Odysseus and his men blinding the cyclops Poly...
Odysseus and his men blinding the cyclops Polyphemus. Detail of the “Eleusis amphora”, a proto-attic work, c. 650 BC, museum of Eleusis, Inv. 2630. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cyclops [Greek cyclops: round-eyed] – In Greek mythology, the Cyclopes are one-eyed giants, often employed as smiths and associated with volcanoes.

The cyclops appear in several ancient literature sources. In Homer‘s Odyssey, the Cyclops Polyphemus is tricked and eventually blinded by Odysseus. In anger Polyphemus tries to destroy Odysseus’ crew by tossing huge rocks at their ship during their narrow escape.

Although they have one eye, the cyclops should not be confused with the Asian idea of the “third eye” or, for that matter, with the Christian idea of the “single eye.”¹ Not to say that these ideas are identical. They’re not. The Hindu Siva, for example, burns his enemies to ashes with a heat ray that emanates from this third eye.²  By way of contrast, Jesus Christ never advocates this kind of violence. Even if they’re not the same, these two images of the single eye, Hindu and Christian, do share the connotation of some kind of privileged spiritual perspective.

By way of contrast, Wikipedia says this about the cyclops:

They were giants with a single eye in the middle of their forehead and a foul disposition. According to Hesiod, they were strong, stubborn, and “abrupt of emotion”. Collectively they eventually became synonyms for brute strength and power, and their name was invoked in connection with massive masonry.³

This clearly isn’t about spiritual insight. However, the cyclops do fashion thunderbolts (as weapons) for Zeus’ purposes. But they’re just the tool makers. It’s Zeus who decides how his thunderbolts should be used in the cosmic battleground.


² Many Hindus, of course, would argue that Siva’s death ray is only aimed at the inferior deities, these symbolizing the inferior aspects of the self.  An excellent book about Siva in Hindu mythology is Siva: The Erotic Ascetic by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty



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