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2bdc82fd0614b37c4446d0b4be0ab931In 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.

ulysses-penelope1Odysseus 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?

Jean_Veber_-_Ulysses_and_Nausicaa,_1888The 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.

080623-science-odysseus-hmed-2p.grid-6x2With 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.


"Manuel Vega has written an extraordinary book. He has turned history upside down. I strongly recommend this book."
–Gavin Menzies, author of 1421 and The Lost Empire of Atlantis

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Sailors of Stonehenge