The slaughter of the suitors (Book XXII)

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After getting rid of his rags, the beggar-Odysseus (Ulysses) fired an arrow into the throat of Antinoos who died immediately. Then he revealed his identity to the suitors green with terror.

Then Eurymachos accused Antinoos of being solely responsible for the Achaeans’ crimes. He did not seek marriage but wanted only to rule Ithaca after killing Telemachus. He offered to compensate Odysseus (Ulysses) largely in exchange for their lives, but the latter left them only the choice to perish with arms in their hands. Eurymachos then wanted to organize the defence, but an arrow of the hero punctured his liver and he gave up his soul.

Telemachus killed Amphinomos and went to the treasure room to fetch helmets, spikes and shields for himself, his father, the swineherd Eumaeus and for the cattleman Philotios.

Meanwhile, Odysseus (Ulysses) shot the suitors until his arrows were exhausted. Then he put on his armour and seized two spikes.

Melantheus went to the treasure room and returned loaded with twelve helmets, twelve shields and twelve spears, which he distributed to the suitors. When he saw them armed, Odysseus (Ulysses) failed. Telemachus accused himself of having not properly locked the door of the treasure room. Both suspected that Melantheus, the master goatherd, had taken the arms. As the latter returned to the treasury again, Odysseus (Ulysses) sent the two servants with orders to tie him up and hang him from the ceiling so that he would endure much suffering before he died, which was done.

Athena introduced herself to Odysseus (Ulysses) under the appearance of Mentor, son of Alcinous, but the hero recognized the goddess. The suitor Agelaos, son of Damastor, tried to discourage Mentor. Then Athena-Mentor vilified Odysseus (Ulysses) to stimulate him into battle. But the goddess left the battle undecided because she wanted Odysseus (Ulysses) and his son to prove their strength and courage. She turned into a swallow and came to land on a high beam.

Agelaos urged the most valiant of the surviving suitors to fight: Eurynomos, Amphimedon, Demoptolemus, Pisander of the race of Polyctor and the wise Polybus.

Six of them threw their javelins, but Athena deflected them.

In turn, the four heroes threw their javelins: that of Odysseus (Ulysses) reached Demoptolemus, that of Telemachus Euryades, that of Eumaeus Elatos and that of Philotios Pisander. Then all four went to remove the weapons from the corpses.

The suitors threw other javelins, but Athena turned them away from their target, so that Telemachus was barely scratched on the hand by the one of Amphimedon and Eumaeus on the shoulder by the one of Ctesippus.

Odysseus (Ulysses) killed Eurydamas, Telemachus shot Amphimedon, the swineherd Eumaeus killed Polybus, and the cattleman Philotios killed Ctesippus, son of Polytherses.

Then Odysseus (Ulysses) killed Agelaos, son of Damastor. Telemachus killed Leocritus, son of Evenor.

Then Athena, on the ceiling, spread her aegis, sowing panic among the surviving suitors which the heroes massacred.

Liodes the haruspex begged for the mercy of Odysseus (Ulysses), but he killed him with Agelaos’ sword which fell to the ground.

The bard Phemius, son of Terpes, also pleaded for his life, arguing that he had sung for the suitors under duress. Telemachus supported him and asked his father to spare also the herald Medon who always had taken care of him during his childhood. The herald, who had hidden under an armchair, heard him and came to Telemachus’ knees to implore him to intercede on his behalf with Odysseus (Ulysses). The latter spared them both, but asked them to leave the room. They were the only survivors of the massacre.

Odysseus (Ulysses) then sent his son to look for the nanny Euryclia. When she saw the suitors dead, she wanted to shout her joy, but Odysseus (Ulysses) held her back, asking her to respect the dead. He asked her to tell which maids betrayed him. Euryclia mentioned twelve of the fifty she had trained in domestic work. Odysseus (Ulysses) asked her to make these twelve felons available to his son, Eumaeus, and the cattleman to clean the room, and ordered to kill them once the work was finished. Telemachus refused them a dignified death and they were horribly hanged.

Then Melantheus was taken off the ceiling. His nose, ears, sex, hands and feet were cut off, leaving him dying.

Thus, the work was accomplished.

Odysseus (Ulysses) purified the whole house and the court by burning brimstone and then sent Euryclia to look for Penelope and the women who remained faithful to him. The latter went down first. They surrounded Odysseus (Ulysses), whom they covered with kisses, and the hero recognized them all.

First of all, it is the realization of transparency, which bridges the gap between mind and matter, that puts an end to the two main obstacles.

“Wisdom” was the first realisation given up, struck by surprise and at the symbolic spot of expression (Antinoos was mortally shot in the neck while drinking his wine).

The seeker understands how the realisations of the ancient yoga were opposed to the goal only when transparency was completed (the suitors pale in terror when they understood who was the stranger).

In him, the “great warrior” whom we have identified with “holiness” blames mental “wisdom” that ruled yoga for the error of orientation, arguing that this “wisdom” did not seek greater freedom “in itself” (a yoga done for the Divine alone) but only for the sake of the power he could derive from it, for its “utility” (Eurymachos asserts that Antinoos did not seek marriage but wanted only to rule Ithaca after killing Telemachus). This “holiness” attempts to survive by proposing to give up many realisations, that is, by achieving greater detachment by an asceticism that would weaken the whole being (Eurymachos proposes the reimbursement of the consumed goods and other prize gifts by taking them in the country).

Duality cannot continue in any of its aspects in the new yoga that aims for unity and must integrate everything. Holiness achieved by the rejection of “evil” based on the principle of exclusion must therefore disappear.

Before being eliminated, it demonstrates its ambiguity by its insurmountable adherence to duality: it fights a final battle, opposing the work of transparency with all its power (Eurymachos, faced with Odysseus (Ulysses)’ refusal to spare them, calls on the suitors to take arms and fight).

If we consider that the liver is the symbol of faith supported by beliefs, as we saw in the myths of Prometheus and the giant Tityos, then “holiness” is touched here through its ultimate beliefs and certainties.

The extreme of this experience is reported in Volume 1 of Mother’s Agenda, dated May 10, 1958 “I have renounced the uncontested authority of a god, I have renounced the unshakable calm of the sage… in order to become the superman”. At the level of the adventurer of consciousness, it is the renunciation of wisdom and holiness as they are ordinarily understood: to renounce the power of intelligence (wisdom) and the power of life (the saint) which is for man the sign of perfection, to surrender completely to the power of the Divine in matter, in the body (see Mother’s Agenda, Volume 7).

Among the other realisations, the first destroyed is symbolized by Amphinomos, “the well-ordered mind.” In the future yoga, perception is no longer mental but corporal. The seeker will therefore have to go through a difficult period when the mind will be taken away from him in order to learn other ways of functioning.

Then Odysseus (Ulysses) killed other suitors with arrows but Homer does not give their names.

All the forces that must contribute to the reversal are preparing for the final battle, for a commitment without possible backtrack (Telemachus will fetch the weapons in the treasure room for Odysseus (Ulysses), himself, Eumaeus and Philotios).

But the “dark double” that has perverted the orientation of the aspiration does not intend to give up easily and mobilizes all available resources to maintain the primacy of ancient realisations (Melantheus “the black flower” or “what grows falsely inside,” the son of Dolios “the deceitful”). This creates uncertainty in the inner struggle, especially since “the fights for the new yoga” are not yet “vigilant” enough (Melantheus returns with weapons for twelve suitors; Odysseus (Ulysses) falters when he sees them armed, while Telemachus blames himself for his distraction).

At first, the “work of transparency” prevents the “dark double” from acting (Odysseus (Ulysses) sent the two servants with orders to tie Melantheus and hang him close to the ceiling so that he would endure a great deal of suffering before dying).

Let us take a moment to look at the characters of the goatherd Melantheus and his sister Melantho, Penelope’s servant, as they represent a major obstacle in the progression and orientation of the spiritual quest, a deviance that disrupts the work and the vision of purpose. Both are the result of a false illusion (they are the son of Dolios “what deceives”) of whom the seeker does not become aware until very late (almost twenty years after the departure of Odysseus (Ulysses), when the suitors arrived at the mansion of Odysseus (Ulysses), Telemachus being an adult).

As soon as it appeared, the spiritual vision accepted and integrated the “double dark”, without recognizing its true nature, while it developed without contributing in the least to the task (Melantho was raised by Penelope as her child and was till the end the object of her attentions, although she had no compassion for the queen).

In terms of action, the same process develops and the aspiration is gradually diverted, to the point of feeding the old realisations that stand in the way of the New (Melantheus came to give his best goats to the suitors). Goats are indeed the symbol of the fundamental need for growth. (This is why Zeus was breastfed by the goat Amalthea.)

The coming to consciousness of this “dark double” is quite old. If we admit by namesake a close relation between Icarus and Icarios, it would correspond to the moment of emergence of the desire to rise to the Supreme. If Penelope represents the vision of greater freedom waiting for the realization of transparency in order to begin the future yoga, Dolios is the worm in the fruit (Icarios, Penelope’s father, had indeed offered him the servant Dolios, father of Melantheus, when she arrived in Ithaca). But it is only when the seeker engages in the future yoga that this dark double really manifests itself (Melantheus and Melantho are indeed contemporaries of Telemachus, since Penelope raised Melantho as his daughter). This corresponds to the moment when wisdom and holiness want that only they stay put, when the seeker reintegrates a total vision of the human experience and simultaneously endures a forced period of integration (when Menelaus is in Egypt and Odysseus (Ulysses) in Calypso). During a very long period of yoga, this double remained dormant (as long as the suitors did not gather in Ithaca, i.e. for the sixteen years following the departure of Odysseus (Ulysses)).

We can identify “this obscure double” as what Sri Aurobindo and Mother evoke about “central contradictions”: “a very talented person for the work has always, or almost always (perhaps we should not make too rigid universal rules in this area), a being attached to it, sometimes looking like a part of himself, and which is exactly the contradiction of what he represents centrally in the work to be done. Or, if this being is not there at first, if it is not attached to his personality, a force of this kind enters his atmosphere as soon as he begins the movement of realization. Its role seems to be to oppose, to encourage mistakes, to create bad conditions, in short to put in front of him all the problem of the work he has undertaken. In the world’s occult economy, it would seem that the problem cannot be solved without the predestined instrument taking on the difficulty. This would explain many things that seem very disconcerting on the surface”. Mother also explains that everyone must resolve a central contradiction in his being, which is the exact opposite of what he must accomplish. This contradiction is probably only widespread in the advanced phases of yoga. (See. Mother, Questions and Answers, February 3, 1954 in which is reproduced an excerpt from the Letters on Yoga, by Sri Aurobindo).

We should not think that Melantho and Melantheus represent easily identifiable movements. For obviously, this shadow takes on all the appearances of a yoga that could not be more accurate and in accordance with what everybody considers to be the just approach towards the Absolute, Reality or Divine. (Melantho is indeed very close to Penelope and she is also the mistress of Eurymachos “the great warrior of yoga, the saint” while her brother Melantheus is a friend of the latter and considers that Apollo “psychic light” is likely to support him.)

Various clues given by Homer also show that Melantheus works in a devious way. His means of action are marked by falsehood, so he will be the only one to be symbolically deprived of certain sense organs and means of creation (his nose, ears, sex, hands and feet will be cut off: false sensation, false understanding, wrong creation and action, wrong approach). His taste for “soft couches” signal the need for an easy path at the expense of sincere surrender.<