INTRODUCTION TO THE INTERPRETATION OF GREEK MYTHS

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What is necessary is that there should be a turn in humanity felt by some or many towards the vision of this change, a feeling of its imperative need, the sense of its possibility, the will to make it possible in themselves and to find the way.

Sri Aurobindo

The Life Divine. The complete works of Sri Aurobindo Ch. XXVIII p1097

PROLOGUE

This work, the decoding of Greek myths, does not claim to be free from error, nor to have discovered all the keys needed to understand the myths. Often, intuition has opened ways leading to a wider understanding, progressing through a spiral approach which obliges one to return repeatedly to previous hypotheses.

It would be impossible to interpret the multiple versions of all the myths and their many characters; that would take dozens of volumes. Therefore this work endeavours only to bring forward the main structure and meaning of the most important myths. The decoding method given in the first chapter allows the reader to deepen the study at his own pace.

A substantial part of the interpretation rests on decoding the symbolism of proper names. It is thus evident that working three thousand years after these accounts were recorded, one must proceed with caution. Details of the decoding of these proper names are given in an annex at the end of this work.

In the course of this study we will see that the different variables and lines of genealogical descent were introduced to remove ambiguity, cut out disagreement between the different schools of initiation, enrich the knowledge of the path, or to ward off a progressive loss of meaning. Often, the most significant variable, and the only one that has been retained, is the one that is most coherent with the corresponding stage on the spiritual path.

Within the framework of this work the stories cannot always be told in their entirety. The lists of characters which describe a totality of “conditions” necessary for certain spiritual experiences, have been particularly abridged.
Certain details are mentioned only in the interpretation which follows the narration of the myths. In a more general way, preference is always given to the version which seems to be the closest to the original oral version, even if it was transcribed much later on.

This first volume mainly provides the necessary bases for the decoding process. The following volumes set out theoretical teachings and descriptions of experiences which mark the path, in accordance with to the two great directions discussed later: a progression through the mind and the path of purification/liberation.

During the decoding process, it became apparent that the knowledge hidden in the myths was rapidly lost, probably already partly so at the time of the great tragedians. Although sometimes the only surviving sources, the texts of Aeschylus and Euripides are to be considered with precaution for primitive myths were often distorted. To substantiate their dramaturgy these authors not only lowered the stakes of the great myths to the level of our human understanding but also added variations that have little relation to the deeper meaning of these stories. For the sake of play, out of a need for secrecy or to give their theatrical works the value of moral edification, certain stories would be presented as the opposite of what the initiates were supposed to understand through them.
Aeschylus for instance glorified the defenders of Thebes because it was a criminal offence to turn against one’s own city. But the seeker must understand that it is the attackers who are in the right, for the myth is about the purification of the energy centres in the body.

It would probably be more fitting to use a word such as “traveller” or “aspirant” instead of “seeker”, as this is not so much a mental quest as an aspiration of the entire being for another way of being, for another kind of humanity. In this study however we have kept the term established by tradition

The texts of historians or mythographers must likewise pass under the scrutiny of intuition and experience. The Library of Apollodorus, dated from the 1st or 2nd century AD, generally remains the most complete and reliable source for numerous myths.

Let us also note that of the two great forerunners, Hesiod was the more theoretical and Homer the more pragmatic. Attributed to Hesiod, the Catalogue of Women is a collection of fragments to which we have given major importance. It is an epic poem dating from the VII th century BC, also known as Ehoiai.

This study barely takes Latin mythology into account. At its beginnings in fact, the Roman world rejected the occult forms of the sacred, and it was only later, in view of establishing the divine rights of emperors, that they took on the mythological traditions of conquered territories, in particular those of Greece.
Virgil is among the most celebrated of Latin poets. He associated the Aeneid with Greek mythology in a way that suggests that he was hardly aware of its general meaning.
By the symbolic precision of the accounts in his Metamorphoses, which contains Greek myths almost exclusively, Ovid appears to have been even better initiated into their meaning.

Two contemporary works which have provided us with valuable assistance should also be noted: that of Timothy Gantz, Early Greek Myths, and for the different genealogical lineages that of Carlos Parada, Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology.

With regard to the spelling of proper names, this work uses the version that seems the most appropriate: either the form made known by the Latin or French tragedians (for instance Ulysses, whose exact name is Odysseus in Homer’s text, or Pollux, initially known as Poludeukes), or the name in English form, or the transliterated form. The last two are closest to the Greek form, which facilitates an interpretation based on character structure.

Finally, it must be noted that in this work the word “god” is reserved for the mythological gods, that is to say forces that work on the development of human consciousness.
Whichever name is given to the Absolute, and for the sake of avoiding the inevitable associations that come with the word God, it seems preferable to use other terms such as Reality, Real, One, Divine, Truth and Supreme.
This Absolute must in fact not be associated with the God of religions, for it cannot be limited to a single truth or to a God outside his own creation that is a concept stemming from an omnipresent duality. In this work, the word Absolute refers to a state of being, a perfection that humanity has tended towards throughout the ages. The idea is brought forward that each can touch upon the Supreme Consciousness of Truth, which we must learn to know and to become. When asked the question “What is the Divine”, Mother replied, while pointing out that there could be a hundred different answers:
The Divine can be lived, but not defined.
The Divine is an absolute of perfection, eternal source of all that exists, whom we grow progressively conscious of, while being Him from all eternity.” Mother’s Agenda Vol 8, 24 May 1967

INTRODUCTION

In this world, many feel suffocated or unable to feel anything “real” and therefore aspire deep within themselves for a powerful change. More numerous still are those who feel that humanity is in a dead-end, and, suffering, vaguely perceive that the solution can no longer be external.
Conscious of their powerlessness and disengaged from all political, philosophical or religious “isms “, leaving behind humanitarian and revolutionary temptations, and sometimes destroyed in body and soul, some leave external paths to undertake the inner adventure.
They then go in search of a guide or a path to gain understanding and attempt to transform themselves, so as to attain an ideal that they have constructed. In accordance with his nature and the “synchronicities” of life, each tends towards one path or another, often wandering a long time before “recognizing” his own through some mysterious adequacy.

Nevertheless, one who no longer wishes to be limited by a partial vision resulting from a particular experience, who aspires to a wider and higher synthesis, will find himself faced with innumerable religions, with the wisdom of the East and the West, with false or true gurus and the genuine or sham “awakened”, “enlightened” or “liberated” ones. Each of them proposes a path or else claims that none exists. Some follow the path of “forces”, while others avoid them at all costs. Some only swear by the rising of the “Kundalini”, while others caution against it. Some reject the mind, while others demand its full maturity. Many paths herald salvation only at the heights of the spirit world, beyond this world or after death, while other increasingly numerous teachings aspire for an in-depth human transformation reoriented towards the body, to the point of envisioning a mutation of “cellular consciousness” as the only possibility for the survival of humanity.
The seeker must soon acknowledge that if all true enlightened individuals approach the same Reality, often through similar experiences, then each in his own way and according to his own type is bound to express and transmits a teaching that is true to himself.
He must understand that a variety of paths is necessary, even though many still have to evolve to once and for all abandon all pretension of holding the sole “truth”. It seems obvious that each one must ultimately follow his own path of evolution.
The seeker must also be aware that the specific experience of Reality lived and transmitted by a master is quickly distorted and codified by his disciples and so loses the breath that animates it and rapidly becomes dead knowledge, or, if it is imprisoned in the shackles of religious dogma rather than being alive and always fluctuating as it was meant to be, it becomes a truth emptied of its substance.

Recognising as a common denominator that these paths aim solely at accelerating or perfecting the evolutionary movement – whether it is for personal, collective or divine ends as high as they may be – we can ask ourselves whether it is possible to conceive of a vast synthesis and to find the common orientations which would shed light on the paths of those who aspire for “something else”. This may shed light on the wider path of humanity as well.

Following the initiates of ancient Egypt and the Rishis of the Vedic period, the masters of wisdom of ancient Greece undertook this task. Rather than creating an inventory of spiritual paths and teachings, which would have been an impossible challenge even in antiquity, theirs was to be a vision of the human adventure identifying the major stages of its evolution and marking the obstacles which punctuate its progress.
This work therefore seeks to demonstrate that Greek mythology is, in its essence, an attempt to achieve such a synthesis.

For a variety of reasons which we will examine later, the initiates of ancient times were obliged to encrypt their knowledge in the form of mythology so that it would be accessible only to initiates who possessed the appropriate keys to understanding them. This study would have no foundation if it did not begin by making explicit the keys to understanding that will be used in this interpretation.

In the case of the early Greek poets, this synthesis was not the result of intellectual speculation but rather the fruit of experience. Amongst the early Greek poets, Homer is of course the figure of greatest stature. Till the present day and to the best of our knowledge, only Sri Aurobindo carried out a similar synthesis, which goes so far as to give access to new evolutionary possibilities. This study will consequently be constructed on the works of these two giants of spirituality.

Such an attempt requires complete pragmatism and, at first, a distancing from particular individual experiences and beliefs of any kind.
If there is an evolutionary process, and all so called “spiritual” undertaking is inscribed in it, then it is necessary to plunge into its archives, to open up past scenarios and present stages and to integrate the experiences of those who followed its movement so as to open up the paths to the future.

There are two ways that are especially helpful in bringing to light the guiding directions of past and present evolution: on the one hand the observation of animal nature and the development of man from infancy to adulthood and on the other hand an inner investigation of the layers of consciousness.

From this synthesis, the Greek “initiates” established three major movements:

– Man’s own evolution, succeeding animal evolution and retaining memories of it, and following a mental progression of an “intelligence” which combines logic and intuition in seven major stages represented by the Pleiades. Humanity as a whole operates on the first three levels, with only a few rare individuals operating on the fourth level.

– A slow process of purification from the mixing and impurities resulting from past evolution, and a liberation from evolutionary supports which are no longer necessary for future stages of evolution.

– The growth of an “inner being”, in this study referred to as the “psychic being”, according to the Greek term Ψυχη (Psyche), which is represented by Leto and her children Apollo and Artemis, “called to be greater gods than the children of Zeus and Hera.”

Any spiritual path, which is ultimately only a will to accelerate the movement of nature, should therefore strive to:

    1. – Develop the mind until its logical component finds its appropriate place and becomes a perfect instrument of execution, at the service of a Truth perceived by intuition.
    2. – Purify and “liberate” from fear, ego, desire, attachment, etc., until the realisation of a perfect identification with Reality. This includes a liberation from all systems needed to attain the goal and from any preconceived idea about the path, other than that of being perfectly oneself in Truth.
    3. – To achieve a shift of governance from the lower nature and the ego to the inner being united with the Divine.

These movements can be followed independently of each other. They result in a spiral evolution based on a double movement of ascension and integration, and the necessity of realising in the vital and the body what has been established in the mind.