To proceed with the interpretation of Greek myths – keys for decryption essentially include the symbol letters, the elementary symbols, the family trees and the chronology of the myths.
To fully understand this web page, it is recommended to follow the progression given in the tab Greek myths interpretation. This progression follows the spiritual journey.
The method to navigate in the site is given in the Home tab.
The progression of mythological tales follows that of human evolution. Just as the stages of learning in childhood – walking, talking, social interaction, etc. – are a summary of universal stages of growth, mythology too retraces human evolution from its origins and anticipates its future development from its present stage of intellectual domination. It is built on the results of experiences rather than around a system of beliefs. It teaches us the necessary preliminary steps for progressing towards each new stage of evolution. Although initiates were unanimous in their understanding of the initial stages of the path, this was not always the case for the more advanced stages. For instance, the Trojan War not only illustrates an inner struggle, but probably also a fierce controversy among the supporters of different paths of initiation.
Through a number of symbols, mythology is the expression of the synthesis of thousands of years of individual experiences, and the presentation of the knowledge gained in the form of epics.
Boustrophedon inscription – Code of Gortyn – © Agon S. Buchholz
The keys for decoding can be classified in several more or less complex categories.
*The first category utilises the symbolic content of the letters of the alphabet, which in turn form proper names, the meaning of which stems partly from the order of their constituent characters. Most often the names of gods, heroes, characters, places, etc. are constructed by an association of significant letters and words from common, everyday language to create a symbolic word puzzle.
There is every reason to believe that this method of encryption had already been used by the Egyptians. When referring to Egyptian signs, the Greeks called them “Ta hiera grammata”, the sacred letters, or “Ta hiera glyphica”, an expression meaning “the engraved sacred (letters)” or “hieroglyphs”. Why “sacred” if it was not that they manifested, in their lines, a symbolic content revealing sacred knowledge?
The Egyptians themselves referred to them as “the writing of divine words”.
*The second category is linked to the meaning conveyed by basic symbols (images, numbers, etc.), often with multiple meanings that try to follow as closely as possible the “dictionaries of symbols “. However, caution is advised when using information given in these works, as the Greeks sometimes took up ancient meanings entirely unknown to us. For instance they borrowed from the Vedas the image of the cow as a symbol of the “light of Truth” rather than meaning “Mother Earth” or “abundance”, as indicated in dictionaries. And so, the herds of the Sun, Helios, are “parts of Truth” perceived by the seeker through experiences such as illuminations, revelations or inspirations.
This category also includes numbers as basic symbols.
*The third category consists of a structure belonging to Greek mythology, at least in its wider sense, for its seed was already present in the mythology of Egypt and the Middle East: the genealogical trees. These provide symbols with multiple ramifications, allowing a play of a number of ideas such as spiritual progression, theory and practice, the succession of levels of consciousness, the history of spirituality, stages of the path and the necessary conditions to engage with them.
Knowledge of two or three hundred characters (among the two or three thousand listed) helps to easily find one’s bearings within the spiritual progression.
A detailed study of genealogical trees giving the fundamental structure of myths will begin in the next chapter. At this point, we will only discuss how they are to be used.
*The fourth category includes the chronology of the tales, in themselves a coherent assembly of the basic symbols containing teachings or allegorical descriptions of experiences.
Once the stage of interpreting simple symbols and the contents of a particular myth is over, the difficulty is to place the story within the frame of spiritual development. The answer is most often given in the myths themselves, by an indication of a certain number of generations or years “before” or “after” certain points of reference, such as the Trojan War or the Quest for the Golden Fleece. It can also be given by the age of the characters – Theseus, for instance, was said to be over fifty years of age at the time of the abduction of Helen, while she was still nubile – or by the journey of peoples or heroes through real or imaginary lands. Other more specific indications, such as distant kinship or “visits “, helps bring more precision to the chronology.
*The fifth and last category is related to a single symbol, graphically simple but very complex in its interpretation: the Caduceus of Hermes.
It includes very extensive esoteric knowledge about the planes of consciousness and their interactions, the circulation of energy, etc. It is better known under its dynamic form, in which it is represented as two snakes wrapped around a staff, and is transcribed in static form in the Hebrew tradition of Kabbalah by the symbol of the ” Tree of Life ” (see diagrams in the appendices). Explanations about this symbol appear at the end of the third volume. An in-depth study is only imperative for those wishing to decipher ancient texts, myths or genesis stories amongst others.
Besides these main categories, several specific keys are applicable only to a small number of myths, and are therefore not subject to a detailed analysis in this chapter. For instance, the way heroes belong to different planes of consciousness, or the functioning of the mind in accordance with cycles of alternating separative and fusional tendencies, which manifested through the intellect and intuition. We will study these in the relevant myths.
Greek mythology also refers to practices, such as the recitation of mantras, or to the performance of certain dances, of which the details are not known to us. They were most probably a necessary part of the oral teaching from master to disciple which could not be transcribed into writing.
Letters were not designed randomly or by chance; their graphic characteristics were meant to express a specific concept or idea. This way of using graphics as a representation of archetypes was not an invention of the Ancient Greeks; the Egyptians and then the Phoenicians had already made use of this. The Greeks improved and adapted the system in order to build up a set of pictorial symbols which, through various combinations, could be used to express their thoughts and experiences.
This way of designing the alphabet would bring about a series of consequences.
First, if by their symbolic content the letters were used to construct the names of characters and places, it must be deducted that the development of the alphabet preceded that of the myths, which was entirely constructed around the names of the gods, heroes and sometimes even places. The latter were then attributed to existing or imaginary sites. For example, the name of the goddess Athena is built around the two structuring characters Θ (theta) and Ν (nu), with the Θ symbolising “what is within” and the N symbolising “evolution “. Athena is therefore the power that ensures “the growth of the inner being” also known as “the inner Master “. The favoured symbolic site associated with this quest was named Athens. Thus, if this city existed before the elaboration of the myths, it would probably have had another name. Mythology indicates that it was “Cecropia “.
However, certain names of cities, gods and perhaps of some characters were inherited from earlier periods, as it was probably necessary to maintain some continuity with the secular world.
This way of seeing things then makes us question why writing came to be. Indeed, if letters hold symbolic content, then writing was probably not invented for the needs of everyday life, even if it was soon used for this purpose as well. Rather, it must have come about to preserve the traces of spiritual experiences and knowledge previously passed on orally for thousands of years from master to disciple. If the sages and wise men felt a pressing need to transcribe this knowledge (in Egypt this was carved in stone so as to last for endless centuries), it must have been because they became aware of a very particular phenomenon; the entry into a new era where the separative mind would prevail to allow the process of individuation. This period entailed a distancing from the Truth, illustrated in many traditions by the “Fall ” from Paradise, and was felt as the loss of a sense of oneness, a dimming and a degradation of consciousness. As a consequence of this phenomenon, it became impossible to continue with oral transmission, as the masters could no longer find disciples capable of following their teachings. Intuitive contact with the Truth was gradually lost. Mankind was to go through a dark time during which the perception of Reality would withdraw, as a response to cycles that will be explained in detail later on, so that man could gain his Individuality and emerge from animal existence.
The ancient Sages realised the need, probably expressed as an inner command, to preserve for a distant future traces of their highest spiritual conquests.
The Greek alphabet and all the alphabets that came before it would thus not be a brilliant invention responding to a new need for expression or communication, but would rather answer the compelling necessity of preserving a disappearing form of knowledge. There is always a tendency to think that men in ancient times had the same psychological modus operandi as our own. But it is much more likely that the capacity for intuitive communication that no longer exists today had rendered written records unnecessary for a long time.
Before discussing the symbolism of alphabetical letters in detail, let us remember certain elements about the historical context of Greece between the 11th and 8th centuries BC, which precede the appearance of the texts of Hesiod and Homer that we are investigating. We must in fact ask ourselves whether the Greeks were the inventors of an entirely new method of encryption, or if they had taken up the practices of those before them.
What then was the situation in that region of the world around the 10th century BC?
During that period in Egypt, at the end of the New Kingdom (from 1580 to 1085 BC), forms created during the Old Kingdom took on a new grace. It is known as the Late Period. It marks the beginning of the decline of this great civilization, for the rebirth during the Saite Dynasty occurred only in the middle of the 7th century BC. However, the cultural influence of Egypt remained strong in the Middle East after the 11th century, especially in regards to the Mystery Schools. Relations with Greece took place through the Phoenicians before a direct connection was established from the 8th century BC.
Egypt seems to have been only marginally affected by the destruction which devastated almost all of the other Middle Eastern civilizations around 1200 BC, including the Hittite Empire in Anatolia, the Minoan civilization in Crete and the Mycenaean civilization in Greece.
In Crete, this seems to have been a period of refinement during which women held an important place in both religion and politics.
In Greece, the Mycenaean civilization grew without a political centre and reached its peak between 1450 and 1200 BC. The Greek language was already in use, but the period between the 12th and the 8th centuries remains largely unknown.
Phoenicia, a country extending over what today is Lebanon, part of Syria, Israel and Palestine, held a significant place in trade exchanges carried out all the way to the South to the Kingdom of Kush, now known as Sudan.
These civilizations had regular contact with each other, especially through trade. Most of them reached a peak between 1700 and 1450 BC, and then disappeared during a wave of still unexplained destruction, which struck the Mediterranean region and most probably caused the migrations from Southern Greece towards the West Coast of Anatolia, the main area of which became known as Ionia. Twelve Greek cities were located in this region, the most well known amongst them being Miletus, Samos, Ephesus and Chios. The area was bordered on the North by Aeolis and on the South by Doris. By its significant characters, the name “Ionia ” means ” evolution of consciousness “. It was one of the first areas of “Magna Graecia” in which philosophy and the arts flourished as well as architecture, the latter being doubtlessly considered to be the greatest achievement by the Greeks themselves. Many pre-Socratic thinkers came from this area. Pythagoras came from Samos, an Ionian island. This province remained the intellectual centre of Greece until the Greco-Persian wars, and many Athenians took pride in claim to have originated from this area. Let us also note that the first objective of the Delian League, created in 478 BC, was to defend the cities of Ionia against Persian invaders.
The centuries following this collapse, from 900 to 600 BC, were marked by the domination of the Assyrian Empire.
In Greece, the post-Mycenaean period is not well known; historians refer to it as the “Dark Ages “. They assume that only a small portion of the population survived during this period. During the Greek revival between the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Greece was made up of independent city-states which served both as political and administrative centers. Corinth, Argos, Thebes and Sparta were the most influential. Athens quickly seized control of Attica, but only became the principal power of Magna Graeciae later on when it took the lead in the war against the Persians.
The Phoenicians too, after having been submitted to the destruction of the 12th century, extended their influence in the Mediterranean towards North-West Africa, Sicily, Sardinia and Spain.
The Greeks also extended their influence into Italy till Galicia and Spain, to the northern coast of the Aegean Sea and to the Black Sea.
During this period Cyprus seems to have been at the crossroads of the Greek world and the East, bringing together Phoenicians and Mycenaean Greeks.
Contact between Egyptians and Greeks, from the 8th century BC or even earlier, led the Egyptians to grant the Greeks a trading post: the city of Naucratis located on the Nile Delta, near the Egyptian capital of Sais. The majority of the population in this trading post originated from Ionia.
A remarkable fact for this study is that it was in Ionia that the first religious league appeared at the instigation of the city-states; they formed “the Panionium “, union of those “dedicating all to the evolution of consciousness (Pan+Ι+Ν) “.
The island of Delos, the mythical birthplace of Apollo located halfway between Ionia and Attica, became one a major sanctuary for the Ionians before being taken over by Athens as a base in the league against the Persians.
The Dorian states is the name given to the states of Attica and the Peloponnese that underwent the Dorian invasion. But according to this study, the Dorian invasion refers to the sudden flowering of “spiritual gifts” rather than to an invasion of a foreign people. These states chose Olympia as a sanctuary, which they dedicated to Zeus long before the founding of the Olympic Games in the middle of the 8th century BC.
These states soon felt the need to join forces in order to protect themselves against a persistent rival, the Persian Empire. They set up the Delian League in order to do this. But the Greeks could not keep the cities from falling under Persian control towards the middle of 6th century BC.
This brief historical outline suggests that when the Greek alphabet first appeared, this part of the world was the arena of intense commercial and cultural activity, from which the Greeks could not remain isolated. It is thus very improbable that they would have been unaware of other forms of writing in existence at the time, even aside from Phoenician.
It is also important to specify some elements of the creation of the scripts relevant to this study.
Writing had already undergone many developments since its appearance.
The oldest known pictographs date from 9000 BC, 5000 years before the first signs of writing emerged among the Sumerians.
Cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs began to appear towards the end of the fourth millennium, followed by the syllabic writing of the Near-East (Sumerian). The first signs of an alphabet with Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite inscriptions appeared around 1700 BC.
Egyptian writing is a combination of what experts call logograms, phonograms and determinants. In a logogram, each symbol represents the object one wishes to evoke: thus the outline of a rectangle with an open side means “house “. On the other hand, a phonogram, often derived from a logogram, represents a sound: the logogram for house, for example, was also used as a phonogram for the sound “pr”. To illustrate this in English, the drawing of a mouth could come to designate the sound associated with the letter “m” which is the first letter of the word.
This type of writing needs specific signs to avoid uncertainties, and determinants are used for this purpose. These three categories become even more complex, with signs representing groups of letters of two or three consonants. It should also be noted that vowels did not exist, and were not strictly necessary.
This first Egyptian script used word puzzles as its basic principle; what is meant is different from what is shown. Applying this principle to English, the word “rampage” would be represented by two symbolic drawings, a ram and a page. As we shall see, the Greeks perfected this principle by applying it not only to writing with a limited number of basic symbols, but also to the overall conception of mythology.
In this way, it was easy to conceal the deep significance of the texts from the uninitiated. The texts of Homer and Hesiod are masterpieces in this field, to such an extent that their hidden significance would not be suspected. They could thus retain their mystery for many millennia.
Even though it may seem complex to a novice, specialists agree that it is easier to read and understand hieroglyphs than alphabetic writing. Later scripts, which limited the number of signs to a small number of consonants, sacrificed legibility for simplicity.
Furthermore, hieroglyphs conveyed much more detailed information than the letters of our current alphabets.
The symbolic letters of the Greek alphabet followed the Egyptian model; to use again the example of the goddess Athena, (Θ+Ν), only two symbolic characters translate what in English would require a long phrase, “the power that ensures the evolution of inner growth “. Some precision is added by vowels used as “determinants”. With only four characters, we obtain (Α+Θ+Η+Ν): “the power that ensures the evolution of inner growth from the mind up to the realisation of future man, when reason and intuition will be in balance with each other “.
Alongside Egyptian hieroglyphs, there appeared around the 15th century BC a system of Sumero-Akkadian scripts in what is today Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. It became known as Proto-Semitic, and most of the scripts of the Middle-East and Europe were derived from it. The branch of interest to us is the Phoenician script, which specialists consider to be the precedent of the Greek script.
The oldest known Phoenician alphabet dates from around 1500 BC. It is a consonant alphabet; vowels are not recorded, which implies that the content is known in advance. According to specialists, this alphabet attained maturity around 1200 BC. It included 22 consonant letters and no vowels, and was read from right to left. The letters were oriented in the direction of the reading, mirroring classical letters.
The Hebrews kept this number of 22 characters, even elaborating the Sepher Yetzirah, a highly sophisticated esoteric text, through the symbolic meaning of letters and their interrelations. The twenty-two letters are divided into 3 founding mother letters, 7 Double letters (forces of creation), and 12 simple letters (laws of manifestation). If we do not take into account the duplication of the vowels O (Ο and Ω) and E (Ε and Η), the Greek alphabet is also made up of twenty-two characters.
This Phoenician alphabet was adopted by Arameans and Hebrew speaking peoples. Ancient Aramaic split into two branches: Archaic Aramaic, very close to Phoenician (except for the graphic form of one or two characters), and Palmyrenean Aramaic, which tended more towards symbolism and therefore had a different graphic character. It is said that it gave birth to the Hebrew alphabet by an exploration of aesthetics of calligraphy. It is worth noting that during the very last period of the Assyrian Empire, from 1000 to 600 BC, Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Middle-East.
After the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization, writing seemed to disappear from Greece for two or three centuries.
When it reappeared, the orientation of the lines and letters was gradually reversed to allow a reading from left to right. In a certain period, some texts were written in “boustrophedon “, a succession of lines alternately read from right to left and then from left to right. This change of orientation is yet to be explained.
When the Greeks took up the Phoenician alphabet they kept almost all the Phoenician characters, but rarely retained the same meaning for them. Only three letters were abandoned: digamma, san and koppa.
They later added certain letters to introduce new concepts: Φ, Χ, Ψ, and Ω (Phi, Ki, Psi and Omega).
Lower-case Greek characters appeared only in the Hellenistic period, at the beginning of our era, and their form most often seems to have been the result of the necessities of a rapid cursive script. Some forms of the script however, as for example the two lower-case forms of the sigma depending on its place within a word, seem to have been designed to bring to light the symbolism of certain upper-case characters in danger of losing their meaning.
Lower-case letters are thus used in the following studies for the sake of convenience, but the analysis of the myths and the decoding of names was done on the basis of the principles contained by the capital letters in their Ionian forms.
Specialists distinguish four primitive Greek alphabets: the Ionic, Doric, Aeolian and Attic. The oldest known fragments of Homer’s texts are written in a mixture of Ionic and Aeolian.
Numerous variations appeared in the design of certain letters in different areas of Greece, but most of the modifications, as well as additional characters, originated in Ionia.
In the end, the Ionic alphabet of Miletus was adopted in Athens in 403-402 BC, overriding the Athenian alphabet.
If the most ancient Greek sources available to us date from the middle of the 8th century BC, then the first-known fragments of Homer’s texts must date from the 3rd century BC. It is generally thought that the composition of the texts themselves took place in the first half of the 8th century for the Iliad and more than a century later for the Odyssey. This suggests that the entire mythological structure was already in place by that time.
This overview of the historical context and of the birth of written scripts sheds light on several points:
– Because of the intermingling of cultures, the author or authors of the Homeric texts and their contemporaries must have been aware of the evolution of writing throughout that part of the world, from Egyptian hieroglyphs to the Phoenician alphabet and Etruscan and Mycenaean scripts. All forms and devices were at their disposal: pictograms, phonograms, syllabic writing, consonant alphabets, etc.
The form of writing most familiar to them was without a doubt the Phoenician one, due to the unique position of the Phoenicians as intermediaries between the Greeks and the Egyptians, who were known as the keepers of “the sacred science”. Although Greek initiates took up most of the Phoenician characters, they abandoned any reference to the material realities (objects, animals, etc.) still present in the Phoenician alphabet, and moved away from Phoenician symbolism through numerous permutations of characters.
The Mycenaean alphabet (Linear B) disappeared during the Dark Ages, and the new Greek alphabet suddenly and almost uniformly came into use throughout all Greek cities in the 8th century.
Furthermore, a number of elements indicate the specific intervention of Ionia in the development of the alphabet:
– Among the cities that claim to be the birthplace of Homer, Chios, Colophon (located North-West of Ephesus) and Smyrna (Izmir) are in Ionia or on Chios, an island off of the coast of Ionia, while the cities of Pylos, Argos and Athens seem to have had more unjustified claims to this honour. In fact, their names have a symbolic function in the spiritual quest: Athens is the city of the “inner quest”, Argos is “the luminous” city of the “seekers of truth”, and Pylos “the door” or “the passage”. These names were without a doubt fabricated at a later time.
– The first fragments of manuscripts of the Iliad and the Odyssey, dating from the 3rd century BC, were written in a mixture of Ionian and Eolian dialects (Ionic from Attica). The composite Homeric dialect seems never to have been spoken. The texts themselves were standardised by Pisistratus around 550 BC.
– Some characters seem to have been added, not by necessity of language, but for the needs of symbolic expression (Psi, Omega), and most of these first appeared in Ionia.
– It was In Ionia, on the west coast of Asia Minor, that the first religious league of Panionium was formed (see above).
– Finally, the Ionic writing of Miletus was adopted as the official writing of the city of Athens around 402 BC. And yet, how can it be that Athens, having progressively gained dominance over all of Greece, could have chosen another alphabet than its own? For this there is without doubt an important reason; the founding Homeric texts, and more generally all the texts written by initiates, could not be entirely deciphered and understood without the help of the Ionic alphabet, which had been used for their development. In fact, some characters had been distorted in Athens and in other provinces, and no longer gave everybody the ability to attribute the same sense to the words in which they appeared.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GREEK ALPHABET
As shown above, there was no gradual evolution from the meaning of the characters of the Phoenician alphabet to that of the Greek alphabet, but rather a radical departure instigated by initiates from Ionia, from the earlier meaning with only one or two exceptions (the character N for example). These sages recreated a coherent whole with a new logic, and therefore a new symbolic content for each character.
This alphabet, consciously constructed to respond to certain necessities, essentially the transmission of knowledge, had to meet specific imperatives so as to eliminate the inconsistencies of earlier methods.
It had to be simple to use and no longer reserved for the use of scribes or priests alone, which thus ruled out all the logogramic writing systems, as they needed a long time to be learned.
(Keep in mind that during most of the Pharaonic civilization, it is estimated that less than one percent of the population was literate. The same percentage applied to Greece around 1000 B.C. yields a very small number or literate individuals. A wider movement for literacy must have been foreseen by the Greek initiates.)
Its hidden sense had to be inaccessible to laymen, usable for everyday needs, and allow an integration, at least in part, of the existing language. The mistake which led Egypt to develop multiple systems of writing had to be avoided. Hieroglyphic writing, used exclusively for monuments, gave birth since its appearance to a cursive script, Hieratic, which was itself later subdivided during the Saite renaissance, giving rise to Demotic for the needs of administration and commerce and Hieratic for religious texts.
Hieroglyphs, meaning “sacred engravings” in Greek, were named by the Egyptians “medoo netjer, divine words”, and were reserved for use in monuments throughout the history of ancient Egypt. The Hieratic script, from the Greek “ιερος, sacred”, seems to mark a transition from simple signs to the extended symbolism of symbol-characters, a system later taken up by the Greeks. The Demotic script, from the term “δημος, the people”, no longer contained any sacred characters.
It had to be easily decipherable if one knew the principles of decoding. It was in fact through the rhapsodist, who sang the mythical epics and recounted stories and genealogies throughout ancient Greece, that initiates perfected the myths. These rhapsodist could thus spread information without themselves knowing the true meaning of it.
It had to eliminate all ambiguity.
It had to include all the essential concepts within a limited number of characters.
And perhaps, if the message was destined for a future time, it had to be able to survive through centuries without deformation.
Only an alphabet developed on a foundation of meaningful graphic characters could meet all of these necessities. Writing in cuneiform, where the association of the graphic form with a symbol is necessarily arbitrary, seriously limited the possibilities.
The Phoenician and Aramaic alphabets already fulfilled most of these conditions, except for one major disadvantage; as the vowels sounds were not written, only the context or a deep knowledge of the scriptures made it possible to unambiguously decipher the text. This imprecision reserved writing for a class of literate individuals, mainly priests of the official religion.
It must however be remembered that Aramean had already used certain consonants to write vowel sounds; the idea was therefore already present.
On the other hand, the absence of vowels did not allow for the creation of mythological names from words used in everyday speech. But this was absolutely necessary for the elaboration of genealogical trees that formed the structure of mythology.
Here is an example:
The name Polynices, son of Oedipus, is formed from Πολυ (numerous) and Νεικος (battles). It represents the seeker who undertakes “numerous battles in duality “.
Without vowels, the name ΠΛΝΚ has no meaning.
On the other hand, to write in its entirety “the one who undertakes numerous battles in duality” using only the archetypal letters as we will be presenting them is nearly impossible.
The Egyptians were not able to resolve this issue of ambiguity. Because meaning was inferred from groups of characters or signs used for each word, their alphabet was difficult to use for everyday needs, unless the meaning of the words was previously known from the reading of sacred texts. This was probably the reason for the emergence of different forms of writing in Egypt.
If the Greeks were to avoid the pitfall of a multiplicity of alphabets and use the same system of writing for the sacred and the profane, the writing of vowels, which determined the meaning of words without ambiguity, became imperative. (This was probably not the only reason for this innovation.)
The new alphabet avoided the underlying concepts of Phoenician characters by introducing numerous modifications in meaning, and changes in the written form of the characters. A lengthy process of maturation seems to have been devised to preside over its development. Let us not forget that the Greek alphabet appeared suddenly and in a nearly identical form in several parts of Greece, almost three centuries after the Phoenician alphabet had been fully developed.
From this point onward, we will refer to the vowels that conveyed the meaning of proper names, modulated the significance carried by the main structuring consonants, or specified the plane of their action as “qualifiers”.
Bearing in mind the existence of earlier sacred writing, it is difficult to accept the idea that the ancient Greek alphabet, like our modern alphabets, had only a phonetic value and therefore served only to transcribe the spoken language.
If we refuse to consider the hidden meaning of Greek characters, there remains to be explained the complexity of their forms since their beginning, the justification for keeping a few forms derived from hieroglyphs and for abandoning other Phoenician designs, and the reason for willingly neglecting the cuneiform alphabet as well as all other purely logical graphic forms.
Greek initiates therefore built from a new foundation, with some variations in the design of characters as each region undoubtedly evolved independently. However, the layout and design of all the characters had to express the same idea for each character, as the initial organization of the different alphabets was the same. They therefore came to adopt a single form, the Ionic alphabet
The consonants, referred to as “structuring letters” in this study, better expressed the principles and movements of consciousness, while the vowels represented evolutionary stages or states of consciousness.
While the cursive forms seemed to be most often based on the need for rapid writing, a few character seem to have been designed to make explicit or confirm a meaning which was being lost over time. The cursive sigma actually has two forms depending on whether they are placed within the word or at the end of it, and consequently hold two opposing symbolic meanings, that of coiling up and that of opening.
In mythology, certain proper names hold a different meaning, not to say the exact opposite of the principal meaning as defined by the structuring letter. A comparison can be made with the Kabalistic explanation of the Hebrew alphabet, where some letters had two meanings and only the context denoted the choice.
The Hebrew alphabet consists of twenty-two letters, of which three are “mother” letters, seven are “double” letters and twelve are “simple” letters.
The seven double letters are Beth, Gimel, Dalet, Kaph, Pe, Resh and Tav, corresponding to the Greek characters Beta, Gamma, Delta, Kappa, Pi, Rho and Tau.
The link among the names of heroes, their meanings in mythology, and the roots of the language make it possible for us to confirm the “double” nature of the five last letters of this list. The letters khi (Χ), and lambda (Λ) most probably also belong to this category. Several of these letters are included in the names of monsters created by unions of Typhon, “Ignorance “. These names depict an opposition or a negation of evolution.
THE LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET
The order in which are presented the characters below follows the logical sequence of their design, rather than that of the alphabet currently in use : see the diagram Construction of the symbol letters ( also in the tab Miscellaneous).
For each of them, there is first an Ionic letter, as per the official alphabet imposed by Athens, and upon these is founded the composition of proper names. Then follow a few of the other archaic forms illustrating the complexity of the evolution, and finally, the classical and the lower case character of the Hellenistic Greek period.
Classical Form: Ι ι
This character is studied first, because its graphic form, a single vertical line, is the most simple alphabetical symbol. Absent in the Phoenician alphabet, it was added by the Greeks and served as the base for seven other letters. It represents the original idea underlying all manifestation, the Supreme’ will for a process of “densification”.
This is the first movement of the indivisible whole that the Vedas named Sat-Chit-Ananda, the three principles of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss founded in Unity.
(At this level of description we are beyond all mental conception, on a plane that precedes manifestation and the creation of time-space.)
It precedes “the projection outside of oneself” and the “contemplation of oneself” illustrated respectively by gamma (Γ) and rho (Ρ). The character Rho delineates the movement, initiated by gamma, which returns to its source in order to experience itself. This is the experience of Eros, Bliss.
This densification can also be understood as a slowing of vibrations, with what is Real vibrating at an infinite speed in complete immobility, and creation, in its state of apparent stability, requiring slower vibrations unfolding in time.
The iota is thus the expression of a “densification” of the Supreme, an Existence-Consciousness that we will simply refer to as “consciousness” and which extends from the heights of the Spirit to the distant depths of Matter. Throughout time, what is high was symbolically attributed to Spirit and what is low to Matter, due to our perception of the sensible world.
This approach implies the existence of different levels of “consciousness”: the mineral, vegetal, animal and human planes with which we are familiar and which are more or less perceptible, and beyond these the planes that extend towards the consciousness of the Absolute.
The study of these planes, their interactions and the possibility of integrating them and perfecting them in ourselves is one of the purposes of mythology.
It is in accordance with this idea of densification that the Greeks have described certain gods as dwelling on the summits of mountains (Olympus and Ida). For, akin to mountains that form a link between earth and sky, these gods, the highest powers of the mental world, form a link between Spirit and life and matter.
Consciousness of the higher planes of the Spirit is accessible to men only in rare flashes, and is even then still liable to many deformations and distortions, legacies of both evolutionary processes and individual nature.
It is therefore not possible to represent it in the form of a single vertical line, but only with a broken zigzagging line .
In several of the primitive Greek alphabets, iota and the sigma have similar forms: for iota, and or or for sigma. When the majority of the population finally adopted the Ionic form, it became necessary to clearly differentiate between the iota , the zeta and the sigma . The iota was reserved for the Consciousness of Truth, pure of all deformation, while the sigma took up the meaning of “partial mental consciousness”, and above all symbolised a circulation of energy from the inferior to the superior planes active in man, but only in one direction. As for zeta, it depicts the dynamic link between Spirit and Matter, which like a flash finds the shortest path while taking into account the obstacles encountered on the way.
(In the archaic Phoenician and Aramaic alphabets, it can be assumed that consciousness was represented by the letter zayin , as the iotadid not exist.)
The iota can be used both as a vowel and as a consonant. It is used as a consonant when found between two vowels, and when it does not belong to the termination (desinence) of the word, as in the names Gaia, Laius and Aietes. The other consonants in this case indicate the “movement” of Consciousness. It also serves as a consonant when it is used with only one vowel, as in the name Io (ΙΩ), a princess of the royal dynasty of Argos loved by Zeus and later turned into a heifer. The graphic form of the character omega (Ω) indicates an opening to incarnation, so that the name carries the meaning “opening of consciousness to incarnation”. Io is the origin of the lineage of characters outlining the process of purification, liberation or integration: Heracles, Oedipus and Europa.
In short,thus expresses the verticality of the order of Consciousness-Force, without being deviated by the layers of the mind, as it is the latter, and not life, that is the cause of distortions.
*Key words: consciousness, consciousness of truth, force-consciousness, planes of consciousness.
Ionic form: Γ
Other archaic forms:
Classical forms: Γ, γ
Le graphic form of gamma expresses a forward movement, an impulse that originates at the top of the vertical line of “consciousness”.
The two characters gamma and iota (Γ and ) allow for the introduction of Gaia, the Earth, the principle of Existence or the Consciousness that projects itself outside its own being. (When placed between two vowels, the iota is to be considered as a consonant.)
Then, splitting herself, “Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods” (Hesiod, Theogony 116 trans. H.G Evelyn-White). She became a couple without abandoning her unity, transforming into Ouranos, the Consciousness-Force concentrated in itself, and Gaia, its Energy of Execution. Then the two members of this couple had to come together in their turn to bring forth the Titans, the forces of creation. When the Titans were finally brought forth, there took place the passage of Force-Consciousness/Energy of Execution into the duality of the principles of Spirit (Ouranos) and Matter (Gaia).
This description seems analogous to the Vedic concept, although the Greeks used only two words, Gaia and Ouranos, for different concepts, using images of division and generation. A similar symbolism seems to have also been used in Genesis.
By extension, gamma more generally means an impulse, a beginning, a forward movement. This letter is at the origin of the word Gorgo – the Gorgon killed by Perseus -, symbol of an impulse that loops back on itself by the addition of the character Rho (Gorgo = Γ+ P Γ).
The variants of gamma which we find in Corinth, Argos or Euboea express a projection of consciousness more vertically but this form will be finally reserved for lambda.
*Key words: setting into motion, impulse, beginning.
Pi (Double letter)
Classical forms: Π, π
The form of the primitive pi is identical in whichever region it appears. Its form underwent the classical inversion in its orientation.
Its lines follow that of gamma by a short downward vertical line which suggests an arrest of movement. These two letters, gamma and pi, recall the following phrase of Plato’s “This universe in which we are, the god at times himself directs its progress and makes it spin, and at times lets it go …”; the universe, set in motion by the gamma, pursues with pi the continuation of its movement, but the layout of this letter also evokes some instability, a temporary rest.
In its final form, the character pi is the principle of rest, arrest, stability and immobility. It also conveys the image of a bridge, a link between two pillars.
– rest, arrest, immobility, perhaps inertia.
– Link, equilibrium, stability, equality.
– Mastery (domination), rigidity, fixity, perhaps dependence.
Rho (Double letter)
Other archaic forms:
Classical forms: Ρ ρ
The second letter originating from gamma is rho (P) which is the Greek scriptural form of our R.
Here the movement is not interrupted as it is in the character pi, but instead loops back on itself, towards the source. It is the breath of the Absolute, the play of creation coming into existence and then being reabsorbed.
We find the character rho in the word Eros, “the most beautiful of the immortal gods“, and a symbol of Divine Joy and the consequence of the play of separation, attraction and return to the one origin. It is the result of the divine play of Ouranos, the Consciousness-Force concentrated in itself, and Gaia, its Energy of Execution, which is divine ecstasy or Ananda, Eros.
But the variations found both in Ionia () and in other cities indicate that this action inscribes itself even in matter, and that it is not simply Divine play. This letter therefore also symbolises a movement carried out “in truth”, which is the “exact action”. The latter generates joy, as is acknowledged in all traditions.
However, in the later meanings attributed to Eros, the vibration had descended into the densest planes, where it became “desire”, with its corollary “pleasure”, an outdated, even primitive form of Joy.
The rho () therefore expresses the movement of evolution according to what is right and true, the vertical order (in accordance with the Spirit), and the nu (Ν), as we shall see, expresses the movement of evolution in the horizontal order (in accordance with Nature). The first movement is pure; it is not distorted. The second arises from unconsciousness, the first stage of nature, and is therefore subject to its mixing and disorder.
As the rho came after gamma in its written form, it makes sense that Rhea (ΡΗΑ), wife of Cronos, then Hera (ΗΡΑ), wife of Zeus, (both of these names having only the rho as structuring character), succeeded Gaia as ruling feminine powers.
Since the (rho) includes an inversion of the direction of movement, it was also used to express inversion, thus being a letter with two possible meanings, a “double letter”.
For instance, let us look at the symbolism of the dog Orthros. Orthos (straight) in which was inserted the character rho, must be understood as the opposite of what is straight, which is to say falsehood or untruth, rather than as Truth unfolding in accordance with the movement of Supreme Reality. While copying manuscripts, some scribes interpreted this as an error in spelling and so sometimes transcribed it as “Orthos”, what is straight, right, exact. As Orthros is a monster who represents falsehood, the relevance of the spelling of his name is evident. Another example would be the character rho as the structuring letter of the name Eris, goddess of discord. At a certain level, the opposite of attraction (Eros) is repulsion, or discord.
Another example in which the insertion of the character Rho expresses an inversion is the word Dirce “a false manner of acting “, while Dice, for instance in the name Eurydice, expresses “the right manner of acting”.
– true or right movement, in accordance with the plane of the Absolute.
– Movement of inversion
Ionic form: Β
Classical forms: Β β
The character beta Β is obtained by symmetrically completing the rho (). The right movement which is carried out in the superior planes must also operate in the inferior planes. It therefore indicates a principle of densification and incarnation of a higher movement (as in Erebus). It is a true movement, within the order of things.
The B can be found in names like Niobe. With the N of evolution, Niobe means “the evolution of the process of incarnation “. Niobe is “the first woman”, the “Mother of the Living “, symbolising for the seeker the moment in which he becomes more truly conscious that “something exists”, or has a moment of “awakening”. She symbolises the entry to the inner path in the process of purification/liberation. She also symbolises the entry into the age of reflective consciousness, which allows one to look at oneself and thus to progress.
What is asked of it at that point is to embody intelligence and discernment, for the time in the Garden of Eden is coming to an end.
The B also appears as the only structuring character in the name of the goddess Hebe (ΗΒΗ), who symbolises eternal youth on the highest mental plane, the overmind. This goddess, daughter of Zeus and Hera, who serves nectar and ambrosia to the gods, expresses the flexibility which permits the adaptation to the movement of Becoming, the freshness and the joy of the present moment in incarnation.
– the just process of incarnation (the laying of foundations, implementation, etc.), densification.
– Joy of the right action, perfect attention to the present moment.
Classical forms: Ζ ζ
The character zeta, which took up the form of the Phoenician zayin, has no variations, except in certain Aramaic forms in which it is only represented by a vertical line (in those dialects, it was most probably the symbol of consciousness).
The character zeta must not be confused with iota despite the similarity of its primitive forms, which might explain the zigzagging line Ζ which appeared later on in the zeta.
The primitive Ionic zeta is therefore formed by the vertical line of Consciousness of the iota, surrounded by two horizontal lines which we can identify as the spirit plane overhead and the material plane below. As a whole, zeta represents a connection, through consciousness, between the world of the spirit and the world of matter.
The line Ζ, similar in shape to the image of lightning, is perhaps not coincidental: the link seems more “striking” but less direct. But it is the alphabet of Homer’s time which forms the basis of our study, and not its later forms. It is therefore the Ionic form which we will be using in this study.
To make it easier to understand, one must bring closer the two related letters, the tau (Τ) and the xi (Ξ in modern script), which originated in the Phoenician samech. In the written form of these two characters, one of the horizontal lines has been either cut out in Τ or added in compared to zeta .
In this way, these three letters define the nuances in the action of consciousness. With the zeta is established a direct relationship between spirit and matter, an equilibrium, a reflection.
With the tau T, consciousness is maintained on the plane of the Spirit but is not incarnated. With the xi , consciousness establishes a principle of identity between the planes of the spirit, of matter and of the mind, the latter being the intermediary plane on which man stands.
The zeta is thus situated in the domain of instantaneity; it is a link that does not pass through the mind, a direct and illuminating action. It is the structuring character in the name Zeus, which illustrates the mode of direct but not permanent action of the Spirit plane in manifestation.
This direct action is confirmed by the written form of the lowercase character ζ, while the form of the xi in the lowercase ξ indicates a progressive action through the intermediary planes of the mind and the vital, and is thus subject to distortion. The stroke curving downward under each lowercase letter indicates that this action from above prolongs itself into matter.
*Keys words: direct link between Spirit and Matter (non-permanent).
Tau (Double letter)
Classical forms: Τ τ
We have already covered the essentials regarding tau in the above study of zeta.
It would seem that there were no variations in the written form of tau.
The Phoenician and Aramaic forms employed the written form used by the Greeks for khi (Χ).
This character seems to belong to the category of letters with two possible opposite meanings, the “double letters”. It can be understood as an existence at the highest level of consciousness, an inspiration or a straining towards Spirit (as in the word Τιταινω Titaino ” to tend towards”), which can also become an escape into Spirit.
The first meaning is illustrated by Aietes, king of Colchis, son of Helios the Sun, and brother of Circe the sorceress. Aietes symbolises “a total and active consciousness on the most elevated plane of the Spirit”, inspiration and true “power “. That which resides in the highest plane of the Spirit “knows” and therefore “can”. Thus, Tau can also mean power and mastery. (Hippotes, ιππο+Τ, is the driver of harnessed horses, he who masters vital force.)
Ate, (ΑΤΗ), the goddess of error, inevitable fate and misfortune, who inspires all evil deeds, expresses the absence of any inspiration (a-T) and of all true knowledge. She appears in Homer’s text as she “walketh over the heads of men, bringing men to harm, and this one or that she ensnareth” (Iliad XIX 91-93 and 126 –131, trans A.T. Murray). She is the daughter of Eris, goddess of discord and separation. This interpretation can be confirmed by the second meaning of the letter, in that, for man, any action that does not stem from Reality or Truth is a source of error and misfortune.
– aspiration towards the Spirit plane, inspiration.
– Existence on the higher plane of the Spirit (Knowledge), mastery, power.
– escape into the Spirit, error.
Classical forms: Ξ ξ
The graphic representation of xi was borrowed from the Phoenician character samech, and seems not to have had any variations in any of the archaic Greek, Phoenician or Aramaic alphabets.
Earlier we spoke of xi as a symbol of a consciousness that establishes an identity between the planes of spirit, matter, and of the intermediary mental/vital plane in which man stands.
If we consider the Ionic graphic representation, it does not seem to induce a preferred direction in the reading either from top to bottom or from bottom to top. That is to say that the letter could indicate an aspiration of matter towards the heights of the spirit, as well as a descent of the higher consciousness of Spirit towards the denser planes. All the same, through the graphic representation of the lowercase letter ξ, the initiates of later times seem to have only retained the latter meaning, the notion of a progressive penetration through the densest planes of the mind, and subsequently of the vital.
If zeta () is the character pertaining to the initiate who perceives Truth directly through lightening flashes without passing through the mind, then xi () is that of the seeker who is only capable of perception once he has descended though the various planes. This truth can therefore be subjected to distortions as it passes through the mind, at least as long as the mind has not been completely purified.
Let us also note that this character apparently was a combination of khi and sigma, thus indicating “an arrest in the penetration of consciousness in man “.
The clearest illustration of this is given by the story of Ixion (Ιξιων), a symbol of an advanced seeker befriended by the gods who soon believed himself to be their equal since the principle of identity forms the structuring character of his name. He becomes guilty of the unpardonable crime of courting the wife of Zeus. The latter, after having allowed Ixion to unite with a “cloud” of Hera (a dreamed image of the goddess), sent him to his punishment to be eternally whirled about in the air, tied to a winged wheel.
– identity, identification
– Progressive descent of the Spirit through the inferior planes of consciousness.
– Partial perception of limited truths, image.
Classical forms: Ε ε
In their graphic representation, two characters derive from the letter xi (), the principle of identity and of human perception of the superior truths: epsilon () and eta (). Both are vowels. Let us remember that vowels do not give the fundamental sense of the word, which is instead deduced from the “structuring” characters, the consonants. But like Egyptian determinants, vowels indicate the domain of action of the principles established by the consonants. Epsilon repeats the graphic representation of the Phoenician character he. It inherits from xi the three horizontal lines, symbolising the three planes of body, vital-mind and Spirit, but the vertical line of consciousness is shifted to the left.
Epsilon () represents half of xi (), while eta () represents its accomplishment. These two characters are thus the symbols of the incomplete man of today and of future Man. The idea underlying their graphic form is that of the alternating action in the mind of the two principles of fusion and separation, manifesting themselves as intuition and reason in accordance with very lengthy cycles. Mankind is presently situated, as he has been for the past thirteen thousand years, in a phase of separation necessary for the process of individuation, mental consciousness essentially resting on the left-hand pillar, the separative logical mind or the reasoning mind with its seat in the left brain. (Cf. the hypothesis written by the author in the study titled “The Cycles of the Mind throughout the history of Humanity”.)
Epsilon is thus a qualifier for the present man of reason, who since several thousands of years has left behind the “age of intuition”. According to Sri Aurobindo, the Veda is a legacy of the “ages of intuition” (Cf. Secrets of the Veda).
Symbolised by the letter eta , future man will know, despite the pressure of the cycles, how to balance within himself reason and intuition, perfectly executing with reason what he will perceive through his enlightened intuition. In a more general way, eta translates a superior equilibrium.
If we look at the equivalent of epsilon in the Hebrew alphabet and of eta, respectively, he ה and het ח, the graphic representation of the first character evokes instability, something shaky. It is from this principle that originate the “lame” characters appearing in every mythological system.
On the diagram illustrating the sequence of the alphabetical letters, I have indicated a parallel between the archaic lambda, the digamma and the archaic epsilon, respectively , and . A kind of progression can be noticed in the graphic representation of the characters. In the first character, consciousness is projected towards matter from the plane of the Spirit. In the second, the digamma, consciousness seems to also embody itself in the vital/mental plane, but without reaching the level of matter. In the third, incarnation seems to be complete.
*Key words: what characterises today’s man of reason
Ionic forms: Η
Classical forms: Η η
Eta takes up the graphic representation of the Phoenician character heth . The later form, Η, does not have the lines above and below, probably to avoid any risks of confusion with the classical form of theta Θ.
Another hypothesis proposes that these two lines are implicitly contained by the middle line, for if man has achieved equilibrium between the energies of the two “pillars”, then he must have also automatically achieved within himself an equilibrium between spirit and matter.
This character therefore also denotes a link with the plane of the gods, the intermediary stage which future man must integrate.
*Key word: future man (equilibrium between the horizontal and vertical energies of the heavens and the earth).
Kappa (Double letter)
Classical forms: Κ κ
The graphic representation of kappa (K), which does not have any variations, describes a movement originating from the middle of the vertical line of Consciousness-Force and moving away from it in two directions.
It evokes an impression of dynamism, of opening, with the concept of a projection of consciousness in the forward direction as well as a separation, a distinction.
A variable of the graphic representation of upsilon comes closer to kappa , as it only differs from it in the absence of the downward line. Upsilon , denoting a state of receptivity, , expresses the consciousness which receives from above and in the same breath projects towards the plane of matter; this is a state of simultaneous reception and action.
It appears in the name of the four Titans, Koios, Krios, Kronos and Okeanos, forces of creation originating from the initial differentiation.
*Key words: – opening or widening of consciousness; projection of consciousness, creation, initiation of movement.
– Differentiation, distinction, separation.
Lambda (double character)
Other archaic forms:
Classical forms: Λ λ
Lambda is certainly the letter with the most varied graphic representations. Its horizontally oriented form in the archaic Phoenician and Aramaic scripts differs greatly from the final Greek form Λ.
The primitive Ionic form suggests both a separation and a projection towards matter from the heights of the spirit. The forms used in other Greek cities also indicate a projection of consciousness, but one originating from other levels ( ).
The final form Λ expresses equilibrium and harmony. It induces the fundamental principle of creation, by which the One-Consciousness manifests itself in a multiplicity of points of consciousness drawn to a process of individuation.
We can suppose that the Greeks, in maintaining the vertical orientation to represent the Consciousness/Existence or Spirit/Matter relationship, had logically done so to highlight the principle of individuation of supreme consciousness. They consequently turned the orientation of the graphic Phoenician forms by 90 or 180 degrees for the characters Λ () , Α () and Δ ().
If lambda Λ stands for a widening principle leading towards liberation, the principle of individuation, then alpha Α is an expression of this process in mid-course and delta Δ is an expression of the end of the process, when all the separated elements have regained their unity. As Alpha is a vowel, only the progression of Λ to Δ must be taken into account, alpha Α indicating an intermediary stage between individuation and the regaining of unity.
Lambda is also the essential character in the word Helios, the sun, “he who sees all” (Panoptes), in the sense of a “total consciousness”.
It is also possible to consider the graphic form of lambda in its ascending movement, which illustrates a principle of concentration turned upwards. Few names however seem to have been built on this base.
*Key words: -widening, individuation, liberation.
– Separation, division (multiplicity, diversity, dispersion).
– Vision or total consciousness.
– Absorption, engulfment.
Ionic forms: A
Other archaic forms:
Classical forms: Α α
The character alpha retained the original aspect of the archaic Phoenician letter , although it has been rotated by 90 degrees. The line crossing at the middle also went from one inclined line to the other.
When the graphic forms became fixed, the ancient initiates probably meant for its graphic representation to be derived from lambda, the final phase of the process being delta: Λ -› Α -› Δ.
If lambda Λ is the seed of the process of individuation, then alpha Α would be its fulfillment on the vital/mental plane (half-realisation), and delta Δ the final reunion with the Absolute, with nature and with others.
As Alpha is a vowel, it designates the vital/mental plane as a field of application of the consonants to which it is tied.
While epsilon, Ε, and eta, Η, respectively represent present and future man, alpha indicates an evolutionary stage tied to the mind. Because this mental individuation is the first stage on the path of liberation, alpha has been maintained, as in the Phoenician alphabet, as the first letter of the alphabet. The last character, the culminating point, is omega, which is the opening to the Absolute, not to the Divine in Spirit but to what is Real in matter and in the body (the graphic representation Ω is that of the O with a downward opening).
*Key words: – the ordinary vital/mental human plane/
– A half-realisation
Delta (Double character)
Ionic Form :
Classical forms: Δ δ
As discussed above, delta is the successful realisation of the process of individuation and symbolises the regaining of unity.
There have been only few variations in the graphic representation of this character. In Euboea, the triangle seems to have been closed in comparison to the primitive lambda . In Agolidea, its D shaped form foreshadows the Latin graphic form, and also expresses the end of a process; what began with gamma ends its course by returning to consciousness in matter.
We find this character in numerous names, such as Danae (evolution towards union), Diomede (one who has the goal of being divine, who is concerned with the One, with Union), and most importantly with Demeter, the Mother of Union (Δη-μητηρ), which is to say the force working in each individual for the realisation of an inner unity.
In certain forms of the Greek declination, delta replaced zeta (the genitive of Zeus is Dios, datif Dii) and in the Latin world Zeus became Deus. The principle of union thus became predominant, at least in esoteric religious teachings.
It would also be surprising to notice that delta is the structuring consonant of the name Hades (Αιδης), the god of the underworld, if we did not take into account that this god works towards union at the level of the material unconscious.
– union, unity, reunion, connection.
– Division, fear, separation.
Other archaic forms:
Classical forms: Υ υ
In Phoenician and Aramaic, its graphic form was used for the character waw.
Like psi (), upsilon is a combination of the forms Ι and V, the vertical line of consciousness and the V of receptivity, but in upsilon the vertical line of consciousness does not penetrate into the V; there is not necessarily an action of consciousness. That is to say that this vowel represents only a state of receptivity.
*Key words: state of openness/opening, receptivity at the level of consciousness (Concentration, convergence).
Other archaic forms:
Classical forms: Ψ ψ
To indicate “the penetrating action of consciousness in a state of receptivity and opening”, the ancient Greeks created a new character, psi. (Nevertheless, it seems that the need for this consonant appeared only later, groups of consonants, ΦΣ and ΠΣ, having previously been used to translate the same idea or at least to obtain the same sound.)
This action could involve a “vision” as well as an “expression”, hence the two meanings of the word “Ops, ΟΨ “, gaze and voice.
Psi could thus also be associated with the concepts of illumination, inspiration and revelation.
This letter allows for the introduction of the word Psyche ΨυΧη, which can be understood as “the action of the higher consciousness in a state of receptivity at the centre of the being Ψ+Χ “. It constitutes “the psychic being”. In this work, this term is therefore used to designate the body growing through successive incarnations around the seed of the “soul”. The terms “soul ” and ” psychic ” will not be used here in the usual sense but according to Sri Aurobindo definition: “The soul is a spark of the Divine which is not seated above the manifested being, but comes down into the manifestation to support its evolution in the material world. (…) The psychic being is formed by the soul in its evolution. It supports the mind, vital, body, grows by their experiences, and carries the nature from life to life. (…) At first it is veiled by mind, vital and body, but as it grows, it becomes capable of coming forward and dominating the mind, life and body.” (Cf. Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Volume 2, Planes and Parts of the Being.)
This seems to be in agreement with the terms used by Homer to designate the different parts of the being In particular, Psyche designates what is carried on from life to life; a more or less conscious “soul” depending on the level of evolution of each individual. This term is also used to designate the “shadows” arriving in the realm of Hades, which is to say the complete experiences or evolutionary processes integrated with the psychic as memories in the realm of the material unconscious.
*Key words: – action of the higher consciousness in the state of receptivity, opening.
– receptive illumination, inspiration, revelation.
Classical forms: Ν ν.
Although quite different in their final forms, lambda Λ, nu Ν and mu Μ appear as a developing process in their primitive graphic representation ( , and ). The entry of the soul into manifestation from the heights of the spirit is represented by lambda (), which is followed by the return of this soul towards its origin represented by nu (), after which the process is renewed with mu ().
The character nu therefore represents a principle of evolution with a “descent” into incarnation and an “ascent” towards the origin. Esoteric traditions refer to this as the “onward path” towards matter and “the returning path” towards light or truth. This is why many epics of Greek mythology are known as “returns”. In undergoing a wide variety of tests and trials to return to Ithaca and be reunited with his wife Penelope, Ulysses is in fact going through the process of rediscovering and recovering his divine nature by the realisation of a complete transparency in his being.
In this adventure of incarnation, the soul, putting on the temporary clothing of the vital-mental personality and of the body, participates in the formation of the psychic being, which can then freely utilise the inferior planes and realise all its potentialities as it progressively comes to the forefront.
The character nu is probably one of the few characters to have kept its deeper meaning since the time of the proto-Sinaitic script, in which it represented a snake, a symbol of evolution across all traditions. The snake is the tempter in the story of Genesis, which is to say the one who opens the way to a new evolution. It is the receptive aspect of man, the feminine as represented by Eve, which the first feels the call for evolution in presenting man with the apple after having tasted it herself.
While the vertical line symbolises the ladder of consciousness from the densest material plane to the highest vibrations of the spirit, the horizontal line symbolises nature. The character nu Ν is associated with this physical, vital and mental evolution, in accordance with nature and in tune with its rhythms. In contrast, evolution in accordance with the Supreme plan, which can impose its law on nature as it transcends it, is symbolised by rho .
We then understand why Yahweh, furious at the beguiling snake, cursed it so that it would henceforth move on its belly instead of remaining upright; the entry into the discerning mind made humanity pass through an evolution in harmony with divine law (vertical law, as it was then moving in a vital not yet distorted by the mind) to an evolution subject to the law of nature (horizontal law submitted to a mind originating in ignorance).
The character nu is often used in the construction of names in Greek mythology. Placed at the end of a word, it expresses the evolution of what precedes it. In this way, Deion, (Δ+Ι+Ν) is the “evolution of consciousness in view of union “. Phoroneus is he who “brings evolution” (Φορ + N). The name of the Trojan Aeneas, a character taken up by Virgil to be the founder of the lineage that was to govern Rome, is formed by only one consonant, nu; it is therefore a pure symbol of evolution. Having condemned the lineage of Tros, which rejected matter to reach the spirit, Homer nevertheless opened the door to future evolution by placing Aeneas in the descendence of Assarakos, brother of Tros, and invited humankind to advance beyond the union with the Divine in spirit.
– evolution (in accordance/in harmony with nature),
– evolution by the process of ascension/integration.
Classical forms: Μ μ
In the primitive form of mu , the movement of going forward and returning in incarnation occurs twice. The return to the world of the spirit, death, does not put an end to the journeys of the soul which returns to earth to continue its evolutionary work. The character mu was therefore, in its most ancient form, the symbol of a principle of renewal, of reincarnation. It may also have been a symbol of causality connected with “karmic law”, which is not the principle of retribution that men imagine, but rather an opportunity to overcome an obstacle.
While evolving towards the final form (M), which outlines a receptivity (V) expressed within the strict and balanced frame of the two pillars of the Tree of Sephiroth in Kabbalah (the energies of concentrated power and realisation), the ancient initiates introduced a concept of freely accepted submission and obedience, “spiritual virginity” or consecration.
This letter, in all languages of Semitic origin, expresses the receptivity of the woman-mother, opening and true submission.
It can be found in many names in Greek mythology, including Minos, King of Crete and celebrated lawmaker, Μ+Ν ” the evolution of receptivity “, Maia, ” consecration of consciousness “, etc.
*Key words :
– obedience, receptivity, virginity, consecration, or ” surrender ” which is a term used by several English authors to express the concept of consecration but without the connotations of passivity or abnegation which this word carries in other languages.
– equilibrium of the poles of force-consciousness/energy of execution on each plane (reason/intuition, etc.).
(Perhaps also connected with the concept of reincarnation, causality and karmic law).
Khi (Double character)
Classical forms: Χ χ
The graphic representation in Greek script for chi takes up that of the Phoenician/Aramaic tav , a name which was used by the Greeks for the character tau (T). These permutations lead us to suppose that the initiates of ancient times did not wish to keep the symbolic values, probably to avoid all risk of error.
It is a double character and symbolises the centre, the origin, concentration, integration, internalisation and accomplishment, but also suppression, annulment and arrest.
According to Hesiod, Theogony Verse 116, “Verily at the first Chaos came to be “. The term “chaos ΧΑΟΣ”, the gaping abyss, of which chi “X” is the first element, is the symbol of Consciousness-Force concentrated in itself. It seems that the suffix OS, present in almost all the names of the first generation of gods, signals an evolution in accordance with Nature.
We also find chi in the name of the ferryman who carries souls to the realm of Hades, Charon (Χαρων). It is he who accompanies the movement of truth (Ρ) of the soul in its return voyage towards the centre (Χ).
The character Chi, in the sense of accomplishment, appears in the name Achilles (Χ+ΛΛ), the hero who achieves a complete liberation on the mental and vital planes.
The character takes the opposite meaning in the name of the viper Echidna, mother of four great monsters (the Lernean Hydra, Cerebus, the dog Orthros and Chimera) and here expresses ” the arrest of the movement of progress in unity ” (X+ΔΝ).
– centre, origin, concentration, integration, internalisation and accomplishment.
– suppression, emptiness, annulment, arrest.
Classical forms: Σ σ ς
This graphic Ionic representation evokes the lightning, symbol of a lightning perception of truth, which was the attribute of Zeus only, and thus of the character zeta. The archaic Ionic form and the final form Σ are distanced from this image to eventually suggest the idea of an energy deviating from its most direct path.
We have also seen, in the study of the iota, that the broken vertical line could indicate a descent of the higher consciousness – force distorted in its passage through the densest layers. On the other hand, most of the primitive local alphabets used either sigma or san (), a character abandoned later on when mu took its final form , but never the two simultaneously.
If we consider man firstly as a mental being, the sigma then represents “mental” consciousness in its two aspects, reason and intuition. As long as the intuition is not perfectly purified, it is subject to distortion before it reaches the level of consciousness: hence the broken line.
Tantalus, symbol of “the highest aspiration”, is the hero who endured the famous punishment of Hades and ruled over the lands around mount Sipulos (Σ+πυλος, the door of Sigma), image of the highest mental level before that of the gods. He is known for his riches, which were obtained by a vast and powerful mind.
Similarly, the name Ulysses (Odysseus Δ+ΣΣ) evokes the union of two currents uniting spirit and matter at the highest level of the mind.
In its cursive form, the graphic representations of this character express a principle of internalisation and externalisation, or of alternation between the inner and the outer. These two movements, the return towards oneself and the opening towards what is not self, form the basis of the functioning of human consciousness.
In fact, the lowercase sigma is written in two distinct ways. When it is placed within a word, it is written as “σ “, which suggests a curling up, a gathering of energy. On the other hand, if it is placed at the end of a word it is written as “ς “: opening outward, the sigma opens itself to action.
*Key words: – mental energy or consciousness, partial or distorted.
– one of the alternations of the mind
Classical forms: Ο ο
The last characters that we will study are constructed from a circle. They express a totality, either that of the human being, the microcosm, or that of the universe, the macrocosm.
The graphic representation of omicron is identical to the Phoenician one.
As a qualifying vowel, this character indicates that the context refers to humanity as a whole in its present evolution.
*Key words: – totality
– Man in the totality of his personality
Classical forms: Θ θ
The graphic representation of theta was since the beginning composed of a circle, with its center indicated by a cross or a dot. Attention is drawn to “what is to come” within the circle .
Theta thus indicates what is present or growing within the centre of man: the inner Divine presence or the “psychic being” that develops around the soul or the divine spark, which is not itself in evolution.
The best example of this character can be given in the name of the goddess Athena. With the two structuring characters Θ+Ν, it symbolises the power that watches over “the evolution of that which is at the centre of man”, of the growth of his psychic being “. In other words, she represents the “inner guide” for the mastery of the lower planes of the being.
*Key words: – inner being, inner Reality, the growing or developing psychic being.
– more generally, that which is within, at the centre.
Classical forms: Φ φ
The character phi took up the graphic representation of the Phoenician qof, which was itself not used by the Greeks.
Its graphic form results from the combination of the omicron O and the iota , the vertical line of consciousness-force which penetrates or traverses matter without the distortion or mitigation introduced by ksi () and generates a radiating outward.
But keeping in mind the words formed by phi, it seems better to base oneself on the archaic form, in which the vertical line is placed solely within the circle. Then becomes more apparent the maturing of the psychic being, the seed of which originates from theta. From this comes a “radiating outward”, setting apart this character from psi which symbolises, to a greater extent, a state of opening receptivity and penetration of the consciousness-force.
Hence the roots Φα, Φη, Φω and so forth, which signify “shining”, and Φυ, “being born, growing”.
This letter can be found in the names of characters who “radiate” light: Phaeton, Phaedra, Pasiphae, etc.
In its negative aspect, the phi carries the sense of obscurity.
*Key words: – direct penetration of the conscious force.
Classical forms: Ω ω
Ionia witnessed the transformation of numerous Phoenician characters, and it seems to have also been the place of origin of the character omega.
The graphic representation of this character is derived from that of the omicron (O) with an opening at its base, which is a translation of an opening of consciousness towards incarnation. It thus generally implies a more or less important evolutionary leap in the words in which it appears.
In fact, initiates use its graphic form to express a “breach”, not in the upward direction towards the world of the spirit – an opening since long carried out in humanity by all kinds of spiritual experiences – but rather in a downward direction, towards matter and the body.
Omega Ω can thus ultimately express the possibility of overtaking obstacles on the evolutionary progression, till then thought to be insurmountable, so as to come into contact with the Absolute hidden in matter and to realise Man’s potential. This reorientation is at the very heart of the myth of the Trojan War and the voyage of Ulysses.
This opening does not rest solely on mental evolution, but rather illustrates a lengthy progression, the stages of which we will describe gradually in the same way as they had been perceived by the Greeks.
This does not rule out the possibility of the character having been created in response to a phonetic need.
Alpha and omega are known as symbolising the beginning and the end respectively. Yet, just as alpha is not, in this study, a sign of an absolute beginning, but only that of an individual halfway through his evolution towards individuality, omega too does not represent an absolute conclusion, but rather the beginning of another evolutionary phase of humanity, the entry into what lies beyond the mind, the supermind.
*Key words: – opening of consciousness towards (or in) matter, in incarnation.
– transformation or transmutation.
Digamma, San and Kappa: the abandoned letters.
Certain archaic letters were progressively abandoned. This was either because their symbolic content or their linguistic use was no longer necessary, or because their graphic form could be confused with that of other letters, as seems to have been the case for san , the shape of which was used for mu, and probably for kappa as well which could be confused with phi.
The digamma must have been used till a later date, for it appears in the first manuscripts of the texts of Homer.
Roots, or combinations of letters, played an important role not only in the structuring of words in everyday language, but also in the formation of proper names in mythology. However, their development is relatively complex and exceeds the scope of this study. We will only discuss the aspects directly tied to our area of interest.
The symbol letters of the alphabet are archetypal, and as such can be combined in pairs to express any concept or idea, creating a more elaborate layer of significance. These groups can in their turn be qualified by a third letter, separated or not from the first group by a vowel so as to form families of names originating from a same initial idea.
These combinations of characters can be enriched even further by all the possible modulations resulting from the addition of suffixes, prefixes and common names.
For these grouping, we can also consider variations of meaning through the permutation of characters.
The significance of a root-group should logically be deduced from the combination of meanings given to each letter in the preceding text. It should in fact be free of any ambiguity and recognised by all, at least in what regards the root-groups used in mythological names.
Let us note that if an exact understanding of the symbol-letters can give us an explanation of their roots, then, inversely, the roots and their common meaning can lead us to a correct approach of the symbol- letters.
Below are a few examples of the formation of roots. The meaning resulting from the combination of the qualities attributed to the characters in the preceding text is noted alongside the most common sense given by dictionary definitions:
ΑΓ “impulsion (Γ) on the vital-mental plane (Α)” has given “driving, directing”.
Γ, impulsion, has induced “being born”.
ΑΘ has given “pushing, growing”, and ΑΙΘ “the consciousness which grows within” has given “burning” (in relation to the inner fire).
ΚΡ, a right movement of opening of the consciousness of differentiation, has given ΚΡΙ, “sorting out, separating”, and also ΚΡΥ, “being cold” (what separates goes towards the cold while what gathers together bring warmth).
ΣΚ “an (imperfect) mental opening”, has given ΣΚΙΑ, “shadow” and ΣΚΥΛ, “tearing apart”, the root from which is formed the name of the monster Scylla which is the symbol of schizophrenia at the root of the mind.
ΣΤ, “mental consciousness (Σ) turned upward (Τ) “, forms the root “keeping oneself upright” – from which is derived the English word “stand” for instance -, which holds a variety of meanings including rectitude, integrity, sincerity and purity, as in Nestor, Astyanax, Castor, Jocasta and Orestes.
THE DECODING OF PROPER NAMES
As the study of proper names has always seemed more related to history than to linguistics, specialists have never spent time on this, except for sometimes signaling the obvious origin of certain names. As far as we know, no document is available on this subject.
Nevertheless, the construction of proper names seems to follow the same rules, formulated by linguistics since the beginning of the twentieth century, as the construction of other common words of ancient Greece. Only some essential elements can be taken up again here.
The general idea is that names are formed by roots or radicals, also known as “themes “, to which are added suffixes and variable endings or inflexions.
In the majority of cases, the roots are monosyllabic. They express abstract ideas and do not in themselves hold any verbal, nominal or other meaning. They carry neither an active nor a passive sense; it is the context of the word, along with its endings, which bring certain nuances of meaning.
Nominal themes are not subject to declinations when they are placed in the first part of the word they compose.
In names, one must look for the radical form in the singular genitive.
Terms originating from verbs will have to be searched for in the roots resulting from the aorist (the second aorist as a rule).
For composite names:
The first term most often plays the role of root or radical, acting as a qualifier for the second term. In other words, the determinant precedes what it qualifies.
If one of the terms of the composite names is formed from the basis of a name, it will always originate from the genitive form if it is placed first. If it is placed second, it can originate from the nominative form (for example, the word “foot” in the name Oedipus “Οιδι-πους “.
Certain composite names are formed from the repetition of the principal consonant of the second word.
Linking vowels, and sometimes consonants (sigma and very rarely tau or theta), are inserted between two roots or between a radical and a suffix.
However, the composition of mythological proper names is rendered still more complex by the addition of some particular practices:
For instance, the formation of composite names is obtained not only from the basis of names, word roots and radicals as is the case for common names, but also from the basis of symbol-letters (or structuring characters). Either alone or in combination, these symbol-letters can make up a word or be added to a common name, separated or not by vowels or inserted between the latter.
This practice allows for nuances or modifications of the symbolic meaning of a word without clearly evoking the underlying concept, as explained here above in the analysis of characters.
The device of a word-puzzle or riddle is used almost systematically.
We should always find the same meaning for the whole, whether we use roots, included words or structuring characters for the deciphering process. But certain names, the composition of which remains a mystery, can give ground for differing interpretations. It is therefore through the context that one can reach a more exact meaning.
While taking into account the points just discussed, the most usual methods used by initiates to build proper names were relatively simple.
Most often, names were obtained by the simple combination of words from common language. The meaning of the name is then determined by the combination of the symbolic content of each constituting word. If the general sense of the text is known, the interpretation is rarely ambiguous. Or if it is, the ambiguity is voluntary.
Through the use of either symbol-letters or root-groups. Several words are also formed on the principle of x+Px, from a movement and its opposite, indicated by the character rho (as in Gorgo)
Or, by a combination of the first two methods.
Or, much more rarely, and probably in play, by the inclusion of symbol-letters within common names. Using this method, the word Orthros was constructed from Orthos, “straight”. Taken in its second sense, the inclusion of P (as rho is a double character), brings in an inversion of meaning, so that Orthros consequently expresses “falsehood “.
Certain particularities of the language can sometimes complicate the decoding process, as for instance the elongation of vowels.
Let us also note that the doubling of a structuring letter can indicate a strengthening of the meaning of the consonant, but sometimes also a realisation on several planes.
Examples of different coding methods:
– Names constructed from a simple image as a word puzzle.
Lynceus, (ΛΥΓΚΕΥΣ), companion of Jason known for his piercing sense of sight. His name is in fact derived from that of the lynx (ΛΥΞ/ΛΥΓΚΟΣ), known for the sharpness of his vision. For us, this refers to one who can very clearly “distinguish” things, and thus leads to a form of “discernment”.
To cite another example, Oineus, the wine grower, is by this rationale one who seeks “divine inebriation”.
– Names constructed by several images (or by an image and a qualifier: adverb, adjective, etc.)
Gorgophone (γοργο+φον): killer of the Gorgon, Europe: Euru “vast”, ops, “vision”, Promachus (Ρρομαχος), “he who fights at the front” .
– Names formed from a word (name, verb, adverb or adjective) or from one or several symbol-letters.
Phoroneus: word root Φορ (Phor = to carry) + N: “he who carries evolution”. Or Calydon: word root καλ (calling) + Δ (union), “he who calls for union”.
– Names formed solely by single or multiple symbol-letters.
Eole (Αιολος) formed by Ι+Λ, and therefore “the individuation of consciousness”, Niobe, Ν+Β, “the evolution of incarnation”, Nereus, Ν+Ρ, “an evolution in accordance with the right movement (the plane of the Absolute)”.
Let us note that there can be a nuance of meanings between the symbol-letters in groups or these same letters separated by vowels. It would seem that if those two consonants are separated by a vowel, their meanings would have to be successively considered, while if they are placed side by side it is the meaning of the word root that takes precedence.
General indications for the decoding of names
To decipher the meaning of the name of a character, a place, a river or of any other proper name, certain steps must be followed.
– Considering the name in its most ancient form, in the Ionian alphabet if it exists. Let us remember that the most exact transcription of these names in the Roman/Latin alphabet is generally the English form. For example, Aeacus is actually AIAKOS.
– Analysing the way in which the name is constructed. Most of the time, it is a combination of everyday words: names (only rarely distorted by the insertion of a letter, such as rho in the words Orthros and Lyrkos), prepositions, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.
– Being aware of certain misleading associations: for instance, Lykos does not mean wolf, but “the light which breaks just before dawn “, and the prefix “anti” does not always mean “against”, but sometimes also means “which supports”.
– Very carefully maintaining the spelling used by the ancient Greeks; the meaning of symbol-letters is in fact not interchangeable.
– Verifying whether certain vowels have been used as consonants. In this case, the vowel is either placed between two other vowels as in Laius, or joined to a single other vowel such as lo (ΙΩ), or Hyas (Υας), brother of the Pleiades, or Rhea (ΡΗΑ), in which must be considered the grouping of the consonants ΡΗ, rather than only the rho Ρ which is also the structuring letter of the name Hera.
When a word includes a diphthong, it is sometimes implied that one of the vowels is used as consonant.
– Verifying all the meanings given to a given word, depending on its context.
– When all the possibilities given by everyday words have been considered without success using the classical rules of word construction, searching for meaning through the symbolism of the roots and radicals as well as the consonants by themselves. (Let us remember that vowels are most of the time only used as determinants, to precise planes of consciousness, levels of being, etc. However, vowels accompanying structuring consonants often have only a minor role in the decoding of words.)
– Investigating whether in certain consonant groups the negative meaning of symbol-letters could have been used, for instance in the “inversion” of rho.
– Using vowels for refining comprehension
For instance, the words Hera (ΗΡΑ or ΗΡΗ, spouse of Zeus), Rhea, (ΡΗΑ or ΡΕΙΑ in Hesiod’s accounts, spouse of Cronus), as well as Eros and Eris, are all constructed around the consonant rho. We have already seen that for Rhea, one had to consider the grouping ΡΗ. In the case of Eros and Eris, it is the double meaning of the rho which distinguishes them: the rho in the sense of attraction (Eros represents attraction and desire in its inferior form) and in the sense of repulsion (Eris, discord).
– Bringing them together with other names they are associated with in the genealogical lineages (parents, siblings, children), for these often express a wider context (parents), opposites, complementary aspects (brothers and sisters), or related future realisations.
– Verifying that the meaning drawn from symbol-letters is close to the meaning of the names included within a word.
– Finally, verifying the coherence between the interpretation obtained by this analysis of proper names, the context of the myth and the sense given by other keys for decoding.
Here are a few examples:
The Panathenaea, a festival celebrated in Athens each year in honour of the goddess Athena (ΠΑΝΑΘΗΝΑΙΑ). These are celebrations which honour those who consecrate “all (pan) to the evolution (Ν) of what grows within (Θ)”. (If we wish to add the specifications given by the vowels, the first alpha (A) in the name Athena specifies that this is a force acting on the mental plane and the eta (Η) specifies that this force is of the domain of future man.)
Hyperion (ΥΠΕΡΙΩΝ) represents “the power of creation, for he is a Titan who stands at the summit (ΥΠΕΡ) of consciousness (I)”. The use of Ω indicates an opening to another plane, for Hyperion stands at the highest level of the world of creation, referred to in this work as the “supermind”, forming the transition with the world of Supreme Reality. The designation “supermind” was given by Sri Aurobindo to refer to the planes extending beyond the mind (which, according to him and to the ancient Greeks, was comprised of seven levels: the physical mind, the vital mind, the mind of reason or intellect, the higher mind, the illumined mind, the mind of intuitive discernment or intuition, and the overmind).
This term “supermind” can be likened to the name of the Titan Hyperion, “the consciousness at the very summit “, which symbolises that plane.
Danaus (ΔΑΝΑΟΣ) indicates an evolution (Ν) towards union (Δ).
Hippodamia (ΙΠΠΟΔΑΜΕΙΑ) is the symbol of the seeker “who has mastered (root ΔΑΜ) his vital energy (ΙΠΠΟ, the horse, symbol of strength or force, and more particularly of vital force)”, which is to say one who has put this vital energy to the service of his psychic being.
Erebus (ΕΡΕΒΟΣ) and Night, Nyx (ΝΥΞ) are children of primordial Chaos. The first one Erebus (ΕΡΕΒΟΣ) evoke a movement of “densification (Β) of the divine game (Ρ)”, that is to say the movement by which the Divine forgot himself into matter, the holocaust of the Divine into absolute unconsciousness or nescience. The second one is “the reflection of the first movement into the world of matter (Ξ) and its evolution according to the law of Nature”.
Philonoe (ΦΙΛΟΝΟΗ) is she who “loves (philo) evolution (N)”.
Inachus (ΙΝΑΧΟΣ) represents “the evolution (N) of concentration (X) “.
Demeter, (ΔΗΜΗΤΗΡ), is “the mother (ΜΗΤΗΡ) of union (Δ) “.
Spelling of Proper Names:
There does not seem to be a definitively established spelling for mythological names. Except for the names established by common use, the spelling which seemed most appropriate for each name, including the phonetic spelling has been used in this work to best highlight the construction of the names.
A lexicon of proper names is included in the annex. In regards to this, one must also mention the work of Carlos Parada, the Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology, (Jonsered: P. Åströms Förlag, 1993). It is an indispensable tool for avoiding confusion amongst the names of heroes that are eponymous (which are named after a place) or homonymous which then carry a same meaning but at different degrees and which belong to different filiations and thus appear in different myths.
– second category
The second category of symbols is linked to images. It is both the most widely used key for decoding names, but also the one most likely to produce errors. The symbolism of the archaic Greek period does not always correspond with definitions found in modern dictionaries. For instance, the cow is, in the original Greek context, the image of inner illumination and of a direct perception of truth, not that of abundance or prosperity.
The function of an everyday element can also give complementary understanding. For instance, dress or clothing defines a function.
Certain images were used in different contexts, where they carried different connotations. For example, the dog, symbol of subtle intuition and of vigilance when Zeus presented it as a gift to Europa, is also the “guardian of the threshold” in its role as Cerberus watching over the entrance to the subterranean world.
Let us also note that rivers play a special role, for they represent currents of energy-consciousness.
Generally, all elements of daily life were used as symbols:
Mountains, grottoes, seas, rivers, lakes, etc.
Trees, fruits, flowers, grains.
Animals of earth, air or water, real or imaginary.
Boats and ships and their principal elements (mast, sails, etc.).
Towns, provinces, countries.
Colours, materials, directions.
The elements of nature: air, wind, lightning, fire, water in all forms, trees, flowers, etc.
Parts of the human body (legs, teeth, cheeks, hair, skin, etc.).
Clothing, weapons, jewelry.
Masculine and feminine polarities.
Main stages of life (birth, marriage, death).
Social positions (king, war chief, steward, bursar, shepherd, etc.).
Below are explained some of the most common symbols:
The four elements :
– Earth: matter, body.
– Water: generally the vital plane, especially feelings, emotions, desires. The sea (not to be confused with ocean) also symbolises the subconscious plane in which the seeker engages himself.
Note that the ancient Greeks made a distinction among several kinds of “seas”: Pontos, the marine tide, symbol of Life and vital. Thalassa, the physical sea, and Pelagos, the open sea, were indicative of different levels of the subconscious. Oceanus, symbol of the currents of conscious energy that flow through the universe as well as the body, was only considered as “the ocean” in later writings not related to mythology.
Let us also note that the ability for metamorphosis or shape-shifting inherent to a large number or sea divinities is linked with the elasticity and adaptability of primitive vital energies and forms. It is a part of the subconscious, which is extremely plastic and has a capacity for instantaneous adaptation (for instance, in the case of Proteus in the Odyssey).
– Air: the mental plane, in the general sense of the word, most often suggested by wings or birds, as in the Stymphalian Birds in the second labour of Heracles. The winds are reserved for divine powers.
Air must be differentiated from the sky, which is a symbol of the spirit plane or of consciousness. When the world was divided among the three gods, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, the domain allocated to Zeus was “the broad heaven amid the air and the clouds” (Homer, Iliad XV 189 (trans. A. T. Murray). The sky or heaven is in this context the supraconscious, situated beyond the conscious mind. The earth, the conscious, and the heights of Olympus, site of the highest mind (the overmind), remained their common domain.
– Fire: symbol of purification, also used to refer to the inner fire.
The elements of nature:
They most often hold a unique and simple meaning. The apple, for example, represents knowledge, the ash tree the consecrated vital, the laurel – plant of Apollo – victory and immortality (after conscious union with the “soul” or “psychic being”), while the olive tree, consecrated to the goddess Athena, is a symbol of wisdom and purity (to be understood as each thing being in its place).
This is represented by different animals according to the characteristic being considered:
The boar: raw vital nature, the most basic instincts, primal automatic responses.
The horse: vital energy, whether it is disciplined and mastered or not, and therefore the seat of power in the vital. When horses are immortal, such as the horses of Achilles, the seeker has attained a state of non-duality in the vital and mastery of its external nature.
Winged horses: the power of the vital at its highest level, in accordance with the spirit (Pegasus and the horses of Helios).
Other animals, including:
The cow: in the times of the Vedic rishis, the cow, the bull and the horse were fundamental symbols. The Greeks kept these symbols. The cow is the symbol of illumination or enlightenment. A herd of cows translates as “numerous flashes of illumination”.
The bull is the power aspect of light (the cow), and therefore represents “the power of realization of the luminous mind”. In essence, it belongs to the overmind. This is why Indra, king of the gods and synonymous to Zeus, is also known as “the Bull”.
The lion: the ego, and by extension lack of sensitivity, pride, arrogance.
The doe: purified intuition, harmony, equilibrium, as well as perseverance, sensitivity, speed. It is an animal consecrated to Artemis.
The dog: subtle intuition (sense of smell), vigilance (as a guardian), protection. In the Vedas, Sarama, the celestial dog with his subtle sense of smell, guides Agni (the quest of the inner fire) and sets him on the trail of the “the stolen herds” which “shine” with the light and power of Truth.
The snake or dragon: evolution, in a right or wrong direction depending on the kind of snake. The viper Echidna, mother of numerous monsters, is the symbol of “the arrest of evolution in union”.
The seal: lives both in water and on land, and thus represents what is “between”, “at the boundary line”, or which “emerges from “. It is a symbol of transition, most often between the vital (water) and the mind (air).
Birds: the mind, and more specifically,
The eagle: the bird that flies the highest, and therefore the highest mind, the overmind. It is the bird of Zeus.
The dove, symbol of peace and purity.
The swan: by its brilliant whiteness, it is a symbol of the psychic being and a symbol of light as linked to Apollo, and by its S shaped neck a symbol of vertical evolution in accordance with the divine plan. In the Vedas, the swan presides over the formation of the psychic being.
Weapons: the bow expresses a will directed towards the goal. The javelin represents a projection of the will.
Parts of the human body:
The legs: where force is found.
The knees: humility, the respect which comes from the awareness of one’s appropriate place (in Homer, touching the knees is a sign of great respect.)
The feet and the ankles: the connection with the earth, symbol of incarnation (the spiritual path is carried out through incarnation, thus all wounds of the feet or the ankle signal a lack of equilibrium). Melampus, the seer of “black feet “, is one who perceives intuitively through the mind alone.
The teeth: archaic memories.
The cheeks: health, vitality
The hair: one’s “antennae” in the direction of the worlds of the spirit.
The skin: sensitivity.
– Masculine and feminine polarities
These are used in quite a complex manner.
At the highest level, they are linked to the fundamental principles that make the masculine pole “concentrated and radiating energy-consciousness” and the feminine pole “energy of execution”.
At a second level, the Titans couples express a polarisation without duality.
At the third level, the stable unions of the gods and goddesses represents the conjunction of opposite and complementary forces. A certain superiority of the gods over the goddesses seems to have existed, and in this way priority was given to expansion over limitation, to becoming over stabilisation (this is apparent in the Zeus-Hera couple).
When we approach the human plane, the feminine is in general traditionally associated with the power of incarnation, and therefore holds a privileged relation with limitation, nature (with a close proximity to the vital and matter), receptivity, particularity and detail, harmony in matter, and the search for the Absolute in incarnation through the psychic. On the other hand, the masculine is linked to forces which tend towards the realm of spirit, and therefore towards expansion, the general (the “great” things). It is in affinity with the mind and the vital.
Nevertheless, some attributes of these two poles are likely to be reversed depending on the plane. For instance, strength falls on the feminine pole in the mental plane and on the masculine pole in the physical plane. This will be further explained in the study of the Caduceus described at the end of this study.
Let us also point out that since mythology is based on patriarchal logic, the great heroes are men, while the women represent, within the couples they form, the means of evolution, the location of the work, and a realisation or a state which the heroes must achieve (or strive to integrate, for instance when children are born later in the life of parents), in view of one or several new yogic works or new realisations represented by the children.
This patriarchal logic, which no doubt echoed the organisation of society in Homeric times, does not in any way originate from machismo within the framework of the myths.
A heroine therefore represents a potentiality of realisation revealed at the birth of the heroine, actualised through her union with a man. The goddesses are directly active however.
The hero represents a yogic work which the seeker becomes conscious of and initiates at the time of the birth of the hero, and which finds its point of application – or the goal towards which it tends – when the hero is united with a heroine.
Nevertheless, it is essential to remember that stories revolving around a number of heroes, especially at the origin of the lineage, describe the successful endpoint of a long maturation process and not of a temporary event which must simply be surmounted.
This is for instance the case when Cadmus marries Harmonia, which illustrates the state of exactitude in which harmony is only achieved by the work of purification realised by her descendants, especially during the Theban wars.
It is the same for Perseus, whose realisation – victory over fear – cannot be complete until the conclusion of the labours of Heracles, who is his distant descendant.
Let us also note that generally, only the gods themselves allowed themselves to form alliances with mortal women, whereas it was formally advised for goddesses not to unite with mortals, although this ban was not explicitly formulated. If they existed, these unions would have been markers either of spiritual pride, or of poor discernment. There is only one union of this kind celebrated by the gods, that of Thetis and Peleus. It was however not to continue for long in the realm of consciousness, for Thetis left soon after the union to live with his sisters the Nereids. (Here we do not take into account the marriage of Cadmus and Harmonia, because even though she was the daughter of two deities, she is not considered to be a goddess).
These unions of gods with mortal women represent evolutionary impulses, an action or influence of the higher planes that consequently favors a greater incarnation of spirit in matter as well as the growing presence of the gods within the seeker, which is to say the ascension of the planes of consciousness in the mental plane (Io, Europa, Danae, Semele, Leda, etc.).
In most cases, when such unions occur, there is, in addition to the “divine” father, a “human father” who makes it possible to recognise the lineage in which the work is to be carried out.
Unions between monsters constitute a separate category which we will study case by case.
Violent events, death.
Murders, rapes and the birth and death of characters are to be considered from the point of view of evolution: these events have no sense in any other reality. Rape expressed the will to attain a given state or realisation by force. A murder indicates only that certain realisations, useful in their time, do not have any reason or possibility for being prolonged, momentarily or definitely. Thus, Medea slays her children simply because the seeker is no longer able to keep hold of the fruits of a powerful experience to which this sorceress goddess has contributed.
Let us also remember that, according to the hidden meaning of the myths, birth and death are only changes in the state of consciousness. As Hades rules over the unconscious, and therefore the body, a world which we cannot be conscious of for the time being, the death of a hero can indicate realisations achieved on the mental and vital planes, which for some must also be achieved in the body.
Social positions :
Depending on the context, the characters represent the seeker himself or one or the other components making up his consciousness or personality.
The king: the clergy occupying a place apart, the king is at the top of the social hierarchy, and is thus the symbol of the most advanced element, generally in a specific direction of the quest. Theseus, an Athenian king, directs the search for the union with the inner Divine presence; Aeacus, king of the Myrmidons, or “king of the ants”, is he who does not neglect any of the details of life, even in the slightest movements of consciousness, and aim at perfect purity “up to the bones”, up to the deepest vital movements.
The priest: the intermediary between men and gods, the one who puts in place religious laws, establishes rituals, and transmits the prayers and requests of the faithful. In the consciousness of the seeker, his actions involve the highest mental planes for priests of Zeus, the psychic being for those of Apollo or Artemis, and so forth.
The seer or soothsayer: he receives knowledge about the future which he transmits directly or in vivid symbolic language, and for which he sometimes gives clues.
It is essentially an intuitive capacity, but at its highest it can be akin to a revelation or inspiration.
It is a part of the being that knows the truth to which the consciousness does not have direct access, and that transmits it in the form of imagery. The message must then be deciphered.
There are different types of seers depending on the plane that is being expressed: there are those who transmit messages from the heights of the spirit, while others transmit from the “psychic “, the individual soul, and others from the body.
Some of the archetypal seers are Tiresias, Calchas, Melampus and Mopsus. If the seer had an area of expertise, he is seen as an oracle: for example, one who interprets “the flight of birds” brings light to the mind of the seeker.
The warlord or leader in war: he who gathers and concentrates certain kinds of energies or elements of consciousness, indicated by the nature of the troops, and directs them in inner battles with a yogic work as his objective.
Suitors : elements that aspire to work in a given direction, but who can also retain and block the seeker because they no longer have their place in the process of yoga, as for instance the suitors of Penelope.
Items of clothing, belts, sashes, necklaces, etc:
The belt or sash: mastery over vital force and fear (it holds the reins).
The robe or dress: a symbol of function. Can also indicate consecrated parts of the being, for instance in the priestly vestment that covers or stimulates certain energy centers of the body through its colour and motifs.
The necklace: mastery or truth of speech (by analogy with the belt, as it represents mastery at the level of the throat). Can also indicate rank, function or attachment.
It can be noticed, in reference to the two last symbols, that today the robes of magistrates and judges are the black robe with a white frill. This signifies that all of the lower energy centres are kept in check, whereas speech, at the level of the throat chakra, is illuminated and therefore made pure and true.
The crown: mental mastery, access to the world of the Spirit.
Voyages on and under the earth, on and under the sea, and in the sky, as in the myth of Icarus.
Travel is the symbol of evolution, and therefore of the spiritual search and transformation that comes with it; the seeker could also be referred to as a “traveler”. The element, whether it is earth, water or air, refers to the plane in which this evolution is at work:
On earth: in reality.
Under the earth: in the physical unconscious.
On water (the boundary line between air and water): in the mental-vital world that constitutes the ordinary human personality made up of thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Underwater: in the depths of the vital world (associated in this study with the deep subconscious), with its retinue of passions, desires and instincts. The bottom of the sea is the abode of the Nereids, daughters of the “Old Man of the Sea”.
In the air: in the mental plane.
Battles and adventures: stages of the path which must be overcome.
Crimes and their purification: if the gods accept to purify the hero, the crime is part of the path and indicates either the end of a stage, as in the case of Heracles who was purified of the murder of his children, or else a temporary abandonment of certain gains.
Cities and regions: the application of decoding principles and the analysis of significant characters to the names of cities and provinces suggests that they were named or renamed after the creation of mythology. For this to be plausible, one must think of the cities of ancient Greece as towns of modest size, the names of which could be easily changed. The total population of Greece at the time of Homer is estimated to have been seven thousand inhabitants. Here are a few examples:
Athens: Θ+Ν: the evolution of inner being, the evolution of the contact with the psychic being.
Thebes: Θ+Β: the embodiment of inner being (growth of mastery of inner being over external nature by the process of purification).
Argos, “the luminous”: the seekers of truth.
Elis: province of individuation or liberation (Λ), is doubtlessly the highest accomplishment. This is why the main city is Olympia, the city of the victorious.
Doris (Dorian’s province): province of the plentiful emergence of boons, or of he who gives himself completely to the Divine (doros).
It is important to note that the evolution of a seeker progresses through a succession of provinces which symbolise the stages of the evolution: Boeotia, Thessaly, Elis and so on.
On the boundary line of the category of symbol-letters and images are the numbers, symbols that are both the most simple and the most perfect. But they are probably the most difficult to decipher, as they are open to many interpretations. In addition, they can, within the same context, vary according to the author. They are also used in the structure of genealogical trees and widely used in the Catalogue of Ships at the beginning of the Iliad.
The Tree of Life, also known as the Tree of Sephiroth, is built on a numerical basis. Entire treaties have been written about them, often with different symbolic meanings being attributed depending on the author or doctrine.
The following interpretations, which we have likened to those given by Mother in the Agenda, seem to have been used in mythology:
1 and 3 refer to the One, the Absolute.
2 : objectification, duality
4 : manifestation, the world of matter (For explanations of the numbers 4, 5, 6, 7 and 11, see Mother’s Agenda, Volume 8)
5 : power, number of the world of forms (especially the vital one)
6 : new creation
7: realisation, the stages of the mind and also the number of the world of creation.
8: the relationship between Nature and the Spirit realm (the Absolute), between the created and creating worlds.
9: generation and childbirth, second or divine birth.
10, 100 and 1000: totality of expression- when a number is multiplied by ten, a hundred or a thousand, it expresses totality or the fulfillment of the corresponding phase, on one or several planes. For instance, the number 50 expresses the totality of a vital or mental expression.
12: creation in its essence, perfection in execution (most often expressed as 6×2, the forces of creation under the two complementary aspects, the masculine and feminine)
THE STRUCTURE OF GENEALOGICAL TREES
– third category
The third main key for the decoding of Greek mythology is the structure of the genealogical trees. These show the different spiritual approaches and the progression of each of them, the planes of consciousness and the evolution in those different planes, the progression in the purification/liberation process as well as the forces that accompany the seeker.
Genealogies not only show the unfolding of what is new, but also that which accomplishes what has been announced in the symbolism of the ancestors’ names.
Their construction, general symbolism and interplay are studied in the fourth chapter, The World of the Titans. Here we only discuss the way of approaching any given character according to his immediate environment.
Almost all the characters can be fitted into a single tree, of which the main branches originate from Titan couples.
Each secondary branch can:
Either explain the characteristics or developments of the root pair, eventually giving place to new secondary branches
suggest a certain number of options of the path at a given moment
portray a phase of spiritual progression
Some parts of the main or secondary branches can also simultaneously illustrate a succession of historical elements, presumed to be either real or purely conceptual
The forces at work or new impulses appear at particular stages of the branches.
There is however no reference to individual time, because the rhythm of progression in the spiritual domain is specific to each individual. The same stage may take several years for one individual, and several lifetimes for another. A “generation” must therefore not in any way be associated with a number of years in real life. Relative time is then noted either by a succession of generations, or by a symbolic number of years, generally 10, both signaling the completion of a phase.
Generally, generational lineages begin with the Trojan War. Because this war (associated with heroes’ return journeys, including that of Ulysses recounted in the Odyssey) was considered an ultimate accomplishment at the time of the Greeks, generations are counted in reference to that point; poets specify the time at which an event took place by counting the number of generations from the time of the Trojan War.
To study a character, one must begin by referring to the genealogical branch in which he is located, knowing that lines of multiple descent are complementary and enrich one another rather than being contradictory. Caution is advised if the source being considered was the account of a mythographer or a historian rather than of an initiate.
When a character has been correctly placed, one can go about studying him as one would a member of an ordinary family, namely through his ascendants, siblings, children (natural or legitimate, sometimes abandoned or else “exposed ” which is the term used to indicate the abandoning of a child in a hostile environment, in which he is either destined to be taken in by others or to die), his legal or non-legal unions and separations, special relationships, childhood experiences, relations with other great families, particular physical and personality characteristics, places of residence, personal attributes, work, etc., and in a general way through all that is known about his life, including accidents, illnesses, murders, incest, attributes, etc.
None of the elements indicated in ancient primitive myths is there by chance, or to embellish or add excitement to the account. Note that since the time of the tragedians, Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles, numerous elements have been added which no longer make sense.
– The lines of descent
In Greek mythology, lines of descent are generally patrilineal. There is, however, a notable exception when the character unites with a god to bring about the birth of a hero. Most often, the god who does so is Poseidon, pointing to a subconscious development, or Zeus, which announces a conscious contact with the planes of the Spirit. Apollo much more rarely plays the role of the “divine father”, for in this case there occurs a psychic contact. The same is true for Hermes, who signals the approach of the highest planes of mental consciousness.
We are therefore not to consider a line of descent through a woman except if her union took place with a god. In this specific case, heroes nevertheless often also have a “human father” who is indicative of a precise period on the path. Children born in the same night of two fathers – one divine and one human – express two aspects of the evolution in progress. Half-brother born of a human father represent the aspect of the personality or the lesser self, which either assists or hinders the development of the hero.
This is the case with Iphicles, half-brother of Heracles.
And also the case with the children of Zeus (the divine father) and Tyndareus (the human father) united the same night with Leda. The most accepted filiation is that Castor and Clytemnestra are the children of Tyndarcus, Helen and Pollux those of Zeus.
Many heroes are thus the fruits of unions between Zeus and mortal women: Heracles (borne by Alcmene), Perseus (by Danae), Aeacus (by Aegina), Minos (by Europa), Epaphus (by Io), Argos (by Niobe) and Dionysus (by Semele).
All these unions reflect an important awareness and a contact with the higher planes of consciousness at a specific point in a yogic progression.
Less conscious evolutionary processes are expressed by the unions of Poseidon, the god that rules over the subconscious: a few examples are Agenor and Belus (borne by Libya), and Pelias and Neleus (borne by Tyro).
Tracing back over a lineage therefore makes it possible to situate a character in the individual spiritual development and within human evolution more generally.
For certain heroes, several different ancestries are given depending on the author. There is nothing contradictory in this; rather it shows that a particular work can be done or a particular experience can be met on different paths.
It is said that the ancient masters were involved in endless debates about the genealogical trees, as it was important to be able to situate in relation to one another the major phases of the spiritual journey, the various yoga and necessities of purification, the realisations and experiences, and to understand the conditions required for overcoming a particular stage or the reasons for the difficulties.
In particular, there is a very difficult problem which is to relate the ascension in the planes of mental consciousness with the path of purification/liberation.
Generally, a union is the symbol of the convergence of a state of consciousness and of an evolutionary direction, at a precise point on the path depending on the place occupied by the characters in the genealogies, with the aim of realising what is represented by the children resulting from this union. The evolutionary direction is most often represented by the feminine character, but there are exceptions.
Thus the union of Pelops, “the vision of shadow”, son of Tantalus, “aspiration”, with Hippodamia, “mastery of vital energy”, opens the lineage of the Atreides.
And also the union of Heracles with his second wife Deianira, “detachment”, which gave Hyllus “a great freedom”, Ctesippus “he who holds vital energy at his disposition”, Glenus “radiating”, and Onites, “he who is effective in the higher plane”.
Female character may also represent a quality, as in Callirhoe “that which flows well”, a stage on the path or a historical element, as in the case of Memphis.
The same hero can have several unions simultaneously or successively, in which case they represent different aspects or phases of yogic growth. Thus, Heracles successively married Megara (she who largely acts in accordance to the right movement), then Deianira (detachment), and finally fell in love with Iole (liberation).
There are also some unions that do not bear children, and some instances of love between characters of the same gender, which demonstrate a need for integration or encouragement, especially if one of the characters is a god, but which cannot produce any results.
– Family members outside the lineage:
Brothers and sisters represent particular yoga and realizations to be obtained, all which were already as potentialities in their parents.
Occasionally, they are embodiments of complementary or opposing pairs, as in Erebus and Nyx, Aether and Hemera, Ares and Hephaestus, Aeetes and Circe, Prometheus and Epimetheus, Eteocles and Polynices, Castor and Pollux, Helen and Clytemnestra.
Twins introduce two ways of approaching a problem from theoretical and experimental perspectives respectively, or express two aspects of one reality such as Apollo and Artemis.
Uncles and aunts of the younger branches represent secondary aspects of the quest. For instance, Eurystheus, uncle of Heracles, indicates that a work can begin when sufficient force has been accumulated (Euru= vast + the root sthe= force).
Children born outside of marriage, save those from unions with gods, point to secondary aspects of the path.
– Family events
Birth connotes the appearance of something new.
The death of a character symbolises the end of a process, whether it is premature or not. Death in battle indicates a conscious action, voluntary and just, while a natural death expresses an evolution that has naturally run its course.
Rape, or attempted rape, indicates that a character, under the influence of the ego, is striving to raise himself to a level for which he is not ready. When it is perpetrated by a god, it is the sign of an unexpected eruption of specific forces.
Incest, outside of divine unions in which it is considered to be expected and logical (as in that of Gaia and her son Ouranos, and the Titans and Titanides amongst themselves), is not a cause for scandal, except in the cases of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta, and of Thyestes and his daughter Pelopia.
In the primitive myth, Oedipus marries Jocasta (named Epicaste by Homer), but Jocasta’s children are the fruits of another union. The ancient initiates, preoccupied with spirituality rather than morality, probably wished to avoid all unnecessary speculation about incest, a concern that the later tragedians, Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles, did not share.
Similarly, madness has often been used by later authors to justify the unjustifiable in moral readings of mythology. Thus, Heracles, a great hero, was seen as incapable of slaying his children unless he was under the effects of insanity, while in the original myth this only points to a reorientation of the yogic work.
– Various other clues
To complete the study of a character, every clue must be considered, as none is without merit, as long as it has not been added without due cause by non-initiates.
Special attention must be given to homonyms, which carry the same symbolic content to varying degrees of realisation depending on the context, but which belong to different genealogical branches. Sometimes there can be as many as ten. One must take care not to confuse them, so as to avoid any mistake in the genealogical organisation and consequently in the overall interpretation.
The very existence of these identical names could, if it was needed, bring in additional arguments to the symbolic content of mythology, for the initiated of ancient times had unlimited possibilities at hand in the creation of new names.
We could also use the different versions of a myth, which, in giving complementary indications or alternative structures of descent, will clarify the main meaning of the myth rather than contradict it.
Some lists of characters vary according to the author; although the experience is in its essence the same for every seeker, it is lived, interpreted and related by each according to his own particular history and sensibility. The one relating a particular account can thus add a number of characters to point out, as he sees fit, elements which he considers to be important.
In fact, some masters, probably considering that certain capacities had to be acquired to attain certain experiences, consequently modified previously existing lists of heroes.
These lists therefore constituted an essential element for spiritual guidance, as each name could contribute a particular teaching. Only the characters found in all the lists were unanimously acknowledge as essential. In a general way, they are the only ones analysed in this study.
In the context of interpretation, it is necessary to remember that all the characters, without exception, represent the seeker. This key is also the most suited to the interpretation of dreams: the dreamer is all the characters and all the elements of the dream. For instance, the seer Tiresias who speaks out his vision and the hero who receives the coded message are but different aspects of the seeker himself; it is the intuition, given advantage by an internalisation, in this case the blindness of the seer, that symbolically guides the hero.
It is only by taking into account all of the indications given by a myth that we can approach the meaning of a story and avoid many errors of interpretation.
– fourth category
The fourth symbolic category is constituted of the chronology of the different myths, which serves to describe spiritual experiences allegorically. It is then compulsory to understand the elements building up this chronology.
Unfortunately, this is not sufficiently specified in the myths, in spite of the “catalogs” of genealogies left by mythographers of earlier times in their efforts to synchronise the theoretical teachings and corresponding experiences of the different path. In addition, initiates, aware of the extreme diversity of paths, generally avoided drawing too precise parallels.
We will see in the chapter regarding the structure of mythology that ancient initiates arranged the principal myths within two major directions: the first in the lineage of the Titan Oceanus, and the second in that of the Titan Iapetus. In each of these groups, certain branches describe theoretical teachings while others relate experiences.
The lineage of the Titan Iapetus explores the ascension of the planes of mental consciousness.
On the other hand, that of the Titan Oceanus explores the paths of evolution in agreement with the classical processes of purification and liberation.
These two major pathways are then the basis for a general chronology.
Although they approach spirituality from different angles, some experiences are clearly similar, as for example the first contact with the Absolute.
In each of them, the myths devoted to teaching follows their own chronology, and should not be too precisely linked to experiences. For instance, the myth of Perseus, which addresses the victory over the processes of seizing and of fear, cannot be applied to any specific moment on the path, but rather represents a long series of battles giving way to successive liberations.
This brings us to underline the fact that many myths, even if they are explicit about the terms of the process, represent not stages to be surmounted once and for all, but rather the process itself, comprised of numerous cycles.
It is the most advanced stages of the path which were recorded by Homer – the greatest initiate of that period – in the Iliad and Odyssey, and constitute the reference point from which all other myths were developed. The latter progressively enriched existing knowledge about the paths that could lead to those ultimate realisations.
The span of one generation, or a period of ten years, is not so much indicative of the number of years, but rather of a period of spiritual maturation. Depending on the seeker, it can last for several months, several years or several lives.
One “generation”, a word which in Greek was linked with birth, seems to indicate the process of passing through a stage, whereas the term “ten years” suggests an evolutionary progression.
Guiding myths follow their own chronology. This does not point to a set “order” since certain teachings remain valid throughout the duration of the path. If there is a chronology, it is only because certain “labours” should not be undertaken too early, while others concern only a given phase of the path.
On the path of purification and liberation, the teachings are primarily illustrated by the labours of Heracles. In the myth of Perseus, the struggle against fear constitutes a valid prelude for the entire duration of the labours. The chronological reference is then given by the site in which is executed a certain labour. For example, the first six labours, carried out in the Peloponnesus, outline the first stage of the path, while the last six are occur farther and farther away, finally taking place in mythical countries.
On the path of ascension through the planes of consciousness, it is the seven Pleiades who set the chronology of the teachings. After the two first planes, which no longer concern seekers, we encounter Merope, wife of Sisyphus, the representation of the intellect, then Sterope (the higher mind), Electra (the illumined mind), Taygete (intuitive discernment), and finally Maia (the overmind). This order is not explained in the myths, and has been reconstructed by the author.
Experiences follow both the chronology outlined above and the structure of the genealogical trees. To establish links between experiences belonging to the two paths, the initiates of ancient times introduced marriages and visits during voyages or exiles.
The general chronology of experiences is as follows:
Three generations before the beginning of the Trojan War: Europe and the first incursions into the higher mind.
A generation before Troy: the quest of the Golden Fleece.
Four years after the return from the quest: funeral games in honour of Pelias.
About ten years after the Quest of the Golden Fleece: the exploits of Theseus and the death of the Minotaur. The story of Theseus takes place over several generations : from the times of Minos to the abduction of Helen who was then barely of marriageable age while Theseus was already a fifty-year old hero.
About twenty years before Troy: first Theban war.
About ten years before Troy: second Theban war.
A generation after the Quest of the Golden Fleece: the beginning of the Trojan War.
Duration of the Trojan War: ten years. Homer, in the Iliad, only describes the events of the last year of the war.
For the ten years after the Trojan War: homeward return of Ulysses up to his arrival in Ithaca and returns of many other heroes.
The succession of great heroic epics is not the only key for temporal encoding. The ancients also characterised the progression by mention of the affiliation of heroes with different peoples, real of mythical (Pelasgian, Lapithian, Argian or Achaean, Trojan, etc.), to countries and provinces (Crete, Boeotia, Thessaly, etc.) and to cities. For example, Corinth is the city of the intellect and of the battle against illusions. Boeotia is the province of the beginnings of purification, but is also meaningful to advanced seekers. Thessaly involves crossing through the higher mind, and Phocis marks the passage to the next evolution.
However, we should also note that geographical names sometimes also cover up different modalities of the quest, as well as, it seems, a historical summary of the migration of knowledge from Egypt to Greece, passing through Crete.
In a general way, we can think of the initiates as poets. It is therefore their written accounts that are favoured in this study, namely those of Homer, Hesiod, (including his Catalogue of Women), Pindar, Apollonius of Rhodes (for what concerns the first part of the path), and with more precaution, those of Bacchylides, Callimachus and Moschus.
The work of historians and mythographers is to be considered with much more caution, though often these are the only existing sources. Frequent crosschecking and verification is indispensable. The sources most often used within this study are the works of Apollodorus, Pausanias, Diodorus Siculus, Hyginus, and indirectly, Pherecydes and Stesichorus.
It seems that Apollodorus (Apollodorus’ Library) strove to remain as faithful as possible to ancient sources. He is, according to our interpretation, highly precise in most details, which suggests that although he was not an initiate, he had understood the myths in their depth. He also eliminated doubtful variants.
With regard to the tragedians Sophocles and Aeschylus, there is no certainty about their status as initiates.
Although they compiled works no longer existing in their original form today, they also mixed into them moral and historical considerations. Often, they changed names or transformed ancient myths so that an initiate would have to consider as just and true the very opposite of what the author glorified.
Let us remember that Aeschylus was accused of having revealed the secrets that only an initiate could know, and escaped being put to death only by maintaining that he was not an initiate. But this alone is not sufficient proof.
Euripides, the third great tragedian, embellished his works with so many improbable events, both from the point of view of canonical mythology and from that of the spiritual path, that they must be examined with the utmost caution.
Among the Latin writers, Ovid seems to have understood the deeper meaning of Greek mythology best. He took up many myths and developed them according to his own vision.
Virgil, so as to give the emperors illustrious ancestors, traced their genealogy to the Trojan Aeneas, and we can suppose that he was aware of the symbolic value of this royal lineage. His works merit a special study. If he was an initiate, he seems to have used other keys for coding than those given here or at least used keys adapted to the Latin names and to characters of the corresponding alphabet.
In a general way, we have consequently given preference to the oldest versions even if they were recorded at a later date.
To avoid making this text too unwieldy, variants have not been included. Nevertheless, their analysis does not present any particular difficulty. For instance, in Homer’s account the goddess of love, Aphrodite, is a daughter of Zeus and Dione, herself a daughter of Oceanus. But in Hesiod’s version, and in that of many other authors, she is the daughter of Ouranos, and was born of the sea foam that formed as the genitals of the god fell into the sea when he was castrated by his son Cronus. The two versions can seem incompatible, but they are simply two complementary visions of love seen from different planes. In making Aphrodite a daughter of Zeus, Homer depicts love as one expression of the highest level of mind attainable by man, the overmind. The name of his mother Dione (ΔΙ+Ν), daughter of Oceanus, indicates that it is a love in evolution (Oceanus), from the lowest levels of devouring and grasping, to union in the highest consciousness (ΔΙ). Hesiod alluded to a much higher form of Love, springing from the meeting of the power of generation of supreme Consciousness, the sexual organs of Ouranos, with Life, symbolised by the sea. This Love, which bears none of the characteristics of human love, is more difficultly grasped by the mind.