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In The Odyssey, Homer narrates the adventures of Odysseus (Ulysses in Latin), since he goes to the Trojan War until he comes back to his native land (Ithaca) after twenty years.
This is one of the first works of literature and for many it is the best, which makes me wonder whether we have really made any progress in the last three thousand years…
Like all masterpieces, The Odyssey is open to multiple interpretations. In this article, I delve into its spiritual meaning.
The Odyssey is the map that takes us back to our true nature.
Odysseus represents our spiritual longing.
Penelope, his faithful wife, represents our inherent purity.
Telemachus, their son, represents the hope that is born when our spiritual yearning glimpses our true nature.
The goddess Athena represents our innate wisdom.
Penelope’s suitors represent the ordinary use of the senses and our bad habits, always wasting our spiritual wealth, constantly squelching and harassing our inner peace to satisfy their sensual appetites.
The maritime adventures of Odysseus represent the trials that we have to overcome to achieve our goal.
We must all leave our comfort zone (represented by the island of the nymph Calypso) to embark on the long journey back to our true home through the waters of the mind.
We must blind the one-eyed giant Polyphemus—son of the god Poseidon—to escape the cave in which he wants to devour us. Shouldn’t we try to escape the dogmatic (one eye) view of religion that consumes us in its cave?
The image of Odysseus arriving exhausted and naked to the island of the Phaeacians is one of the most powerful of the book. The man throws himself on the ground, covers himself with leaves and rests in a deep sleep. Our old personality must die for us to be reborn in life.
Ulysses tells the king of the Phaeacians the setbacks that have brought him to his island. He speaks of Eolo (control of breath); of the Laestrygonians, a tribe of man-eating giants (inner demons); of the sorceress Circe (the temptation to acquire supernatural powers for our own benefit); of the descent to Hades (to the depths of our psyche to make peace with our “deads”); of the rocks Scylla and Charybdis (the vertebrae that protect the central channel through which our consciousness ascends); of the sirens (temptations that disperse our attention: that is why Odysseus asks to be tied to the mast, a powerful image of the vertical ascent); of the island of the Sun-god Helios (the great luminosity that occurs at the crown of the head); etc.
The Phaeacians recognize the royal lineage of Odysseus and give him a treasure before taking him back to Ithaca, his native island. Our inner transformation is the greatest treasure we can gain.
Odysseus returns in the guise of a beggar. We can not restore our authority without being prepared for it, we must be humble and proceed with caution.
Odysseus is the only one capable of firing his bow, the high point of the book symbolically speaking. The hero, still seated, shoots an arrow through twelve axes placed in a row. In meditation, we fire the energy (the ax is a solar symbol) that flows through the centers of consciousness (chakras) aligned with our spine.
With the help of Telemachus and a loyal swineherd, Odysseus massacres the suitors and corrupt servants of his house and reveals his true identity to Penelope. In total mastery of our senses and without traces of impurities, we reconnect with our true nature and regain control of our body and mind.
Odysseus and Penelope go to bed together, a bed carved out of an olive tree. Our spiritual transformation is irreversible.
The Odyssey concludes with the reunion between Odysseus and his father Laertes. With the help of Athena, they defeat the relatives of the suitors who arrive seeking revenge. After killing the father of Antinous, the leader of the suitors, they all seal a peace. We finally root out the malady, so it will never reappear. The time has come to serve family and society, to put our wisdom at the service of others. The ultimate goal of life is not to shun it, but to live it selflessly.
If you think this interpretation was interesting, you may also enjoy reading the trilogy (the books that appear in the upper left margin) I have written about this way of understanding the myths and oldest stories of humanity.
The following review has appeared in The Megalithic Portal.
As a reader, I hate when I feel pressurized to buy a book, and distrust of those authors that advertise themselves everywhere. Now, as a writer, I realize how difficult it is to talk about my book without falling into the same traps I hate.
Fortunately, Sailors of Stonehenge has received a review so wonderful that I wanted to share it with the readers of this blog, because it was written by someone who dares to sign it with her credentials: an expert in Classical mythology writing a thesis on Plato’s life.
And, in case you don’t know, Plato was the philosopher who, in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, said and repeated that Atlantis existed (although even his disciples, Aristotle included, doubted it). I humbly believe that, in Sailors of Stonehenge, I prove Plato was not lying.
You can check the review in Goodreads.
We’ll have to wait to see if when I receive the predictable terrible critics I dare also to advertise them in this blog 😉
As they say, time flies, and this blog celebrates its first year of life: sixty posts, about one per week. Looking back I realize that, almost inadvertently, I have dedicated most to remember stories and anecdotes that might contain some teaching or food for reflection. About 200 readers per week (Spanish and English combined) is an interesting traffic, even surprising (would be so regardless of the data).
I remembered the birthday (and I’ll remember the future ones, if any) because I started the blog the week of the terrible tsunami in Japan (March 11, 2011). Then I wrote a post about the tragedy ignoring the casualties that occurred, and wishing the best to Japan. A year later we know that the victims were close to 20,000… Namo Amita Butsu (short Japanese Buddhist prayer).
As for the nuclear energy debate, now we must take also into consideration the demonstrations in Japan, the exclusion zones, the food suspected of being too radioactive, and specially the fear of living in a cocktail of nuclear power plants, earthquakes and tsunamis. Fact: 3,000 people work to date to prevent leaks in Fukushima … It’ll take 25 years to remove the fuel, and 15 more to dismantle the reactors … and “fortunately nothing happened.” Is there really anymore a debate?
The Kalachakra ceremony lasted one week.
Every evening we returned to the hostel to have dinner and sleep. The views over Gangtok were spectacular. Its poor public lighting, with frequent blackouts of entire neighborhoods, looked like a network of bright beads floating on the valley.
One of those evenings, while chatting in the terrace with a couple of Dutch people, a huge cloud began to develop over the valley till making a perfect dragon with every detail. The four of us were amazed. Checking that I was not the only crazy guy who sees dragons in the clouds produced me a secret satisfaction.
My friend decided to return to the capital before the conclusion of the ceremony for exploring the possibility of enrolling in one of the alpine expeditions. I preferred staying at Rumtek until the end of the week. He would not stay for the climax of the ceremony, when the mandala is destroyed.
The high ranked-monk (lama) grabbed a liturgical device with the shape of a three-dimensional eight called vajra (literally lightning), and drew a line in the sand from the east side to the center of the mandala. Immediately after, his aides destroyed the ephemeral work of art piling the sand at the center. All the monks approached to shower a pinch of the sacred sand on top of their heads.
I watched spell-bounded the whole process from my dark corner. Once every monk was anointed, the lama gestured with his hand towards me. I was being invited to the “sandy baptize.” With the last of the pinches of sand still on my balding top, I returned to the hostel, happy and grateful.
The equivalence between cosmic cycles and those ruling human lives is the Kalachakra motif, one of the subjects that I have studied more deeply. There is great wisdom in the Kalachakra ceremony, deeper than we can fathom with our limited intellects. We modern and postmodern people use only our rational minds to analyze such rites, which necessarily concludes in labeling them as superstition. Too bad.
I’m afraid our society is not becoming wiser, but the opposite. We are losing the real wisdom of our ancestors, substituted by technological products that make life more comfortable but, unfortunately, more disconnected from its real purpose.
My parents have an apartment on the Mediterranean coast where we spend a few days every summer. In addition to swim and the games of petanque or tennis, we usually walk to the old town, wrapped around a hill topped by a castle of Arab origin. We also like to visit an ancient nearby tower built in the fifteenth century to protect the coast from Berber incursions.
Another typical walk is to visit the nearby urbanization Marina D’or. The most frightening thing of this walk is checking the excessive construction of the Spanish Mediterranean coasts and the pharaonic plans for the future. A kind of Spanish Las Vegas is pending to be built as a continuation of Marina D’or. It is planned to include an amusement park called Mundo Ilusión (World Illusion), or we should call it World Delusion, a speculative movement that will aggravate the state of an already over-constructed area to benefit only the few involved in the real state business. There may be not Berber incursions any more but the thieves still hover around these beautiful coasts.
This can be a good opportunity to remember my only visit to Las Vegas, where I stopped on my way to Death Valley. On a closer look, their names seem to have been exchanged by one of those magicians Don Quixote mentions, because the valley is alive and the city is dead (in Spanish, Vega means a fertile land). Despite its name, Death Valley is teeming with plant and animal life, humble but well adapted, and in its rocks, gorges and dunes one can feel the telluric energy of such a singular place.
The city of Las Vegas, on the contrary, is a mirage, the trick of an illusionist only credible at night under the neon lights. And even then, if one is able to look elsewhere than the infinite artificial stimuli, one can watch people wander around with lifeless faces, especially intense in the case of waitresses and croupiers. Most clients are retired people to whom Las Vegas was sold as a well-deserved rest after retirement, but all they find is a delusion of colossal proportions willing to withdraw with care every dollar from their wallets. During the day, when the electric fantasy cannot compete with the sunlight, the artifice appears in all its size, but at that time the clients sleep in their air-conditioned rooms, trying to dream that they are happy.
Another project in the Spanish Las Vegas (besides Mundo Ilusión) is planned to be called Disco Buddha (curiously, in Buddhism the evil is considered the personification of the illusion of the world, so World Illusion could actually be qualified as evil). Disco Buddha consists of a colossal statue of a Buddha surrounded by drinking bars, dance floors and terraces. Buddha, nirvana, karma and the occasional Buddhist word sound exotic. Imagine traveling somewhere in Asia and encountering the Disco Jesus-Christ, with a large statue of Christ surrounded by people dancing and drinking. Wouldn’t you find such thing disrespectful?
I took the picture above a couple of days ago in the streets of Leon (Spanish city). Buddha and Elvis Presley have the same iconographic power of what is distant and exotic. It’s not really evil but ignorance.
I began this blog on March 11, 2011, but for several days I could hardly write anything, shocked as I was to read the news about the devastating earthquake and following tsunami that struck Japan. I have the aggravation of having lived in those islands for several years (three), from whose people I keep many fond memories and a few friends.
I read on the news that the Japanese do not cry, but journalists do not make it clear that they don’t do it so much in public –neither crying nor any sign of affection– as it is customary in western cultures, but that does not mean they do not feel exactly the same.
Nobody looks any more at the numbers of casualties; 10,000 or 20,000 produce a similar reaction. To the horror of this tragedy is added the nuclear disaster.
I just read that some governments in Europe will shut down those nuclear plants that do not pass a test of resistance. The arrogance of man is such that we still do not understand that there is nothing that is not infallible (except the Pope), nor in nature, much the less in the works of men. Only when we deeply understand this principle we can realize the huge danger that such a high concentration of power entails. Can anyone really keep a plane from crashing into a nuclear plant instead of into a skyscraper? Or prevent that another earthquake or natural disaster will hit any of the nuclear power plants scattered all over the globe?
There should not be places where the concentration of destructive power is so high, because it only takes one accident for the damage to life on this planet being irreparable. Moreover, how would we feel if the ancient civilizations –the Romans, or Aztecs or megalith builders– had left behind hundreds of pools filled with radioactive waste? That will be precisely the legacy we are leaving to the inhabitants of the future, if there will be any.
Nuclear power plants belong to the past century of industrial arrogance, like oil and coal. They only serve to generate an energy that enriches the few who control it. Aren’t you surprised that the most profitable companies are always related to energy? We must step forward as a society to new forms of energy production more democratic, less aggressive, more delocalized, cleaner, and whose wealth is shared by many instead of accumulated in just a few.
Let us not be deceived by those who defend this monster by waving the scarecrow of economic recession, rising prices or unemployment. Their real fear is losing their privileged status.
If each of our homes, cars and businesses were responsible for the energy they consume, what we would see would be an economic boom, many new and different jobs, and a creative healthy competition to achieve cleaner energy sources, more local and friendly to life.
I wish with all my being that the tragedy of Japan will be resolved without more consequences, and that the nuclear disaster will be controlled, but at the same time I wish that this will force us to reflect on the way we live. We, citizens of the world, must raise our voices against the myopia of governments and the insatiable greed of a few.