THE MYTH BEHIND EUROPE

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In his aphorism 76, Sri Aurobindo says: “Europe prides herself on her practical and scientific organisation and efficiency. I am waiting till her organisation is perfect; then a child shall destroy her.”

When Mother was asked to comment on this aphorism, she said (Agenda, 11 December 71): “Naturally, it is not the soil that will be destroyed, it is simply the power that is destroyed, because the earth cannot be destroyed”.

I began with this quotation to tell you that it is not at all the subject of the conference. We will not be looking at Europe in terms of its influence in the world or its power – or rather its loss of power, which is becoming more and more obvious as time goes by – but rather at what the soul of Europe is; its mission as seen by the ancient Greeks.

What was its mission, as defined almost 5,000 years ago, and what role did it have to play in the evolution of the world? We will try to answer this question in the light of Greek mythology.

Of course, it could be said that it was by chance that the territory we now call Europe took on this name, and that there are no grounds for seeing a connection with Greek mythology. But we believe that there is no such thing as chance, and that it is no “chance” that this territory is called Europe. If everyone agrees that the name comes from the myth of Europe in Greek mythology, then there must be a reason for it.

For those who do not know me, I have been working for nearly 30 years on an interpretation of Greek mythology, writing several volumes on the subject, and it is based on this research that I am going to tackle the myth of Europa.

So, let us start by looking at what the myth says:

Europa was a beautiful Phoenician princess and because she was so beautiful, Zeus, the king of the gods, fell in love with her. While she and her attendants were strolling along a Phoenician beach, Zeus took the form of a magnificent white bull and came to lie down beside her. Europa, who was not suspicious, caressed the bull and climbed onto his back. Zeus immediately entered the sea and carried her to Crete. There he returned to his divine form, in human guise, and Europa bore him two children, Minos and Rhadamanthus.

That is the myth. It is very short and does not tell us much, except that Europa lived somewhere in the East – we will see later where Phoenicia was – that she was very beautiful and that she was a princess. We do not know much more than that.

When you study Greek mythology, you cannot understand a myth if you do not look at the genealogy into which it fits – otherwise you can make it say anything, as Freud did when he used the myth of Oedipus to illustrate his thesis on psychoanalysis. So that is what we are going to look at first, to try and understand where this myth fits in.

The Greeks had described two great lineages. The first – the lineage of Iapetus – corresponds to the evolution of mental consciousness according to the seven planes of consciousness that Sri Aurobindo described and that some people may be familiar with. They are represented by the seven Pleiades. This lineage corresponds to the ascension of the planes of consciousness and it is in this lineage that we find great heroes such as Bellerophon, Hector and many others.

The other field of work that Sri Aurobindo indicated to us – the lineage of Oceanos, to which Europa belongs – illustrates a process of purification/liberation, the aim of which is to purify the traces of the evolution that has been directed by Nature since the origin of the earth.

Progress is made through a series of innumerable ascents/purifications; the two processes being partly linked: the higher we climb, the further we can descend to purify and liberate ourselves.

With Oceanos, we are in the process of purification. It begins with Inachus, whose name means “evolution of concentration” – note in passing that the whole purification process is based, according to the Greeks, on a progressive development of concentration.

The son of Inachus, Epaphus, whose name means ‘contact with the divine’, evokes a first spiritual experience. It occurs when, for example, in childhood, we have an experience of “what is Real”, an experience of “It exists”, something unusual and extraordinary that really surprises us.

And it is this experience, this very first “contact with the Divine” that, one day or other, will put us on the path and set in motion our spiritual progression. It is this experience that we want to rediscover in the myth of Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece, and later make permanent in the myth of Ulysses.

It is also worth noting that this genealogical scheme also deals with the organisation of the dominant spirituality in the different regions of Antiquity.

Epaphus’ daughter had twins, Agenor, and Belus. The first settled in Phoenicia and had two children, Cadmos and Europa. The second stayed in Egypt and had twins, Danaos and Egyptus.

When there are twins in a family tree, it means that the two processes illustrated by their descendants occur simultaneously, in other words that what develops with Belus continues at the same time in the descendants of Agenor.

With Belus, the myth is linked to the Danaids you may have heard of: the Danaids were women whose punishment was to try to fill a pierced barrel… indefinitely. So, let us look at this myth.

It takes place in ancient Egypt, around 4, 5 or 6,000 years ago. Egyptus had 50 sons and Danaus had 50 daughters. In Greek mythology, women represent goals and experiences (or achievements when they have a union with a god) and men represent the qualities to be developed and the practices that enable these goals to be achieved.

Yet Egyptus and Danaus represent a spirituality that has reached full maturity. Why full maturity? Because 50 is the symbol of perfection in the world of forms. So here we have 50 goals or perfections and 50 practices and qualities, in other words a totality of practices and qualities and a totality of experiences and spiritual goals.

Egyptus absolutely wanted his sons to marry his brother’s daughters, but his brother did not agree. To escape the pressure exerted by his brother, he emigrated to Greece with his daughters. Egyptus pursued him with his 50 sons and Danaus finally told him that he agreed to marry his daughters to his sons. But in secret, he gave each of his daughters a dagger and ordered them to kill their husbands on their wedding night. They all did so, except one, Hypermnestra, who spared her cousin Lynceus.

This shows us that, in a short space of time, all the practices, all the efforts to develop certain qualities, all the spiritual forms had been annihilated except one. All that remained was Lynceus, ‘the Lynx’, who symbolises the ability to ‘see with precision’, to ‘discern’ in every detail. Lynceus represents discernment and Hypermnestra, superior intelligence. The myth of the Danaids indicates that at that time there was a complete rethinking of spirituality.

It is interesting because that is exactly what is happening right now, when we are being forced to rediscover spirituality and establish new foundations. Sri Aurobindo wrote an aphorism on this subject: “Break the moulds of the past, but keep its gains and spirit intact, otherwise you have no future”.

So, what happened in ancient Egypt – and the myth of Europa is happening at the same time, because Agenor and Belus are twins, so it is simultaneous – is happening again today, 6,000 years later. This means that humanity progresses by leaps and bounds, and that at certain points we must make a radical clean sweep of ancient forms and practices, since 49 out of the 50 sons of Egyptus were killed, but not the goals, since all the daughters were saved.

As for the Danaids, the traditions differ. In one tradition, the Danaids have remarried, indicating that new practices are being developed to meet these goals. In another, the punishment of the Danaids in the kingdom of the god Hades shows that these old goals are incapable of generating new yoga practices. In the latter case, these goals will also have to be renewed by the descendants of the Lynceus-Hypermnestra couple.

Although this is not the purpose of today’s conference, we should mention the presence of two great heroes in this lineage.

Perseus, the conqueror of the Gorgon, i.e. the conqueror of fear. And Heracles, who symbolises the general work of purification/liberation that begins with the Lion of Nemea – victory over the ego – and the Hydra of Herne – victory over desire. There are thus twelve great labours or achievements that the ancient Greeks defined as the general process of purification/liberation that leads to the hero’s apotheosis.

Let us now look at what happens in the other branch of the family tree, remembering that mythology tells the story of the past, but also and above all describes a process that each of us must go through as we evolve.

We have seen that this was a refoundation of spirituality. This means that Egyptian spirituality was based on the ‘powers’ of vitality that enabled the pyramids to be built, at a time when man had capacities far superior to those we can acquire today. But it was a ‘childhood’ spirituality, a spirituality of faith, a bit like our own Middle Ages, where the relationship with Nature and human unity were given greater prominence, a form of spirituality subject to a great deal of superstition and a great lack of discernment.

That is why, at some point, humanity had to evolve towards greater individuation through discernment. But individuation means breaking free from the herd! So, the phase we have been going through for the last 12,000 years is a process of liberation from the masses and the development of a new spirituality. And Europa is part of this quest.

Let us go back to the twins Agenor and Belus.

The descendants of Belus mainly indicate the goals of the liberation process, while those of Agenor illustrate the means and obstacles.

Agenor means “that which sets in motion” and his wife Telephassa means “purity in the distance”, the goal of the purification/liberation process.

Agenor settled in Phoenicia. His son Cadmus, after searching in vain for his sister Europa, settled in Greece. He is the ancestor of Oedipus. This is not the purpose of today’s lecture, but what is most interesting in the myth of Oedipus is the story of his sons, who speak of the purification of the seven chakras through the two successive wars of Thebes. The first saw Oedipus’ children, Eteocles and Polynices, confront each other. It ended with Polynices’ failure to reconquer the city, in other words, a failure of purification. The second war took place ten years later and was a success: it enabled all the chakras to be gradually opened, one by one, and to radiate.

Now let us return to Europa and see what the myth tells us. Since she is a princess, she is at the highest level of this yoga process. She represents the most advanced goal in relation, according to her name, to Euru, ‘vast’ and Ops, ‘vision’. It is therefore the development of a vast vision, a broadening of consciousness. Its union with Zeus indicates that a new influence from the highest plane of the mind, the overmind, appeared in humanity at this time. It was a manifestation of the Divine who, considering at that moment that a sufficient enlargement of vision or consciousness had taken place in humanity, brought about a reorientation of spirituality.

The myth tells us that Europa was very beautiful. Beauty is the sign of Truth. The beautiful heroines of Greek mythology all point to the right path of Truth that we must follow. This is why Zeus, who is an overmind force, supports evolution by uniting with the beautiful women who appear along the way. In this way, he had many, many unions, with goddesses and mortals alike.

Europa remained in Phoenicia. This region, which corresponds to part of present-day Syria, Israel, and Lebanon, was a major economic and spiritual centre at the time. It provided a link between Egypt, Crete, and Greece. We can assume that there was a transfer of the dominant form of spirituality from Phoenicia to Greece and then later to Italy.

Phoenix, from which the name Phoenicia derives, means ‘purple’. According to Sri Aurobindo, the colour purple expresses vital power. This spirituality, represented by Europa, initially inherited the power of vital realisation from the Egyptian civilisation.

Zeus, the highest of the overmind, was transformed into a magnificent white bull. According to Sri Aurobindo, the cow is the symbol of enlightenment and the bull, the power of realisation of the luminous mind. In other words, at a given moment, when the seeker is at the frontier between the intellect and the higher mind and has begun a yoga of purification, the mind expands and the seeker receives help – represented by this white bull – on which he can rely.

Europa married Zeus and gave him two children, Minos, and Rhadamanthus. Their first action was to give Crete remarkable laws: the myth tells us that this mental openness, this broadening of consciousness, relying on the power of realisation of the luminous mind represented by the white bull, made it possible to organise the new spirituality. And this is confirmed by the fact that Minos and Rhadamanthus will both be judges in the realm of Hades, that of the unconscious, where they will be able to discern truth from falsehood.

A link can be made with Genesis in the Bible, since Europa is the gateway to discernment and, in Genesis, when Eve agreed to take the apple of discernment and offered it to Adam, both were accused of being “like gods”, since they would now be able to distinguish between good and evil.

Minos was also famous for the extent of his maritime empire, in other words for the mastery he acquired over the vital, the world of desires and emotions.

So, so far, so good. Minos represents an evolution of receptivity, and Rhadamanthus will be a great judge with a great capacity for discernment, even in the body, since he will sit in the kingdom of Hades, sorting out souls.

This gives us an initial indication: following this evolution in spirituality, Europa’s role was to develop discernment combined with a mastery of the vital.

Has it succeeded? Over these centuries – and over the last 5,000 years or so – have Europe and each of its constituent countries succeeded in developing discernment within a pacified vitality?

We could stop here, but it is interesting to look at the traps Minos fell into. W