The Island of Aeolus: the Need for great Patience and unwavering Vigilance (Book X)

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Then Odysseus (Ulysses) and his companions approached the island of Aeolus, dear to the immortal gods, son of Hippotes. It was a floating island surrounded by an indestructible bronze wall and a smooth, polished rock.

The houses of Aeolus exhaled the sweetest fragrances and sounded the most harmonious sounds. Aeolus lived surrounded by his six sons and six daughters married to each other, in opulence and harmony. For a month, he asked Odysseus (Ulysses) about his adventures because he wanted to know everything. Then, at the hero’s request, he agreed to help him return to Ithaca. He locked “the routes of the impetuous winds” in a bag made from the skin of a nine-year-old ox that he tied to the hollow of Odysseus (Ulysses) ship, for Zeus had given him power over the winds: he stirred or soothed them at will. Having kept the Zephyr out of the bag, he made it blow in such a way as to facilitate the return of the heroes when the fleet returned to sea.

On the tenth day of sailing, while the coasts of Ithaca were in sight, the hero fell asleep. For nine days, eager to get to port as quickly as possible, he did not want to delegate the steering of the ship to anyone else. His companions immediately opened the bag, believing it to be full of riches they coveted. The winds then escaped and brought the ships back to the island of Aeolus. Despite Odysseus (Ulysses)’ pleas, the latter turned them away because he no longer had the right to rescue “a man hated by the blessed gods.”

The hero went back to sea, straying unguided for six days and six nights.

In Greek mythology there are several “Aeolus” that should not be confused – Carlos Parada lists four – two of which are particularly important. All relate to “freedom in consciousness.”

The first we met was the son of Helen, of the lineage of Iapetus (the one of the ascension of the planes of consciousness). His progeny – Bellerophon, Nestor, Jason, Odysseus (Ulysses), etc. – describes the experiences encountered in the progression towards “in what one has skills” or “the achievement of the task” according to the meaning of his wife’s name Enarete.

The second Aeolus (“who works for the liberation of consciousness”) is, in this myth, the son of Hippotes “the power over the forces of life”. He symbolizes “what works for the liberation of the vital consciousness” that gives control over the energies of life. It is in this capacity that he is the master of the winds or “breaths”.

Among them are the four major winds – Boreas, Zephyr, Notos and Eurus – sons of Astraeus and Eos, who are divine helpers of evolution, as are Eosphorus “the light bearer (Lucifer)” (cf. Volume 1). Like some other gods, Aeolus has power over them. This is why he can use the Zephyr (a west wind), and facilitate the return of the hero.

There are also bad or pernicious winds, most often cited as children of Typhon “ignorance”. They symbolize “opposition forces” or “adverse forces” often invoked by the disciples to justify their difficulties. In duality, they are the counterpart of what we consider to be good, beautiful and true, and without which they cannot exist. In yoga, they offer the necessary obstacles to evolution, acting as a “leverage”.

The state of consciousness attained by the seeker is described by Homer as a state of perfect harmony that nothing can disturb because this place has a double protection: an indestructible bronze wall protecting from external attacks and a smooth, polished rock on which the vibrations slide away.

His twelve children married to each other evoke the Chinese Qi, quite similar to the Indian Prana and perhaps also to the Greek Animus.

Indeed, the Chinese “breaths” circulate in twelve meridians, six yin and six yang that operate in pairs (lungs/large intestine, etc.), just like here the children of Aeolus, “master of the winds”.

Moreover, it is said that the Qi pre-exists to duality, which is why “Aeolus is dear to the immortal gods.” The art of “breaths” control is Dao Yin or Qi Gong.

The seat of control of these vital breaths is located in a “structure”, at the frontier of the vital, without anchor in the body (a floating island), probably in the plane Sri Aurobindo calls the subtle physical.

Approaching the island of Aeolus, the seeker has thus symbolically reached the point where he can gain some power over these fundamental energies of life. This mastery, for example, gives the ability to harmonize the circulation of energies in the body, i.e. the power over health and disease.

The seeker first undergoes a test to see how well he can maintain this state in order to reach the next stage without any problems (Aeolus questioned Odysseus (Ulysses) at length about his journey).

Then he receives help for his progress (Aeolus locked “the routes of the impetuous winds” on the ship) and even for a gentle purification. Indeed, if the Zephyr, the west wind of purification, can become a storm bringing with it rain, it can also be gentle (Having kept the Zephyr out of the jar, he blew it in such a way as to facilitate the return of the heroes).

But it is an harmony imposed from the outside that in turn requires perfect purification to maintain itself. This is not a transformation in the body.

This imposed harmony can only be maintained by constant vigilance, which the seeker cannot maintain because of his impatience (Indeed, for nine days, eager to arrive safely as quickly as possible, he did not want to delegate to another the steering of the ship).

Because of this impatience, he eases his vigilance and lets parts of the un-purified being in search of gratifications express themselves (traces of ego which still want to enjoy the experiences).

It is only when the seeker thinks he has achieved the goal that the consequences of this impatience are revealed (Odysseus (Ulysses) fell asleep while the coast was in sight).

The seeker finds himself at his starting point and is not given a new chance (the ship is brought back by the storm on the island of Aeolus). He will have to go through a thorough purification led by Poseidon who was enraged by the blinding of his son Polyphemus.

This reminds us of the story told by Mother in the Agenda of a great yogi who managed to control the consequences of a deadly poison but succumbed several years later when he gave in to anger.

This external power over the energies of life is indeed the mark of fulfilment of ancient yogas, and must be exceeded here.

In other words, the seeker who in the most advanced part of his being had access to a state of higher harmony can hope to receive “aids” that address the lack of purification and let him achieve the union of spirit and matter without first having purified his whole being. But this realization can only come about on the sine qua non condition of a perfect vigilance at each moment, that the highest part of his being gives up impatience and any lack of confidence, and that he has adopted an attitude of perfect consecration where no will to act on its own persists.

The seeker must therefore ensure that his aspiration does not turn into impatience, for it goes against the intended purpose and the divine project (Aeolus no longer has the right to help the one who is “hated by the gods”). 

A long “drifting” ensues for six days and six nights.

One could compare this myth to the story of the Centaur Chiron, surprised that a small wound caused by the arrow of Heracles coated with the venom of the Hydra that fell on his foot could have such consequences: in the advanced phases of yoga, a tiny little lack of vigilance can cause significant damage.

This story can also be related to a progression in yoga: the ordinary man first reacts, thinking he is a victim of events.

Then he realizes that nothing happens by chance, that everything makes sense, and that external events have always been best for his evolution.

Then he sees how he is protected and guided towards the emergence of his own truth, of his task, first for the big things and then more and more at every moment, as long as he maintains himself in a state of acceptance and surrender.

Finally, he realizes that his inner state of consciousness creates external events.

Next : The Land of the Laestrigones (Laestrigonians) or the Illusion of Nirvanas (Book X) >>

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