A virgin warrior goddess and later on goddess of wisdom, Athena is the symbol of the quest, of the power of discerning intelligence that contributes to the growth of the inner being for the mastery of the outer being.
Athena and Poseidon -Cabinet des Médailles
To fully understand this web page, it is recommended to follow the progression given in the tab Greek myths interpretation. This progression follows the spiritual journey.
The method to navigate in the site is given in the Home tab.
Athena is an incarnation of what we know of as ‘the inner master’. This is the significance of the consonants which make up her name, Θ+Ν, the power which watches over ‘the evolution of what is born within’ – in fact she was originally named Athenaia, Θ+Ν+Ι, ‘evolving consciousness within’. Even love, represented by Aphrodite, cannot be the initial means of the quest nor direct it, for as it is conceived by men love is thoroughly mixed with the mind and the vital. This obliges us to consider Homer’s definition, which defines love as a process of evolution aiming towards union under an impulse from the supraconscient – for Aphrodite is in Homer’s texts a daughter of Zeus and Dione- rather than considering that of Hesiod, who considers Love to be present at the origin of manifestation when the goddess surged forth from the foam of the sea. This is why Sri Aurobindo states that Truth must be realised in mankind before Love is. In fact Hesiod creates the image of a Love emanating from the Absolute, but goes on to give Aphrodite several names, Cytheria, Cyprogenia and Philomedia, which suggests that he too considered love to be in a process of evolution.
Athena is the daughter of Zeus, and therefore an expression of the supraconscient at the level of the overmind, and a daughter of Metis, the goddess of divine ‘intelligence’, herself daughter of the Titan Oceanos who was responsible for generating all the currents of energy-consciousness operating in creation.
See Family tree 17
We have already discussed the conception, gestation and birth of Athena, up till the moment in which she emerged fully armed from Zeus’ head (head cleaved, according to Pindar, by the blow of an axe delivered by Hephaestus, the divine blacksmith).
The pregnancy of Metis before she was swallowed by Zeus and till the birth of Athena corresponds to the preparatory phase of the entry into the path, during which the seeker strives to discover his path or his master. As conscious as he may be at this moment of the quest, the seeker cannot yet conceive of a level of evolution beyond the highest planes of the mind. This is why Zeus is warned by Gaia and Ouranos that he will be overthrown by the second child borne by Metis; there is a certain prescience originating simultaneously from the body and from the spirit which points to the fact that the mind is not the summit of evolution.
By swallowing Metis, the supraconscient identifies itself with the ‘supreme discerning intelligence’ as a tool for evolution. This identification will be maintained throughout the time of Athena’s domination in the quest, till the moment in which the psychic being will begin to govern the three lower planes.
By extrapolation, the next stage of evolution should be preceded by a regurgitation of Metis so as to dissociate human consciousness from discerning intelligence, the latter being henceforward acquired, and allowing for the fertilisation and then the birth of the second child to be borne by Metis.
The other major unions of Zeus with various goddesses prior to the birth of Athena correspond to a call of the supraconscient for the mobilisation of the being in certain specific directions. We have also already mentioned that they probably correspond to the symbolic stages of the quest reflecting the seeker’s relationship with the Divine. We have discussed these in the study of Zeus and will only repeat the main points here.
Themis: submission to divine laws
Eurynome: submission to the right order and to divine harmony
Demeter: work on oneself aiming towards union
Mnemosyne: the reappropriation of memory
Leto: the awakening of consciousness to the psychic being and its manifestations
Hera: the adequacy of the movement of becoming, the power which ensures that nothing is left behind
When the seeker is ready Athena can come forward, forcing a return to oneself by acquiring the understanding that the world cannot be changed if one does not begin with oneself. Emerging from Zeus’ head she must prepare the groundwork between the highest level of the mind, the overmind, which will belong for a long time yet to the supraconscient, and the following stage, the supramental.
In fact, at the level of humankind as a whole it would seem that the transition towards the supramental must be carried out through the conquest of the highest layers of the mind, even if from an individual point of view this can be done through very different individual paths. To be able to establish itself, the action of the supramental seems to require that the lower layers of the being be sufficiently purified and liberated, an action which cannot take place without the assistance of the highest layers of the mind and the forces at work within them. This is the reason for the progression of the quest as it is proposed in mythology, consisting of a sequence of ascensions and integrations, a constant coming and going between the higher and the lower, between the worlds of the spirit and those of matter so as to progressively bring about a descent of the light of the newly conquered planes into the corresponding layers of the vital and the body.
Athena – Cabinet des Médailles
The initiates of ancient times therefore predicted two stages in this transition from the mental to the supramental: the first was to be led by the warrior Athena, who was ‘at least as strong and wise as her father’ and ‘whose birth filled all the other gods with fear’. She was to allow the contact and union between the inner Reality and the Supreme above, favouring the growth of the psychic being and the submission of the external nature to the latter.
The second stage, to be governed by the ‘child yet to be born’, the second child of Metis, is to allow a descent into the lower planes by the forces of the divine or supramental planes with which the seeker will be united, so that these forces will be able to act within and transform the mind, life and body in view of a divine life within a divinised body. This stage will require the realisation of a complete transparency between matter and the supramental, hence the announcement of the supreme gods Gaia and Ouranos predicting the birth of a second child yet to be born, ‘a son of overbearing spirit, king of gods and men’. For it will then be the action of a force moving in ‘precision’ and therefore more ‘intransigent’ in the eyes of men, a force which will be in agreement with the light of Apollo and the integrity of Artemis, themselves greater gods than the children of Hera.
Athena is therefore the warrior force preparing the nature to receive the transformative supramental force from a plane of Truth situated well beyond that of the gods.
Zeus does not possess this permanent character of the Absolute. He has access only to the illuminations of Truth and Power, symbolised by the thunder and lightning given to him by the Cyclopes.
Neither does he possess a complete vision or a complete knowledge of Truth, the Omniscience which is the privilege of the Cyclopes, or the omnipotent power of simultaneous action in all directions of the Hundred-Handed Giants, the Omnipotence and Omnipresence.
When he swallows Metis, the goddess who is ‘wisest among gods and mortal men’ (Hesiod, Theogony 886), Hesiod only stated that she would help him to better “discern”.
But as nature usually takes its time, he who wishes to accelerate the process of evolution comes up against all the forces which serve to stabilise the current state since times immemorial through set habits, behaviours, habitual reactions, ways of feeling and thinking, and thousands of conscious and unconscious elements which resist the will for change. This is why the quest is a kind of battle and Athena a warrior goddess. This is also why all descriptions of the spiritual quest traditionally use the image of a warrior. Here it is of course a matter of inner rather than outer battles, even though the seeker must never flee from the latter if they are required. For the path recommended by Greek mythology and Vedic teachings alike also undergoes a plunge into the world and a participation in its battles; the seeker of truth must not flee from the world, but must fulfill the task which behooves him and engage in external combat when he is inwardly called to do so, while remembering that the results of these external battles do not belong to him. The Mother specifies that while the ancient methods of Yoga require isolation and solitude, the Absolute must henceforth be found in one’s work and in the relation with others as well.
The battle begins from the first step on the paths, from the point at which one turns inward. This is why Athena is fully armed and armoured from birth.
Soon after her birth, the goddess took from Poseidon’s hands sovereignty over Athens.
Having arrived in Attica first, Poseidon had stricken the Acropolis with his stick, causing a black stallion, invincible in battle, or according to others a salty sea, to appear. Athena arrived after him, planted an olive tree and claimed sovereignty. All the Olympian gods were calle