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The Labors of Hercules - Labor I
The Sign

The sign Aries, which was the field of this first activity, is always spoken of as the first sign of the Zodiac. At this sign the great wheel begins its cyclic turning. It is, therefore, the sign of commencement. Cosmically speaking, it is the sign of creation, and this thought underlies the words in the Bible, "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," (Rev. XIII, 8) for this sign is called the sign of the Ram or of the Lamb. In the life of the human being it marks the beginning of the first subjective, latent consciousness of existence, and the start of the human being upon the circle of experience. In the life of the aspirant to discipleship it connotes the period of reorientation and of a renewed self-conscious effort, and his start upon that final stage of the evolutionary path which will carry him out of the human kingdom and enable him to make the transition into the kingdom of the gods. Such is the promise made to Hercules and such is the reward held out to all disciples. This first labor marks the first step upon the "path of translation".

Aries is the sign of outgoing power, of the streaming forth of divine energy from the central deity, God, or from the human being, a son of God. This energy streams forth in two directions (thus the point becomes the line, the One becomes the first): it streams forth into the world of forms, and also into the world of being or of spirit. One stream of energy expresses the path of return, of inward-going, and the two together constitute the two arcs of the great circle of existence. In this sign starts the path on which form is taken and dominates; on it likewise begins the life of inner unfoldment and the domination [32] of the soul, or of subjective Being. Reorganization, reorientation, repolarizing and regeneration, are the characteristics of this stage, and all of them are expressions of the same life force. The two uses of this force are dependent upon the mental attention of the being, divine and human, who is utilizing it. It is the same force, but used in two different ways, dependent upon whether the divine user has focused his attention upon form-taking, or upon treading the path of liberation from form.

For aeons, this life force has been applied to selfish ends, to the purposes of self-gratification and to the satisfaction of desire. Little by little form-life loses its attraction until, having passed around and around the zodiacal wheel, the man finds himself back again in Aries, only this time with a new focus, a fresh interest and a different vision. He has had held before him the promise that, having achieved certain objectives, he may cease from incarnating and attain the kingdom of the gods; he has learned from experience something of his own essential duality and yearns to cease from satisfying the lower aspect of that duality and to meet the need of the higher, and he is beginning to respond to impulses coming from the world of souls, and to vision group ends and group objectives. Now he has to learn to use the life force with unselfish intent, and not for the satisfaction of his personal greeds.

The Three Initial Impulses in Aries

Three outstanding urges characterize this sign. There is, as we have seen, the urge to begin. This may express itself simply as the urge to take form, to become involved in matter; or it may reverse the process and focus itself in the urge to achieve liberation from form, and the emergence of the soul from the prison of the form nature. Then this urge is followed by the consequent urge to create, that activity of the Deity which results in the formation of worlds of expression and satisfies His desire to incarnate in a solar system, and to begin the great [33] life cycle of the universe. It may be likewise the urge to individual creation, of the soul to take a body, or of a human being to create something which shall be specially his own. In ancient Accadian days, this sign Aries was called that "wherein the sacrifice of righteousness was made," or the sign of "the fallen angels". The sons of God, impelled by this basic urge, fell from their high estate, took form, and started upon their individual round upon round of the Zodiac.

Thirdly, we find the urge to resurrection. In Aries, which has seen the beginning of form life and which has initiated the creative work, there begins to be felt the urge to achieve freedom from the form, to roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre of the soul, and to stand in the liberty of the sons of God. In Aries is found the impulse which leads to the building of the form, which for ages will constitute the prison house of the soul. This reaches its mass form in Cancer, and its human form in Leo; the densest point of illusion in form is reached in Scorpio, and in Pisces the form dies, only to be rebuilt again in the wearying round of form experience. But in this sign the Way of Liberation is first sensed, and the building of the spiritual body is begun. This is the sign of germinal spiritual activity, which later leads to the birth of the Christ child, in Virgo, to that of the world Savior, in Capricorn and in Pisces. Physical commencement and spiritual commencement, physical creation and spiritual creation, physical emergence and spiritual liberation: these are the initial impulses sensed in Aries.

It is the sign, therefore, of strong and potent impulses, and of violent fluctuations and exaggerated efforts; often a sign of failure, but always of ultimate success. In its opposite sign, Libra, it reaches its consummation of balance and of equilibrium, for the intervening experience and the lessons learned from the intermediate five labors bring about that poise and balanced attitude which we shall note in Hercules when he captures the Boar, in Libra.... [34]

In the Brahmanical zodiac, Vishnu presides over Aries and Vishnu is the second person of the Hindu Trimurti, or the cosmic Christ in incarnation, as he initiates the process of form-taking, and ultimately brings about the final episode of resurrection. Thus Vishnu or Christ embodies the two urges, the urge to create and build form and the urge to liberation, or resurrection out of form. It is under this urge to liberation that Hercules starts upon his labors.

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