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The Labors of Hercules - Labor I
The Sign of the Mind

Aries governs the head. It is consequently the sign of the thinker and, therefore, a powerful mental sign. All beginnings originate on the mental plane and in the mind of the creator, whether that creator is God or the soul of man. This universe had its origin in the thought of God, the cosmic Thinker. The soul started its career in matter through the same process of thought. The human family, the fourth kingdom in nature, came into being when mind emerged and differentiated man from the animals. The aspirant begins his labors when he truly becomes the thinker, and in full awareness proceeds to function as the arbiter of his own destiny....
It is apparent, consequently, that in Aries right direction and right orientation have their beginning, and Hercules, the newly-thinking disciple, begins his work. The key to this labor and to the significance of the sign is to be found in the words of an ancient Indian scripture: "Man does not rightly know the way to the heavenly world, but the horse does rightly know it." In the very ancient days in India, the horse sacrifice was linked with the sun god, and, yearly, we are told, the sun god, as the zodiacal horse, was supposed by the Vedic Aryans to die to save all flesh. The sun chariot of Apollo is depicted as drawn by horses, and the "princely sign of the Ram" is closely connected with the horse symbology, a fact to which this first labor bears witness.

Reference to books on symbology will show us that the horse [35] stands for intellectual activity. The white horse symbolizes the illumined mind of the spiritual man, and so we find in the Book of Revelations that Christ comes forth riding upon a white horse. Black horses represent the lower mind, with its false ideas and erring human concepts. The brood mares, such as we meet in this first labor, indicate the feminine aspect of the mind as it gives birth to ideas, to theories and to concepts. The thought-form making tendency of the mind is here symbolized, embodying the ideas conceived, and which are let loose upon the world, devastating and destroying when emanating from the lower mind, but constructing and saving when coming from the soul.

The exoteric ruler of this sign is Mars, the god of war, and so Hercules, acting under the right direction of thought and beginning his work on the mental plane, takes his stand as the warrior. His outstanding characteristic in this sign is the pioneering, militant spirit. The mares were in the possession of Diomedes, the son of Mars. (But the esoteric ruler is Mercury, which "illumines the mind and mediates between the soul and the personality.")

Constellations in Aries

As is usual, there are three constellations connected with Aries. First, there is Cassiopeia, the Enthroned Queen, the symbol always of matter. It is most interesting to note how in the circle of the Zodiac we come across three women. In connection with Aries, the sign of commencement, we find Cassiopeia, the Dominant Woman. Woman and Child and as we shall later see, mother-matter is the nurturer of the infant Christ, the Virgin Mary gives birth to Jesus. In Pisces, at the close of the great round, we find Andromeda, the Chained Woman. First the woman enthroned and dominant, then the woman caring for the infant, Christ, and then the woman, representing matter that has been dominated and controlled. Cassiopeia will be found seated on the Arctic Circle, close to [36] Cepheus the King,or Lawgiver, whom we shall meet later as one of the three constellations in Pisces. At the commencement, Law; at the close, Law; for Cepheus has a close relation with the first and the last sign of the Zodiac. It is interesting to note that Mahomet, the founder of the most militant religion, was born in this sign, and legend says that Moses also was born in it; Moses, the lawgiver, and Mahomet, the warrior.

The problem of Hercules, as he enters upon his labors, is to demonstrate his power over matter and form, and so he has to recognize Cassiopeia from the very beginning, the hitherto enthroned queen.

The second constellation is Cetus, the Sea Monster, the Enemy of Little Fishes ... One of the great symbols of the soul is the fish swimming in the ocean of matter, and Cetus, the sea monster, is the symbol of what we call evil, that seeks to destroy the soul in incarnation. The sea monster, in the ocean of existence, and the enthroned queen, spoke to Hercules of the magnitude of his problem, but the third constellation spoke to him of victory. Perseus is the third of the three constellations, called in the zodiac of Denderah, in Egypt, "the one who subdues"; sometimes called "the breaker", that which can chain the enthroned woman, and that which can conquer the monster. We are told that Perseus possessed the helmet of invisibility, the sandals of swiftness, the buckler of wisdom and the sword of the spirit. Thus Hercules saw himself reflected in the heavens, and as he started upon the capture of the man-eating mares, he discovered in himself the guarantee of his ultimate achievement, even though at the time the difficulties with which he was faced seemed insuperable.

The Crux of the Test

The conquest of matter and the overcoming of illusion loomed large before Hercules and indicated from the very outset of the twelve labors the nature of his final achievement. It has been said that the keynote of the sign Aries is hope [37] and as he faced his twelve labors, hope was all the guarantee that Hercules then had that he would achieve. Hope, his untried divine equipment, his personal club, and much enthusiasm: so start all disciples.

The meaning of the test is now surely plain. Hercules had to begin in the world of thought to gain mental control. For ages the brood mares of thought had been breeding war horses and, through wrong thought, wrong speech and erroneous ideas, had been devastating the countryside. One of the first lessons that every beginner has to learn is the tremendous power that he mentally wields, and the amount of harm that he can cause in his neighborhood and environment through the brood mares of his mind. He has, therefore, to learn the right use of his mind, and the first thing that he has to do is capture this feminine aspect of the mind and see to it that no more war horses are bred. Any would-be Hercules can easily prove that he possesses these devastating brood mares, if for one entire day he pays close attention to his thoughts and to the words he speaks, which are ever the result of thought. He will rapidly discover that selfishness, unkindness, love of gossip, and criticism constitute a large part of his thought content and that the brood mares of his mind are constantly being fertilized by selfishness and illusion. Instead of these brood mares giving birth to ideas and concepts which have their origin in the kingdom of the soul, and instead of being fertilized from the spiritual realm, they become the parents of error, falseness and cruelty, which have their origin in the lower aspects of man's nature.

Hercules realized the harm that the brood mares were doing. He rushed gallantly to the rescue of his neighborhood. He determined to capture the brood mares, but he over-estimated himself. He did succeed in rounding them up and in capturing them, but he failed to realize their potency and strength, so he gave them to Abderis, the symbol of the lower personal self, to hold. But Hercules, the soul, and Abderis, the personality [38] in unison were needed to guard these devastating horses. Abderis alone was not strong enough, and what had been happening to the people in the neighborhood, happened to Abderis; they killed him. This is an instance of the working of the great law that we pay the price in our own natures of wrongly spoken words and ill-judged actions. Again the soul, in the person of Hercules, had to deal with the problem of wrong thought, and only, when he becomes a one-pointed aspirant in the sign Sagittarius and in that sign kills the Man-Eating Birds, does he really attain complete control of the thought processes of his nature.

The practical significance of the power of thought has been well expressed for us in the words of Thackeray: "Sow a thought, and reap an action. Sow an action, and reap a habit. Sow a habit, and reap character. Sow character and reap destiny."

The two keywords of the sign Aries are: (From Esoteric Astrology, Volume III of A Treatise on the Seven Rays, p. 108. Received three years after A.A.B. gave the Hercules lectures in New York.)

  1. "And the Word said: Let form again be sought." (The Man).
  2. "I come forth and from the plane of mind, I rule." (The Initiate). [38]
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