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George Meautis & Martin Shaw-That We Are Actually Living In The Underworld

‘War against nature’.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA are short extracts from Georges Meautis’s seminal study, ‘Recherches sur le Pythagorisme’, Neuchatel, 1922 where he quotes Macrobius and Aristophanes and from Martin Shaw’s article, ‘We Are In The Underworld And We Haven’t Figured It Out Yet’, 2019.

Though originating from different time periods, the message is the same: The power of the myth is great at unveiling truths: It tells us about reality in a (slightly) discomforting manner, leading us to question everything in our lives, so to gain self and communal awareness.


Georges Meautis

This idea that earth is represented as a hell is found in Macrobius’ ‘Commentaries on the Dream of Scipio’ (Part 1, chapter 9-11-below in William Harris Stahl’s English translation), is also Pythagorean. We can add that it is not only, but we find it expressed in Plato who borrowed it from the Orphic circles, as for them, the body (σωμα,soma) is a tomb (σημα, sima) where the soul is buried:

9. Before the zeal of philosophers for the study of natural sciences grew to such vigorous proportions, those who were responsible for establishing religious rites among different races insisted that the lower regions were nothing more than the mortal bodies themselves, shut up in which souls suffered a horrible imprisonment in vile darkness and blood.’

10.They called the body the tomb of the soul, the vaults of Pluto, and the infernal regions; everything that fable taught us to believe was in the lower regions they tried to assign to ourselves and to our mortal bodies. The river Lethe was to them nothing more than the error committed by the soul in forgetting its former high estate before it was thrust into a body, and in thinking that its sole existence was in a body.’

11.Similarly, they thought that Phlegethon was merely the fires of our wrath and passions, that Acheron was the chagrin we experienced over having said or done something, even to the point of becoming melancholy, as is the way with human beings, that Cocytus was anything that moved us to lamentation or tears, and that Styx was anything that plunged human minds into the abyss of mutual hatred.’

This is the doctrine that life on earth, in reality, is a death, a hell and it is after actually dying that we a born to the true life. Here we find also a scholia about verse 420 from Aristophanes’ ‘The Frogs’:

Verse 420: ‘Now he rules the people, from among the dead who dwell Above‘. The scholia:Men who live in this world, even though alive, are bounced here and there by the vain worries of life and suffer ailments more terrible than what the dead endure themselves, so that their lives are similar to a punishment.’ (French Translation from the original Greek, Georges Meautis; English, HYGEIA)


Martin Shaw

Jul 15, 2019.


I think we are in the Underworld and haven’t figured it out yet. Both inside and outside us.

The strange thing about the Underworld is that it can look an awful lot like this one. It’s not situated in those esoteric graphs and spiritual maps we study, it’s situated as a lived experience.

I recently saw a mist suddenly descend on my garden, it just rolled in out of nowhere. Everything changed, just like that. Very quickly all appeared different: no shrubs, no apple trees, it was a foreign landscape. The dead felt usefully closer, the silence deeper. In just a moment, the Underworld seemed present, as an atmosphere rather than concept, a tangible, seasonal shift not a distant idea.

This world can be Otherworld, Underworld, heavenly, hellish and all points in between. It can still be Arcadia, Camelot, Eden almost. That’s why it’s confusing. We still get to go on holiday, drink wine, watch beautiful sunsets. We still pay insurance and kids still go to college. But there is something happening. An unravelling. A collapsing, both tacit and immense in scale.

We are frightened and we do not know what will happen next.

And into that fraught zone drifts quite naturally the Underworld. This is not the dayworld, this is the nightworld we are entering. It’s not a mistake or aberration, it is fitting with the times.

But we are still using dayworld words. This is why so little works.

When we move into Underworld time, mythically the first thing to go is often the lights. This is a shadowed or even pitch-black zone of encounter. Nothing is how it seems on the surface of things. We have to get good with our ears. So to repeat, our eyes alert us to the wider situation, but it’s our ears that alert us to the personal, the particular, the micro in the macro. This tends to be when the heart is alerted.

And there’s just more of the Underworld about. Its tactile, tangible attributes. We have Penthos (Grief),Curae (Anxiety) and Phobus (Fear), those gatekeepers of the place roving ever more readily amongst us. Either chronic or acute, acknowledged or not, they are present at our table. So what happens when the underneath, the chthonic, the shadowed material starts to become more and more visible in our lives?

We start to fess up.

The Underworld is a place where we admit our red right hand. We give up the apotropaic.

An apotropaic act is when you ritually ward off evil. When you claim innocence unduly you are attempting a similar, unseemly act. Keeping your hands clean. So we could entertain our own hypocrisies for a while.

That would be suitably sobering. When we start to remove the scaffold of smoke and mirrors propping up our lives, what is left? That is part of an Underworld etiquette.

I also have to say something deeply unfashionable: it is not relentless self-absorption that makes us realise our interior mess is directly mirrored outside ourselves. That’s not vanity, that’s attention. It’s not hubris, it’s horrifying clarity. If you don’t attend to your soul’s vitality with intent, then suppressed it’ll run you ragged. They are not above catastrophe to get your attention.

Soul seems more dangerous to talk about than sex, violence, death or money these days.

As many nerve endings as there are in a body, are the messages attempting to issue forth between place, animal and person in regards to climate change. I think we should forget the rest and attend to ours. Staggering spiritual repair is called for. It is not just those bad white men in power that did this. We all did.

I believe something will crawl back out of the Underworld. It will. It always does. But it may not be us.

The Underworld chews up soundbites, gnaws on the feeble marrow of platitude, pummels certainty or sweeping predictions into the greasy darkness of the cave to gobble later.

The Underworld speaks out of both sides of its mouth.’ …/…

More about Macrobius:🌿 More about Aristophanes: 🌿 More about Georges Meautis:éautis 🌿 Martin Shaw’s full article:
George Meautis & Martin Shaw-That We Are Actually Living In The Underworld

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