Hermes came from Switzerland!
When Odysseus starts his return to Ithaca, he has been at war with the Trojans for ten years. He is known as wily, a clever man and a trickster. The Trojan Horse is largely his idea.
As they start on their journey home, they come to a Ismarus where the Cicones live. Odysseus and his men plunder the city and take the women. One man rapes a woman inside the temple of Athena. Eventually the Cicones fight back, and drive Odysseus's band away, killing six men from each ship.
Land of the Lotus Eaters
At first, his mind is unwise. This is represented by the rape within the temple of Athena. The band of sailors is beaten back by the Cicones.
Their next trial is to even be bothered. It is easy simply to stay in a state of lethargy. Soul culture, soul growth, training the mind and hear and will, is hard work. Mostly the indolence and lethargy of the untutored soul has to be overcome. One of the major inner battles is against inertia.
Odysseus, being a hero, knows this and thus forces his sailors, less developed aspects of himself, back on the ships and their return journey.
This will bring him against one of the most fearsome of his opponents, a story we will consider in the next post.
- Anger or irascibility
- Sex drive
The Iliad tells of the descent of the Soul into matter.
The Odyssey is the account of the return of the Soul to its true home.
Our map, as we work through the key stages of the return to Ithaca, is more of a hierarchy of consciousness.
Lower on the scale of things is Troy (which means 'mud' and indicates where the Soul incarnates) – the realm of matter.
Lowest, is the underworld, a place the hero must cope with on their journey to their true home.
The Gods, occupy the highest place, on Olympus.
The next highest is Ithaca, the Palace and its gardens. This is Odysseus's true home.
The main part of the story takes place where Odysseus wanders. Here there are perils and monsters, but here too are places where kind and wise people dwell who help Odysseus on his journey.
Telemachus represents the spiritual soul, the true soul purpose. This is why, in his seeking, Telemachus is always accompanied by Athena, or Divine Wisdom. However far the individual soul strays from its true purpose, there is always that part that has never left its true home or its connection with Divine Wisdom, and will search. This is why the story starts here with the son, before we meet Odysseus, for there has to be a stirring of spiritual yearning for the soul to move at all. And, as we shall see, Odysseus makes plenty of errors before he gets anywhere near Ithaca.
With those Masters who did not found religions, there are elements too, like the wanderings of Pythagoras or the mysterious powers of the Theosophical Savants.
In this post we will consider the relevance of heroes to our own spiritual journey today.
Orpheus is son to Apollo and the Muse Calliope (but one version of the story gives him a human father).
It is often the case with heroes that one or other parent is divine, and the Gods take a keen interest in their life. We will not look in detail at the story of Orpheus, whose musical abilities could charm animate and inanimate objects, as well as people and Gods.
The full story is given here.
Meaning of the myth
Orpheus, the heroic aspect of the soul, is unable to sustain the divine law (the interdiction to 'not look back') and indicates the soul that is not yet ready fully to 'ascend'. So part of the soul (Euridyce) remains under the rule of Hades and Persephone.
Jason and the Argonauts
Later he travels with other heroes (the Argonauts, who include Orpheus and Herakles. to recover the Golden Fleece from Colchis. If he is successful, he will gain his father's throne.
On the way he has various trials, which he largely succeeds in overcoming. Herakles leaves them along the way (having lost his lover, Hylas). He copes with the Harpies, and like Odysseus, learns how to manage to get past the clashing rocks. When he arrives at Colchis, where the Golden Fleece is to be found, he is seen by Medea, the beautiful daughter of the king, but one who has the powers of a sorceress.
She helps him with the task of dealing with the dragon's teeth that turn to soldiers, and the yoking of two great bulls; Medea guides him in dealing with the dragon that guards the fleece. Her price, in his success, is to escape with Jason, and to marry him. She does this when they reach the land ruled by Alcinous.
Later, when Jason is unfaithful, Medea wreaks destruction on Corinth, where he rules, igniting the city with her fire breathing dragons.
Meaning of the myth
We will consider just a few of the elements.
Jason, cannot carry Hera as he crosses the river (moving from the spiritual reality of the centaur to the ordinary world) and he loses one golden sandal. In other words he has not sustained all his youthful spiritual power and strength, but must now prove himself. To gain his throne by right - from his uncle who has usurped it – he must find the lost wisdom (Golden Fleece). His uncle Pelias who has stolen his throne represents ignorant power,
Jason gathers many talents in his ship the Argo. But in time he loses Herakles, whose lover, Hylas, has been abducted by a river nymph (Hyle = illusion). The loss of Herakles, who represents a Soul who has mastered all twelve challenges of the Zodiac, indicates Jason still has not overcome the illusions of this transient world.
As long as Jason is in right relationship with Medea, he is safe. he marries her when they reach the realm of Scheria and King Alcinous. The name of the King has the suffix 'nous'. The meaning of Nous as Highest Mind has been discussed here. Jason, in reaching Scheria, has attained the power of reason. He marries Medea there, meaning the powers of Nature are under the control of reason, and are safe.
When, later, he is unfaithful to Medea (unreasonable) then she wreaks havoc, using her chariot driven by two (duality) dragons. Like Circe, she is a goddess and cannot be destroyed.
While Jason does not enter the Underworld, unlike some other heroes, he deals with their denizens. When he comes up against the Harpies, he must use the skills of Orpheus to charm them. This Orpheus does with his singing; and Orpheus, as we have seen above, has visited the land of the dead (and so represents that power for Jason).
Relevance of the Hero Myth
We will look at known great masters, divine teachers, masters contacted telepathically and how (and when) masters may arise.
Both master and hero?
The great souls that undoubtedly walked the sands and temples of Egypt, are shrouded in mystery and the stories always have mythic elements. Akhenaton is one of these, and the great (female) Pharaoh Hatshepsut is another. When we progress to ancient Greece, then we begin to move into greater historical certainty. The individual Orpheus, hovers between myth and history. He may rightly be called a master, as his hymns, teachings and life story were highly influential on Hellenic thought and beyond.
"HERMES, draw near, and to my pray'r incline,
Angel of Jove, and Maia's son divine;
Studious of contests, ruler of mankind,
With heart almighty, and a prudent mind."
We know little of the accurate history of Pythagoras, and the current writer, who knew members of the European Pythagorian movement, learned that the name may refer to one or several individuals. That said, the official history teaches of a savant who studied with the priests of Egypt. and brought those teachings to the Greek speaking community in the Mediterranean.
His appreciation of number and harmony, influenced those Hellenic thinkers who followed him.
Pay honour first to the immortal Gods,
As order hath established Their Choirs;
Reverence the Oath. The Heroes, Great and Good
Revere thou next, and Earth's good geniuses,
Paying them such honours as are due.
Lao Tse founded Taoism. A contemporary of the Buddha and Pythagoras, his teachings, summarised in the Tao Te Ching have had a huge impact on Eastern thought and still resonate with those who come across it today.
The simplicity of his teachings match their profundity. His name means 'Young-Old'.
"Without leaving his threshold a man may see the universe,
Without looking through his window a man may see the Tao of Heaven."
"The Tao that can be expressed in words is not the All-embracing and Immutable Tao; the name which can be uttered is not the Ever-applicable Name."
Thomas Taylor, the great 18th Century Platonist, referred to 'The Divine Master Plato'. More recently Plato has been called the father of Philosophy and all that has followed being merely footnotes to his thought.
The rediscovery of Platonic thought had an enormous impact on the Renaissance, and even today thinkers can be seen as essentially Aristotelian or Platonic in their approaches.
Plato is misunderstood if his ideas are reduced to politics and psychology. His ability to 'see' into the spiritual realities above, and his enormous influence on human thought, means he richly deserves the term 'Master'.
Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind
Each major religion is founded by an individual.
It is inevitable, that their lives will be remembered largely in terms of myths and stories, with each element having symbolic significance. But in each case a flesh and blood human being first received the revelation that provided the seed of the religion that flowed from their life and teachings.
Beyond the Manifested there is another, Unmanifested and Eternal,
lasting ever amid unlasting things
When the agitations of the mind are under control,
the mind becomes like a transparent crystal and has the power of becoming whatever form is presented. knower, act of knowing, or what is known.
The Arrival of Theosophy
The Problem with the Masters
With many of these masters, there have been a multitude who claim to have channelled their words, so a huge amount of discernment has to be exercised to differentiate between what might be the teachings of a great mind (received by one attuned to that mind) and the deliberate disinformation arising from either a discarnate being with mischievous intent, or the rearrangement of commonplace truths within the subconscious of the one channelling.
But knowing that certain writing is truly the work of a great mind, or indeed revelation, requires a certain element of trust. This applies in all cases. If we take, for example, The Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy. ...
In the end, we have to judge the words according to their own merits and the beauty, truth and goodness of the ideas they convey. Although religions will claim the words of their scriptures have been protected by Divine Fiat, a glance at the different Bibles of Catholicism, Orthodoxy and the many sects of Protestant Christianity in America, will show that a bewildering number of versions of "God's Word" exist, each with subtle (and unsubtle) differences.
So the teachings of the known great teachers of mankind rest partly on the teachers being real and not fictitious, but more so on the wisdom of the teachings themselves. The persistence of teachings over great periods of time, when they have been the object of study and inspiration to generations of fine minds, is another indication that the ideas are worth careful reflection.
So what is a Master?
We need to address first the lack of women amongst the Masters mentioned above. There may be many reasons for this, and we should bear in mind that the Soul of each of us is both male and female. The expression of a teaching through a male body may reflect requirements both esoteric and exoteric, cultural and social. In the case of many Masters, there is often a woman who is absolutely crucial in the development and life of the individual.
Pythagoras was the son of Pythia, a priestess and his earliest teacher. Plato's mother, Perictione, is considered to have been of utmost importance in his intellectual development, as was the mysterious philosopher, Diotima for Socrates. With Jesus his mother Mary (almost certainly an Essene and trained in their wisdom) and – more controversially - Mary Magdelene (who some suggest was a priestess of Isis and whose true import has been deliberately distorted) were crucial to his fulfilling his destiny. Similarly, Krishna has Radha as his lover.
Sri Aurobindo, a Master within living memory, could not have done his work without 'The Mother' a French woman of remarkable abilities.
So although the teachings may be associated with a given man, the conception, reception and dissemination of those teachings required specific women (for example Blavatsky and Bailey).
They need teachers who are wise and steeped in a tradition. They need to be part of a tradition that can receive their insights and wisdom. Some, it is said, are God taught (without a teacher). This title was given to Ammonius Saccas of Alexandria. But even they need a tradition receptive to their revelation.
They have to have the right body (genetic constituency). This is one reason that the idea of blood-lines is emphasised with certain of the great teachers. Their ancestry is important.
We may assume that they are remarkable Souls. This does not require a belief (or indeed necessity) for reincarnation. But it is clear that the individuals listed at the beginning of this post were in no way 'run of the mill' and that they brought some extraordinary capacity with them at birth. Often their births appear to have miraculous elements. In today's parlance we would say they are 'old souls'.
We may suggest that in some way they can access the Higher Mind and the collective higher minds of the tradition to which they belong. In this way they are in tune with their times and their teachings have a huge impact at that time to those who can 'hear' what is being said to them.
All, without exception, have many moments when they are inspired, The Divine Spirit, raises their thinking and actions to a higher level of significance. They see further, their ideas fly higher. And with all true Masters, there is also Revelation. They are the conduit of a new Divine Teaching, that is not and cannot be in contradiction to any other Divine Revelation that has gone before.
Their teachings have a beauty and a simplicity and carry the spark of inspiration across millennia.
In a previous post we considered the difference between Spirit and spirits. Another serious confusion can arise with the blurring of the distinction between Soul, Spirit and Mind.
If we go back and look at Egypt we will see that they differentiated between the Ka and the Ba. The Ka was considered as the physical double. This idea was popularised in the Dennis Wheatley pot boiler, The Ka of Gifford Hillary (still a good read I expect, though not late at night and not in a boarding school.) It's available on Kindle apparently.
The Egyptian belief system was woven into the totality of their existence. the genius of the early Hellenic thinkers was to represent these ideas in a way that could be grasped by the intellect. That is why the study of early Hellenic myths and hymns is so rewarding. Much is hidden that is of value to a spiritual seeker even today.
The myth of Persephone is a case in point.
The Goose Girl
That said, The Goose Girl presents in vivid imagery the journey of the Soul from innocence, through forgetfulness, and back to realisation and finally transformation. It is one of the most profound wisdom tales in the Grimm collection.
Murray Morison is a novelist living in Crete
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