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The Labors of Hercules - Labor IV - Part 2

The astrological symbol for the sign Cancer has no relation at all to the crab. It is composed of two "asses" tails, and these again link up the gospel story with the story of the manger. In connection with the birth of Jesus two asses appear, the one on which the Virgin rode down to Bethlehem, prior to the birth, and the other on which she rode to Egypt, after the birth. Close to the sign Cancer are two bright stars, one called Asellus Borealis, or the northern ass, and the other, Asellus Australis, or the southern ass. (There is also the third time, when Christ rode into Jerusalem during his brief moment of triumph on Palm Sunday [90] seated on the back of an ass, a symbol of patience and humility the crown jewels of greatness. So do not decry this symbol.)

Someone has used the following words to express the cadence of Cancer when first entered: "A sorrowful little voice underground, a low, half-captured, half-evasive melody."

Not yet has the work been consummated. All that is to be heard is the note of possible achievement. All that is to be found is a deep inner urge and discontent which gradually becomes so strong that it lifts the hidden, struggling individual out of his environment of stabilized world condition and makes him the earnest aspirant, who knows no rest until he has emerged out of the water and climbed steadily on until he finds himself on the summit of the mount in Capricorn, the birth not the consummation of the world savior. "Christ was born in Capricorn, fulfiled the law under Saturn, initiated the era of intelligent brotherhood under Venus, and is the perfect example of the Capricorn initiate, who becomes the world server in Aquarius; and the world savior in Pisces. Cancer admits the soul into the world center which we call humanity. Capricorn admits the soul into conscious participation in the life of that world center which we call the Hierarchy." (Esoteric Astrology, p. 168)

The Three Symbolic Constellations

Jesus is often called the Good Shepherd, and he has been depicted many times as the shepherd leading his sheep. The thought of the sheepfold has been closely associated in the minds of people with Christ. Connected with the sign Cancer are three constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Argo. The common occidental names for the two former are the Great Bear and the Little Bear, but it is one of the mysteries of astronomy as to how the name "bear" came to be associated with either of these groups of stars, for in the Chaldean, Persian, Indian and Egyptian zodiacs, no bear is found. The names most commonly use are those of "the sheepfold", or "the flock of sheep," and an analysis of the Hebrew and Arabic names [91] for the stars found in these constellations will be found to prove the fact that the ancient names signify "the lesser flock", "the sheepfold", "the sheep", and "the ship". In the thirty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel and in the tenth chapter of St. John, is much that has reference to these constellations.

Ursa Minor is famous because the brightest star in it is the pole star, the north star. In the symbolism of these two constellations we have held before us the thought of the mass or group, which is the significant influence of the work carried forward in the sign Cancer, and in the symbolism of the north star we have the thought of a lode star, a magnetic attraction, which guides the pilgrim back home. Many esotericists hold the belief that the human family, the fourth kingdom in nature, gradually came into being during the two thousand years, approximately, when our sun was in Cancer.

The thought of a mass of animals, of set boundaries within which these sheep or animals were confined, and the thought of a magnetic center of attraction, are symbolically portrayed for us also in the Masonic tradition. In Kircher's Egyptian Planisphere, Argo is represented by two galleys (as we have two sheepfolds), whose prows are surmounted by rams' heads, and the stern of one of them ends in a fish's tail. Note, therefore, how we have here held pictorially in front of us the consummation in Capricorn, wherein the goat scales the mountain top. We also have the portrayal of that greater cycle which includes the progress of the soul from Cancer to Capricorn, but which begins in Aries, the ram, and ends in Pisces, the fishes. A close analysis of the symbolism of the zodiacal signs deepens in one the strong conviction of the eternal picturing of truth and the constant holding before our eyes of the story of the evolution of matter in form, of consciousness, of spirit and of life.

Argo stretches all the way from Cancer to Capricorn and is one of the largest of the constellations. It has in it sixty-four stars, of which the brightest is Canopus. Its symbolism, [92] therefore, covers the life of the aspirant from the time he takes incarnation until he has reached his goal. We use the word "ship" quite frequently in a symbolic sense, speaking of the "ship of state", the "ship of salvation", and conveying ever the idea of security, of progress, and of the achieving of a way out, of the making of a journey and of the carrying of a vast crowd of pilgrims in search of golden treasure or a new and freer home.

The pilgrims are equipped with instinct, and as they pass through the various constellations covered by this immense sign, that instinct demonstrates as intellect in a human being as he develops self-consciousness and emerges from out the purely animal stage, until the time comes when, having progressed around and around the zodiac, the aspirant finds himself again in Cancer, faced with the problem of finding that elusive, sensitive, and deeply occult, or hidden, spiritual intuition which will guide him in his now lonely journey; the aspirant is no longer identified and lost in the mass; he is no longer one of the sheep, safely guarded in the sheepfold; he is no longer one of the great herd of emigrants, but he has emerged out of the mass and has started on the lonely way of all disciples. Then he treads the path of tribulation, of test and trial, wrestling by himself as an individual, from Leo to Capricorn, until the time comes when, with the aid of instinct, intellect and intuition, and driven by the urge of the Christ life, he again merges himself with the mass and becomes identified with the group. He then becomes the world server in Aquarius and has no sense of separateness.

The Lesson of the Labor

We have seen that the hind or doe, for which Hercules sought, was sacred to Artemis, the moon, but was also claimed by Diana, the huntress of the heavens, and by Apollo. the sun god. One of the things that is often forgotten by students of psychology and those who probe the unfolding consciousness [93] of man, is the fact that there are no sharp distinctions between the various aspects of man's nature, but that all are phases of one reality. The words instinct, intellect and intuition, are but varying aspects of consciousness and of response to environment and to the world in which the human being finds himself. Man is an animal, and in company with the animal, he possesses the quality of instinct and of instinctual response to his environment. Instinct is the consciousness of the form and of the cell life, the mode of awareness of the form, and, therefore, Artemis, the moon, who rules over the form, claims the sacred hind. In its own place, animal instinct is as divine as those other qualities which we regard as more strictly spiritual.

But man is also a human being; he is rational; he can analyze, criticise, and he possesses that something which we call the mind, and that faculty of intellectual perception and response, which differentiates him from the animal, which opens up to him a new field of awareness, but which is, nevertheless, simply an extension of his response apparatus and the development of the instinct into intellect. Through the one he becomes aware of the world of physical contacts and of emotional conditions; through the other he becomes aware of the world of thought and of ideas, and thus is a human being. When he has reached that stage of intelligent and instinctual awareness, then "Eurystheus" indicates to him that there is another world of which he can become equally aware, but which has its own method of contact and its own response apparatus.

Diana, the huntress, claimed the doe, because to her the doe is the intellect and man is the great seeker, the great hunter before the Lord. But the doe had another and more elusive form, and for this Hercules, the aspirant, sought. For a life cycle, we are told, he hunted. It was not the doe, the instinct, for which he looked; it was not the doe, the intellect, that was the object of his search. It was something else, and for this he spent a life cycle hunting. Finally, we read, he captured it and carried it into the temple, where it was claimed by the sun god [94] who in the doe recognized the spiritual intuition, that extension of consciousness, that highly developed sense of awareness, which gives to the disciple a vision of new fields of contact and opens up for him a new world of being. We are told that the battle is still going on between Apollo, the sun god, who knew that the doe was the intuition, Diana, huntress of the heavens, who knew it was intellect, and Artemis, the moon, who thought that it was only instinct. Both goddess claimants have a point and the problem of all disciples is to use the instinct correctly, in its right place, and in its proper way. He must learn to use the intellect under the influence of Diana, the huntress, daughter of the sun, and through it become en rapport with the world of human ideas and research. He must learn to carry that capacity of his into the temple of the Lord and there to see it transmuted into intuition, and through the intuition become aware of the things of spirit and of those spiritual realities which neither instinct nor intellect can reveal to him. (And again and again the sons of men, who are also sons of God, must recapture these spiritual realities, upon the endless Way.) [95]

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