In this blog I propose that, regardless of the definition we may give it, the Oracle of Delphi is real. I believe that my story, which is an exact description of what took place, with no embellishments or interpretations of any kind, is a valid proof of that.
I've looked for contemporary testimonies of the Oracle but have found nothing. I'm sure there're journals, diaries, or memoirs out there, or unwritten or untold stories which may corroborate a modern time Oracle, but I haven't found any. So, I decided to share my oracle, to put it out there, because it is a fascinating testimony of what the Oracle of Delphi can be, and because its story demonstrates how amazing Life truly is.
When I visited Greece in 2008, the Oracle of Delphi was described by our guide as a political invention used to govern the vast territory that encompassed much more than Greece. The institution, the oracle system and its divinations, have been gone now for almost two thousand years.
The Oracle in Ancient Times decided the fate of Greece through its riddles, which were known for hundreds of years before Homer, and a thousand years before Christ. But not all of those years the Oracle was the institution it came to be, which resembled an organized religion with its priests, its Pythonesses and its treasuries. Before all that there was only direct contact with a mysterious presence that throughout centuries never stopped attracting people's imaginations. As an institution, through hundreds of years, the oracle surely had its moments of political corruption, but I have to wonder what actually happened during the first six hundred years of its life, specially knowing that it was so early on in our human development, when the mind was young and simpler, but maybe closer to something else which we may have lost behind our intellect. The sanctuary continued to be a powerful force in the region until Rome's invasion, that's why the Romans had to destroy it to govern the land effectively.
I ask, why was it that the Oracle of Delphi had such a powerful political influence over the intelligent Greeks, throughout their entire existence? Socrates spoke of it logically but without questioning it, as if it were obvious. The Oracle was consulted before matters of state were decided, or war and marriage. Our modern minds look at it with modern thoughts, taking it for granted as we cannot understand it. We are unable to recede back to our human experience three thousand years ago, to that time when our western intellect had just began to write and think dialectically. The civilization that preceded the Greek's in that region was that of the Egyptian's, which lived in a mythical state of consciousness for its entire three thousand years of existence. That fact informs our understanding of the two thousand years of human development prior to the birth of the Oracle. The Egyptians thought the way they wrote, with images and symbols, just like their hieroglyphics; they might have developed a sophisticated grammar to facilitate the mental exchanges necessary for myth, but the young languages of so many tribes, coexisting with each other along the banks of the Nile river, most have been extremely simple and basic at that point. (Interestingly enough, when you spend some time on the Nile River, up and down that gorgeous region, simplicity is what the landscape asks for). When the Egyptians mummified their bodies, they preserved all the organs, except the brain, which was disposed of. We would never do that today, why would we want to spend eternity without a thought? But then, why would they? During those three thousand years they chose eternity without a brain for a reason!
Another reason why I believe we have to pay close attention to what the Oracle was or is, is because it appeared very early on during the formation of our intellectual capacities, when reason starts to govern life for the very first time, and if it appeared, and if it lasted that long, there had to be a reason for it. I used to think that humans needed a place to represent their abstract forms, like Delphi, churches, museums or mountains, and they added their own poetry to it to dream and fantasize in response to profound human needs. But now I know it's the other way around. Humans began to believe and fantasize because there was a poetry spoken in those mountains in the first place. They witnessed it, and talked about it, and returned some years later, and in twenty more, and another thousand on, for more.
The documented stories of the Oracle of Delphi, winning competitions amongst the others of its time, demonstrating a visual comprehension of the present and of the future in its riddles, should make us wonder if we should just dismiss it as a mere human invention. Because, if the Oracle was indeed real, what could that possibly mean to us?
My Oracle, as I later understood it, began in the evening of July 3rd, and ended in the early afternoon of July 4th, 2008. It, truly, changed my life, and my understanding of it. I believe that whoever comprehends what the presence of the Oracle reveals, will have a better life and a deeper understanding of it.
Ever since I read Socrates's account of the Oracle of Delphi I've wanted to go there. I was convinced the Oracle would speak to me as well. I was a young teenager then, so it was easy to dream. But at the age of forty, I was finally able to go.
I had envisioned myself entering a small open temple on top of a hill near the ocean, and imagined the answer to my question coming to me in the whisper of a soft breeze entering directly into my mind.
I didn't know then about the institution in Delphi, its priests and Pythia, and the treasuries. So when I learned that the Oracle was given inside the temple of Apollo, I imagined myself standing on its ruins facing the vast valley bellow. I envisioned the Oracle, the words, clear in my mind, the obvious answer in a riddle to an important question.
In July of 2008, I knew there was only one question I really needed to ask: "Should I quit my job or not?"
After teaching art for six happy years at a high school, I resigned to focus on my art. The school administrators didn't accept it, and asked me to think about it farther. I was leaving for Greece in a few weeks, so I told them that I will ask the oracle, that I will know what to do then.
The way the two bi-principals looked at me after I said that is something I will never forget! Suddenly, they realized I might be crazy and they never noticed it before.
I was traveling in a tour of twenty or so people with my friend Oscar.
Our bus arrived to the town of Delphi before six in the afternoon. It was July, so I knew we had at least three more hours of sunlight.
The hotel was located on the hills of mount Parnassus, which I admired all the way up from the road.
I told my friend Oscar that I was climbing the mountain as soon as we got there, even if it meant losing my dinner. It was the only time I could do it; the next day we had the tour of the site of Delphi in the morning and after lunch we continued our trip through Greece.
One of the ladies in the bus, Susan (picture), overheard me and asked if she could come with me. She's a lovely woman, athletic and easy to talk to, but I knew that if she came, we wouldn't make it to the top, which was my goal. But I could't say no.
We put our sneakers on and went up about half way to the top. The rocky and dry terrain was tiresome, and the sun was setting fast.
We stood there for a few minutes, in silence, admiring the beauty of that mountain chain and the valley bellow. A soft breeze made the brilliant light of the sun sail on the waving wheat, and a peaceful beauty overwhelmed us both.
"This is the best temple there is," I said. "No other could take you so directly to a soulful state like this."
I looked at Parnassus and said quietly to it, "You are the temple."
Of course, I didn't know then how important that would be the next day.
We climbed down right before dark, and were still able to eat some dinner.
Later on, a friend told me that when I didn't say no to Susan, I sacrificed my desire to make it to the top, and that was my unconscious offering to the oracle, which may indeed be still a requirement.
The sacrifice, as usual, turned out to be very rewarding.
The act of helping Susan climb up and down, and of pacing slower to respect her pace, while keeping her company all along, took me out of myself. The meaning of the word ecstasy is that, "out of the self and into the world." That simple, so the act alone made me feel more human and more connected to my surroundings.
What is most important, though, is that without Susan there, I probably wouldn't have verbalized that the mountain is the temple.
In Delphi, in turns out, every spoken word is special.
After dinner, people in the tour wanted to go out for drinks but I declined. I knew the next morning would be too important to mess up with it.
A Peruvian couple and their son didn't go out either, so we stayed at the hotel lounge conversing about religion and spirituality. They were Krishna, but lived a normal life without having to cut their hair or dress in orange clothes. We talked long enough for the party people to meet us again after their night out.
They sat with us for about ten minutes. One of the women, with whom I had not spoken yet, told me that her mother, who was in the tour as well, was Greek, and that she knew the language well.
"Sure," I said.
"It's Yorgo, which means 'Worker of the land'."
I thanked her for the information, and a short time after that we all retired to our rooms.
I thought it was interesting that my last name means "wheat field."
Together it would be "the worker of the wheat field."
I was in bed, falling asleep, at that moment when consciousness begins to give way to the subconscious. Suddenly, against the black of my inner mind, white lines formed the shapes of two tigers. One was larger than the other, and it had its pow raised. The small one seemed to kneel or sit in front of it. (This picture is a close replica of what I saw, even though I believe the tigers were more my own translation of those forms).
I sat up, impressed by the force with which the image came to mind and by its strangeness.
Knowing that I was half asleep, just shook my head and lay back down.
Probably five minutes later, another image assaulted me with unusual insistence. It was a red dot, as if made of dust, floating with an orange glow against the beige background of the mountain.
I got out of bed and stood in the dark room trying to figure out what was happening. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. Not once in my life I had gotten out of bed to ponder something that entered my mind in a quasi subconscious state, commanding so much attention.
When I couldn't find any meaning in them, I understood that they were for the next day, when I visit the oracle's site. I thought I had to be attentive to those shapes and those colors appearing somewhere, on a rock, on some sign, on somebody's t-shirt?
I went to sleep very intrigued by the unusual quality of theses visuals, and with a great expectation in my heart.
After breakfast, the tour bus took us up to the Delphi archeological site.
The plan was to visit the museum before the ruins, but too many buses were parked already in front of the entrance, so we were taken to the temple of Athena, to kill some time.
Not many people came down, so when I took this picture (right), I was alone.
What happened next was something that, again, I've never experienced before.
As I was about to walk by the temple of Athena, towards the bus, the air stopped me, literally.That's the only way I can describe it. I was walking back and something in the air or the air itself "physically" stopped me. So I stopped, astonished.
The temple, to my right, felt extremely quiet and heavy. I looked at it respectfully, acknowledging its unique roundness, trying to understand why I couldn't walk by it, yet.
The camera in my hands started to feel intrusive, out of place. I put it away and heard my self say: "I've waited for this day all my life. I can't be a tourist today." Then I looked at the temple and said: "From now on it is a meditation." I walked up in silence and spoke very little, and only with Oscar.
Later on I understood: I couldn't pass Athena's temple without asking for wisdom. She's, after all, Wisdom's goddess. I was rude and didn't ask, but she showed me. Her temple is at the base of the sanctuary for a reason. The pilgrim will reach it before Apollo's temple, to acquire the necessary wisdom to ask the right question and to interpret correctly the answer. And, in my case, to be able to actually hear the answer.
This museum turned out to be much more impressive than I had imagined. It has extraordinary sculptures such as the best portrait of Antinous I've ever seen, and the must intelligent and lively Hagias.
The Omphalos is also there (not the original, but a very old copy), which marked the navel of the Earth, or the center of the world, which was believed to be in Delphi.
I walked through the museum in silence, taking it all in, knowing that Oscar had been in the gallery of the Charioteer all this time.
Oscar had told me that only once he had experienced something that could be considered a mystical experience, which was when he saw the Charioteer at Delphi a decade ago. He and his friend Ivonne had been so touched by it that returned the next day to sit in silence for hours in his presence again.
My friend Donna, who doesn't know Oscar and didn't know about my conversation with him, told me basically the same thing a few days before my trip to Greece. She said that the only time she experienced what could be called mystical was when she saw the Charioteer.
I was, of course, very impressed by this, and my desire to see it grew stronger. Needless to say, I was in awe of it from the moment I was in its presence. I didn't even talk to Oscar, who was sitting near, until he stood up to leave. His friend Ivonne had told him: "I don't love the sculpture, I love him!"
It's so true! He's indeed fully alive, and what he shows us is something hard not to admire and fall in love with. He was to me everything that I admire in a human being. He's as humble as he's confident, disciplined as he's sensitive, athletic and fully present to the now, before the gods, before all.
What impressed me the most, though, were his eyes, so open, attentive and reverential, ready to act effectively if commanded, always looking straight ahead. This bronze cast is of the highest quality of its time, a gift of a Sicilian city to the gods in Delphi to honor its triumph in the chariot race. The actual young man may have influenced its creation, which could explain the interesting departure from the Archaic style of the time.
This sculpture is one of those rare examples of what art can do, that unexplainable mystery that elevates us and takes us farther. The pictures won't show why, I had seen this image many times before, and never understood its importance. It was only then, in its presence, as I walked around it with my heart in my throat, that I comprehended why anyone would be so completely mesmerized.
I've never seen a sculpture with such powerful and intriguing presence before, in its own way it's as hypnotizing as the Mona Lisa, and for the very same reasons.
The tour guide gathered us at the entrance of the archeological site. "We've lost some time," she said, "we only have thirty minutes here."
My heart dropped to the floor. How was I supposed to visit the temple of Apollo, see the theater of Dionysus, step on the race track, and receive the Oracle, in thirty minutes!
"We need at least an hour," I screamed.
"OK," she responded, "it's twelve fifteen. Everybody in the bus at one o'clock."
She looked at me and I consented.
I began to move up alone, without saying another word to anyone.
I passed the Athenian treasury, rushing a little, and began to panic, really afraid of not having enough time.
I had to calm my self down, and did it by accepting that, if something was going to happen there, it wasn't going to be of my own doing. I chose to trust the moment, to have faith.
I continued relaxed, in contemplation, always conscious of the ticking of time.
The temple of Apollo stood in ruins but still majestic against the impressive Parnassus, out of limits for visitors.
I understood then the importance of my verbalizing "the mountain is the temple" the prior evening. I would've been very disappointed if I expected to receive my oracle in the temple itself, as it was in ancient times.
When I approached the theatre of Dionysus, a young woman sang playfully to the amusement of some tourists seated on the stones, waiting to confirm the acoustics they've heard about.
When I stepped on the platform nobody waited for me to perform, but I felt the need to still say something, make a sound.
I stood at the center and opened my mouth to make a sound, to just hear it taken by the subtle air up the mountain, when an unexpected awareness of the impropriety of that act made me stop short.
Somehow I knew I shouldn't do it.
I felt the soft breeze on the side of my face, making its way up all the way from down beyond the ocean, to impel sounds to the ears of those gathered, maybe aware of the ritual. The importance of what was said, and how, in such a special place became apparent then, so I couldn't make a sound.
"It's a divine act to speak here," I thought. "I can't do it."
It became evident that the spoken word in this place has mythical importance. Delphi was a sanctuary for over a thousand years. There, if we respect the place, our movements and words are elicited by an impulse that comes from the earth.
I continued my walk, observant all the while, attentive to red and orange, and to the shapes of the tigers I saw the night before.
When I made it to the race track few people were in the area, and a welcomed silence reigned.
I had very little time, every move had to be right.
I saw the end of the track and there was no one there. I walked to it knowing that it was the farthest point from the entrance.
I paced around the stone marker with careful steps, aware of the air on my pores. I sat on it and looked at my watch. It was twelve fifty; I had less than ten minutes left, and I needed at least five to run down the site and make it back to the bus on time.
I closed my eyes and focused intensely, waiting for a whisper within my ears, or an image, a vision in my mind. Nothing happened for a short while.
Then, I saw a flash of the eyes of the Charioteer, wide open and alert.
"Open your eyes," I told myself.
I opened them, and saw a father and his son, of about five, walking towards me, conversing in Spanish.
I focused my attention straight ahead, trying to ignore their presence, so afraid of their interference that I didn't notice the colors they were wearing. Both of them wore beige safari hats and shorts, and the father had a red polo shirt on, larger than the orange one the son had on. That fact hit me later.
They stood at about ten feet to my right, quiet for a moment.
I most have had probably a minute left, when one of the most astonishing things occurred.
"Papa," said the boy, in such a way that the word itself, its sound, its vibration, held me, completely, and instantly. My body was literally held by his voice, so every molecule in my body responded to it, overwhelmed; remaining still.
"Este es un escorpion," ("This is a scorpion"), the boy continued.
"No es un escorpion" ("It's not a scorpion"), the father replied.
"Yo se que lo es" ("I know it is"), stated the boy, with absolute resolution.
"Entonces ten cuidado que no te pique" ("Then, be careful it doesn't bite you"), the father responded, without any concern at all.
"Ya me pico" ("it already did"), the boy replied.
In that instance I knew that that was my oracle.
I was born in November and have always been a very proud Scorpio. I've identified very much with its symbol and characteristics, since I am indeed the universal description of one.
The father knew there was no scorpion, otherwise he wouldn't have been so nonchalant. The boy was fantasizing, playing a mind game, moved to say it out loud.
What he said was my riddle. I had already resigned to my job, I had already decided it was best to leave. The oracle was telling me: "Your soul, the scorpio, already bit you, and there's nothing you can do. It's done."
I turned to look at them, in awe of what I heard and how I heard it, and what I saw was simply mind blowing.
The father was squatting on the ground, very close to the boy, ready to take a picture. The boy was kneeling on the ground, facing right into the lens. The father tilted the head to have a vertical picture, and by doing that, covered the black of the camera and his hair with his safari hat . The boy's face was mostly covered by the hat from my angle. All I saw then was red and orange against the beige, and their bodies were doing just what the tigers in my vision were doing.
When I saw them I knew, immediately, that that was exactly what the white lines were doing, not the tigers.
I saw tigers because my mind needed to give an image to those lines. It would have been really difficult to see the bodies of an older man an a boy squatting like that and make any sense out of them. I had to see the lions, that's an oriental image my brain was accustomed to.
But what is most amazing is that, regardless of the matching of their bodies with the visions the night before, I would have still known that that was my oracle by the power of the voice and my response, which was purely that of direct knowing.
The visual confirmation with the clues from the night before were just an astonishing icing on the cake.
And it didn't end there.
I ran down and stepped on the bus at one o'clock, on the dot. I thought that was amazing as well, the timing, the exactitude!
I didn't say much to Oscar during the five minute bus ride to the restaurant; I was still trying to catch my breath from the intense run down the site.
As we stepped off the bus, a woman in front of me conversed with the Greek mother of the woman at the hotel's lounge, who told me about my name. I heard her ask: "What's the name of the island of Onasis?"
"How trivial," I thought, "asking about celebrities in a place like this."
"Scorpion," the woman replied.
"She said 'scorpion'" I said out loud, to make it more real, to confirm that it happened.
At that instant, right when I said "scorpion" we were walking by the restaurant's host.
"Yorgo," he called, waving at a waiter standing at the door.
The words "scorpion" and "Yorgo" were said almost exactly at the same time, ten minutes after the boy had said that the scorpion had already bitten him!
What a reiteration!
Yorgo is Jorge, which I wouldn't have known unless in a random moment a random person told me. Yorgo is myself, and I am the scorpion that bit me. My own mind, my own soul, had made the decision already. That's what I understood when I heard it, but now it was official.
At the lunch table I raised my wine glass and said: "I'm living proof that the oracle is real."
Nobody asked me to elaborate. They just smiled and toasted.