Odyssey translates literally and metaphorically as a great journey; the journey of life. As such, Odyssey Magazine represents the holistic journey to personal and planetary wellness, offering conscious lifestyle options that integrate a message of joy, freedom and wholeness.
So many things are said about the spiritual path and so many methods are presented for its achievement that often the aspirant is confused as to which path to take, which method to practise.
When in such a position a number of questions arise. What does one need for this spiritual journey? How does one avoid confusion and unnecessary obstacles? What is the goal of the spiritual path? What is the best method?
Although there are hundreds of modern books, articles and magazines on spirituality, many ancient myths also contain valuable knowledge about the spiritual path. Spiritual truth has a universal reference and goes beyond such boundaries as ancient/modern, Christian/pagan, Greek/Indian.
Greece is full of myths, many of which are symbolic of eternal spiritual truths. One myth which has caught the imagination of people throughout the centuries has been the story of Odysseus.
Odysseus, the wandering hero, whose deep desire to return home enabled him successfully to overcome all forms of danger, eventually reached his destination. His encounters with the enchantress, Circe, the monsters Scylla and Charybdis, and his meeting with the Lotus Eaters are reminiscent of all the ancient heroes who had to face many tests before they could finally achieve their goals.
Odysseus symbolises the soul, which has to face and overcome many illusions and dangers as it attempts to return t its original state of peace and purity. These dangers and illusions continually distract the soul’s attention from the fulfilment of its aim. How many start this journey and how few actually finish it?
Many attempts were made to force Odysseus to abandon his return. His companions often failed the tests and it was always up to Odysseus to rescue them. His wisdom and unwavering courage distinguished him from his companions. He knew what had to be done and he did it. He always applied his knowledge to the situation and was thus able to help himself and his fellow travellers.
In the same way the soul progressing towards realisation needs constantly to apply spiritual knowledge if it is to experience any measure of success.
Realisation means returning to the original and eternal values of life. Returning is not synonymous with retrogression. Returning does not mean backtracking, but to re-understand and reapply the eternal values of pure love to the present life. Pure in the sense of selfless and eternal in the sense of lasting.
Often the word ‘eternal’ is misunderstood and consequently misused. It does not mean something religious or related necessarily to the hereafter. Eternal means what is real. And as the real enters life through our thoughts and actions, each moment of existence becomes full and satisfying. All humanity, whether spiritually or not, desires real peace and love. What is real, lasts. Who would say that they only need peace and love once in a while, or only sometimes?
The deepest desire within the human soul is the experience of constant peace and love. What is the alternative? If there is no peace, there is conflict and even war; if there is no love there must be disrespect and even hatred; and if there is no happiness, there is sorrow and emptiness.
There is an easy method of creating the constant experience of spiritual values in one’s life. We have simply to return and to remember. Like Odysseus we need to return and remember our origins. We need the knowledge of our roots, our beginnings. In fact, we can return even further than the roots and remember the seed, from which all life begins. The spiritual path is an exercise in the remembrance of eternal truths.
The philosopher Plato was once asked what true knowledge was and he replied: “If we remember what we have forgotten”.
Forgetfulness is the plight of the modern mind. We have forgotten ourselves, the Creator and the eternal values of life. Remembrance is the key to realisation. To remember who I truly am – the immortal soul; to remember the Creator – the Seed of Life; to remember the original qualities of human life – co-operation, respect and tolerance: These are the lessons of real living.
As I remember my original self, as I remember my original Father, pure and peaceful thoughts are created. On the basis of such thoughts, pure actions are performed and, as this happens, the sapling of a new world emerges from the seed as a reality. It is as simple as that.
Some people would doubt that this world with its complex people and their complex problems could find answers in such a simple solution as ‘returning’ and ‘remembering’. The characteristics of something true are simplicity and clarity. The opposite can be said of falsehood, whose characteristic is one of unending complexity. The complexity creates the dangers and illusions which make us lose sight of the simple and obvious truths of life.
When we say simplicity, it doesn’t mean naïveté or foolishness. Spiritual simplicity has its roots in the depths of wisdom – a wisdom that illuminates the path of the individual. In general, the over-pursuit of knowledge for its own sake has led to complex over-thinking and an enormous store of unnecessary and useless ‘knowing’. Many people have engaged themselves in intellectual acrobatics which prefer novelty to truth. Belief in such artificial knowledge is the Circe of modern thought.
Knowledge is a means – a bridge to realisation. Many, however, have become over-fascinated with the bridge itself and spend their time standing on it and never using it to cross the divide. Only when one starts doing – applying one’s knowledge and translating it into action – does one start to cross the bridge.
Too much reading, listening or talking produces an inertia which is possibly the greatest illusion in personal progress. We become like the lotus-eaters in the Odyssey, who think they live in reality but are, in fact, leading a totally artificial and empty life. Those who have crossed the bridge are remembered in myths as heroes and in history as great teachers. In order to cross the bridge we need to place our consciousness within eternity.
Eternity gives us a vision of the whole and enables us to see the three faces of time – past, present and future. With this vision of time we are able to order our lives because we can see the beginning and the ending of all things.
Also, with eternity in our consciousness we receive an understanding of truths which have and will always exist. These truths, such as selflessness, peace, love and wisdom, are the eternal energies which can give the individual power to transform personal and collective life. These enormous sources of energy exist within ourselves and especially within the Supreme Being, but unfortunately, because of disbelief, doubt and apathy, we do not harness this energy.
However, as we return inwardly, we travel beyond time and space to the home of eternal silence and peace and we realise the power of these energies. Spiritual knowledge and realisation are obtained through this inward return journey. Of course, realisation does not mean going within and staying there. After the inward journey and experience of certain energies, one needs to express them outwardly to be of use to anyone else. Like Odysseus, we should help others also reach home. To act in the external world means sharing what we have gained in the inner world. Both worlds exist simultaneously and one should be careful to maintain a balance between them. With wisdom and courage as our companions we are not trapped by the dangers and illusions of the journey. We can maintain that balance which ensures success.
It is said that Odysseus reached his destination through the help of various gods and goddesses. And those of us who are on his spiritual Odyssey also have a helping hand. The Supreme Being is our constant companion who guides us with great love and attention. Our companion is the eternal Guide whose every thought and deepest wish is for our spiritual victory. To believe this means already to have won.