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Barbara Hannah: Encounters with the Soul: Active Imagination as Developed by C.G. Jung

Menelaus told Telemachus how his anima had taught him to deal with the situation when he was delayed on an island called Pharos, off the mouth of the Nile, by contrary winds.

He had reached the point of despair ( as it sometimes seems we have to do before we will face active imagination in its inexorable reality), for he had used up all his supplies.

His whole crew, as well as Helen and himself, were faced with starvation if the wind did not change.

One day, when he was walking on the shore in deep dejection, he was approached by the beautiful Eidothea, ”daughter of the mighty Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea.”

First, she chided him severely for his lack of initiative in allowing himself to be cooped up on the island, where they were all growing weaker every day.

Menelaus assured her that he longed to leave, but could only think he must somehow have offended the immortals who were now denying him any favorable wind.

The friendly goddess told him that only her father, Proteus, could tell them how they could get home.

Menelaus must set a trap for him and force him to explain the whole situation.

Menelaus begged her to tell him how to ” catch this mysterious old being,” and she then enlightened him as to what he should do.

The next morning he met her, with the three best men of his crew, as arranged, at daybreak.

They gathered at the mouth of the cave where Proteus always went for a midday nap which he only took after counting his seals, as a shepherd counts his sheep.

The goddess then covered all four men with the skins of four freshly flayed seals and laid them in lairs that she had scooped out in the sand, filling all their nostrils with a sweet-smelling stuff so that they could endure the stench of the ”monsters of the deep.”

She then left them to carry out her instructions by themselves.

All morning, as she had foretold, the seals came up “thick and fast” from the sea, and lay down in companies all around them.

At midday, the old man himself emerged, found all of his fat seals awaiting him and counted the four men, entirely unsuspiciously, among the rest.

Then he went into the cave for his midday sleep.

This was their moment.

He was hardly asleep before the four men jumped on him and held him fast.

As Eidothea had warned Menelaus, Proteus’s “skill and cunning” had not deserted him and he transformed himself ” into a bearded lion and then into a snake and after that a panther and a giant boar.

He changed into running water too and a great tree in leaf.”

But they set their teeth and held him like a vice.

Then, as the goddess had foretold, at last he tired of his magic repertoire and took· his own form again.

Breaking into speech, he asked questions and allowed Menelaus to question him.

He then revealed that Menelaus had blundered in leaving Troy so quickly.

He should have stayed ” and offered rich sacrifices to Zeus and all the other gods” if he “wished to get home fast across the wine-dark sea.”

Now he could only return to Egypt in order to make “ceremonial offerings to the everlasting gods.”

When Menelaus heard he must take “the long and weary trip over the misty seas to Egypt,” he was heartbroken but, knowing there was no escape, he promised Proteus to do exactly as he advised.

Then he asked more questions, this time referring to the safety of his countrymen, whom he and Nestor had left behind at Troy.

After warning him that his tears would flow, Proteus gave him the information he wanted, of which I will mention two examples.

Agamemnon, Menelaus’s brother, had been murdered an hour or two after reaching his home by the treachery of his wife and her love!’; Aegisthus (Clytemnestra was Helen’s sister, for the two brothers had married two sisters).

The second fate I will mention was the most important to Telemachus.

His father, Odysseus, was unhappily imprisoned on a distant island by Calypso, the witch.

After staying some time in great luxury with Menelaus, Pallas Athene warned Telemachus that it was time he went home.

She guided him home by a circuitous route to avoid the trap to kill him that had been set by the infamous suitors.

Instead of letting him go home, she guided him to his loyal swineherd’s cottage where he found his father (who had at last returned to Ithaca after nineteen years of wandering), disguised as a beggar.

My chief point in relating this material from the Odyssey is to show the importance of clinging fast to the first image that appears to us in an active imagination, not allowing it to escape us by quick transformations, as it still will do if it is left to itself.

But I have used a little more of the Odyssey than that which I cited in another book, so as to draw the reader’s attention to the importance of a collaboration between the conscious and unconscious.

If he had not been helped by what we call the unconscious, which Homer depicts as the immortals, what chance would either Menelaus or Telemachus have had of getting back to his home?

Without the knowledge that Proteus gave him, would Menelaus ever have returned to Egypt, when he says it broke his heart to do so?

Yet only in Egypt could he get rich-enough sacrifices to appease the gods so that they would send him favorable winds.

And Telemachus would undoubtedly have been killed in the suitors’ trap if he had not had the guidance of Pallas Athene.

All this is even clearer in the main story of the Odyssey, that of Odysseus himself, but we have seen enough to be able to see how the same immortals will still guide us today, though we call them by different names in our modern material.

I will try, in later chapters, to point out the parallels between the ancient Odyssey and our own efforts. ~Barbara Hannah, Encounters with the Soul: Active Imagination, Pages 23-26.