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The Labors of Hercules - The Purpose of this Study
Foreword
The Purpose of this Study

The intense interest evinced at this time in the subject of the spiritual life is in itself the warrant for such a study as this series of articles purposes. In defiance of the fact that academic and theological religion has no longer its ancient appeal and in spite of the revolt against organized religion, the urge towards spiritual realities has never been so keen as now. The day of empirical experience on a large scale is now with us, and men and women everywhere are refusing any longer to believe and blindly accept, because they are determined to know. Acceptance of imposed dogmas is now giving place to experiment, and a divine self-determination, based on a realized unity with the Life in which we live and move and have our being, is taking the place of credulity and superstition.

The problem of every teacher today is to discover new ways in which to express the old truths, and so present the ancient formulas for spiritual development that they will acquire new and vivid life. In both hemispheres there have been many books written on the subject of the Path of Discipleship, the Path of Holiness, and the Path of Illumination. The restatement of the problems of that universal Path and of its inherent difficulties is not warranted unless the application can be modern and practical. It must indicate the inclusiveness of the goal, once those problems have been surmounted, and must avoid the tiresome reiteration of that basic rule of life, which has been expressed in the two words: "Be good". Again and again we have been told that we must overcome the lure of the world, the flesh and the devil. There has been built up in the mind of the western aspirant a feeling that the Path is necessarily one of misery, of self-abnegation and of endless distress. His attitude is one of active endurance until such time as he mysteriously and miraculously breaks through into a world of peace and plenty, wherein all troubles come to an end, the [4] flesh ceases to annoy, and the devil comes to an untimely end. And this as the reward of a meek submission to the will of an inscrutable creator.

There is, however, dawning on the human consciousness, a growing realization of innate divinity and that man is in very truth made in the image of God, and one in nature with his Father in Heaven. The idea of purpose and of plan is being grasped, and the entire attitude of the aspirant towards life is rapidly changing. Surely it should now be possible to gain such a synthetic picture of the progress of the soul from ignorance to wisdom, from material desire to spiritual achievement that the end may be visioned from the beginning and intelligent cooperation with soul purpose take the place of blind endeavor? When this comes about, the pilgrim can proceed upon his way with his face turned towards the light, and irradiated with joy.

The story of the dramatic experiences of that great and ancient Son of God, Hercules or Herakles, will be found to give us just such a synthetic picture. It leaves untouched no phase in the life of the aspirant and yet links him up with cosmic enterprise. Its theme will be found to be so inclusive that all of us, struggling in our present modern life, can make application to ourselves of the tests and trials, the failures and achievements of this heroic Figure, who strove, centuries ago, towards the same goal as we do. Through a reading of his story, fresh interest may be evoked in the mind of the bewildered aspirant, and such a picture painted of universal sequential development and destiny that he will go forward with fresh courage.

We shall trace the story of Hercules and endeavor to show how he, in his twelve labors, played the part of the aspirant upon the Path of Discipleship. On it, he undertook certain tasks, symbolic in nature, and passed through certain episodes and events which portray for all time the nature of the training and attainments which characterize the man who is nearing liberation. He stands for the incarnated, yet not perfected, Son [5] of God, who definitely takes the lower nature in hand and willingly subjects it to the discipline which will eventually produce the emergence of divinity. Out of an erring but sincerely earnest human being, intelligently aware of the work to be accomplished, a World Savior is formed.

Two great and dramatic stories have been held constantly before the eyes of men down the ages. In the twelve labors of Hercules, that Path of Discipleship is depicted, and his experiences preparatory to the great concluding cycle of Initiation meet with a ready response from every aspiring man. In the life and work of Jesus the Christ, that radiant and perfected Son of God, who "has entered for us within the veil, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps", we have portrayed the five stages of the Path of Initiation, which are the climaxing episodes for which the twelve labors have prepared the disciple.

The oracle has spoken, and down the ages the word has sounded forth: Man, know thyself. This knowledge is the outstanding attainment upon the Path of Discipleship, and the reward of all the work done by Hercules.

 

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