In this page is proposed an interpretation of several major myths : Europa, Theseus and the Minotaur, Daedalus and Icarus. More specifically is studied a great spiritual error symbolized by the Minotaur and the labyrinth built by Daedalus to shelter it.
To fully understand this web page, it is recommended to follow the progression given in the tab Greek myths interpretation. This progression follows the spiritual journey.
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Europa riding Zeus turned into a bull
Europa is the symbol of an opening of consciousness and his son Minos of a receptivity which unites with a higher light (Pasiphaé). But due to a lack of purification, the seeker will put this light at the service of a power of realization, which will generate the great spiritual aberration of the Minotaur. The seeker will also build around this aberration a mental fortress, the labyrinth.
If one is not sincere, if one is more interested in satisfying the ego, to be a great yogi, to become a superman, rather than meeting the Divine or acquiring the divine consciousness in order to live in the Divine or with Him, then a flood of pseudo-experiences or false experiences enter; one is led into the maze of the intermediary zone where one goes around in the circles of one’s own formations.
Sri Aurobindo (Letters on Yoga)
Europa, Minos, Pasiphae and the Minotaur
See Family tree 23
In this and the following two chapters, we go back to the descendants of Oceanos and thus to the path of purification-liberation extending the effort of self-gathering (or gathering of consciousness) initiated with his son Inachos who gave his name to the lineage (the Inachides).
It should be noted that this lineage relates to the “psychisation” of the being (the coming to the forefront of the psychic being) through nature by refining, purifying and liberating its processes.
Before dealing in detail with the myth of Europa, it may be useful to briefly recall the genealogical succession we have examined in the chapter devoted to the ancestors of Heracles.
Inachos “the evolution of the gathering of consciousness” was followed by Phoroneus “who supports the evolution”, then Niobe “the Mother of the living”, symbol of one who takes the path to awakening/enlightenment after having a first contact with “That which really exists”. Then come the two sons of Niobe, Argos “the luminous” and Pelasgus “the dark”, representing two opposite sides of the seeker’s nature engaged together in the quest.
The lineage continues with the first opening of consciousness, Io, and her son Epaphus “the touch of the divine”, symbol of an extremely fleeting first contact with the Real. This first contact is probably an experience common to all, even if it is most often confused with vital joy and leaves a very fleeting trace in the consciousness.
This opening doesn’t last long because the movement which leads to the path – the lack or need – is not yet powerful enough to propel the being into a conscious quest. There follows a long period of maturing during which the future seeker undergoes the test of “freedom”: it is the evolution of the individuation in the incarnation represented by Libya, symbol of an evolution triggered by the higher plane of the subconscious because this heroine had a close relation with the god Poseidon.
From this union was born the twins Belos and Agenor.
The descendants of Belos “the incarnation of the liberation” which describes the requirements of this path have already been studied extensively with the myth of Perseus and the first six Labours of Heracles.
In this chapter we will follow one of the two branches of Agenor’s lineage “the brave and noble” or “who is leading the evolution in the incarnation”, a character whose lineage is more about the experiences and hurdles encountered on this path (see Diagram 23).
Agenor settled in Phoenicia. According to the authors, his wife’s name is Argiope “clear vision” or Telephassa “distant purity (the dove)”, names that both evoke the purification process. The dove is a symbol of peace, but above all, of purity (always in the sense of “each thing in its right place”).
The name “Phoenicia” (Lebanon and present Syria) where Agenor settled down, is to be associated with the father of Europa according to Homer, Phoenix, which has the same root Φοινιξ meaning scarlet red or purple. This color has been associated with a principle such as “immortality (non-duality)” obtained by the process of purification-liberation followed till its end, the liberation of Nature, which corresponds to the path of Oceanos.
The fabulous bird (about which Hesiod mentions only its extraordinary longevity), the Phoenix reborn from its ashes, seems to have been identified in the sacred bird Benhu, of ancient Egypt. The symbolism is that of a ‘renewal’ and a path towards non-duality.
We have considered here the filiations given by Apollodorus, but it should be noted that there are numerous genealogical uncertainties regarding Belos and Agenor who were studied by Timothy Gantz (chapter VI). We will remember that for some authors, a first wife of Agenor named Damno “mastery” had three children, two daughters and a son, Phoenix. The two girls married their two cousins, Danaos and Egyptos, ancestors of Heracles whom we already met. The name Damno describes a mastery brought about by the power of personal will, the ability to be “a master in one’s own home”. It was probably one of the first achievements required by the initiates at the beginning of the path.
Then Agenor had a second wife, Telephassa, who bore him a daughter and a son, Europa and Cadmus. It is on the story of Europa and her progeny that we will focus here, the one of Cadmus being the subject of the next chapter.
As the seeker progresses in his purification efforts described by the myth of Perseus and the first six Labours of Heracles, he opens his consciousness and acquires a wider and truer vision symbolized by Europa.
For Homer, Europa is the daughter of Phoenix, son of Agenor. With the symbol letters, the name Phoenix Φ+ΙΝ+Ξ can be understood as “the conscious evolution of the descent of a luminosity in the being”.
While there is no precise correlation between the progression in the planes of consciousness and the experiences lived in this path of purification-liberation, it is noteworthy that Agamemnon and Menelaus are descendants of Sterope by their paternal grandmother, and of Europa by their mother Aerope. This would imply a certain plane equivalence between the access to the higher mind (Sterope is the fourth Pleiade) and the experience represented by Europa.
But the caution that led the Ancients to carefully separate the description of the Labours of Heracles from the experiences encountered on the path (even if later authors dared to propose equivalents) is also prevalent here.
According to experts, the etymology of the word Europa is obscure. Two ways of interpretation can be followed here. Either one considers the word constructed with ευρυ and οψ, which means a “broad vision”, or with the Greek letter Pi (ευρυ + Π), “a broad balance” or “a broad mastery”.
Given its place in the genealogical trees, the second hypothesis seems more likely, especially since the seers are not listed in his progeny, but in the ascension of the planes of consciousness or in the lineage of Apollo.
If we adopt the “broad vision”, we should not consider it only as a consequence of intellectual development, but rather as an opening of consciousness resulting from the purification allowing us to come closer to the Truth, an irruption in the Higher mind plane.
Many spiritual teachings also use the term “to see”, because what is experienced by the seeker is more often a “vision” than a “feeling” which is rather related to the beginning of the path.
Europa and her children
Europa was so beautiful that Zeus fell in love.
While she was picking flowers in a meadow of Phoenicia with her attendants, Zeus came to lie down at her feet in the form of a dazzling white bull. According to some, he had a breath of rose, and according to others, he seduced Europa by exhaling a crocus. Unsuspecting, she stroked the animal and sat on his back. Immediately, the bull jumped into the sea and swam to Crete. There, Zeus united with her after having regained his divine form; and of their union were born two children, Minos and Rhadamanthus (to which some add Sarpedon).
Europa, “a broad balance (or right vision)” is beautiful: she therefore represents a first “true” movement of purification of the external being which allows this expanded awareness to be contacted and impregnated by the highest level of the mind, the supraconscious overmind (Zeus). Indeed, there is always an answer from the supraconscient planes when nature has reached a sufficient level of evolution, because of the mutual attraction of the Spirit and Nature emerging from unconsciousness (here, the crocus seems indeed to be the symbol of a mutation because it is a flower that grows during the change of season). Zeus’s “breath of rose” means also a “new breath”, the rose being the symbol of the spiritual rebirth and the great sensitivity of the eternal New (the one of Eos, the goddess “with the rose fingers”).
The highest force of the overmind (Zeus as supraconscious) “supports” this expansion of consciousness and mastery and then leads it to a new stage of evolution. The arrival in Crete marks the entry into a “protected” phase of the path, because no stranger can enter nor come out of it, at least not until the bronze giant Talos is killed by Medea.
Furthermore, we can consider that the choice of Crete has a triple meaning:
Geographic, because it was most probably the migration place of the dominant spirituality between Phoenicia and Greece (Agenor, coming from Egypt, founded his kingdom in Phoenicia).
Symbolic, because the letters of this name Crete (ΚΡ + Τ), may represent an “opening of consciousness according to the right movement on the level of the spirit”. One can also see in the bull – symbol of “the power of realization of the luminous mind”- the sign of the belonging of Minoan and archaic Greece to the era of the bull, a period of transition from the ancient Egyptian world marked by the sign of Aries to the Christian world that developed under the sign of the Pisces (cf. The symbolic zodiacal eras of 2,160 years). Note that the “Minoan” name given to the Cretan civilization is very recent (Sir Arthur Evans in the 19th Century).
Historical, by the succession of dominant civilizations, Minoan and Mycenaean.
With the intervention of Zeus, the spiritual energy – issued from the supraconscious – that supports the seeker in the form of a “realization power of the luminous mind” (the bull), carries him away, but he ignores his destination. He then finds himself in a state of “opening”, of “mastery” as well as in a certain isolation, which allows a first impregnation by the Spirit. It generates an impulse for a new endeavor of “rightness” in the symbolic sense of the two children Zeus gave to Europa, Minos and Rhadamanthus. They confirm a gradual “psychisation” of the being which, according to Sri Aurobindo, brings about true discernment, the right vision in the mind, the true feeling in the vital and accuracy in the actions.
The later tradition made Sarpedon a third son of Zeus and Europa, but we shall limit ourselves here to the Homeric version in which Sarpedon is the grandson of Bellerophon, who defeated the illusion, and son of Laodamia who defeated the “separation” (a daughter that Bellerophon had with a Lycian Princess in the land of the “emerging light”). It is then a more advanced stage of spiritual progression than the one represented by Minos and Rhadamanthus.
Minos and Rhadamanthus were known for their wisdom and fairness.
Minos was the first educator of the Cretans and gave them remarkable laws directly inspired by Zeus. He was also famous for the extent of his maritime empire and was even the first to obtain it, according to Apollodorus.
The name of Minos, by its Greek letters, shows an evolution of the “receptivity” combined with the balance of the movement of separation (witness consciousness) and identification (which leads to true compassion). It is therefore “the purification of intelligence” (the highest intelligence, the buddhi) in order to achieve a right balance and perfect discernment. It is the symbol of the evolution of the “just” acquired by the combination of distanciation and identification. The seeker is receptive to the messages of the inner master and sets a course of action in his yoga that “came” from the heights of the spirit and not from his intellect; he has acquired a great mastery over the vital world: the emotions, impulses, desires, preferences, etc. (He introduced remarkable laws inspired by Zeus and was also famous for the extent of his maritime empire).
Minos is therefore a symbol of the evolution of “discerning consciousness” which will not be achieved without difficulty because the seeker must also learn by mistakes: it will be the painful experience of the Minotaur.
As Cadmus and Europa are brother and sister, this evolution occurs through involvement in the world.
Ultimately, this “discerning consciousness” or “purified intelligence” will enable the seeker to venture into the body unconscious and intervene to establish the right movement and the right habit in the physical plane, the omega included in the name of Minos indicating an opening towards the body and matter. Indeed, according to Homer, Minos, after his death dispensed justice over the shadows in the kingdom of Hades. He was assisted in this by his brother Rhadamanthus, renowned for his wisdom and temperance, and one of the few heroes who were allowed to stay in the island of the Blessed.
Beginning with Plato, or more generally during the shifting from the mythological truths to the eschatological beliefs, it will no longer be the kingdom of the shadows but of the dead. To Minos and Rhadamanthus was associated Aeacus, the grandfather of Achilles, paragon of rectitude. Triptolemus “who is fighting on three fronts” (and therefore probably in the three areas of the unconscious mind, life and body), is sometimes added to this list.
As a token of love, Zeus gave Europa several presents: a hunting dog which never let a prey escape, a hunting spear that never missed its target and the bronze giant named Talos who was guarding Crete so that nobody could enter or exit. Some say that he also offered her a wonderful necklace made by Hephaestus.
The giant Talos will be killed by Medea on Jason’s return from the quest for the Golden Fleece. Minos will inherit the dog and the spear that he would transmit to Procris, as we will see later. As for the collar, it will be at the origin of many adventures.
When the time came for Zeus to split with Europa, he made sure she married the King of Crete Asterion (or Asterius).
When the seeker engages himself resolutely on the path of purification and liberation, help from the higher planes will be provided.
The first gift is a giant of bronze whose symbolism was analysed in detail during the previous chapter. Let’s recall that he represents a certain kind of rigid determination in the capacity of “keeping away” or “isolation” driven by a higher “Will”. Induced protection is especially necessary at the beginning of the path, when the seeker works at his purification in order to establish each element of his nature “to its rightful place”, before the “psychic” is able to do so.
The role of Talos “who supports, who endures” is mainly to avoid the intrusion of foreigners, and therefore, for the seeker, the eruption of disturbing elements which are then destroyed when they come in contact with this “protection”. Indeed, a white hot Talos toured Crete three times a day and then killed the foreigners by taking them into his arms.
The second present of Zeus to Europa was a hunting dog that never lets his prey escape.
The main symbolic characteristics of the dog are smell, fidelity and watchfulness.
Here, the dog not letting his prey escape demonstrates an ability to keep the consciousness fixed on the pursued aim. This is not what is usually called the ‘will’, which is an effort and tension to achieve a certain goal, but rather an aspiration or determination. These can make you give up without effort, by a more or less conscious spiritual “flair”, all that is not in agreement with a path and a “task” whose outlines one can barely see.
Rather than to engage into the first path that presents itself – note that at this stage, the seeker is seeking a master or a path – he makes more or less conscious “instinctive” choices. These choices are of course different spiritual or occult systems encountered on his path. These choices are most often in contradiction with those of social success, relational development or security.
As a third present, Zeus gave to Europa a hunting spear which never missed its target: if the hunting dog can maintain the course without being distracted, the spear guarantees the realisation of the objectives.
Once the goal is seen by the soul and the energies aimed towards its realization, the spear gives the capacities required to attain it: what is intended is automatically achieved. There again, as it is a gift from Zeus, there is no effort to be made or engagement of the personal will: everything is organised by a “higher hand” so that the necessary elements are put in place for the realization of the “task”.
But this help will not be extended beyond the necessary. The “protection” will be removed after the first experience of contact with “Reality” (the giant Talos will be killed by Medea). “Vigilance” and “attention” will then turn against the seeker when his mind wants to claim them for its own purposes (Procris will give the dog and javelin to Cephalus who will kill her by mistake).
“Help” is in fact always given at specific times on the path and for a limited time.
The last gift of Zeus was a necklace crafted by Hephaestus, the god generating new forms.
Any necklace embellishes, i.e. “makes true”. It focuses the attention on the throat, giving more accuracy to the emitted word or more generally, new possibilities of expression. It establishes a symbolic link, in this case with the higher planes of the spirit (Zeus). It is a capacity “to put in order” in accordance with the “accuracy” of Harmonia. Indeed, according to some, Cadmus inherited the necklace from his sister Europa and offered it to Harmonia as a wedding gift. It was subsequently a pretext for various adventures.
To summarise, a work of purification of the mixtures and removing of the limitations in order to contact and establish the “just” in oneself (Minos and Rhadamanthus) is triggered by the supraconscient (Zeus) as a result of an expansion of consciousness and a great mastery (Europa). Many gifts are offered in support: protection against external influences and forces, a certain capacity of discernment, assistance for the set goals and a capacity of ordering the expression. A link is established in the consciousness between the heights of the spirit and the outer being.
With Europa and her children, the seeker “clears” the way according to a progression which is detailed in the Quest of the Golden Fleece. He must move forward, without denying his involvement in the world, in the discernment and establishment of rules of behavior, toward what is “right”. He must be able to evaluate the elements that emerge from his subconscious, to have a new look at the events of his life, pay more attention to the “signs” (for example to his “dreams” that he can learn to interpret as indications or support on his path.)
Minos married Pasiphae, one of two daughters of Helios, from whom he had four sons and many daughters, including Ariadne and Phaedra. (In Pindar and Bacchylides, Minos unites with Dexithea “who welcomes the divinity” and not to Pasiphae.)
Apart from this legitimate union, he had many relationships, which caused the wrath of Pasiphae who cursed him: whenever he united with another woman, his semen was only snakes and scorpions and she died.
Pasiphae, “who shines for all” or ‘in all’, represents the influence of “the light of truth” towards which the seeker who perfects the “purification of his discerning intelligence” (Minos) tends when it is situated in the progeny of Helios, “the supramental light”. However, such filiation appeared only lately, starting from Isocrates in the 4th Century BC even though it has been widely covered by later authors (Apollodorus, Hyginus, Diodorus). Indeed, we should remember that Aeetes and Circe were the only children of Helios in the early myths.
This uncertainty about the filiation may therefore lead to different interpretations, depending on whether one consider that it represents for the seeker the experience of a true light from the supermind entering the being through the overmind, or merely “formations” issued from the cosmic mind or cosmic vital and manipulated by forces of these planes that use the seeker to realise themselves. Indeed, experiences may as well come from the forces of light as from the dark forces. If there was no deformation, if Pasiphae was the experience of a non-deformed light symbolized by a cow, she could unite with the bull without problem. If she needs a trick to realize the union, either the experience is that of a true light which has then been distorted by the ego or that of a false light (denatured at the origin).
In the first case, it would be the result of an experience of enlightenment whose light has been distorted and perverted in its descent through the planes of the mind in order to be “objectified” by the intellect. This interpretation would be consistent with the variants describing the passion of Pasiphae as the result of a “spell” by Poseidon, god of the subconscious.
Since the seeker is very keen to transform his amazing experience into a realisation but does not know how to go about it, he inadvertently entrusts this task to his “mental ability” (Daedalus), which will inevitably produce a monstrous realisation.
If we reject the Helios-Pasiphae filiation, the myth does not lift the ambiguity (true or false light experience). But in any case, it is a deviation occurring during the crossing of what Sri Aurobindo calls “the intermediary zone”, crossing due to the lack of purification of the outer being.
In reviewing this myth in detail, we will adopt the filiation which has been most often adopted by the Ancients, in which Pasiphae is the daughter of Helios. The Minotaur is then the result of a real experience of illumination, whether of the heart (a psychic opening) or the mind.
To be complete, we should also mention the extremely fragmentary version of the Catalogue of Women (fragment 145) where the Minotaur is the son, not of the bull, but of Minos: “She (Pasiphae) conceived from Minos a powerful and terrible child, a marvel to see”. It is then a purification of the discerning intelligence which aims to shine, a union which produced a monster, implying a deviance of one or the other.
It should also be noted that in primitive mythology, the unions of goddesses and ‘mortals’ were condemned by the gods. The only exceptions were the marriages of Cadmus and Harmony, Minos and Pasiphae, and Thetis and Peleus. Indeed, the gods can unite with mortal women because some parts of the seeker belonging to duality can be subjected to impulses from non-duality. Conversely, a state of non-duality (a goddess) cannot usually unite with a “separative” movement (a mortal) because duality cannot fertilize unity.
There are, however, three notable exceptions.
First, the union of Cadmus and Harmony. However, in the version of Samothrace, Harmony is not a daughter of Aphrodite and Ares, but of Zeus and the Pleiad Electra. It does not appear, therefore, that Harmony has been considered as a full-fledged goddess.
The second exception is the union of Thetis with Peleus, one of the most “advanced” mortals on the path. But Thetis returned immediately to the bottom of the sea, a sign that the vital non-duality was still a future realization.
Finally, the third exception, the union of Minos and Pasiphae, does not appear in the archaic myths. It contains the seeds of a spiritual fall because the mind and especially the vital were not sufficiently purified. It is such a fall which is illustrated in the myth of the Minotaur.
The legitimate children of Minos and Pasiphae, those which result from a true purification of the discerning intelligence tending toward the light – Phaedra, Ariadne, Catreus, Glaucus, etc. – express, as for them, the manifestations and right consequences of spiritual experiences resulting from the increasingly psychisation of the being.
However, at the beginning of the path, the seeker is attracted by multiple “goals” (different paths or yoga practices) on which he can never remain fixed (represented by other women of Minos who die) because the purification of the discerning intelligence, especially the knowledge of the “true goal” or the “raison d’etre” are far from being acquired.
As a daughter of the Sun, Pasiphae possesses “magical” powers like her sister Circe, i.e., faculties completely foreign to the vital or mind. This “light of Truth” ensures that the directions which do not correspond to his “right path” are abandoned, regardless of their value. Any opportunity to really engage in them is negated because the work of the seeker in each of these paths carries in itself the seeds of the end of his commitment (the serpents and scorpions of his semen).
In reality, the spell cast by Pasiphae is also a protection at the beginning of the path, in the sense that it avoids unnecessary mistakes.
The myth of Procris or the end of the scattering and the predominance of the logical mind in the search for its own path
Procris, daughter of the King of Athens Erechtheus, wife of Cephalus, had to take refuge in Crete with Minos. The latter fell in love with her and urged her to unite with him. She accepted in exchange for the dog and javelin which Minos had inherited from his mother Europa. Previously, to guard herself from the spell cast upon Minos, she gave him a potion made with “the root of Circe”.
However, among these paths that do not suit him, only one temporarily escapes destruction: it is represented by Procris “who brings to the forefront the right opening of the consciousness “, the daughter of Erechtheus, the sixth King of Athens. (According to Hygin only, she is the great grandmother of Odysseus.)
In this episode of her life, Procris is united with Cephalus the “fully developed mind (its culmination)”, sign that the mind, at his highest level of development, is looking for an opening of consciousness.
Procris, for one reason or another, had taken refuge in Crete with Minos.
This emphasis on the “right opening of consciousness movement” helps the seeker to refine his knowledge of the true path by giving him “the root of discernment based on the detailed vision” (the root of Circe): it is by focusing on details in the incarnation (in matter) that the seeker will be able to identify his task. In return, insofar as he begins to perceive his path, he is obliged to abandon his personal will in search of a path (the dog and javelin, the very first gifts of Zeus) in favour of a higher “attention”.
Procris came then back to Athens and reconciled with Cephalus. But soon, she became suspicious about the frequent absences of her husband who went hunting. So she hid in the bushes to spy on him. Without recognizing her, Cephalus killed her by throwing the javelin “which doesn’t miss any target” and that Procris brought for him from Crete. Cephalus was put on trial on the Hill of Areopagus and condemned to perpetual exile.
After orienting the seeker in the right direction, the “right opening of consciousness movement” becomes again the larger purpose of the most developed mind in what is driving the quest (Procris finds Cephalus). We saw that he is the son of Deioneus, the most advanced of Aeolus’ children, and represents therefore the fulfillment of the mind in the ascending path of the consciousness planes. But this mind, as evolved as it may be, is not able to follow beyond a certain stage the right movement of evolution of consciousness. (Cephalus does not recognize Procris and kills her).
The death of Procris, daughter of the sixth King of Athens, can be understood as the moment when the seeker, having put an end to dispersion, finds his own path. It is also the moment when the seeker becomes aware that the mind must not interfere with the psychic being (Cephalus’ perpetual exile).
The conception of the Minotaur
When he left Europa, Zeus gave her to King Asterios as his wife. When the latter died, Minos, in order to prove to the Cretan people his legitimacy to the throne, said that whatever he would ask the gods would be granted. He therefore asked Poseidon to bring out a bull from the sea, promising him in exchange to sacrifice it to him.
When a magnificent Bull emerged from the sea, Minos obtained the Kingship, but seeing the beauty of the bull, he chose to keep him in his herd and to sacrifice a less beautiful beast.
(In the version of Diodorus, it is only after many years that Minos refused to sacrifice the most beautiful bull of his herd to Poseidon, as was the custom).
Poseidon, enraged by this perjury, arranged that Pasiphae fell in love with the bull.
However, Daedalus resided in Crete at this time. He was the best of all craftsmen. Pasiphae having confided to him, Daedalus allowed her to fulfill her desire by constructing a wooden cow that he covered with a heifer skin. Pasiphae went inside and mating was thus able to take place. From this union was born the Minotaur. It was a hybrid being with the body of a man and the head of a bull. Far from rejecting him at birth, Pasiphae raised him.
This myth of the Minotaur was of particular importance in the eyes of the Ancients. It was indeed the only warning in the mythology warranting a complex story while the other “errors” on the way were mentioned with much less details by short anecdotes and often by the sole name of a character. This is, for example, the case of those who were combated by Theseus until he reached Athens, or those who are represented by the descendance of Semele sisters (the other daughters of Cadmus).
This myth concerns, if not the most serious falls, at least the actions which may cause the longest delay in the progress of the seeker. They are the result of the association of spiritual experiences and an insufficiently purified ego and generally deprived of a correct spiritual direction. They appear when the seeker started the purification process intended to bring the psychic being to the forefront (represented by the descendance of Cadmus), and when he opened up to the higher mind to a great mastery (Europa, sister of Cadmus).
This myth relates to the crossing of the intermediate zone and therefore concerns essentially the seekers who engaged themselves on the path and began to have meaningful experiences.
To have a correct understanding of this myth, it is first necessary to specify the symbolism of the bull, different from the cow (illuminating principle) as well as the horse (principle of strength and power).
Since antiquity, the bull was a symbol of the creative power, the generating principle of the new. By analogy, he was also the fertilizing power, the guarantor of fertility.
Thus, the God Apis with the bull head of the Egyptian mythology, who holds between his horns the solar disc (symbol of the supermind) was the herald of Ptah “the creator of forms”. He thus announced their renewal.
But it is through the symbolism of the Vedas, from which Greek mythology may have drawn (perhaps through the Egyptian one), that we grasp best its meaning. We will refer here to the interpretation given by Sri Aurobindo in “The Secret of the Veda”.
The cow is described like the universal Mother, the supreme light hidden in the subconscious, or as the lights of the Sun hidden in the dark from where the rays emerge. It thus symbolizes the consciousness in the form of knowledge.
The bull is associated with the fertilizing power of the Spirit, the descent of the divine consciousness and its strength. He is “the single Male”, “the first born, the one roaring in the two firmaments”, “the Bull of abundance who grew by the wisdom of the seer”,”the master of the energies of thought”, who supports and fertilizes the thought with light.
The bull that emerges from the sea (or who was born into the herds of Minos) brings new creative possibilities. As he is also the “complementary” of the cow, the “illuminative power”, he represents also the “power of realisation”. We will therefore associate him, according to the definition of Sri Aurobindo, to the “power of realization of the luminous mind”.
In this myth, the fact that he is sent by Poseidon indicates an influence from the subconscious, and the fact that he emerges from the sea, his expression through the vital plane.
At the beginning, Europa is married to ‘starry’ Asterius, which indicates that the seeker had already many “minute” experiences of the light of truth.
In the first period, he stabilizes his “opening of consciousness” and manages to function relatively “correctly”. Minos and Rhadamanthus are indeed “Kings of Justice”.
Also, to comfort him on his path, the seeker yearns more or less subconsciously for a response from the Real, convinced that it is the work of purification of the discerning intelligence which must lead the quest (Minos made his request to Poseidon, already convinced of his legitimacy to rule).
To this expectation, the divine responds with the granting of a magnificent “realisation power of the luminous Mind” or “renewal power by the luminous Mind”, however without the seeker being able to clearly identify its origin or especially its nature (the appearance of the bull is an action of Poseidon).
It is then that the major deviation occurs because of the insufficiently purified nature of the seeker: instead of considering this ‘ability’ for what it is, a sign of encouragement and a response to his aspiration, the seeker makes it his own (Minos keeps the bull in his herds). He wants to keep for himself the best results of yoga, especially those which can bring him recognition, power, admiration, etc. He appropriates for himself this power of realisation resulting from a clear mind, considering this as his rightful possession, a result of his own efforts, instead of offering it in service to the Divine.
He probably even considers this “slippage” of no great importance, because Minos in some versions, offers another bull “almost as beautiful”. At the extreme, this deviance can even go unnoticed and remain in the subconscious.
The variant, according to which Minos sacrificed for some years the most beautiful bulls before refusing to, indicates that this “slippage” of the service of Truth to the ego is not always immediate.
The subconscious, from which this power is issued, immediately punishes this appropriation. It ensures that a confusion takes hold of the seeker and that the capacities from which he wants to appropriate the results can be put at the service of the disturbed results of a luminous experience: Pasiphae is “bewitched” to the point of falling in love with the bull. Insofar as a power coming from the supramental can in no way bring forth anything other than Truth, Pasiphae can simply be ‘masked’ by a mixture with other planes (“bewitched”). This means that a «light which should shine for everybody» (Pasiphae) will be “extinguished” by a thoughtless attachment to what the seeker perceives as his task. From then on the seeker is convinced that his experience participates in «The Truth ” and out of this confusion a monster will be born that should never have seen the light of the day: the Minotaur.
Daedalus and the labyrinth
But this monster can actually appear and be active only with the help of ‘clever intelligence’ applied to the quest, Daedalus. Because this myth illustrates an appropriation by the ego of a luminous experience that could not take place without the active participation of “skill in work”.
Before continuing with the story of Pasiphae, we must therefore highlight the exact meaning of this character and the reason of his coming to Crete.
Daedalus belongs to the lineage of the Kings of Athens expressing the prominent elements at the various stages of the inner being growth (Θ+Ν) and directing it. However he does not appear in the older branch, the only legitimate heir to the throne, but in a younger branch. He is one of the architects of this development and one of the most effective, because he is the most skilled of the craftsmen. But in no way can he take the direction. If the Ancients distinguished him from Sisyphus, it is because he relates to “the skill in yoga” consciously put at the service of the quest, while Sisyphus symbolizes “effort” of the intellect within the general framework of evolution.
Daedalus had a reputation for being an outstanding sculptor and architect. He was famous for the impression of life emanating from his automata.
His nephew Talos was his apprentice. He soon surpassed his master, inventing different tools (including the iron saw inspired by the jaw of a snake). Jealous, Daedalus pushed him from the top of the Acropolis. At the funerall, Daedalus proclaimed that he buried a snake and justified himself among the passers-by, telling them that he followed the sacred law. It was indeed an obligation to bury dead snakes. After the murder, Daedalus was forced to leave Greece. He took refuge in Crete with Minos.
It was then that Pasiphae confided in him.
The father of Daedalus is most often Eupalamos ‘the skilled hand’, the action issued from intelligence. But other authors call him Metion, symbol of a higher intelligence similar to Metis. This Metion (also sometimes called the grandfather of Daedalus) is the brother of the eighth King of Athens, the second Cecrops.
Eupalamos’ mother is Alkippe “great strength” or, according to others, a homonymous Merope. The main heroine who bears this name is the wife of Sisyphus. Merope means “mortal” (therefore dual) or “a half vision”, that of the intellect.
The couple’s three children are Perdix, Metiadousa, and Daedalus. Perdix “the partridge” seems to be for the ancient Greeks the symbol of cunning, an essential trait of Sisyphus ‘the most cunning among men”. And Metiadousa means “a received ability”.
Daedalus is the most skilled of craftsmen: an architect, sculptor and inventor of automatons. As an heir of intelligence – descendant of Metion – he is thus the most skilled to develop perfectly structured mental forms.
His name simply means “skill”.
He is especially talented in creating sculptures and automatons (“elements moving by themselves”) that give the impression of being alive, such as for example tripods moving alone. These robots are mental constructions which are totally coherent and develop without the support of any external reference: these are closed systems (leaving no room for evolution arising from the contact of the not-me) which, however, give the illusion of being open, evolutive, and real (alive, therefore in accordance with Reality).
In comparison, the robots of Hephaestus serve the evolving needs following the order of the Absolute and not the mind, although the gods are also forces stuck in their role. According to Homer, they have the intelligence in their hearts, a voice (a precise perception of what “is” because the voice names and distinguishes), and they have learned their role from the immortal gods (they are “programmed” from the plane of non-duality.)
If mental logic is absolutely useful when it occupies the place intended by Nature, it needs to rise to its maximum of possibilities. This is what Daedalus refuses. Indeed, the murder of his nephew Talos (or Calos) describes the refusal to evolve to a higher intelligence of the seeker and his stagnation in a logical “skill” based on memory.
Talos, who “endures” or «perseveres”, or Calos «beautiful» (therefore true), son of Perdix “cunning intelligence”, also represents a mental skill. But unlike Daedalus’, it is more receptive. We can therefore associate it with the higher mind. With Talos, the seeker understands that the process of evolution occurs by ascension and integration (the saw invented by observing the jaws of the snake).
Daedalus is therefore the symbol of a powerful intellect blocking the evolution of the seeker by rigid non-evolutionary mental forms and closed thought systems. At some point in the quest, the latter refused to follow the sense of evolution (Talos) and to accept the supremacy of the higher mind. He then justifies himself, sure of being in the right and honoring evolution (Daedalus announces that he buries a snake according to the sacred law).
Intelligence which refuses to evolve is no longer a help, but a hindrance.
The “illuminating experience” asked support from «the clever intelligence” in order to join “the power of realisation of the luminous mind” (Pasiphae confided in Daedalus her attraction for the bull so that he could help her).
The seeker, by his intellect, engages then in a first deception, but in good faith: he gives a false form to his experience so that it corresponds to what he is impatient to embody. It is a first action of shutting in, of limitation.
This part of the myth, as mentioned above, could imply that no true experience of enlightenment took place prior to the appearance of the Minotaur. But we admitted that this myth could apply in both cases, regardless of the experience’s origin. This corresponds to what Sri Aurobindo says, who makes us identify Pasiphae “either as ideas-truths coming down from above into the consciousness when the seeker comes into contact with certain planes of the being, or as vigorous formations coming from the larger worlds of the mind and vital”.
The intervention of the “clever mind” is not limited to this first manipulation because then Daedalus built a huge Maze-Palace to house the Minotaur. It was a mansion with tortuous detours. According to others, it was already built when the monster was born. It had the distinctive characteristic that no one could find the exit once he entered.
Let’s note that if some describe the Maze as a place where the Minotaur was detained it must be understood that it was more to conceal this perversion of consciousness than to confine him in a prison. This is why some describe it as a Palace.
Built by “clever intelligence” at the service of the quest, it’s the symbol of a mental construction erected to support the will of realization of a perverted, unconsecrated experience, stemming from an inadequate purification. One should therefore understand this Maze as a system of thoughts and representations (even a “doctrine”) that the seeker has developed from his understanding of the path. “His tortuous detours” are the result of the mind’s elaborations that can support as easily one thesis as its reverse. From the outside, it can give the illusion of a palace or a coherent structure, which would be an expression of the truth. But its “tortuous detours” are the reverse of the truth which is always simple and supporting evidence.
Its bases were in place at the beginning of the quest, often many years before the creating-directing energy appeared (Daedalus is in fact situated at the level of the eighth King of Athens), which is the reason why some think that Daedalus had already built this palace even before the appearance of the Minotaur.
The Maze is therefore the symbol of a self-justification of a spiritual experience which has been twisted, a form in which the power of a radiant realization perverted by the ego can unfold freely.
The seeker deludes himself because Daedalus is not the representative of a perverted power in itself, but a tool that puts itself at the service of the perverted force. He merely excels at building systems that find in themselves their own justification and purpose (the robots). The only initial error lies in the fact that the bull was not sacrificed due to lack of purification of the discerning intelligence (the error is most of the time imputed to Minos).
The essential characteristic of the labyrinth is that one can enter, but never come out of it. That is, all ideas, all concepts, all new contributions are incorporated into the “building” without ever being able to unsettle the structure, but strengthening it each time even more.
Some can spend an entire lifetime in a mental structure that they themselves have developed. Often, while they are trumpeting their “great experience”, they bring others to follow them, subjugating them, because the creations of Daedalus “seem to be real”. So there was, and there are still today, a large number of spiritual Minotaurs, self-proclaimed gurus.
Everything suggests that the seeker is unaware of his imprisonment.
This is why we can see, on the design of a ceramic and in some texts, Pasiphae taking care of this infant-monster: the enlightened experience continues to feed and protect the monstrous achievement that it produced.
Virgil also reported that “the Labyrinth had in its blind walls a maze of corridors, the misleading ambiguity of a thousand routes, where the road signs broke on an error that one could not discern and from where one could not return” (Aeneid, V, line 588 and later).
If sometimes some add that the Maze is “covered”, it is probably to emphasize the fact that this mental prison is not open to influences from above.
Some texts name the Minotaur Asterius “starry”. So he has the same name as the King of Crete where Zeus married Europa, and thus the adoptive father of Minos. In this case the Minotaur would be the symbol of minor spiritual experiences that the mind and its labyrinthine constructions crystallise and to which they give undue importance.
It is interesting to note that there exists in Greece a representation of the River God Acheloos with a bull’s head dating from the 5th century BC, knowing that this River-God is the father of the sirens (symbols of deceptive mental seduction).
In any case, the myth expresses a major error on the path, confirmed on the one hand by the heavy toll that Minos imposed on Athens, weakening thus the forces devoted to the quest, and on the other hand, by the final fight of Theseus against the Minotaur.
This error, due to a lack of purification of the discerning intelligence, established itself gradually. It is the result of a false attitude of the seeker which begins with the attraction of Minos for other women than Pasiphae and continues to the point where the latter keeps alive the Minotaur by the tribute of seven young men and seven young girls that Athens must give away each year, weakening the strength that should be devoted to the quest.
In the classic version we have adopted, Minos is therefore solely responsible. Thus can be read on an ancient parchment: “Pasiphae refused the stigma that was thrown to her and blamed Minos, the only culprit according to her, for not having sacrificed the bull to Poseidon”. (Parchment quoted by Timothy Gantz in Myths of Archaic Greece).
The Minotaur is represented with a body of a man and a head (and often also a tail) of a bull.
In the second part of the myth, the heavy consequences due to the prolongation of the existence of the Minotaur is emphasized. It is once again Minos who is the cause of it as he imposed the price on Athens, following the death of his son Androgeus, the story of whom we will resume later on.
According to Sri Aurobindo, the passage through the “intermediary zone”, where the seeker runs the risk of “deviance of the Minotaur” can be avoided if the seeker develops a perfect sincerity and an absolute surrender in the right direction.
Let us quote here some excerpts of a letter of Sri Aurobindo addressed to one of his disciples which describes, much better than we would be able to, this so serious and widespread deviance for which the Ancients seemed fit to devote a whole myth:
“All of these experiences are similar in nature and what applies to one applies to the other. Apart from some experiences of a personal character, the rest are either idea-truths, such as pour down into the consciousness from above when one gets into touch with certain planes of being, or strong formations from the larger mental and vital worlds which, when one is directly open to these worlds, rush in and want to use the sadhak for their fulfilment. These things, when they pour down or come in, present themselves with a great force, a vivid sense of inspiration or illumination, great feeling of light and joy, an impression of widening and power. The sadhak feels himself freed from the normal limits, projected into a wonderful new world of experience, filled and enlarged and exalted: what comes associates itself, besides, with his aspirations, ambitions, notions of spiritual fulfilment and yogic siddhi; it even presents itself as the realisation and fulfilment. Very easily he is carried away by the splendour and the rush and thinks that he has realised more than he has truly done, something final or at least something sovereignly true. At this stage the necessary knowledge and experience are usually lacking which would tell him that this is only a very uncertain and mixed beginning; (…) He may fail to realise also that if he rushes to apply what he is realising or receiving as if it were something definitive, he may either fall into confusion and error or else get shut up in some partial formation in which there may be an element of spiritual Truth, but it is likely to be outweighed by more dubious mental and vital accretions that deform it altogether. …This is in fact an intermediary state, a zone of transition between the ordinary consciousness in mind and the true Yoga knowledge. One may cross it without hurt, perceiving at once or at an early stage its real nature and refusing to be hold up by its half-lights and tempting but imperfect and often mixed and misleading experiences. One may go astray in it, follow false voices and a mendacious guidance, and that ends in spiritual disaster; or one may take up one’s abode in this intermediate zone, care to go no farther and build there some half-truth which one takes for the whole truth or become the instrument of the powers of these transitional planes, — that is what happens to many Sadhaks and Yogis. Overwhelmed by the first rush and sense of power of a supernormal condition, they get dazzled with a little light which seems to them a tremendous illumination or a touch of force which they mistake for the full Divine Force (…) Very readily they come to think that they are in the full cosmic consciousness (…) Or they feel themselves to be in an entirely illumined consciousness.
There are worse dangers in this intermediate zone of experience. For the planes to which the sadhak has now opened his consciousness, – not as before getting glimpses of them and some influences, but directly, receiving their full impact, – send a host of ideas, impulses, suggestions, formations of all kinds, often the most opposite to each other, inconsistent or incompatible, but presented in such a way as to slur over their insufficiencies and differences, with great force, plausibility and a wealth of argument or a convincing sense of certitude. Overpowered by this sense of certitude, vividness, appearance of profusion and richness the mind of the sadhak enters into a great confusion which it takes for some larger organisation and order;
(Follows a passage not transcribed here where Sri Aurobindo emphasizes the fact that the seeker can be the plaything of powers from other planes.)
The sadhak thinks that he is no longer in the old small consciousness at all, because he feels in contact with something larger or more powerful,(…) and think that it got rid of the ego; but this illusory absence of ego often conceals a magnified ego. (…)
This is a zone which many sadhaks have to cross, in which many wander for a long time and out of which a great many never emerge. (…) A central sincerity, a fundamental humility also save from much danger and trouble. (…) Error and stumbling and mixture of ignorance take place freely and these things are allowed because the sadhak has to be tested by the world-forces, to learn by experience, to grow through imperfection towards perfection (…)
One has the impression of having become impersonal (…)
Suggestions from the vital planes, a pullulation of romantic, fanciful or ingenious imaginations, hidden interpretations, pseudo-intuitions, would-be initiations into things beyond, which excite or bemuse the mind and are often so turned as to flatter and magnify ego and self-importance, but are not founded on any well-ascertained spiritual or occult realities of a true order. (…)
The transition through this intermediate zone – not obligatory, for many pass by a narrower but surer way — is a crucial passage; what comes out of it is likely to be a very wide or rich creation; but when one founders there, recovery is difficult, painful, assured only after a long struggle and endeavour. »
(Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Volume 4/6, Part IV, Section 5: Experiences of the inner and cosmic consciousness.)
Before continuing the story of the Minotaur, we will examine the lineage of the Kings of Athens because several important characters of this descendance are involved, including Daedalus and especially Theseus who will end the tyranny of the monster.
THE LEGENDARY KINGS OF ATHENS
See Family tree 26
Homer mentions only a single King of Athens, Erechtheus, a son of Gaia the Earth, raised by Athena. (This Erechtheus has in fact the same genealogical characteristics as Erichthonius, who is the fourth King in the late classical genealogy.) Indeed, we already reported that this initiate described only the more advanced phases of the path, mentioning others only in passing.
On the other hand, it seems that until the 5th century BC, there were only four legendary Kings, the lineage having been gradually completed through the centuries until the origins of the path, in an attempt to make it consistent with the myths of other branches. For this purpose, links were established in order to connect the remarkable events of the quest with particular Kings of this lineage.
Each royal lineage in the mythology represents a process or a particular teaching. There exists more than ten: those of provinces such as Crete, Lycia or Arcadia and those of towns such as Thebes, Argos, Athens, Mycenae, Sparta, Calydon, Tiryns, Corinth, Troy, etc. (towns). Among them, the lineage of Athens has a special place because it structures the main phases of the path in relation to the growth of the inner being and the spiritualization of the mind (Athena, goddess ensuring the development of the inner being, is also the daughter of Zeus and Metis). In other words, it integrates both the progression in the rise of consciousness and the path of purification for complete liberation.
However, the canonical list of these Kings was established fairly late and doesn’t seem to make the unanimity among the ancient writers. It will therefore have to be considered with caution.
The beginning of the quest is marked by the confrontation of Athena and Poseidon to become the main deity of Athens. Indeed, Poseidon arrived first in Attica, the quest starting obviously for each of us on the subconscious level. Following an arbitration of the Olympians, the olive tree gifted to the city by Athena prevailed over the present of Poseidon, a black stallion invincible in battle or according to others, a salty sea that he made appear on the Acropolis with a blow of his Trident.
We must therefore switch from a subconscious approach to a conscious yoga. Poseidon is the god who supervises the previous development period, when man does not yet care about the meaning of his life and simply walks in the grooves drawn by nature. He cannot offer more than what is connected to the highest subconscious vital nature, the ‘vital force’ represented here by a black stallion (non-purified vital power) or a salty sea (tremendous vital energy).
Various meanings can be associated with the olive tree: purity, peace, wisdom and victory. The winners of the Olympic Games were crowned with wild olive tree leaves. (These games were founded by Pelops who was the first hero to acquire control over the vital – he married Hippodamia “who tames the horse” – and were later restored by Heracles at the end of the Labours.)
The most likely symbolism of the olive tree relates therefore to the process of purification-liberation that Athena must lead. One can also see the symbol of the ‘light that guides in the dark’, if one remembers that the most sophisticated means of lighting at that time were the oil lamps which were more advanced than those functioning with animal fat.
The first three Kings: the preliminaries of the quest
The first King of Athens (city then named Cecropie) “was born from the Earth”. He was called Cecrops. (Some say that before him was Aktaios, who for others was also the father of Cecrops’ wife).The lower half of his body consisted of a snake’s tail. He married Aglauros, daughter of Aktaios, who bore him three daughters, Herse, Pandrosos and another Aglauros as well as a son Erysichton.
Herse got from Hermes a son named Cephalus who became so handsome that he was abducted by Eos, the goddess of dawn, who according to some, gave him three children, Tithon, Eosphorus and Phaeton.
The second, Aglauros, had a daughter from her union with the God Ares, Alkippe.
The three daughters of Cecrops (‘”the Cecropides”‘) died during the birth of the fourth King of Athens Erichthonius, frightened by his appearance or bitten by snakes.
The second King of Athens, Cranaus, was also born “from the soil'”. His wife Pedias bore him three children: Atthis (which gave his name to Attica), Cranaus and Cranaechme. He ruled over Attica during the deluge of Deucalion.
The third King is Amphictyon, according to some ‘”born from the soil'”, according to others son of Deucalion. He took the place of Cranaus on the throne and united with his daughter Atthis.
It was under his reign of twelve years that Thebes was founded by Cadmus.
Each of these first three Kings represents a particular period before entering the path. The very first is marked by an awakening of human consciousness in a vital-mental personality still under the powerful influence of the natural animal evolution. This is illustrated by the body of Cecrops, half-man, half-snake.
The name of the one who preceded him in Attica (who is for some his father-in-law), Aktaios “who resides on the shore”, indicates a change of state, perhaps a first movement towards spirituality, an aspiration to go beyond the immediate satisfaction of bodily and vital needs.
The first King of Athens, Cecrops
On the basis of the Greek letters, Cecrops means “an opening of consciousness infused into the being from the higher planes”.
Like the three following, this first King is ‘born from the Earth”. According to spiritual tradition, any major evolution occurs always by the conjunction of a call of the Divine in Matter and a response of the Divine in the Spirit.
His marriage to Aglauros “bright” or “who gives clear water” evokes a will of purification of the emotional vital nature. Two of their daughters joined the gods Ares and Hermes who gave the first impulses for the work of discernment.
Considering the name of the three girls – Aglauros “bright” or “who gives clear water,” Herse “a drop of dew” and Pandrosos “all is dew” – there would be in this first period a certain natural aspiration for purity. It will disappear as soon as the quest takes shape with the fourth King as the three girls will throw themselves into the abyss.
This first period, however, gives some brilliant results.
Indeed, Aglauros got from Ares “the force that separates and decides”, a daughter Alkippe “a (vital) powerful energy”. This moment in the path can probably be connected to Heracles fighting the lion of the Cithaeron, a fight which also precedes the great Labours. There begins the fight against the waste of energy caused by conceit and mental arrogance, excessive self-love, the habit to justify oneself, projections, susceptibility, etc.
Also, Herse “dew” had from Hermes a son named Cephalus ‘head’ (homonym of the more famous Cephalus who is the son of Deion). The latter became so handsome that Eos kidnapped him (Eos is the goddess of dawn, the moment before the appearance of the light of truth). It therefore symbolizes a mental development that can lead to glimpses of spiritual truth. The children of Eos and Cephalus were:
– Eosphoros “who brings the dawn”, a homonym of the son of Astraeos and Eos, who was called later Lucifer “light bringer” by the Romans. (Regarding the subsequent diversion of the meaning of Lucifer see Volume 1, Chapter 4.) He embodies here the beginning of the mind’s spiritualization.
– Phaeton “who shines inside”, whose name evokes experiences of inner contact by mental development. One can compare him to his namesake Phaeton, son of Helios, who wanted to drive the chariot of his father but was unable to do so, forcing Zeus to strike him with the thunderbolt in order to avoid a universal conflagration. The existence of this Phaeton in the progeny of the first King of Athens indicates a common tendency of junior seekers to feel much more advanced on the path than they really are.
– Tithonos “inner evolution towards the highest consciousness”. If we compare him to the more famous namesake Tithonos, brother of Priam and loved by Eos, who received from Zeus immortality but not eternal youth, i.e. who represents a seeker only turned towards the heights of the spirit, who contacts the non-dual (immortality) but forgets the adaptation to the movement of becoming (eternal youth), then he describes also a movement lacking embodiment.
Phaeton is also sometimes named as the son of Tithonos. This change in filiation indicates that this inner light can arise as directly from the spiritualization of the mind as from the development of the inner being which will bring the psychic being in the forefront.
Finally, the third daughter Pandrosos had from Hermes a son, Ceryx ‘the Herald’, (also sometimes known as the son of Aglauros or Herse). This name can be related to the Ceryces clan (Kerukes) which officiated in Eleusis with the Eumolpides clan. One can understand that if the latter received “inner orders” from the subconscious, Eumolpus being a son of Poseidon, the Ceryces begotten from Hermes gave the interpretation. That’s why the function of Herald was assigned to Ceryx. Indeed, he who prepares himself for the path should learn to interpret the inner voice.
It was under the reign of Cecrops that Athena became the Patron Goddess of Attica.
The second king of Athens, Cranaus
Cranaus “hard, harsh, rocky” comes also from the soil (from a process of incarnation). He initiates a period during which the seeker is attracted to “hard” or “extreme” paths. He is also described as the most remarkable Athenian of this time. Indeed, it is said that it was he who renamed the city of Cecropie, Athens. He had from his wife Pedias, three children:
– Atthis the “inner consciousness which tends upwards” who gave his name to Attica, the region that surrounds Athens. She was the wife of the third king, – – Amphictyon.
– Cranaus “hard”.
– Cranaechme “hard and without higher opening”.
Two trends resulted from this period.
One which, following Cranaus and Cranaechme, leads the seeker to ‘extreme’ and ‘hard’ practices which cannot go on or give results because the characters have no posterity.
The one of Atthis “inner consciousness tending upwards”, who, by uniting to Amphictyon “who builds all around”, works on the inner ‘environment’ of the seeker to establish the foundations of the quest.
According to Apollodorus, Cranaus reigned over Attica during the deluge of Deucalion, period during which the seeker is caught in a storm, a sign of intense emotional cleansing of some deep rooted knots.
The third king of Athens, Amphictyon
The third king is Amphictyon “who builds all around” (or “everything about foundations” and perhaps also “everything that relates to the opening of the higher worlds”). He drove his predecessor from the throne and married his daughter Atthis.
His reign lasted twelve years, a period which corresponds to a symbolic set of experiences.
In other words, the quest really begins only when the future seeker will no longer be strongly attracted by what ordinary life can offer him.
Similarly, the seeker opts for the growth of the inner being (Atthis), rejecting extreme experiences (Cranaus and Cranaechme).
The name of this king can also imply the development of the personality to the best of his ability.
It was under his reign that Thebes was founded by Cadmus, marking thus the beginning of the path of purification-liberation and the incarnation of the inner life.
The fourth king of Athens, Erichthonius: entering the path
Since Cecrops, Athena was the tutelary divinity of Attica. One day, Hephaestus pursued her with his attentions. The goddess pushed him back but could not avoid that the seed of the god fell on her leg. She wiped it off with a ball of wool that she threw to the ground. The Mother Earth Gaia was then fertilized and gave birth to Erichthonius. According to some, just as Cecrops and most of those who were born from the Earth, his body ended with a snake’s tail.
However, Athena claimed the right to raise him as her child. She took him on the Acropolis and took care of him until he was old enough to ascend the throne.
Some say that she took the child out of sight by putting him in a trunk with two snakes. But the daughters of Cecrops and Aglauros opened the trunk, and, probably frightened by the snakes, threw themselves into the abyss and perished.
Erichthonius married the naiad Praxithea from which he had a son, Pandion I, who united with Zeuxippe.
It was during the reign of Erichthonios that Danaos founded the Citadel of Argos.
This King is also known to have founded the “Panathenaic Games”.
The fourth King of Athens, Erichthonius, opens up a major phase in the progression, the one that consecrates the entry on the path. This is why the three previous Kings are ignored by a number of authors. By the symbolism of his son Pandion I, “who devotes all to the union in consciousness”, this phase leads to the first commitment of the seeker.
The name Erichthonius can be understood either as defining “one who is strongly rooted in the ground”, i.e. “very incarnated’, or “break”, both meanings can apply here: the incarnation insofar as the foundations must be firmly established, and because a ‘rupture’ opens a new phase, a breach with the ordinary world.
At the beginning of the path, the seeker is still far from having found his master (or his way). Often he moves through various branches of spirituality or occult sciences. Then comes a time when he wants to impose a precise form on his quest, to ‘name’ his path. This is why Hephaestus, the creator of spiritual forms, tries to violate Athena. But the part of consciousness that “watches over the path of inner growth” (Athena), who directs and organizes the quest is eternally virgin. Therefore, she cannot be locked up into any form. Or rather, the decision to engage on the path does not belong to her, but to the Absolute (Gaia), not to a power of the overmind (Athena).
The myth suggests, however, that she takes note of the seeker’s choice, even if she leaves the fertilization and gestation to the supreme Existence-Consciousness (the sperm spilled on her leg which she wipes off and throws to the ground Gaia). Moreover, she demands the care of the child until maturity, watching thereby over the beginnings of the quest. The implication of the seeker in “paths” that do not really suit him seems indeed unavoidable and constitutes a preparation. Athena will endorse the final choice of the path only after a “break”, a change of direction incarnated by Erechtheus, the grandson of Erichthonius. Indeed, the twin brother of the latter, Boutes, will be his “priest” who acts as an intermediary between Heaven and Earth. The seeker will then find “his” master or “his” path.
As a first guide of the quest, Erichthonius is, as one might expect, brought up on the Acropolis, “the highest part” of Athens.
This is the beginning of the period where the seeker decides to give priority to the quest rather than to the acquisition of material wealth or seeking of pleasures, recognition or power. (It seems that the spiritual quest proposed by Greek initiates did not require to withdraw from the world. This is what seems to confirm the little that is known of initiation and mysteries. There was no question of renouncing property, duties and satisfactions of the world but to learn their right management).
This is why Erichthonius instituted the “Panathenaics” games to honor the seekers who decide “to give themselves entirely to Athena, to the quest for the inner divine”.
It is also the period of the construction by Cadmus of the Citadel of Argos, when the inner guide supports the process of purification towards total liberation.
It is then that the first “conceptions” of the quest disappear (when Aglauros, Herse and Pandrosos, daughters of Cecrops, die) to be replaced by a truer and more embodied purpose. It’s evolution (the snakes), which puts an end to the first ‘ethereal’ images of the path (the Cecropides were frightened either by the snake tail of Erichthonios, or by the snakes put by Athena in the trunk with the child).
The fifth King of Athens, Pandion I
Erichthonius unites to Praxithea, the “divine action”: the seeker aims for a “true or correct action” or “action arising from inside”. This union led to a first consecration represented by Pandion I, “who is given entirely to Zeus (to the union in consciousness)”, consecration still imperfect and largely mixed with ego. Indeed, Pandion I took as his wife Zeuxippe “to put the vital under the yoke” which expresses a tendency to work with force to obtain mastery.
Pandion I does not have his own story. Some authors report, however, that during his reign, the first Minos ruled over Crete, making this first consecration in the direction of the quest (the Kings of Athens) concomitant to the one done in the context of the path of purification of the discerning intelligence (Minos).
(Note that Praxithea and her sister Zeuxippe, wives of Erichthonius and Pandion I, are Naiads, the nymphs of springs and rivers: even if they represent a certain purity and simplicity, they nevertheless remain related to the vital plane).
To move to the next phase of the quest, a break must happen, a reversal. This is what happens with Erechtheus «the one who breaks”, one of the four children of Pandion I.
The sixth, seventh and eighth Kings: the discovery of the personal path and the inner split
Pandion I and Zeuxippe had four children, the twin sons Erechtheus and Boutes, and two daughters, Procne and Philomela.
We will begin the study of the children of Pandion I with one of his daughters, because their complex story illustrates a refusal of the seeker to let the truth come up in his consciousness: Philomela “who likes apples”, i.e. “who likes knowledge” has her tongue actually cut out. Her story tries to highlight the right relationship that “vigilance” (Tereus), with on the one hand “the quest for knowledge” (Philomela) and on the other hand the asceticism which “emphasizes the purification” (Procne), must maintain.
The emphasis here is on the fact that the two paths of ascending consciousness (Iapetus) and psychisation or purification-liberation (Oceanos) must be followed in parallel.
Pandion I gave his daughter Procne to the Thracian King Tereus (son of Ares) who had helped him in a border war with Labdacus, the King of Thebes. Tereus took his young wife to Thrace and she bore him a son, Itys.
After some time, as she felt lonely, Procne asked her husband to pick up her sister Philomele in Athens. He accepted but raped the latter on the way back. To keep her silent, he cut off her tongue and kept her hidden in the countryside, telling his wife that she was dead. (According to Apollodorus, he married her, becoming thus bigamous, and continued to sleep with her.)
But Philomela stitched the account of her suffering on a tapestry that she sent to her sister. The two sisters reunited, took revenge on Tereus by serving him the flesh of his son Itys that they had cooked for his meal. Then they fled to the South. As soon as Tereus discovered the exact nature of his meal, he left in pursuit of the fugitives. About to be caught, they begged the assistance of the gods who transformed everyone into birds: Procne into a nightingale, Philomela into a swallow and Tereus into a hoopoe.
The first episode of this story describes the assistance that Tereus “the watcher”, thus implying “observation, vigilance”- which is here a separating process – brought to Pandion I “the one who gives himself entirely to the union in consciousness” during a border war against Labdacus, King of Thebes. The seeker therefore struggles to define the limits between what must be subjected to a process of purification-liberation by means of personal action (Labdacus) and what must be offered to the Divine for transformation.
Vigilance (Tereus) takes the side of consecration (Pandion I) because it is always better to rely on the Divine than on one’s own strength. At this point, vigilance also helps to remember the commitment to the quest.
The second part of the story is based on the meaning of the two sisters’ name that define two distinct goals of yoga, the purification process and knowledge: indeed Procne is the one who “emphasizes purification” while her sister Philomela “who loves apples” is the symbol of the quest for knowledge.
If the two “goals” (the sisters) should be pursued simultaneously, the means are not the same.
These two goals can be related to the two main lineages of Oceanos and Iapetus that define the opening processes of consciousness by purification-liberation (the path of Nature) and the ascension of the mental consciousness planes (the path of the Spirit). Once these two processes are accomplished, the “descent” of the Spirit’s powers and the transformation of Nature become possible according to the description by Sri Aurobindo of the third phase of the integral yoga.
After the help received in the “discernment of limits” (border war with Labdacus), the part of the seeker which leads the quest, directs “vigilance” towards the purification process (Pandion I, King of Athens, gave his daughter Procne to Tereus, King of Thrace). From this union a son was born, Itys “tower, circumference” which can be understood as “a high consciousness” or a consciousness “that goes around” i.e. a more global consciousness.
Rightly so, the two “sister-paths” (purification and knowledge) wish to get closer and work together. But “vigilance and observation” which belongs to the mental dual logic and which is a legitimate process when it is applied to the purification-liberation, cannot claim the knowledge process by identification (Tereus cannot bring Philomela under his roof).The mental logic can only attempt to appropriate knowledge by force (the rape of Philomela), which limits and blocks its manifestation in truth (Tereus locks her up and cuts her tongue). Knowledge is thus abused by the movement of the quest still too much dependent on the mind.
But it is impossible to isolate completely the two processes: an indirect communication is established (Philomela sends a tapestry embroidered with her misfortune to her sister).
The two sister-paths then ensure that vigilance reaches a higher level through “assimilation” of a “more global consciousness” (Itys was served as food to Tereus). This vigilance is then transformed into “discernment» or (“pure attention” of Krishnamurti). It is no longer an active movement of the seeker, but a reversal operated by the union of the two paths without the seeker being aware (Tereus does not recognize what he eats). The latter takes some time before integrating the transformation (Tereus pursues the two sisters) then the three processes become by the intervention of the gods, higher mental expressions. Procne is transformed into a nightingale, the bird who has the most beautiful song and which sings at night: the will of purification becomes a manifestation of the active truth during periods of spiritual darkness. Philomela became the swallow of spring: the love of knowledge turns towards the new. And Tereus is turned into a Hoopoe: vigilance is transformed into “attention” and becomes a support of the psychic being who guides the quest in truth.
The feathers that open like a fan on the head of the hoopoe can mean the development of discernment. On the other hand, Aristotle associates hoopoe and hawk whose name (κιρκος) is identical to that of Circe “detailed vision” or “discernment”.
Erechtheus, sixth King of Athens, his children and his brother Boutes
Erechtheus and Boutes were twin brothers. At the death of their father Pandion I, they shared the inheritance. Erechtheus was given the Kingship and married Praxithea (a namesake of the fourth King Erichthonios wife) from whom he had many children. His brother Boutes became a priest of Athena and Poseidon. He married his niece, Chtonia.
The children of Pandion I shared the inheritance and everything seems to indicate that it was by mutual agreement.
The new guide of the quest, represented here by Erechtheus, whose name means “to break”, operates by his union with Praxithea (second of the name) a mutation towards the “right act”.
He dissociates himself from the part in him which, on the one hand, deals with experiences and spiritual realizations and on the other hand provides the link with the conscious and subconscious forces leading the quest (his brother Boutes “the herdsman” inherited the priesthood and became the priest of Athena and Poseidon). This is what in him takes the path of incarnation (Boutes married his niece Chtonia ‘of the Earth’).
Some say that under the reign of Erechtheus, Demeter brought to Athens the secret of cereal cultivation, which means it is the moment of the quest where the seeker can understand the underlying reasons and goals of the proposed practices in various spiritual paths (or even to develop such practices for himself) for the development of his nature and the work in the unconscious in order to achieve the union (Demeter).
From his wife Praxithea, Erechtheus had several children, including two sons – a homonymous Cecrops (second of the name) and Metion – as well as four daughters, Procris, Orithyia, Creusa and Chtonia. (Some add a homonymous Merope).
Creusa “right opening of consciousness” or ‘the process of incarnation” united to Xuthus “fair, of a golden yellow” or “inner evolution towards mind-matter balance” – a son of Hellen and thus a brother of Aeolus – and gave him three children, Achaeus, Ion and Diomedea.
The two sons represent respectively the Achaeans and Ionians which Homer identifies as all the Greeks considered under two aspects of yoga: the “gathering of the various elements of the being” (for the development in the same direction) or ‘the concentration of consciousness” in relation to the Achaeans; the “evolution of consciousness” work for the Ionians. Diomedea “who cares for the union in consciousness” is the “passive” counterpart of the previous two, the goal to reach.
Orithyia “who leaps towards the mountain” (perhaps “who takes care of what is happening inside”) was kidnapped by Boreas. The latter is the North wind, the spiritual help for the incarnation and the work of yoga. He took her to his Kingdom of Thrace, the land of asceticism, where she bore him four children:
two famous sons (the Boreades), Calais “who calls” or “who works for rectitude” and Zetes “to seek”. They are winged beings, and therefore the movements of the mental consciousness. And by their parentage, they already belong to the beginnings of the quest where the analytical mind is mostly applied. We already met them in the quest for the Golden Fleece, pursuing the Harpies. They take part in the investigation of the consciousness disrupters, within the limits of the possibilities of this analytical mind.
Cleopatra “glorious ancestors” who became the wife of the Thrace diviner Phineus “evolution of intuitive capacities” developed by asceticism. The latter got rid of the Harpies “mental disrupters” by the Boreades (in this case in the surface consciousness). This enables the seeker to find again “the old acquisitions”. We should understand this as an “updating” of knowledge acquired in other times.
Chione “white like snow” or “evolution of the concentration of the consciousness”. She had a son from Poseidon, Eumolpus “who sings and dances well”, therefore a certain exactitude in the expression and actions, following the purification process. But this exactitude cannot sustain itself, as the following myth shows:
Chione united with Poseidon and gave birth to Eumolpus without the knowledge of the god. In order not to be discovered, she threw the child into the sea. He was saved by his father Poseidon who entrusted him to his daughter to raise him. He grew up in Ethiopia, unaware of his maternal lineage and therefore his belonging to the Athenian lineage.
As an adult, Eumolpus was the perpetrator of an attempted rape and a conspiracy against the King of Thrace to whom he eventually succeeded. He also befriended the inhabitants of Eleusis.
During the reign of Erechtheus, a war broke out between Athens and Eleusis. This last city appealed to Eumolpus, who fought alongside the Eleusinians with a large contingent from Thrace. Erechtheus consulted the oracle of Delphi who promised victory to the Athenians if the King sacrificed one of his daughters. He sacrificed the youngest, and all the other immolated themselves also. During the battle, Erechtheus killed Eumolpus. (According to some sources, he survived and presided over the mysteries of Eleusis). Angered by the death of his son, Poseidon killed Erechtheus. Cecrops II became then the seventh King of Athens.
Others say that the defeated Eleusinians agreed to a peace treaty by which they submitted to Athens, but kept the responsibility of the mysteries.
(The priests who officiated at the Eleusian mysteries belonged to the Eumolpides or Kerykes lineage.)
There is a significant generational difference since Erechtheus is the great-grandfather of Eumolpus, but this is just one of the many questions raised by the different versions of this myth. We will stick here to the one of Apollodorus.
“Exactitude” developed unbeknownst to the seeker, through the intervention of the subconscious. Indeed, not only Eumolpus “one who sings and dances well’ is the son of Poseidon, but he was also raised by a daughter of the god.
However this “exactitude” in the quest cannot sustain itself because the seeker tries to obtain different advantages by force, in particular the direction of the path (Eumolpus tries to rape his wife’s sister and conspires against the King of Thrace).
Then the conflict between Athens and Eleusis expresses the difficulty, at this time, to bring in agreement the inner perception of the right path (Athens) and the principles, teachings and directives of the quest as enacted by the Mystery Schools (Eleusis).
The part of the seeker who ignores the origin of what led him to the right attitude adopts the side of the principles and practices familiar to him (Eumolpos who befriended the Eleusinians became their ally against Athens).
Despite this “betrayal of Eumolpus” (he chose the wrong side, since he actually belongs to the Athenian lineage), the direction of the inner being prevails over the imposed forms of the quest if the seeker accepts giving up his goals, to a certain extent (the sacrifice of the girls).
This story encourages the seeker to trust more and more the inner being rather than the laws and directives enacted by different paths, as venerable as they can be otherwise and regardless of their apparent truthfulness and rightness.
The deviance is then rectified (Eumolpus is killed) and the quest moves to another phase, the forms which were impeding the progress having been “broken” (Poseidon destroyed Erechtheus and his whole house).
Earlier in this chapter we have seen the story of Procris “who brings to the forefront the right opening of consciousness”. She represents the end of the dominance of the mind in the quest.
She is united with Cephalus “fully developed mind, the crowning”, sign that the analytical mind is at its highest level of development and looking for an opening of consciousness.
She has the root of Circe “the mind of discernment based on detailed vision” that she gave to Minos to cure his multiple “dispersions» (attractions to other women). In return, the seeker is forced to transfer to the right opening of consciousness (transfer from Minos to Procris united with Cephalus) the vigilance and will engaged in the path (the dog and javelin, the first gifts of Zeus). It is therefore a transfert in the consciousness of the seeker: the penetrating vision or precise discernment must result from surrender (Minos) while perseverance towards the goal must depend from the the conscious intelligence, the buddhi.
She indicates that the seeker has definitely found his personal path or his master.
Chtonia ‘the earth’ married her uncle Boutes, one of the two brothers who received as a legacy the priesthood of Athena and Poseidon: she indicates the necessary incarnation of spirituality.
No child is mentioned.
Cecrops II, seventh King of Athens, and his brother Metion
The second Cecrops appears when the first “forms” of the quest come to an end. He has no story of his own because it seems to have been added for historical reasons. His name would indicate, as the first Cecrops, “an opening of consciousness infused into the being from the higher planes”.
He had as son a second Pandion who succeeded him on the throne of Athens. But the latter would not rule for long as he was driven away by his nephews, the sons of his brother Metion. According to others, the only son of Metion who participated in the conspiracy was Eupalamos, the father of Daedalus. Pandion II fled to Megara.
Pandion II, “who devotes everything to the union in consciousness” marks a new phase in the consecration of oneself which almost automatically generates an opposing force, since any new light enables one to confront stronger and stronger “shadows”.
At this point a shift occurs in which the “active expressions of the clever intelligence” (the sons of Metion) or only “ability in works”(Eupalamos), are no longer following the direction of the inner being that emphasizes “consecration” (Pandion II), but are themselves taking the lead of the quest. This shift, if it occurs at the same time as some important experiences, will be the cause of one of the greatest spiritual falls described in the mythology, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth.
However, the consecration is maintained in its essence (Pandion II fled to Megara).
With Metion and his descendants, we find again the characters we met at the beginning of our study of the Minotaur myth. Metion is the symbol of a certain wisdom of the same category as the Metis “highest intelligence”. He is, according to the authors, either the father or grandfather of Daedalus.
With this chronology of the Kings of Athens we can situate the story of Pasiphae and Daedalus after the meeting of the master (or path).
The usurpation of the lead of the quest by the analytical mind brings about the birth and growth of the Minotaur and a magnificent labyrinthine mental construction sheltering him. Which leads to the weakening of the forces devoted to the quest (the tribute imposed by Minos).
It is interesting to note that the error of the Minotaur occurs not in a temporary abandonment of the path as one might expect, but on the contrary, when the seeker is even more deeply engaged (Pandion II).
The eighth, ninth and tenth Kings of Athens
When Pandion II was driven out of Athens, he fled to Megara. There he married Pylia, daughter of King Pylas, who bore him four sons: Aegeus, Pallas, Nisos and Lycos. Later, Pylas gave the throne of Megara to Pandion II.
After the death of Pandion II, his four sons mounted an expedition against Athens, drove out the sons of Metion and shared the Kingdom between them.
Pandion II “who gives everything to realize the union in consciousness with the Real” represents the part of the seeker who wants to devote everything to the quest, seeking the “passage” (Pylia, the “gate”) to “realization”, while in fact it is “intelligence” which leads the quest (the son of Metion).
There is only the sector of the “broad outline” or the “essence” of the quest left to him (Megara).
It was during his reign in Megara that the Minotaur developed in Crete while the mind ruled in Athens. Only later will the quest suffer from it, during the reign of his son, Aegeus, when Minos will impose a heavy toll on the Athenians after the death of his son Androgeos.
In this phase, what would “give everything to the Divine” is overwhelmed by his “skill in the works” or his “mental ability” (Eupalamos and Daedalus) as a result of a lack of consecration (the refusal of Minos to sacrifice the bull).
But, when the initial impetus tires out (at the death of Pandion II) the seeker realizes that the quest is wrongly oriented and decides to give the reins to his consecration, even if he is not yet really aware of the Minotaur and Labyrinth impasse. However, it took a symbolic generation for the consecration to strengthen enough in the incarnation (the time needed for the sons of Pandion II to reach maturity so that they could drive away the sons of Metion).
This, however, is only the beginning of recovery and does not end the growing supremacy of the Minotaur.
The son of Pandion II (Aegeus, Pallas, Nisos and Lycos) and the toll imposed by Minos on Athens.
Aegeus quickly established itself as the one in power even if one of his brothers, Pallas, who symbolizes a resistance to change, challenged his dominance.
Lycos “a very low light (the one that precedes dawn)” represents a first awareness of the problem.
Pallas is the equilibrium which can mutate into a force of inertia, the one who wants to perpetuate the Labyrinth and the Minotaur. It is mostly him who wanted to oppose Aegeus for the royalty. He died with his fifty sons, killed by Theseus when the hero came to Athens on his return from Crete.
Finally, Nisos symbolizes the personality in evolution, the two aspects of an awakening intuition and a powerful dual functioning.
Lycos settled either in Lycia or in Messenia, at Arene. (Here the only source available is the work of Pausanias, a historian. We will therefore not accept the fact that Lycos was chased away by Aegeus, a fact which seems unfounded.) He possessed prophetic powers. Some credit him with the foundation of the Apollo lykeios cult. He was the ancestor of a long line of Athenian priests, the Lycomides. For others, he initiated Aphareus and his wife Arene to the mysteries of the great goddesses, Demeter and Persephone.
The recovery of the throne of Athens by the sons of Pandion II implies that the development of the inner being is no longer under the sole direction of the logical mind and that the path is perceived more accurately.
Lycos “the light that comes before the dawn”, like his many namesakes of the mythology, evokes a true but barely noticeable psychic light. He helps to anticipate errors, to approach the psychic being and to have a few accurate intuitions (the foundation of the worship of Apollo-lykeios and the prophetic powers).
Lycos moved to Arene, the city “of the evolution of the right movement” and married a woman of eponymous name.
This new inner clarity leads the seeker even further on the path of “sincerity” and disappearance of his “masks”. He initiated Aphareus, one who strives to be “without masks”, to the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone. It is an “advanced” initiation in the mysteries. Indeed, Aphareus (son of Perieres, himself fifth or sixth son of Aeolus) united with Gorgophone “who killed fear” who gave him the two great heroes, Idas and Lynceus “union in consciousness” and “the sharp vision” (in detail) which applied together lead to the true “discernment”. Aphareus, the one who removes his “masks”, works towards the “right movement” (Arene).
Pallas, another son of Pandion II, established himself in the southern part of Attica. Some say that he was irritated by the growing power of his brother Aegeus and that he even contested his royalty. Sophocles said that he feeds the giants. (« gigantes »). And Diodorus tells us that Aegeus feared an alliance between Androgeos, son of Minos, and the sons of Pallas.
But it was much later, the next generation, that Pallas marched on Athens with his fifty sons, the Pallantides. Theseus killed him, as well as all his sons.
The many mythological Pallas come up in episodes where their symbolic functions seem initially contradictory.
First of all, it is a nickname of Athena and the name of her childhood friend whose death she caused accidentally. The goddess created a statue in her memory, – the Palladium (or Palladion) – which was recovered by Ilos, the founder of Troy, and which would ensure the invincibility of the city as long as it remained within its walls.
A second Pallas is son of Lycaon, King of Arcadia. According to some, he took care of Athena from birth.
Another is the son of the couple of Titans Crios and Eurybia. United with Styx, he begat Victory, Force, Ardor and Power.
Still another is one of the giants born of Ouranos and Gaia that the gods allied to Heracles will confront in a terrible battle.
These characters represent realizations at different levels. It is Pallas, son of Crios, who provides the key because he formed the creation-destruction-balance trilogy with his two brothers Astraios and Perses.
This name can therefore be interpreted by using the Greek letters, as a power which maintains the Balance, a force of cohesion (Π + ΛΛ). This power is sometimes beneficial when recent achievements have been consolidated or when it serves as a basis for further progress; sometimes, it presents an obstacle when this stabilization is becoming inertia and an obstruction of the new. This explains that Pallas “feeds the Giants” that the gods will have to defeat during the Gigantomachy (when working in the body).
In this myth, Pallas represents a balance that becomes an obstacle to the transformation. As a first step, this balance serves to stabilize this second phase of consecration (Pandion II) in all its aspects: this is represented by the fifty sons of Pallas (a totality in the world of forms). However he tends to oppose the movement of transformation from the start (Pallas claims the Throne). Then more and more, as his fifty sons grow up, he will represent “accomplished stability” that Theseus must overthrow. The hero will kill him as well as his sons when he claims the throne of Athens on his return from Crete, having defeated the Minotaur.
Nisos represents the evolution of the personality of the seeker, especially the continuation of the mind’s spiritualization, because he has a lock of red hair on the top of the head.
Aegeus and the conception of Theseus
Aegeus first married Meta, daughter of Hoples, then Chalciope (Khalkiope) but none of them could give him children. As he grew older and feared that his estate would fall into the hands of his brothers, he went to consult the oracle of Delphi who told him: “Do not untie, oh most excellent of men, the mouth that protrudes at the bottom of the wineskin before having reached the heights of the city of Athens. ‘”
When returning from Delphi, a bewildered Aegeus takes a different route to seek advice with Pittheus, King of Troezen (son of Pelops and grandson of Tantalum) reputed for his wisdom. Pittheus immediately understood the meaning of the oracle, but did not utter a word because he wanted his daughter Aethra to bear the child of Aegeus. So, he sent his daughter into the bed of Aegeus after getting him drunk.
Some say that the god Poseidon united with the young woman during the same night, becoming ‘the “divine father “of Theseus, Aegeus being only ”his human father”.
Upon awakening, understanding what had happened, Aegeus asked the young woman in case she would bear a son, to raise him but not to reveal the name of his father. He then placed a sword and sandals that belonged to him under a nearby rock. Then he asked Aethra to lead his son to this place when he would be strong enough to move the rock and to send him to Athens with these objects.
Aegeus then returned to Athens where he celebrated the Panathenaic games.
The name Aegeus expresses “an impulse in the consciousness (at its highest)”. If we consider that it is based on the same root as the goat, it is the symbol “of the more refined personality” or “raison d’etre” which requires developing “what one excels” in. This impulse is the most appropriate to lead the quest at this particular moment, even though it is rather a “stabilization” of his new form of consecration that the seeker aspires for (the opposition of Pallas).
However, the situation persists with, on the one side the Labyrinth and the Minotaur, and on the other ‘the impetus to go on with the quest’ (in a right manner because he is King of Athens) who is concerned about the continuation of the path (Aegeus cannot have children). But there is no hint that the seeker at this stage was fully aware of his major error.
The first wife of Aegeus, Meta (a name to associate with Metis “the supreme intelligence or discerning wisdom”) is daughter of Hoples “the preparation”. She indicates an attempt to respond to anxiety with the mind. However, even if this attempt “paves the way”, it offers no solution (Meta cannot give an heir to Aegeus).
The second wife of Aegeus, a homonymous Chalciope “an inflexible attitude” (daughter of Rhexenor “who breaks up (the enemy ranks)”) illustrates a second attempt as fruitless as the first because she also cannot give him a child.
The seeker then operates an inner reversal (the oracle of Delphi) to find a solution (to have an heir) because the quest could take a wrong direction (aging Aegeus feared that his kingdom would fall into the hands of his brothers).
He receives a response but cannot understand the content. He has to continue the work of spiritualization of his mind and the development of his inner being (the heights of Athens) without wanting to orient the quest according to his desire (without “untying the mouth that protrudes at the bottom of the wineskin” i.e., without seeking an heir; the answer given by the oracle was already interpreted by the Ancients as related to human reproduction). In other words, he is not asked to decide for himself what must be his main work, his “task”, but to develop a state of trust.
But the seeker does not understand the language of his inner being and therefore turns to what represents Pittheus, King of Troezen. For that he must “turn away from his path”.
Pittheus is a possible symbol of the quest for an ideal. According to the Etymological Dictionary of Chantraine, this name could come from πιθηκος ‘monkey’ and would then be the symbol of an “imitation” (applied here to the quest of perfection). It should also be noted that the word πιθος meaning “barrel” can become πιτθευς by insertion of the Τ, and wine is not a stranger to this myth.
Rather than to continue on the path of self-development, he must focus on his essential need. Pittheus is indeed in the lineage of Tantalus. He is a son of Pelops and Hippodamia and thus a brother of Atreus, father of Agamemnon and Menelaus. He represents in the seeker an expression of “need”, “aspiration” and “endurance”, a willingness to incarnate the path by mastering the vital, not by escaping into the heights of the spirit.
Pittheus has a daughter Aethra “clear sky” who represents a higher purified and radiant mental consciousness.” For Homer, ether Αιθηρ, is the purest and highest radiant part of the atmosphere” (Cf. Chantraine). The word is derived from the verb ‘to ignite’, ‘to burn’ with a sense of light and brightness.
The pursuit of the ideal (Pittheus) has resulted in the need to clarify and spiritualize the mind (Aethra) but one must find the means for it. The opportunity is offered by the arrival of Aegeus “the impulse for the transformation”.
But the reorientation of the seeker in this direction occurs more or less subconsciously: on the one hand Poseidon participates in the fertilization and on the other Aegeus is drunk and is not aware of the union before he wakes up, not knowing if it will bear fruit. In other words, the seeker doesn’t know exactly where this experience leads him, but he keeps it in his consciousness to make the link when the time comes: this is why Aegeus leaves clues in order for Theseus to ‘find’ the means (the weapons) and the way to proceed (the sandals) that have already been worn by his father (the appropriate and already experienced means).
Only much later will the seeker become aware of the utmost importance of the work which will continue over a long period (because the hero has to ignore that he is the rightful heir to the throne until his arrival in Athens).
During this gestation phase (development of the hero), he will go even further into the impasse of the Labyrinth, losing energies useful for the quest under the effect of the toll imposed by Minos.
Aegeus and Nisos
Back in Athens, Aegeus, having strengthened his position on the throne, organized the Panathenaic games (founded by his grandfather Erichthonius). One of the sons of Minos, Androgeos, one of the greatest athletes of his generation, came to Athens to take part in the games and won all the prizes. For a reason which varies according to authors, Aegeus murdered him or else sent him to fight the bull of Marathon which killed him. In fact Aegeus feared the sons of his brother Pallas with whom Androgeos had become friends. (For others, Androgeos was assassinated by rivals during games celebrated in honor of Laius).
When Minos came to know about the death of his son, he prepared to lead a war against Athens. Having control over the sea, he laid siege to Megara, a city allied to Athens whose King was Nisos, one of Aegeus brothers. Nisos had two daughters, Scylla and Eurynome. (Nisos is sometimes named among the children of Deion).
Nisos proved to be a formidable opponent because he had a lock of purple hair that made him invulnerable and guaranteed the safety of his city as long as he stayed. But his daughter Scylla fell in love with Minos (or was seduced because he offered her golden necklaces). So, when her father slept, she tore away his protective hair so that Minos could seize Megara.
Some authors report that Minos, outraged by the betrayal of Scylla, tied her to the stern (or bow) of his boat. And according to some she drowned.
If a part of the seeker, due to a consecration still too attached to results, is at the origin of the major deviance of the Minotaur, other children of Minos and Pasiphae represent the positive aspects of the progress through involvement in the world.
Androgeos is one of them. His name means “the earth-man” and includes an omega as a sign of openness to matter. He represents “the incarnated man”.
He participated in the Panathenaic Games, open to all those wishing to “devote everything to the quest”. These games, that involve many heroes in symbolic sport disciplines, can be likened to an assessment of the inner work processes and tools.
This is the way of the incarnation represented by Androgeos who is recognized as the best in all disciplines: no asceticism can prevail over the ‘correct’ incarnation.
But after attaining a certain balance, this incarnation tended to be self-sufficient (Androgeos friendship with the sons of Pallas). It could coexist with the confinement in the mental labyrinth built around a spiritual experience.
It was therefore necessary to disturb this inertia. This is why Aegeus, King of Athens, arranged the death of Androgeos.
In one of the versions, Androgeos was forced to fight the Bull of Marathon. It is the one that Minos kept in his herds and which Heracles had then to bring back to Eurystheus before releasing him in the plain of Marathon. Androgeos perished while fighting him. It is Theseus who finally captured him and offered him in sacrifice.
Androgeos death demonstrates that, at this stage, the incarnation is not powerful enough to resist the ‘attachments’ and the appeal for “the power of realization of the luminous mind” which brought forth the existence of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth.
Theseus, by killing the bull, will put an end to the risk of any new Minotaur (the seeker leaves the “intermediate zone” described above).
The labor of the Bull of Crete done by Heracles suggests that a sincere seeker does not necessarily fall into the trap of the Minotaur.
(The version where Androgeos is murdered during games celebrated in honor of Laius was added to provide a link with the process of purification appearing in the lineage of Cadmus. The death of Laius precedes the work of purification of the energy centers – the wars of Thebes – as here the death of Androgeos happens before the turnaround of Theseus).
It is the death of Androgeos which marks the beginning of the weakening of the forces devoted to the evolution of the inner being. Indeed, Minos will successively subjugate Megara, then Athens, imposing on the latter a weakening of its forces (the toll of young men).
The name Megara can be understood as “right movement in the main orientations”. The city is then governed by a brother of Aegeus, Nisos “evolution of the personality”.
It is a town near Athens, its outpost. In other words, the growth of the inner being “relies” on “the evolution of the personality”. It already has a certain connection with the worlds of Truth, because Nisos has a purple strand of hair at the top of his skull. As long as the contact with the higher planes is maintained, “the evolving personality” permits a correct organization in its main orientations (the strand made Nisos invulnerable and guaranteed the safety of his city as long as he stayed there).
But this personality has highlighted the two opposing movements, one that breaks down and judges (Scylla “who tears”), the other who insists on a ‘harmonious organization of the whole’ (Eurynome).
(Scylla is a namesake of the monster that Jason and Odysseus will meet during their quests.)
So the war between Minos and Aegeus reflects an inner conflict. The separation force applies pressure on the consciousness of the seeker in order to impose itself in his “purification of the discerning intelligence” (Minos) as the only possibility of conflict resolution, negating the nascent intuition (Scylla fell in love with Minos and tears off the red hair strand of her father Nisos).
Again, after the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, the seeker gets caught in his own trap.
He loses his ability to perceive “the right broad directions” of his evolution (Minos makes Megara fall). He is, however, sufficiently aware at this point not to continue on the path of separation, even if it has temporarily given him an advantage (Minos is “disgusted” by the treachery of Scylla).
From the moment the seeker, already under the influence of the Labyrinth, separates himself from the process of incarnation (the death of Androgeos) he moves further away from the right path, helped in this by a force of separation, even if he denies it.
Then Minos attacked Athens which was ruled by Aegeus.
As this city resisted better than Megara, the war dragged on until, losing patience, Minos implored his father Zeus to intervene. The latter then sent a drought to Athens which resulted in a famine (according to some, he also sent a plague). The Athenians consulted the oracle of Delphi, who recommended that they meet the demands for compensation of Minos. He imposed a toll that had to be paid every year (or every nine years): Athens would send seven young boys and seven young girls to be offered to the Minotaur.
Not only the seeker is shut in a rigid mental structure, but he has also lost touch with reality (Androgeos) and intuitive abilities (the red hair strand of Nisos) allowing him, nevertheless, to remain faithful to the main orientations of his quest. However, even if he has momentarily failed, the seeker has refined his understanding of the path and undertaken some inner work (the other children of Minos).
It is the core of his quest which is affected in his evolutionary aspiration (Athens ruled by Aegeus “impetus for transformation”) by an insufficient purification of the intelligence which maintains the seeker further in his mistake (Minos, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth).
Even if Minos has deviated from the path, one should not forget that he is the son of Zeus, therefore a half-god. For Hesiod, Minos is, ‘the king of kings’ and for Homer “the friend of Zeus”.
Despite his many deviations, he is superior to Aegeus who is only a mere mortal. His legitimacy is evident in the orientation of the quest, though it has to go through the continuation of the mistake. Indeed, the purification of the intelligence by involvement in the world is unavoidable and a priority task on the path, even if the seeker is misled into dead ends, because he learns often much faster from his erroneous actions than from his virtuous one.
That is why Minos, despite his error in orientation, was supported by Zeus ‘the highest of the supraconscient’, when he asked compensation for the murder of his son Androgeos and wanted to ensure the submission of Athens. In response, the god imposed a famine over Athens: superior forces, paradoxically, oppose the will of discernment (Aegeus is married to Aethra “a higher enlightened mind”). In other words, the seeker delves even more in the illusion.
One could wonder why Zeus supports Minos; but in fact, the Absolute always allows mistakes to develop to the end. According to Sri Aurobindo, all forces of all planes are legitimized to pursue their line of action until the end.
It is always a first slippage on the path due to insincerity (lack of consecration, here of the bull by Minos) which results in a prolonged wandering. And this is true for everything: the very first moment of any movement contains the whole sequence. (This seems to be a process of a fractal type applied to time.) It is therefore at this moment, which can be very fleeting, that one has the possibility to make a choice and orient things differently. This is true for a disease, from the second it is perceived. This is true also for a romantic encounter, which will sometimes bind for several years before it can be resolved, because one has not paid attention or taken into account one’s inner feeling.
Once the process has begun, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to stop it. This is of even greater importance on the spiritual path. This is why Mother gave the following message:
“Those who want to help the Light of Truth to triumph over the forces of darkness and falsehood can do it by observing carefully the original source of their movements and actions in order to discern impulses from the Truth and those stemming from falsehood, and obey the first while refusing or reject the others. The possibility of this special discernment is one of the first effects of the appearance of the Light of Truth in the Earth’s atmosphere…” (Agenda, Book 6, February 24, 1965)
The perceptions coming from his inner light make him understand that he can only find a way out by sacrificing part of his emerging works and aims of his sâdhanâ. In other words, he must give up what appears in his eyes either as major aims of yoga, or as works to acquire virtues to raise a bulwark of purity (after consulting the Apollinian oracle of Delphi, Aegeus has to agree to meet Minos’ demands of compensation by annually sacrificing fourteen young people, seven from each gender).
The imposed rhythm and the number of years it lasted, variable according to the authors, suggests that one cannot know how long the seeker will remain locked in his Labyrinth: months, years, lives…
In fact, Theseus, the tenth King of Athens, son of Aegeus, has first to clear a number of illusions and errors in yoga before he can tackle the root of the problem, the Minotaur itself.
The feats of Theseus
As soon as he became strong enough, Theseus was led by his mother to the rock and took without difficulty sandals and sword. Then, according to the instructions left by Aegeus, he went to Athens over land that was swarming with robbers.
Troezen is a town on the coast south of the Argolis. There was a sea route to Athens. Plutarch adds that Theseus had been warned by his mother and grandfather of the presence of robbers on the land route, but he refused to take another one.
The etymology of the name Theseus is unknown. With the Greek letters, it would express a “turning inward” (perhaps the “human consciousness acting from inside”). For the authors who involve Poseidon in his conceiving, this movement is often subconscious at the beginning.
This hero therefore represents a new mode of action in the quest, a result of “the impetus to transformation” (Aegeus) directed towards “a clarification of the mind”(Aethra) obtained by the purification of the intelligence. Aethra is not the legitimate wife of Aegeus, and thus, as long as the tribute payment goes on, she is not the essential concern of the seeker in his quest (Aegeus is King of Athens, married to Chalciope “steely vision or word”, i.e. the “hardness” of one who cannot accept change, inflexibility).
A seed of “clarity” has thus been sown in the seeker despite his inflexibility. But there is no doubt that it is hard for him to admit that what he has spent a lot of time, money, and energy on, could have been an illusion where his past dreams took him. (In connection with his astrological moon’s south node.)
Initially, the work is done without the seeker being aware that it is part of the quest (Aegeus ignores the birth and growth of Theseus). It is only after a preliminary purification (the confrontations of Theseus with the brigands) performed outside of what he believes to be the laws of the path, and after the recognition that the work of “clarification of intelligence” constituted an essential first approach to the quest (the recognition of Theseus by his father Aegeus), that the Minotaur can be defeated.
When this new mode of consciousness becomes powerful enough, it automatically puts itself at the service of the quest (Theseus retrieves the sword and sandals of Aegeus and gets ready for Athens). However, the seeker cannot yet make the link with the quest for several reasons: Theseus ignores his filiation, Poseidon “the subconscious” was an actor of his conception, Nisos lost his purple hair and Athens pays a heavy price.
In other words, the seeker has lost his ability to evaluate what is most important for the quest.
At this point on the path, the seeker can only rely on his “mental clarity”. It is indeed his mother Aethra who conveys the wishes of his father.
It is this “mental clarity” associated with an inner contact that will allow him to carry out an important work of purification, illustrated by several confrontations with bandits. These preliminary cleanings are essential because the sources of impurity must be eliminated before the seeker can tackle what in fact is only a consequence, the Minotaur-Labyrinth.
This is what Sri Aurobindo considers as an essential task at the beginning of the path: the purification of the higher intellect (buddhi). He states that there are two essential sources of impurity: the consequences of an evolution in the separative ignorance (union of Typhon and Echidna) and the mixing of functions (for example, the vital troubling the intellect). It is this mixture which will be mostly discussed in the preliminary exploits of Theseus.
Indeed, insofar as we tackle the yoga by the spiritualization of the mind, the first task is to “purify the intelligence and will, at the level of the lower mind, of what limits them and conveys a wrong direction or movement”. (See Sri Aurobindo, the Purification of the lower Mind, Chapter VI of The Yoga of Self-Perfection.) This is why the bulk of this work will take place in the isthmus of Corinth, province of Sisyphus, the grandfather of Bellerophon, conqueror of the illusion.
The “bandits” illustrate subconscious processes in the “intermediate zone” implying that the seeker thinks he took the right approach. They illustrate the erroneous paths of yoga and experiences specific to each seeker, all of them having allowed the existence and development of the Minotaur.
If Theseus must reach Athens overland – yoga being usually a journey on sea – it is probably to express not only that the purification will be done partly in the body, but also outside the common paths of yoga and its laws.
When Theseus finally arrives in Athens, he finds King Aegeus united to Medea: it is thus confirmed that these feats prior to the victory over the Minotaur are performed after the quest for the Golden Fleece and the separation of Jason and Medea.
First feat: “the man with the iron club.
At Epidaurus, Theseus killed Periphetes, also called Korynetes “the man with the iron club. To compensate for the weakness of his legs, he carried an iron club which he used to kill travelers who passed by his home. When he was attacked by the brute, Theseus took his club – from which he could no longer be separated- and killed him.
This story does not appear in the oldest list of Theseus’ feats, those that we transmitted by Bacchylides at the 5th Century BC. It has therefore no direct relationship with the purification of the intelligence. It has probably been added as a sine qua non of any process of purification: the incarnation which implies confronting its conception of the path with the truth of the facts and acting accordingly (constant adjustment of the self to the non-self).
The “weak legs” reflect a lack of incarnation, a lack of rooting in reality, i.e., the impossibility of facing reality and acting accordingly.
The incarnation is a prerequisite for any purification process, because it implies a sincerity which obliges one to confront one’s actions and conception of the path to the truth of the facts and to act accordingly, by constant adjustment of the self to the non-self.
To compensate, the seeker destroys in him other possibilities of his nature seeking to manifest (killing the passersby) by adopting a form of yoga which establishes rigid frameworks and ways of action. He lacks flexibility and adaptability.
This first feat denounces the paths that compensate for their escape from reality by rigid and strict rules limiting the capacities of the seeker.
Sri Aurobindo strongly objected to this, stating that his yoga was not a spirituality which impoverishes and limits man, but one that develops his full potential. He took, as an example, the societies that saw the greatest development in art and knowledge and which were also the richest in the spiritual domain.
The name Periphetes is perhaps in relation to everything revolving around “spiritual intuitions” or “what is received from above”. Not being able to find the right application by lack of incarnation, they generate deviant processes.
Periphetes is often described as a son of Hephaestus and Anticlea, partial “spiritual form” seeking “fame in return” because what comes from above is combined with the aspirations and ambitions of the seeker.
Second feat: “the man who bends the pines.”
On the isthmus of Corinth, he killed Sinis nicknamed Pityocamptes “who bends pines”, a son of Poseidon (or Polypemon and Silea, the daughter of Corinthos) which obliged the travelers to keep the pines bent. Too weak to do so, they were thrown into the air and had a gruesome death.
For other authors, Sinis joined the travelers to bend the trees and suddenly released his grip. Alternatively, the travelers attached to two bent pines were torn apart when the ties that maintained the trees were suddenly cut. Theseus killed him in the same manner.
The isthmus of Corinth is linked to Sisyphus and thus to the intellect. Sinis, whose name means “devastating, felon” and also “evolution of the personality (Σ + Ν)”, represents the pursuit of an intellectual action whose motives are unconscious, because he is the son of Poseidon. His human parents are Polypemon “who is very harmful” and Silea “free thinking”.
To bend the pine is a constraining exercise over natural energy which produces an accumulation of force under pressure that the seeker cannot control due to lack of sufficient purification. It is its sudden release that causes the damage.
Note that the pine cone located at the top of the Caduceus is the symbol of occult knowledge. The mention of this specific tree in the myth could refer to occult practices.
More generally, this story applies to all constraints, generally supported by the intellect, that the seeker or some spiritual schools may exercise on the physical or vital nature under the guise of spiritual aims.
Asceticism should be based not on constraint but on mastery which establishes itself naturally when the seeker accesses to a higher plane and lives with the energies of this plane.
Third feat: the sow Phaia.
In Crommyon he killed the sow Phaia named after the old woman who raised her. According to some, she was issued from Echidna “the viper” and Typhoon “ignorance”.
Phaia means “obtained by mixing black and white”, and therefore gray. This meaning stems probably from the structuring letter (phi) Φ “penetration of consciousness into the lower planes”. The more light descends into the dense layers, the more it darkens. Phi also provided the roots, Φα, Φυ etc. “to shine, radiate” as a result of the penetration of consciousness.
Crommyon is a town of Megaride (between Corinth and Athens) which means “onion”, perhaps an indication of the ‘layers’ that the seeker must progressively purify.
The female wild boar, refers us to the other boars of the mythology: those of the Erymanthos mountains hunted by Heracles and especially the heroic epic of the Calydon boar hunt.
The sow Phaia indicates impurities issued from the “mixtures” inherited from evolution, in particular those due to energy erupting from the lower vital planes into the higher planes.
We are talking about very crude and archaic elements from the vital. This is why it is said that Phaia is daughter of a perverted evolution associated with ignorance (issued from Echidna “the viper” and Typhoon “ignorance”).
The old woman may symbolize a plane of the human archaic vital plane which was brought to a certain state of ‘radiation’ in a bygone humanity. (For example, lust as a result of drawing on the natural process of enjoyment.) This symbol, used here in its negative form, would mean that this mixture is the result of human evolution in a passive nature, i.e. subjected to the forces of nature.
This feat is located in the isthmus of Corinth, and therefore still in the land of the dominating intellect (Sisyphus), because one of the first requirements is to purify the intelligence of all movements of the lower vital.
According to Plutarch, the hero undertook this feat “in order not to always seem to act by necessity”; this is a graceful way of saying that the seeker took a certain pleasure.
This story criticizes the paths claiming, for example, that sexuality can be a path towards union with the Absolute. This problem is quite complex and much discussed. Sri Aurobindo asserts that it is a question of vibration. Sexuality may be compatible up to a certain point with the spiritual path, but there comes a time where certain vital vibrations become incompatible with the highest vibrations. On the other hand, the Mother added that sexuality must drop naturally when the time has come, when the seeker has no more animality in him; any coercion “in principle” is an absurdity.
Fourth feat: Sciron.
Before arriving in Megaride, Theseus met Sciron who was staying in front of the sea in a cluster of rocks that bore his name, ‘the “Scironian Rocks”‘. According to some, he was the son of Pelops or even Poseidon. He robbed the passers-by or forced them to wash his feet, and while they were doing so he pushed them from the top of the cliffs into the sea.
Theseus killed him.
This story also takes place in Corinth. The name of the bandit Sciron means “stone splinter” and with the letters “who perpetuates the shadow”. He embodies a deviation resulting from the “knots” of the seeker, “the heap of rocks”, and which drains his capacities or else makes him despise some parts of his nature which are then condemned to fade away. The knots are of course subconscious (he is the son of Poseidon).
False humility is to stoop before men, whereas it is necessary to raise the head and to bow it only in front of the Divine.
According to other sources, a giant crab finishes exterminating the passers-by and feeds on them: the crab is a symbol of the appropriation drive, which then transforms into greed.
This story might condemn the paths (and masters) which require that the followers give up all their wealth for human objectives and oblige them to humble themselves in front of the master.
Fifth feat: “Cercyon”.
In Eleusis in Attica, he opposed King Cercyon that forced travelers to fight with him and killed them. Theseus challenged him in combat and killed him by lifting him into the air and then throwing him on the ground.
(Cercyon is most commonly regarded as a son of Poseidon, sometimes also of Hephaestus.)
This confrontation took place at Eleusis, a city where a famous School of Mysteries existed that issued different degrees of initiation. “Cercyon” originally meant “stick” and probably refers to a symbolic fight where death was at stake. (Although the subject is controversial, it seems that in the Mystery Schools of ancient Egypt, the candidate for the initiation was locked inside a stone sarcophagus until he was convinced that he would never come out. And “accidents” probably occurred!)
The seeker is therefore obliged to get into a fight which will confront him with death, especially his own death, where the winner seems chosen in advance (the bandit here is the king).
Here also, the events will be directed by the subconscious (the king is son of Poseidon).
For this wrong movement to cease, the opponent must be separated from his base, his usual support and certainties (Theseus took the robber from the ground).
In this work the seeker has to radically question his beliefs about the right attitudes in yoga.
Thus, this story condemns the paths in which the disciples are constrained by fear; it states that they must confront them by giving up their usual support.
Sixth feat: “Procrustes”.
In Erineus, not far from Athens, Theseus met and killed a villain known as Procrustes, (or Damastes or Polypemon) who had his home “by the side” of the road. He had installed two beds, one short and the other long. He offered hospitality to travelers and made the small ones sleep in the big bed by hammering and stretching them to the dimension of the bed and the tall ones in the small bed by sawing off parts of their bodies.
The seeker has now almost arrived in Athens.
Procrustes is the one “who starts hitting” (Damastes “who submits by force”).
This story denounces the tendency that a well-meaning seeker can have, to engage in forms contrary to his nature, acting according to preconceived ideas on yoga. This attitude can distort or seriously mutilate some of his natural skills given to him for the yoga.
This story also means that the disciple must be guided according to his nature.
Theseus in Athens
Having cleared the road of brigands, Theseus arrived in Athens ruled by his father Aegeus who was then married to the magician Medea. After the murder of her children, she came to Athens on a chariot pulled by winged dragons (powerful evolutionary mental energies) provided by her grandfather Helios.
Remember that Medea “the purpose of the soul” is the granddaughter of Helios and the great granddaughter of Hyperion, therefore a distant expression of the illuminative power of the supermind.
She acted in such a way that Aegeus married her. Thus, the influence of the higher planes manifested during the conquest of the Golden Fleece still remains for some time.
Before defeating the Minotaur, there’s still a last hurdle: the recognition of Theseus by his father Aegeus, i.e. to integrate and understand that the ordeals were part of the yoga for the development of the inner being.
Arriving in Athens, Theseus found King Aegeus united to Medea who promised him that he would soon be father thanks to her drugs. Indeed, he could not have children with his first two wives, Meta and Chalciope, and he was unaware of the birth of Theseus conceived by Aethra some twenty years before, a conception in which Poseidon took part. Medea gave him a son, Medos (or Medeios).
When Theseus presented himself to the King the latter did not recognize him, but Medea saw who he was. As she feared that her own son Medos would not be able to access the throne, she denounced him to Aegeus by invoking a conspiracy. The King then sent Theseus to fight the Bull of Marathon, expecting that he would be killed by the beast. This Bull was the one which Pasiphae fell in love with and that Heracles had chased during his seventh labor.
During the chase, Theseus was hosted during a storm by an old woman named Hecale. Then he submitted the bull to his will (with the help of Athena, according to some ancient representations).
Then Medea wanted to poison him – he would be served a poison by his father. But Aegeus recognized at the last moment the sword worn by Theseus as being the one that he himself had hidden under a rock.
He then chased Medea and her son Medos out of the Kingdom. She returned to her native country of Colchis. There, Medos put his grandfather Aeetes, who had been dethroned by his brother Perses, back in power.
Theseus was then recognized as the heir to the throne.
This moment of the story marks the convergence of various developments.
– Returning from Colchis, Jason gave the kingdom of Thessaly to Acastos “sincerity”, son of Pelias: a first spiritual experience was followed by a commitment to a path of “sincerity”.
– Medea and Jason have plotted the death of Pelias: the seeker has found ‘his” master or “his” path.
– Daedalus built a palace for the Minotaur. Athens, defeated by Minos, must pay a toll: despite having found the path (or master), the seeker emphasizes the realizations (including those he thinks were put at the service of the Divine) before his “surrender” and has built a mental fortress to justify them.
– Without the seeker being able to link it to the quest, a vast enterprise of purification of intelligence continued, resulting in the cleaning of big illusions and errors from the path (the feats of Theseus).
The conditions are therefore met for the seeker to leave the intermediary zone (and the error of the Minotaur eradicated). But before that, Theseus must complete the work of purification.
Medea, then united to Aegeus, represents a higher power that is still present to prepare for the big confrontation. Her union with Aegeus indicates that there must have been a last attempt to achieve the purpose of the soul and not the personality – even if it is a little “enlightened”-, i.e. that the psychic being comes to the foreground.
Her role is now to test Theseus before he sails to Crete: the seeker must demonstrate his mastery during the descent of the higher forces. Thus Medea suggested to Aegeus (who had not yet recognized his son) to send him to fight the bull ravaging the plain of Marathon.
How she convinces Aegeus varies among authors, but this is only of secondary importance. So there is first an attempt to prove that “what directs the growth of the inner being” is not able to master the power of realization of the luminous mind (that Theseus would not be able to master the bull of Marathon).
On the way, Theseus was hosted by an old woman, Hecale, “who is peaceful, without fear”, which means that the seeker has found some peace. This state of relative abandonment to the Real is a condition indispensable for victory. This is why Theseus killed the bull, apparently without any difficulty, which proves that the seeker has renounced choosing by himself his future realizations.
The purpose of the soul then tries to convince the seeker to terminate his ego by an action of the ego itself, with the help of a highly spiritual method from the highest planes (Medea wanted to poison Theseus through his father). But this fails again, since the seeker understands at this moment that the tests endured were necessary for his evolution (Aegeus recognized his son Theseus).
The failure of this attempt ended the support given by the soul (or the highest supraconscient, Medea being a descendant of Hyperion “higher consciousness”) which was there since the meeting of Medea with Jason. The real purpose of the soul is then referred to the distant future, the seeker having still to perform a cleansing before this can happen. Indeed, he has to realize full transparency in order to be a perfect channel for the divine plan. This will be the subject of the hunting of the Wild Boar of Calydon, of the victory against the Sphinge and the Wars of Thebes, and then a first reversal with the Trojan War that marks the realization of complete liberation in the spirit before the return of Odysseus “who achieves transparency”.
Thus Medea went back to Colchis, to her father.
The return of Aeetes on the throne which had been usurped by his brother Perses indicates that the forces of the supermind predominate alternatively, according to the necessities of the path. The phase of purification of Theseus has therefore taken place under the influence of the transformative force, Perses.
The conditions are therefore met for the seeker to leave the intermediary zone (and the error of the Minotaur eradicated).
The death of the Minotaur
When the third tribute consisting of seven young men and seven young girls had to be sent to Crete, Theseus was among them. According to others, he volunteered, hoping to put an end to the tribute. He sailed on an Athenian ship and agreed with his father that, on his return, white sails would be deployed if he is victorious and black sails if he has been killed by the Minotaur.
In a variant that seems quite ancient, Minos and Theseus undertook together the journey by sea to Athens. This version assumes that Minos had come to receive the tribute in Crete and had demanded that Theseus, then son of Poseidon, was included. During the crossing, Minos proved incapable of self‑control and took hold of one of the girls, Eriboia. Furious, Theseus confronted him by boasting of his divine origins since he was the son of Poseidon. Minos, himself of divine origin, prayed to his father Zeus to send him a lightning flash to confirm his parentage and challenged Theseus to prove his. For that, he threw a ring overboard and asked Theseus to retrieve it. Having jumped into the sea, Theseus was led by the dolphins to the bottom of the ocean to the Kingdom of Poseidon and his wife Amphitrite where he recovered the ring. Bacchylides adds that he was able to see the dancing Nereids and that Amphitrite gave him a shining purple garment and a crown of dark roses, a former gift of Aphrodite ‘”clever”.
The mentioning of the third tribute implies that several symbolic years were needed for the preliminary purification and perhaps also that several occasions already arose to get out of the Labyrinth. In the terminology of Sri Aurobindo, this corresponds to a long wandering in the intermediate zone which diverts and weakens the quest.
In this version, it is Minos himself who comes to receive the tribute and chooses Theseus: it is therefore the purification of the intelligence which has the intuition of the opportune moment to put an end to the Minotaur. But the seeker is still very imperfect, working primarily on the plane of mental consciousness. He lacks control and seeks to appropriate by force “a powerful illumination” or “a very just movement” (he abuses Eriboia).
The conflict between Minos and Theseus, as well as the ring episode establish on an equal footing the work of purification of the discerning intelligence (issued from the highest consciousness because Minos is son of Zeus) through involvement in the world and the one of the personality who works from the inside for this same purification (and which has started subconsciously, because Theseus is son of Poseidon).
It is indeed necessary to keep in mind that Europa and Cadmus are brother and sister and that they work by involvement in the world of which Thebes is the symbol.
The two heroes mutually recognize their divine ancestry: the seeker becomes aware that the two work methods are equally important. In other words, consciousness turned inwards (Theseus) is just as essential as the one that works for discernment (Minos) through involvement in the world.
Each demonstrates that his familiarity with an area allows him to work positively for its complement.
It is the familiarity of Theseus with the depths of the being which enables him to work at the clarification of the intelligence (the hero is welcomed by the dolphins and the gods of this kingdom).
And it is the familiarity of Minos with the heights of the spirit which enables him to make a fair judgment in the incarnation.
The work of one without the other inevitably leads to spiritual wandering.
When Theseus descends into the depths, he can watch the Nereids dance: the seeker is able to perceive already at this stage the primordial forces working at the deepest level of his nature and does not hide from himself anymore the reality of these movements.
In addition, two gifts are offered to him that he can bring to the surface and therefore raise the awareness: with the crimson coat he receives the sign of his highest position or his ‘place’ in the manifestation, and with the crown of “dark” roses, he receives the sign of an opening to true love still mixed with darkness. These roses that had been offered by Aphrodite “clever” to Amphitrite, illustrate the detours that Love makes to emerge gradually into the human consciousness.
When Theseus arrived in Crete, Ariadne, a daughter of Minos and Pasiphae, fell in love with the hero and pledged to help him in exchange for a marriage promise. She asked Daedalus the way out of the Labyrinth. The famous architect told her: Theseus has to unwind behind him a ball of thread that would allow him to find his way back in rewinding the thread. Theseus, through this scheme, entered the Labyrinth, slew the monster, and then came out of the Labyrinth safely. (We adopt here the widely accepted version and consider with Pherecydes that Ariadne received from Dionysus the luminous crown sometimes mentioned instead of the thread, only after having been abandoned by Theseus on the island of Dia.)
By her father, Minos, Ariadne is a granddaughter of Europa and Zeus, and by his mother Pasiphae “the one which shines for all”, a granddaughter of the sun Helios. She is, therefore, on the path of purification, a synthesis of a “wide vision” or a “vast balance” (Europa) which leads to the “purification of the discerning intelligence” in the incarnation (Minos) and of an influence from the plane of truth. She is very beautiful therefore very real.
She shines a ‘”pure” light without interference, unlike her father Minos. It is this “discerning light” which will allow Theseus to enter the Labyrinth built by Daedalus to put an end to the hemorrhaging of the energy which should be devoted to the quest (the tribute offered to the Minotaur) and then to find the exit.
His name in Greek means “a right movement of consciousness evolving towards union with Reality”.
Ariadne fell in love with Theseus: for the seeker the “discerning light” presents itself as the only valid aim of the inner movement. Applied to the part of the seeker who built the mental “prison-palace”, she gives the keys to reach the center of this Labyrinth without getting lost, in order to become aware of its real nature by outwitting its complexity. She gets from clever intellect what is needed to outsmart the imprisonment that he himself has constructed (Ariadne interrogated Daedalus and gave the thread to Theseus).
The seeker is then able to put an end to the misuse of spiritual energy which has been put into the service of the ego in one way or another: Theseus kills the Minotaur.
Theseus killing the Minotaur – Louvre Museum
As the fight itself is not of great importance in the myth, we understand that the essential work is the preliminary purification (the feats of Theseus on the way to Athens).
On some pottery, Theseus is shown capturing the Minotaur and taking him out of the Labyrinth before killing him: this would indicate that the seeker can be aware of the root cause of the deviance and correct it only after having isolated it from his mental constructs.
After the death of the Minotaur, Minos locked up Daedalus “mental ability” with his son in the Labyrinth and thus ended his influence.
The myths do not specify what happened finally to this construction. One can assume that deprived of any life-support, it was no more than an empty shell which gradually lost its importance.
As usual in myths, the end of the story is of less importance and therefore subject to many variations.
According to Pherecydes, on the way back, following the order of Athena, Theseus abandoned Ariadne during a stopover on the island of Naxos (sometimes named Dia). Aphrodite then announced to Ariadne that she would become the bride of Dionysus, which happened shortly after the god arrived on the island and gave her a golden crown as a present.
According to Hesiod, Zeus made her immortal, protecting her also from old age.
Finally, according to Homer, Ariadne was killed by Artemis in the island of Dia, Dionysos testifying to the betrayal of Theseus.
In one way or another, these stories show that the seeker at this stage is far from having acquired an in-depth “discerning light” (Minos, Ariadne’s father, has made many mistakes in this domain).
If Homer made Ariadne perish under the arrows of Artemis, it is to signify the end of the “right movement of consciousness towards union” after the death of the Minotaur. The seeker must continue his purification. The Catalogue of Women confirms this interpretation by adding that Theseus had betrayed the oath to Ariadne because he had fallen in love with another woman (Aegle ”brightness, daughter of Panopeus ”extended vision”) of which Dionysos was a witness.
The seeker therefore prefers to pursue a “brightness” (perhaps even a certain “celebrity”) gained by the widening of “vision” rather than his path of union in consciousness.
In any event, and as explained in the other versions, this aid of the higher plans (Ariadne) cannot remain “close” to the seeker (Theseus). This is why Athena forced Theseus to leave her on the island of Dia “union in consciousness”.
Symbol of the “right movement of consciousness evolving towards unity”, Ariadne is the natural partner of Dionysus who embodies the path of the mystic ecstasy. The god makes her his wife and grants her non-duality and adaptation to the movement of becoming (immortality and eternal youth). Indeed, she was only partially divine, being daughter of a mortal (Minos).
(In some traditions, she has no divine parents at all, being the daughter of Minos and Crete.)
When he was about to land, Theseus forgot to hoist the white sails. His father, seeing the black sails, threw himself from the top of the Acropolis from where he watched his son’s return and died.
As with the case of the preliminary purifications, what motivated the last ones will ignore until the end how the fight against confinement in mental structures has been led. (Indeed Aegeus, who lost the support of Medea, believes that Theseus lost his battle with the Minotaur).
When the time comes to put a final end to what the seeker pursued body and soul, he can think for a short period that his quest has failed (Aegeus throws himself from the top of the Acropolis) while a part of himself won.
We will examine in a later chapter the end of the life of Theseus and his lineage. However, we can note certain actions of Theseus upon accession to the throne which quite clearly describe the state of the seeker at that time of the quest, although these facts are reported only by historians.
Returning from Crete, Theseus succeeded his father on the throne soon after his arrival in Athens. Then he put under the authority of one single city the residents of Attica so that there was only one people of the same State, bringing together twelve communities (he realised “synoecism”). He promised a democracy which would reduce his powers to those of chief of war and guardian of the laws.
Now, the parts of the self which want to make contact with the psychic being and bring it to the foreground – those which correspond to the symbolic tribes of Attica – collaborate in a more systematic and harmonized manner in the same direction. They work under the guidance of an inner contact capable of maintaining the framework of the quest and stimulating the energy required for further purification. This contact will now be only an organ of supervision of the various labors of yoga and no longer the almost sole engine of the purification process (Theseus promised a democracy in which he would reduce his powers to those of chief of war and guardian of the laws.)
Upon accession to the throne, Theseus confronted his uncle Pallas and his fifty sons and killed them.
Some authors situate this episode before the departure of the hero to Crete, others on his return, at the time of his accession to the throne. (We rule out the version of Euripides that puts the event much later, during the wedding of Theseus and Phaedra).
We saw that Pallas represented a state of equilibrium, “what is or should be established”.
Regardless of the time of the battle, the death of Pallas and his fifty sons indicates the need for the seeker to reverse an established form of equilibrium (fifty sons) which he achieved at the time of the Minotaur.
Daedalus and Icarus
We left Daedalus while he was helping Ariadne to assist the orientation of Theseus in the Labyrinth.
The history of his exile out of Crete varies according to the sources and we will focus on the most common one, which occurs by air, even if no ancient source can confirm it. (In other versions, the flight from Crete took place by sea.)
Minos confined Daedalus in the Labyrinth with his son Icarus that he got from a slave of Minos, Naucrate.
Daedalus made wings with feathers and wax for himself and his son. Before the latter took off, he warned him not to fly too high out of fear that the wax would melt under the effect of the sun, and not to fly too close to the surface of the sea to avoid the feathers falling out (or the increase of the wings weight) with the humidity.
Icarus did not heed this advice and in his excitement rose straight towards the sun. The wax melted, the feathers fell out and he was killed by falling into the sea. After the burial of his son, Daedalus went to Sicily and found refuge with King Cocalos.
Minos ‘”he purification of discerning intelligence” had a slave named Naucrate “who dominates on sea” (self-control). Here the sea (nau) is not a symbol of the vital, but of sailing, i.e. the evolutionary process of the quest.
Another interpretation would be based on Naucrate as a “vital power” or “power over the vital”. However, usually the term used for the vital force is hippo (hippodamia is she who tames the vital) and not nau which is a term rather reserved for boats and sailing. The latter is associated with the movement of the quest, Jason and Odysseus being great sailors.
Daedalus took Naucrate as his wife. By this alliance, “skill” puts himself at the exclusive service of self-control which was contained until then by the work of purification (Naucrate was a slave of Minos).
The result is Icarus, “a purely mental consciousness” in which the seeker is master of himself, but without having sacrificed the ego.
Apollodorus suggests that Minos was furious with Daedalus, not because he had built the wooden cow at the request of Pasiphae, but because he helped Theseus and Ariadne to flee. Daedalus, the most developed “skillful intelligence”, despite putting himself at the service of the quest, can sometimes act against it. This sophisticated, logical mind is a double-edged sword, neutral by itself, whose orientation depends solely on the hand using it. When it is put at the service of a non-dedicated power or when the ego puts it at the forefront, any misguidance becomes possible. The more this tool is perfected, the more consecration is necessary because the light of the intellect can extinguish the Spirit.
This is why Daedalus “skill in work” appears in a subaltern branch of the Athenian kings’ lineage. This skill which generates paths of yoga having the appearance of truth (robots) and the mental self-justification (Labyrinth) to organize the quest contributes in good faith to the continuation of the worst misguidance (the Minotaur). But it can also contribute to thwart what it has itself developed because it is always eager to solve a problem (Daedalus showed Ariadne how to escape from the Labyrinth).
We have seen that while leaving Crete, Theseus promised Ariadne to marry her upon arrival in Athens. This reorientation of the quest is supported by what organizes it mentally (Daedalus facilitated the flight of Theseus and Ariadne).
This change of direction corresponds to the exit from the “intermediate zone” and the beginning of another stage in the quest, the crossing of a “gate” symbolized by Pulia, wife of the eighth King of Athens, Pandion II.
Now the intellect should be used correctly in the quest, like an implementation tool of what is perceived by intuition.
However, before it can completely fulfill its role, it must also give up any claim to reach by its own force the realms of the Spirit. This is the story told by the myth of Icarus.
Thus, the work of “exactitude” renounces to rely on the intellect: Minos confines Daedalus and his son in the Labyrinth which no longer serves any purpose since the death of the Minotaur. “Mental skill” develops means to escape its own constructions in order to achieve a higher synthesis. But, as the mind cannot rise above itself by its own strength, it needs devices.
From then on, the destinies of the father and the son follow different tracks. The logical mind that has found its right place (Daedalus) will continue unharmed, because the intellect which was developed by Nature to be a mind of execution is not meant to disappear, even if he must give up his reign supreme.
On the other hand, the intellect which has contributed to perfect self-mastery (Icarus) and which pretends to climb the heights of the spirit by using devices (the wings as a symbol of an artificially developed mind) will be destroyed, even though he was warned before-hand of the dangers involved. If he is sincere, the seeker is warned: if he tries to raise himself too much by using the intellect, if he tries to approach too closely the vital, his “devices” will withstand neither the fire of Truth (the fire of the sun Helios), nor dissolution or the mixing with the vital. (In the version of Diodorus, only the ascent of Icarus is mentioned, Daedalus keeping himself near the surface of the water to maintain the proper level of humidity for his wings.)
Thus the limits of “mental skill” are shown: it cannot conduct the in-depth purification of the vital nor reach the heights of the spirit. The myths do not specify what finally happened to the labyrinth which was now only a hollow shell.
After burying his son, Daedalus took refuge in Sicily at Camicos with king Cocalos.
Indeed, Minos had not ceased to pursue him after he fled from Crete. In all the countries where he was looking for Daedalus, Minos brought a spiral shaped shell, promising a handsome reward to anyone able to pass a thread through it, knowing that only Daedalus could find a way. Indeed, Daedalus succeeded by drilling a hole and introducing an ant attached to a wire.
Minos had no time for revenge because he died, scalded by the daughters of Cocalos (most probably with pitch).
Since then, Minos is the senior judge in Hades’ kingdom along with his brother Rhadamanthe.
Daedalus remained in Sicily.
The end of the life of the great heroes is most often ignored in the stories of the initiates. The available sources are from a later period.
Here, the end of Minos shows a process by which the “purification of the discerning intelligence” puts the logical mind in front of an apparent impossibility and obliges it to reveal itself so that the seeker is no longer subjected to it. When the “skillful mind” is put in its rightful place, the higher balance (or discernment) is achieved: Minos can die. But the search for balance, consecration and discernment continues in the corporal unconscious, in the kingdom of Hades where Minos is one of the judges.
This seems to be confirmed if one considers the Greek letters of the name Cocalos which means “who calls for the opening of consciousness in matter”. His daughters will then help to define the objectives of “discerning intelligence” in the body, i.e. the transformation of the “cellular mind”.
The children of Minos
Except for the Minotaur that very few authors put in the lineage of Minos, all the other children of this son of Zeus are the expression of a balanced expanded consciousness or an evolution of the discerning intelligence (Minos, son of Europa) to bring the light of Truth in the whole being (Pasiphae).
– In addition to Androgeos that we have already met, symbol of the fair process of incarnation – i.e. the alignment of all planes of being so that they work in the same direction – the following are mentioned:
– Catreus, eldest son of Minos and successor to the throne. He has some importance insofar as his daughter is the mother of Agamemnon and Menelaus. He represents what works for a fair and balanced opening in the spirit.
– Deucalion “who calls the union” (who should not be confused with his namesake, son of Prometheus), father of the hero Idomeneus.
‘Shining’ Glaucus who should also be distinguished from the son of Sisyphus of the same name.
– Ariadne “the right movement of consciousness towards union, the return to the Real” who helped Theseus in the Labyrinth.
– Phaedra “luminous, clear, pure” who was the wife of Theseus after his victory over the Minotaur and marks the end of the first affair of the hero with an Amazon. We’ll discuss his story in another chapter. Her status as daughter of Minos is not established prior to the Tragics.
– To this list some add Acacallis, Xenodike and Euryale, mother of Orion according to Hesiod. (Pindar also mentions Euxanthios, a son of Dexithea.)
Catreus, successor to Minos on the throne and last king of Crete
Catreus, eldest son of Minos, succeeded him on the throne of Crete. His name contains partly the same group of Greek letters ‘ΤΡ’ than Atreus and Tros, the founders of two lineages opposed to Troy. Decrypted on this basis, his name means “an opening of consciousness to a correct functioning on the higher planes”. (Which is consistent with the symbolism of Crete decrypted in the same way: ΚΡ + Τ “right movement for the opening of the consciousness on the higher planes”.)
Catreus had four children, a son, Althaimenes “who makes the soul grow” and three daughters, Apemosyne “who is without suffering”, Aerope “a mental vision” and Clymene “famous”.
Althaimenes, accompanied by his sister Apemosyne, fled from Crete to Rhodes because an oracle warned Catreus that one of his children would kill him.
In Rhodes, the god Hermes fell in love with Apemosyne but could not catch her in a race. So he had recourse to a trick to satiate his passion. Apemosyne relates the episode to his brother who refuses to believe her, suspecting she had an affair with a mortal. He hit her so violently that she died.
Some time later, Catreus, old and anxious to continue the royal lineage, landed in Rhodes to find his estranged son. Believing they were pirates, his son killed him without recognizing him and then dies from grief.
The period following the death of Minos implies that the seeker had since long left the “intermediate zone”, that he achieved a correct psychic discernment. As a result, the seeking of a wide opening or vision which marks the progression in the higher mind (Europa) is almost coming to an end: Catreus is one of the last kings of Crete and his children Althaimenes “who makes the soul grow” and his sister Apemosyne “who is without suffering” (who has gone beyond the stage of psychological suffering) emigrated to Rhodes “the rose”, symbol of the earth where the psychic being develops.
The seeker, confused, feels a change (Because an oracle predicted to Castreus that one of his children would kill him).On the other hand, he is working for the realization of a state “without psychological suffering”, sign of a detachment which is one of the characteristics of the overmind. (This is why Hermes fell in love with Apemosyne and chased her).
However, the seeker is relatively incredulous regarding the nature of his realization. (Althaimenes refuses to believe his sister when she announces her affair with Hermes). The work of identification with psychological suffering ends here (by the death of Apemosyne).
After Althaimenes and his sister Apemosyne left for Rhodes, and therefore long before going himself to Rhodes, Catreus feared that the oracle announcing his death will be fulfilled at the hand of one of his other two daughters, Aerope or Clymene. So he entrusted them to a sailor, Nauplios, to be sold abroad. But the latter offered Aerope as wife to Atreus, king of Mycenae (or to his brother Plisthenes) and kept Clymene for himself. Aerope was the mother of Agamemnon and Menelaus; Clymene of Palamedes, Oeax and Nausimedon.
Nauplios “who skillfully navigates on the road” gave Aerope “superior (mental) vision” as wife to Atreus, father of Agamemnon and Menelaus. Among some authors, Aerope was given in marriage to Plisthenes “who is full of force”, brother or son of Atreus. In the first case, this adds a generation between Atreus and the two great heroes. In the second, they do not appear in the lineage of the Atrides, which contradicts the Homeric version. In any cases, Aerope is their mother.
This story makes the transition between the period of work on discernment and the major internal conflict that will ensue with the Trojan War, because the marriage happened one generation before.
Nauplios was careful not to sell Clymene “famous” but married her: indeed, “skill on the spiritual journey” wants to convey his achievements.
Clymene gave Nauplios several children.
Oiax symbolizes one who is working for the realization of a same level of consciousness in all the planes, from spirit to matter (Ι + Ξ)
Nausimedon “the master of navigation” is directing his path.
Palamedes “the architect of the union” was an ingenious inventor, in particular for weights and measures: the seeker has a good assessment of what is right. He was also involved in the design of the Greek alphabet and sometimes in the invention of numbers (he has the key to the symbols). We will find him again in the Trojan war.
Deucalion and his son Idomeneus
Deucalion, second son of Minos, succeeded his brother Catreus on the throne of Crete when the latter was killed accidentally by his son. He re-established good relations with Athens by offering his sister Phaedra as wife to Theseus.
He had a son Idomeneus, who is generally regarded as the last descendant of Europa to rule Crete. In his old age, he fought at Troy, taking with him a contingent of Cretans. Renowned as one of the most valiant warriors, he offered to fight Hector in single combat. He returned to Crete unharmed.
Deucalion (a word of uncertain origin which perhaps means “one who calls the greater union”) was the successor of Catreus “opening of consciousness to a right development on the higher planes” on the throne of Crete. In association with his namesake who suffered the flood, he represents in any case a transition to another phase of the quest.
After coming out of the intermediate zone (the victory of Theseus over the Minotaur), it is possible to resume the spiritual progression in the right way, which is expressed by the restoration of good relations between Athens and Crete. The alliance was sealed by the union of Theseus and Phaedra “pure, brilliant”, expression of a brilliant discernment that reorients the quest towards a new stage.
The son of Deucalion, Idomeneus “who desires the union” was the last descendant of Europa to rule Crete. He is the symbol of the discerning intelligence developed to the highest point and which marks the end of the crossing of the higher mind. This is why he was one of the most valiant warriors of Troy who offered to fight Hector in single combat.
Glaucos was the last born of Minos’ children. In his early childhood, he fell into a jar of honey and drowned. His father Minos having looked for him everywhere resorted to the savviest diviners. The Curetes (or Apollo according to others) said that Glaucus would be found by the man who could give the best image to describe a three-colored cow that was in his herds. The diviners were summoned and Polyeidos, a “seer” descendant of Melampus, provided the image of the blackberry. Forced to look for the child, he found him through a divinatory method (according to some, when he saw an owl hunt birds gathering over the jar). Minos demanded then that the diviner be locked up with the corpse of his son until the latter comes back to life. Polyeidos, seeing a snake approaching the body feared for himself and killed it. Then another snake appeared. Applying a particular herb on the body of his dead companion, it brought him back to life. Polyeidos, understanding the symbol, did the same with the body of Glaucus and resuscitated him.
Yet, Minos demanded that the seer teach his art to his son. Under duress, the seer was forced to comply but did it in such way that Glaucus forgets his teachings once he leaves.
This story refers to the “clarity” of discernment which, when the seeker enters the intermediate zone, soon “drowns” in the “psychic experiences”. It also offers ways to find this clarity.
At this stage on the path, the ability to discern clearly the nature and origin of the influences of the higher planes or the psychic (honey) is still little developed (Glaucus, one who is “bright, shining” is still very young). The seeker gets lost in them (cf. above is the description of the intermediate zone). It is this “drowning” which brings about the deviation of the Minotaur.
In the seeker, the «evolving discernment” then mobilizes all the intuitive capacities, especially those which work by analogy and can grasp the nature of illuminative experiences (the multi-colored cow).
Among all the intuitive capacities, it is the one that comes close to the “vision” that can discern correctly (Polyeidos “who has many visions”). Two diviners, Polyidos “who has many experiences of union” and Polyeidos “who has many visions”, seem to have been mixed up. Some authors make the latter a descendant of Melampus, emphasizing his capacity coming from the spirit.
He explains by the image of the blackberry (which turns from white to red and then black) that spiritual experiences require a time of maturation before they can be used profitably.
The process of divination to rediscover the path of clear discernment is described by some authors. The observation is first made of the tendency of the mind wanting to use these psychic experiences (the birds gathered above the jar of honey). But the witness consciousness which sees in the dark (the owl, bird of Athena) watches and takes the thoughts away. By observing all of the mental processes involved, intuition is then able to return to the path of clear discernment.
But “discernment” wants not only to understand how its “clarity” could disappear but also find her again: Minos wants Polyeidos to resurrect Glaucus.
As a first step, the intuitive capacities are afraid to disappear if natural evolution takes over (the diviner is afraid to die if he pities the snake): the seeker lacks in faith. But as he perceives intuitively that this is the evolutionary movement itself that repairs by the powers of nature (grass) the accidents of the passed evolution, discernment can regain its “clarity”. It is a kind of “resilience” that requires commitment to an evolutionary and transformative process.
Finally, Minos wants his son educated by the diviner: the purification of the discerning intelligence, which is still subjected to the ego, wants its “clarity” to benefit systematically from the faculties of “vision”. But this, nature finally does not grant. Even if the clarity of discernment is maintained, the intuitive capacities of vision withdraw in the background because the seeker must not always know thanks to them the specifics of the evolutionary process.
Her name seems to mean “an opening of consciousness to beauty (and therefore to the truth)”. With Apollo, she begat Naxos, “evolution of the mind-matter identity” and with Hermes, Kydon “reputation”, expression of the overmind working for the Truth.
These unions with gods indicate advanced states of the quest.
This daughter of Minos has no legend of her own. The name Xenodike “a strange way to act” could indicate that the seeker is no more bound to the common behavior rules, in particular morality, but to a law of a higher order.
Ariadne and Phaedra
The myth of Ariadne has been studied previously. That of Phaedra will be examined in a later chapter with the end of the life of Theseus.