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The Labors of Hercules - Labor V
The Number Five

In the fifth sign, Leo, Hercules performs that one of his labors which is the best known historically, for the slaying of the Nemean lion has always been associated with Hercules, though it is interesting to note that this famous labor has no relation to the lion's skin which Hercules always wore. That was the skin of the lion that he slew before he undertook his labors and which was his first act of service. Through that act he demonstrated that he was ready for testing and training.

This is one of the most interesting labors numerically, and in order to understand it thoroughly and grasp its true significance, we must take account of the number five which distinguishes it. From the standpoint of the esotericist, five is the number of man, because man is a divine son of God, plus the quaternary which consists of the lower fourfold nature, the mental body, emotional body, vital body and physical sheath. In the language of the psychologists, man is a self, a continuation of mental and emotional states, vitality, and the response apparatus of the physical body. These four we have seen brought into relation to the involving soul, in the four preceding signs.

In Aries, the soul took to itself that type of matter which would enable it to be in relation to the world of ideas. It clothed itself in a mental sheath. It added to individuality, those combinations of mental substance through which it could best express itself. And man became a thinking soul. In Taurus the desire world was contacted and a similar procedure pursued. The means of sentiently contacting the world of feeling and emotion were developed and man became a sentient soul. In Gemini, a new and vital energy body was constructed [101] by the bringing together of the energies of soul and matter, and man became a living soul, for the two poles were en rapport, and the vital or etheric body came into being. In Cancer, which is the sign of physical birth and of the identification of the unit with the mass, the work of incarnation was completed and the fourfold nature was manifested. Man became a living actor on the physical plane. But it is in Leo that man becomes what is occultly called the five-pointed star, for that star stands as the symbol of individualization, of humanity, of the human being who knows himself to be an individual and becomes aware of himself as the Self. It is in this sign that we begin to use the words, "I" and "my", and "mine".

The Ageless Wisdom of the east tells us that the number five is the most occult and the most deeply significant of the numbers. It claims that the group of celestial and spiritual beings, who took incarnation on earth, manifested through the quaternary, and thus brought into existence the human family, were the fifth group of divine lives and that they combined within themselves, therefore, the dual attributes of the universe, the spiritual and physical. They unified in themselves the two poles. They were exoteric and esoteric; they were objective and subjective. Thus we have the number ten, which is regarded as the number of human perfection and of completion, the number of a perfectly developed and unfolded human being, and of the balance achieved between spirit and matter. But it is the number wherein spirit does not dominate matter; it is the number of the aspirant whose objective it is to subordinate matter to the uses of spirit and, therefore, upset the balance of the number ten.

The ancient scriptures of the east use some interesting phrases to express the nature of these celestial beings who are the men of our time, who are ourselves, who are the sons of God in incarnation. They are called Lords of Knowledge and of Wisdom, Lords of Will and of Sacrifice, Lords of Boundless Devotion, and these terms, characterizing the spiritual entity dwelling [102] in every human form, merit the closest consideration of those who seek to tread the round of the zodiac as conscious individuals with a spiritual goal. Through our own will and in full knowledge we are here. In order to raise matter into heaven, we have come into manifested existence. In essence and in reality, man is not what he appears to be. He is essentially what he will demonstrate in Aquarius, the opposite sign to Leo. He will then be the man with a universal consciousness, in contradistinction to the self-assertive individuality of the Leo type. The individual in Leo becomes the initiate in Capricorn, and demonstrates as the complete man in Aquarius, and this has only been possible because of the boundless devotion to a dimly sensed objective that has carried him round and round the zodiac until full self-consciousness has been achieved.

The appropriateness and the relation of the fifth Commandment to the fifth labor and the fifth sign thus becomes apparent. "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee," for in Leo, Father-spirit and Mother-matter meet in the individual and their union produces that conscious entity which we call the soul or the Self. Just, however, as this is the sign wherein man recognizes himself as the individual and begins the cycle of experience wherein he acquires knowledge, so it is the sign wherein the self-conscious man begins his training for initiation. It is in this sign that we have the last of the tests on the probationary path. When the labor of this sign ends, definite training for initiation in Capricorn is begun. Some measure of control of thought has been gained in Aries, and some power to transmute desire has been achieved in Taurus. The apples of wisdom have been gathered in Gemini and the distinction between wisdom and knowledge has been somewhat learned, whilst the necessity of transmuting instinct and intellect into intuition and the carrying of them both into the Temple of the Lord has been grasped in Cancer. [103]

The Story of the Myth

After a relatively simple labor in Cancer and one that was quite free from danger and peril, Eurystheus imposes upon Hercules the tremendous task of slaying the Nemean lion, which was devastating the countryside. For a long period the lion had been a destructive force and people were unable to do anything about it. Hercules found that the only way in which he could achieve his object was to chase the lion in ever-narrowing circles until he had cornered it in a cave. This he proceeded to do and eventually tracked it to its lair.

Having succeeded in this preliminary stage, he then made the unpleasant discovery that the cave had two openings and that as fast as he chased the lion in at one it emerged at the other. There was nothing for it, therefore, but to stop the chase and to block one of the openings to the cave, and this Hercules did. Then he chased the lion into the cave through the unblocked opening and, leaving all weapons behind, even the club which he had himself made, he entered the cave and with his two hands choked the lion to death. That was an encounter that took place unseen by anybody; Hercules and the lion in the dark and the gloom of the cave taking part, both of them, in a struggle which had to be to the death.

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