Poseidon is the power that reigns on the subconscious. By the upheavals it raises, it forces a progressive control of the vital.
Poseidon. Louvre Museum
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Poseidon, the second son of Cronos, is the god of the waters, but not of all waters, for he only rules over the seas, lakes and springs. Rivers, images of currents of energy, depend on the Titan Oceanos and are controlled by other gods.
See Family tree 17
Deities linked to the watery worlds, for which the ancient Greeks used specific terms, are to be attentively differentiated.
Pontos, known as ‘the sea stream’ or ‘the sea of sterile floods’ in mythology, was brought to life by Gaia without the intervention of a male power, as was Ouranos. He belongs to the first divine generation and is a symbol of Life coexisting with Matter and Spirit, one and indivisible: hence the qualifier ‘of sterile floods’. He precedes the Titans, and therefore precedes human consciousness. His five children borne by his mother Gaia represent evolutionary stages of the development of the vital. The eldest is Nereus, “the old man of the sea”, who represents the very first stage of animal evolution with the appearance of the first cells.
Pontos is associated with the high seas, for he is linked to the ‘depths of life’ and its deities and monsters.
As the subconscious is closely related to vital manifestations, Poseidon, brother of Zeus and master of the subconscious, is the ‘Ποντο-μεδων, the king of the sea’. The term Pelasgian or Pelasgus (πελαγος) is also associated to him, at least in Hesiod’s works, for it suggests a dimension of depth and danger.
The second term which we could erroneously attribute to the world of water is Oceanos. A Titanic deity of the second generation, Oceanos is a force of creation, a symbol of the currents of energy-consciousness which run through the entire universe as well as our bodies, present in both the macrocosm and the microcosm. To make the suggested images and the natural elements coincide, the initiates of ancient times assigned rivers and streams to his influence. His children are therefore too numerous to be calculated.
In later periods of Greek history his name was associated to the ‘outer sea’, the Atlantic Ocean, but this word was never used in that sense in primitive mythology.
The third term used to designate the sea is Thalassa, Θαλασσα (Θαλαττα Thalatta in the Attic form), the root of which is thal, Θαλ, which signifies ‘pressing forward or growing’. It is linked to evolution, and therefore to the journey of the seeker. But Homer also speaks of ατρυγετοιο Θαλασσης when Zeus, upon triumphing over the Titans, banishes Cronos under the earth and the sterile sea, which is to say to a place in which the evolution of life comes to a standstill. We will therefore come across this term in the myths of the great epic voyages across the seas.
Finally, two other terms are used to describe the sea: ‘als’, which designates both salt and sea, seems to be associated with the essence of life, liberty (vital fire liberated from all sentimentality), and ‘nau’, which is used in the context of navigation and therefore in the context of the orientation and progress of the quest.
Poseidon is the second son of the Titan Cronos, following Hades and preceding Zeus. He belongs to the third generation of gods, that which rules over the world of forms. Let us remember that in the division of the world of consciousness between the three brothers, it is to him that was assigned the subconscious, the vast reservoir that registers the slightest phenomenon of the mind and vital and the slightest of sensations. And as the sea is both a symbolic expression of life and the place which preserves the memories of evolution, Poseidon is its master.
Poseidon is not the subconscious itself, but rather the power of the overmind which strives towards its transformation.
Complementary to Demeter, his name could be understood as ‘the master (Ποσει) of union (Δ)’. While the goddess maintains the tension necessary for the aim of perfection, Poseidon ensures that nothing is left behind. His action is not always justly appreciated, for he brings issues to light through emotional, mental and physical shocks which are the psychological distortions and imperfections of the seeker.
As vital manifestations most often remain outside the control of the intellect, he is the god of stormy seas more than the one of calm waters. As emotions have strong psychosomatic repercussions on the body he is also known as the ‘shaker of the earth’, or the ‘support of the earth’, earth being in this case associated with the body.
Poseidon , Hermes and Athena – Louvre Museum
As the master of vital energy he can set off storms as well as save sinking ships by appeasing raging waters. At times he also causes bulls surge into existence, the latter representing the ‘power of the luminous mind’ which we must master and put under the yoke to sacrifice to the Divine. In the case of Minos he made a magnificent bull to emerge from the sea, bull which the hero could not resolve to sacrifice, leading to the origin of the Minotaur.
But it is his association to the horse that is primary, for the latter is a symbol of vital force which can be or has been disciplined, and therefore a symbol of vital power. When he strives for mastery Poseidon is known as ‘the tamer of horses’, and sometimes assigns to the seeker the horse corresponding to his particular stage of development and progress, as in the horses of Idas, Pelops of Adraste.
Uniting with Medusa he fathered Chrysaor, ‘the man of the golden sword’ and Pegasus, ‘the winged horse’ or ‘liberated vital energy’ at the service of the mind.
He coupled with Medusa, one of the Gorgons and granddaughter of Pontos, a symbol of the fear which man needs for his evolution. Fear is therefore under the control of Poseidon. But when fear ceases powerful forces are liberated (symbolised by the severed head of Medusa): then appears a dauntless warrior, Chrysaor, and a powerful vital force able to elevate itself to participate in the yogic process, Pegasus. The Mother states that a very important stage in the yogic progression is surpassed when the vital freely accepts to collaborate.
The inferior planes of Poseidon’s kingdom are the home of impulses, desires, sensations, emotions, passions, anger, fear, greed and covetousness and the possessive instinct.
At the lower frontiers skirting the realm of Hades the seeker broaches the planes of the vital most deeply rooted in matter, which is why Homer describes the horses of Poseidon’s chariot as having brazen hooves.
We have already described the division of the kingdoms of consciousness between the three brothers on several occasions. It is however useful to return to this point and add some details regarding the realm of Poseidon, as the terms of modern language used to discuss consciousness are not necessarily used in the same way in this work. I have used the definitions given by Sri Aurobindo, which correspond to those of Greek mythology (given in Sri Aurobindo’s Letters on Yoga, part II, Chapter ‘Planes of the Being’).
Consciousness, or waking physical consciousness, represented by the surface of the earth, is the shared domain of the three brothers. Its boundaries are not the same for every individual as each person has a different experience of the planes surrounding it.
The kingdom of Hades, the inconscient, is a consciousness closed upon itself and evolving within itself, which contains everything but in which nothing is formulated or expressed.
The subconscious, the kingdom of Poseidon, is the part of our being in which there is neither will nor consciously awakened feeling, and which receives and stores every one of our impressions and experience. It contains all the primitive reactions of a life striving to emerge from matter. Everything that is repressed sinks and remains lodged there, ready to manifest itself at every opportunity. From this area, unresolved things resurface through dreams or in the waking condition in a mechanical, repetitive, obstinate way, often without any relation to current situations. These are largely responsible for our illnesses.
This subconscious belongs to the three planes of the mind, the vital and the physical, and is universal as much as it is individual.
Although it is one of the primary obstacles to yogic progress, Sri Aurobindo advises that one should only engage with it to reject it as something distinct from our essential nature, and only as a result of the action of ignorance. But focusing on this imperfect aspect of our nature causes depression and must therefore be avoided.
Outside of these three planes and far lower than the kingdom of Hades is the realm of the negation of Spirit, Tartarus, which Sri Aurobindo refers to as Nescience. Its name is composed in the classical form x+Ρx, here Τ+ΡΤ, ‘spirit + reversal (of spirit) in accordance to the plane of truth’. In Hesiod’s words, it is a region as far away from Hades as the earth is from the sky, and ‘a brazen anvil falling from earth nine nights and days would reach Tartarus upon the tenth’. (Hesiod, Theogony 713)
Finally, above the three lower planes of consciousness is situated the supramental. In mythology, it is represented by the plane of creation of the Titans and of some of their children.
In the first phase of yoga, the seeker is mostly in relation with the world of Zeus and his children. As he moves forward he descends progressively into the layers of the subconscious and is faced with the challenges of Poseidon with increasing frequency, as is Ulysses for example. Finally, the ‘adventures of consciousness’ which form part of the yoga of the body and in some individuals reach the cellular level penetrate into the kingdom of Hades, as they do in the cases of Heracles and Ulysses.
Like Demeter, who induces a coming and going from the kingdom of Hades with Persephone as an intermediary, Poseidon too dwells in his golden palace beneath the sea during certain periods, and on Mount Olympus during others.
His palace is named Aegae, ‘the beginning of consciousness’. This explains its mythical location off the coast of Samothrace, the site of Mystery Schools