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The Labors of Hercules - Labor I
The Meaning of the Myth

In combining this astrological and symbolic story with the everyday life and tests of modern discipleship, we shall tell the story of the task which Hercules undertook, and the test to which King Eurystheus subjected him; and then we shall study [29] the significance of the sign in which it took place, for there is a close link between the two, and the labor only became possible because of the characteristics conferred upon Hercules in that particular sign. Each sign subjects the man who is working in it to the influence of certain distinctive forces, and provides him with certain tendencies. These we must understand if the meaning of the test is to emerge.

Connected with each sign of the Zodiac will be found three other constellations, which symbolically (and often in a most amazing fashion) embody the disciple's problem and indicate the solution. These we shall have to consider, for the labor, the sign, and the allied constellations with the forces let loose through their combination, constitute a complete story which is full of instructive elements. I would like to point out for the sake of clarity, therefore, that the constellations symbolize the threefold spirit aspect; that the sign gives us the field of activity of the soul, and that the labor portrays the work of the disciple, living on the physical plane and endeavoring to demonstrate on the battlefield of the world his innate divinity and latent powers. In these three we have spirit, soul and body summarized. Life, consciousness and form meet in Hercules, the personal self, who, acting under the influence of the soul, the indwelling Christ, carries out the purposes of the Spirit, the Father in Heaven. We shall next consider the relationship of sign and constellations, and close each chapter with a definite application of the story of the test to the life of a disciple and to that of humanity as a whole.

In studying the twelve labors, we follow the career of Hercules as he passes around the Zodiac from the sign Aries, which is the sign of commencement, through Taurus, Gemini, etc. (anti-clockwise) to Pisces, the sign of death and of consummation. This will be in the reverse manner to that of the apparent path of the sun (clockwise) which is begun in Aries and appears then to retrograde through the signs, passing into Pisces, and then to Aquarius, and so on through all the intervening [30] signs, back again to Aries. The man who is immersed in form and is living under the influence of the matter aspect follows necessarily the path of illusion and of appearances; but Hercules, the soul, follows the true Way, reverses the usual procedure and, figuratively speaking, goes against the tide. Hercules, the awakened soul, is realizing the day of opportunity. He has received his instructions to undertake the twelve labors and demonstrate his capacities, and has been promised that if he fulfils the requirements he will be translated into the kingdom of the gods. He has been equipped with all divine powers, though, as yet, he does not know how to use them, and he has hewn out for himself the club of his own endeavor, and with these he symbolically mounts the cross: the fixed cross of the heavens, upon which he remains in spirit until the last labor has been accomplished.

Thus he sets out on his first labor, little realizing the magnitude of his task, and unprepared for failure. The delightful part of the story of Hercules is his impulsiveness and the fact that he was not always successful. He failed sometimes and had to redo the labor until success followed on his efforts.

He is told that Diomedes, the son of Mars, the god of war, possesses a large number of brood mares. These were running wild, devastating the countryside, doing much damage and subsisting on the flesh of human beings. No one was safe from them and terror had settled down on the neighborhood. Besides this, these brood mares were breeding great numbers of war horses, and Diomedes was very concerned with the outcome of the situation. Eurystheus, the King, ordered Hercules to capture them. Many attempts had been made to do so, but always the mares had escaped after killing the horses and men sent against them. But Hercules, having caught the horses, gave them to Abderis to hold, whilst he strutted on ahead, not realizing the strength of the horses, nor their savagery. Before he could take steps to prevent it, the mares turned on Abderis and trampled him to death, and again escaped and started [31] anew to ravage the countryside. So he had to start his labor all over again, and after strenuous efforts he again succeeded in capturing the mares. This first labor, therefore, starts with a partial failure, as is so often the case with the inexperienced and impetuous aspirant. Such is the story, brief, dramatic and encouraging. What of the sign in which it was undertaken?

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