Notes on The Golden Fleece

‘In the beginning’ is the titan Prometheus, pinioned on a mountain at the eastern
end of the Pontic Sea, high above the city of Colchis, for his theft of the Divine
Fire in a (phallic) fennel stalk, intending that it should enable mankind to ‘make
things’, by mingling the fire with earthly matter. But this act of (benevolent) selfwill
is seen by the gods as dangerous to the harmony of the cosmos; and so the
nightly ‘dreams’ of Prometheus, through which he would ‘give form to the world’
are daily reassumed into Zeus through the agency of his ‘vehicle’, the eagle
which consumes Prometheus’ liver, the seat of his ‘dreams’. Until ‘night falls’.
And ‘night falls’ precisely because Zeus has drawn the ‘dream-world’ back into
himself.
Not absolutely: his projection, Prometheus, still remains crucified at the navel
and source of the world; but the world itself is only endless cold and dark. In
which the liver grows again, and Prometheus dreams with it, gradually rebuilding
the images of the ‘world’—until the sun itself exists again, and so rises. On a
new ‘day’ or aeon.
For this ‘dream’ (Zeus’ own dream, in his mask of ‘Prometheus’, self-crucified
[like Odin] ‘to increase his own wisdom’; to be able, that is, to know himself) to
take on the flesh of a living world, a further ‘step outwards’ must be taken, so
that not merely ideas and images of the world, but the physical world itself (the
world of Mary, of flesh) may become instinct with the inner fire, in a mode which
it may bear.
This ‘mode’ is the ‘Golden Fleece’, which must be brought into the ‘daily world’ of
Hellas from the great tree (‘of Life’) where it is hanging, at the very edge of this
world, where the sun every morning rises to light it: Colchis.
And how does it come to be hanging there?
That is the tale of Phrixos.
And who was Phrixos?
An actor in the old legend of the clan of Aeolian Greeks; a complex legend, of
which the central thread weaves through four generations from Aiolos, the
eponymous forefather, to Jason, upon whom fell the task of bringing the Golden
Fleece from Colchis to Greece.
The gods played their parts in the legend; ‘naturalistic’ parts, like those of the
humans, to give a colour of ‘life’ to the inner teaching. (So much ‘colour’, indeed,
in their three-dimensional vividness, that the inner teaching is almost obscured.)
Zeus, seeing that Hera is desired by Ixion, a king of the Lapiths, deceives him
by creating Nepheli from a luminous cloud and giving her the appearance of
Hera. Ixion lies with Nepheli, (from which union is born Centaurus, who in turn
mates with Magnesian mares, from which the race of Centaurs is born), and
then is cast into the ‘underworld’.
Nepheli is then given to Athamas, son of Aeolos, to whom she bears Phrixos,
When grown to young manhood, Phrixos is about to be sacrificed by his father,
in accord with a (false) Delphic oracle (as, mutatis mutandis, Isaac was to be by
Abraham). Spared at Zeus’ will, Phrixos flies on the back of the winged ram
sent by Hermes to be sacrificed in his stead, to Colchis, where he sacrifices it to
Zeus, [returning to him what was his own], and hangs the golden fleece of the
ram in a great oak tree by the shore of the Euxine. From high on the mountain
above it, the ichor of Prometheus’ pinioned and savaged body, trickling down
like dew, drenches the fleece, filling it with the radiance of Fire-as-Light, the
radiance of Zeus Himself.
The task, then, of bringing this Golden Fleece into the outer world, that this
world may feel at every moment the radiance of the Divine, but in a manner so
veiled that it may bear it, is the Quest which it falls to Jason and his forty nine
fellow Argonauts to perform.
And who is Jason?
He is of the next generation of the Aeolian clan: the son of Aeson, who is the
son of Cretheus, who is the brother of Phrixos’ father, Athamas. (The texture of
the naturalistic, ‘human’ surface of the myth is very closely woven, but still
enables the inner meaning, while largely eluding the mind, to touch the heart
and soul.)
The ‘story’ of Jason’s birth and growth is given us at length and in detail. His
father, Aeson, the heir to the Aeolian kingdom, is deposed by his half-brother,
Pelias (son to Poseidon), and imprisoned. All possible heirs are killed by Pelias,
fearing revenge, as forecast by an oracle. But Aeson’s son, Jason, just born, is
smuggled to safety on Mt. Pelion, where he is nurtured and taught (like other
great heroes of the times) by the centaur Cheiron.
When Jason has grown to young manhood, he encounters Pelias (through
events of anecdotal naturalism and ‘divine intervention’), who lays upon him—in
‘recompense for his promise to cede him the kingdom’; but actually to send him
to his doom—the ‘impossible’ task of bringing the Golden Fleece from Colchis to
‘Greece’ (under whatever name it was then standing). ‘Impossible’ because of
the great distance away of Colchis, at the eastern boundary of the world, out of
which the morning sun arose; and the way there being plagued with many
dangers, and the Fleece itself being guarded by an unsleeping dragon.
Jason accepts the task. He arranges that a fifty-oared ship be built at Pagasae,
below Mt. Pelion, by the master craftsman Argus; into which, at its prow, Athene
fitted an oracular oak beam from Zeus’ oak tree at Dodona. While the ship is abuilding,
Jason sends heralds to all the courts of Greece, calling for volunteers
for the Quest; and forty-nine of the called are chosen, the greatest heroes of the
age.
And the ship, the Argo—the number of its name, in Greek characters, being 912
(the same as that for ‘Prometheus’), it is well suited to its task: 912 being the
value of the diameter of the metaphysical circle of Time and Space: 2868—as
long and lean as a stiffened serpent, is launched into the sea; and the Argonauts
(accompanied by the music of Orpheus’ lute) row it towards the east. And have
many adventures on the way, suitable to heroes of that, or any, heroic age;
adventures and stories which will have been well-loved by those hearing them
sung, in the years and centuries which followed; few of them caring to know
what, within the ‘adventure’, their souls were being taught.
What were they being taught? Not (though it would seem that they are) that the
strongest and boldest man will win the prize. Then? That will, I hope, appear as
we follow the events and adventures of their journey.
*
This ‘journey’, the Quest, began in a ‘normal’ manner for the times. The
Argonauts rowed and sailed their ship across the Aegean from Iolcos to Samos,
and from there to the opening of the Dardenelles, enjoying the kind of
successive adventures which any such group of young men might have in the
‘everyday’ world. Only when they penetrate into the Sea of Marmara does this
world begin to become ‘other’, as they near the gates into the mesocosmic
world, the ‘unfruitful’, ‘unharvested’ Pontic, or Euxine Sea.
Having entered the Sea of Marmara through the Dardanelles, the Argonauts row
the Argo in to its eastern shore at the town and kingdom of Kyzikos, which is set
upon a peninsula, curiously shaped like the head of a giant anvil extending into
the sea, with a sheltering harbour to each side of the neck of low sand
connecting its mountainous island ‘head’ to the plain of its mainland body.
Arriving in the western harbour, the Argonauts are welcomed by the Doliones,
the people of the kingdom, and tell them of their Quest. They are told to
exchange their stone anchor for a much heavier one, (leaving the smaller one
for safety in Athene’s temple); which they do.
Why?
Because their journey is now taking them out of the ‘everyday’ world, where their
own ‘weight’ (of mind, soul and body) is sufficient to ground them, into that of the
Pontic ‘mesocosmos’, where it will be far from sufficient to keep them from losing
themselves in the Other; particularly in view of their own ‘lightening’, as will be
seen in the events immediately following.
The configuration of the kingdom of Kyzikos, with its two harbours backing
against each other at the isthmus, is indicative of the point the Argonauts have
arrived at in their journey. The western harbour, where they first arrive, is that of
‘this world’; the eastern, to which headwinds later drive them back, is of ‘that
world’, which it is their quest to explore.
Before they may leave the first, western, harbour, they must repel an attack by
the six-armed ‘aborigines’,who live on the mountainous island. These ‘wild men
of Earth’ are not merely ‘autochthonous’, but are said to have been born of
Mother Earth alone, [without infusion of the ‘light of Heaven’ of which Zeus is the
anthropomorphic image]. These ‘aborigines’—it is expressly stated—have never
troubled the Doliones, who are the people of the land of Kyzikos; because
‘Poseidon would not allow it’. Of which the inner meaning appears to be that the
‘two peoples’ are aspects of one people: its ‘lower’, earth and water nature, and
its ‘upper’ air and fire nature; they live in harmony (as in mankind generally), so
long as the ‘upper’, (the Doliones) does not seek beyond the earthly world which
is the ‘kingdom of Kyzikos’). When they do, in the guise of the Argonauts, the
‘lower body’, feeling itself humiliated and abandoned, revolts.
[So, in many Christian icons, are ‘saints’ portrayed as suffering the torture of
penetration by ‘phallic’ weapons, arrows and pointed stakes, emblematic of the
‘lower’ earth-and-water qualities of themselves which they have denied. Unlike
ascetics in quest of ‘god’ in Christian times, Hellenic heroes on quest neglected
their ‘body of earth’ at their peril, as it was recognized to be part of their very
nature. Such neglect always brought on ‘gales’ and ‘plagues’ and myriad other
forms of physical obstacle to their quest. Rhea, or Hera, was Eve, not the
‘entempled’ Mary.]
The ‘aborigines’ are subdued, killed by the Argonauts, who then set sail in the
Argo around the headland, eastward towards the Bosporos. But they sail for
only a short distance before being blown back to the eastern harbour of Kyzikos.
For Rhea is angry at the killing of the ‘aborigines’, they being of her province,
that of ‘Earth’, and their killing has thrown the world out of balance.
Arriving at the eastern side of the sandy isthmus ‘in the dark night’, the
Argonauts encounter the Doliones, who think they are a force of their
neighbours and enemies. Unable to see whom they are fighting, the Argonauts
kill many of the Doliones. Of which it may be said that being ‘in the dark’ they
are acting instinctually, like ‘aborigines’, and in so doing kill their own ‘air and fire’
natures, as before they had killed those of ‘earth and water’; and Jason kills the
king Kyzikos, of whom it is said that ‘he somewhat resembled Jason’; indicating
that Jason has killed himself as a social being, bound into the patterns of
‘everyday’ life.
Thus are the Argonauts all become [like Odysseus on killing the Cyclops] ‘no
men’, with their shedding of their social personalities as Doliones and
Aborigines. Freed of their condition of men in a social context, they become fit
for the Quest beyond the Clashing Rocks which protect the microcosmic world
they know from the featureless world of the ‘unfruitful, unharvested’ Pontic Sea
beyond.
Atonement being made to Rhea, water flows and the earth flowers, and the wind
is favourable, to show that they are now in tune with the will of the gods. And
The Argo carries them all towards the Bosporos.
But their trials are only beginning.
This ‘balancing’ of opposing energies, which culminates in the Argonauts’
passage between the Clashing Rocks, is expressed in two further encounters.
First it is told that a single combat to the death takes place between Polydeuces,
on behalf of the Argonauts (and who is described as ‘like a star shining in all its
beauty out of a western night’) and King Amykos, on behalf of the local people
(who ‘made one think of some monstrous offspring of the ogre Typhaos, or of
Earth herself, the kind she used to bear in the old days of her quarrel with Zeus’
[which is to say again: ‘without the light of Heaven in his body’]. In overcoming
the king, Polydeuces, the emblem in the battle of fire and air, further frees the
Argonauts from ‘dark’ earth and water elements in themselves; but at a ‘higher’,
level; for Amykos, brutish in appearance though he is said to be, is, nonetheless,
normally human in structure, unlike the ‘six-armed aborigines’ they had earlier
overcome.
But all confrontations and battles, whether won or lost—and quintessentially
when won—are (against the surface credo of the heroic age) spiritually and
morally unbalancing; in this last ‘adventure’ leading the Argonauts into a
dangerous, hubristic, excess of ‘fire and air’.
They encounter the emblem of this danger (and the way to its removal) on the
opposite, Thracian, shore of the Propontis, in the person of the seer Phineos,
who (as an earthly shadow of Prometheus) had revealed plans of Zeus for the
world. His punishment for this was blindness, decrepit old age, and his food
stolen or contaminated by the Harpies; which is to say that his physical
existence is in torment from the excess of ‘light’ which he allowed to pass
through him, rending the protective veil.
Phineos welcomes the Argonauts, it having been told him that the ‘sons of the
North Wind’ would rid him of the fiery Harpies; and so they do, in the persons of
Zetes and Kalais, when they have been assured that it is within the will of Zeus
(else they would themselves suffer like punishment for their hubris). As sons of
the North Wind, they are well-suited to the task, as the element of Air is the very
veil (shielding earth from formless fire) which Phineos had rent.
It being ‘mended’ by their pursuing the Harpies to their cave in Crete, where they
will remain, Phineus, freed of his curse, ‘sees’, and tells the Argonauts what their
journey will entail; but only—having learnt his lesson—’what Zeus allows’. And
so they may continue, having rebalanced themselves again between the forces
of the opposing elements, to the Clashing Rocks guarding the gateway to the
‘unharvested’ Pontus or Euxinos; [The name ‘o euxeinos’, having, in its Greek
characters, the appropriate numerical value of ‘chaos’].
Following Phineos’ counsel, the Argonauts take with them a dove, and release it
just before they reach the Clashing Rocks, and watch its flight between them, as
harbinger and omen of their own passage. It pases through safely, only its tail
feathers being clipped off by the closing rocks, so they follow it, rowing with all
their strength into the boiling strait.
To catch the moments when the rocks are apart, their timing and balance must
be faultless; but those alone are not enough. They need also, for those fearful
moments, when all the rhythm of the world seems to cease and they are in a
void of cosmic terror [the moment of Christ’s outcry on the cross] the ‘grace of
God’, manifest in the person of Athene, who (as Zeus’ Thought is the gateway
between this world and the Other) ‘propels’ them safely through into the
featureless mesocosmic world of the Pontus.
But their passage through the rocks (like that of the dove which preceded them)
is not quite ‘clean’, for the tail of the mascot at the stern of the Argo is sheared
off. This shearing appears to be not a mere ‘accident’, but a symbol of
‘cleansing’, of preparing the Argonauts for the further stage of their Quest;
which, as Jason says, ‘lies at the far end of the Pontic Sea and of the world
itself’. At this ‘world’s end’ stands the city of Colchis; of which Herodotus says
that only there, outside Egypt, are circumcised people to be found. [This being
the chosen condition of men dedicated to God as exclusively Alpha; suitable to
those who live where the sun first enters the world; in neglect, even denial, of
the divine as Omega.] So, the shearing off of the ‘tail of the mascot’ suggests a
symbolic circumcision of the Argonauts, ‘purifying’ their bodies of ‘the earthly
world’, [the ‘Egypt’ of the Jews] making them fit for the mesocosmic world they
are entering, the Argo being symbolic of the phallos penetrating the vaginal
passage of the Clashing Rocks and releasing its seed, the fifty Argonauts, into
the womb of the (till then) ‘unfruitful, unharvested’ (unfruitful because
unharvested) Pontus.
Which it is the function of the Argonauts to ‘harvest’, to give to it the first form of
all created matter, that of the Argo itself, [the single straight line of the Arabic
‘alef’, to which all the other letters, which is to say the whole of the exfoliated
world, aspire] the spine of which they are the fifty vertebrae; Jason becoming, as
their leader, the first Pontifex, or bridge-maker, over the formless waters: the
diameter of the circle, ever measuring the never-before measured, and ever,
‘aeon’ after ‘aeon’—each but an instant in the mind of God—erased. [While
Poseidon, as Dante says, looks up in amaze.]
At the same time, the Argo, androgyne in its essential being [like Athene, its
maker], shelters in its own ‘womb’ the Argonauts from the free-flowing energies
which endanger them from Above (the sun, Helios, Apollo) and below (the
ocean, Poseidon).
For many days and nights the Argonauts sail and row over the Pontic sea,
following its southern shore, in accord with the instructions of Phineos’. Early in
their journey they land on a deserted island, at dawn, at the moment when
Apollo sets a foot upon it for a moment, and is gone; which they take as an
augury that they are within his benevolence. Some days and leagues later, they
approach a rocky island, which they are told is the isle of Ares, and on which
they are told to land, for the ‘good fortune’ it will bring. But landing there, even
approaching the island, is full of danger, because of the ‘Stymphalian’ birds who
live there [and who fled there when driven from Arcadia by Heracles in his sixth
labour]; they having brazen beaks, and brazen feathers which they shoot like
arrows.
Sheltering themselves under their helmets and shields, and clanging their
swords and spears to make a great din [in imitation of Heracles’ driving the birds
from Arcadia], they land safely on the island.
What are these ‘stymphalian’ birds? And why are they on an island sacred to
Ares?
Who is Ares himself, who is so central to the Quest?
As an image of God, he is something of a palimpsest, his character and
functions altering through the centuries, millennia, in accord with the altering
needs and beliefs of the Hellenic world, his importance steadily declining and
narrowing against that of other named aspects of God. But in the Quest for the
Golden Fleece, which is a tale of very early times, long before the Trojan war or
the labours of Hercules [though chroncled by Apollonios only in late Hellenistic
days], Ares has still much of his earlier grandeur, of the high god of the heavens
indeed, before that quality came to be personified as ‘Zeus’. And there is some
reason for thinking that ‘Zeus’ [whose genitive form is ‘Diou’, a form of ‘god’] was
but a title of the god whose functions he came to represent. [So, in India, did
‘Shiva’, originally a title of the god Rudra, become the name of the god himself.]
At the time of the Quest, Zeus is, and has long been, the unquestionable lord of
all the gods. The earlier importance of Ares is still everywhere seen and felt, but
it has become ‘dark’, a manifestation of energy flowing, as it were, from lower
centres of the body, ‘red’ and angry, as of fire ever about to burst its bonds’
Appropriately, he is the god of the kingdom of Colchis, and the king, Aietes, [said
to be of a fiery and angry nature] is his priest. Entering his realm is of the
greatest danger to the Argonauts, for which reason they have been counselled
by Phineos to be sure that Aphrodite’s protection is with them at all times; for
she is ‘of water’, as Ares is of fire; of love, as he is of death. [But they are not, at
the level of the divine, irreconcilable; and from their ‘coming together’ within the
fine-wrought net of Hephaestos—so ‘entempling’ them—is born the child
Harmonia.]
Having first encountered Apollo, the ‘higher vibration’ of Ares, the Argonauts are
encouraged in their passage; but they must still face the quality of harsh fire
which is Ares himself. Breaching the ‘outer gate’ of his realm, by killing and
scattering the Stymphalian birds [whose name as well as bodies suggest the
erect phallus the heroes must deal with, both outwardly and within], they are
‘rewarded’ in being joined by the four ship-wrecked sons of Phrixos [by Medea’s
sister, Chalkiope] who are the grandsons of King Aietes himself; and who are
able to guide them to the heart of Ares’ realm at Colchis, and advise them in the
manner of approaching their task. [The perennial teaching in myth being that
nothing of value can be obtained or achieved without some manner of’
‘invitation’ from the ‘power within’. Else the venture, self-willed, is doomed, like
the Titans raging against Olympos, or the tower of Babel, or the asuras striving
to overcome the gods.]
Safely arrived at Colchis and the Argo tethered among high reeds, Jason,
accompanied by several companions, including Argos as his guide, goes to the
court of King Aietes, from whom he requests leave to take the Golden Fleece to
Hellas. To which the king agrees, but only if Jason first prove his prowess by
yoking two brazen-hooved and fire-breathing bulls to an adamantine
ploughshare, ploughing Ares’ field with them, and into the furrows scattering the
teeth of a dragon, [a son of Ares] slain by Cadmus at Delphi. From the teeth,
armed warriors will spring up, whom Jason must then slay. Impossible though
the task appears of successful achievement, it is performed daily by Aietes
himself.
Why? We are not told. But it appears to be an ‘encounter’ between the Hero of
Fire and Air with the ‘autochthonous creatures’ which are the offspring of the
goddess of Water and Earth [Gaia, Rhea, Hera] without the ‘Heavenly’ infusion
of ‘fire and air’. The killing of these creatures is not, as appears on the surface,
their suppression; but their absorption into the body of the king [son of Helios
that he is], enabling him to function fully, as God’s emissary, in the mesocosmic
world, possessing in himself all its complementary qualities.
If Jason, then, is able to perform this act, it will prove that he also is an earthly
image of the Divine, and is therefore worthy to take the Golden Fleece, the
physical emblem of the Divine fire, from its ‘crucifixion’ on the great oak tree [of
life] at this cross-roads of the worlds, to the ‘daily world’ of Hellas, and there
hang it in Zeus’ temple in Orchomenos, as an icon n of Heaven’s presence on
earth.
This task naturally seems to Jason far greater than he is equal to. He returns to
the Argo and his companions in gloom. Argos suggests that Medea, his
mother’s younger maiden sister, and priestess of Hecate, be approached for her
help. As, we are told, Hera, Athene and Aphrodite have already conspired to
attain this help, sending Eros to pierce Medea’s heart with an arrow, so that she
falls in love with Jason, it is soon and effectively given. And, as a portent that it
will be given: (Ap. iii. 541) ‘A dove, hotly pursued by a great hawk, dropped
straight down into Jason’s lap, while the hawk fell, impaled on the mascot at the
stern of the Argo.’
The dove—said to be Aphrodite’s bird—dropping into Jason’s ‘lap’ is interpreted
simply, by Mopsus, the seer, as indicating that Jason follow ‘the way of love’, no
more than that; but it is, in fact, this union of Jason with Medea, symbolic of the
union of the ‘upper’ world of fire and air with the ‘lower’ world of water and earth,
and his submission to her guidance in the task, which enables it to be performed
successfully. Until Jason comes to ‘the world’s end’ [and beginning] at Colchis,
and succeeds in carrying the Golden Fleece out into the microcosmic world [of
‘Hellas’] in the ‘womb’ of the Argo—so that what was Light [or Word] may be
experienced, lived; the ‘dream’ become flesh—the ‘fire and air’, which is
emblemized in the Fleece, remains suspended ‘unfruitfully’ in the branches of
the mesocosmic tree of life, below the body of Prometheus, ‘crucified’ on the
mountain crag above Colchis; and above the equally ‘unfruitful’ Euxine.
And the hawk? Why is it ‘impaled on the mascot at the stern of the Argo’?
As the dove, the bird of Love, melts into Jason’s groin, so the ‘hawk’—which as
the ‘eagle’, the emblem of the Light, has been ever withdrawing Prometheus’
world-creating dream artifacts back into itself—enters into the body of the Argo.
[So, at the Annunciation, does ‘the Light’ enter into Mary, making her the living
‘ark of the covenant’; through what she then, as the holy of holies, contains, the
world of outwardness may ‘rise’ back into the oneness of Heaven.] The Argo,
having entered the mesocosmic world as the masculine phallus entering the
womb—like the shuttle threading through the warp of a loom—becomes, in
receiving into its body the Light, itself the womb of the world, through which
these ‘dream-artifacts’ may be born as living forms in the complex tapestry of the
outer world.
As the ‘pure stolen fire’ of Prometheus is contained in the phallic-shaped fennel
stalk, so the ‘fire and air’ of the ‘golden’ Fleece is laid in the Argo [the ‘phallos’ of
the Argonauts on their outward journey], which becomes its ‘womb’ for the return
to the microcosmic world; enclosing, sheltering, the Fleece as the ‘narthex’, the
fennel stalk, had the original fire. [So, mutatis mutandis, did the fiery sperm of
Shiva burst forth from his lingam to be caught and held by the river Ganga, the
only waters equal to his fire.]
And how did this great event come to pass? Through the love of Medea for
Jason, Her heart pierced by an arrow of Eros, [as the surface story goes, to
assure us that all happens within ‘the will of the gods’], she agrees to help him to
perform the task set him by Aietes, if, in return, he will take her with him to
Hellas; which he swears by all the gods to do, and to be faithful to her ever.
Medea gives to Jason [iii.844-61] a salve concocted of the juice of a crocus
which sprang from the bloody ichor of the bound Prometheus, as he was
tormented by the eagle. He anoints his body, and his spear and shield, with the
salve. The salve being of both the fire of Prometheus and of the earth [realm of
the goddess, by whatever name she is known], out of which the crocus has
grown, Jason becomes for the day and the task—like Aietes himself—the
invulnerable king of the ‘mesocosmic world’; and is thus enabled to perform the
task in the day allotted.
And this task is like a second crossing of the Pontos; ‘Ares’ field’ is the water
become earth; like the Pontos, never before ploughed, as every ‘day’ in which
Aietes ploughs it is an ‘aeon’, which ends with the dying of the sun; and is
reborn with its rebirth. Every moment the impress of the Argo on the Pontos, by
which it becomes ‘fruitful’, is melted back into ‘dead’ stillness in Poseidon’s
heart. So, equally, the field of Ares, sown with the ‘teeth’ of the dragon [the only
parts of it which are not as flowing as the Ocean it lives in], becomes ‘fruitful’ in
giving birth to the ‘sown men’. But their life is short, like that of the waves
fleetingly marked by the keel of the Argo, as, in being killed by Jason-as-
Prometheus [equally fleetingly], all their earthly strength is assumed into him by
the day’s end, making him the human equivalent of the Fleece which is the outer
form of the fire of Prometheus; and thus fit to bear it with him into the outer world
of ‘Hellas’.
Aietes, however, will not accept his worthiness. His ‘reason’, it is said, was that
he realized that the task had been achieved with Medea’s help. But he needed
no reason: as Ares’ surrogate, it was his role to maintain the Fleece in the
‘middle world’, poised in the branches of the tree of life between Within and
Without. Nourished by the fiery ichor of Prometheus pinioned on the crags
above it and the still Pontic water of the dragon below: the cosmos in stilled
tension.
But ‘Ares’, and Aietes his ‘earthly emblem’, in willing this still tension was not
within the evolving mind of ‘Zeus’, which in the person of Athene, born from it,
willed the Fleece [as later she willed the Palladium] to be taken into the outer,
microcosmic world, and hung there in His temple, in what was then the central
city of that world, that He might himself exfoliate among the people of that [this]
world.
And so He ‘allows’ the Fleece to be stolen, as He had allowed the fire before it
to be stolen; Jason being, like Prometheus, an emanation of Himself’.
So. in the very night following his ploughing of Ares’ field, Jason, with Medea’s
[indispensable help, steals the Fleece from the tree where it is hanging. Medea
sprinkles a potion onto the eyes of the dragon to lull it to sleep, and Jason
carries the Fleece, described by Apollonius in images of sunlight and fire, to the
Argo, in which it is placed: the living fire in its living womb. Jason sits beside
Medea in the stern, and the Argonauts row it out onto the Euxine before dawn.
Had Medea, as the spirit of the ‘oceanic’ counterpart to the fire, priestess to
Hecate of the Underworld, not also entered into the ‘womb’ of the Argo, so that
she and Jason form the ‘holy androgyne, balancing within themseles the
contrary cosmic energies of Fire and Water, Light and Love, the Quest would
have been stillborn.
As it was, it was born only to die, its promise failing of fulfilment.
In an ironic foreshadowing of this failure, Medea is compared by Jason to
Ariadne, her cousin; and there are more parallels than he tells of, or then knows:
both betray their father to help their lover, and each of them is, in her turn,
abandoned by her lover; Theseus’ honour and name surviving the act, Jason’s
not.
But that is yet to come. As the sun rises over the mountains above Colchis, the
Argo, sailing before a wind sent by Hera, is far from its shores on the Euxine,
whose flowing nature counters the form-fixing power of the sun, of which King
Aietes is the earthly representative.
He, unwilling to lose the Fleece, pursues the Argo with a large fleet. But not
knowing which of the two possible ways out of the Euxine the Argonauts will
take, divides the ships into two fleets, one of which sails to, and through, the
passage between the Sympligades (the rocks now rooted to the earth with the
passing of the Argo between them). The other, commanded By Medea’s
brother, Apsyrtos, takes the course which the Argonauts (guided by Hera) have
taken, to the mouth of the ‘Istros’ (the Danube); rowing into it by a shorter
passage, he and his ships reach its ‘other mouth’ at the head of the Adriatic
before the Argo, obstructing its further passage towards home.
This is the emergence, under the heavily detailed ‘naturalistic’ surface, of the
Hero from his venture into the ‘Underworld’. And this ’emergence’, this passage,
is far more difficult than the entry into it through the Clashing Rocks; for that was
a trial of the body, this is a trial of the soul, which must somehow emerge into
the ‘upper’ world of the two-eyed mind while holding to its sense of being, in the
womb of the Argo with Medea, the androgynous I-and-Thou, I and Other.
Single-eyed, like the Cyclops, instinctual, yet able to function, as Odysseus was
able to, in the discriminating ‘upper’ world of the mind. [Orpheus was unable: he
‘looked back’ to see if Eurydice was following him out of Hades, and so
externalized her, lost her from himself.]
Alone, Jason would have been able to achieve a part of this task. The Fleece,
as the emblem of the mesocosm, could be carried to Orchomenos, and hung in
Zeus’ temple, [as Aaron’s rod, within the Ark of the Covenant, could lie in
Solomon’s]; the world was ready for that. And Zeus himself could pass through
it from the Inner to the Outer world, and back. But only ‘within the temple’;
outside it, the world must remain polarized in order to perform its time-space
functions, the Divine remaining only an echo, a shadow, a fragrance, in the lives
of mankind. Medea’s and Jason’s ‘crime’ was, in a sense, the antithesis of that
of the titans assaulting Olympos: of breaking into this ‘outer’, polarized world as
if they were the indestructible androgynous union of contrary energies. But they
were not, they were but a simulacrum of such a being, as is every ‘marriage’,
deep though the love between the contractual partners may be.
The only true ‘androgyne’ must be born whole into the world, as was Jesus to
Gabriel and Mary, becoming in his single person the union of God transcendent
and immanent, of Fire and Air with Water and Earth; Alpha and Omega.
And this came to be in Beotia also; but not yet.
The compromise suggested to Jason by Apsyrtos, through which he will be
allowed to continue to his ‘earthly kingdom’, is that the Fleece, which he won in
accord with the terms of his trial, may go with him; but that Medea may not. [By
a like, unstated, ‘compromise’, Theseus left Ariadne behind; and Aeneus, Dido
(though by then the spiritual meaning of the myth was nearly drowned in
‘romance’; as indeed is Apollonios’ tale itself); both of these ‘heroes’ survived the
severing from their inner being, and ruled their earthly kingdoms as earthly
kings..
But Jason and Medea were earlier, like the Archaic to the Classic, and the
power of the ‘Underworld’ in their world was still great. It was possible [and
necessary as ‘preparation’] to bring the Golden Fleece into the ‘outer’ world, to
irradiate it with an awareness of the Fire of Heaven within it, heavily veiled by
the wool of which the world is woven, sheltering mankind from Light it was not
able to bear. And for this to be achieved, Jason had to be allowed to return to
the outer world. But without Medea; as, according to the surface story, she had
betrayed Aietes, her father, in helping Jason to gain the Fleece.
So a ‘compromise’ was arranged, allowing Jason to go with the Fleece, but
without Medea; which however, at her insistence, Jason then repudiated. He
swore undying love to Medea, promised her ‘marriage’ in Hellas, and they lured
Apsyrtos to a ‘tryst’, where Jason killed him. In the ensuing confusion, the
Argonauts rowed the Argo into the open Adriatic, with both the Fleece of Fire
and Medea sheltered within it. The androgynous being which was Jason-Medea
was still whole. But tainted by the killing of Apsyrtos.
What was the need for Apsyrtos to be killed? In a naturalistic tale [where a
‘slipping away by night’ might so easily have been devised], it seems an
‘unnecessary’ act. Which is suggestive of its mythical importance. But what
was it?
Of its moral importance, there was never any question in the minds of later
‘mythographers’ who were more aware of matters of social ‘right and wrong’,
than of the radiance of the One infusing the fruitfulness of the Many: Jason and
Medea, two human beings, had murdered her brother [surrogate for her father];
they must live therefore in moral darkness, until cleansed of their blood-guilt by
Kirke
But Medea is not a human being (for all Apollonios’ decoration of her as one);
she is the priestess, the outward image, of Hecate, goddess of death, and an
expression of her ‘underworld’qualities of water and earth, balancing the solar
fire of Aietes father, Helios, in the mesocosmic world of the Euxine. As such,
she may not leave the mesocosmic plane without irreparable injury to the
tripartite cosmos. Her desire to do so is indicative of the loss of numinous
power in the myth, in romanticizing it into a love tryst [its ‘divine’ quality
maintained only by the fiction of Eros’ arrow]; in which Medea, in denying her
own inner divinity, becomes a mere ‘personality’.
Even Apollonios is aware of the fragility of this ‘personality’, showing her
swinging wildly from joy to despair; but maintaining it to the crucial passage out
of the mesocosmic world at what is said to be the ‘head of the Adriatic’, where
her insistence on the possibility of her entering the ‘upper world’, and the
acceptance of her belief by Jason, results in his slaying of Apsyrtos; [who, as
Medea’s half-brother and the grandson of Helios, is her natural counterpart in
nature, the other half of the mesocosmic androgyne]. As though he, Jason,
were the rightful successor to Apsyrtos in androgynous unity with Medea,
grafted onto the stock from which he severs the original [‘wild’] branches.
But, like any graft, though it may produce fruitfulness, it is an act not of nature,
but of will; and the will must be at one with The Will; or the graft will not take.
Which is a mythic ‘warning’ embedded in the ‘moral’ view of the killing of
Apsyrtos: the danger to the cosmos of any ‘heroic’ action—’good’ or ‘bad’—
which proceeds from the ego centre of an individual. In the daily world, among
ordinary men, these are, of course, occurring at every moment; but the spiritual
work of ‘heroes’ is to cross the boundaries between the three worlds; which may
be achieved only with the will and blessing of the ‘gods’. As the Argonauts
learned, in their encounter with Phineus, tormented by the Furies, before
entering the mesocosmic world of the Euxine.
Now, as they are about to leave it, they learn that effectively they cannot; for the
graft appears not to be within the Will of the gods; unless violence is done to the
very fabric of the mesocosmic world, in the murder of Apsyrtos.
But is the appearance the reality? Or only the ‘outer mind’ of Zeus, his
Promethean aspect suffering the ravaging of his own claws ‘to increase his
wisdom’ in coming to experience the ‘outward’, life-flowering aspect of Himself
[like Odin suspended from his ‘world tree’ Yggdrasil, to reach down and gather
the broken twigs, to make the words of proliferating life]? For it will have been
known, even as late as Apollonios, that the numerical value, in Greek letters, of
‘Jason’ [1061], is the same as that for ‘Apollo’. Which suggests that Medea, in
willing to go with him, is uniting herself, as the watery aspect of the world, to the
higher vibration of the Fire which in the ‘Euxine’ world has the qualities of Ares.
And the numerical value of Medea herself is 68, one less than that for Athene.
The ‘graft’ then is from the elemental fire of ‘Ares’ to the spiritual fire, and Light,
of ‘Apollo; and Medea, in accepting this graft, allows her brother Apsyrtos, the
emblem of Ares and the ‘unfruitful’, ever-unchanging mesocosmic world to be
severed from her, and killed. [So does Ariadne allow her half-brother, the
Minotaur to be slain by Theseus; of which also it may be said that the
underworld is ‘grafting’ itself to a ‘higher vibration’ of spirit. But the graft fails at
the moment of their entry into the ‘upper’ world. That of Jason-Medea holds for
longer.]
Entering the ‘upper’ world, but still far from their homeland, and under divine
displeasure, the Argonauts hardly know where they are, as they sail and row
down the Adriatic, and back, with Hera helping and guiding their course; and
Zeus, ‘unforgiving’ of the murder of Apsyrtos [so that they will experience the
pain of the nonetheless ‘necessary’ crossing of the boundary between the
‘worlds’], misguiding and obstructing them.
Reaching the mouth of the river Po, they are almost unable to continue for the
stench of the still mouldering corpse of Phaeton under the waters into which he
fell when stricken with Zeus’ thunderbolt. But, gathering their strength, they row
up the river to its source, where, in accord with the geography of the day, they
enter the headwaters of the Rhone; and sail down it, guided by Hera away from
the effluent which would have carried them to a gulf of the Ocean Stream
surrounding the world, where the ‘underworld’ is at one with the ‘overworld’,
beyond the ‘pillars of Heracles’ or ‘Atlas’ or the Caucasus: whatever may be
chosen as an image to hold Heaven and Ocean apart; beyond which opposites
coincide, and all is One and Nothing.
In sheltering them from this experience, to which they are unequal, Hera guides
the Argo in that course of the river which will carry them to the Mediterranean,
the ‘middle of the world’ of which she is the queen; knowing that ‘Jason-Medea’
are an essential step, a preparing of the ground, towards her own later
transfiguration [or Assumption], through Heracles, into the Light of Heaven.
The Argonauts, now in the relative familiarity of the Mediterranean, make their
way without difficulty to Aeaea, the island home of Kirke, sister to King Aietes,
and aunt to Medea and Apsyrtos, with the hope that she will be willing and able
to lift the stain of ‘blood-guilt’ from Jason and Medea.
Upon touching the shore of Aeaea, they discover Kirke ‘bathing her head’ in salt
water. To dissolve in the flow of the ocean the shapes which had formed in it in
the night as a nightmare, in which she had seen ‘fire devouring all the magic
drugs which she used to bewitch her visitors; but she managed to put out the
flames with the blood of a murdered man’.
Which appears to say that she is aware, in her soul, that the murder of Apsyrtos
was necessary in order to maintain the balance in the world, which was in
danger from an overabundance of fire. Which indeed would have been the
[symbolic] condition, if Jason had brought the Golden Fleece into the outer world
without Medea, its watery and earthly counterpart. [Of this danger they have
already been warned, in their encounter, at the mouth of the Po, with the stench
of the body of Phaeton, who had so wildly driven the chariot of his father Helios
that the world had been in great danger of burning; and even now all the waters
of the Po had not been able to quench his smouldering remains.]
Kirke, then, understanding that if Jason had brought the Golden Fleece [of
heavenly fire] into the ‘upper’ world without Medea, its watery counterpart, it
would [as with Phaeton] have created a fiery white light shining directly upon the
earth, instead of through the sheltering rainbow veil of water, is willing to lift the
blood-guilt from Jason and Medea; but not to take from them the trials still
before them, they being the necessary experience of any passing of the
boundaries between the worlds, altering the very nature of whoever is able to
pass them, he having to surrender some important part of what he thinks of as
himself.
Only Jason, of the Argonauts, is fully prepared for the coming trials of passage,
because only he has ‘ploughed Ares’ field’, so taking into himself all the strength
of Ares’ fire[ so making himself the equivalent of Aietes her brother. And the
trials are now those of water; of which the first indication is on Aeaea itself,
where he alone is proof against the wiles and ‘drugs’ of Kirke, which—but for his
protection of them—might have lured his men [as she lured those of Odysseus]
heroes though they were, out of the discriminative ‘two-eyed’ world, ‘back’ into
the watery instinctual world of which she, in the service of Hecate, was mistress.
From this danger Jason protects his men by telling them ‘not to notice’ her:
spirits unrecognized are spirits without power.
But he himself must recognize her, as he requires her absolution from his and
Medea’s ‘blood-guilt.’ This she gives [at her hearth, the centre of her dwelling,
the still point round which her existence turns, all hearths being metaphysically
situate on the axis mundi], recognizing that, as the bearers of the Fleece, the
‘body’ of the Fire of Zeus-as-Prometheus, they were enacting the necessary role
for that moment in the era, to prepare it for the coming of the true, earth-born
‘androgyne’, [under such thick ‘natural’ veils as to be almost indiscernible as
such]: Heracles; through whom all the strength and virtue of Hera (of Earth and
Water; god Immanent) would become one with the Fire and Air of Zeus (god
Transcendent).
Setting forth again, in greater hope, towards their homeland, the Argonauts are
again guided and protected by Hera. She calls upon the Ocean to be still to
allow their passage [to evolve out of its ‘dragon’ aspect, [where it cannot
‘comprehend’ the upper elements of fire and air contained in the body of ‘earth’
which is the Argo], into its gentle ‘maiden’ quality. Which is personified in Thetis,
the sea nymph [who will become the mother of Achilles; of whom it is here said
that he will wed Medea in the Elysian Fields. For Medea is Helen at this earlier
turn of the unwinding spiral of mythic time; being of water and the root chakra,
as Helen is of earth and the groin, she is the primal form with which the fire
which is ‘Achilles’ becomes one].
To enable the Argonauts’ passage, Hera also calls upon fire and air, in the
persons of Hephaestos and Aeolos, to be still. So that all which remains
unstilled is earth, her own element; for in her remains the resistance of the ego
to its penetration by the phallic emblem of the Argo. So did the water of the
Euxine fear the passage of the Argo into it; there Athene of the overworld saw it
through; here it is Thetis, emblem of that water [now made ‘fruitful’ by the dragon
become maiden], who enables the passage of the Argonauts back into the
‘outer’ world.
Which Hera knows must come to pass, for the spirit of the world to evolve, so
she wills herself to be overpowered. Her body, as the Wandering Rocks, flails
about to obstruct the Argo’s passage, which is made smooth by the nereids-aswaves
around them guiding them like a shoal of dolphins; the Argo being steerd
by Thetis herself. Hera, standing by Athene on a rock, watches; and is so
frightened that she ‘throws her arms around Athene’.
Why? What is her fear? Of the danger to the Argonauts? There is no danger
[though they themselves may not know it]; she herself is protecting them.
Her fear is for herself, as the invaded virgin of Earth. So she holds to Athene, to
gain the understanding, which is ‘Athene’, of the essential union, beyond
appearances, of Light and Love. Which enables her to allow the nereids to
guide the fifty-manned phalllic Argo into the midst of herself.
Passing through the ‘wandering rocks’, the Argonauts row into the calm harbour
of Drepani, near ‘the meadows where the cattle of the sun are kept’. [iv.968]
Which is to say, where the setting sun each day sinks into the underworld; out of
which point the Argonauts now emerge. Having sailed from the ‘west’ at Iolcos,
through the Clashing Rocks to the sunrise rim of the world at Colchis, and
having sailed back through the ‘underworld’ in a full circle against the course of
the sun’s nightly passage, they emerge again into the light of the ‘upper’ world at
‘western’ Drepani, having in their circular journey, mythically stilled the whole
world.
Drepani is said [iv.984-94] to be ‘a rich and spacious island, under the soil of
which is said to lie..the sickle used by Cronos to castrate his father Ouranos.
From this..the Phaeacians..trace their origin to Ouranos. Both here, and in the
Odyssey, where Odysseus reaches the end of his trials, the island and its
people are not quite of this world. As the descendants of Ouranos, they are in
direct touch with that mode of being which is beyond the polarities established
by the separation of Ouranos and Gaia—a separation which is now maintained
by the Titans Prometheus and Atlas, the one at the eastern limit of the outer
world, the other in the west. Drepani, at the mythically middle point of this world,
its navel, is the point where all opposites may be reconciled; this being
emblemized the the king and queen of the island, Alcinous and Arete: he the
example of wisdom, or Light; she of Love.
The second fleet of King Aietes has also arrived at the island, having sailed
there through the Sympligades, [the rocks now rooted to the earth by the Argo’s
passing through them] at one with the westward course of the sun; encountering
at Drepani the Argonauts who have arrived against it. Thus there will be either
irreconcilable battle as the two uncomprehending energies encounter each
other; or there will be a bringing of ‘the feud to an end, without recourse to
arms’; which is the intent of King Alcinous.
His proposal is simple: if Medea is still a maiden, she must return to her father; if
she is married, and the marriage consummated, she must remain with Jason.
The response of Jason and Medea is equally simple: he ‘marries’ and lies with
her that night; [so ‘grafting’ her from the ‘apple’ tree of the wisdom of ‘Colchis’ to
the ‘oak’ tree of life].
But these are ‘waves’ on the surface of Necessity, just as ‘it was necessity that
made them marry now’, [iv.1164-5] and not, as they had wished, in Jason’s
homeland; as only here, on Drepani, the threshold of the underworld and the
middle world, is this ‘marriage’ possible: earlier, there is too great a watery ‘flow’
for grafting, the scion would not take; later in the middle world, the sun is too
great, the scion would dry and wither, again not taking. [Which, in the event, for
complex reasons, both ‘natural’ and mythic, happened anyway.] So, if Medea is
not ‘grafted’ to Jason here, she must be carried back to Colchis. Which, having
cut herself off from her family, in fleeing with Jason, and killing her brother, the
emblem of the tree of which she too was part, she has nothing in the world to
cleave to except Jason.
If the Colchians refuse to accept Alcinous’ judgment, then he would ‘close his
harbours to their ships’; which is to say, as Drepani is the gateway between the
underworld, through the middle world, to the overworld, that the flow of energy
between them would cease. Again, this is not, properly speaking, a decision of
the king; it is merely a statement of fact, of Necessity. Medea, grafted to Jason,
is become of the middle world; her physical substance is so altered that she
cannot be restored to the underworld. Together she and Jason have become,
like the rainbow, as much of fire as of water, the bridge between the upper and
lower worlds, blooming out of each end of the Argo, the holy ark, their mother.
So the wedding, and consummation, take place in the womb of Earth [the body
of Hera, of the later dispensation], in the ‘navel’ of the world, where all energies
gather and are resolved. The cave later came to be called the ‘sacred cave of
Medea’ [iv.1156], as the ‘omphalos’ where the energy of the Underworld,
embodied in her, was enabled to flow into the ‘middle world’, through being
fused into the one hermaphroditic being, Jason-Medea.
Had this ‘grafting’ not taken place, Medea could not enter the middle world; for
she is herself ‘sister’ to the serpent guarding the Fleece from dangerous
‘strangers’ from elsewhere: her coils fill the mesocosm with their energy, and
would create havoc in the middle world [as indeed, when the ‘graft’ is broken,
they do], if not ‘oned’ with the overworld, Apollonian energy of Jason.
But, even though this ‘at-one-ment’ is achieved on Drepani, and the fleet of
Aietes gone, the trials of the Argonauts are not ended. For they are still only in
the penumbra of the middle world and ‘Zeus is still angry’, energies are still
unreconciled; so ‘a northern gale swept them south for nine days and nights’ to
the shore of Libya, where ‘shoals were everywhere, with tangled masses of
seaweed from the depths..; and beyond, sand stretching to the dim horizon’
[iv.1233-59]. A world between fire and water, both unfruitful; a world beginning,
in posse; a world which the Argonauts must pass through in order to bring their
experience of the underworld into the ‘middle world’ which is Hellas.
Not knowing, as ‘waves’ themselves, what the inner demands of their Quest are,
the Argonauts respond to their condition despairingly. They even wish [iv.1252-
5] that they had cast all fear away and dared to sail once more through the
Clashing Rocks, even against the will of Zeus’; for the land in which they find
themselves is so barren and so ‘inescapable’, that it is beyond their imagining
how it could be a possible way to their ‘home’. So they would rather have again
endured the terrors of the macrocosmic Sympligades [they not knowing that—
due to their own passing through them—the rocks were not clashing any more;
Aietes fleet had sailed unharmed between them; like Drepani, they had become
an open passage between the worlds], where only Athene, as Zeus himself
manifest, could see them through; but where their souls would have felt ‘Zeus’
the world spirit, even if only in the moment of being destroyed by it; rather than
on this barren ‘mesocosmic’ shore where they can feel nothing. As if they were
living between the heartbeats of the cosmos.
The state of the land in which the Argonauts ‘drag their feet along the endless
beach’ is compared, against ‘natural’ likelihood, [iv.1282-8] to ‘some doomed city
when the gods’ statues are sweating blood, and bellowing is heard in temples
(and) men wander ghostlike in the streets’; for they have come to that point in
the world where its end is interwoven with its beginning—illustrated [iv.1300-3]
by the comparison of the lamenting of Medea’s women to the crying of
unfledged,fallen birds—but the end is all they can see themselves. The forms of
familiar daily life, like the symbols by which we relate to the ineffable
macrocosm, are crumbling as we move among them in a world of half-formed
shapes where we are as outcast as Cain.
As they drag themselves along in this despair at scorching midday, the Libyan
nymphs enter Jason’s aura; the very nymphs ‘who found Athene when she
issued in her gleaming panoply from her Father’s head, and bathed her in the
water of Trito [iv.1310-12]; thus balancing his fire with water, so that his word
becomes flesh. It is now the parallel work of the nymphs to guide the Astronauts
from the plane of potential to that of actuality.
They tell Jason, and he afterwards the others, that they must ‘repay (their)
mother for what she suffered all the long time she bore you in her womb’.
[iv.1327-8] Their ‘mother’ being interpreted by Peleus to mean the Argo, they lift
it onto their shoulders and carry it through the desert, following the tracks of the
horse of Poseidon, which has emerged, as foretold, from the waters. [In like
manner did the Jews, in their desert, carry the Ark of the Covenant, which had
originally carried ‘them’ in the person of Noah and his family. In both myths, the
trial by water becomes one by fire.] The Argo is like a rainbow over their heads
[‘arc en ciel’], veiling them from the burning Libyan sun to an intensity they may
bear, at the same time fixing in their minds their ‘water’ experience of their souls,
so that [like Percival ‘asking the question’ of the Grail King] they may cognize
and ‘know’ them.
The trial ends at the shore of Lake Triton, a great lagoon of the sea, in whose
salt waters they lay the Argo; and search the shore for water for their parched
bodies.
They find it [iv.1397-1402] ‘in a holy place where still on the previous day Ladon,
a serpent born from the earth, guarded golden apples in the territory of Atlas..
Now, however,..destroyed by Heracles, it lay against the trunk of the apple tree’.
Heracles too had been ravaged by thirst and had kicked a rock, bringing forth
abundant water; from which the Argonauts gratefully drink.
‘The previous day’; on which Heracles, in receiving the apples from the apple
tree, had ended the life cycle of the aeon, he being then ready to ‘rise’ in fire to
heavenly Olympos, become one with his ‘Father’, thus ‘glorifying’ Hera, his
‘earthly Mother’, carrying her in his own fire-glorified body. And the Argonauts,
bringing the Fleece, the body of Promethean fire, out of the waters of the
underworld, are ‘the next day’, the emblem of the aeon to come. [Mythic time,
like the Christian calendar, being circular, at every moment it dies and is born;
eternity living ever at its navel.]
The Argonauts are shown the spring bursting from the rock by the nymphs, for
whom, the Hesperidean apples having been taken by Heracles, the ‘world’ is at
an end. At the western extremity of the aeonic structure, like King Aietes in
eastern at Colchis, the nymphs see the ‘heroes’ who come to them on Quest as
dangerous to the living structure and, in consequence with the ‘ugliness’ of
‘otherness’ . [‘A man most foul in his violence and his appearance’ Aigli says of
Heracles. So, doubtless, did the dragon-aspect of the maiden see St. George;
the ‘under world’ of desire being unwilling to be subsumed, through love, into the
light; which, however, the ‘maiden’ aspect wills herself towards: Ariadne to
Theseus; Medea to Jason.]
‘Refreshed at last’ [iv.1455] with the springing water, five of the Argonauts seek
over the sands for Heracles. Whom they do not find, coming no nearer than the
glimpse keen-eyed Lynceus has of ‘a lonely figure on the verge of that vast land,
as a man, when the month begins, sees or thinks he sees the new moon
through the clouds’.
Properly speaking, they are the microcosmic ‘new moon’, bringing the fire of the
sun through the waters of the moon, to ‘flesh’ as the Fleece upon the earth;
whereas Heracles is the last sliver of the old moon, drawing the created world
[flowering from the dream-shapes of ‘Zeus-as-Prometheus] back into the One;
before that instant of whole darkness, when the One is Nothing.
And now, bitten by a snake, Mopsus dies. He has been their guide, their
interpreter of divine will, which they must now live without as they enter more
fully into the microcosmic world; they must perceive event and direction there
‘through a glass darkly’, through the discolouring veils of mind and body.
But they are guided by Triton himself [a god half in the form of ‘other immortals’,
which is to say: mankind; and half like ‘a monster of the deep’] out of the ‘lake’
through a narrow passage in its northern shore, to the southern shore of the
Mediterranean, which is now more nearly the ‘natural world’ than when they
were on it before. And yet not entirely; there is one more ‘gateway’ to pass
through.
The prow of the Argo touches the eastern shore of Crete, an appropriate
landfall, as Crete is both the southernmost land of Greece and the home of its
earliest culture. But they are not welcomed. The island is guarded by the
unsleeping Talos , ‘a bronze giant’, whose function—under ‘Zeus’ instruction’—is
to prevent Crete, the outpost of ‘Hellas’, the microcosmic world, from invasion;
as the great serpents, also unsleeping, in an unbroken continuity of ‘time’, [fail
to] protect the boundaries of the mesocosmic world. The Argonauts, now
emerging from this ‘serpent’ world, partake of its energy, which is seen as
destructive to the evolved forms of the microcosmic world.
Talos himself is said to be invulnerable, except in one part of him alone, his
ankle. Medea, Hecate-on-earth, seeing this weakness, focuses her attention,
her energy, upon him, causing the very land he thinks he is protecting to turn
against him, so that ‘he grazed his ankle on a sharp rock, and ichor flowed out of
him like molten lead’ [iv.1681-2]. He was the last of his tribe, and appears to
represent the dying of the civilization itself, which has fed and fed upon its own
entrails, its own past, until its outer crust is glistening and hard, and
‘invulnerable’; but which, being only a bright empty shell of what it was in the
fullness of its life, crumbles to nothing [like an old Yang line], when ‘invaded’ by
the formless, Yin energy of the Flow.
Although they go ashore on Crete, they soon discover that they have still not
reached their ‘home’, the inner world of Hellas, [or Achaia, or whatever name it
is given]; Crete not being wholly of that world culturally, but the home of an
earlier culture, become—as such cultures do—a penumbral ‘underworld’, the
realm from which Ariadne, Medea’s cousin, enables Theseus to escape;
paralleling Pontic Colchis, whence Medea has enabled Jason to escape. And,
as the Argonauts there encountered and entered the underworld, so they
emerge from it here.
But not easily; but as through the Christian’s ‘dark night of the soul” when he
becomes aware that his awareness of ‘god’ has died within him. The waters are
black with ‘the darkness that people call the Pall of Doom; no stars..no beams of
the moon penetrated the black emptiness… They could not tell whether they
were drifting through Hades or still on the water’. [iv.1697-1701] Having lost
theirThe microcosm which they have re-entered
Theseus, with difficulty crossing this same expanse of water, arrives at Delos, as
symbol of his return to the sunlit inner world of ‘Hellas’. So do the Argonauts
arrive at such a rocky island, not called Delos, nor identified with it, except that ,
like Delos, it was not ‘natural’, but placed there by Apollo’s radiance, as Delos
had been floated on the water by Poseidon and Zeus, for his birth. After making
their libations there to Apollo, they continue, ‘blessed with fair weather’ into the
microcosmic world of ‘Hellas’, making landfall at Aigina; and from there returned
to Iolcos, whence they had originally set out on their Quest.
Jason and Medea’s trials, however, are only beginning.
The Quest has been ‘achieved’ when Jason hangs the Golden Fleece in Zeus’
temple in Orchomenos, then the capital of Beotia, in that the Fleece [like the
mistletoe of other mythic traditions] has been taken from the mesocosmic oak
tree, its ‘natural’ home, and grafted to the wall of Zeus’ temple in ‘the outer
world’; becoming the ‘gate’ though which His energy may enter the outer
‘natural’ world, and draw that world back into ‘Himself’: ‘breathing in and out’.
But it has not been achieved, in that the ‘holy androgyne’ comprising Jason and
Medea, who brought the Fleece—the ‘flesh’ of the original Promethean fire—
from the mesocosm to the microcosm, breaks apart into its constituent and
contrary elements: Jason turns his affection to Glauce, making her his queen;
Medea, exfoliating out of the still circle of her ourobourean self, becomes like a
wild serpent in the microcosmic world, which fears and misunderstands her.
Jason—without her, having no more life than a shadow—wanders the world
aimlessly, ending at last on the dry shore by Corinth, under the prow of the Argo,
from which he intends to hang himself. The Argo, its own work being now long
accomplished [as the ‘cistern’, which (in Blake’s image) had contained the
outpouring of the ‘fountain’ of divine fire, is itself dry and empty (and forgotten);
and its prow, rotted through, falls on Jason, and kills him.
How did this happen? What went wrong?
Jason’s ‘abandonment’ of Medea reads as a transference of his bond—or
‘graft’—to the princess of the oceanic mesocosm, to an emblematic figure of the
microcosmic, or ‘inner’ world’. And yet, the two are not entirely discrete: the one
is an evolution of the other, into a form suitable to the ‘inner’ world. ‘Glauce’,
whose name means ‘owl’, suggests the owl sacred to Athene, as though she is a
‘mask’ for Athene, an ‘entempling’ of Medea [the number of whose own name
differs by one digit from that of Athene: 68 to 69], as the virgin Mary may be
seen as an entempling of the world-flowering-and-dying Eve, emblem of the
‘natural’ world. So that Medea, in Corinth, may be said to be Glauce.
But Medea [within the ‘Medea’ of the romantic veiling] does not so see it herself.
She will not accept the ‘entempling’. Although the graft has made her fruitful,
she rejects it, and destroys the fruit, her own children by Jason.
Why? Why does she withdraw from the Light, back into her oceanic nature?
The ‘withdrawal’, on the naturalistic surface, appears to be rather that of Jason,
who, safely returned to the microcosmic world, prefers a queen of his ‘own kind’,
who brings him a kingdom. The ‘withdrawal’ is real, but the meaning given it is
‘romantically’ illusive. What Jason ‘withdraws’ from Medea is his sense of
himself as ‘Prometheus’, the bearer of the fire of transcendent Zeus. [So does
Lucifer refuse to cease to be Himself, the ‘highest angel’ in Heaven; seeing
‘Eve’—God-as-Omega—only as darkness into which he falls unendingly’. He is
unable to see her because he is unwilling to see her, unwilling to surrender his
sense of himself to offer her—as Gabriel, at the next turning of the evolutionary
spiral, does to Mary, in the emblem of the six-petalled lily—the transcendent
‘macrocosm’ which is her counterpart, with whom she is One.]
Jason is unwilling, [or ‘unable’, for reasons of Necessity] to surrender any aspect
of his awareness of his own inner ‘Zeus-self’; as if such ‘surrender’ would
endanger his fiery purity; and the feeling indeed is that Zeus himself will not
‘bend’ to his own Hera-self in Medea. And so, as Hera was Jason’s patron and
protector, Jason is divided against himself, and cannot stand. And as Medea,
the energy of the watery underworld, has not been ‘entempled’, and the ‘graft’
with Jason is broken, she, as the image of God Immanent, or Omega, ‘runs
wild’. Earth, which was Gaia and Rhea, and is now Hera, remains apart from
Ouranos-Cronos-Zeus; broken apart by the Titan Prometheus in the east, held
apart by his brother Atlas in the west; maintaining the polar dichotomy of the
microcosmic world, which enables it to function. But not to evolve.
But—feeling, as it is now able to, the presence of Zeus in his temple in
Orchomenos, breathing himself through the Golden Fleece, the ‘flesh’ of divine
fire, into the microcosm—it yearns to evolve, yearning now not only for the
fragrance of His breath, but for His full presence; which corresponds to His own
yearning to be one with Hera, as God Omega.
Which lies within the will of Necessity—portrayed as Zeus’ own—at the next turn
of the spiral. For which a new ‘hero’ must be born.
The ‘way to Zeus’ having been opened by the bringing of Promethean fire, in the
body of the Golden Fleece, into the microcosmic world, Orchomenos, its work
complete, must pass away, and Thebes be founded, as the centre of the ‘outer’
world, by Cadmus, brother of Europe, on ground sown with the other half of the
teeth of the dragon he had slain at Ares’ spring [later the Castalian spring of
Apollo] at Delphi; its walls, in echo of those of Troy, of which it became an outer
emblem, being built—though not, as Troy’s were, by gods—with stones and
music.
To Thebes, Zeus himself ‘descends’ [the Golden Fleece having opened the
world to Him in His fullness], and lies with the queen, Alcmene; and her body
gives birth to Heracles. His very name, ‘the glory of Hera’, is indicative of his
life-task: to bring ‘Her’, the image of the whole natural world of earth and water,
into harmony with the air and fire of ‘Heaven’; Omega at one with Alpha. [As
they always are; but everyman must learn and come to know this in his soul by
performing Heracles’ ‘twelve labours’ symbolically in his own life.]
When this multiform task has been achieved, Heracles is able to free
Prometheus, his forerunner as Zeus-avatar, from the ‘dream’ in which he was
imprisoned; and is himself burned free of his bodily nature to return to Himself in
‘Heaven’ [figured, for the images of the myth, as Mt Olympos]. And the cycle is
complete.
Tiruvannamalai, 12th of March, 2014.

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