Before the slaughter of Penelope’s Suitors (Book XX)

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Odysseus (Ulysses) did not sleep, trying to calm the anger that rose in him at the sight of the cheerful maids who went to sleep with the suitors.

Then Athena appeared to him as a woman, but he immediately recognized the goddess and told her of his helplessness in the face of the group of suitors. Athena confirmed her future help and told him that even fifty battalions of mortals cannot defeat them when she stands by his side. Odysseus (Ulysses) then fell asleep.

In the night Penelope awoke and wept, wishing to suffer the same fate as the daughters of Pandareus. These had been taken care of by the goddesses after the death of their parents struck by the gods: Aphrodite had fed them honey and sweet wine, Hera had given them beauty and wisdom, Artemis had increased the size of their bodies and Athena had taught them to do superb work.

But when Aphrodite asked Zeus a husband for each of them, the Harpyes sent them as servants to the Erinyes.

Penelope also asked to be taken to the kingdom of Hades so that she could find Odysseus (Ulysses) and that she would never unite with less noble hero. As dawn came, each of the spouses had the strong impression of the presence of the other at his side.

Then Odysseus (Ulysses) asked Zeus for a double sign: that an awakening man utters a prophetic word for him and that a sign of the god appears outside. Immediately, the thunder rumbled over Olympus and Odysseus (Ulysses) rejoiced, and then a woman spoke. She was one of the twelve milling women, the only one who did not sleep because she was the weakest and had not completed her task. Having seen lightning in a cloudless sky, she was emboldened to ask that this day the last meal be served to the suitors. And Odysseus (Ulysses) rejoices again, realizing that the time of his vengeance had come.

When Telemachus woke up, he asked Euryclia if she had taken care of the beggar, suggesting that sometimes his mother lacked discernment. The nanny reassured him and then she put the maids to work to prepare the house for the feast. Twenty of them went to draw water from the fountain pouring Black Waters.

Then Eumaeus arrived, pushing three pigs in front of him.

Then Melantheus arrived with his most beautiful goats, taunting Odysseus (Ulysses) and promised him a beating.

Then the head of the cattlemen came, Philoetius, arriving from the ferry. He came from the Cephalonean fields on the mainland and brought with him a sterile cow and fat goats. He first asked Eumaeus about this beggar who looked like a king, then the beggar himself. He mourned Odysseus (Ulysses), who had taken him at a young age at his service and whose flocks he had increased considerably. Although against his will, he had to give his animals for the suitors’ meals. The beggar promised him that he would soon see his master again and witness the death of the suitors. In turn, he assured him that he would fight alongside Odysseus (Ulysses).

As the suitors plotted Telemachus’ death, an eagle appeared to their left, holding a dove in its claws. Then Amphinomos predicted the failure of their plot and encouraged them to stop dealing with it. 

When the preparations for the meal were completed, the pig farmer Eumaeus distributed the cups, the cowherd Philoetius distributed the bread and Melantheus served the wine.

Telemachus warned the suitors not to mistreat the beggar and all were amazed at his aplomb.

Antinoos then understood that Zeus was protecting the son of Odysseus (Ulysses). 

Athena increased the resentment in Odysseus (Ulysses)’ soul by refraining from preventing the suitors from insulting him. The brute Ctesippus who lived in Same and was immensely rich, threw a cow hoof at the beggar which the latter avoided with a bitter smile. Telemachus rebuked Ctesippus forcefully, signalling to the suitors that he was running out of patience.

Damastor’s son, Agelaos, asked Telemachus to press his mother to choose the noblest of the suitors, but he refused.

Then Athena sent a sign: the suitors laughed without cause and without stopping although they wanted to cry, and the meat they ate began to bleed.

Then the soothsayer Theoclymenos saw the suitors wrapped in darkness, blood pouring from the walls, the awning filled with ghosts, the sun dying out and death covering everything. And as all the others laughed at him and Eurymachos wanted to drive him out, he announced their end and went to Piraeus.

The beginning of this Book opposes the revolted sadness of what works for transparency to the confident certainty of ancient realisations (Odysseus (Ulysses) expresses anger and sadness, while on the side of the suitors and maids a joyful relaxation reigns). But the master of yoga promises the seeker his unwavering help and assures him of victory, thus allowing him to recover inner peace.

In his “vision of more total freedom” refined by divine help, the seeker aspires to find the path of future yoga for transformation (Penelope wishes to suffer the same fate as the daughters of Pandareus who, although led to their perfection by the goddesses, had been deprived of husbands).

The daughters of Pandareus “the one who gives everything to the righteous movement towards union” had indeed been led to a certain perfection and their abduction led them more towards consecration to a divine task than to a true punishment: the forces that work for balance (or break) at the level of the true vital had indeed directed them towards the service of those who put back in the right divine path (they were abducted by the Harpyes who had sent them as servants to the Erinyes).

This story highlights a very important point of yoga that we have had the opportunity to address several times: the movement of ascension/integration that explains the constant interaction between the path of ascent and the one of liberation-purification. As Satprem says, “you can only heal (access the Truth) if you go to the bottom, and you can only get to the bottom if you go all the way to the top.” This explains why the great heroes must relate to the deities at the bottom of the sea, to those of the underworld where the god of the overmind Hades reigns, explains that Iris is the messenger of the gods, that Chrysaor “the man with the golden sword” is the son of the Gorgon Medusa, that the Erinyes punish perjury in the underworld or that the daughters of Pandareus become their maids.

The name Pandareus means, with the Greek structuring letters, “who gives everything to the just movement towards union.” His parentage is not given by Homer and the one indicated in other sources is unreliable.

In Penelope’s complaint, only the impatience to begin the future yoga is expressed by a powerful aspiration for “divine exactness.” The perfect education of Pandareus’ daughters reveals that the seeker was guided and accompanied on the way by spiritual energies to replace those of the ego (at the death of their parents struck by the gods, the daughters of Pandareus were taken care of by the goddesses). What ensures the growth of true love has nourished his psychic and his ecstatic joy (they were nourished by Aphrodite with honey and sweet wine). The highest strength of the superconscious presiding over the right movement enabled him to grow in Truth and acquire knowledge (Hera gave them beauty and wisdom). Spiritual help for purification has facilitated the transition to a higher humanity, the one which can be associated with the superman guided by the psychic being (Artemis has increased their size). The master of yoga allowed him finally to achieve a certain perfection in divine work: detachment, attention, humility, consecration, etc. (Athena taught them to make magnificent works).

Union in spirit can no longer be his goal: therefore, in the previous Book, it is said that a daughter of Pandareus mourns the child Itylos “liberation in spirit” that she had of Zethos “the quest” and that her dagger immolated.

At this stage of the path, it is no longer yogas governed by the mental personality that can achieve such realisations, but only the action of divine forces. The daughters of Pandareus can no longer have husbands, but also cannot be the wives of the gods. Aphrodite’s plan is foiled: the spiritual forces that watch over the evolution of Love must therefore give way to forces of another order, superior to them, the forces of Truth. This is also what Sri Aurobindo asserts: Truth must be established in humanity before Divine Love can manifest.

It is then the primordial movements of the vital consciousness that ensure either the reversal or the stabilization of forms by homeostasis (the Harpyes) that position “these perfections in the making” as help for the establishment of the true movement (the Harpyes, daughters of Thaumas, gave them as servants to the Erinyes “the movement of evolution in Truth”).

Let us remember that the Erinyes correct yoga mistakes cutting off from the Divine, the Real, or the Right Order. According to Hesiod, their source is far beyond the powers governing the mind because they are born from the blood of Ouranos spilled on Gaia, and thus at the origin of creation. They are therefore equal to the Titans that Ouranos begot alone, if not of a slightly higher rank. Therefore Zeus and the deities of Olympus are forced to obey them. They are the guardians of the highest divine order in the Universe. This is why they can also intervene in the kingdom of Hades, in the body. They avenge crimes against the natural order, bring back in the right path according to absolute order, the worst crimes being to cut oneself off from one’s divine source (murder against the parents) or to prevent evolutions (infanticide). They have therefore a function far superior to that of the Harpies, the latter being only the forces ensuring stability in the deep vital by breaking the balance or its recovery (the principle of homeostasis and repetition that promotes stability). It is the sister of the Harpyes’, Iris, who provides the “information” at their level.

In this phase of yoga, like the daughters of Pandareus, the seeker, always striving for a more total freedom, yearns very strongly for divine exactness in all his movements, and thus for the yoga to descend into the bodily unconscious where the realization of transparency would be confirmed (Penelope asks to be taken to the kingdom of Hades so that she can find Odysseus (Ulysses) there). To her, any other goal would seem a step backwards (she does not want to satisfy the wishes of a less noble hero). This realization is already confirmed on the subtle level (Penelope and Odysseus (Ulysses) had both a strong impression of the presence of each other).

Then, “The movement that works for transparency” asks that this be confirmed, both in spirit and in its physical reality. To which the Divine responds by giving a “power” in the mind and the indication that the yoga that runs out of steam in the old forms is finally turning away from it (Odysseus (Ulysses) asked Zeus a double sign: the thunder rumbled on Olympus and one of the twelve miller women who saw lightning in a cloudless sky, wished the death of the suitors. She was the only one who did not sleep because she was the weakest and had not completed her task). 

The seeker takes into account that the “vision of the future” that has supported the yoga so far is no longer as operative for future fights (Telemachus asks Euryclia if she took good care of the beggar, fearing that his mother did not measure his worth). He also notes that certain elements still serve the ancient yogas by feeding on energy sources opposed to the New (twenty maids went to draw water from the fountain giving Black Waters).

On the other hand, it clearly identifies what is compatible and even constitutes a support: “management of the basic vital” has always remained faithful to the movement of union and “who loves the highest of the spirit” is committed to support it (Eumaeus has remained faithful to Odysseus (Ulysses) and Philotios, the commander of the cattlemen working on the land of Cephalonia, the “realisations” in the “mind”, pledges to support it). In this reorientation of yoga, it is clear that there is absolutely no question to combat the realisations of the mind. This is not about the intellectual or mental separator which since long has finished its work. However, what manages these realisations does not let us know the degree of unification because he worked independently (Philotios increased the herds on the continent and questions the beggar). 

What needs to be changed is the fixity of beliefs conveyed by the ancient forms of yoga and the erroneous resulting aspiration, that which aims for the improvement of man but not his transformation (the goatherd Melantheus).

Through his “well-organised mind,” the seeker realizes that the old yoga systems will not prevent the future yoga (Amphinomos announces the failure of the plot against Telemachus). He understands that the power of the mind will no longer regard wisdom (or non-duality in spirit) as the highest achievement of yoga (an eagle appeared to the left of the suitors, holding a dove in its claws). Doves bring ambrosia to Zeus and are therefore symbols of non-duality in spirit. Remember that any bird appearing on the left is an omen of death while its flight to the right is a happy omen.

However, the movements of the ancient yoga continue their task: divine drunkenness or joy is “served” by a movement that is now an obstacle to progress (Melantheus “what developed erroneously for the improvement of man and not his transformation”, serves wine).