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The Labors of Hercules - Labor VIII
Fighting the Hydra: Modern Version

A consideration of the nine problems that confront the person in this day and age who seeks to slay the hydra, should shed light on the strange forces at work in that keg of explosive, the human mind. [146]

  1. Sex. Victorian prudishness and psychoanalytical prurience are both undesirable. Sex is an energy. It can be inhibited, unrestrainedly exercised, or sublimated. Repression or inhibition are no true solutions; promiscuity coarsens life, and makes a man a slave of a master passion. Sublimation involves the use of the energy of sex in creative endeavor.
    The transmutation of human energies opens up a field of speculation and experiment. In physical science, the energy of motion can be transformed into electricity, and that of heat into movement. To what extent, then, can human energies be redirected? First of all, the energy of matter, represented by food, is obviously used to produce that of motion. Can the impelling energy of the emotions analogously be rechannelled into the activity of thought? Can the energy of seething passions find expression as aspiration? Can the drives and compulsions of human nature be so transmuted that they become beneficent powers? Can the energy that produces thought be utilized as the power of synthesis that results in a sense of identification with all living things?
    The experience of Hercules indicates that such possibilities exist, and that he who would subdue the hydra of the passions and the separative mind must solve problems of this nature.
  2. Comfort. An eternal sense of dissatisfaction spurs man to ever greater heights of achievement. Comfort is often a brake upon such striving. Clogged down with possessions and blunted by the beguiling sense of comfort, the spirit wilts and fades. The prisoner of comfort sinks back in apathy, forgetting the struggles and trials that temper the keen blade of spiritual striving. The will to search, the impelling drive to solve the mystery in the acorn of life, is alien to the narcissistic inclination to make comfort a central motive in life.
  3. Money. The accumulation of money is a master passion that lies behind the activities of people and nations. Ethical and human values are disregarded in the mad endeavor to gather power-conferring gold. Inevitably, choices are determined [147] by money considerations rather than by spiritual convictions or ethical principles. The urge to accumulate wealth is insatiable. No matter how much a person may have, he still avidly craves more.
    A crippling effect of this form of mental distortion is self-centeredness. The individual suffering from this affliction too often wishes to receive everything and to give nothing. The state of the universe is determined for him by what he succeeds in acquiring. He regards himself as a terminal point, and acknowledges no responsibility to confer on others the benefits he himself has received.
    Are not intellectual riches and spiritual treasure aspects of wealth that should claim our efforts? They may be shared with all, and he who gives away all he has, finds himself richer than he was before. The urge to acquire material goods may some day be transmuted into the desire to amass knowledge and the will to acquire the jewels of the spirit.
  4. Fear. In countless ways the phantoms of fear torment the sons of men. These illusory shapes perplex and frighten them, acting as shackles on their feet and a millstone around their necks. Many people cower cravenly when haunted by the harrowing fears of ridicule, failure, the unknown, old age, chance and death.
    Can these fears be eliminated? The experience of Hercules suggests that they can be overcome by raising consciousness to a higher point of integration. When a person's life is refocused about a higher purpose, the threatening shadows of fear are pressed back to the periphery of thought. As long as the indeterminate monsters of fear prowl in the twilight of the subconscious, they will have the power to blanch the cheek and turn the heart to ice.
    A soldier, intent on defeating the enemy, risks life itself. A mother, snatching her child from danger, forgets her own fears. The motorist, hurtling down a highway at breakneck speed, jeopardises life and limb for the sake of adventure. These [148] persons have focused their attention above the point where fear is found. The spiritually-oriented individual has centered his thought at a level too rarefied for fear to reach.
  5. Hatred. Hate is rooted in negation. It is the opposite of the desire for union. Raised to a higher dimension, hate is transmuted into the repudiation of all that is unreal. When hate is divested of all emotional content, it can become an energy that causes a man to reject the form for the sake of the life which animates it. Upon the lower arc, it is assuredly destructive; upon the higher, when thoroughly purified, it may be seen as the obverse side of love.
  6. Desire for power. During the past few hundred years man has released the energy of power far more than that of love. The result is imbalance and disequilibrium. Power, when unrelated to love, is a corrupting force. Many tragedies in human relations result from the uncontrolled desire to dominate the lives of others, to prescribe and regulate their conduct. He who substitutes, power considerations for ethical principles engenders perpetual strife. The high ideals that have served as beacons over the centuries, brotherhood, cooperation, idealism, glow dimly as long as power is the determining factor in society.
    When transmuted, however, the will to power becomes the will to achieve and the will to sacrifice. The harsh, self-centered will is transformed into a distributing agent of beneficent gifts. Then, indeed, power serves love and love glorifies power.
  7. Pride. The walls built by pride incarcerate a man more securely than prison bars. Fastened by the heavy chains of self-exalting thoughts, he looks at other human beings with condescension. Thus he weakens the link that binds all men together in indissoluble brotherhood. Setting himself apart, he steps further and further beyond the circle of human sympathies.
    Hercules falls to his knees as he struggles with the hydra, symbolizing in this posture the spirit of humility that must be [149] attained. The exaltation of personality inclinations must be replaced by the expression of self-sacrificing tendencies.
  8. Separativeness. The analytical mind divides and subdivides, prizing the part above the whole. Greater emphasis is placed upon the indications of diversity than on the over-arching fact of unity. Such fragmented thinking militates against the impulse toward synthesis.
    The separative attitude is more conscious of the differences between men than of the similarities; it conceives of religion as a series of antagonistic units rather than a single expression of spiritual impulse; it considers the opposition of classes in society to be more important than the common humanity that makes men brothers; it views the earth as a series of disparate nations, rather than as one world.
    Hercules had to see the hydra as one monster, not a beast with nine different heads. As long as he sought to dissever the heads, one by one, he remained unsuccessful. When he finally dealt with it as a unit, he gained the victory.
  9. Cruelty. The satisfaction men experience in hurting others is a testimony to the existence of evil tendencies that corrode the mind. Delight in causing suffering to our fellow men is a disease. This ugly head of the hydra must be destroyed once and for all before a man can declare himself to be humanised. Modern life offers many examples of brutality and wanton cruelty. In many families sensitive children are taunted, ridiculed and disparaged by those who refuse to take the trouble to understand them; husbands and wives are daily proclaiming to the world in divorce appeals that they are victims of mental torture; the courts and hospitals produce cumulative evidence of the irrational pleasure which human beings take in tormenting each other. "We do it for thrills," said a teenage gangster lately, "not for money".
    When this monster cruelty is held high in the air in the light of reason and compassion, it loses its power. The task of translating [150] the energy of cruelty into that of active compassion still remains. In two tests Hercules "killed" when he should have loved, but in Scorpio he achieved this transformation, rooting out of his own nature a tendency which would have crippled him in every future undertaking.

Such is the achievement of Hercules, psychologically speaking, in this labor. He has admitted light into the dark recesses of the subconscious, grappled with the monstrous forces that wallow in subliminal slime, and has overcome the enemies of his own household. A cleansing process has taken place, and Hercules is now ready to embark upon the next labor in which he will have to demonstrate his ability to control the powers and potencies of the mind.

F.M.

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