Odysseus (Ulysses) and Penelope (Book XIX)

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At Odysseus (Ulysses)’ request, Telemachus sent away the women. Then, as Athena provided light with her golden lamp, they both carried helmets, spears and shields to the treasure. Telemachus told his father of the prodigy he witnessed: he saw the walls, beams and high columns sparkling like a bright flame. Odysseus (Ulysses) instructed him not to question him, for it was, he said, the way the gods revealed themselves.

As Telemachus left to rest for the night, Penelope went down to the great room where Odysseus (Ulysses) was. One of the women who was busy rearranging the room, Melantho, again insulted Odysseus (Ulysses)-beggar, trying to chase him out. The latter told her of his past riches and warned her to fear the return of the master of the place. Then Penelope rebuffed her and made the beggar sit down, questioning him about his origins. The beggar avoided answering, in order, he said, not to aggravate her sorrow.

Then Penelope told him that she remained indifferent to anything but her husband. She told him about the cunning she had used for more than three years to fool the suitors who had finally been warned by her maids. She also told about the pressure she was subjected to for her remarriage and renewed her question. 

Odysseus (Ulysses) then said that his father was Deucalion, himself the son of the great Minos whom Zeus consulted every nine years. Idomeneus was his brother and he claimed to be Aithon. In the absence of his brother, who had just left for Troy, he had welcomed Odysseus (Ulysses) and his men for twelve days, whom a Boreas wind prevented from going to sea.

Penelope asked him to prove his claims by describing Odysseus (Ulysses)’ clothes. The beggar detailed a splendid coat and gave the name of the herald who accompanied him, Eurybates, with black skin and a hunched back. Then he said that King Pheidon from Thesprotid had given him news of Odysseus (Ulysses). After being saved by the Phaeacians, the latter returned with great wealth. But his boat and crew had sunk during their return from Trident Island (Thrinacia) because they had eaten the cows of Helios. While a boat of King Pheidon stood ready to bring him back, Odysseus (Ulysses) left for Dodone to hear the voice of Zeus speaking through the great oak to find out if he had to hide to return home. To conclude, the beggar said that Odysseus (Ulysses) would be back soon.

Then Penelope ordered her maids to wash the beggar’s feet, prepare a bed and plan the next morning’s bath. Odysseus (Ulysses) refused the bed and also refused that Penelope’s maids wash his feet unless there was one, old, wise and reserved, having suffered as much as he did.

Then Penelope called Euryclia, who, lamenting Odysseus (Ulysses)’ fate, claimed that she had never met anyone who looked so much like him.

The beggar moved away from the hearth and Euryclia came to wash his feet. She immediately recognized the scar on the thigh from a wound made by a wild boar when Odysseus (Ulysses) followed his uncles, the sons of Autolycos (Odysseus (Ulysses)’ maternal grandfather), to the Parnassus. It was the latter who suggested Odysseus (Ulysses) name because so many people on the way had “ulcerated” (from greek Odussomai) his heart.

As Euryclia wanted to warn Penelope, Odysseus (Ulysses) prevented her from speaking while Athena distracted the queen’s gaze.

Then the queen asked the beggar for advice on a dream she had: “An eagle came from the mountain and broke the necks of her twenty geese. As she lamented, the eagle returned, and taking a human voice, told her that this was not a dream, but rather the announcement of an accomplishment to come. The eagle symbolized her husband who returned to the mansion to kill the suitors.” When he woke up, her geese were alive and well.

The beggar confirmed the validity of the interpretation given in the dream.

Penelope knew the nature of the dreams – misleading when they came from sawn-off ivory and truthful when they came from polished horn – but she could not tell where the one she just told came from.

Then she announced that she would propose a game to the suitors. It would consist of bending the bow of Odysseus (Ulysses) and, at a good distance, throwing an arrow through twelve lined up axes, as her husband used to do. She’d marry the one who would succeed.

Odysseus (Ulysses)-beggar approved of this choice and told her that her husband would be back before the game began, and then she returned to her apartments to sleep.

As we approach the decisive moment, it seems that the reversal must take place in successive phases: first that of the yoga labours (the death of the suitors) and then the goals and yoga supports that are no longer suitable (the death of the women and maids who did not remain faithful).

The seeker then has the experience of the luminous nature of the structures of matter, which happens from a certain level in the overmind (According to the initial plan, the weapons of the suitors are taken to the treasure where Telemachus has a strange experience: he saw the walls, beams and high columns sparkle). (See at the beginning of the chapter what was said about Autolycos. On many occasions, Mother mentions the experience of points of brightness in matter or the radiation of matter. See, for example, Mother’s Agenda, October 30, 1961.)

What has worked in him for the spirit-matter union imposes an end to all questioning because transformation must operate in ways that go beyond the mind (Odysseus (Ulysses) ordered Telemachus not to ask questions).

Then for the second time, the perversion that developed as a result of an illusion but which seemed the most real of all yoga supports, denigrates the movement that works for transparency. But this movement, linked to the vision of greater freedom, gives the seeker the certainty that this illusion is coming to an end (for the second time Melantho, who by her brilliance surpasses all the maids, insults the beggar; the latter and Penelope threaten her with death).

As the ways of integrating the path are different for each part of the being – here for the one who has the vision of greater freedom (of a broader vision of Reality) and for the one who governs and maintains the basic vital energy – the story of Odysseus (Ulysses) to Penelope is quite different from the one made to Eumaeus in the Book XIV.

What the seeker asserts in the context of evolution towards greater freedom is the need for perfect “surrender” in the purification process and a “burning inner fire”, a “need” that worked in concert with the “desire for union” (Odysseus (Ulysses) pretends to be Aithon “the one who burns”, to be a grandson of Minos “the evolution of consecration” and to have as his brother Idomeneus “who cares about union” or “the seer”).

As part of the vision of a greater freedom, he acknowledges that the yoga of transparency is more active than ever in him, and that he continues the widening of consciousness – the quest for Knowledge since it is a herald – although he does not mention it (at Penelope’s request, the beggar describes the clothes of Odysseus (Ulysses) and of the one who accompanied him, the herald Eurybates “who has access to a large space”, with black skin and hunched back).

Then he explains his complete devastation, not as a punishment for the “plunder” of the very ancient yogas (Egyptian) but of the use of the supramental gifts (his boat with crew had sunk on the return from Trident island because they had eaten the cows of Helios).

Then, having recalled the experience of union with the Absolute in the spirit, he finds that he has managed almost unnoticed to receive “inspiration” and “revelation” (having mentioned without lingering his stay with the Phaeacians, he relates, as in Eumaeus, the recent journey to King Pheidon of Thesprotes, the one who in “discretion” reigns over those “who put forward what speaks like the gods”).

Finally, he knows that he seeks, from the highest level of the superconscious capable of delving into the roots of life, the path that leads to “a great unity in matter”, but that he needs to know the modalities (Odysseus (Ulysses) went to seek advice from the foliage of Zeus’ great oak in Dodona “a great unity turned to matter” to know how to organize his return).

At that moment he must avoid anything that might weaken his determination (the beggar refuses the moist sheets) and accept to be helped only by what has the same degree of purification, and therefore the same vibration (he refuses to let a servant wash his feet except one who would have suffered as much as he did).

“Great glory,” with the underlying idea of “a great willingness to share,” has contributed to increase the desire for transparency and for the yoga of the future (Euryclia was the nanny of Odysseus (Ulysses) and Telemachus). This “sharing” is “compassion,” which explains Euryclia’s suffering. This “compassion” goes hand in hand with the “humility” represented by Odysseus (Ulysses)’ mother, Anticlia.

Let’s recall that it was Autolycos “who is his own light”, the maternal grandfather of Odysseus (Ulysses), himself the son of Hermes, who had given the name Odysseus (Ulysses) (Odysseus (Ulysses), who is “injured”) because “so many people on the way had ulcerated his heart”.

(The story of Odysseus (Ulysses)’ thigh injury was treated at the end of Chapter 3, with the study of The Lineage of Deion.)

It is through compassion that the seeker acknowledges that the realization of transparency has been achieved, but the time has not yet come to activate the consequences (Odysseus (Ulysses) silences Euryclia who recognized him).

What has “the vision of a more total freedom” is then informed by a vision that a power coming from the heights of the mind, as a result of “transparency”, would put an end to the old realisations, however true and pure they may be. (Penelope dreamed that an eagle from the mountain was killing her twenty geese symbolizing the suitors). But the seeker is still somewhat attached to these realisations and can’t help but have some nostalgia for their disappearance. (In her dream-vision, Penelope enjoys looking at her geese and laments their death).

A short digression is made on the origin of dreams and the importance the seeker must give them: those who look very good are often deceitful while those who seem to be insignificant are mostly carrying the truth (those who come by the sawn ivory or by the polished horn). We can also notice that ivory tusks are teeth and therefore related to memories or “knots”, while the polished horn is related to the refinement of intuition. Here Homer makes a pun in Greek with the verb “deceiving by vain expectations” (ελεφαιρομαι) built from the word elephant or elephant tooth (ελεφας).

The inner decision is then made, whether to start the new yoga or to give up in the face of difficulty, knowing that deep down, the seeker already knows what the outcome is (Penelope decides for the archery game that must determine his fate, which the beggar approves).

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