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The Labors of Hercules - Labor III - Part 2
The Three Symbolic Constellations

The three constellations to be found in connection with the sign are Lepus, the Hare, Canis Major and Canis Minor, and in their interrelation and in their with Hercules, the aspirant, the whole story of the human being is again most strikingly portrayed. In Canis Major we find Sirius, the Dog Star, called in many old books "the leader of the entire heavenly host", for it is ten or twelve times brighter than any other star of the first magnitude. Sirius has always been associated with great heat, hence we have the phrase of "the dog days" in the middle of the summer, when the heat is supposed to be greatest. From the standpoint of the occultist, Sirius is of profound significance. "Our God is a consuming fire", and Sirius is the symbol of the universal soul as well as of the individual soul. It is therefore, esoterically considered, the star of initiation. In the language of symbology we are told, there comes a moment when a star blazes forth before the initiate, signifying his realization of his identity with the universal soul, and this he suddenly glimpses through the medium of his own soul, his own star.

Canis Major is the immortal Hound of Heaven, that chases forever the lesser Dog, the underdog, the man in physical incarnation. This chase has been immortalised for us by Francis Thompson in The Hound of Heaven.

"I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong feet that followed, followed after." [69]

In the zodiac of Denderah, this star is called Apes, the head. We are told (in the appendix, p. 1518, of the Companion Bible) that the brightest star in Canis Major is Sirius, the Prince, called in Persian, the Chieftain. There are three other stars in the same constellation: one is called "the announcer", another the "shining one," and the third, "the glorious", all of them phrases emphasizing the magnificence of Canis Major and, esoterically, the wonder and the glory of the higher self.

In Canis Minor, the "underdog", the same writing tells us that the name of the brightest star signifies, "redeemer", that the next brightest is "the burden bearer" or "the one who bears for others". We have, therefore, in the significance of these two names, a portrayal of Hercules, as he works out his own salvation and as he bears the great burden of Atlas and learns the meaning of service.

Lepus, the Hare, associated with these two constellations, contains a star of the most intense crimson color, almost like a drop of blood. Red is ever the symbol of desire for material things. In the zodiac of Denderah, the name given is Bashtibeki, which means "falling confounded". Aratus, writing about 250 B.C., speaks of Lepus as being "chased eternally", and it is interesting to note that the Hebrew names of some of the stars found in this constellation signify "the enemy of the Coming One", which is the meaning of the name of the brightest star, Arneb; whilst three other stars have names meaning "the mad", "the bound", "the deceiver". All these words are characteristics of the lower self chased eternally by the higher self; the human soul pursued by the Hound of Heaven.

As we look at the starry heavens at night and locate Sirius, the Dog Star, the story of our past, present and future is dramatically pictured. We have the story of our past in Lepus, the Hare, fleet of foot, deceived, mad, bound to the wheel of life, identified with the matter aspect, and ever the enemy of "The Coming Prince". In Canis Minor, we have the story of the aspirant, of our present lot. Dwelling within us is the inner [70] ruler, the hidden divinity, the redeemer. We go forth conquering and to conquer, but we have to do it as the burdened disciple, bearing for others and serving. In Canis Major we have portrayed our future and a consummation, glorious beyond all present realization. Were all religions and all scriptures of the world to be lost, and were there nothing left to us except the starry heavens, the story of the zodiac and the significance of the names of the various stars found in the different constellations, we should be able to retrace the history of man, recover the knowledge of our goal and learn the mode of its achievement.

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