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The Labors of Hercules - Labor III - Part 1

Gathering the Golden Apples of the Hesperides - Part 1
(Gemini, May 21st - June 20th)

The Myth

The great Presiding One, within the Council Chamber of the Lord, had watched the labors of the son of man who is a son of God. He and the Teacher saw the third great Gate, opening before the son of man, revealing a new chance to tread the Way. They noted how the laborer arose and prepared to enter on his task.
"Send out the word to guard the sacred tree. Let Hercules unfold the power to search without discouragement, deception or too great a speed. Let perseverance now be called upon. He has done well so far."
And thus the word went forth.

Far in a distant country grew the sacred tree, the tree of wisdom, and on it grew the golden apples of the Hesperides. The fame of these sweet fruits had gone to distant lands, and all the sons of men who knew themselves to be likewise the sons of God desired them. Hercules, too, knew of these fruits, and when the word went forth to seek for them he sought the Teacher, asking Him the way to go and find the sacred tree and pick the apples.
"Tell me the way, O Teacher of my soul. I seek the apples and I need them quickly for my use. Show me the quickest way and I will go!"
"Not so, my son", replied the Teacher, "the way is long. Two things alone I will confide to you, and then it is for you to prove the truth of what I say. Remember that the sacred tree is [55] guarded well. Three maidens fair cherish the tree, protecting well its fruit. A dragon with one hundred heads protects the maidens and the tree. Guard thyself well from strength too great for thee, from wiles too subtle for thy comprehension. Watch well. The second thing that I would say to thee is that thy search will carry thee where five great tests will meet thee on the Way. Each will afford thee scope for wisdom, understanding, skill and opportunity. Watch well. I fear, my son, that you will fail to recognize these points upon the Way. But time alone will show; God speed thee in thy search."

With confidence, because success nor failure held for him a claim, Hercules went forth upon the Way, sure of himself, his wisdom and his strength. Through the third Gate he passed, going due north. Throughout the land he passed, seeking the sacred tree, but found it not. All men he met he questioned, but none could guide him on his way; none knew the place. Time passed, yet still he sought, wandering from place to place and returning oft upon his steps to the third Gate. Sad and discouraged, still he sought on every hand.
The Teacher, watching from afar, sent Nereus to see if he could aid. Time and again he came, in varying form and with differing words of truth, but Hercules responded not, nor knew him for the messenger he was. Skilled though he was in speech and wise with the deep wisdom of a son of God, Nereus failed, for Hercules was blind. He did not recognize the help so subtly proffered. Returned at length with sadness to the Teacher, Nereus spoke of failure.
"The first of the five lesser tests is passed," replied the Teacher, and failure marks this stage. Let Hercules proceed."
Finding no sacred tree upon the northern way, Hercules turned towards the south and in the place of darkness continued with his search. At first he dreamed of quick success, but Antaeus, the serpent, met him on that way and wrestled with him, overcoming him at every point. [56]
"He guards the tree," said Hercules, "this I was told, so near him must be the tree. I must break down his guard and, thus destroying him, break down and pluck the fruit." Yet, wrestling with much strength, he conquered not.
"Where lies my fault?" said Hercules. "Why can Antaeus conquer me? E'en when an infant I destroyed a serpent in my cot. With my own hands I strangled it. Why fail I now?"
Wrestling again with all his might, he grasped the serpent with both hands, lifting it high in air, away from off the ground. And lo! the deed was done: Antaeus, vanquished, spoke:
"I come again in different guise at the eighth Gate. Prepare again to wrestle."
The Teacher, gazing from afar, saw all that happened, and to the great Presiding One who sits within the Council Chamber of the Lord he spoke, reporting on the deed.
"The second test is passed. The danger is surmounted. Success at this point marks his way."
And the great Presiding One replied: "Let him proceed."

Happy and confident, Hercules went on, sure of himself and with new courage for the search. Now to the west he turned himself and, turning thus, he met disaster. He entered without thought upon the third great test and failure met him and for long delayed his steps.
For there he met Busiris, the great arch-deceiver, son of the waters, of close kin to Poseidon. His is the work to bring delusion to the sons of men through words of seeming wisdom. He claims to know the truth and with quickness they believe. He speaks fair words saying:
"I am the teacher. To me is given knowledge of the truth and sacrifice for me. Accept the way of life through me. I know, but no-one else. My truth is right. All other truth is wrong and false. Hark to my words; stay with me and be saved."
And Hercules obeyed, and daily weakened on [57] the early way (third test) seeking no further for the sacred tree. His strength was sapped. He loved, adored Busiris, and accepted all he said. Weaker from day to day he grew, until there came a day when his loved teacher bound him to an altar and kept him bound throughout a year.
Suddenly one day, when struggling to be free, and slowly seeing Busiris for what he was, words spoken long ago by Nereus came to his mind:
"Truth lies within yourself. There is a higher power and strength and wisdom in yourself. Turn inwards and there evoke the strength which is, the power which is the heritage of all the sons of men who are the sons of God."
Silent lie lay a prisoner on the altar, bound to its corners four for one whole year. Then, with the strength which is the strength of all the sons of God, he broke his bonds, seized the false teacher (who had seemed so wise) and bound him to the altar in his place. He spoke no word, but left him there to learn.
The watching Teacher, from afar, noted the moment of release, and turning to Nereus said:
"The third great test is passed. You taught him how to meet it and in due time he profited. Let him go forward on the Way and learn the secret of success.

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