Hephaestus, brother of Ares, is the force forging new forms.
Hephaestus attending with the other gods the birth of Athena. Hephaestus is represented in the extreme left holding the axis – Louvre Museum
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This god is quite predictably presented as the opposite of his brother Ares, and is a creator of mental forms. If the masters of wisdom have made Hephaestus a blacksmith and not a carpenter it is because his particularity as a builder of forms is to melt and weld them in the fire of his forge. Hephaestus is not only the one to mold mental forms, as does Daedalus who builds forms which only hold the ‘appearance’ of life, for he is the one who shapes through the use of fire and makes appear ‘true’ forms purified by the fire of the spirit.
Similarly to the way in which Ares carries out his destruction, Hephaestus’ creations only concern the mental forms generated for the yoga within the frame of a spiritual progression.
See Family tree 17
But Hephaestus is a crippled god; he is lame. Homer gives two different versions of the cause of his infirmity.
In the first, he was lame from birth. Ashamed of his infirmity, his mother Hera had thrown him from the heights of Olympus. He was taken in by Thetis, one of the daughters of Nereus “the old man of the sea” and Eurynome, an Oceanid who sheltered him in a cave on the seafloor for nine years. As a token of his gratitude, Hephaestus carved magnificent jewels for the two goddesses.
According to the second version “he was rendered lame during a quarrel between his parents. When he took the part of his mother Hera, Zeus inflicted him with the same punishment as had done Hera in the other version of the story. After a fall that lasted for an entire day he landed on the island of Lemnos, where he was received by the Sintians.
According to Hesiod he was conceived by Hera alone, who sought vengeance for the birth of Athena.
In both of these versions it is either the power of limitation, Hera, or the force of expansion of the mind at the highest level of the overmind, Zeus, who refuse to consider the forms created by the inferior mental planes (those produced by Hephaestus).
This possibility of the creation of purified mental forms manifests itself from the appearance of the mental-vital in man (the cave on the seafloor), but must undergo a long period of gestation (nine years) under the supervision of the two goddesses, Eurynome, ‘vast order, divine harmony’, and Thetis, ‘the highest inner consciousness working at the roots of life’. The seeker will later have to give his thanks to the divine powers which have permitted him to develop his creative capacities: Hephaestus offers jewels to the goddesses.
Hesiod does not make him the son of Zeus, probably to avoid an association between the effects of the limitations of the mind and the latter’s force of expansion.
Irrespective of which version is followed, the important point to remember is that Hephaestus is a ‘fallen’ god deprived of his physical integrity, for he is lame. This is to say that he can only fully utilise one of his supports of power, symbolised by the leg. Homer describes him as an enormous being with spindly legs: man gives his mental creations a disproportionate importance but they completely lack foundations, and therefore incarnation.
His fragility, and especially his lameness, are the effects of an alternation of the influence of the energies of fusion and separation which manifest themselves in the mind through what we call intuition and reason. This is why Hesiod affirms that he was conceived by Hera alone in retaliation to Athena’s birth. In fact, at the level of Zeus, forms translate an equilibrium of these two forces, while Hera ensures that the right movement, and therefore their alternation, is respected.
This alternation produces a succession of historical phases which we call ‘humanistic periods’ in which man is at the centre of the world, and ‘Middle Ages’ in which it is the Supreme that is at the center. This phenomenon is comparable to the cycle of night and day as a continuous process. ‘Night and Day draw near and greet one another as they pass the great threshold of bronze. And while the one is about to go down into the house, the other comes out at the door. And the house never holds them both within; but always one is without the house passing over the earth, while the other stays at home and waits until the time for her journeying come; and the one holds all-seeing light for them on earth, but the other holds in her arms Sleep the brother of Death, even evil Night, wrapped in a vaporous cloud.’ (Hesiod, Theogony 744.)
During one half of each cycle, Hephaestus lacks a second support, symbolised by his lameness. The forms induced by the cycles link to each other automatically, pulling us into their motion. This enslavement will last as long as man remains a prisoner of the inferior levels of the mind, and will only disappear completely when mind and vital had swear allegiance to his soul.
As we have previously seen, this alternation of movements of fusion and fission are at the origin of all the phenomena of the created universe. This is illustrated by the end of the myth of Prometheus, whose liver was devoured by the eagle of Zeus during the day and regenerated itself during the night. In fact, on the plane of the mind formed in humanity for tens of thousands of years, these two movements seem contradictory as there is little aptitude for a simultaneous action. They therefore act in alternation, generating cyclical phenomena.
While the action of the forces of fusion and separation is easily observable in the domain of matter and life in atomic fusion/fission, the expansion and contraction of the universe, biological cycles, etc., it is less perceptible on the mental plane. It is however on the certainty of the existence of such cycles resulting from an inner experience that many myths were constructed. This phenomenon was thus described by Plato: ‘God at times himself directs the movement of this universe in which we are, and at times lets it go…’.
Empedocles, a Greek scientist of the 4th century B.C., refers to this as an alternation of two complementary and contradictory forces: a force of integration which he calls ‘friendship’, and a force of disintegration which he calls ‘discord’.
In the light of current brain research, it would seem that humanity is progressively and alternatively under the influence of one or the other of the hemispheres of the brain. At times it is the right non linear (intuitive) side of the brain which is at the forefront, and mankind then lives a golden age in which he is close to the gods, while at other times it is the left brain (linear), the one which is to lead man towards his freedom, which dominates.
The mind seems to therefore be under the influence of two cycles of differing duration, or rather under the influence of a major cycle which is divided into twelve sub-cycles of the same nature.
The major cycle seems to extend over a period of twenty-six thousand years, which is difficult to observe.
The sub-cycles, each of 2160 years, correspond to the zodiac signs (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.), the symbolism of which impregnates most civilisations. At that level the succession of the two periods becomes sensitive, with the alternation of so-called Middle-Age periods and humanistic periods characterised by an alternating predominance of faith and reason respectively. Plato has even described political forms which succeed one another in a certain part of the curve: feudalism, kingships, despotism, republics and empires. The author of this work has written a yet unpublished book on this subject titled The Cycles of the Mind in Human History.
One must perceive this mental rhythm as one understands the succession of day and night, as a slow undulation during which energies evolve and inverse themselves without our being aware of it. The major obstacle to this perception is the belief that our mental activity has always followed the same patterns, while it is in fact impossible for us to feel the vibrations of a given period.
For example, during the current period in which dominates the separative influence in affinity with the energies of day we ignore and reject the energies of the night, and consequently those of death as well. This is not night in the sense of unconsciousness and sleep, but rather the aspect of night which brings about sharing, the meeting of souls, the annihilation of the ego identity and the development of the imaginary world. This kind of night which leads one to forget the desire for progress and external change, which tends towards silence, communion and immutability. It incites internalisation and fusion, which is a receptivity that melts everything in its indistinct goodness.
For all those who are receptive this period of fusion facilitates knowledge through identity, and therefore a knowledge of nature such as the power of healing through the use of plants. In this state the perception of the spirits of nature also seems to be easier, as well as of the “forces of darkness” which oppose evolution. The humanist periods which do not give these any credence are at their mercy to an even greater extent.
The essential characteristic of a period of fusion is the primacy of what is “sacred” and its force. It impregnates all aspects of daily life, and brings one into contact with the unknown in an awed and respectful dread. The unquiet heart that bows down before what it does not understand succeeds the dry and arrogant intelligence of the periods of separation. Marveling and enchantment accompany daily experiences, and the dominating feeling is that of the crypt, of the supernatural and of a gathering inwards. Time loses importance. There is no more desire for great human projects, but only temples for adoring divinity. Becoming is replaced by being. These are the periods of faith. Such is the atmosphere reigning over the middle ages.
In contrast the period of separation originates from an energy comparable to that of day, which pushes each individual form towards its complete expression and the realisation of its potentialities (by ‘form’, we mean ideas, social systems and civilisation as well as men). While man experiences himself as the centre of the world, the will for progress is everywhere present. In the present stage of evolution, the dominant consciousness is that of the predator which progressively replaces the spirit of oblation and sacrifice of the preceding period, and the prevalent impulses are covetousness and the quest for power. It is the period of reason, doubt and the negation of the Divine.
In a visual representation it could be said that the centre of consciousness oscillates between these two poles in an extremely slow rhythm, bringing to the forefront reason and intuition alternatively. When one of the two poles is in the lead, the other withdraws to the background without however disappearing entirely. Thus intuition, which is the faculty of entering into resonance in accordance to the principle of unity in all things is not completely absent from the period of separation which we currently live in. (In a remarkable thesis on the psychic workings in the old times, Julian Jaynes describes this weakening of intuition over the course of centuries until the complete cessation of prophecy in 363 BCE when, through the lips of the last priestess of Delphi, Apollo announced that he would not make any more prophecies. For further reference see The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.)
Neither movement is of a higher value than the other. The movement of separation is absolutely necessary for individuation and for the realisation by all forms of life of what consti