The Suitors in Asphodel Meadows and Odysseus with Laertes (Book XXIV)

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The souls of the suitors were guided by Hermes. Beyond the course of the Ocean and the White Rock, beyond the Gates of the Sun and the Land of Dreams, they finally reached the Asphodel Meadows inhabited by the shadows. They saw those of Achilles, Patroclus, Antilochos and Ajax, and then the one of Agamemnon and all those who had died with him. Agamemnon evoked the glorious death of Achilles: Thetis coming out of the waves accompanied by the Nereids for a final farewell to the body of her son, the singing of the nine Muses in his honour, the mourning of the gods and men together for seventeen days and seventeen nights, his ashes deposited in an urn with those of Patroclus, the burial mound and the magnificent prizes offered by Thetis to the winners of the funeral games.

Agamemnon, seeing the suitors, was astonished by the presence of so many such great heroes in this place, all young men of the same age. He then questioned Amphimedon, the son of Melaneus, who hosted him when he went to convince Odysseus (Ulysses) to participate in the war. Amphimedon described to him the pressure exerted by the suitors on Penelope and the weaving of the veil which had no end. Then he recounted the exposed scheming, the completion of the veil, the misbehaviour of the suitors in relation to the beggar Odysseus (Ulysses), their death brought about by the latter and their corpses lying unburied.

Then Agamemnon praised the fidelity and perseverance of Penelope, whereas he died because of the treachery of his wife Clytemnestra. 

Meanwhile, Odysseus (Ulysses) and his companions arrived at Laertes’ house. While they were preparing the feast, he came to his old father in the orchard, wondering if he would recognize him. Dolios and his sons were far off, working on the fence wall.

Laertes, his heart full of sorrow, was scantily clad but his orchard was beautifully tended. Without revealing himself, Odysseus (Ulysses), posing as a stranger, pointed it out to him. But he could not control himself for long in the face of his father’s distress and threw himself into his arms, announcing the death of the suitors. However, in order to convince him he had to show him his scar and remind him of the trees he received from him as a child.

Fearing that the Cephallenians would come to attack them, they went back to the house. The old man took his bath and as he was made to look taller and stronger by Athena, Odysseus (Ulysses) understood that it was the action of a god.

Laertes recalled his feat as the leader of the Cephallenians against the city of Nericus. Then Dolios arrived with his six sons and was delighted to find Odysseus (Ulysses).

Meanwhile, the Rumour had done its work. The Achaeans came to the house of Odysseus (Ulysses) to bury their dead, and then gathered at the agora. Eupeithes, whose son Antinoos had been shot with an arrow by Odysseus (Ulysses), harangued them to prevent the hero from fleeing to Pylos or to the divine Elis, and avenge their brothers and children.

But Medon joined them and told them that he had seen a god support Odysseus (Ulysses). Halitherses, one of Mastor’s sons, who saw the past and the future, also reminded them of the excesses of their sons (the young suitors who no longer believed in the return of Odysseus (Ulysses)) whom he and Mentor warned them from.

But many of them did not listen to these words of appeasement and took up arms under the leadership of Eupeithes.

Then Athena asked Zeus if he intended to prolong this conflict, to which he replied that he gave her the freedom to do as she pleased while offering to restore peace by giving power to Odysseus (Ulysses) and let the grieving families forget.

As the armed people approached the house of Laertes, one of Dolios’ sons saw them and all took up arms themselves, including the old man.

Before the fighting began, Odysseus (Ulysses) told Telemachus to remember not to tarnish the reputation of his forefathers.

Then Athena approached them in the guise of Mentor. First, she gave Laertes a new vigour and had him throw his javelin on Eupeithes, who died immediately. Then Odysseus (Ulysses) and Telemachus killed many Achaeans until the goddess ordered the crowd of Ithaca to stop the fight with a shout. As Odysseus (Ulysses) darted to pursue them, Zeus launched his thunderbolt in front of Athena-Mentor. Then the goddess had to ask Odysseus (Ulysses) to stop this battle between valiant warriors if he did not want to incur the wrath of Zeus. His heart full of joy, the hero accepted.

Then Athena-Mentor sealed an accord between the two parties.

Although many ancient and modern exegetes may have doubted the affiliation of this last chapter of the Odyssey to the original corpus, it helps to clarify some important points at this time of the yoga: the recognition of past realisations, the major importance of total surrender to the Divine (surrender that is both consecration and self-giving, implying leaving the responsibility of the yoga to the Supreme by abandoning the pretension of wanting to effect the transformation by oneself) and the necessary transition from a yoga of exclusion and elimination to a path of total integration of opposites, transcending the process of cause and effect (by an act that no longer “forgives” but “erases”).

First, it is the overmind that enables the seeker to put into perspective past realisations and their exact participation in the evolutionary process (Hermes guides the souls of the suitors). These realisations are examined from the point of view of divine integration (this happens in Hades, the place of realisation of unity in matter), which allows to preserve their memory in the radiant Truth of the Supramental. First, they are judged in their relation to the purification in the incarnation allowing access to the supramental world, to the knowledge of other planes of consciousness and to the world of Truth (they go beyond the “White Rock,” “The Gates of the Sun,” “The Land of Dreams” to reach the “Asphodel Meadows”).

Although the symbolism of Asphodel is unknown to us, the splendour of this flower and the location of the Asphodel Meadows, at the edge of Hades’ kingdom, suggest it is a symbol of the Supramental since it is a place beyond the “Gates of the Sun”.

As the suitors are symbols of higher realisations, it is normal for their souls to meet in Hades those of other great heroes, respectively symbols of the “achievement of liberation” (Achilles), “glorious realisations” (Patroclus), “vigilance” (Antilochos) and “highest consciousness” (Ajax). Homer insists that Achilles belongs to the lineage of major realisations (his ashes are with those of Patroclus), which have also enabled the seeker to receive great “helpers” on the vital level (the magnificent prizes offered by Thetis to the winners of the funeral games).

When the seeker relates his old aspiration oriented towards human perfection to its realisations, he is surprised that these have been surpassed as soon as they were obtained (Agamemnon is surprised to see the young suitors in these places). He gets the explanation by observing that the “will for perfection” that manifested at the beginning of the great reversal process, carried the seed of a twist (Amphimedon, son of Melaneus, who hosted Agamemnon when he went to convince Odysseus (Ulysses) to participate in the war, described to him the behaviour of the suitors and their deaths).

Then the seeker becomes aware of the help given to him by “the vision of greater freedom” while what “aspires” in him strayed to pursue a refinement of the present nature (Then Agamemnon praised the fidelity and perseverance of Penelope, he who died because of Clytemnestra’s treachery). For, let us remember, it is not a question of making man wiser or more virtuous, but of moving towards a different humanity.

He returns to the quest for humility undertaken on the mental level and finds that it has never stopped working (Laertes, united with Anticlia “humility”, is of pitiful appearance but his orchard is beautifully maintained). But this “mental humility” cannot recognize whether transparency is achieved in the vital (Laertes cannot recognize Odysseus (Ulysses)). When recognition is effective, it confirms that mental and vital transparency has been achieved. The continuity of yoga is then well established.

However, the part of the seeker that is still marked by the previous phase – the consecration related to personal yoga – fears a powerful return of the highest mind that it had once set against the new one (Laertes fears that the Cephallenians will attack them, a people he once led in an attack on Nericos’ “openness to the new”). The seeker understands all the better the risk of interference by the mind because he once developed it to the maximum of its possibilities. This observation would give validity to the lineage of Odysseus (Ulysses) given by Hygin, namely that his grandfather Arcisius, son of Laertes, is a son of Cephalus, himself the son of the Aeolian Deion.

The inner guide then rekindles the flame of commitment for the being who has achieved humility (Athena, the inner guide, gives a beautiful stature to Laertes, widower of Anticlia).

Although this is not indicated in this chapter, we can assume that the character of Dolios “deceitful” mentioned here is the same as the father of Melantheus (the goatherd) and Melantho (the assistant of Penelope) massacred by Odysseus (Ulysses). His wife is an old Sicilian, “who is dishonest”, which shows the danger of progressing in “sneaky falsehood” if a righteous attitude does not thwart her. So it would have made sense for Odysseus (Ulysses) to fight and kill them as well. But this is not the case, and here Homer presents Dolios and his six sons in a rather favourable light: they are faithful servants of Laertes, helping to maintain his orchard in a beautiful way, and demonstrating their affection and fidelity to Odysseus (Ulysses).

Icarios “opening to the heights of the mind” had offered Dolios as a servant to his daughter Penelope when she came to Ithaca. At that time, before the Trojan War, the seeker was in search of the Supramental in the spirit (with reference to homonymy, see the myth of Icarus), and this quest introduced the possibility of deviance, depending on the attitude adopted. This “shadow” is useful as long as it helps the quest for knowledge in perfect humility, but if the seeker deviates from this attitude, it brings the risk of a fall. (Dolios’ two children, Melantheus and Melantho, fell into this trap. The first was the goatherd at the service of the suitors, mainly Antinoos “wisdom” and Eurymachos “holiness”, while the second assisted Penelope). The closer these “sneaky falsehoods” are to the highest realisations and even to the “vision of greater freedom,” the more their pernicious influence reveals itself, whereas one might think instead that they are redressed by holiness and wisdom or the vision of the goal.

But when this “deception” remains in contact with what works for humility, the shadow cannot find a breeding ground for developing and even serves the yoga (the old Sicilian, her husband Dolios and their six sons remained always with Laertes united with Anticlia).

It is interesting to note that the movement represented by Laertes, initiated in the heights of the spirit, ends in the most perfect humility in contact with a well-maintained orchard, and thus close to the body. In a way, Dolios was the evolutionary chance of Laertes and the latter prevented Dolios from being harmful.

The deviance of the suitors is therefore presented here as a lack of humility. But when the latter is present, the shadow itself is integrated and can no longer have a hold. It is even constitutive of the right progression in the incarnation and used to fight what still opposes the New (Dolios and his sons arm themselves to fight alongside Odysseus (Ulysses)).

In the new yoga, the seeker will have to progress by integration and no longer by rejection.

Once he has recognized that achieving transparency is the right development of the work of humility, the realisations of ancient yoga can be put in their rightful place (after the reunion of Odysseus (Ulysses) and Laertes, the bodies of the suitors were taken away to be buried by their families).

While the yoga is “corrected” there is still opposition in some parts of the being, especially in what has paved the way for the realisations of the ancient yoga: beliefs in immutable laws stand in the way of crossing the “door” for complete unification (Eupeithes “vast belief”, father of Antinoos “powerful spirit, wise,” fears that Odysseus (Ulysses) will leave for Pylos or the divine Elide).

Neither the “protective intuition” that perceives the movement of divine forces, nor “fire” that can see past and future (from the body consciousness if omega is taken into account in the name), can defeat these beliefs (Medon saw a god helping Odysseus (Ulysses) himself, and Halitherses who saw the past and future, son of Mastor, reminded them of the excesses of their sons, the suitors, but to no avail).

The master of yoga, seeing a new yoga struggle in separation, enters into contact with the super-conscious to perceive the right path (Athena asked Zeus for his intentions). But all latitude is left to the master of yoga with, however, the indication of a new path: no longer struggle or forgiveness, but a higher movement of consciousness that “erases”. Indeed, when forgiveness is a personal act, it maintains duali