The Phaeacian Reception (Book VIII)

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The next morning, Athena toured the city under the guise of a herald of King Alcinous to invite the Phaeacians to the assembly.

Alcinous still did not know the name of Odysseus (Ulysses) and whether it came from the people of the dawn or those of the sunset. He ordered that a boat be prepared with fifty-two rowers and that the divine bard, the blind Demodocus, be called. He sang the quarrel between Odysseus (Ulysses) and Achilles, which delighted Agamemnon. As he listened to him, Odysseus (Ulysses) could not hold back his tears. He tried to hide them, but Alcinous noticed. The latter then invited the assembly to the games and the most valiant of the Phaeacians sparred among themselves.

Laodamas, one of Alcinous’ sons, invited Odysseus (Ulysses) to join them, but Odysseus (Ulysses) evaded the invitation, saying that he was too preoccupied. Euryale insisted, calling the hero a vulgar trafficker. Odysseus (Ulysses), in turn, replied that if he was of great beauty, his mind was no less empty. Then, stung by the remark, the hero took the heaviest of the discs and threw it further than all the Phaeacians had done.

Then he challenged them to all the games except the race, because of his exhaustion. Nor did he want to compete with Laodamas out of respect for his host. He said he was the best at javelin throwing and archery, assuring that only Philoctetes, Heracles and Eurytus, who was killed by Apollo when he challenged him, surpassed him in this art.

Alcinous replied that his people did not excel in boxing or wrestling, but rather in sea-faring and running, and that he had always loved feasting, the zither, singing and dancing, new adornments, hot baths and love.

Then Demodocus sang the love of Ares and Aphrodite, the trap set by the jealous husband Hephaestus, and the arbitration of Poseidon. He also sang how Apollo made “the messenger” Hermes confess that he would accept without shame to be chained indefinitely if he could in return sleep in the arms of the goddess.

To the twelve kings of Phaeacia, being himself the thirteenth, Alcinous asked that they each give gifts of clothes and gold to the hero. He also ordered Euryale to give a present and apologise. The latter obeyed and offered a well-crafted sword. Then Alcinous asked his wife to prepare a tunic and a scarf while he himself would offer a gold cup. When all presents had been deposited in a chest, Odysseus (Ulysses) closed the lid with a special knot taught by Circe.

After the hero had bathed, Nausicaa came to say goodbye to him, saying that he owed her the price of his salvation. Odysseus (Ulysses) replied that he would pray to her every day like a goddess. Then he wished to honour the bard and asked him to tell the story of the Trojan horse. As Demodocus was performing, Odysseus (Ulysses) could not hold back his tears. King Alcinous noticed this and ordered Demodocus to stop singing. Then he asked the hero his name, his origins, the story of his adventures and the land where the Phaeacian boats should take him. These intelligent vessels sailed without helmsman and rudders, knowing the thoughts and feelings of men, cities and countryside, without fear of damage or destruction when they made the crossing over the abyss of the seas.

Then Alcinous told his father’s prophecy that one day Poseidon, irritated by their reputation of infallible smugglers, would break a boat returning from a mission and conceal their city with a high mountain.

By his “highest intelligence (overmind)”, the seeker does not yet know whether his experiences already foreshadow the future or are those the men of ancient times could have (Alcinous does not know if Odysseus (Ulysses) comes from “the peoples of the dawn or those of the sunset”).

Mother gives a precise answer: two signs must be present if we want to be sure that we are on the right evolutionary path:

– An absolute, indisputable and infallible certainty of knowledge by identity (that can only be given by the body)

– A perfect and constant equality, which is not only an equality of the soul, but a state of immutable peace, unchanging, spontaneous, effortless, towards all events and circumstances, all material and psychological contacts, whatever their character or how much shock they bring. The vibrations coming from people or things do not have the power to change this inner state in which there are no more pleasant and unpleasant things. (See Mother’s Agenda, Volume 2, February 25, 1961)

Then the seeker recalls to his consciousness, thanks to his inner intuitive perception, the most important events of his development (Demodocus, the blind divine bard, sang the dispute between Odysseus (Ulysses) and Achilles). If we know that the motive for the dispute between Odysseus (Ulysses) and Ajax was the weapons of Achilles, no document narrating the dispute between Odysseus (Ulysses) and Achilles has come to us. One can only suppose that the dispute concerned the best yoga for evolution, Odysseus (Ulysses) being more related to the progress in the overmind by his mother and Achilles to the process of purification in the depths of the vital.

He then celebrates this new stage: games are organized. If they did not acquire in ancient Greece the fame of other games, it is probably because those who reached this stage of yoga were too rare, a few initiates or even avatars.

Before going into detail, what Homer presented in the rest of this Book is the difference in the ancient yoga practices that gave access to this stage and those that give access to the supramental, those that require a deeper surrender (surrender in the hands of the Divine), relaxation, joy and harmony right down to the body.

The old practices emphasized the will towards the goal, discipline, fights against hostile forces, strength, courage, perseverance, skill in the works, etc. while the new yoga, if it has not completely abandoned the ancient asceticism (still practiced by the Phaeacians), requires other “skills”.

First the games are practiced by the Phaeacians only (the most valiant of the Phaeacians sparred with each other), like a demonstration of the yogas required for the rest of the path.

What contributes to “master” the external nature (Laodamas) remains an important element and therefore invites the seeker to compare the two ascetic methods, which is refused by the work of transparency.

Then there is a relationship to freedom that is examined: even if the adventurer recognizes that this new stage brings greater freedom, he finds that it is at the expense of mental abilities: Odysseus (Ulysses) recognizes the great beauty of Euryale “a vast freedom” similar to the god of war, that is, the truth of what he stands for, but claims that he has “an empty head”. Conversely, “this vast freedom” did not first recognize the importance of the work for total transparency, but eventually gave his support (Euryale called Odysseus (Ulysses) a vile merchant, but later apologized and gifted him a well-crafted sword).

Then each yoga reports its best realisations.

“The yoga of transparency” presents itself as the best tool to achieve the goal, although other practices are better for the purification and widening of consciousness (Odysseus (Ulysses) was the best archer, except for Heracles and Eurytus who surpassed him).

On the other hand, the expressions of light that penetrate all planes of being (the Phaeacians) are certainly inferior in combat yogas – those involving a direct fight as well as those clutching the opponent – (the Phaeacians are mediocre wrestlers and boxers).  But on the other hand, they excel in a number of areas such as:

– Skill in the conducting of yoga (navigating)

– Speed of evolution (at the race, Clytoneus “famous evolution” surpasses all his rivals by arriving first at the goal)

– Harmony (music)

– Singing and dancing (joy, harmony in the body, mind/matter)

– Truth of the task at hand (the beauty of the new adornments)

– Relaxation (hot baths)

– Equality and love at its highest level.

Again, Mother’s Agenda provides elements for the understanding of this transition.

Also, Naubolides, “who launch himself on the path” is the symbol of the best yoga after mastery of the outer being (by his size and beauty, he prevails over all Phaeacians after the irreproachable Laodamas).

Although the seeker refuses in this new phase to balance the work of “mastery” with that of achieving transparency (Odysseus (Ulysses) also did not want to compete with Laodamas out of respect for his host), there is recognition of the primacy of the latter (at the request of Alcinous, Laodamas gave way to Odysseus (Ulysses)).

We have already dealt with the illicit love of Ares and Aphrodite and the fury of the cheated husband, a myth that expresses that evolving love needs the destruction of forms to evolve. Love can only happen after the establishment of the world of Truth, the Supramental.

However, the adventurer dwelling in the overmind can accept a very great limitation on this plane if in return he can benefit permanently from true Love (Demodocus also sang how Apollo made Hermes confess that he would accept without shame to be chained indefinitely if he could in return sleep in the arms of the goddess Aphrodite).

The twelve kings of Phaeacia express perfection in the manifestation of all aspects of “the opening of consciousness to the light” that facilitates the passage. The “powerful overmind intelligence” – which is the thirteenth king – offers to the seeker an easy access to “perfect receptivity” (Alcinous gifted a gold cup) and “the most righteous high spirit” offers the task to be accomplished (Arete gave a tunic). All these presents must of course be used with the utmost discernment in all details (Odysseus (Ulysses) closed the chest with the knot learned from Circe).

The seeker acknowledges that “what walks in yoga with fire,” a symbol of a “burning need,” which develops exactness in action, obtained by a “powerful intelligence,” has given him the opportunity to continue on the path. He promises to never forget her afterwards (Odysseus (Ulysses) promises to revere Nausicaa as a goddess).

He then takes stock of the progress made, as we have described since the beginning of the chapter (Odysseus (Ulysses) narrates his adventures to the Phaeacians).

To make the dangerous transition to the corporeal yoga, the seeker must become more and more transparent. He will then have to reach the stage where he acts or speaks only if it is the Supreme who acts or speaks within him, having abandoned any idea that he can do anything for his own transformation better than the Divine. He will no longer have to look for or direct anything and his yoga will have to be totally in the hands of the Absolute (the intelligent Phaeacian boats sail with no helmsman or rudder). He will have to be fearless, even in the body, if he wants to be able to cross in full consciousness the abyss at the root of life, at the life/death frontier (without fearing damage or destruction when they cross the abyss of the seas).

This experience of absence of purpose, which is the opposite of absolutely all human actions, from the most subtle to the most material, where everything is always done for something – because even the most advanced yoga is done in view of either total liberation, or for the advent of the supramental world of Truth, or for immortality, or any other similar purpose – is described by Mother who speaks of the unreality of the purpose, and even of a state of “absoluteity” in which the purpose becomes non-existent. (See Mother’s Agenda, Volume 2, April 25, 1961)

Then the seeker realizes that the experience that will be given to him will not repeat itself as easily in the future, as he had once the foreknowledge. Indeed, always at the great moments of evolution, an experience is given to man to tell him “this is what you will find at the end of the road”; but then he must walk on the path step by step in full consciousness and the means to reach the goal are hidden from him (Alcinous stated his father’s prophecy that, one day, a boat returning from a mission would be broken by Poseidon who would resent the fame of  the Phaeacians as infallible smugglers and would hide their city with a high mountain).

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