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The Labors of Hercules - Labor VIII
Introduction

Again we find variations in the versions of the myth and we have no longer the myth statement by the Tibetan to guide us. The story that the ninth head was the immortal head seems ruled out by the Tibetan's plain statement that there were three times three, or nine tests. The version used by Francis Merchant in the myth seems more accurate, namely that nine heads were destroyed and then the mystical, immortal head appeared. Further, the statement that this great head was "buried under a rock", gives ground for much pondering. Perhaps the use of the phrase, "hidden under the rock of the will", is revealing. All versions state that it was so buried.

In some accounts it is stated that Hercules burned off the heads, and the divine fire would indeed be needed for this destruction. However, it is impossible to negate the powerful picture of the world disciple in this supreme test, sinking to his knees in humility and raising the monster (all the accumulated evils, mistakes, failures of his long past) into the air of the spirit, where by its very nature the hydra could not live, and so drooped and died. The use of the fire, in the preliminary effort, still keeps that symbol in the picture.

While sex, under the test of at-one-ment of opposites and the double rulership of Mars, has its special place, the over-emphasis of this one facet is not sufficiently inclusive. All pairs [143] of opposites are to be at-oned in this great sign, an advanced sign of the integrated, conscious disciple; not a sordid one of the unevolved man, as is often thought. Again, one must read carefully and distinguish between people on the ordinary wheel and disciples on the reversed wheel. All of which is submitted for the pondering of the reader, not with authority.

Psychological Analysis of the Myth

Hercules was told to find the nine-headed hydra that lived in a stench-drenched bog. This monster has its subjective counterpart. It dwells within the caverns of the mind. In the murk and mud of unlit mental recesses, it flourishes.

Deeply lodged within the subterranean regions of the subconscious, now quiescent and now bursting forth in tumultuous frenzy, the beast establishes permanent residence. Its existence is not easily discovered. A long time passes before the individual realizes that he is nourishing and sustaining so fierce a creature. The burning arrows of flaming aspiration must be discharged before its presence is revealed.

Fighting so formidable a foe is indeed a heroic task for a son of man even though he is also a son of God. Lop off one head, and another grows in its place. Every time a low desire or thought is overcome, others take its place.

Hercules does three things: he recognizes the existence of the hydra, searches patiently for it, and finally destroys it. Discrimination is needed to recognize its existence; patience, to discover its lair; humility, to bring slimy fragments of the subconscious to the surface, and expose them to the light of wisdom.

As long as Hercules fought in the bog, amid the mud, slime, and quicksand, he was unable to overcome the hydra. He had to raise the monster into the air; that is, translate his problem into another dimension, in order to solve it. In all humility, kneeling in the mud, he had to examine his dilemma in the light of wisdom and in the elevated atmosphere of searching [144] thought. From these considerations we may gather that the answers to many of our problems come only when a new focus of attention is achieved, a new perspective established.

One of the hydra's heads is immortal, we are told. This would imply that every difficulty, however terrible it may appear to be, contains a jewel of great value. No attempt to dominate the lower nature and discover that jewel is ever futile.

The immortal head, dissevered from the hydra's body, is buried beneath a rock. This implies that the concentrated energy which creates a problem still remains, purified, redirected, and increased after victory has been gained. Such power must then be rightly controlled and channeled. Beneath the rock of persistent will, the immortal head becomes a source of power.

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