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The Labors of Hercules - Labor VIII
The Nine Heads of the Hydra

The task assigned to Hercules had nine facets. Each head of the hydra represents one of the problems that beset the courageous person who seeks to achieve mastery of himself. Three of these heads symbolize the appetites associated with sex, comfort and money. The second triune group concerns the passions of fear, hatred and desire for power. The last three heads represent the vices of the unillumined mind: pride, separativeness and cruelty. (See Esoteric Astrology, p. 205 et seq.)

The dimensions of the task which Hercules undertook are thus plainly apparent. He had to learn the art of transmuting the energies that so frequently precipitate human beings into catastrophic tragedies. The nine forces which have wrought unspeakable havoc among the sons of men since the beginning of time had to be redirected and transmuted.

Men today are still striving to achieve what Hercules succeeded in accomplishing. Problems arising out of the misuse [145] of the energy known as sex engage our attention on every hand. The love of comfort, luxury and outer possessions still grows apace. The pursuit of money as an end instead of a means shrinks the lives of countless men and women. Thus, the task of destroying the first three heads continues to challenge the powers of mankind thousands of years after Hercules accomplished his extraordinary feat.

The three qualities of character that Hercules had to express were humility, courage and discrimination: humility, to see his plight objectively and recognize his shortcomings; courage, to attack the monster that lay coiled at the roots of his nature; discrimination, to discover a technique for dealing with his mortal foe.

Uncovering the cesspool of base desires and egotistical urges that fester in the subconscious nature has been the work of modern psychoanalysis. The latter technique brings the unsavory data of repressed impulses to the surface, it is true, but often stops at that point. The individual realizes that a monster lies concealed in the subterranean areas of consciousness, yet feels baffled and bewildered in trying to deal with this formidable enemy.

Hercules invokes a brighter light than that of the analyzing mind. He seeks to raise his problem to a higher dimension, not to stir endlessly in the slough of the subconscious. Endeavoring to see his dilemma in the light of that wisdom which we name the soul, he confronts it from a new angle of vision. By so doing, he breaks the hydra's grip, and eventually subdues the beast.

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