The Departure from the Island of Circe and the Invocation of the Dead (End of Book X and Book XI Nekuia)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


<< Previous : The Island of Circe or the Access to “the Vision in Truth” (Book X)

Following Circe’s advice, Odysseus (Ulysses) prepared himself to descend into Hades in order to question the “psyche” of the blind soothsayer Tiresias, for Persephone wanted that only he would retain his ability to think, even in death.

Before departure, Elpenor died after falling from the roof because of his drunkenness. He was the least brave in combat and the least wise in counsel.

Then Odysseus (Ulysses) informed his companions of their next journey and all of them sobbed while tearing their hair out.

The hero let the wind Boreas bring him to the edge of the Ocean and bypass the Little Promontory. He ran aground on the shore, where the currents were deepest, near the sacred woods of Persephone. It was the land of the Cimmerians, a people who lived in the mist the sun never pierced and on which weighed a night of death. 

He then went on through the marshes to the places where the Acheron receives the Pyriphlegethon and the Kokytos whose waters come from the Styx (which is only an arm of the Styx). The two noisy rivers converge in front of the “Stone”.

He then made the sacrifices indicated by the soothsayer. As the shadows rose in droves, he prevented them from approaching in order to choose the ones he wanted to see.

The first that came to him was that of Elpenor, whose body was left abandoned without burial at Circe’s home. She begged Odysseus (Ulysses) to arrange a funeral according to custom and to erect a monument to her memory when he returns to the goddess.

Then came Anticlia, the daughter of Autolycos and mother of Odysseus (Ulysses), whose death he did not know.

Then Tiresias appeared, holding the golden sceptre. He told the hero about Poseidon’s grudge because he had blinded his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus. He informed him that he could reach the goal if he could control his “desire (θυμος)” and that of his companions. He announced their passage by Trident Island, where the herds of Helios, cows and fat sheep, grazed. The crew had to respect them, otherwise all the men would die and he would return on a borrowed ship to find misfortune at home. After punishing the excesses of the suitors, he would have to leave again with the oar on his shoulder and walk so far that in the end he would meet people who ignore the sea, eat without salt and do not know about ships and oars. Then he would come across a traveller who would ask him why he was carrying a grain shovel on his shoulder. He would then have to plant the oar in the ground, sacrifice to Poseidon and then return to his dwelling to sacrifice to all the Immortals. There he would live a happy old age surrounded by wealthy people.

At Odysseus (Ulysses)’ request, Tiresias informed him that in order to communicate with the shadows and obtain the truth from them, the hero had to let them approach and drink the blood of the sacrificed animals.

With Tiresias retiring, his mother Anticlia came to drink from the steaming blood. She spoke to Odysseus (Ulysses) of his wife, son and father filled with sadness on the island of Ithaca. She also told him that maternal anxiety had caused her own death.

Odysseus (Ulysses) wanted to take her in her arms but seized only a shadow, an evanescent dream.

The hero saw then the shadows of Tyro, Antiope, Alcmene, Megara, Epicasta, Chloris, Leda, Iphimedeia Phaidra, Procris, Ariadne, Maia, Clymene, Eriphyle and many other heroines.

Then came the shadow of Agamemnon who recounted the murder perpetrated by Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra. He advised Odysseus (Ulysses) “not to show himself” on his return. He also asked for news of his son Orestes, but Odysseus (Ulysses) knew nothing about him.

Then came the shadows of Achilles, Patroclus, Antilochus and Ajax.

In the eyes of Odysseus (Ulysses), Achilles should have been happy to exert his power over the dead, but the latter disabused him, claiming that he would rather be the servant of a poor farmer than rule over the dead who are nothing. Again, Odysseus (Ulysses) could not give any recent news, neither of his father Peleus, nor of his son Neoptolemus. However he praised the latter, who fought fearlessly during the last battles of Troy, no one equalling his strength and only Memnon surpassing him in handsomeness.

Then Odysseus (Ulysses) tried in vain to reconcile himself with the shadow of Ajax who still didn’t forgive him for having won the weapons of Achilles in court.

He then saw Minos who was ruling over the shadows and the great Orion who continued hunting in the Asphodel meadows the fawns he had already killed during his lifetime in the lonely mountains. He also saw Tityos, whose liver was devoured by two vultures, Tantalus in torment and Sisyphus rolling his stone.

Then he saw Heracles, but it was only his shadow, for he was in fact staying with the immortals, united to Hebe. Around his shadow, the dead fled, “like birds.” With a frightening look, he sought the goal, an arrow resting on his bent bow. No craftsman would have been able to reproduce his incomparable harness. He told Odysseus (Ulysses) that Hermes and Athena had given him their support when he was facing an unparalleled risk by going to pick up Cerberus.

Although Odysseus (Ulysses) wanted to see heroes such as Theseus and Pirithoos, countless tribes of dead beings had gathered and he feared that Persephone would send him Gorgon’s head.

He then returned to the ship, went down the course of the Oceanos River and left with the breeze.

The ancients distinguished the “nekyia” from the “catabasis“, making the former the only “evocation” of the dead that allowed the “shadows” to come forth, while the second expressed a “descent” into the underground worlds.

The nekuia would then essentially be a description of the integration – or deep understanding – of the nature of past experiences with only brief indications for the future of the path. It is made possible by the experience of the “vision in Truth.” The catabasis would be an experience of descent into bodily consciousness when the seeker progresses in the yoga of the body.

The seeker follows the path indicated by his penetrating vision, his “True vision of details” (Odysseus (Ulysses) did exactly what Circe advised him). In order to pursue yoga, he must draw on the sources of intuition that directs and organizes the purification process, one that knows “the road and the steps.” Tiresias is indeed the soothsayer of Thebes, a city symbolic of the path of purification-liberation of which Oedipus and his descendants are the heroes. But now it is a bodily intuition because Tiresias is in the kingdom of Hades.

It is no longer intuitions of the mind or heart that will now lead the quest but bodily perceptions. Yoga occurs now in the body.

This intuition related to the path of purification is the only element of ancient yoga that can still inform in advance the seeker when yoga descends into the body, according to the laws imposed by the process of investigating consciousness in the depths (Persephone has allowed only Tiresias to retain his ability to think in death). Perhaps this comes from the fact that he is the only one among the soothsayers to have the necessary flexibility, because his father is Eueres.

Before engaging in this investigation, the seeker must definitively abandon the “hope” that things will be different or even the expectation of any result: Elpenor “the man of hope” died. This expectation prevents the right work of yoga and deceives discernment because Elpenor was the least brave in combat and the least wise in counsel.

Some commentators say that the verses regarding these characteristics of Elpenor were added later. They evoke a passive expectation, whereas it seems to us that Homer is referring rather to the pursuit of the Heavens of the Ideal, what Sri Aurobindo calls “illusory hopes”, since the remains of Elpenor will be honoured.

When the seeker acquires the vision in Truth, he sees that everything is “as it should be”, that everything goes according to evolution, a divine perfection of realization at every moment in every detail and for everything. It is therefore the end of all hope of refuge in the paradises of the spirit, in this life or after death. The hopes of paradise beyond Earth, raised by divine drunkenness, are brutally recalled to Reality (Elpenor was drunk when he fell from the roof).

The perfect acceptance of “what is” implies perfect equality for all things, including the cessation of all rejection, revulsion and distaste at the Divine’s action in nature. Only the aspiration to be a perfectly transparent tool for the action of the divine evolutionary forces must remain. As long as the will to change things on one’s own was maintained, even a little, it created a handicap for the right action and thought.

This loss of hope must not interfere with the involvement in the world: although everything is as it should be, divine perfection must be achieved in matter.

But the seeker must recognize that hope has long been useful along the way (Odysseus (Ulysses) must promise to honour Elpenor’s remains). 

When the seeker decides to dive into the depths of his being, he is in the grip of fear in certain parts of his being (when Odysseus (Ulysses) informs his companions of their next journey, all tear their hair, sobbing).

But nothing can stop his progress. Continuing his yoga without weakening (driven by the breath of Boreas), he is led to the origin of the currents of consciousness-energy that drive evolution (Oceanos), the most archaic currents of consciousness-energy, where the exchanges between the unconscious and the conscious, between the body and the mind takes place (he reached the far end of the ocean, where the currents are deepest, near the sacred woods of Persephone).

Perhaps the land of the Cimmerians can be understood as “a very strong surrender” (to the laws of nature),” a deep consciousness that the powers of the supramental never penetrated (to this day) and who lives in a kind of resigned despair (a people who lived in the mists never pierced by the rays of the sun and on which weighed a night of death). We must refer to the Mother’s Agenda for the proper understanding of this “despair” of the cells.

The seeker then descends even deeper into nauseous marshes at the source of which are the two currents of consciousness that feed the evolutionary process, that of the burning fire of aspiration and that of the descent into the incarnation subject to the laws of nature (or considered as such).

(He then progressed through the marshes, to the places where the Acheron receives the Pyriphlegethon and the Kokytos whose waters come from the Styx (which is only an arm of the Styx).

This “distress” or “cell despair” (Kokytos) is fuelled by the energies (or is part of the energies) erecting the barrier of consciousness between matter and mind, the Styx.le styx

Let’s recall here some elements that appear in Chapter 4, Volume 1 of this study :
The Styx, the one who inspires “horror and fright” or the “hateful, abhorrent” is the symbol of the ultimate barrier to prevent the realisation of union in the body. This is the oldest consciousness-energy stream, because Styx is the “eldest daughter” of Oceanos, father of the rivers. He “straightens everything according to the Truth” (ΣΤ+Ξ), or symbolizes “rectitude (or integrity) on all the planes of being”. This absolute putting in order is the fundamental necessity for the one who ventures into the yoga of the body at the cellular level.

The waters of the Styx feed Pyriphlegethon “the fire that burns within” and the “lamenting Cocytus” and also ΚΩ+Κ+Τ, a “widening of consciousness towards spirit and matter.

These last two rivers flow in turn into the Acheron, “the right movement in the centre (of matter) Χ+Ρ “, which is the foundation. These two rivers which “flow in opposite directions” are in relation to the two currents of the Caduceus. They meet deep in the consciousness, in front of the “black ba