Finding the True Self, Part 10: Navigating Through Anger, the Last Temptation

August 20, 2019 Updated: August 20, 2019

Finally, Odysseus comes to the last of the nine temptations of the soul as represented in the Nine Enneagram Types of personality. After the storms of the ocean raised by Poseidon in anger against Odysseus, Athene, the goddess of wisdom, beats the “breakers flat,” and from being “quite lost,” he arrives on the third day (surely, a resurrection for him) on the island of the Phaeacians.

At this point, we need to understand that he is a very different man from the one who set out from Troy nearly 10 years earlier. He has endured and overcome—with divine assistance—eight deadly sins that had almost wholly destroyed him: sloth (Type Nine), lust (Eight), gluttony (Seven), fear (Six), avarice (Five), envy (Four), deceit (Three), and latterly with Calypso, pride (Two).

Now, for him to return to Ithaca and at last reclaim his own soul—his beautiful Penelope—he must overcome this last vice (Type One) that besets human beings—especially other Type One human beings. Put another way, since the Enneagram is a personality tool, the overcoming of all the nine vices would mean, in psychological terms, that one has become a whole person again—not impeded by the weaknesses that the vices represent.

Civil Phaeacians

Type Ones believe “I am right,” and they have a basic desire to do good and so tend to be idealistic; their deadly sin, often repressed, is anger. Because Ones are perfectionists, and so reformers, their anger is (and almost must be) repressed, for they know that if they were perfect, they wouldn’t experience it!

At their best, Ones are good people wanting to improve the world. Of course, at their worst, they are self-righteous, arrogant, and highly judgmental of others.

We get a sense of this idealism and desire to do good almost as soon as Odysseus lands. And as Michael J. Goldberg observes, Odysseus himself picks up on it: Awaking on a river bank, he “speaks to the refined Nausicaa gently, with restraint and courtesy and modesty”—the very virtues of the Phaeacians.

The princess offers him a wash and oil, so he can clean and anoint himself. Tellingly, as she leads him back to the town to meet the king and queen of Scheria, she suggests as they reach the town that he—for the sake of propriety—should make his own way to the palace. How different from the seductress Calypso’s sort of propriety!

Odysseus_and_Nausicaa
Odysseus meets the gracious and modest princess Nausicaa. “Odysseus and Nausicaa,” 1619, by Pieter Lastman. Oil on panel. Alte Pinakothek, Munich. (Public Domain)

The Good and Wise Phaeacians

The Phaeacian king, Alcinous, ruled and the “gods made him wise.” His wife, the queen Arete, earns her name: It may derive from the Greek “araomi,” meaning “pray,” as in “prayed for” by her parents, or “prayed to” by suppliants such as Odysseus. Goldberg suggests the meaning is “virtue” or “excellence.” All these meanings point to one fact: that the Phaeacians are a peculiarly pious and wise people. Indeed, these people, as Homer says, have “a genius for lovely work, and a fine mind too.” On the seas, their ships are infallible and unbeatable.

The king, the queen, and the Phaeacians all support Odysseus massively: They applaud his heroic nature, they promise to sail him back to Ithaca the following day, and also—incredibly—they generously give him so much gold and gifts as outweighs all the loot he won and lost from Troy. What generosity, what spirit, what wonderful people. And on top of that, we hear Alcinous say to Odysseus, “I’m hardly a man for reckless, idle anger. Balance is best in all things.” Balance is best in all things—exactly what the god of moderation, Apollo, might say; and no “reckless, idle anger”? How, then, is the Type One issue of anger addressed here, since it seems never to appear? All we get is perfect courtesy and manners, along with an action-orientation and excellence.

Departure_of_Ulysses_from_the_Land_of_the_Pheacians
“Port Scene With the Departure of Odysseus From the Land of the Phaeacians,” 1646, Claude Lorrain. Oil on canvas. Louvre. (Public Domain)

Resolving Odysseus’s Own Anger

It is highly appropriate that the last temptation that Odysseus must overcome should be anger. To start with, according to Robert Fagles, Odysseus’s name “may be associated with the Greek verb ‘odussomai’—to feel anger toward, to rage or hate”; and this verb suggests both active and passive states.

So anger is the internal, passive issue, then, still unresolved as Odysseus comes to Scheria, island of the Phaeacians. He must accept who he truly is, and in doing so purge himself of all the negative emotions and distractions that have beset him ever since he set sail.

This is brought about, remarkably and firstly, through poetry: Odysseus weeps to hear his own story told by the bard Demodocus, and this proves a prelude. After he has shown the Phaeacians what he is really capable of in the sports competitions they hold, so showing his true powers, Odysseus tells his own story as himself. This is cathartic, for in doing this, Odysseus finds acceptance from the Phaeacians and, critically, realizes his own heroic potential. The masks, the identities he has adopted—especially “No-one” at Type Two—are now stripped away, revealing the true hero.

Odysseus at the Court of Alcinous by Francesco_Hayez
Odysseus weeps at hearing his own story sung by a court poet. “Odysseus at the Court of Alcinous,” circa 1815, Francesco Hayez. Oil on canvas. Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples. (Public Domain)

The Anger of Poseidon

Odysseus is not only an agent of rage, anger, and hatred, but also its target. We see this in all the events that have happened to him, and especially from the unremitting anger of Poseidon.

And here is a curious point: The Phaeacians are cousins of the Cyclops, and so both races are descended from Poseidon. As different as the Cyclops and Phaeacians appear to be, their deep, emotional roots come from the same source.

For all their veneer of civilized behavior, ethical codes, and outstanding generosity, the Phaeacians derive from Poseidon—that turbulent, emotional god. We need to understand, therefore, that with the Type One, appearances are not always what they seem: Their island appears rational and sane, but is it?

We said at the beginning that the Phaeacians always do the right thing, and that to express anger, therefore, would be a wrong thing. Thus, the storm of anger is repressed, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. As James Hollis observed, citing Jung, “that what we have ignored or denied inwardly will then more likely come to us as outer fate.”

And this is exactly what happens: Odysseus gets home through the aid of the Phaeacians, for he has rid himself of his anger and his false personae, the “nobodies” he has claimed to be.

But the anger is still lurking in the Phaeacians. They deliver Odysseus home with his treasure, so swiftly that even Poseidon cannot stop them. But the god, enraged—angered beyond measure—takes the issue up with his brother, Zeus, king of the gods. The outward fate of their repressed anger comes upon the Phaeacians: Their ship is turned to stone and their port is surrounded by a huge mountain barrier.

Paying for Unacknowledged Anger

Alcinous has always known about the anger of their ancestral father, the god Poseidon; specifically, anger against their ferrying people safely across the sea, for this disaster was prophesied by Alcinous’s father.

The anger derives from the same source as Hades and Zeus’s earlier anger against Asklepios, who was so successful as a healer that he started curing the dead and bringing them back to life! For this transgression, Zeus struck him dead with a thunderbolt.

In a similar way, the Phaeacians have robbed Poisedon of his power, rendering the sea (the storms of emotion) completely impotent, as the Phaeacians always cross the sea safely. Hence Poseidon’s insensate rage and anger against them.

And so, knowing about this anger—but denying it—constitutes, also, a supreme act of hubris, for the very worst sin of all in ancient Greece was to ignore or disobey the will of the gods.

By denying Poseidon’s anger and imagining they are immune from its consequences, the Phaeacians are denying anger in themselves. They, therefore, now have to face the anger of Poseidon.

Righteous Anger

Odysseus, however, is now home, but not home and dry. He still has to deal with the suitors who beset his wife, his soul, Penelope.

Now Athene, the goddess of wisdom, appears directly to him and directly supports him, which has not happened before. The purging of all that was false in him, including his anger, as the poetry of the Phaeacians led him to reveal himself, means that he is in his right mind, for Athene is beside him.

The anger he will now express against the suitors is a righteous anger, for it is not human anger but the gods’ will that every one of them be destroyed.

Odysseus Kills the Suitors
“Odysseus Kills the Suitors” by Slobodna Dalmacija. (Public Domain)

What do we learn about being a Type One and avoiding its errors? Avoid perfectionism and allow for mistakes: The fact that the Phaeacians never failed in delivering their cargo angered Poseidon, who then blocked their activities.

Do not believe too strongly in the rightness of your own cause, but exercise humility; remember, there are other views. Examine carefully your own emotions; recall that that is where Poseidon reigns. The turbulent sea is a symbol of our own unconscious.

If this can be done, then the hero or heroine can arrive at their homeland ready to fight the good fight in their full strength and without the debilitating and distracting nine vices or weaknesses that beset the human psyche. In this way, they can at last reclaim their beautiful soul, Penelope, as their own.

This concludes the multipart series “Finding the True Self,” in which we discuss nine types of personalities, their flaws, and show how Odysseus, through his adventures, overcame them to find his way back home. To read the previous parts of the series, visit James Sale’s author page on TheEpochTimes.com/author-james-sale

James Sale is an English businessman whose company, Motivational Maps Ltd., operates in 14 countries. He is the author of over 40 books on management and education from major international publishers including Macmillan, Pearson and Routledge. As a poet, he won First Prize in The Society of Classical Poets’ 2017 competition, recently appearing at New York’s Princeton Club.

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