The title of my book on the Odyssey really encapsulates the dilemma in describing a spiritual journey. The word “journey” implies a movement from point A to point B, which as humans we tend to take literally. But as we’ve seen, the nostos, the homecoming of Odysseus, is not about travel, but about remembering what he is. In a very real way, Odysseus is never not the king of Ithaka, whether he is acting as captain of a sailing fleet or captive to goddesses or as a storyteller or wizened stranger in his own home. Although at times he comes close, he never really abandons that identity because he can’t; it’s what he is. But for most of the poem he is removed from his ability to exercise that identity, and only by letting go of all the limiting identities does he recover his ability to do that. The movement from place to place–the journey–doesn’t really matter. What matters is his own unburdening; the shedding of temporal roles that associate him with strife, with multiplicity, with forgetfulness.
This is of course also our own situation. Our true identity is that of the Ideal, but we have forgotten it, or taken on a character in the world-play. The “journey” is in continuing to play the character well, as does Odysseus, while letting go of our attachment to it until we no longer need the ability to discriminate, because like him everywhere we look we see the One.