June 22, 2013

Manly P. Hall On Homer (From His Lecture 'Porphyry on the Wanderings of Ulysses')

Manly P. Hall on Homer:
"Thus, we have largely our knowledge or opinion of Greek religion from the writings of Homer, and one or two other early fragments. There is a popular story that Homer was blind. This apparently was doubted, however, as early as the time of Plato. For already an effort had been made to understand the inner meaning of this account. And the philosophers of the Platonic school and those of the Neoplatonic favored the idea that Homer's blindness was symbolical, that it indicated not his inability to see on the objective level but that he had voluntarily turned his sight inward, to the contemplation of those things normally invisible. And that his blindness, like the story of the blinding of the cyclops, should not be accepted as a literal [inaudible].

Yet he was above or transcendent the normal state of man's sight and sense seems to have been implied in this account. We also know that we deal with idiom and with policies and prevailing opinions of a generation and time too remote for our analysis. So we cannot be dogmatic. We can only speculate upon this subject.

There is reason to believe that the great [inaudible] tradition of Greece had developed and was beginning to take dominance as early as the days of Homer. We know that at that time these rites and ceremonies now called [inaudible] were particularly sacred and secret, and that the general mass of the people had no knowledge of what went on in these initiation ceremonies. It is conceivable, therefore, that Homer could've been one of the earliest to attempt a revelation of these mysteries through a highly allegorical and symbolical poem. 

Olympiodorus in his [inaudible] on Plato already points out that the fables of Homer should be considered as having a secret and mystical meaning. Here again, we must pause, for we have two possible solutions to this mystery. One is that Homer was in possession of a knowledge not generally accessible to the Greeks of his time. A knowledge, however, which was in itself in not all things perfect, inasmuch as Homer seemed to be without awareness of many of the great later teachings of the Greek philosophers. For example, he was not aware of the rising doctrine of immortality as it came to be dominant in the classical period of Greek thought.

It is also possible that the later Greeks interpreted into the writings of Homer by a fortuitous method of reasoning and interpretation. There is of course always a two-fold solution to this enigma. In the first place, the legends and fables of the Odyssey and Iliad may have been in circulation as folklore long before the time of Homer. Folklore, as we realize, is a kind of waking, dreaming of the folk, or of popular collective consciousness. Psychologically, therefore, nearly all ancient legends arise from the internal experience of the individual. Therefore, whether he knows it or not, whether he is aware of this fact or not, historic telling, particularly when it is derived from earlier sources, is very likely to be highly psychological.

The second possibility is that these poems and writings drew out of their interpreters certain secret knowledge locked within the minds and hearts of the interpreters rather than in their original work. I have observed this on many occasions in more modern studies. Namely that the meanings of things become brighter and greater according to the light from within ourselves. Those poems which were not consciously intended to have a message may release a message from the psychic life of the reader of the poem.

In any event, by one direction or another, the great poems of Homer gradually came to be considered part of the esoteric literature of the Greeks. And by degrees these poems were interpreted and unfolded to come to their final and most complete restatement or elucidation or interpretation in the works of the Neoplatonists. These men by their own naturally mystic inclination found mysticism in all things. And because they were convinced that there was a common denominator to human knowledge, they sought this in all the writings of ancient peoples, and were able to give lucid, and reasonable interpretations to these old stories." - Manly P. Hall, from his lecture called, 'Porphyry on the Wanderings of Ulysses.' [1:40 - 7:17 in the video below].
Manly P. Hall - Porphyry on the Wanderings of Ulysses.