In Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad and the Odyssey, we see one of the greatest interactions between the gods and humans in literature and lore. Of those interactions, one stands out in bold contrast to the rest: The goddess Athena with Odysseus and his son, Telemachus.
As Odysseus struggles to return home from the long Trojan War, he leaves his trusted friend Mentor in charge of his palace and his young son, however in his absence, many assume he is dead and suitors for the throne swarm his palace. Athena takes the form of Mentor, now an old and humble man, and encourages Telemachus to stand up to the suitors and look for his father. Because of Athena’s help, Odysseus and his son expel the suitors and reclaim the throne.
Now we use the term “mentor” as a title for one who imparts wisdom, guidance, and advice. For Project Conversion, I use a Mentor each month for that very reason. But what strikes me about this story is how the goddess Athena used a familiar form in order to communicate with Telemachus and Odysseus. Surely they would have responded just as well had she appeared in her full glory. The point was that Athena had to be incognito so that she could hide in plain sight among the suitors and plus maybe she didn’t want to freak out Odysseus and Telemachus.
This sort of phenomena occurs many times in lore where the divine appears to us as part of the mundane construct of our world. Sometimes we don’t even notice or care. Other times, it happens in our dreams.
Last night before bed I stood in front of my altar in the dark with my hands cupped together and thanked the Goddess and God for the day and the approaching night. After some quiet reflection, I asked a personal question regarding guidance on a question that has plagued me for months. I didn’t get an answer right away, but thanked them for listening and went to sleep.
Then, I dreamed.
I was at the River Temple meditating. Slivers of sunlight burned through the gaps in the leaves and painted stripes of light on the ground. The dark river flowed slowly and quietly along. There were no thoughts, no sound. All was at peace. I felt the cool of the bleached sand beneath me and the warmth of the sun on my skin. Then, the water rumbled in front of me. I opened my eyes as the dark water rose like a pillar. Sunlight glinted off drops of water as they shed away from the pillar as if sparks from a sculptor’s strike. I was terrified.
Just as I thought to run, the pillar of water took shape. Soon, curves emerged in place of ridges. The dirt and pollution sank to the bottom of the pillar and flowed back into the river. Water in the shape of a woman approached me. A soft, beautiful face with long, black hair smiled and stepped toward me. A gown of crystalline water draped over her like a toga. She sat beside me, tilted her head and looked into my widened eyes.
“Hello, my son.”
“Holy shit,” I said.
She chuckled and said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here because you asked for me.”
We talked for a little while. Like many dreams, I cannot remember all the details and I suppose there’s a reason for that. What I do remember though, is the beginning I just shared and the end. Once our chat was over, I asked her…
“This month, I mean, it seems so natural to see you–the divine–as female. I thought it would be hard but I just sort of slipped right into it. Why didn’t I see this before?”
She cupped my face in her hands, leaned forward and kissed my forehead. “Because, you were looking with only one eye open.”
Then, I woke up.
Now that I contemplate the dream, there is a lot of meaning there. She appeared as water for a reason, I think, and it relates precisely to the question I asked before bed. She also appeared to me in a place I’d feel the most comfortable: The River Temple. The sun (a symbol of the God) was there and helped form her out of the water (also symbolic of my question). But what strikes me here was her answer in the end.
“You were looking with only one eye open.”
Having two eyes is a great evolutionary development. Two eyes means that we (like many creatures) can triangulate the position of an object reltative to ourselves. We can calculate important information such as depth, distance, speed of approach and even predict future movement. Try walking around with only one eye open today. You’ll surely trip or bump into something.
So what does this imply about my experience with the divine? The Goddess told me I had only looked with one eye open. Am I seeing things more in depth now? Is the polarity of the divine the true essence? These are highly subjective questions, but perhaps that’s the point. If the divine is eternal and infinite, then any limited and finite term of definition fits within that construct. Even if the divine is genderless (as many faiths hold) therein we see both male and female attributes expressing themselves.
I could sit here all day and psycho-screw myself, turning over every archetype, every metaphor, but I have a soccer game to coach in about 15 minutes.
In the end, perhaps this will redefine me. The River Temple, it seems, is a powerful place and a consistent player in this year’s journey.
Or maybe, as Freud said, the “cigar is just a cigar” and my dream was just a dream. We shall see…
What dream experiences have you had with the divine? How did you interpret them?