Then Odysseus (Ulysses) and his companions reached the land of the Cyclops.
These were lawless brutes who trusted the Immortals so much that they neither ploughed nor sowed. The land was so fertile that it provided them with plenty of food. At home, there was no council that judged or deliberated. Without concern for each other, each dictated his own law to his children and wives. They had no ships or carpenters. But if they had had boats, what a beautiful city, what beautiful harvests and eternal vines they would have had.
Off the harbour, there was a small island covered with forests where wild goats multiplied endlessly without being disturbed by anyone. It was a god who led the twelve ships to the shore of this island where Odysseus (Ulysses) moored them, for the night was deep and foggy and one could see nothing.
The next day a goat hunt was so successful that each boat hoisted nine animals on board, ten for Odysseus (Ulysses)’. With the wine that the heroes had stolen from the Cicones, they feasted for a whole day.
Then Odysseus (Ulysses) left with his ship as a scout. He arrived at the shelter of a Cyclops, a gigantic man. A nearby cavern was used as a stable for his flocks of sheep and goats. Odysseus (Ulysses) had taken with him presents, including an excellent wine offered by a priest of Apollo whom he had spared during the raid among the Cicones.
The Cyclops Polyphemus being with his grazing flocks, Odysseus (Ulysses) and his companions entered the cavern filled with cheeses and jars of milk, lambs and young goats parked according to their age. While his men begged him to take control of these riches and to flee as quickly as possible, Odysseus (Ulysses) refused, wanting to know what gifts the Cyclops would offer him.
When the Cyclops arrived with his flock at the end of the day, he brought the females home to milk, leaving the males outside, and closed the entrance with a huge rock that only he could move. The milking and preparation of the cheeses completed, he saw the hero and his crew and asked them why they were there.
Odysseus (Ulysses), in the name of the gods and Zeus the Hospitable, proposed an exchange of presents. But the Cyclops did not care about the gods, proclaiming himself far superior to them. As he sought to know the location of the mooring of his hosts’ ship, Odysseus (Ulysses) lied to him, claiming that the ship was destroyed.
Polyphemus then seized two companions of Odysseus (Ulysses), smashed them on the ground, dismembered them and made his supper with them. Similarly, at dawn, he took two more for his lunch before going out with his beasts, placing the rock behind him.
As a plan of escape, Odysseus (Ulysses) had his men carve and polish a huge stake of olive tree, which he hardened with fire and hid under the manure. Then he told them of his plan.
When Polyphemus returned in the evening, he left no animal outside – which for Odysseus (Ulysses) was a sign of the gods – and again took two men for his supper. The hero offered his wine to the Cyclops, who asked for more until he drank three full skin bags.
As Polyphemus asked Odysseus (Ulysses) for his name, promising him a present of hospitality, he replied “Nobody” The Cyclops then told him that he would eat him last, as a gift, and then he fell asleep under the effect of drunkenness.
After reddening the tip of his spear in the fire, Odysseus (Ulysses) and his companions sunk it into the unique eye of the sleeping Cyclops and turned it. Screaming in pain, Polyphemus took it out and called the other Cyclops for help. Asked if he had been assaulted by cunning or force, he replied “by trickery” and when they inquired about the perpetrator, he shouted “Nobody”. The other Cyclops, thinking him to be struck by some illness, went away, recommending that he implores Poseidon for help. Odysseus (Ulysses) rejoiced because of his cunning, the name “Nobody” he had found and his perfect intelligence.
Polyphemus, blind, pushed the rock that closed the door and settled on the threshold, extending his hands to grab the prisoners who would try to get out with the beasts.
But Odysseus (Ulysses) found another trick. Having tied the rams three by three, he asked his men to cling to the belly of the middle ram, while he himself would come out the last, hidden under the fleece of the strongest ram.
So when rosy-fingered Dawn came, all were able to escape unharmed, although Polyphemus was astonished that the strongest of his rams came out last.
Having stocked up on sheep, the hero and his companions immediately embarked and began to row.
Barely off the shore, Odysseus (Ulysses) hailed Polyphemus and taunted him. In rage, the Cyclops tore off the top of a mountain and threw it into the sea, generating a wave that brought the hero’s boat back to shore. The men pulled forcefully on the oars to get away and, despite their entreaties, Odysseus (Ulysses) again hailed the Cyclops, revealing his true name and lineage.
Polyphemus then lamented: a prophet of the Cyclops, Telemos the Eurymides, had predicted that he would be blinded by a certain Odysseus (Ulysses), but he did not grow suspicious because he expected a man of greater stature. However he sought to win the hero’s friendship, asking him to come back, assuring that he would get his hospitality gifts and that his father Poseidon would help him on the return journey. The Cyclops also declared that only this god could, if he wanted to, heal his wound. Odysseus (Ulysses) replied that this would never be the case.
Then the Cyclops begged his father Poseidon to prevent Odysseus (Ulysses) from returning to his homes, or at least to allow only his return, without his companions, after terrible trials, on a foreign ship, and to find misfortune in his house. The god crowned with azure heard his prayer.
Then Polyphemus threw a huge rock, raising a wave that carried the boat to the island where Odysseus (Ulysses)’ fleet had remained.
After sharing the sheep taken from the Cyclops, Odysseus (Ulysses) made the sacrifice of a lamb to Zeus, but the god dismissed the offering, reflecting on the destruction of his ships and the loss of his companions.
The hero and his men feasted all day and the next day went back to sea, happy to escape death, but mourning the friends devoured by the Cyclops.
Cyclopes are giants of human appearance with a single eye in the middle of their forehead, symbol of an enlarged and non-dual vision. Their name means “spherical vision” and therefore includes an idea of totality.
They represent the same power as the Cyclopes of the second divine generation, sons of Gaia and Ouranos and brothers of the Titans, but on denser planes. If the latter represent the Omniscience of the Absolute (their brothers, the Hecatoncheires or One Hundred Arms being His Omnipotence and Omnipresence), those met by Odysseus (Ulysses) here are powers of vision from the highest vital subconscious acting swiftly in the lower levels close to nature (energy, structures and shapes). Indeed, Polyphemus “who makes many things manifest or perceptible” is a son of Poseidon (the god governing the subconscious) and the nymph Thoosa “swiftness”. Nymphs are deities of nature whose primary meaning is “covered” or “veiled.” These are therefore energies that are usually hardly perceived by humans.
The name Thoosa includes an omega in addition to the omicron (Θοωσα), implying the sense of swiftness turned towards matter. On the other hand, this nymph is a daughter of Phorcys, the third child of Pontus, who marks in vital evolution the manifestation of duality in consciousness – and therefore that of fear – and the first elements of consciousness and memory at the base of the constitution of the animal brain (Phorcys is the father of the Graeae, Gorgons and Echidna). (See Odyssey, I, 70. and Volume 1 of this study for Phorcys characteristics.)
Let’s recall that the Phorcys-Ceto couple symbolizes the birth of the animal self, in the third and fourth stages of life’s evolution, Phorcys being linked to the separating process and Ceto to that of fusion (see Tome 1, Chapter 3 and Genealogical Chart 2).
Thus, Polyphemus, issued from the Poseidon-Thoosa alliance, characterizes the action of the highest vital subconscious acting through a very swift and veiled expression of energies close to nature. This action brings about “the manifestation of many elements”, such as the organization of the powers animating living beings, the spiritual beings of nature, the subliminal planes of consciousness, the forces that populate them, etc.
This “veiled” power of vision must be clearly distinguished from that of “the perception of Truth in all the details” which is the privilege of Circe, the magician goddess, daughter of Helios “the Supramental light”. The latter restores the inherent abilities of Life in their integrity after having refined them while the former destroys those who are fascinated by powers (Siddhis).
These Cyclopes are giants because this capacity of perception seems superhuman to the ordinary man, revealing abilities that seem miraculous and the appeal of which is very difficult to overcome, if only out of curiosity or desire to experiment.
However, these powers of perception do not fall within the framework of a just surrender to the Divine (the Cyclopes claim to be superior to the gods).
When they appear, the seeker relies exclusively on them, to such an extent that he neglects all yoga practices, despite a very favourable terrain for yoga (the Cyclopes had so much confidence in the Immortals that they did not plough or sow although their land was very fertile). This attitude prevents the development of discernment (there is no assembly that judges). Moreover, the seeker makes no effort to open up to other spiritual horizons, merely enjoying his abilities, although they could give him so many realisations and eternal bliss if he gave himself the means (the Cyclopes had neither ship nor carpenter, but if they had had boats, what beautiful harvests and eternal vines they would have had).
Finally, these powers of vision and therefore of action related to nature seem, to the unsophisticated seeker, far superior to the powers of the mind (the Cyclops claim to be far superior to the gods).
In the further study of this myth, in order not to make the text more cumbersome in its decryption, we will use the term “vision powers” to summarize the symbolism of this Cyclops, son of Poseidon, even if the concerned perceptions cover a wide range in the field of energy structures and beings from other planes.
On the other hand, they can represent as much an emergence of personal powers as a confrontation with those who have them.
This ordeal most often occurs suddenly, without the seeker being prepared for it, led “obscurely” by the forces that direct his quest (the hero is led by a god on a dark and misty night).
He begins by contacting a place of weak-willed “aspirations” in the vital, that are neither focused nor organized, and from which he derives no profit as a result (a “small island” covered with forests where wild goats multiplied endlessly without being troubled by anyone).
These aspirations of the spiritualized vital remain sterile. Although within reach of the powers of perception-vision, they cannot use them (it is an island separate from that of the Cyclopes; they, for lack of having built boats, cannot take advantage of the goats). On the other hand, these aspirations can support the elements of the being who work for the yoga – especially in the mind – by the lasting power of vital aspiration they procure (therefore ensued a goat hunt so successful that nine animals were lifted on each boat, ten for Odysseus (Ulysses)). Moreover, they fit perfectly with the results of the hard work done to acquire the joy of union (with the wine that the heroes had taken from the Cicones, they feasted a whole day).
The seeker then wants to take only minimal risk to contact the most powerful of all these previously subconscious powers of vision (Odysseus (Ulysses) takes only twelve men with him to meet Polyphemus, the leader of the Cyclopes). These powers and the advantages they bring are kept close to the body (in a cave). These powers working in the subconscious (Polyphemus is the son of Poseidon) generate a set of benefits and aspirations extremely well organized for the proper functioning of the body and vital (the cave is filled with cheeses and jars of milk, lambs and children stored according to their age).
Then the seeker gives in to curiosity to see how these powers could be useful to him for his progress, although some parts of his being are extremely reluctant to pursue this investigation further (Odysseus (Ulysses) brought an extra wine jar but wanted to know what the Cyclops would do to him in exchange, although the twelve companions he had chosen to accompany him pressed him to return to the ship).
We can quote here a passage from Satprem in his book ‘On the way to Supermanhood’, Chapter VIII: The Change of Vision, which illustrates the illusion symbolized by Polyphemus:
“We have also been biased by what we could call the “visionary’s tradition.” It has always seemed that the privileged among men were the ones who had “visions,” who could see our everyday greyness in pink and green and blue, see apparitions and supernatural phenomena – a sort of super-cinema one enjoys free of charge in the privacy of one’s own room by pressing the psychic button. And that is all very well, there’s nothing to say, but experience shows that this sort of vision changes absolutely nothing. Tomorrow millions of men could be given the power of vision by a stroke of grace, and they would turn on their little psychic television again and again; they would see gods laden with gold (and perhaps a few hells more in accord with their natural affinities), flowers more magnificent than any rose (and a scattering of awesome serpents), flying or haloed b