If you do this practice, you can lock eyebrows with the masters of old, seeing through their eyes and hearing with their ears. Wouldn't you like to do that? Thus Wu Men, the great Sung Dynasty Ch'an master. For the last decade I have attempted locking eyebrows with Homer, the great master of European poetry. We know so little about him. "A blind man who lives on rugged Chios" is as much as we are told (this almost an aside at the end of the Homeric "Hymn to Delian Apollo"). I can well believe that the poet was blind. Jacques Lusseyran, the French Resistance leader, tells us that after he lost his eyesight as a young boy he found that the whole world was filled with light, and that the light came from his mind and was the core of his being. Homer's mind, too, and his world, are filled with light. In the Iliad the light is intense, the light of noon, searing and white. In the Odyssey it is a softer light, the roselight of dawn—or of the setting sun, as the ancient critic Longinus says: "The grandeur remains apart from the intensity." Penelope waits and dreams in that quiet light; Telemachus wakes to it; and Odysseus, in the dark of the moon, returns to it and becomes himself again.
The light in the Odyssey casts an enchantment over the most ordinary actions in the poem. Penelope walks across a room, Telemachus gets dressed—and these actions are as magical as any of the marvelous adventures Odysseus has. The poem, again as Longinus puts it, is like the sea at low tide, withdrawn into its solitude, greatness ebbing and flowing, and the poet wanders along the shore where there are many curious things, and into the mythical and incredible: "What else can we call all this but the dreaming of a Zeus?" But it is not only then that we are entranced. Everywhere the poet turns his mind there is a sense of seeing things as if for the first time, and seeing their essential wholeness. The spell that we are under is an enlightening enchantment, not the drowsiness of the Lotus-Eaters, who become forgetful of home, but a waking realization that every moment of experience is our luminous, original home. This is the true nostos of the Odyssey, and the completion of the poetic vision that begins in the raw, brilliant radiance of the Iliad.