Hades is the son of Cronus (or Cronos) and Rhea
See Family tree 17
Hades holding the cornucopia (or Horn of plenty) – Louvre Museum
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This Titan couple, Cronus and Rhea, was responsible for the birth of the six main gods who govern human consciousness: Hestia, Hera, Demeter, Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. Let us remember that this consciousness identifies itself with mental consciousness when Zeus, the supraconscient, swallowed Metis, ‘intelligence turned towards discernment’, thus imposing the dominance of the mind on the vital.
Rhea, the wife of Cronus, was the object of a cult centered on Mount Thaumasion, a name formed from the base of the name of Pontos’ second son, Thaumas, a symbol of the plane of the ‘true vital’. This confirms the name given to the rule of Cronus, ‘the Golden Age’, during which the reflecting mind which brings distortions and limitations to life was not yet dominant.
We have already discussed here those who are considered the Olympian gods. Over the course of his evolution man must integrate the forces which they represent so as to become their equal. The heroes of the Trojan war witnessed this, for they were able to inflict injuries on the combating gods. Once he has reached this stage of evolution, man is no longer submitted to the mental forces which scour the world in cyclical waves. He has then attained the plane of the Overmind of the Pleiad Maia, the mother of Hermes, and the corresponding realisations with the sixth son of Aeolus, Perieres, ‘he who acts in a just manner’, or ‘he who has moved beyond cycles’.
We must still discuss the sixth child of Cronos and Rhea, Hades, who has till now been set aside for he was not amongst the Olympian gods, at least not in the Homeric period. (We will discuss Dionysus later on because he holds a place apart, not being given the rank of a god and being barely mentioned in Homer’s works. This initiate probably considered the Dionysian path to be one of the several ways possible, but chose not to give it importance due to the potential mixing with vital energies.)
Let us remember that at the time of the victory over the Titans, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades divided the world amongst themselves, Hades being granted power over the underworld, the kingdom of the invisible (invisible to man).
The name Hades, Αιδης, has as structuring characters ΙΔ. It is therefore a place of reunification (Δ) of consciousness (Ι), the last stage of which is carried out in the body (once union has been realized in the mind and in the vital). The initiates of ancient times considered Hades to be ‘α-ίδε(ιν), he who is not visible’, and his kingdom is a place in which human ordinary consciousness cannot penetrate, where union is carried out in the inconscient. To reach it one must triumph over Cerberus, and not only as Heracles had done in bringing him into the conscious realm. Then one must cross over the Styx, a feat which no hero ever accomplished. When the Styx will have been crossed, when the work of Persephone will have been completed, then Man will touch upon the ‘eternal’ world (Αιδιος) of total unity. (As is commonly done, we will maintain here the masculine gender for Styx, an Oceanid assimilated into the river of Hades’ world.)
Hades’ domain is that which we refer to here as the ‘inconscient’ in keeping with Sri Aurobindo’s definition, a domain which therefore pertains to the body and its silencing of the records and memories of evolution. It is also here that dwell the ‘shades’, symbols of experiences which have fulfilled their role.
This ‘inconscient’ is in no way equivalent to that of modern psychology; the latter refers to the more superficial layers which we refer to here as the subconscious, the domain of Poseidon in which is accumulated every sensation as well as all the distortions resulting from emotional trauma. When the right time comes these distortions are awakened by Poseidon, generating gusts of wind or tumultuous storms which jostle the seeker. The causes of these can be recalled into consciousness without too much difficulty.
One must therefore never reduce the great heroes’ incursions into the kingdom of Hades to the level of the discoveries made by ordinary men in the contents of their subconscious, no matter what their means of investigation may be.
According to Homer, the only heroes to have consciously descended into Hades during their lifetime were Heracles and Ulysses. As Heracles belongs to the theoretical description of the path, only Ulysses represents an experience which borders on the yoga of the body. Later authors added Theseus and his friend Pirithoos, or cite dead heroes such as Sisyphus or Alcestis who return for longer or shorter periods to the domain of the living (the legend of Orpheus is a particular one, for it is recounted in a variety of versions which will be discussed later on). By allowing imperfectly purified and liberated heroes to access Hades, these authors either erroneously extended the kingdom of Hades to the regions of the deep subconscious, or seemed to consider the possibility of a work on the body before ‘liberation’ was wholly established. The myth in which Sisyphus, having deliberately chosen not to be buried in the way ascribed by tradition, was allowed to reemerge from the underworld can be understood in this way; as long as the vital is not completely purified, the efforts of the intellect must serve the cause of discernment even if a work on the body has already begun.
Let us also remember that the opposite of consciousness is Nescience, symbolised by Tartarus, rather than by Hades even if some later authors included the first within the second. Hades is a place of reunion, not of negation, and it is Thanatos and not Hades who is associated with the death of the physical body.
Living alternatively with her mother Demeter and her husband Hades, Persephone demonstrates that the realisation towards the highest union incarnated by Demeter -who belongs in the greatest heights of human consciousness, the overmind, for she is the sister of Zeus – is carried out by recurring journeys between the conscious and the inconscient. She ‘informs’ the body of the evolutions of consciousness, and vice versa. But at least in Homer’s times, the body is not a place for humankind’s evolution, and Hades is therefore never manifested in the life of mortals and does not dwell on Mount Olympus amongst the other gods. This is why Achilles claims that ‘I should choose, so I might live on earth, to serve as the hireling of another, of some portionless man whose livelihood was but small, rather than to be lord over all the dead that have perished ‘ (Odyssey 11.467-468).
(If the body witnesses the unity of matter, the apparent immobility of Hades paired with the comings and goings of Persephone could also indicate that a seeker’s step forward spreads throughout humankind by its resonance.)
Even if the myths allude to ‘deaths’, the kingdom of Hades is therefore in no case the place of what is beyond life, but rather a world of material consciousness where past experiences are integrated and kept and where certain processes follow their work, having either reached completion in the ordinary conscious and subconscious layers or having been banished from these planes.
The fact that Homer describes evolutionary experiences as ‘shades’ or ‘psychae Ψυχαι’ (through the structuring characters signifying ‘that which penetrates into the center’), it is because they contribute to the growth of the inner being. This term does not designate any of the human faculties, which are expressed by words such as Phrenes (spirit), Thymos (the vital being, the principle of will) and Noos (the mental being, thought). It more closely refers to what in this work we call the psychic being, the body forming around the soul understood as the divine spark within each individual, and being constituted of the same nature. These ‘shades’ therefore contribute to the growth of the psychic being by adhering to the pre-existing seed or core. However, a ‘shadow’ cannot be assimilated into the psychic being if the hero has not been buried in the world of the living according to the prescribed rites, which is to say that the ‘task’ in question, whether it seems beneficent or maleficent to human eyes, has not completed its role in the realm of active consciousness. This is what allows Sisyphus, who represents ‘effort’ in the mind, to return to the world above ground.
An evolutionary process which has completed its task no longer has any reason for staying in the realm of consciousness. Logically, the dog Cerberus also impedes the ‘shades’ from returning to the realm of light, allowing only a few select heroes who have found their evolutionary past and that of humankind, and can contemplate all its elements as an absolutely coherent whole, to make the crossing again.
This concept of Hades is not common to all the mythological texts, for there occurred a gradual shift of meaning and the ‘underworld’ which originally described a particular area of consciousness eventually came to designate the destination of the dead instead.
But this is neither ‘paradise’, ‘purgatory’ nor ‘hell’, and was initially not attributed with any of the characteristics that were added later on. If certain authors make a differentiation between the regions, it is probably to be able to distinguish between the experiences which are carried on from one lifetime to the other (the Island of the Blissful) and are therefore linked to the psychic being, and those which are linked to the current existence being lived (the fields of Asphodel).
It is there that the work of the adventurers of consciousness is carried out with the aim of one day allowing humankind as a whole to cross over the Styx, which is to say to achieve a union within the physical body. Although Hades himself is not hostile, the guardians of the ultimate frontier, Cerberus and Styx, ‘freeze with terror’, for with them the seeker encounters the powerful forces at the beginnings of evolution at a point in which he is no longer protected by the presence of the ego.
Hades is known by different epithets, including ‘the wealthy’ (he who fulfills all lack and need), ‘the other Zeus’, or ‘Zeus Katachtonios’ (καταχθονιος ΧΘ), which is to say the supraconscient of the depths or ‘the supraconscient which concentrates towards the inner core of matter’.
As the deity of the underworld he is also the deity of mines and of the potentials buried in matter and in the body.
His special object is the helmet of invisibility, designating the domain which man cannot be conscious of. This helmet is perhaps also the symbol of mental silence, which must be established in those seekers who begin the descent into the body. He is often depicted holding a key and a horn of plenty; he holds the ‘key’ of