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The Labors of Hercules - Labor X

There are three constellations connected with the sign Capricorn. One is called Sagitta, the arrow. It has no connection with the sign Sagittarius. In that sign we had the bowman with the arrow whereby the achieving aspirant pierced the personality. Here you have the arrow that comes from a cosmic source, piercing the heart of the son of God, called the Christ, the nearest to us of the great world saviors, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was pierced by the arrow Sagitta, the cosmic arrow.

The Hebrew name for this arrow means "the desolate one", and the path that every disciple treads is necessarily a lonely one. The path of the initiate is more lonely still. The path of a world savior is the most lonely of all. I think that this condition is going to be alleviated. Down the ages we have had these tremendous comings out, one here, one there. Have you ever considered their loneliness? They had none who understood. Perhaps they were canonized hundreds of years after they died. But now there are so so many aspirants, so many upon the path of discipleship, that perhaps the group consciousness which is beginning to demonstrate in world affairs will result in a group loneliness rather than in individual loneliness.

Aquila, the eagle, is regarded as being as closely related to Capricorn as to Sagittarius. You have the bird of light (symbol of the highest aspect of man) manifesting as the soul (the second aspect) which has achieved.

In Delphinus you have a very interesting constellation that holds in it an amazing piece of symbolism. It is pictured in an ancient zodiac as a fish full of life leaping out of the water into the air and playing. That is the symbol of the son of God who, [176] working under the law, takes form and lives in the water and the air; and since he is no longer held by the physical law he can play with the forces of nature. We are beginning to learn about these forces, but it will be some time yet before Delphinus, the dolphin, will have much personal significance for us.

The Climbing of the Mountain

Capricorn tells the story of the climbing of the mountain and of the descent into hell. There are three great ascensions of every soul. Masonry down the ages has been a custodian of this tradition. First there is the raising of matter into heaven. We find that in Virgo. Then there is the raising up of the psychic nature from below the diaphragm. You are no longer emotional and self-centered, living in the solar plexus, but are focused in the heart and are conscious of the group; your feelings and desires are related to the group.

You no longer live in the animal nature, interested in creation on the physical plane, but you become a spiritual creature working in mental matter. You are no longer held by form, but have so dealt with it that you have raised it to the head consciousness and from the head you control your throat, your heart, your solar plexus and every part of your body. You do this not by centering on them, not by thinking about them, but by living as a conscious son of God seated on "the throne between the eyebrows", the ajna center (or pituitary gland) as the Hindus name it. That is the second great ascension.

The final ascension is that which marks the emancipation of the initiate of very high degree who becomes consciously a world savior. But it is the second initiation, the raising up of the lower psychic nature, on which we have to work so that every desire, mood and every emotion is lifted up into "heaven".

Preparation for the Descent into Hades

There were three things that Hercules had to do before starting down into hell. The order in which they came is interesting. [177] First he had to purify himself. Hercules, the son of God who had triumphed, been transfigured, was going down into hell to work and the word came to purify himself. He thought he was so pure. How he underwent the process of purification we are not told, but I have the idea that he had to demonstrate freedom from irritability and selfishness in that uninteresting circle where he was living as a human being. It is a rule in occultism that, on the ladder of initiation, if you cannot live purely in your own home circle you are of no use in heaven or hell. What do I mean by "pure"? We use the word largely in its physical sense but "pure" really is freedom from the limitations of matter. If I am in any way imprisoned even by my mind, which is a form of subtle matter, I am not pure. If I have any selfish emotions, I am not pure. Hercules had to purify himself.

Then we read that he had to be initiated into the mysteries. As far as I can understand it (and I may be wrong) this means that you go through your own personal hell before you can go through the universal hell. You have a terrible time in your own life and you are initiated as you undergo your own hell. You learn the nature of the universal by individual experience; only that is realization. You cannot learn by hearsay.

As has happened before in the myths, Hercules then had to pause and perform an act of service before he could advance upon Cerberus. He saw two people bound and being attacked by cattle. He had to deliver them before he could meet his own problem. Always for the initiate service comes first; the letting go of what he has set himself to do if there is need to help. That is the story of the initiate always, because it is based on group consciousness.

The Symbol of Cerberus

The three-headed dog Cerberus with a terrific bark, with snakes growing out all over his body and with snakes for a tail, was the guardian of Hades. The three heads symbolize sensation, [178] desire and good intentions. It is love of sensation that drives humanity hither and thither to satisfy hunger in the economic world or to satisfy desire for happiness in the world of pleasure. The violent impacts of sensation are sought to keep the mind occupied. The central head was grasped by Hercules first because it was the most important, since desire underlies all sensations; it is what desire seeks to express and so gain satisfaction in the outer world. The third head is good intentions, not carried out. So you have desire in the center, on one side you have sensation typifying all impacts, and on the other side the third head of good intentions not thought through, never performed, of which it has long been said: "Hell is paved with good intentions".

The tail made of serpents typifies all illusions that impede the progress of spiritual life; the materiality that holds us down; the lower psychic nature that causes such destruction; fear along every possible line; the fear of failure which holds so many back from activity and breeds only inertia, the great fault, we are told, of aspirants and disciples.

Hercules grasped Cerberus by the central head and conquered him, because all sun gods are occupied with the problems of humanity and because desolate they go down into hell alone to save humanity; hence all sun gods are born in the sign of Capricorn.

(Lecture by A.A.B., condensed and edited.)

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