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The Labors of Hercules - Labor XI

Cleansing the Augean Stables
(Aquarius, January 21st - February 19th)

The Myth

Within the Place of Peace the Great Presiding One poured forth the radiance of his exalted thought. The Teacher drew nigh.
"The single flame must light the other forty-nine," the Great Presiding One affirmed. "So be it," the Teacher answered. "Having lit his own lamp Hercules now must bring the Light to others." Not long thereafter, the Teacher summoned Hercules.
"Eleven times the wheel has turned, and now you stand before another Gate. For long you have pursued the light which flickered first uncertainly, then waxed to a steady beacon, and now shines for you like a blazing sun. Turn now your back upon the brightness; reverse your steps; go back to those for whom the light is but a transient point, and help them make it grow. Direct your steps to Augeas whose kingdom must be cleansed of ancient evil. I have spoken."
Forth went Hercules through Gate the eleventh in search of Augeas the king.

When Hercules approached the realm where Augeas was the ruler, a horrid stench that made him faint and weak assailed his nostrils. For years, he learned, King Augeas had never cleared away the dung his cattle left within the royal stables. Then, too, the pastures were so amply dunged, no crops could grow. In consequence, a blighting pestilence was sweeping through the land, wreaking havoc with human lives. [181]
To the palace then went Hercules and sought out Augeas. formed that Hercules would cleanse the stenchy stables, Augeas displayed distrust and disbelief.
"You say that you will do this mighty task without reward?" the King declared suspiciously. "I have no faith in those who make such boasts. Some cunning plan you have contrived, O Hercules, to take my throne from me. Of men who seek to serve the world without a recompense, I have not heard. At this point, though, I'd welcome any fool who sought to help. But a bargain must be struck, lest I be chided as a foolish king. If you, within a single day, shall do what you have promised, one-tenth of my great flock of cattle shall be yours; but if you fail, your life and fortune will be in my hands. Of course, I do not think you can fulfil your boast, but try you may."
Hercules then left the King. He wandered through the blighted place, and saw a cart go by piled high with dead, the victims of the pestilence.
Two rivers, he observed, the Alpheus and the Peneus, flowed quietly nearby. Standing on the banks of one, the answer to his problem flashed upon his mind.
With might and main he labored. By great exertions he succeeded in diverting both these streams from courses they had followed for decades. The Alpheus and the Peneus were made to pour their waters through the dung-filled stables of King Augeas. The rushing torrents swept away the long-accumulated filth. The realm was purged of all its fetid murk. Within a single day the task impossible had been performed.
When Hercules, quite satisfied with this result, returned to Augeas, the latter scowled.
"You have succeeded by a trick," King Augeas cried out in rage. "The rivers did the work, not you. It was a ruse to take from me my cattle, a plot against my throne. Rewards you shall not have. Go, get you hence ere I cut down your stature by a head." [182]
The angry King thus banished Hercules, and bade him nevermore set foot within his realm on penalty of sudden death.
Having performed the task assigned, the son of man who also was the Son of God went back to him from whom he came.
"A server of the world you have become," the Teacher said when Hercules drew nigh. "You have gone on by going back; you have come to the House of Light by yet another path; you have spent your light that the light of others might shine. The jewel that the eleventh labor gives is yours forever more."


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