yoga of the intelligent will (I offered you (…) Hellas for comrade), and the vital liberation by a purification of the subconscious depths (Achilles for brother), but also the cosmic delight (the world for enjoyment won by my spear).
Remember that the problem tormenting the adventurer is that the avatars of the past have allowed only individual liberations but no perceptible evolution at the scale of humanity as a whole. We can clearly see in these verses that the seeker considered Tantrism as a solution to this evolutionary problem for a time. This Tantrism is the one Sri Aurobindo discusses in the first chapter of the Yoga of Self-perfection, this vast synthesis which adds to liberation a cosmic enjoyment of the power of the mind: “Again, it includes in its objects of Yoga not only liberation, which is the one all mastering preoccupation of the specific systems, but a cosmic enjoyment of the power of the Spirit, which the others may take incidentally on the way, in part, casually, but avoid making a motive or object. (…) The Tantric method starts from the bottom and grades the ladder of ascent upwards to the summit; therefore its initial stress is upon the action of the awakened Shakti in the nervous system of the body and its centres; the opening of the six lotuses is the opening up of the ranges of the power of Spirit.“ The yoga of Sri Aurobindo, on the contrary, starts from above because its “synthesis takes man as a spirit in mind much more than a spirit in body and assumes in him the capacity to begin on that level, to spiritualise his being by the power of the soul in mind opening itself directly to a higher spiritual force and being and to perfect by that higher force so possessed and brought into action the whole of his nature.“
No doubt this being who heard [his] call and (…) turned to [his] seeking is Polyxena, the daughter of Hecuba with the delicatest hands in the world: “these many surprising things” (Polyxena) are “delicate” powers of action, powers which the seeker uses with extreme care. She could therefore symbolize “the skill in the works” of the one who has reached the divine union with the self, as formulated by the Gita.
This also reminds us of the many powers of Sri Aurobindo which he never displayed, keeping them most often hidden from all and using them with extreme care, such as his occult interventions during the Second World War and the healings reported in Mother’s Agenda.
The seeker, having agreed to lead a work in the depths that would be compatible with the forms that have allowed the highest realisations, does not really understand why he is still in an internal questioning with regard to Becoming and evolution (Why is it then that the war-cry sinks not to rest by the Xanthus?)
We are not voices from Argolis, Lacedaemonian tricksters,
Splendid and subtle and false; we are speakers of truth, we are Hellenes, 480
Men of the northland faithful in friendship and noble in anger,
Strong like our fathers of old.
Achilles wishes to stand out from the two sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus. He undoubtedly still has a grudge against Agamemnon who had taken Briseis, his beloved prize of war, away from him, although he agreed to return to the fight.
Agamemnon, chief of the Achaeans (concentration), is king of Mycenae (a fiery ardour) in Argolis and also governor of Argos (brilliant). Menelaus is king of Sparta (which arises), main city of Lacedaemon (the inner divine which is expressed powerfully). The yoga of the depths therefore is willing to stand out from the aspiration to improve the mind (Agamemnon is united with Clytemnestra) and from the inner word that is no longer able to tell the evolutionary truth (Menelaus is no longer with his wife Helene) as well as from a yoga acting with too much constraint.
He rejects “that which shines” because the yoga of the depths is of a very humble nature, and does not imply a display of power. The qualifier “ splendid, superb” applies to the troops of Agamemnon, to that which seeks the glory of the spirit, the fame (Clytemnestra) while the qualifiers “subtle (refined)” and “false” apply to the troops of Menelaus, king of Spartans. Indeed, this city is considered in the eyes of historians as dominated by “a civilisation of shame”, that is to say a place where everyone must internalize rules and apply them at risk of being excluded from the community: control over the body, over loving impulses, over the need for sleep and food, etc. The fear of transgression dominates. But this can only be achieved by a constraint on the mental and vital personality, thus creating something undoubtedly refined (subtle) but more importantly “false”.
This yoga of the depths or unveiling presents itself as a yoga of truth, because it approaches the truth of the matter, and as a yoga that works with more freedom (we are speakers of truth, we are Hellenes). This quest for truth is developing mainly in Thessaly from which come many heroes and also Achilles’ Myrmidons, a land northern to the Peloponnese where the cities of Mycenae and Sparta are located.
The sentence “faithful in friendship and noble in anger” certainly refers to the fact that Agamemnon “betrayed” his friendship with Achilles by taking Briseis captive, and to Achilles’ anger that followed and manifested itself through his strike during the fight. The yoga of the depths implies constancy and integrity. Sri Aurobindo tells us that this yoga has already been practiced by the “elders”, probably the Rishis of the times of Intuition, and that it confers great power (Strong like our fathers of old).
But you answered my truth with evasion
Hoping to seize what I will not yield and you ﬂattered your people.
Long have I waited for wisdom to dawn on your violent natures.
Lonely I paced o’er the sands by the thousand-throated waters
Praying to Pallas the wise that the doom might turn from your mansions,
Buildings delightful, gracious as rhythms, lyrics in marble,
Works of the transient gods, and I yearned for the end of the war-din
Hoping that Death might relent to the beautiful sons of the Trojans.
The presentation of the inner conflict continues. The work of the heights wants to ignore the work in the depths (But you answered my truth with evasion), hoping to make it give up its loyalty to the path that is taking shape due to its aspiration (Hoping to seize what I will not yield, fidelity to his camp expressed previously).
One part of the seeker judges that this yoga, which separated the mind from the matter, considered the imperfections of the lower nature with too much indulgence (you ﬂattered your people).
Sri Aurobindo speaks of “violent natures” when speaking of this yoga and its realisations, most probably because this yoga does not want to give ground in what concern the corresponding beliefs dealing with spirit/matter separation.
Since a long time, the seeker has been approaching the “gorges”, which would readily engulf him in the depths of the vital, without the support of any other part of the being, without knowing where this would take him (Lonely I paced o’er the sands by the thousand-throated waters). Many a time, he prayed to the inner master, mobilised his highest intelligence-wisdom, to try to keep his past realisations intact (Praying to Pallas the wise that the doom might turn from your mansions), their shapes perfect, harmonious (Buildings delightful, gracious as rhythms), but frozen according to a perfection of expression (lyrics in marble), creations of the overmind (Works of the transient gods).
The last two verses of this passage are a summary of all the human aspirations for immortality through the path of the spirit. But only the certainty of the immortality of “something” that continues after death is acquired with the psychic realisation; Death, which reigns over the world, and matter are not touched by psychic and spiritual realisations. Whatever the truth of the higher realisations in the spirit, they leave Death almighty on the earth, Death or Destruction that threatens the soul of the earth once more.
For a moment, the seeker hoped that sooner or later, the truth of the mind would be enough to overcome Death, this process of return to unconsciousness, of destruction of forms that allows Nature to reorganize the elements to make new forms emerge (and I yearned for the end of the war-din hoping that Death might relent to the beautiful sons of the Trojans). But this victory can only be won by a conscious descent into the unconscious matter, which the Mother will do, so that forms can be transformed without being destroyed.
Let us recall here what Sri Aurobindo means by “immortality”. In his translation of the Bhagavad Gita, in the commentary on Song 2, verse 15, he tells us:
“By immortality, one must not understand the survival to death – for it already belongs to every creature endowed with a mind – but the transcendence of life and death. It means that ascension by which man ceases to live as a body animated by the mind, to finally live as a spirit and in the Spirit. Whoever is subject to sorrow and affliction, whoever is a slave to his feelings and emotions, and is absorbed in the contacts of transient things, is not fit for immortality. All this must be endured until we have conquered, until, released, we cannot experience any pain, until we are able to welcome all events of the outside world, happy or sad, with an equal soul, calm and wise, as the eternal Spirit welcomes it, tranquil in the most secret within us.”
Far from the cry of the spears, from the speed and the laughter of axles, 490
Heavy upon me like iron the intolerable yoke of inaction
Weighed like a load on a runner. The war-cry rose by Scamander;
Xanthus was crossed on a bridge of the fallen, not by Achilles.
Often I stretched out my hand to the spear, for the Trojan beaches
Rang with the voice of Deiphobus shouting and slaying the Argives;
Often my heart like an anxious mother for Greece and her children
Leaped, for the air was full of the leonine roar of Aeneas.
Always the evening fell or the gods protected the Argives
The deep purification work, which stays away from the inner conflict of yoga regarding its orientation, cannot really take place until some structures of ancient yoga are demolished (the intolerable yoke of inaction).
But on the other hand, they cannot be destroyed without the support of this deep purification work, because aspiration and concentration (the Achaean coalition) are not enough on their own.
As long as the shift has not happened, as long as the seeker keeps the course of yoga oriented towards the heights of the mind, and no matter which aspiration is mobilized, the true work of purification in the depths is suspended.
In the first two verses, Sri Aurobindo designates the same stream of consciousness-energy, the one that aspires to break the limits of space and time while acting in duality with opposing and complementary forces, under its two names, Scamander and Xanthus. In the eyes of men, from the perspective of the personality, the inner conflict was now taking place at the ultimate level of duality in the mind, that is, at the limit of union with Brahman, in the eternity of the spirit (The war-cry rose by Scamander). Let us recall that Scamander is the current of energy consciousness that brings the spiritual perception of timelesness, of the Infinite, of peace without name or form which is far beyond.
But from the perspective of the overmind, crossing these limits is not yet possible for what is at work towards the spirit/matter identity through the purification of the depths, although many obstacles were overcome (Xanthus was crossed on a bridge of the fallen, not by Achilles).
What “advances without fear” calls into question the yoga practiced by those who work towards greater purity (Rang with the voice of Deiphobus shouting and slaying the Argives).
Positioning himself in the aspiration towards the work of purification, the seeker fears that the evolution might still move towards the heights (Often my heart like an anxious mother for Greece and her children Leaped, for the air was full of the leonine roar of Aeneas).
Then by the moat of the ships, on the hither plain of the Xanthus
New was the voice that climbed through the din and sailed on the breezes, 500
High, insistent, clear, and it shouted an unknown war-cry
Threatening doom to the peoples. A woman had come in to aid you,
Regal and insolent, fair as the morning and fell as the northwind,
Freed from the distaff who grasps at the sword and she spurns at subjection
Breaking the rule of the gods. She is turbulent, swift in the battle.
Clanging her voice of the swan as a summons to death and disaster,
Fleet-footed, happy and pitiless, laughing she runs to the slaughter;
Strong with the gait that allures she leaps from her car to the slaying,
Dabbles in blood smooth hands like lilies. Europe astonished
Reels from her shock to the Ocean. She is the panic and mellay, 510
War is her paean, the chariots thunder of Penthesilea.
According to the Iliad, the ships were dragged onto the shore and the fortifications built to protect them included a succession of fortified embankments and ditches with crossing points. When Penthesilea gives support to the Trojans, the Achaean defences are on the verge of being knocked down. But at that moment, the fight still unfolds on a terrain of duality (on the hither plain of the Xanthus).
Sri Aurobindo then continues his description of the realisation symbolized by Penthesilea.
The seeker never thought of questioning this realisation until the very last moment of this great internal conflict, which is why Penthesilea stayed away from the fight. But at this point in yoga, he is forced to question everything in one way or another, even what he considers to be the most beautiful and the most necessary realisations. That is why “a new voice” speaks up within him, a voice that “climbed through the din” of inner conflict, a weak voice, barely audible at first (sailed on the breezes), but who wants to break through, and who insists, very distinctly (High, insistent, clear). This inner voice, which expresses itself very differently from the other questionings, threatens the entire edifice of yoga which follows the movement of aspiration (the Achaean coalition), if we consider that the attacking peoples are the ones being threatened (It shouted an unknown war-cry Threatening doom to the peoples).
It is not only a question of works of yoga, but of a very high, confident realisation (A woman (…) Regal and insolent), which expresses a truth derived from the supramental (fair as the morning). Remember that his kingdom is located well beyond Phrygia, and is therefore a symbol of the most advanced realisation.
We have already mentioned on several occasions the North Wind, Boreas, this spiritual force which implies or imposes the effort towards progress. The realisation that goes beyond suffering is as “implacable” as that which demands to surpass oneself in yoga (fell as the north wind). For the realisation of the perfect and immutable peace that it represents presupposes an endurance that also requires the sustained effort symbolized by the North Wind.
This realisation also implies the end of the long work on oneself, of the personal yoga (Freed from the distaff). It also denotes an installation in the overmind, so an equal game with the forces of the overmind, those of the world of the gods from which it can henceforth “break the law” : the seeker, having achieved spiritual liberation (she spurns at subjection), can transcend the laws that govern the world of forms, of ordinary humanity.
This realisation acts quickly on all the elements of the external nature (She is turbulent, swift in the battle).
Referring to the “song of the swan” which designates the most beautiful and final action done by someone before dying, Sri Aurobindo resumes the image here but the invitation does not concern the one who sings, Penthesilea, but the opponent to whom she announces disaster and death (Clanging her voice of the swan as a summons to death and disaster).
Neither self-pity, which lies among the lowest feelings, nor pity for others, which is also a form of weakness towards oneself – very different from divine compassion – have their place in this realisation, because as the Gita says, “The wise do not mourn the living or the dead”(happy and pitiless). (Cf. Sri Aurobindo’s comments on Bhagavad Gita, Song 2, verse 11.)
The seeker who has reached this point is both extremely gentle in his action and totally inflexible because he does what must be done according to the true inner order (Dabbles in blood smooth hands like lilies).
In the last verses of this passage, Sri Aurobindo expands the Achaean coalition to Europe “an enlarged vision” (Ευρυ+ωψ or οψ) which we can associate with the higher mind. This “enlarged vision,” which is still largely dependent on the mind, loses ground when faced with a much higher realisation of the higher planes of the Spirit, especially when it comes to the overmind – remember, Penthesilea is a daughter of the god Ares. This vision must therefore be further expanded by the process of opening the consciousness (Europe astonished Reels from her shock to the Ocean).
In this great realisation, the seeker, with only his spirit freed from duality, can identify himself with all the elements of the inner conflict, as well as with the very nature of the manifestation which is conflict (She is the panic and mellay, War is her paean, the chariots thunder of Penthesilea).
In these verses, Sri Aurobindo reaffirms the necessity of starting from reality as it is, and not as one would like it to be, as he explains in the Essays on the Gita in Chapter 5.
“But what, then, is it that makes the difficulty for the man who has to take the world as it is and act in it and yet would live, within, the spiritual life? What is this aspect of existence which appals his awakened mind and brings about what the title of the first chapter of the Gita calls significantly the Yoga of the dejection of Arjuna, the dejection and discouragement felt by the human being when he is forced to face the spectacle of the universe as it really is with the veil of the ethical illusion, the illusion of self-righteousness torn from his eyes, before a higher reconciliation with himself is effected? It is that aspect which is figured outwardly in the carnage and massacre of Kurukshetra and spiritually by the vision of the Lord of all things as Time arising to devour and destroy the creatures whom it has made. “
Penthesilea’s intervention would also symbolize the adventurer’s willingness to question many of his past realisations which he values more than anything, such as Arjuna’s attachment to his family members.
Doom was her coming, it seems, to the men of the West and their legions;
Ajax sleeps for ever, Meriones lies on the beaches.
One by one they are falling before you, the great in Achaia.
Ever the wounded are borne like the stream of the ants when they forage
Past my ships, and they hush their moans as they near and in silence
Gaze at the legions inactive accusing the fame of Achilles.
From the moment when the adventurer brings this high realisation into his inner conflict to defend the yoga which rises to the heights of the spirit, leaving aside the purification and spiritualization of nature, the adverse elements, stemming from concentrated intelligence and will, lose their strength or become overwhelmed (One by one they are falling before you, the great in Achaia).
Mythology knows two Ajax, the Small Ajax and the Great Ajax, symbols respectively of the lower or outer consciousness and the higher consciousness. When we do not specify, it is always the “great” Ajax we speak of, son of Telamon, “fearless” according to the Greek poet Pindar. He is a first cousin of Achilles, Telamon being the brother of Peleus (Cf. Diagram 25). The classic legend of Ajax’s death, as reported by Pindar, states that he committed suicide because he was not chosen to receive Achilles’ weapons, which Agamemnon gave to Ulysses: the seeker will have to undertake a process to achieve perfect transparency, not more awareness. A later source maintains that he was killed by Paris. But Sri Aurobindo seems to follow another tradition according to which Ajax was killed by Penthesilea, which he will confirm further in verse 618.
Be that as it may, the death of Ajax could mean here that the maximum that personal consciousness can accomplish in the work of the mastery of the vital has been achieved. Indeed, when he was chosen by lot to face Hector and the two fighters proved equally strong, he offered Hector a purple belt, symbol of a very high control over the vital.
Achilles, son of a goddess of the depths, illustrates a purification in the depths with the help of the divine, which is not the case of Ajax who has no divine parents. Note however that in strength and bravery, Ajax is only surpassed by Achilles.
Merion is an archer, a symbol of a tension towards the goal, who accompanied his uncle Idomeneus, grandson of Minos, to the war, as part of a movement of consecration, of surrender. He is said to be one of the most valorous fighters of the Greek camp, and his name seems to be linked to the Greek word meaning “thigh”, a symbol of strength. All in all, he is the symbol of great strength tending towards the goal. His death might indicate that the adventurer is disoriented with regard to the direction of the evolutionary movement.
Still have I borne with you, waited a little, looked for a summons;
Longing for bridal torches, not ﬂame on the Ilian housetops,
Blood in the chambers of sweetness, the golden amorous city 520 Swallowed by doom. Not broken I turned from the wrestle Titanic,
Hopeless, weary of toil in the ebb, of my glorious spirit
But from my stress of compassion for doom of the kindred nations,
But for her sake whom my soul desires, for the daughter of Priam.
And for Polyxena’s sake I will speak to you yet as your lover
Once ere the Fury, abrupt from Erebus, deaf to your crying,
Mad with the joy of the massacre, seizes on wealth and on women
Calling to Fire as it strides and Ilion sinks into ashes.
Yield; for your doom is impatient.
For the last time, the adventurer of consciousness tries to make the highest realisations of the ancient yogas walk together with a course of action engaged in a thorough purification of the external nature. These high realisations are manifested among other things by the lastborn of Priam and Hecuba, Polyxena. This name is composed with Πολυ (many) and ξενη (foreign, unusual, astonishing, surprising). With the structuring letters (Ξ or ξ + Ν), she would be the realisation of an identity between the bottom and the top, between mind and matter, or, with the precision given by the lowercase letter, perhaps a certain descent of the mind into matter. The seeker is therefore eager to combine the work of purification with the new and astonishing capacities which come to him from the higher planes of the spirit (the love of Polyxena), while trying to save what is dear to his heart among the old yogas (the sister nations). More specifically, the structures that allowed the development of love through psychic realisation (the golden amorous city). We must remember that Aphrodite supports the Trojan camp.
The Furies are the Latin name for the Erinyes. In mythology, avenging spirits intervene to punish serious offenses, especially perjury and family crimes.
These are forces that put man back on the right path of evolution when he turns away from it. We must understand “perjury” as the acts of those who do not follow the path that their soul has chosen in this life.
Family crimes, most often those of parents or children, break what connects the seeker to his divine origin (crimes against parents), or interrupt what wants to develop within him (children).
The action of these deities is incomprehensible to man because he is most often unaware of his mistake, hence the Erinyes walk in the dark. In addition, they are ruthless: they are inflexible movements.
In this passage, Erebus, where the Erinye comes from, is the Darkness in which the Divine Consciousness at the origin of the manifestation threw itself. Erebus is the son of Chaos, Force-Consciousness concentrated within itself (Cf. Diagram 1).
The seeker therefore feels that divine forces, whose origins he cannot pinpoint, but which are related to the origin and purpose of the Manifestation, could reduce his highest realisations to dust.
No longer your helpers hasten,
Legions swift to your call; the yoke of your pride and your splendour 530
Lies not now on the nations of earth as when Fortune desired you,
Strength was your slave and Troya the lioness hungrily roaring
Threatened the western world from her ramparts built by Apollo.
Gladly released from the thraldom they hated, the insolent shackles
Curbing their manhood the peoples arise and they pray for your ruin;
Piled are their altars with gifts; their blessings help the Achaians.
Memnon came, but he sleeps, and the faces swart of his nation
Darken no more like a cloud over thunder and surge of the onset.
Wearily Lycia ﬁghts; far ﬂed are the Carian levies.
Thrace retreats to her plains preferring the whistle of stormwinds 540
Or on the banks of the Strymon to wheel in her Orphean measure,
Not in the revel of swords and fronting the spears of the Hellenes.
At the beginning of this passage, Sri Aurobindo summarizes in a few verses what he developed at the beginning of the Life Divine.
In the second chapter, he deals with “the materialistic negation” which is based on the principle that Matter is the only reality. First of all he invites us to recognize “the enormous, indispensable utility of the so brief period of the rationalist materialism that humanity has gone through”. (…) For it is “necessary that the progressive Knowledge be based on a clear, pure and disciplined intellect.”
In the third chapter, he refers to “The refusal of the ascetic” who states that the Spirit is the only reality. “For at the gates of the Transcendent stands that mere and perfect Spirit described in the Upanishads, luminous, pure, sustaining the world but inactive in it, without sinews of energy, without flaw of duality, without scar of division, unique, identical, free from all appearance of relation and of multiplicity,—the pure Self of the Adwaitins, the inactive Brahman, the transcendent Silence. And the mind when it passes those gates suddenly, without intermediate transitions, receives a sense of the unreality of the world and the sole reality of the Silence which is one of the most powerful and convincing experiences of which the human mind is capable. Here, in the perception of this pure Self or of the Non-Being behind it, we have the starting-point for a second negation,—parallel at the other pole to the materialistic, but more complete, more final, more perilous in its effects on the individuals or collectivities that hear its potent call to the wilderness,—the refusal of the ascetic.” This refusal of the ascetic, this revolt of the Spirit against Matter, has long marked the spirit of the seeker, imposing its law on the rest of the being, especially the mind, also interested in the reality of matter (Troya the lioness hungrily roaring threatened the western world from her ramparts built by Apollo).
But the adventurer feels his confidence in the old ways and the structures that supported them weaken, as well as the strength that he could mobilize until now (Strength was your slave).
Let us take a closer look at the death of Memnon, as it symbolically explains the reasons for the fall of Troy and the necessary reorientation of the ancient yogas in order to begin supramental yoga quite clearly. We must return to the legend of his father, Tithonos.
The latter, whose name means “the evolution of the inner being towards the highest plane,” is a son of Laomedon, and a brother of Priam. He should normally have succeeded his father in the royal lineage of Troy because, like his uncle Ganymede, he was remarkably beautiful, therefore the symbol of the truest work of yoga.
As a result, the goddess of dawn, Eos, fell in love with him, took him to Ethiopia, and gave him two children, Memnon and Emathion.
Eos asked Zeus to give Tithonos immortality, but she omitted eternal youth. As long as Tithonos remained young, they lived happily on the borders of the earth, on the edge of the currents of the ocean. According to Homer, dawn often came out of Tithonos’ bed to bring the day to the gods and the mortals.
Then, as time passed, the ravages of time gradually reduced Tithonos to a larva that Eos locked in a closed room where he was left to babble for eternity.
Eos, the goddess of Dawn, is the sister of Helios “the supramental light”. She is the symbol of the eternal New.
Among Laomedon’s children, she does not fall in love with Priam but with Tithonos, the most beautiful and therefore the bearer of the most Truth. The Divine thus attempts to reorient the old yogas through an intervention of the power that brings the New, through a supramental impulse.
Indeed, although we have not been able to trace the exact chronology in the texts, it is obvious that the story of Tithonos takes place before the punitive campaign of Heracles, the great purifier / liberator, in which the latter killed all the male children of Laomedon except Podarces and Tithonos. Podarces, whose name means “the one who moves apart his foot ” symbol of a refusal to get involved in the action, was bought by his sister Hesione and took the name of Priam “the redeemed”. The Divine then symbolically gave the seeker a second chance to reorient the yoga. Not only was Tithonos in Ethiopia at the time, he was also immortal, so he was not killed by Heracles like the other sons of Laomedon. This is the version of the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus. According to Homer, at least three other male children survived.
Indeed, Eos took Tithonos “the evolution of the inner being towards the highest plane” to Ethiopia, the land of the “burning vision” or of the “fiery voice” – the psychic fire manifested through the eye and the voice – and gave him two sons, Emathion and Memnon. Under the effect of this divine embrace, the seeker obtains immortality, that is to say liberation from ignorance through which he ceases to live “as a mind in a body, to live as a spirit and within the Spirit”.
But, according to the legend, Eos, the power of the New, “forgot” to ask Zeus to give him eternal youth, that is to say the ability “to adapt to the movement of becoming”. In fact, she could not do so because the seeker has not yet begun the purification process that will later lead to the “redemption” of Priam, that is, to a new opportunity to follow the movement of becoming.
The stakes of the upcoming war are indeed to go beyond the states of wisdom, holiness, and past liberations to open the way to the supramental.
And the Mother clearly states (ref.The Mother’s Agenda Volume 3, January 12, 1962) the conditions for passage in a note to Satprem responding to his question about the abilities required to access the supramental world :
“Capacity for indefinite expansion of consciousness on all planes including the material.
Limitless plasticity, to be able to follow the movement of becoming.
Perfect equality abolishing all possibility of ego reaction.”
Now, if the seeker has fulfilled the third condition and partly the first one, there is a blockage when it comes to the second condition in his refusal to consider that the evolutionary truth is no longer, at this moment of yoga, in the heights of the mind: because eternal youth corresponds to the plasticity necessary to be able to follow the movement of becoming.
Such a refusal of adaptation eventually produces a confinement to one’s own beliefs and a gradual and irremediable narrowing of the intelligent will that repeats the same things indefinitely (Tithonos remained cloistered and gradually reduced to the state of larva).
The first son of Tithonos, Emathion, became king of Ethiopia. He attacked Heracles while the latter was coming up the Nile after killing Busiris, the king of Egypt, and was killed by him. This took place after the “Labours”, or during the final two, but in any case before the Trojan campaign.
When Heracles came to Troy to avenge Laomedon, Memnon, who was still in Ethiopia, having succeeded his brother on the throne, was safe. His name, Memnon, which we find in that of Agamemnon in the opposite camp, is probably built on the root μεν “desire, want” with the inclusion of the letter Mu (Μ,μ) indicating receptivity. Agamemnon is indeed, according to Homer, the most “greedy” of all the Achaeans. Given the lineages in which we find these two heroes, we can associate them with the yoga of the intelligent will (buddhi-yoga), of discernment allied with determination, yoga which culminates in the union of the intelligence (with the I) and the union through intelligence (with the I).
But Memnon, son of Tithonos, retains the characteristics of his father and those of his lineage. Thus he will obtain immortality from Eos after his death, but he also inherited the refusal or the impossibility of adaptation to the movement of becoming. If this were not the case, the Trojan lineage would have continued with his descent and not with that of Priam “the redeemed”.
According to one of the lost texts of the Trojan cycle, the Aethiopis, Memnon came to Troy leading a contingent of Ethiopians. He wore an armour crafted by the god Hephaestus. During a fight, Memnon killed Antiloque, son of Nestor and great friend of Achilles. The latter took revenge by killing Memnon, and Zeus granted immortality to Memnon at Eos’ request.
Memnon is therefore the symbol of this intelligent will animated by a powerful inner fire, but which is still blocked when it comes to adapting to the movement of becoming. This intelligent will manifests itself in new forms that protect him, because He wore an armour shaped by the god Hephaestus. But Achilles also wears such armour!
Between these two highly advanced yogas who vie for the evolutionary truth – that of the purification of the depths for the sake of liberation from the vital and that of the discerning intelligence animated by a powerful fire but refusing the evolutionary truth – it is the yoga of the descent, in accordance with the becoming, which prevails (Memnon came, but he sleeps).
It is possible that the black faces attributed in mythology to the Ethiopians, and mentioned here by Sri Aurobindo (the faces swart of his nation), in addition to physical reality, refer symbolically to a wrong mental orientation, just like black feet indicate a lack of incarnation.
In the last verses of this passage, we learn that the elements which support the ancient yogas have lost their vigour. Lycia and Caria are two provinces south-west of Phrygia, and Thrace is located to the northwest, on the other side of the Propontis.
Lycia (whose name is built around an archaic root Lug ΛΥΓ) is the province of “the light that precedes dawn”; this light was the support of the ancient yogas for centuries but it lost its glow (Wearily Lycia ﬁghts).
Caria (province of the “head”) is the symbolic place of growth in the planes of the mind, as well as that of support to the Trojan enlightened mind. But in this inner conflict, the mind is no longer of any help (far ﬂed are the Carian levies).
Thrace, where Boreas the north wind blows, is a place of demanding asceticism. Instead of continuing the difficult ascension towards the heights, the seeker chooses an easier asceticism where, however, obstacles to yoga appear (Thrace retreats to her plains preferring the whistle of storm winds). Or, he takes refuge in a yoga with a correct but repetitive rhythm (Or on the banks of the Strymon to wheel in her Orphean measure). Indeed, Orpheus was a king of Thrace. In the Argonauts’ quest led by Jason, he is the one who gives the beat to the rowers, indicating “the right rhythm” of what needs to be done. On the beginning of the path he symbolizes one of the first perceptions of the right rhythm behind all things, which the seeker must learn to follow. We will not go deeper into the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, which is treated in detail in Volume 2 of Chapter 5 of Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West. Let us just say here that it treats of the helplessness of the seeker who loses the right path and has to go down within his depths to find the thread that will lead him to a new path, without attaching himself to what was right for him before.
Princes of Pergama, open your gates to our Peace who would enter,
Life in her gracious clasp and forgetfulness, grave of earth’s passions,
Healer of wounds and the past. In a comity equal, Hellenic,
Asia join with Greece, one world from the frozen rivers
Trod by the hooves of the Scythian to farthest undulant Ganges.
Tyndarid Helen resign, the desirable cause of your danger,
Back to Greece that is empty long of her smile and her movements.
Broider with riches her coming, pomp of her slaves and the waggons 550
Endlessly groaning with gold that arrive with the ransom of nations.
So shall the Fury be paciﬁed, she who exultant from Sparta
Breathed in the sails of the Trojan ravisher helping his oarsmen.
So shall the gods be appeased and the thoughts of their wrath shall be cancelled,
Justice contented trace back her steps and for brands of the burning
Torches delightful shall break into Troy with the swords of the bridal.
I like a bridegroom will seize on your city and clasp and defend her
Sa e from the envy of Argos, from Lacedaemonian hatred,
Safe from the hunger of Crete and the Locrian’s violent rapine.
The part of the adventurer which recognizes that the descent into the deep vital to purify it is an unavoidable task (Achilles) tries to convince the part of him which is always attached to the old realisations that a compromise is possible, provided that he lets go, of the recognition that the evolutionary truth is no longer in the direction of the conquest of unearthly paradises, nor in the spirit-matter separation.
Indeed, Memnon died, and Priam was “redeemed”. And the adventurer knows he has the capacity for greater vital mastery (as Achilles mentioned earlier: the world for enjoyment Won by my spear). What the seeker is considering at this stage of yoga is a greater mastery of his external being with the help of the inner guide, while preserving past realisations. We saw that this mastery was the role of the goddess Athena, as Sri Aurobindo mentions in Perseus the Deliverer (Prologue):
“Me the Omnipotent
Made from His being to lead and discipline
The immortal spirit of man, till it attain
To order and magnificent mastery
Of all his outward world.
(…) He shall be confident in me and dare
The immeasurable oceans till the West
Mingles with India, and reach the northern isles
That dwell beneath my dancing aegis bright,
Snow-weary. He shall, armed with clamorous fire,
Rush o’er the angry waters when the whale
Is stunned between two waves and slay his foe
Betwixt the thunders.”
But is this compromise possible, and to what extent? Has the seeker reached the supreme realisation indicated in the last verses of the Gita as interpreted by Sri Aurobindo? “Devoting all thyself to Me, giving up in thy conscious mind all thy actions into Me; resorting to Yoga of the will and intelligence be always one in heart and consciousness with Me ” …?
Sri Aurobindo will answer this question later in the poem.
For now, the seeker proposes to consider pursuing both the work in the spirit and the work in the depths (In a comity equal, Hellenic) with the same intensity. Perhaps Sri Aurobindo tells us here that there is no need to differentiate between the different paths, be they more materialistic or more spiritualistic, and that the race for spiritual titles is absurd.
But this alliance, from the perspective of purification, must always be made under the condition that everything within him accepts that the evolutionary truth goes in the direction given by the aspirational forces represented by the Achaean coalition (Tyndarid Helen resign, the desirable cause of your danger, Back to Greece that is empty long of her smile and her movements), but also that the higher realisations participate in the purification yoga (Broider with riches her coming, pomp of her slaves and the waggons Endlessly groaning with gold that arrive with the ransom of nations).
Thus, all parts of the being would advance in unison and participate in evolutionary yoga, from the outward-minded being who works at full mastery to the higher levels in the spirit (Asia join with Greece). Sri Aurobindo was probably aware that the name “Greeks” replaced that of “Hellenes” only from Aristotle onwards. By “Greece”, he undoubtedly means the peak of the man of reason, the realisation of a harmony of wisdom and moderation as we now think of the Greek civilisation. Asia refers not only to Troas and the surrounding provinces, but also to all territories further east, indicating the most advanced spiritual realisations.
Sri Aurobindo specifies what he means by this unity in the following verses: the union of the material extreme with the spiritual extreme, and that without destruction, in the peace of the equality that comes with the work of an advanced liberation (Peace promised by Achilles).
Indeed the frozen rivers traversed by the horses of the Scythians, a people of Northern Europe, designate the frozen deserts of the highest materialistic intellectual who doubts all that is not accessible to his senses and confirmed by his reason, while the borders where the Ganges flows are the spiritual extreme that has developed until the ascetic’s refusal of action.
Here are laid the foundations of the action of the New Consciousness which manifested itself on earth in early 1969 and which the Mother will formulate in 1970:
“That’s what I have learned, in fact: the bankruptcy of religions was because they were divided—they wanted you to follow one religion to the exclusion of all others. And all human knowledge has gone bankrupt because it was exclusive. And man has gone bankrupt because he was exclusive. What the New Consciousness wants (it insists on this) is: no more divisions. To be capable of understanding the extreme spiritual, the extreme material, and to find… to find the meeting point where… it becomes a true force.” (The Mother’s Agenda, Volume 11, January 3, 1970.)
This is why in the last verses of this passage, it is said that this option would be favoured by the gods, the cosmic forces of the overmind.
The Erinyes (the Furies) are, as we have seen above, forces that put man back on the right path of evolution when he turns away from it. The Trojans symbolize a spirituality that turns away from life, which was once a must for those who wanted to unite with the Divine (So shall the Fury be paciﬁed, she who exultant from Sparta). But when the time came, when the overthrow of yoga became necessary, these Erinyes supported the movement that was to lead to the war. But a straightening of the movement of yoga towards more aspiration makes its influence useless (So shall the Fury be paciﬁed).
In the same way, the spiritual forces of the overmind that are shared between the two evolutionary tendencies will find unity (So shall the gods be appeased and the thoughts of their wrath shall be cancelled), and the right movement of human evolution will resume its normal course; Helen returned to Sparta (Justice contented trace back her steps) and no realisation will be abandoned, giving way to the union of the spiritual and the material (and for brands of the burning Torches delightful shall break into Troy with the swords of the bridal).
Finally, the being will be reunited and the fundamental movements of the ego will cease:
The lower self, in search of purity and light, will no longer be envious of realisations within the spirit (the envy of Argos) because the I will enlighten it.
The feeling of separation will disappear. Indeed, the city of Sparta “that which arises”, was founded by Lacedaemon “the (inner) divinity which resounds with force” from which it took its name. Lacedaemon is the son of the Pleiade Taygete, who embodies the plane of the intuitive mind and who is at the origin of the lineage where we find Helen, who was kidnapped by Paris the Trojan. Menelaus is king of this city. The Lacedaemonian hatred probably refers to her kidnapping while Paris was the host of Menelaus, gone on a trip. Indeed, the intuitive mind is still a plane that belongs to duality.
The feeling of “missing something” will disappear because the being will be filled with the gifts of the spirit. The hunger of Crete refers to this strong upward aspiration that marked the beginning of the path and corresponded to an enlargement of consciousness, symbolized by the kidnapping of Europe “a broad vision” by Zeus, who took her to Crete.
The basic desire for predation will cease. Indeed, a contingent commanded by the “little” Ajax from Locride came to Troy, that is to say, the external consciousness and its desire to take, to possess, to monopolize which takes root in the primitive and instinctive seizing movement (the Locrian’s violent rapine).
But if you turn from my voice and you hearken only to Ares 560
Crying for battle within you deluded by Hera and Pallas,
Swiftly the ﬁerce death’s surges shall close over Troy and her ramparts
Built by the gods shall be stubble and earth to the tread of the Hellene.
For to my tents I return not, I swear it by Zeus and Apollo,
Master of Truth who sits within Delphi fathomless brooding
Sole in the caverns of Nature and hearkens her underground murmur,
Giving my oath to his keeping mute and stern who forgets not,
Not from the panting of Ares’ toil to repose, from the wrestle
Locked of hope and death in the ruthless clasp of the mellay
Leaving again the Trojan ramparts unmounted, leaving 570
Greece unavenged, the Aegean a lake and Europe a province.
Choosing from Hellas exile, from Peleus and Deidamia,
Choosing the ﬁeld for my chamber of sleep and the battle for hearthside
I shall go warring on till Asia enslaved to my footsteps
Feels the tread of the God in my sandal pressed on her bosom.
Rest shall I then when the borders of Greece are fringed with the Ganges;
Thus shall the past pay its Titan ransom and, Fate her balance
Changing, a continent ravished suffer the fortune of Helen.
This I have sworn allying my will to Zeus and Ananke “
We have seen that Hera is the force that ensures a proper evolution according to the divine plan and that Athena is the master of yoga, the inner master who guides the growth of the inner being towards the total mastery of the outer being. These two deities are ranged on the Achaean side because these forces of the overmind are working on the reversal movement. They know that the Achaean side will be victorious; they support the fight and seek no compromise with yoga based on the spirit / matter separation.
The adventurer of consciousness promises himself that, whatever happens, he will continue on the path of purification and liberation in the depths even if he cannot reconcile it with the realisations of the ancient yogas (For to my tents I return not). For, as Sri Aurobindo said for himself, a personal liberation that leaves the rest of humanity unchanged could not satisfy him.
For this, the adventurer commits to pursue the yoga of purification relentlessly on the basis of his knowledge acquired in the overmind as well as the psychic light symbolized by Apollo (I swear it by Zeus and Apollo).
Sri Aurobindo then refers to the famous oracle of Apollo which was located in Delphi to explain the “psychic truth or light” (Master of Truth who sits within Delphi). Indeed, the external manifestation of the light of truth emanating from the psychic fire and perceived internally was staged there. It is difficult to get a clear idea of how the oracle operated during the archaic period because many things have been described fancifully by the ancient writers. For instance, the crevice over which Pythia was supposed to stand is a geological impossibility. Likewise, there has never been any volcanic emanations in Delphi. It is likely that the “fumes” were produced by the burning of plants.
Whatever the material reality of the setup might have been, the fact remains that the oracle was very famous. The consultant asked his question to an officer, the “Pythia”, prophetess of Apollo, who stood on a tripod, probably in an underground room of a temple accessible to few. Her name came from the great Python snake, symbol of the process of decomposition and putrefaction, killed by Apollo right after his birth. Indeed, the psychic light emanating from the immortal part of the being is not compatible with the principle of decomposition.
The priests of Apollo then collected the words of Pythia, perhaps transmitted during ecstasies, and wrote them in verses whose meanings were intentionally obscure and required to be interpreted.
It is probable that due to the cycles of the mind, the Intuition of the Vedic times has gradually weakened and that what was initially the words of Truth has become a more or less fanciful divination over time. Just as Sri Aurobindo spoke of the disappearance of the Intuition to which humanity had access in the time of the Vedic Rishis, an American psychologist and historian has masterfully described this weakening of intuition over the centuries since the Greek archaic period until the complete cessation of prophecy in 363 AD when, through the mouth of the last priestess of Delphi, Apollo announced that he would no longer make prophecies. This prophecy, once the word of Truth, was progressively demeaned until it was only transmitted through fanciful divinatory arts. (Cf.The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Julian Jaynes. Houghton (Boston, MA), 1977.)
Sri Aurobindo then draws a parallel between the psychic inner voice and the oracle of Delphi: this Apollonian voice comes from the unfathomable depths of the being, from the underground caves of our nature from where it manifests itself to the consciousness in a muffled “whisper” (meditating, unfathomable and lonely, in the caves of Nature and listening to his murmur underground). The psychic word comes from a plane of Truth, so the light that emanates from it is strict or uncompromising (his keeping mute and stern). Psychic “memories” are kept alive (who forgets not).
If what clings to the conceptions and realisations of the past does not want to accept another evolutionary truth, then the seeker will continue his fight for purification / liberation in the vital depths, refusing to admit the upholding of conceptions, beliefs and certainties of ancient yogas that stand as ramparts on the way (Leaving again the Trojan ramparts unmounted), resolved to support the truth of aspiration (Greece unavenged), refusing to leave nature unchanged knowing that the descent into the depths of life will cause emotional turmoil (refusing to leave the Aegean to the state of lake), and finally refusing to limit the opening of the vision or the consciousness to a limited field (leaving Europe to the state of province). The myth about Europe, whose name means “broad vision” and which corresponds to a first opening of consciousness of the seeker, is studied in Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West and will not be repeated here.
This passage echoes the difficulties encountered by the Mother in opening the minds of her disciples to a wider consciousness than the one to which they were attached due to their spiritual traditions.
It also echoes a very important passage of the Agenda in which Mother, after her experience of the “supramental ship”, indicates the capacities required to gain access to the supramental world:
Capacity for indefinite expansion of consciousness on all planes including the material.
Limitless plasticity, to be able to follow the movement of becoming.
Perfect equality abolishing all possibility of ego reaction.
On this same day, she insisted on the prime importance of the capacity for expansion of consciousness:
« The people on that ship had these two capacities: one, the capacity for indefinite expansion of consciousness on all planes, including the material; and two, limitless plasticity in order to follow the movement of the Becoming.
It was taking place in the subtle physical. The people who had patches on their bodies and had to be sent back were always the ones who lacked the plasticity those two movements required. But the main thing was the movement of expansion; the progressive movement, the movement of following the Becoming, seemed to be a subsequent preoccupation – for those who had landed. The preparation on the boat concerned that capacity for expansion. »
To reorient yoga toward an integral yoga that no longer separates the spirit from the matter, the seeker will temporarily cease the yoga undertaken in the depths of the vital – Achilles’ father is Peleus “the one who lives in the mud” (who plunges into the depths of humanity) who is united to the goddess Thetis, daughter of Nereus “the old man of the sea” – and who will stop pursuing the control of his external nature – his wife is Deidamia “the one who kills or completes the mastery”- (Choosing from Hellas exile, from Peleus and Deidamia).
He commits, at the highest and deepest level, to pursue the union yoga until what is most advanced within him in the spirit perceives the divine evolutionary will in the incarnation instead of just considering that everything is already perfect in the moment (until Asia feels the walk of God), until the most advanced yoga in the mind becomes one with yoga in everyday life (when the borders of Greece will be on the edge of the Ganges), until the feeling of separation is gone.
Then the realisations of the past will contribute to the future, the sense of evolution will be reversed and all the old realisations – especially equality – will contribute to the new yoga, serving as its base (Fate her balance Changing, a continent ravished suffer the fortune of Helen).
This commitment of the seeker is based on both the highest knowledge of the overmind and the perception of an imperative evolutionary need (This I have sworn allying my will to Zeus and Ananke). The meaning of the word Ananke, translated as “destiny, fatality” originally contains the idea of ”constraint”. Later in the poem, Sri Aurobindo calls it “mystical Erinye”, the force that imposes the just divine movement, the divine power that governs the Becoming.
So was it spoken, the Phthian challenge. Silent the heroes 580
Looked back amazed on their past and into the night of their future.
Silent their hearts felt a grasp from gods and had hints of the heavens.
Hush was awhile in the room, as if Fate were trying her balance
Poised on the thoughts of her mortals. At length with a musical laughter
Sweet as the jangling of bells upon anklets leaping in measure
Answered aloud to the gods the virgin Penthesilea.
“Long I had heard in my distant realms of the fame of Achilles,
Ignorant still while I played with the ball and ran in the dances
Thinking not ever to war; but I dreamed of the shock of the hero.
So might a poet inland who imagines the rumour of Ocean, 590
Yearn with his lust for the giant upheaval, the dance as of hill-tops,
Toss of the yellow mane and the tawny march and the voices
Lion like claiming earth as a prey for the clamorous waters.
So have I longed as I came for the cry and the speed of Achilles.
But he has lurked in his ships, he has sulked like a boy that is angry.
Glad am I now of his soul that arises hungry for battle,
Glad, whether victor I live or defeated travel the shadows.
Once shall my spear have rung on the shield of the Phthian Achilles.
Peace I desire not. I came to a haughty and resolute nation,
Honour and fame they cherish, not life by the gift of a foeman. 600
Sons of the ancient house on whom Ilion looks as on Titans,
Chiefs whom the world admires, do you fear then the shock of the Phthian?
Gods, it is said, have decided your doom. Are you less in your greatness?
Are you not gods to reverse their decrees or unshaken to suffer?
Memnon is dead and the Carians leave you? Lycia lingers?
But from the streams of my East I have come to you, Penthesilea. “
It is likely that the first three verses refer to “the vision of the three times,” Trikaladrishti, which Sri Aurobindo explained in his Record of Yoga as a special faculty of jnana. “By jnana is meant that power of direct and divine knowledge which works independently of the intellect & senses or uses them only as subordinate assistants. (…) Trikaldrishti is a special faculty of jnana by which that general power is applied to the actuality of things, their details of event, tendency etc. in the past, present & future of the world as it exists, has existed & will exist in Time. It deals with particular fact, just as jnana deals with general truth. ” (Sri Aurobindo, Record of Yoga, Book 1, Vijnanachatusthaya.) This faculty needs the silence in the mind to be established in order to be used to its full potential. That is why the Trojan heroes are silent (Silent the heroes looked back amazed on their past and into the night of their future). In the same way the seeker feels a pressure within him from the forces of the overmind and receives “messages”. Sri Aurobindo describes in detail in his Record of Yoga the different modes of action of the trikaldrishti, and in particular the modes of direct perception: rupadrishti the vision of subtle images, shruti the audition of truth, smriti the emergence of hidden knowledge combining intuition and the right discernment. Perhaps, among these “heavenly suggestions”, are also the lipi, writing seen with subtle vision, and prakamya, (different kinds of subtle perception related to conscious senses), etc. (Silent their hearts felt a grasp from gods and had hints of the heavens).
The Amazon Penthesilea then responds, with the lightness and the joy of detachment (At length with a musical laughter Sweet as the jangling of bells upon anklets leaping in measure). The inner dialogue takes place on the level of the overmind because she addresses the gods first, calling the Achaean leaders only at the end of the passage. The seeker, through the mouth of what within him overcame suffering, challenges with force the powers of the overmind inside him.
When the yoga of the liberation from suffering was beginning, it was completely independent from the work of purification / liberation in the depths, without being unaware of its existence (“Long I had heard in my distant realms of the fame of Achilles, Ignorant still while I played with the ball and ran in the dances). But the seeker already knows, intuitively, that the two yogas are incompatible; that of the liberation from suffering which keeps the adventurer in the realms of the spirit and that of the purification, first of the vital depths then of the body, and that a moment will come where he will have to choose (but I dreamed of the shock of the hero).
Later, the seeker, still positioned in the heights of the spirit, where he is free from suffering, aspires to confront the gigantic uprisings of the deep vital, its surges, and the powerful expressions of the “monsters of the depths” who want to impose their law on the body. These are not ordinary emotions, fears or desires, but tremendous anxieties and powerful instincts hidden in the vital and corporal memories of our nature, and which the mind usually cannot bring to the surface in our times. When social and mental constraints are lifted, one can witness the unleashing of these primary instincts, causing horror shows. But if the seeker wants to conquer his nature with perfection for aim, then he must bring these powers to light in order to overcome them. (So might a poet inland who imagines the rumour of Ocean, Yearn with his lust for the giant upheaval, the dance as of hill-tops, Toss of the yellow mane and the tawny march and the voices Lion like claiming earth as a prey for the clamorous waters)
Then comes the time to decide, even if at first, the yoga of the depths is not forthcoming because the seeker always aspires to more wisdom – the leader of the Achaeans, Agamemnon, is indeed still united to Clytemnestra – without worrying about this purification, which led to Achilles’ strike, subject of the Iliad (Achilles (…) has lurked in his ships, he has sulked like a boy that is angry).
The seeker has already realized “equality” in the mind and in the vital, so from the point of view of his highest realisation, he is indifferent to the direction that evolution will take. As the progression of individuals is linked to that of humanity, the latter pulling the former back, it also makes no difference to him whether humanity is ready to accompany the movement of overthrow or not, and his battle is a solitary one (Glad am I now of his soul that arises hungry for battle, Glad, whether victor I live or defeated travel the shadows). The journey through the shadows is the descent into the realm of Hades, the bodily unconscious, where movements that have been driven out of the conscious and subconscious are pursued, as well as the yogas that fought them.
The Amazons are a tribe of warrior women, that is, hard-won realisations that the seeker is not prepared to give up without serious reasons. That is why Penthesilea “Peace desires not”.
This is the ultimate argument used by the seeker to escape the destruction of what he has dedicated his whole life to. Either his other realisations obtained with an inner certainty or an unshakeable will (Menelaus) are the right spiritual path and therefore cannot compromise, either they must disappear (I came to a haughty and resolute nation, Honour and fame they cherish, not life by the gift of a foeman).
The seeker acknowledges with gratitude and humility that the path to these realisations was made by immense beings, supported by forces from the planes above that of the gods, the Titans being the generation before them (Sons of the ancient house on whom Ilion looks as on Titans).
In the last verses, we see the seeker trying to remobilize his forces, gathering his realisations and his powers around the conquest of suffering, should they give way to another yoga if such is the heavens’ desire. But in any case, he knows that no one will ever be able to deny the grandiose nature of these realisations. (Chiefs whom the world admires, do you fear then the shock of the Phthian? Gods, it is said, have decided your doom. Are you less in your greatness?)
It is the overmind who speaks within the adventurer (Are you not gods to reverse their decrees or unshaken to suffer?). The latter has reached the stage described in one of Sri Aurobindo’s aphorisms:
“Thou hast to learn to bear all the gods within thee and never stagger with their inrush or break under their burden” (Sri Aurobindo, Aphorism 287, Essays Divine and Human, Writing from Manuscripts 1910- 1950 (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, 1997)
“Virgin of Asia,” answered Talthybius, “doom of a nation
Brought thee to Troy and her haters Olympian shielded thy coming,
Vainly who feedest men’s hearts with a hope that the gods have rejected.
Doom in thy sweet voice utters her counsels robed like a woman.” 610
Answered the virgin disdainfully, wroth at the words of the Argive:
“Hast thou not ended the errand they gave thee, envoy of Hellas?
Not, do I think, as our counsellor cam’st thou elected from Argos,
Nor as a lover to Troy hast thou hastened with amorous footing
Hurting thy heart with her frowardness. Hatred and rapine sent thee,
Greed of the Ilian gold and lust of the Phrygian women,
Voice of Achaian aggression! Doom am I truly; let Gnossus
Witness it, Salamis speak of my fatal arrival and Argos
Silent remember her wounds.”
Penthesilea, being a woman, symbolizes a realisation. She is called the “virgin” of Asia because she is perfect as she is and no longer requires further developments. Indeed, what needs further development is translated in mythology by a union and children.
A new inner dialogue opens between the realisation that has overcome suffering – Penthesilea – and the messenger Talthybius, who transmits the “need” for evolution to the highest consciousness.
But this dialogue between the overmind and the higher mind leads nowhere, as it says in verse 50,“Earth sees not; life’s clamour deafens the ear of the spirit: Man knows not; least knows the messenger chosen for the summons.” Penthesilea says to Talthybius: you are not allowed to speak to me.
On the other hand, the messenger recalls what the adventurer intuitively perceived; the outcome of the inner evolutionary conflict has already been decided (Vainly who feedest men’s hearts with a hope that the gods have rejected) as it has already been stated in verse 170 (Leaving the battle already decided, leaving the heroes Slain in their minds, Troy burned, Greece left to her glory and downfall).
What is most advanced in the union does not want to descend into duality nor leave the acquired powers to the discretion of the external being, or the realisations obtained by the inner fire which are most precious to him (Hatred and rapine sent thee, Greed of the Ilian gold and lust of the Phrygian women).
This high realisation, at the peak of the fire of the union, which sided with the old yogas, has already stopped the “great force stretched towards the goal” within the seeker represented by Merion, as we have seen in verse 513. The latter is an archer who came to Troy from Knossos in Crete, accompanying his uncle Idomeneus, grandson of Minos (let Gnossus Witness it). His death might indicate that the seeker is disoriented with regard to the direction of the evolutionary movement.
The chapter of the Iliad called the Catalogue of Ships lists the forces of the two camps, noting for each contingent the province of origin, the cities concerned, the chiefs, and the number of vessels, each carrying fifty men. It is, in our opinion, a coded assessment of the degree of completion of each particular mastery or improvement of the various yogas at the beginning of the Trojan War. Idomeneus and Merion came with 80 boats, an almost complete realisation of purification against all the mental confinements in which reigns a Minotaur and who are the symbol of a power of realisation oriented in favour of the ego. (See Volume 2 Chapter 4 of Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West)
Similarly, we have seen that Sri Aurobindo attributed to Penthesilea the death of the “great” Ajax, son of Telamon, who came from the island of Salamis with 12 vessels (Salamis speak of my fatal arrival). We have seen earlier that he symbolizes the higher consciousness that learns to master the tiny movements of the being, not by descending into the depths, but by imposing his force from above. This work of yoga had barely begun because he had come to Troy with only 12 ships.
As for the other movements of yoga that Penthesilea damages without putting an end to them, they come from the work of aspiration towards more truth, more light (and Argos Silent remember her wounds).
But the Argive answered the virgin:
“Hearken then to the words of the Hellene, Penthesilea. 620
‘Virgin to whom earth’s strongest are corn in the sweep of thy sickle,
Lioness vain of thy bruit who besiegest the paths of the battle!
Art thou not satiate yet? hast thou drunk then so little of slaughter?
Death has ascended thy car; he has chosen thy hand for his harvest.
But I have heard of thy pride and disdain, how thou scornest the Argives
And of thy fate thou complainest that ever averse to thy wishes
Cloisters the Phthian and matches with weaklings Penthesilea.
‘Not of the Ithacan boar nor the wild-cat littered in Locris
Nor of the sleek-coat Argive wild-bulls sates me the hunting;’
So hast thou said, “I would bury my spear in the lion of Hellas.” 630
Talthybius no longer responds in his own name, since he is transmitting the message of Achilles, he who seeks greater freedom, the Hellene.
Sri Aurobindo continues explaining Penthesilea, the highest realisation that includes both psychic transformation and spiritual transformation, resulting in immense compassion for humanity.
This realisation surpasses all classic yogas by far (‘Virgin to whom earth’s strongest are corn in the sweep of thy sickle).
However, she wants to impose her truth on the whole being (Lioness vain of thy bruit who besiegest the paths of the battle!), and in this inner conflict, arises as the only possible goal, the only truth (I have heard of thy pride and disdain, how thou scornest the Argives).
We have seen that she represents a seeker who has reached the extreme of the fire of the union (Thermodon), sharing the divine law (Themiskyra is the capital), free from suffering, the limit of the ancient yogas in the work of mastery and of purification (Heracles, en route to the tenth labour, built his famous columns just after the conquest of the belt of the Queen of the Amazons).
And apart from the yoga of the depths, nothing can question this realisation (And of thy fate thou complainest that ever averse to thy wishes Cloisters the Phthian and matches with weaklings Penthesilea).
But because of the pursuit of higher wisdom by the intelligent will (Agamemnon), this questioning had not taken place until now.
Sri Aurobindo then enumerates certain yogas that could possibly have opposed the inner certainty which consists in considering that this realisation represents the only possible liberation, the only possible way of divinization in human evolution, namely the dissolution into the impersonal Brahman.
First of all he speaks of a boar hunt on Ulysses’ island, Ithaca.
Mythology has two famous wild boar hunts, that of Erymanthe, which is Heracles’s fourth labour, and that of Calydon led by Meleager. They address the self-control and purification / release of coarse or archaic life energies, brutal and insensitive, as the characteristics of the wild boar are wallowing in the mud and having a thick skin.
Heracles’ fourth labour is about bringing back the wild boar and not killing it: it addresses a growing awareness of the seeker who engages in the path instead of a mastery, the acceptance to see oneself as one is, including all the archaic layers of evolution which we carry. It is the first recognition of human unity, which must enable freedom from the judgment of what is right and wrong. This work is studied in detail in the first chapter of Volume 2 of Greek Mythology, Yoga of the West.
The hunt in Calydon is the second Pan-Hellenic epic after the quest for the Golden Fleece led by Jason and the Argonauts. All the forces of the being must be gathered to kill the wild boar that prevents union with the Divine. The goal is both detachment and equanimity, symbolized by the only woman participating in the hunt, Atalanta, symbol of “equality”. This hunt is studied in Volume 3, Chapter 1.
Sri Aurobindo extends this work of purification, which is certainly not finished after the hunt of Calydon, to even more archaic layers of consciousness, of which Ulysses (Odysseus) will be the hero. The homeland of Odysseus is indeed Ithaca. The Odyssey describes a work of purification which must lead to the end of the ego and to the free circulation of energies in the body, from the bottom to the top (energy called kundalini) and from the top to the bottom, in other words the purification of the seven centres of energy or chakras and their progressive universalization.
If the seeker pursues this work well, it is not however likely to dethrone the realisation that Penthesilea represents on its own (“Not of the Ithacan boar (…) sates me the hunting”).
This process of universalization of the centres (the hunt for the boar of Ithaca) of which the Mother speaks in the Agenda and which supposes a crossing of the individual limits on the corresponding planes, constitutes only a base: Above, beginning with the centre between the eyebrows, the work has been done for a long time. There it is blank. For ages upon ages upon ages, the union with the Supreme has been realized and is constant.
Below this centre is the body. And this body has indeed the concrete sensation of the Divine in each of its cells; but it needs to become universalized. That’s the work to be done, centre by centre. I understand now what Sri Aurobindo meant when he repeatedly insisted, ‘Widen yourself.’ All this must be universalized; it is the condition, the basis, for the Supramental to descend into the body.
According to the ancient traditions, this universalization of the physical body was considered the supreme realization, but it is only a foundation, the base upon which the Supramental can come down without breaking everything.” (Cf. Mother’s Agenda, Volume 1, April 21, 1959.)
Secondly, he evokes the hunt for “the wild-cat littered in Locris”. This province is the homeland of the “little” Ajax, symbol of the small consciousness, of the undisciplined ego, which avoids any questioning with the agility of a wildcat. Even if the seeker pursues mastery of this undisciplined part of his nature, this yoga is not likely to call the acquired certainties into question.
Finally, he mentions hunting for “the sleek-coat Argive wild-bulls”. The mythology features a bull on many occasions, with mainly: the bull whose appearance Zeus took to abduct Europe, the bull of Minos which was united to Pasiphae, fathering the Minotaur, and the Bull of Crete, object of Heracles’ seventh labour. According to Sri Aurobindo, the bull is the symbol of the “power of realisation of the luminous mind”. This power must be used mainly for the real work, for the “task” to be fulfilled in this life, for the svadharma and not for the ego. But according to the Gita, the seeker must then abandon all dharma to take refuge in the Divine alone.
The wild bulls thus indicate certain powers of realisation of the luminous mind which are not yet organized nor concentrated, because of a lack of sensitivity or of consciousness (the sleek-coat Argive wild-bulls). This work of organization and concentration which should allow the seeker to use new powers is even less likely than the others to call this realisation into question.
Only the connection of this realisation with the work of purification in the depths is capable of changing the course of yoga (I would bury my spear in the lion of Hellas).
Blind and infatuate, art thou not beautiful, bright as the lightning?
Were not thy limbs made cunningly linking sweetness to sweetness?
Is not thy laughter an arrow surprising hearts imprudent?
Charm is the seal of the gods upon woman. .Distaff and girdle,
Work of the jar at the well and the hush of our innermost chambers,
These were appointed thee, but thou hasts corned them, O Titaness, grasping
Rather the shield and the spear. Thou, obeying thy turbulent nature,
Tramplest o’er laws that are old to the pleasure thy heart has demanded.
Rather bow to the ancient Gods who are seated and constant.
But for thyself thou passest and what hast thou gained for the aeons 640 Mingled with men in their works and depriving the age of thy beauty?
Fair art thou, woman, but fair with a bitter and opposite sweetness
Clanging in war when thou matchest thy voice with the shout of assemblies.
In the experience of the Self, there is no will to change anything since everything is and always will be perfect. The certainty of truth inhabits the seeker. The need for involvement in the movement of becoming, apart from compassion, does not exist in his consciousness. So we can say that he is “blind and infatuate”. And yet this realisation is true and of a nature as luminous as that which comes from the supramental via the overmind (art thou not beautiful, bright as the lightning?). Indeed, thunder and lightning were given to Zeus by the Cyclops, themselves symbols of the omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of the Absolute, after the war against the Titans. They are symbols of the power and the fulguracy of the light of the supramental Truth. These attributes do not have their source in the overmind, so Zeus can only use them.
In the following verse: “Were not thy limbs made cunningly linking sweetness to sweetness?” Sri Aurobindo seems to refer to Pollux, whose name means “quite sweet”. Here is a summary of the end of this hero’s life:
Shortly before the Trojan War, there was a dispute between the Dioscuri Castor (the power conferred by the mastery) and Pollux (the one who is quite sweet) and their cousins Idas (the vision of the whole) and Lynceus (the vision of details). Lynceus was posted on Mount Taygetus. A fight ensued and only Pollux survived. Unable to bear the death of his twin, Pollux implored Zeus, his father, to kill him too. Zeus, touched, offered him immortality and he allowed him to share it with Castor. Pollux did not hesitate, and since then the two brothers have been alternating between spending one day in their grave and the other in Olympus.
By immortality one must understand an installation through experience in a plane of the eternal spirit in which birth and death are only superficial events, the state in which man lives as a spirit within the Spirit. If this state can result from psychic transformation or access to the plane of the enlightened mind, perhaps even from the higher mind, generating demi-gods, it seems to be truly, fully and permanently installed only in the overmind.
This dispute marks a first passage towards non-duality, a transition from the intuitive mind (Mount Taygetus) to the overmind (Olympus) where everything blends into unity.
But at first, the only survivor was Pollux “quite sweet”. Then he shared with his brother Castor “the power conferred by the mastery” the possibility of acting alternately from the overmind and from the bodily unconscious.
Having reached the intuitive mind, the seeker is now quite often in the overmind, a plane where he is the equal of the gods.
The human “laws” being enacted at the level of the overmind, the seeker is no longer submissive because he only follows the law of his being. That is why a little further on we can read: “Thou, obeying thy turbulent nature, tramplest o’er laws that are old to the pleasure thy heart has demanded”. Installed in the overmind, or at least partly so, he became the equal of the gods and undoubtedly gives them less importance than before, which justifies the words of Achilles (Rather bow to the ancient Gods who are seated and constant).
He achieved “a clear joy and the laughter of the soul that embraces life and existence.” This laughter of the soul is linked to perfect detachment and equality, and can lead to acts that can surprise and sometimes even revolt those who come near it (Is not thy laughter an arrow surprising hearts imprudent?).
Seen from the perspective of the work in the depths, which pursues liberation in the vital, this realisation in the mind, through the possibility that the soul has to emerge on the surface of being (Charm is the seal of the gods upon woman), should enable a yoga made of patience, endurance, calm, and humility (Distaff and girdle), a quest for a pure vital (Work of the jar at the well) and inner peace in the depths of being (and the hush of our innermost chambers).
But this realisation also wants to defend its place as ultimate realisation, little concerned by the Becoming (These were appointed thee, but thou hasts corned them, O Titaness, grasping Rather the shield and the spear).
From the evolutionary point of view, even the action of compassion for humanity is of no importance in the becoming. Staying away from any action would be a testimony of Truth (But for thyself thou passest and what hast thou gained for the aeons Mingled with men in their works and depriving the age of thy beauty?)
The realisation is Real, True, but carries with it a contradiction that gives a bitter after taste of “unfinished” (fair with a bitter and opposite sweetness). This contradiction is expressed in two ways: when it intervenes in the dual lower nature constantly subjected to struggle and when it tries to impose its will on the external being in an absolute and undeniable way (Clanging in war when thou matchest thy voice with the shout of assemblies).
Nature’s sole purpose is not merely for man to merge into the Divine while rejecting it (while the varied meaning of Nature Perishes hurt in its heart and life is emptied of music).
Long have I marked in your world a madness. Monarchs descending .
Court the imperious mob of their slaves and their suppliant gesture 650
Shameless and venal offends the majestic tradition of ages:
Princes plead in the agora; spurred by the tongue of a coward,
Heroes march to an impious war at a priestly bidding.
Gold is sought by the great with the chaffering heart of the trader.
Asia fails and the Gods are abandoning Ida for Hellas.
In this passage, Sri Aurobindo repeats in a few verses what he has long explained in his written work, namely the gradual distancing from the times of Intuition, that of the “Rishis”, “seers”, and concomitantly the fall into oblivion of the sacred functions within which everyone naturally found their place according to their nature (Brahmins or priests, Kshatriyas or warriors, Vaishyas or merchants, Shudras or servants).
The part of the being in contact with the reality of the depths, Achilles, is not “blinded by the sky” and can discern the wrong evolutionary orientation of the ancient yoga which refused to be interested in the transformation of the external nature because, as we remember, “the sons of Priam have mastered fear but have moved away from life and human things”.
Consequently, the elements of the external mental-vital nature, which normally should be under the control of the psychic, assume an important role. The higher parts of the being not having mastery, they must make compromises. In those ancient times, estimated to be more than 5000 years ago, Intuition was received as the word of Truth and the rest of the being submitted to it. With the progress in the cycle of individuation, the movement of separation – and therefore reason – has gradually taken over. The natural and sacred order has been upset. Instead of relying on an inner certainty, the will and power of the man who seeks what is right is obliged to refer to his sensations, his emotions and his thoughts, obliged to beg for an agreement from parts of the being who are in no way entitled to give it to him (Monarchs descending court the imperious mob of their slaves and their suppliant gesture shameless and venal offends the majestic tradition of ages).
The intuition supposed to transmit the orders of the heavens is so disturbed that the spiritual fight has left the right path (spurred by the tongue of a coward, heroes march to an impious war at a priestly bidding).
If this weakening of the Intuition – or rather its distortion by the separative mind – which gives contact with the Truth concerns humanity as a whole, it also concerns the individual being, as the outer and the inner are two aspects of the same thing.
What used to transmit the Truth within the being – the priest – now speaks from his own mind, leading the practices of yoga, who were once oriented in the proper direction, towards “impious” fights, practices far removed from true spirituality.
On the outside, we think of course of the countless wars waged in the name of religions or beliefs (Heroes march to an impious war at a priestly bidding).
There is a great confusion in the specificities of each and the spiritual quest is made in a state of mind contrary to the Gita, which demands to act in a total detachment and renouncement of the fruits of the action: it is the subject of a bargain with the Divine (Gold is sought by the great with the chaffering heart of the trader).
One could write pages about the consequences of such detachment from the times of Intuition, the shift from a world where the “Sacred” was central to a world where man is central, the transition from the times of Intuition to those of the intellect.
But what cannot be disputed is that the spiritual conquests of past times are no longer able to give sufficient momentum to the seeker to satisfy his imperious need for “something else” than this decaying world. Even the overmind forces who have overseen the past spiritual evolution are turning towards what aspires to more freedom (Asia fails and the Gods are abandoning Ida for Hellas).
Why must thou come here to perish, O noble and exquisite virgin,
Here in a cause not thine, in a quarrel remote from thy beauty,
Leaving a land that is lovely and far to be slain among strangers?
Girl, to thy rivers go back and thy hills where the grapes are aspirant.
Trust not a fate that indulges; for all things, Penthesilea, 660
Break with excess and he is the wisest who walks by a measure.
Yet, if thou wilt, thou shalt meet me today in the shock of the battle:
There will I give thee the fame thou desirest; captive in Hellas,
Men shall point to thee always, smiling and whispering, saying,
“This is the woman who fought with the Greeks, overthrowing their heroes;
This is the slayer of Ajax, this is the slave of Achilles. “
The seeker would wish to be able to keep this high realisation in the union with the Divine represented by Penthesilea away from the inner conflict, because in his eyes this conflict does not call into question the truth which it carries (in a quarrel remote from thy beauty) and gives access to an intoxication produced by the fruits or realisations of yoga who are very close to the divine (to thy rivers go back and thy hills where the grapes are aspirant). Essentially, what is being called into question are the “moulds” established by the mind at the level of the enlightened mind, the Trojan royal lineage coming from this plane.
Moreover, he must not trust what he has thought to be the only truth of the spiritual path (Trust not a fate that indulges).
If the following verse concerns Penthesilea, it also evokes a theme developed and constantly taken up by many analysts of the civilisation and the literary work of ancient Greece, namely the condemnation of the hubris or hybris, “immoderation”, and by extension “pride”, “excessive ardour” (for all things, Penthesilea, break with excess and he is the wisest who walks by a measure).
But it is harder to know what Sri Aurobindo means by that. At this stage of the journey, there can no longer be any excessive asceticism, object of the tests at the beginning of the path (cf. more precisely, among the Labours of Heracles, The Mares of Diomedes).
Excess or immoderation can be attributed to a surfeit of Rajas. In the commentary on song XVIII of the Gita, Sri Aurobindo writes, “To arrive at the sattvic way of the inner individual Swadharma and of the works to which it moves us on the ways of life is a preliminary condition of perfection.”
And still in the same song “the rajasic will fixes its persistent attention on (…) what it thinks or chooses to think right and justice, dharma. Always it is apt to put on these things the construction which will most flatter and justify its desires and to uphold as right or legitimate the means which will best help it to get the coveted fruits of its work and endeavour. That is the cause of three fourths of the falsehood and misconduct of the human reason and will. Rajas, with its vehement hold on the vital ego is the great sinner and positive misleader.”
This verse would therefore suggest that at this stage, the seeker has not yet overcome the limitations of the three guna. Because he neglected some aspects of his sva-karma (Penthesilea despised her task – housework and silence – only attracted and blinded by her personal desire to fight).
At the end of the passage, the seeker agrees to put the work of liberation in the depths of the vital face to face with the highest spiritual realisation in union with the Divine and divine ecstasy.
Then with her musical laughter the fearless Penthesilea:
“Well do I hope that Achilles enslaved shall taste of that glory?
Or on the Phrygian ﬁelds lie slain by the spear of a woman.”
But to the herald Achaian the Priamid, leader of Troya: 670
“Rest in the halls of thy foes and ease thy fatigue and thy winters.
Herald, abide till the people have heard and reply to Achilles.
Not as the kings of the West are Ilion’s princes and archons,
Monarchs of men who drive their nations dumb to the battle.
Not in the palace of Priam and not in the halls of the mighty
Whispered councils prevail and the few dispose of the millions;
But with their nation consulting, feeling the hearts of the commons
Ilion’s princes march to the war or give peace to their foemen.
Lightning departs from her kings and the thunder returns from her people
Met in the ancient assembly where Ilus founded his columns 680
And since her famous centuries, names that the ages remember
Leading her, Troya proclaims her decrees to obedient nations.”
These verses evoke what within the seeker considers all parts of the being with equal importance, where the satisfaction of the needs of the external nature is as important as the highest realisations of the enlightened mind. However, for future evolution, a perfect mastery of the external nature, going until the seemingly insurmountable needs, is necessary.
Just like Heracles built his columns after the ninth labour, Sri Aurobindo considers that the Trojan lineage also established insurmountable limits to yoga, namely the impossibility of divinizing matter and the human body (where Ilus founded his columns). And this Trojan lineage has governed the spiritual quest as well as the sublime realisations of yesteryear for millennia, supporting certain beliefs, dictating their laws to all parts of the being (And since her famous centuries, names that the ages remember Leading her, Troya proclaims her decrees to obedient nations.”)
Ceasing he cried to the thralls of his house and they tended the Argive.
Brought to a chamber of rest in the luminous peace of the mansion,
Grey he sat and endured the food and the wine of his foemen,
Chiding his spirit that murmured within him and gazed undelighted,
Vexed with the endless pomps of Laomedon. Far from those glories
Memory winged it back to a sward half-forgotten, a village
Nestling in leaves and low hills watching it crowned with the sunset.
So for his hour he abode in earth’s palace of lordliest beauty, 690
But in its caverns his heart was weary and, hurt by the splendours,
Longed for Greece and the smoke-darkened roof of a cottage in Argos,
Eyes of a woman faded and children crowding the hearthside.
Joyless he rose and eastward expected the sunrise on Ida.
This moment is a very painful event for the seeker, during which “Luminous peace” and the truth of his realisations within the spirit (lordliest beauty on the Earth) give him no more joy (Grey he sat and endured the food and the wine of his foemen), because the call of material reality which has to be illuminated brings a powerful nostalgia within his soul (Far from those glories Memory winged it back to a sward half-forgotten, a village Nestling in leaves).
The seeker then awaits the signs of a new Aurora, a manifestation of the supramental that must occur at the highest point of union with the Divine: Joyless he rose and eastward expected the sunrise on Ida. This is reminiscent of the period of the Ashram that preceded the “first Manifestation of the supramental Light-Force in the Earth’s atmosphere” on February 29, 1956.
End of Book 1